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 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 Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road by Rob Schmitz

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About Street of Eternal Happiness

Modern Shanghai: a global city in the midst of a renaissance, where dreamers arrive each day to partake in a mad torrent of capital, ideas, and opportunity. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz is one of them. He immerses himself in his neighborhood, forging deep relationships with ordinary people who see in the city’s sleek skyline a brighter future, and a chance to rewrite their destinies. There’s Zhao, whose path from factory floor to shopkeeper is sidetracked by her desperate measures to ensure a better future for her sons. Down the street lives Auntie Fu, a fervent capitalist forever trying to improve herself with religion and get-rich-quick schemes while keeping her skeptical husband at bay. Up a flight of stairs, musician and café owner CK sets up shop to attract young dreamers like himself, but learns he’s searching for something more. As Schmitz becomes more involved in their lives, he makes surprising discoveries which untangle the complexities of modern China: A mysterious box of letters that serve as a portal to a family’s – and country’s – dark past, and an abandoned neighborhood where fates have been violently altered by unchecked power and greed.

A tale of 21st century China, Street of Eternal Happiness profiles China’s distinct generations through multifaceted characters who illuminate an enlightening, humorous, and at times heartrending journey along the winding road to the Chinese Dream. Each story adds another layer of humanity and texture to modern China, a tapestry also woven with Schmitz’s insight as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate and surprising portrait that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know, immersing us instead in the vivid stories of the people who make up one of the world’s most captivating cities.

My Review

I loved the eclectic mix of people Schmitz introduced. We discover Shanghai and China’s history past and present with the future ambiguous.

Schmitz possess a casual yet sharp writing style sucking the reader into the lives of the people depicted. The various stories run from heartbreaking to inspiring. The colorful cast each has a very different view of their country and its history based on generation and political views. CK an entrepreneur determined to succeed, Zhao a smart businesswoman attempting to marry off her son, Auntie Fu caught up in a Ponzi scheme – all scratching and clawing in modern China. Nice comparison between US and China both in similarities and differences. Each person pursuing their dream and each dream is as different as each person. Shanghai offers much yet carving your path is quite a challenge. Fascinating and absorbing read.

About Rob SchmitzA1-GGWtjoEL._UX250_

Rob Schmitz is the China correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace, the largest business news program in the U.S. with more than 12 million listeners a week. He has reported on a range of topics illustrating China’s role in the global economy, including trade, politics, the environment, education, and labor. In 2012, Schmitz exposed fabrications in Mike Daisey’s account of Apple’s Chinese supply chain on This American Life, and his report headlined that show’s much-discussed “Retraction” episode. The work was a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Schmitz first arrived to the country in 1996 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Sichuan province. His Marketplace stories can be heard at http://www.marketplace.org/people/rob-schmitz. This is his first book.

Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Crown

Review: Henna House by Nomi Eve

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About Henna House

Nomi Eve’s vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920, when Adela Damari’s parents desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter. After passage of the Orphan’s Decree, any unbetrothed Jewish child left orphaned will be instantly adopted by the local Muslim community. With her parents’ health failing, and no spousal prospects in sight, Adela’s situation looks dire until her uncle arrives from a faraway city, bringing with him a cousin and aunt who introduce Adela to the powerful rituals of henna tattooing. Suddenly, Adela’s eyes are opened to the world, and she begins to understand what it means to love another and one’s heritage. She is imperiled, however, when her parents die and a prolonged drought threatens their long-established way of life. She and her extended family flee to the city of Aden where Adela encounters old loves, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and customs she once held dear.

Henna House is an intimate family portrait and a panorama of history. From the traditions of the Yemenite Jews, to the far-ranging devastation of the Holocaust, to the birth of the State of Israel, Eve offers an unforgettable coming-of-age story and a textured chronicle of a fascinating period in the twentieth century.

My Review

Eve penned a narrative offering a powerful event in history known to few – Operation Magic Carpet, officially called Operation On Wings of Eagles along with information on Yemenite Jews and the tension between Jews and Muslims in Yemen between 1920-1940’s. From the prologue you know the story will possess its share of trials and tribulations with the ending dishing out profound heartbreak. The element of suspense exists throughout until the cover is closed. An affecting and memorable story. I didn’t want this story to end, I was captivated by Adela the moment she was introduced – her joys and sorrow became mine. She will never stray far from my thoughts and heart.

Wasn’t a fan of the prepubescent sex scene. It was uncomfortable and had no impact on the story, its absence would not have smeared the plot whatsoever, I would have preferred it omitted. Also the last part of the narrative felt completely rushed and yet this was where the historical events made the story but felt quickened and glossed over. I only wish the pace and attention was carried until the end to showcase Eve’s jewel.

Eve’s writing and vision deserves to be recognized. An incredibly arresting story of relationships, love, loss, betrayal and forgiveness. Absolutely incandescent. One of the best books I have utterly enjoyed in a long time.

About Nomi Eve32432

Nomi Eve is the author of Henna House and The Family Orchard, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.

She has an MFA in fiction writing from Brown University and has worked as a freelance book reviewer for The Village Voice and New York Newsday.

Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Glimmer Train Stories, The Voice Literary Supplement, Conjunctions, and The International Quarterly. She teaches fiction writing at Drexel University and lives in Philadelphia with her family.

Published August 12th 2014 by Scribner

Review & Giveaway: Nagasaki by Éric Faye, Emily Boyce (Translator)

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About Nagasaki

Based on a true story. Winner of the 2010 Académie Française novel award.

In a house on a suburban street in Nagasaki, meteorologist Shimura Kobo lives quietly on his own. Or so he believes. Food begins to go missing. Perturbed by this threat to his orderly life, Shimura sets up a webcam to monitor his home. But though eager to identify his intruder, is Shimura really prepared for what the camera will reveal? This prize‐winning novel is a moving tale of alienation in the modern world.

My Review

A psychological mind bender based on an actual incident in Nagasaki 2008.

The story profiles two very different people however the one similarity shared is loneliness. One prefers isolation, the other require a strong sense of belonging. The very end explains why this particular house was selected.

Both suffer from the aftermath as is revealed which is poignant and affecting

Beautifully written, a moving story. Simple yet complex. Sad and insightful.

Admittedly, I searched my house after reading Nagasaki, just in case……

About Éric Fayeimage

Born in Limoges, Éric Faye is a journalist and the prize-winning author of more than twenty books, including novels and travel memoirs. He was awarded the Académie Française Grand Prix du Roman in 2010 for Nagasaki.

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Nagasaki. Open to US residents only. Ends 1/12/16
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Published April 14th 2014 by Gallic Books (first published 2010)

Moses Son of Maimon by Ilil Arbel w/ Giveaway

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Moses Son of Maimon: The Life of Maimonides, 1135 to 1204 A.D.
Ilil Arbel

Publisher: 21st Publishing

Release Date: Feb 12, 2015

An enthralling read on the highly regarded philosopher Moses Maimonides. Know for his intellectual prowess and his contradictory views, his fame is etched in history. His brilliance depicted in his writings masterfully bridging religion with science and philosophy.

Exiled, drifting until landing in Israel where he quickly became appreciated for his intellectual capabilities. A lifelong writer his manuscripts nothing less than profound.

We are privy to this geniuses childhood to his renown place in history. His brilliance unsurpassable garnering recognition from Jews, Christians and Muslims. An in depth glimpse into the man not limited to the scholar.

A wonderfully written historical biography of a brilliant man of arcane intellectual magnitude.

Outstanding writing and research. Arbel focuses on the rich and vibrant environs of the 12th century including food, fashion and the energy of the time period. A fulfilling reading experience full of texture and dimension. Exceptioal read.

Book Description:
Moses Maimonides brought controversy that is still raging—eight hundred years after his death. At certain times his books were banned and even burned at the stake. But no one could ever deny that his work was that of a brilliant innovator and scholar who could reconcile religious traditions with science and philosophy like no one else.

Author Bio:

Ilil Arbel is the author of a number of fiction and non-fiction books, including biographies, memoirs, Ilil-Arbel-Author 2novels, and mythology/folklore. She has also written articles, short stories, and Judaic myths.

Arbel has a Ph.D. in the field of mythology and folklore but has also devoted much study to her special interest in Jewish history, biography, legends, and myths. She is currently engaged in writing the biography of Hillel the Elder, the first century B.C. leader and religious scholar.

Dr. Arbel was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. She has lived and studied in Tel Aviv, Paris, and New York and currently resides in Manhattan.

Author Links –
Publisher’s Website
Publisher’s Facebook Website
Amazon

Giveaway
Click on form below to enter tour wide giveaway with a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, a signed print book, and 5 eBooks. See entry for details.
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