Wednesday, March 28, 2012

World Book Night

Do Y'all know what World Book Night is? If you don't go to the website their website at  This event was started in England last year. They had such a awesome response. Another one will be done on April 23rd, all across the United States.

World Book Night is volunteer organization to spread the word about reading. To people that usually don't have the time to read.  Each giver is given a list of books, he/ she has a choice of one book out of twenty titles.  Out of the thousands of applications submitted, 
                I WAS CHOSEN!!! How Awesome.

This is something I like to do, when I finish a book. If it is a good book I like to pass it on, or spread the word about good books. That is how I feel about Namesake. This was exactly what I did after reading, very fitting I feel.

 This is one of the goals I have for both of my blogs, Susans Literary Cafe, and. Bagels, Books and Schmooze.  The book that I am giving, is drum roll please!!! Are you ready.... Now, I have to pick my books up... not to far at..... Bookends.

                             NAMESAKE by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is fitting, Namesake was chosen for one of our book clubs back... back... when we first started.
It is fitting that I will be giving this novel to spread the word.  The other reason is many citizens in the area that I live in are not native to the community. Most of us are transplants from the north.  What southerners call us, Yankees.  Namesake, is about immigration, and fitting in to a foreign land.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The PostMistress: Book Review

The PostMistress
By Sarah Blake

The PostMistress  takes place in a small town, Franklin, Mass, and then across the ocean in Europe, before the United States went to war. In England during the Blitz.

The main characters are Iris, the Postmistress. Frankie, the radio commenter working with Morrow. Then a minor character is Emma.

There is romance, history, suspense, and a interesting twist to the story.

The story takes place with Will a doctor is on a house call, a homebirth.  The woman dies.  Will feels responsible, he decides to enlist in the military in England before everyone else.

He meets Frankie over in Europe.  They are in a bomb shelter together, and converse and talk about their life.  They go their separate ways. In a freak accident, Will is killed crossing the street.  In his pocket is a letter to his wife, Emma. Frankie, decides she will send the letter on at the right time.

In the meantime, Frankie is sent on assignment in Germany.  She gets on a train and sees things she wishes she doesn't see. Terrible atrocities, she relates this when she gets back to England to her boss. 
She broadcasts to the American public through the radio. Most Americans don't believe what they hear.  It is hard to believe.

 Iris the PostMistress, is hired for the post office.  There are many secrets in those letters that are sent from people in her small community.  She wanders what has happened to Will because Emma has not received any letters from her husband, Will.  Will before he left asked Iris to protect Emma and watch over her. 

I enjoyed reading the story about Iris, the straight lace character. She kept everything in order.
To Emma, the poor, helpless character. To Frankie, the strong head strong broadcaster, where it was considered a "man's job".

 Frankie's  journey through Europe into Germany, the people she met, and tried to help.  What she discovered was happening to the Jews. It was a secret not many people knew or suspected what the Nazi's were doing.  This part of the novel made the story captivating to me and very engrossed. 

 I haven't read novels about places and people that take place during WW2. I liked the story and character of Frankie, how she did her job, and some of the hardships, and danger she went through during her time in England.
  I enjoy a novel that I learn something about people's experiences.   The author did a good job with her research and putting it into the story.  I recommend reading the novel, if you like watching movies of the old WW2 movies, with romance.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Heft: Book Review

By Liz Moore
Digital copy supplied
By Netgalley

Heft, takes place in Brooklyn, NY. Arthur Opps is a college professor many years ago. He is now 58 years old. He is a shut in because of his weight. He weighs 550 lbs. Thanks to technology he can order his necessary items through the internet, such as his clothes, books, magazines without going out the door.  He dreams about all the luscious delicacies of food. What it tastes, feels and describes them to us. He is a lonely, reclusive big man. Without any connection with anyone. He's family has passed away, without brothers, sisters, and friends to speak of.  The only thing he looks forward to is letters from a student, Charlene through the years has sent to him.
While Arthur was still teaching, both him and another student Charlene found comfort with each other in their lonely lives. During the one semester while he told they become close, but not intimate.
But the school suspected that Arthur became involved with her.
Charlene and Arthur were two lost souls. Both were sad and lonely people, who spent hours talking over the course of the semester. When the class was finished, Charlene never took another course, but began to write Arthur letters. First he was rather shocked, but when he lost his job soon after, to him she seemed like the only friend he had.
Two of these lonely people found comfort in each other. They were both awkward, and different.
The letters stopped coming. But, then in present tense Charlene asked a favor of Arthur. Would you help my son, Kel Keller, a high school student. Since he is a college, or was a college professor would you help him with deciding about his future.
Arthur decides he must clean up his house before inviting Charlene and her son for a visit. He calls a cleaning agency and meets Yolanda. He need her to straighten and clean the house. He has had no reason to clean. Now that Yolanda has come to help straighten each visit. This picks up his spirits.
Then when the story alternates to present day. Charlene was the VP secretary of the high school. Charlene seems to like to be around educated people. She wants her son to grow up to be smart and go to college. Not to become a baseball pro without education.
Then when Charlene divorces her life somehow goes downhill. She starts drinking, and looses her job. She develops a chronic illness.
The story alternates between Arthur, Charlene, Kel, and Yolanda. It is like at times reading a short story. But, I did like the character development. The story at times is sad, but then puts a smile on your face.  You will realize at the end when the story connects to each other. It becomes a OH-YAH moment.
Heft is about a young teen age boy, how he grows up to find himself. To understand the actions of his mother.  Heft, will make you wonder what family really is. What is a family? You will care about all these dysfunctional  people with all their flaws. How they can  pull it together to become whole. How these Lonely, sad people become misfit and fit with someone who cares. It is not a story that is wrapped in a pretty bow. You have to come to your own conclusions.
 I loved the last paragraph:
 Instead I walked to my front door& opened it. I peered out into the world.  The street was quiet and nothing moved. I opened the glass outer door & walked to the outer stoop. A car rolled by, looking for parking,& for a moment I grew nervous.& excited but it was not the boy. I stood still then & put my arms about myself. O what will happen now I asked. But I was alone, and found I could not answer.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I Am Forbidden: Book Review

I Am Forbidden
By Anouk Markovits
Provided by Netgalley

I decided, I Am Forbidden does not belong on Seaside Book Corner's blog. Instead I am posting on my Jewish blog. The book is a  Jewish novel. But most people that don't know the Jewish traditions, and the community of the Satmar's would not appreciate I Am Forbidden.

Most books that are written about the observant Jews are mainly attacking the Jewish community because of the treatment of women. This novel is not bashing about the women. But about the Jewish fundamentalists ideas to the extreme in the community of Satmar's. They reside mainly in the United  States in Williamsburg in NYC.

I did enjoy reading the novel, but I would not recommend it for everyone.   If you don't know much about the Jewish traditions and the understanding of women and purity and modesty, I would not recommend it unless you do some research on your own.

Even though I am Jewish I had do my own research before, and during my reading of, I Am Forbidden.  The author does have a glossary in the back of the book. But I would still recommend doing a little research of the Jewish traditions and the Satmar community.

It is interesting to note, I am Jewish but I am not a observant Jew. I did not realize that catholism and Judaism is similar in the politics and leaders. It is scary, I did not realize how fanatical the community is.

I did find it interesting about their Rebbe and his escape during the holocaust. I did find some facts about this on Wikpedia. But not sure how accurate it is.

  The monarchy, of kings and queens in Europe reminded me of the similarity of the Satmar dynasty.  There are not a lot of novels written about the Jewish community, but not the Satmar Jews.

It is going to be interesting because I wanted to read a memoir that was just released called Unorthodox, very timely again about the Satmar community. The memoir is very controversial. It has been on the news, facebook, and other social networks.

You can read  my review on my other blog on Bagels, Books and Schmooze in the next few days. If you are interested you can read a article here, and here.

Hadassah's 100 Years Today

When you think of Hadassah, what comes to mind? If you are Jewish, you will know what I am talking about. Do you think, Henrietta Szold? Hadassah Hospital? ot Hadassah the Jewish Women's Organization?

The year in 1912, after returning from Palestine with her mother to New York City. Seeing the terrible conditions in Palestine. The poor section, not just Jewish, but Muslim and Christian.
  Henrietta, and her small study group at Temple Emanu-el in New York City,  formed a women's zionist group.  On Febuary 24, 1912, Purim(  a Jewish holiday), Hadassah was born.
If you know the Jewish bible, or if you don't look up the Jewish holiday Purim, and the story of Queen Esther. It will enlighten you the reason the group was named Hadassah.
This small group of Jewish ladies devoted their lives to promote, better social  conditions, and healthcare, and Jewish values,and ideas, in Palestine.
In the year 1913,  a philanthropist offered Hadassah funding to send two nurses to Palestine. To bring medical supplies, and medical care to Palestine. Rose Kaplan and Rachel Landy -- sailed with the Strausses on January 18. In March 1913 they opened an office in a rented Jerusalem house identified by a Hebrew and English sign that read "American Daughters of Zion, Nurses Settlement, Hadassah They saw 5000 patients that year.
Since then, Hadassah has been responsible in establishing Hadassah Medical Center, in Israel.. It is one of the most respected hospitals for medical research.  It is also responsible for educating women to advocate social issues, political issues, and medical issues..    To teach Jewish living through Jewish education, and programs through Hadassah.
Hadassah enhances the quality of American and Jewish life through its strong education and Zionist programs, which provide personal enrichment and growth for its members. True to our roots as a study circle, Hadassah members explore the many facets of Jewish history and culture through educational opportunities.

I am proud to say, a month ago I decided to become a lifetime member of Hadassah. It has been a long time of heeing, and hawing but I finally did it.  It is timely on Hadassah's 100th birthday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Club Discussion

We had our book club meeting this afternoon. My girlfriend Amy was the one to pick Amy and Isabelle.  We have a few ladies that are much older, than us and are observant religiously.  They are in their 70's and 90's. They were very harsh in judgement of the authors style of writing. My friend was upset that they judged the book so harshly.

I explained to her that just because it is a "BAD" book. It lead to a awesome book discussion. Not everyone is going to like the same book. That is why we have book clubs to discuss books we would not ever read before.

   They could not see her as a literary award winner. I told them her novel was picked by Oprah many years ago. I personally think the two ladies did not like it because of the subject matter of the teacher and student. They were appalled.

.  These things are not talked about openly among women at that age. My mom is in her 70's. What's funny she can watch a violent movie, but is appalled by a movie that has any hint of sex. I still remember  a movie my mom and I and a few friends went to . My friends are a bit older, but they are ok with a little skin. But, not my mom.  She walked out. To me, I am middle age and I did not even think about it. 
We respect their critique of the novel. Everyone has a right to their opinion. Books are different for everyone.

                                                Discussed at the meeting

The older women did not like the descriptive writing of "SEX".  We had to explain, this is a teenage girl talking about this, back in the 1960's.

We also observed that the mother was very jealous of the young daughter's youth, sexual desires, and her friendships. Being a single mom and not being able to have fun, and being a responsible adult.

  Her relationship with her daughter reminded me of lots of kids having relationship problems with their children now.

She isolated herself, kept to herself when she and her daughter moved to their new home and job.  Because she was a single mom, she wanted to keep her secrets.
 She fantasized about her boss, and his wife's relationship.   The treatment of her, after her boss found Isabelle's daughter in the car.   Toward the end he forgot he was invited to Isabelle's house for cake and dessert.  Isabelle was devasted.  Isabelle went head over heals to prepare for her boss and his wife a after evening dessert and coffee.

Isabelle was jealous of her lost youth. How women were treated when working, vs. the stay at home mom.  In the factories, women had different status, from the factory workers, secretaries, bosses, etc.

 We brought up about during that time it was not talked about teachers having sexual relationships with students back in the 1960's. This did happen but swept under the rug. I did not know this, and either did many of the other members.  It was swept in the closet.  One of our members was a retired teacher and she told us many things happened we did not know about back then.   If you recall rape, harassment, guns, were never discussed these are the things that were kept hush- hush in the 60's.

Our next couple of books are as follows:
For April we are reading Faith by Jennifer Haigh. I recommended this one.  I already posted my thoughts on this book here. I  miss our original meeting place, a coffee shop/ used book store. But, they closed.
We are so spread out in different locations of the Grand Strand anyway. But, I still miss it.  We are going to be meeting at a bagel shop I found out about called Crave Bagel? Love the name.
 I just went in to the shop last month, to check it out. Because the place I was going to choose closed. The owner gave me samples to try, and the topper she loves book clubs and wanted to know what book we were reading. I asked her to join us. We'll see.
Room by Emma Donoghue to discuss for May.
June to discuss Death Comes to  Pemberely by P.D. James.

That wraps it up, until next time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Club and Book Review of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Today, the book club I joined discussed The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

During the meeting, it was socializing. I don't have a problem with that. But, when a meeting starts at a certain time, then you should make a point to start on time.

We had a few ladies, discuss the setting of history at that time. Some family and friends that they know.  The Chinese-Japanese relationships, the American government, European history what was happening compared to what was happening in America. It was uncomfortable talking about different ethnic groups because we met in Barnes and Noble, and we had to remember we were in a public setting.

I have been wanting to read this for quite awhile, not sure if I would have read it any other way.  I know this is strange, but I like to savor books. I loved the cover of Mr. Ford's novel the illustration is gorgeous depicting the scene of the Japanese parasol.
My problem, sometimes I don't read a book that is at my home at all. Because I know I am going to love this book. I don't want to read it, but savor and wait for years, sort of like a marinade, until something draws me to read it.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford

 After Pearl Harbor was bombed, the United States went to war with the Japanese. Many Japanese Americans lived on the west coast of the United States,  also the Chinese Americans lived side by side among them in Seattle. This was dangerous on the West coast. Think of the relationship of where Japan is from the United  States.

Henry and his parents are Chinese living in Seattle. They are proud Americans, but at the same time Henry's father can not forget their roots in China. 

  Henry was lonely and isolated and teased by bullies of the school and other children that attended.    Instead they sent him to a private American school where he would be " American".  Everyday his father sent him off to school with a button on his clothing" I am Chinese".

Henry, worked in the kitchen at school there he met Keiko a Japanese American girl. They developed a friendship that his family was not happy about. Chinese Americans did not trust, and hated the Japanese because of the treatment of the Japanese toward the Chinese in their homeland.

 Henry knew from the beginning of their friendship to Keiko would be trouble.  It is not the Chinese way to not honor your parents. It is very dishonorable to not obey them.  But Henry was rebellious and stayed friends with Keiko.
Times in the United States were getting hard and changing. There was tension in the air. The Japanese Americans were isolated by everyone. They were treated horribly by the government and the citizens.

Henry and Keiko sneak into the Black Elks Club to hear their favorite music, Jazz.  They meet Sheldon, and Oscar another Jazz musician.  At the club before they were ready to leave a raid  of FBI agents stormed in.  In the crowd was a Japanese couple. The FBI treated them harshly.

This was a first sign to Keiko that something was brewing in the air with poor treatment of her fellow Japanese. From that time on Keiko and Marty realized they have to meet secretly.

Keiko's family treated Marty like he was part of the family, with open arms.  One day, Marty was worried about Keiko, he found out later on she was taken to the Internment camps somewhere in the mid west.......

There is flashbacks, of the 1940's and 1986 of Henry's life. The story actually begins with the Panama Hotel in Seattle.  Many of the Japanese Americans left their belonging to hopefully come back to it when  they return.  Marty is outside the hotel in 1986, when items that belonged to them, and luggage is carried out.  One item brought back a memory to Henry, a Japanese Parasol. Then all of his memories that were hidden came to the forefront of his memory.


 Henry has just lost his wife, Ethel from a very long illness. His son wants him to stop dwelling on his mother, and find his first love.

My Review:  I loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It had everything I like to read, history, suspense, romance, drama,  and music, and of course conflict.    I have always wanted to read something on the internment camps, even if it is fiction.
 Mr. Ford described the horrible treatment the Japanese Americans went through by the American government, how their fellow Americans treated them.  What happened to them before they left, and after being in the internment camps.  What happened to their homes, and property, businesses, etc.
  They were treated horribly when they were released from the camps by their fellow neighbors. Where do they go?  It is very unfortunate they were treated this way.

I liked the romance between Keiko and Henry.  It seemed a bit unrealistic. At times I thought they were talking about teenagers. I was wondering did they grow up?  No, he was still the little boy. But, he seemed he was older than he actually was.  Was this puppy love? Real love?

The drama between his father and Henry was so sad. It was important for Henry's father to see Henry "All American".  How can you live with your family and not speak the same language? That sounds so bizarre to me?  But the family wanted to show their loyalty, to prove they were genuinely American. 

 The Chinese were very loyal to the American government. They would have done anything. Most of them did, they went into the service to prove their loyalty.  Doesn't make sense does it?
 The one thing in the entire book was isolation. Henry was isolated at home from his parents. They did not want him to communicate in Chinese. How could they communicate if they didn't know English?    In school he was isolated by the students.   On the streets, was the same.  But the one source that helped was Keiko.  

 Keiko, had some of the same problems, but when she came into the camps, she was surrounded by her friends and family that were Japanese.  Poor Henry, he had no where to go to be accepted.

I loved the title of the novel, It was bitter and sweet memories.  Mr. Ford's writing and style flowed and I liked the story. Some of the story was contrived and unbelievable, and believable.   Parts of the story was expected by other parts were a surprise.  I hope production companies call Mr. Ford to ask him for the movie rights.

One other thing, I read some of the reviews of On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet on Goodreads.   Some of the comments were mainly about the accuracy that it ruined the taste of the book.  The commenter wrote all the inaccuracies. I felt that it was being a bit picky.  I still give it *****1/2(51/2 stars).

 Thank you Mr. Ford for a wonderful read. Looking forward to your next one....

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Amy and Isabelle-Book Review

Amy and Isabelle
by Elizabeth Strout

I heard of this novel for awhile, and it was promoted on Oprah for her book club. This is a novel, like the Bean Tree, and One Thousand Acres that I would see as a classic. The high school literature class would read. That said, Amy and Isabelle is out of my comfort zone.

There are two reasons I had read, because my friend recommended it, and because our books discussion for March is Amy and Isabelle.

At first I thought this is slow moving, but I still liked the book. But, after awhile it was so dull and slow moving. The only reason, I kept reading was because it was our March discussion. I was ready to say, enough already. I can't stand a book that drags. One person hit it on the head, and said, the book is life. I pondered it and thought she is right.

It is the story of a shy single mom, Isabelle raising her quiet rebellious teenage daughter, Amy. Amy and her mother have ups and downs. Isabelle is jealous of her daughter's looks, her youth,and her sexuality. She starts staying after school alot, and has feeling for her subsitute teacher, Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson finally one day crosses the line of no return. He takes Amy in her car, and they have sex down a deserted road, near Isabelle's boss's home near the woods, Mr. Avery. Mr. Avery spots the car, thinks it is abandoned not realizing who is in the car. He tells Isabelle.


The last fifty pages pulls you into the story. There are three different conflicts that are put together. What makes the story move, and thought the writing style was good even though it was slow moving. Ms. Stout wrote the story of the characters what was going on simultaneously, with four different setting, and four different characters. What that did was, THAT IS LIFE!!!

Isabelle invites her boss over for dessert, but never shows up. She calls him. He's excuse was he forgot, they have friends over. Was this a excuse because the wife felt threatened because Isabelle was a single women? not sure, but that is what I thought.

Then the same night her daughter and her friend discover a body in a car. The body was of a young girl, that was on the news. (Several times Isabelle, and Amy thought about this)During the night, Amy is brought home, and Amy is distraught over the body. Her mother is there for her.

That same night one of her coworkers Fat Bev, calls her and asked if she and her friend can stay over. Because her husband just left her for a younger women. This is where it gets interesting, Isabelle, with the group of women that she has worked with for 15 years, finally spills the beans about her past life. This brings all the women closer and Isabelle finally feels connected to someone rather than a stranger.

I am glad I did not quit reading, usually I give a book the 50 or 100 page test. If I can't get into it then, I find something else. This one took longer, but well worth it.

I don't want to read about a mother and a teen age daughter's relationship, I could write my story, raising my teenager. we all have our struggles with our teenage kids. But, then the book turned around. At first I did not care for Isabelle, but the last 50 pages she finally shedded her thick skin, and I connected and cared about her.

If you like character study, and reading about life you will like Amy and Isabelle.