Book review: Six-word memoirs on Love and Heartbreak

Book Reviews

51gmtdjnt9l-_ac_ul320_sr228320_Six-word memoirs on Love and Heartbreak is an extremely short, and yet infinitely meaningful collection of stories that will evoke an echo in anyone that has truly lived. Lovers lost, loves gained, hopes forgotten, secrets, memories… Six words can say so little, and sometimes so much.

Coffee, my vice. So was he.

– Alessandra Rizzotti

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Book Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Book Reviews

9781408888094

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself.

The book opens with the main character Elsie “Elizabeth” Bainbridge as an amnesiac, numb and mentally-tortured patient of an insane asylum. The doctor – a young new face highly enthusiastic about the prospect of helping Elsie return her memories reveals that she is suspected of arson and potentially murder. Elsie was severely injured in a fire, the incident also robbed her of her voice. Two people were registered to have died at the Bridge, the ancestral home of her late husband. Four bodies were later found in the mansion.  In an attempt to remember what happened, Elsie slowly begins to recount her tale in writing.

Book Review: Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster

Book Reviews, Luxury
41w6h6oy-rl-_sx324_bo1204203200_There is no justifiable reason for stockpiling four books on the to-be-reviewed list, especially if the first one was finished close to a month ago. Deluxe by Dana Thomas became a sort of a trip down the memory lane, especially since half, or maybe a third of the volume is essentially about the brands that still are owned by the boss of my former boss of my former boss. My brief tenure at LVMH may still be the highlight of my life (or maybe just the professional side of it). The good old Parisian days…
 
Anyway, revenons a nos moutons. Even though the book is going to be 10 years old next year – and 10 years is an extremely long time for pretty much any business organization out there, it still is an essential read for anyone interested in learning the basics about the brands and the industries that form modern luxury. Dana Thomas covers a wide range of topics – handbags, silks, luxury perfumes, histories of such luxury monoliths as Louis Vuitton and Hermes, rise of the luxury conglomerates like LVMH, Japan’s obsession with luxury and the expansion of brands in the US. The author also devotes a large segment of the book to the impact of going mass-market – the rise of the fake mass-produced goods and the loss of the unique luxury identity that happened to some of the brands and is slowly like a disease towards the others.
Deluxe is an essential read for anyone willing to learn the basics of the industry and it truly gives a comprehensive guide to all things luxury.

Book review: The Simple Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Book Reviews

Goodreads description: Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

The readers should not remain misguided by the title, for Mark Mason’s book isn’t pure and simply a book on how not to have a care in the world. Rather, it’s a book about learning to understand and to care about the things that truly matter in a way that will not damage you.

All the while I was reading The Simple Art of Not Giving a Fuck I kept enthusiastically repeating “Yes!” and “Indeed!” after reading every other statement. The things Mason talks about… I have come to learn some of them through years of nervous breakdowns, uncertainities, shaky self-confidence and lots of dead nervous cells. Through years of hearing hearing the people closest to me saying that I’m just not good enough until I’m this or that. What I have learned over all of these years is that acceptance matter. Sometimes you just have to accept things just the way they are. “Pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make.

Sometimes, in order to become strong you have to accept that you are inferior. Sometimes, in order to stay sane, you just have to accept that you are you, with all your faults… This is exactly the reason why The Simple Art of Not Giving a Fuck resonated with me so much.

5*

Book review: Power by Naomi Alderman

Book Reviews

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

Goodreads book synopsis calls Naomi Alderman’s Power extraordinary, and yet, I cannot bring myself to call the novel something other than average. Or maybe a bit more than average.

Naomi Alderman does deliver an intriguing concept. At a certain point in time women become powerful – all of a sudden, the bodies of young girls all around the world can produce electricity. All the babies are born with it. The older women get the power from younger ones… The world is turned upside down, all the concepts of male-dominated societies go crashing down as women get the chance to fight back against opression.

The book follows a set of characters. Allie’s power comes through as her foster father is raping her. She kills the man and runs off, ending up in a covent and all of a sudden becoming a prophet of a female God. Btw, Allie hears a voice in her head that keeps driving her actions. Roxy is an illegitimate child of a British mob boss, her power comes through the moment enemies of her father come to kill her mother. Margot is an American politician, who receives the power from her teenage daughter Jos. Tunde is a Nigerian kid who becomes a journalist and a keen observer of the events that changed the world.

 

At some points towards the end of the novel I found myself skipping pages as the storylines got me questioning more and more how did Power get a 4* average on Goodreads. It’s hard not to question how so many readers got this book so wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Naomi Alderman’s writing IS good, but is not exceptional. At least not just yet. She depicts violence against women, she depicts violence committed against men, she writes about rape and abuse, about drugs, about power and the ways it corrupts people. Some part of the storylines reminded me of bad fanfiction. Power is ok, but it definitely isn’t a book that deserves another read.

Overall grade: 3*

Book recommendation: The Silence of the Sea by Vercors

Book Reviews

This isn’t a review as such, because reviewing something that was written during the war by a member of the French Resistance is inappropriate. Imprinting your vision or opinion on something that was written by a witness is, in my view, utterly inappropriate.

The Silence of the Sea is exactly the story that would have been branded as inappropriate in our parts of the world. Some places in Eastern Europe are still obsessed by their vision of history, the glorified past washed to the shining bone… Germans were bad. The Soviets were victims. Sometimes the Soviets are branded as the only victims. A disdainful opinion “What do they, the Westerners, know of war?” is still heard all too often. Education is to blame, and not the lack thereof. The ones that are a decade older than myself have studied World War II in great many details during the history and literature classes. Instead of being taught reason – that war isn’t black and white, that the ones that are dragged into it aren’t always good or bad – many, many people from the former USSR were taught that the Germans were the big bad wolf. A short story about a good German is something too fantastical to be true for many conservative minds. This is what the Silence of the Sea is in fact.

It is a story about a girl and her elderly uncle, living in a small provincial town invaded by the Germans. Werner von Ebrennac is a German officer that they are forced to host in their own home. In an act of resistance, the French family treats the foreigner, the despicable Nazi with silence… Werner – the well-mannered, cultured and respectful officer does all the talking, and as his monologues unfold we learn that still and silent waters hold secrets…

I recommended this short story to a Ukrainian friend some years ago. When I saw her the next day, she said: “I hate you. I cried” 

Book review: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer

Book Reviews

The most suffocating part about my previous job – and I understood this quite recently – is the fact that it suffocated my reading. The inspiration and the motivation for enlightenment have gone for a long walk… I switched to fiction. I love fiction, don’t get me wrong, but what I love even more is a book that makes me discover things and makes me crave for more knowledge.

 I am thrilled to say that The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer reminded me about the things that I was missing.

Few of us are aware of the visual biases and behavioral patterns that influence our thinking when we’re on our laptops, iPads, smartphones, or smartwatches. The sheer volume of information and choices available online, combined with the ease of tapping “buy,” often make for poor decision making on screens. Using engaging reader exercises and provocative case studies, Benartzi shows how digital designs can influence our decision making on screens in all sorts of surprising ways.

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Never have I ever thought that I would write a 2* review on a Harry Potter play, but as it turned out, one of the most eagerly awaited books of the year is a grand disappointment. First and foremost, it is essential to point out that my opinion of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was by no means influenced by the fact that it is not an actual novel. Amazingly, some of the readers have missed out the Cursed Child is a script, but journalists are quite seriously to blame for this one. They also are to blame for the fact that almost every media outlet mentions something in the lines of “J.K.Rowling’s latest Harry Potter book… etc etc”. J.K.Rowling did NOT write the Cursed Child. The script is based on the original seven novels, and obviously, J.K.Rowling has given her go-ahead for the use of the beloved characters from the series and contributed to the story development together with John Tiffany, but she did not do the writing. Jack Thorne did.

Review: Tell the wolves I’m home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Book Reviews

 12875258Two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life – someone who will help her to heal and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. 

As the events unravel, the reader begins to see that June’s love for her uncle has grown into an unhealthy obsession. Not in a maniacal sort of way, but still not quite right. Even her sister Greta used to tease June that she was in love with her gay uncle and by going through the first half of the book, it’s hard not to question whether in fact it was true. Sure thing, June grieves about the loss of her closest friend and confidant, but her loss becomes a sort of compulsion.

She gets jealous – four-year-old kind of jealous – of a life that Finn has led without her. The character is slow to realize that Finn was gay. As it turns out, Finn’s sister (June’s mother) put her brother before a choice – he could keep in touch with the girls only without the involvement of his boyfriend.   June questions why would Finn keep his boyfriend secret, and while the homophobic attitudes of the family the answer is quite obvious. At one point June even gloats that Finn did not take his boyfriend Toby to the Cloisters Museum, where Finn and June used to go on their Sundays together.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home touches on many topics, perhaps too many to make it likable. It’s slow, at some points quite painfully so. June’s journey of self-discovery drags on and on, and the things that happen to her and the other characters (unfairness of life, judgments, loneliness etc etc) are quite tragic and yet Tell the Wolves I’m Home is no first-class drama, it’s a “meh” kind of book that did not leave either a positive or negative impression. It’s not a book that I would recommend, re-read or go see in cinemas if it gets an adaptation.

 

 

Review: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan

Book Reviews

John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.

Marley quickly grew into a barreling, ninety-seven-pound streamroller of a Labrador retriever, a dog like no other. He crashed through screen doors, gouged through drywall, flung drool on guests, stole women’s undergarments, and ate nearly everything he could get his mouth around, including couches and fine jewelry. Marley shut down a public beach and managed to land a role in a feature-length movie, always winning hearts as he made a mess of things. Through it all, he remained steadfast, a model of devotion, even when his family was at its wit’s end. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms

If you love dogs – Marley & Me is guaranteed to make you cry. Of laughter and sadness in the end. Me, I ended up wailing in the public transport. None of my pooches were even remotely as naughty (understatement?) as Marley, a dog-loving heart cannot stay calm and not emphasize while reading the last of John Grogan’s memoir. It’s touching, it’s fun and if you have a “world’s worst dog” it would probably make you feel less alone.