Review of Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashid

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About Chronicle of a Last Summer

Cairo, 1984. A blisteringly hot summer. A young girl in a sprawling family house. Her days pass quietly: listening to a mother’s phone conversations, looking at the Nile from a bedroom window, watching the three state-sanctioned TV stations with the volume off, daydreaming about other lives. Underlying this claustrophobic routine is mystery and loss. Relatives mutter darkly about the newly-appointed President Mubarak. Everyone talks with melancholy about the past. People disappear overnight. Her own father has left, too—why, or to where, no one will say.

We meet her across three decades, from youth to adulthood: As a six-year old absorbing the world around her, filled with questions she can’t ask; as a college student and aspiring filmmaker pre-occupied with love, language, and the repression that surrounds her; and then later, in the turbulent aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrow, as a writer exploring her own past. Reunited with her father, she wonders about the silences that have marked and shaped her life.

My Thoughts

“I heard the word revolution all the time but didn’t know exactly what it meant. Nobody answered me when I asked.”

I was captivated from the start. The intricate political views and opinions from the inside, the pauses of ambiguity contributed to my fascination. Purely political driven, conflicting views create interest.

Having a privileged young girl serve as narrator as she comes of age including her politics is insightful. She’s observant, knows when not to ask questions, a sponge soaking in all she hears, sees and is told, she is aware of much more than realized. Not easily influenced as her cousin Dido discovers.

A country and its people changed through the revolving door of power, politics and imprisonment. How life is in a constant state of flux and the days of permanence missed. You definitely feel as if you’re looking from the inside out, a privy intimate glimpse into the political upheaval of this complicated and controversial country through the eyes of a young girl cum young adult.

About Yasmine El Rashidiimage

Yasmine El Rashidi is an Egyptian writer. She is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, and an editor of the Middle East arts and culture quarterly Bidoun. She lives in Cairo, where she is currently translating the works of Egyptian novelist Khairallah Ali.

Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by Tim Duggan Books

Review of Jihadi: A Love Story by Yusuf Toropov

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About Jihadi

A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist whose annotations paint a much darker picture. As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment but who is the real terrorist. Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, Jihadi: A Love Story is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions.

Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind.

My Review

Absolutely brilliant, a read with a labyrinth of complexities demanding the perusers razor sharp focus and intelligence.

The layout of the book creates a multilevel story requiring the reader to savor at a somewhat languid pace otherwise the intricacies will be unappreciated. You’ll find yourself caught in the tangled web of truth, there are blurred lines on who to believe and authenticity.

Jihadi, government, politics and extreme circumstances. As the story unfolds you will experience shock and awe as well as disgust and loathing. Thelonius Lidell is a man caught up in a mess, he’s memorable along with his unimaginable story.

A challenging read well worth your time and effort. Masterfully crafted, reeling you in from the onset leaving you a mess at the end – no doubt you will be digesting what you have read long after the conclusion. A riveting, frightening yarn.

Yusuf Toropov will all certitude is a master storyteller, nothing less than impressive.

About Yusuf Toropov41qQTKOSMmL._UX250_

Yusuf Toropov is an American Muslim writer. He’s the author or co-author of a number of nonfiction books, including Shakespeare for Beginners. His full-length play An Undivided Heart was selected for a workshop production at the National Playwrights Conference, and his one-act play The Job Search was produced off-Broadway. Jihadi: A Love Story, which reached the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is his first novel. He currently lives in Northern Ireland.

Orenda Books (May 1, 2016)

Review of The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj

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About The Yoga of Max’s Discontent

Max Pzoras is the poster child for the American Dream. The child of Greek immigrants who grew up in a dangerous New York housing project, he triumphed over his upbringing and became a successful Wall Street analyst. Yet on the frigid December night he’s involved in a violent street scuffle, Max begins to confront questions about suffering and mortality that have dogged him since his mother’s death.

His search takes him to the farthest reaches of India, where he encounters a mysterious night market, almost freezes to death on a hike up the Himalayas, and finds himself in an ashram in a drought-stricken village in South India. As Max seeks answers to questions that have bedeviled him—can yogis walk on water and live for 200 years without aging? Can a flesh-and-blood man ever achieve nirvana?—he struggles to overcome his skepticism and the pull of family tugging him home. In an ultimate bid for answers, he embarks on a dangerous solitary meditation in a freezing Himalayan cave, where his physical and spiritual endurance is put to its most extreme test.

By turns a gripping adventure story and a journey of tremendous inner transformation, The Yoga of Max’s Discontent is a contemporary take on man’s classic quest for transcendence.

My Thoughts

Amazing book. I was swept away with Max’s quest for enlightenment. I felt such a connection with him, his many trials, self-doubts, inner struggles and thoughts. With each challenge presented, spiritual discoveries and determination left a lasting impression. He was ready to tap into his internal yogi, all he really needed was guidance and to pursue his quest full gusto, which as we discover is not easy.

This story felt more nonfictional than fiction, I identified with Max on many levels. The highs and lows, questions answered, questions still requiring answers, there is no way you cannot become attached and invested in Max. I had no idea how his search would end, all I know is I kept rooting for him and celebrated his achievements and mourned setbacks.

I love a book posing questions, evoking my mind, engaging my senses, cutting deep emotionally and Bajaj fulfilled my need. His wonderful writing and intense characterization of Max is powerful. Based loosely on Bajaj’s own experience is no surprise there is an unmistakable rawness and authenticity throughout.

Captivating read, engaging and convincing leaving me more than satiated. Max is memorable and will stay with me quite a while, in fact, this book we be reread often, yes, it’s that amazing. Looking forward to more for the talented Karan Bajaj.

About Karan Bajaj1687270

Karan Bajaj is the #1 bestselling novelist of KEEP OFF THE GRASS (HarperCollins India: 2008) and JOHNNY GONE DOWN (HarperCollins India: 2010) with more than 250,000 copies of his novels in print. Both novels were optioned into films, the latter just entering pre-production and slotted for a 2017 international release. He was selected as one of the “Top 35 Under 35 Indian” by India Today and was nominated for all of India’s top literary awards—the Crossword Book of the Year, Indiaplaza Golden Quill and Teacher’s Indian Achievers Awards(Arts).

THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT, Karan’s first international novel, will be published by Penguin Random House on May 3rd 2016. It was inspired by Karan’s one year spiritual sabbatical learning Yoga in a South Indian Ashram, meditating in complete silence in the Vedantic tradition in the Indian Himalayas and living as a Buddhist Monk in a Scottish monastery. Now back in New York, Karan is a certified Yoga teacher attached to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center while working his day job as the Chief Marketing Officer of the cult mom brand, Aden and Anais.

Born in 1979 into an Army family, Karan is an engineering graduate from BIT Ranchi and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

Published May 3rd 2016 by Riverhead Books (first published June 11th 2015)

Review of Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier, Emily Boyce (Translation)

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About Too Close to the Edge

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her house in the mountains when her car breaks down. A stranger offers help and Éliette gives him a lift, glad of the company and interruption to her routine.

A tale of retirement and calm domesticity, with a hint of menace about to explode.

My Review

With each turn of the page the story becomes darker and darker. Éliette certainly blossoms from mild mannered mature woman to a stealth bad girl before our very eyes. Her quiet, lonesome life dives headfirst into sheer mayhem. Lots of humor peppering the narrative with precision timing. Secondary characters along with subplots enhance the foreboding impending events. Another prize from Garnier. The ending was fantastic. Once again translation is excellent, kudos to Emily Boyce.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Published April 1st 2016 by Gallic Books (first published June 7th 2010)

Review of That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light

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About That’s Paris

If you’ve ever traveled to Paris or dreamed of setting foot on its cobblestone streets, you’ll enjoy escaping into this collection of short stories about France’s famed capital. From culinary treats (and catastrophes) to swoon-worthy romantic encounters (and heartbreaking mishaps), this anthology takes you on a journey through one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Visit this cosmopolitan metropolis through the eyes of Parisians, francophiles and travelers who fell in love with the city and still hold a piece of it in their hearts. That’s Paris: a glimpse into living, loving and laughing in the City of Light.

My Review

Lovely collection of short stories. Just about everything is covered, from love, heartbreak, cuisine, to dealing with bureaucracy and much more all set in vibrant Paris.

As a self-proclaimed Francophile I thoroughly enjoyed the variety and the unmistakable Paris vibe of each story, knowing the setting is Paris is intoxicating enough for this reader. There is something magical and seductive regarding Paris albeit in person or on paper, I was mesmerized from the start.

Every story was interesting and brought its individuality to the table. The unique writing style of the authors along with their varied perspectives added layers of interest. A story catching me off guard Half past Midnight by Didier Quémener, memorable, haunting.

Short story fans, Francophiles will undoubtedly appreciate this well crafted collection.

About the Authors

That’s Paris is a collection of fiction and non-fiction stories from people who have traveled to Paris, lived in Paris or never even set foot in Paris but dreamed about what it would be like to visit. Among our contributors are: the author of three fashion books, the writer of a recently released book on Rwanda, Amazon best-selling authors, journalists, a personal chef and winners of various blogging awards. That’s Paris features new talent as well as established writers, but everyone has one thing in common—their stories capture the essence of what it’s like to breathe Parisian air.

Check out the full list of contributors and their bios.

Foreword by: Stephen Clarke

Authors: Michael Attard, Audrey M. Chapuis, Adria J. Cimino, Sarah del Rio, DryChick, Leslie Floyd, Jennie Goutet, Amy Lynne Hayes, April Lily Heise, Vicki Lesage, Elle Marie, Cheryl McAlister, Emily Monaco, Lucia Paul, Didier Quémener, Laura Schalk, Brooke Takhar, Marie Vareille, Frédérique Veysset, Lisa Webb, Anna Weeks, April Weeks, David Whitehouse

Author proceeds from sales of That’s Paris benefit the charity Room to Read, which supports literacy and gender equality in education. Thanks for supporting the cause!

Published January 20th 2015 by Velvet Morning Press

Review of The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier, Svein Clouston (Translator)

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About The Panda Theory

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he’s here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals.

His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair.

But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past . . .

My Review

A huge Garnier fan I found this book satisfying but the ending left me ambivalent.

Gabriel isn’t as he seems as the story unfolds. His flashbacks are startling. Each revisit of his past is darker and darker. The story is somewhat predictable but the peppering of dark humor and its noir feel compensate for the obvious. I enjoyed the character development of Gabriel, his layers carefully unfold. The secondary characters were entertaining both in personality and issues.

What was leading to the end I somewhat expected but the actual ending caught me off guard – not unsatisfied or satisfied more indifferent.

Another enjoyable piece of literary noir from the talented Pascal Garnier.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Published March 26th 2012 by Gallic Books (first published February 4th 2008)

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (The Wolf Of Wall Street #1) by Jordan Belfort

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About The Wolf of Wall Street

By day he made thousands of dollars a minute. By night he spent it as fast as he could. From the binge that sank a 170-foot motor yacht and ran up a $700,000 hotel tab, to the wife and kids waiting at home and the fast-talking, hard-partying young stockbrokers who called him king, here, in Jordan Belfort’s own words, is the story of the ill-fated genius they called the Wolf of Wall Street. In the 1990s, Belfort became one of the most infamous kingpins in American finance: a brilliant, conniving stock-chopper who led his merry mob on a wild ride out of Wall Street and into a massive office on Long Island. It’s an extraordinary story of greed, power, and excess that no one could invent: the tale of an ordinary guy who went from hustling Italian ices to making hundreds of millions—until it all came crashing down.

My Review

NOT at all what I was expecting.  I was hoping to read of the rise and of course fall of Belfort. I wanted to know why he chose a crooked road, instead I was submerged into his hedonistic lifestyle with absolutely no remorse or apology.  I barely made it through all the F-bomb’s (and boy are there plenty, atomic explosion), all the sex, drugs and general bad behavior. Greed is ugly as Belfort demonstrates.  Such a shame an intelligent man chose to use his intellect nefariously, blatently deceiving people as he played a part in our economic downfall. I have no idea how a film was made based on the trash I read.  If I wasn’t a principled reader I would NEVER have finished the book. Thank goodness I didn’t spend hard earned money on this so called book, it was a gift, clearly the giver should demand a refund. All the people who rode the wave with Belfort….you are equally guilty and disgusting, good luck looking at yourself in the mirror daily. A book depicting, for some, money is the root of evil.

About Jordan Belfort289953

After graduating from American University, Jordan Belfort worked on Wall Street for ten years. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his two children.

Published September 25th 2007 by Bantam (first published September 2007)