Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sipping From The Nile: Book Review

Sipping From The Nile
By Jean Naggar

 I was wondering, why would I be interested in a wealthy Egyptian Jewish family? of course, I am Jewish but why else?  There isn't any thing out of the ordinary. There wasn't any abuse, or financial crisis, there isn't any psychological, drug, or alcohol, or rape, incest.

  So, why write this book? Or was it a  legacy to leave for her children. They would be the only ones that would connect to her memoir.  But, once she leaves childhood and grows into the teenage years, and adulthood, you become immersed, and flooded(into the Nile) with emotions especially toward the end.

  Jean Naggar, was raised in a very prestigious, privileged  family, with great wealth. Did you know that the Jewish Egyptian's were the wealthiest people in the middle east( interesting)?
 She comes from a long line of Sephardic Jews from Italy, on one side, and the Middle East on the other. She writes extensively, about both sides of the family. It becomes a bit tedious.

Jean is born to privilege she travels to different places, and goes abroad to Manchester England to boarding school.  She talks about her grand home, and the maids, and the help that take care of the home.  I enjoyed reading about her Aunt Helen and her grandmother's ( grand matriarchs of the family) family.

I wondered, this story can't just be tedious about growing up, and talking only about herself, and her family, and the riches that surround her. But, it does go with the story because, her family is tightly knit. I would have liked her to write about her friends, and experiences, Egyptian life, less about herself and her family.

I think as a young girl, I was thinking she in a fairy land. You remember when you were growing up you idolized your parents, and your parents could do no wrong. Everything they said, was law and you believed them. She was wearing rose colored glasses.  This is how I took her memoir as a child until she grew up, and discovered the other world.

Then in 1956, the Suez Canal Crisis took shape. The British, and the French colonized Egypt for years. In 1956,Britain, France, and Israel tried to take control of the Suez Canal. Because Egypt would not allow Israel to use the canal.  There was bombing by Israel, Britain, and France.

  When this happened, Egypt made conditions terrible for the Jewish Egyptians. They had no other alternative but to leave.  After, Israel became a independent state, 1948.   The Jews of Egypt were treated differently. The German's influenced the Middle east to treat Middle Eastern Jews with hatred, and not to tolerate them. This started anti-Semitism in the middle east.

During the fall out of 1956, there was rioting in the streets. Jews had no access to their money, and their finances, to their homes, trying to get a visa was impossible. Some of Jean's family did stay on, but did eventually leave.

I enjoyed reading her experience when she came to the United States. How did she ever fit in with the rest of American society? How did she fit into the Ashkenazi Jews vs. Sephardic Jews? That is interesting.

 Because, when I moved to Myrtle Beach there is a Ashkenazi community and Sephardic community. I always thought if I was Jewish you should be able to fit in anywhere. Not true, when I went to a Israeli restaurant, or Chabad which are mainly Israeli's(Sephardic) they treated you differently. I am sure it was the same way for Jean.

I enjoyed reading about her first time in her American kitchen, cooking a traditional Egyptian cookie. I had to look it up online, be hold it was on youtube. I wish we had acess to multiethnic foods here as much as in New York City( my home), but it is not to be. It would have been nice to get the traditional cookie for our book club on Monday.

Jean, writes beautiful prose about her adult life in the United States, and her adult years as a grandmother. As you read this, it stirs up your own memories. Thinking about your legacy to your children and grandchildren.

Once you get past the family line, and she writes about the Suez it is all uphill. Many times I wanted to toss it aside, and thought I can't do that. I am the one that recommended Sipping From the Nile. I am making everyone else read this, it is only fair I read it.  I am glad I did not abandon it and kept reading. My book test is usually 50-100 pages. It took a bit longer, but worth the read.

I was not expecting to change my view of the book. I imagined it was going to be a terrible book review. But, thank g-d the experience turned around for me.   If you are interested in cultures, and history, you will enjoy reading.

Jean will be calling into our book club this coming week. I am looking forward to chatting with her. I would like to thank Wiley, in the first place for getting in touch with me. He asked me to review this marvelous book. then arranging for the books to be shipped for our book club, and arranging a chat with Jean.  Tune in Monday, when I post my blog live about the book discussion.

For added pleasure, I made the book interactive. Which may be the way of digital books. I made links to you tube, for the Suez Canal Crisis, and when she was describing how she made a traditional Egyptian Cookie. This enhanced the book. Some day that may be the wave of the future and selling

Saturday, August 18, 2012

City of Women: Book Review

City of Women
By David R. Gillham

It is Berlin, World War 2, and the men are fighting at the front. You can hear the bombing almost every night. It is cold outside, short supply of coal, everyone is hungry. Almost every night the women huddle in the basements to find safety from the bombs.

Almost every night, Sigrid and the women of the apartment building where she lives, huddle together and talk gossip, and complain, and tell secrets.  Who is your friend, who is the spy, the informant to the Gestapo? Who is going to turn someone in for a ration of bread, a radio? etc.

Sigrid works in the patent office. She is married to Kasper. Kasper, is off to war, like all the rest of the men.  What is left, the women, and children. Sigrid, lives with her mother- in-law, a great hag of the century. She is a embittered woman. All she ever does is complain about anyone, and everyone.
She blames all the faults of the world on to Sigrid.

Sigrid, is having a affair with Ergon.  They meet every night in the movie theatre, ( if you are prude you may not appreciate this book).where explicit sex, raw and hard take place. One night Sigrid, was to meet Ergon, but instead a young woman named Erika comes into the movie theatre. The Gestapo is looking for a woman.  Sigrid defends her, and she becomes her companion. Slowly, she divulges her story, and her secret.  Sigrid wants to learn more of the girls identity. Finally, she learns she is hiding Jews. She thinks one of the woman, she is hiding is Ergon's wife and children.

My Review: I picked up this book, because it was the BUZZ, at BEA. But, also the interesting plot line. I have read plenty of holocaust books, but not many books on the German perspective. What was it like living in a shell shock city while the men were off to war? Only the women left? I thought this would make interesting reading.

The characters of Sigrid, I hated at first but then grew to admire at the end. I despised Ergon, he was a terrible person. But, being a Jew during WW2, you did terrible thing to get by. I loved her mother in law. I had to laugh, she said what was on her mind. I think I would have killed myself if I had to live with someone like that.

 The author was a screen writer. You can tell that in his description of detail on every page. The author made you feel like you were in Berlin. I like when a author can transport you to a different time and place, and feel like Berlin was character. I felt like I was in one of those movies with Humphrey Bogart, with lots of fog and spies, wearing trench coats.  Throughout the book the author, used German words sporadically. I think that gave the feel of Berlin.

It took me about 100 pages to get in to the book. Once I passed that I was hooked. But, the problem for me, was too many characters and places. I wish the author did have a glossary of the German words he used. After I finished most of the book, 3/4 was read, I was getting confused about the story. I know it was getting suspenseful, but I was lost and did not get the last part, and the ending. Many times I had to flip the pages back and forth, sometimes I understood. Other times, I read it over and over again, and still did not get it.

There was plenty of sex scenes. If you are a prude you may want to overlook the book. It is rough and raw, and explicit words that may be sensitive to your ears. But, war is hard, and people become animal- like, and not care or concern for others. War, is tough, and there are people that have animal instincts during war, and use sex as their outlet.  

I did really wanted to like this novel. But, unfortunately I did not understand the last part. I did not care for Erika, of what I understood. Please, if someone understood the last part of the book, please let me know.

I read other bloggers reviews, and goodreads. Most people seemed to like the book. But, I must be one of the few that had a hard time with the book. I really wanted to like this book. Maybe I will go back and read it again. Hopefully, I will get it by reading it a second time around.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August Book Club Meeting

Our book club, 38th Ave. Diva Readers read, and discussed Flowers in the Blood, by Gay Courter.   You can read my review on my other blog, at .

Originally, I wrote my review on this blog. But, after thinking this through, the book review actually belongs on the Jewish book blog.  I removed the review, and posted it there.

After several years of having our book hosted by different ladies. We finally have a home again, in a new coffee shop, that is in our friend's art gallery. It is a unique gallery, because it is all types of art, not just painting.
 Art is anything you make of it right?  Jewelry, Silk Scarves, Sculptors, anything that can inspire you to create is art. If you live in the Myrtle Beach/ Grand Strand area, you should come on by, to Rita's unique art gallery. It is so nice to be surrounded by culture and art while talking about books.

Rita was so gracious, and welcoming to our book club, as well as her staff. They were so professional, and friendly. It is so nice when you are acquainted with the proprietor. This makes it personable. She was so sweet, she gave us savories to try, how yummy.

 You can check out the art gallery at

Flowers in the Blood
Gay Courter

Flowers in the Blood, the first paragraph grabs you, Murder.  It is the story of a wealthy, Jewish Indian family, during the 1800's. This is the time of the Opium Wars, the industrial age.

Her mother is murdered by her lover. Dinah is scarred for years because of her mother's indiscretion. How she goes through life, with her family and their opium business.

Most everyone agreed they did not have much knowledge of the Jews in India, and the Opium business.  The book was very informative that way, it did not bog down in dates, and times, like some historical fiction does.

It was interesting facts: What movies and music was the mention of Poppy. Do you know? It will shock you to know, Wizard Of Oz. In the movie when they are walking in the fields of Poppies, they fall asleep. Also, the music from Puff the Magic Dragon.

It was discussed the use of Opium in England, The United States, other places during the 1800's. Jewish people made their money, like the ordinary citizens, would make money. Where there was profit to be made.

It must have been terrible conflict to her. Her family became wealthy because of Poppy. Her mother's murderer was a Opium lord. What a conflict for her.

We did get into why is it right for alcohol to be legal, but addictive. But, Heroine, and Cocaine is not. To me, it doesn't make sense, it is conflicting. Because it is just as dangerous, and addictive.

I loved the historical back ground, and most of us did.  But, toward the end, it was just getting drawn out, and lost it's spark.  Where the brother swindles the family, and talks about auctioning of the Opium, and what every thing is worth, that lost me.

The book club is for us to read all kinds of books that we would not read.  I will say, I would not have picked up this book. It was ok, I did not love it, or hate it. It just was not my kind of book. I would call this romance, I have not read romance in many years. If you need discussion questions you can contact the author. On the author's website, there is resource information about the Indian Jewish Community.

These are the books we have selected for the next few months:

September- Little Bee by Chris Cleave
October- Paris Wife by Paula McLain
November-Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

We discussed reading, Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman. It is a controversial memoir.  It is about a young girl, she speaks out on the Satmar Jews of New York.  We will eventually read it. But, our library in town, told me they would not order it because of the controversy. Not sure, if that is totally the reason.

One thing, I have to give a hand to I had bought a book used, from the seller. It stated it was a penny, and in good condition.  When the book arrived it fell apart.  No biggie, what do you want for a penny.  I was not going to say anything. But, I was going to say, my say.

Not thinking anything will come out of it. I posted my feedback. Do you know they refunded my money. I did not even ask for a refund. How terrific is that. See, they do read your feedback....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Book Goddess discussion: Nancy Pearl

The discussion that Nancy Pearl bring up is very interesting to me. I always wondered, if you liked a certain book, and you wanted the exact same kind of book. How did a librarian, or book seller give you suggestions. Because my thought is, if you tell the librarian, I really enjoyed a certain author, can you recommend another one just like that. How can someone suggest? Just because you like suspense, the person doesn't know what your tastes, and your likes are for reading. Each person has different experiences. One both readers like suspense. But, each one has a different draw or connection. Nancy has the idea of four doors, story, character, place, and language. Which category do you fall into? Myself, I draw into story, and place. This is a very interesting topic. She had made suggestions for a website, where people judge the book and weigh in by the four doors and would be categorized in one place. If you are a reader, and a blogger it is something to think about. The next time you decide what will be your next book. What kind of readers are reading your blog? Do they like the same books you do? Something to think about.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: Gold- Tying in with the Olympics

By Chris Cleave

Gold, Chris Cleave's new novel ties in  with the Olympics in England this year.  The story is about three English athletes, Kate, Zoey, and Jack are cyclists training for the Olympics.

Gold, is not. just about the Olympics. This is a wonderful story of endurance, friendship, and commitment, competitiveness of the game, training, love and family. Only part of the story is the olympics.

In Manchester, England the Olympics are coming up. Tom is the couch, for cycling. He is training, Zoey, and Kate for 2012 Olympics.

Zoey, has some personal demons she can't forget.  A tragedy happened when she was young.   She doesn't have time to think about her past. Until after the last competition. When her past is pushed in front of her mind to recon with.

Kate, forfeited the Olympics at Athens, and then Beijing, and now is competing again at the age of 32. She witnessed her husband's win. Cycling at the Olympics in Athens.  He won the gold, at the podium. On live TV he proposed marriage to Kate.

Kate, and Zoey, are on the Women's Cycling Team. They have to compete against each other. Through it all, Kate and Zoey still manage to have a friendship, and also a friendly rivalry. They have a secret that is kept until someone's dream is shattered at the last race. The secret may be leaked.

At the Beijing Olympics, Kate and Jack were competing respectively for the men, and women cycling events. But, their daughter became sick, and diagnosed with Leukemia. At Beijing, at decision had to be made, who would go home, and take care of their daughter. While the other one stayed to compete? That is a hard decision to make. For us mothers that live normal lives we would know, of course we would take care of our children. But, when you are talking about athletes, that is a entirely different story. 

 When  Kate becomes a mother she has to decide on her priorities. Her daughter has leukemia. Kate forfeits her entry into the Olympic games for her daughter.

At first reading the novel, Gold. I was getting very irritated, and could not keep track of the time and places, and people. The switching back and forth, from Athens, to Bejing, and then to England. I was ready to give it up, I am glad I had the patience, because soon I connected with the characters, and loved them. I am still thinking about them. I do miss them.   I am glad I stuck it out because it was well worth it.

There were some terms, that I did not understand. Parts of the bike, cycling terms, and Olympic terminology. But, that did not stop me from loving the story.

Chris Cleave, understood what the athletes were going through. For a man to understand a female athlete's perspective as a parent, and mother he truly seemed to understand his women characters.

 Women athletes, that have been training for years. Even if they have family, there is still the question of priorities.  you would think obviously, my children first.  But, not for someone that has had the dream almost her entire life of competing and racing. Can you just give it up? Care for your child? or go for the Gold? Would you give up your dream for the sake of your child, of any goal? Going back to school? A good job in another country? If your child was sick.

I think a good discussion and starting point for a book discussion.

              Good Luck To The American Athletes

Lilac Girls: Book Review

Lilac Girls By Martha Hall Kelly Review copy from Ballantine Books You may not want to read my review. I am very critical of ...