Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year: Looking Forward to Year's Planning

I would like to wish every one Happy New Year. I hope 2014 brings you joy in your life, and happiness.  That is what I am hoping for. This has been a very hard year for me. But, I am optimistic that it will be a better year.  I start a new semester Jan. 13th and looking forward to finally starting the Medical Coding program.

Talking about my book blog I finally made some changes to my book blog. I cleaned up and deleted many book blogs I follow that I don't visit much. Or that have not posted in over one year.  I am proud of myself that I finally cleaned it up. A few years ago, I had a problem with my book blog.  But, I think when blogger updated and made some changes that fixed the problem.

I am happy to say I am working with  a blog/web designer to redesign my book blog. I have wanted to do this for years.  Finally I took the plunge.  But the poor girl, didn't realize what she was getting herself into.  She was most likely thinking she would be done with me two weeks ago. But, unfortunately, it has stretched longer.  I wanted a dreamy whimsical look.  Saw one I liked and the designer that does scrap books is no longer doing this.  I had to find someone else.

Finally found another scrap book design I loved.  My book blog designer came up with a beautiful concept but, I liked everything except one thing. I like things with costume and lots of detail. with bold colors, etc. Everything was wonderful up to a point.  The Vector that she chose was too long legged, and thin. I am looking for something that is more bold and definitive design.

The designer, knew I love the Jazz age. There was just something I just did not like about the vector in the picture. Perhaps because you can't see her face.

I know it is a bit soon. But, I would like to share with you the start of the new look.  It is beautiful.

                                                  
Now on to 2014. These are the things I am looking forward to:

I am still not going to be reading alot because of school, and work.  But, I am going to try to read more books that I wanted to get to last year.  Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is on the top of my list. 
                                                                  

The Jewish Grand Strand Reads is my baby project that I started a few years ago.  This is the first year that I went to all the temples, and organizations, and they love the concept and idea.  They have the community read all over the country. But, not in the south, and not especially in the small coastal town.  Each year my pet project has gotten bigger and better. But now that it is gotten into the hands of other people, it has runaway from me. I knew this would happen. I accept it. I have wanted this to be a project to build on the Jewish community in Myrtle Beach. Some of the organizations love the project.  But one organization feels threatened, and has decided after almost three months of putting it together to abandon the project.  That is O.K., because it is going to happen with, or without them.
It is too bad that one person can make the decision for one organization.
                                                           


I am very much excited about this project, the book we chose is The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. If you have not read it yet, you should. It just came out in paper back today. There is so much to discuss, and many themes.



Rabbi Debbie is our guest speaker.   She doesn't have a Bimah, instead she is the prestigious Religious Studies Professor at Coastal Carolina University. She and I are both book nerds and love to talk about books and spread the word. I came up with the concept a few years ago, and it has been getting better each year.  She is passionate about books, and novels especially like myself.

My favorite time has been connecting with the publisher of Harper Collins and talking to them and planning events and sharing what I am doing with the book. Because the community read, you can plan other events leading up to the read, with different themes of the book.
                                                                             

I am so looking forward to Skyping with Helene Wecker in February. That is going to be so exciting.

I have had in the past only, me, myself, and I, organizing the project. I did not have to answer to anyone.   Last year, when I had more people attend. It was decided that the other organizations would love to support and make this a reality.

 I have had many helpers to help organize this.  Kat Kahn from Temple Emanu-El,  and Carrol Sallas, and Marian Cohen, from Temple Beth Elohim of Georgetown, and Hadassah Carolina Mizrah,  has helped organize the project with the restuarant and publicity.  There have been mistakes along the way, and changes that will be made along the way.  You learn from your mistakes what works, and what doesn't. My biggest help has been from Jesse, our Rabbi Avi's Secretary, and Richard, from Temple Beth Elohim. They both helped with publicity from the respective temples.. She has helped me make a logo for our event.  She helped me with the flyer, and will be helping send out another flyer for the choices of the menu.  All before she goes away at the end of January, so time is going to make it, or break it.

                                                                               


The biggest hassle has been the restaurant. At first they were willing to give us a fixed price. Now, they don't want to work with us. We may have to change the venue. We still are able to make changes. We are lucky, we have two more weeks to find another place. Or stay where we are.  Hopefully by then. I can report back that it was a success. We have till Jan 30th to make changes.

If you would like to start a project like this, and don't know how. You can contact me and I will lead you in the right direction.

So don't you think I have enough on my plate, but loving this projects since I have the passion for the written word and sharing it.

One other thing that I added to my plate: I have been elected and selected to V.P. for Education in Hadassah.  I need to come up with two education events this coming year. I would say that is enough for now.  I hope I can come back next year with lots of successes.

How about you? What are you looking forward to?


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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Favorite Books for 2013: Looking on to 2014

I can't believe it is that time already. The best books of the year is my favorite post.  I reflect on the books I have read, and loved or hated it. This was the year that told me what kind of reader I am.  I now realize I am a serious reader. I love a story with some meat too it. I love stories with magical realism. Not sure, if I would go with fantasy. But, I think that t will be my goal next year to try one novel with fantasy.

I read only 29 books this year. I still have one book to go. I am sure I will make it.  This was a hard year in books. There are not many books I actually loved.  I am in school and just did not have time for my two book blogs, and reading.  That is why I love this time of year when I am done with school. I can actually devote some of my time to my book blogs.
                                                      
If you are a follower of my two book blogs than you most likely will know my favorite book will be, and no surprise is The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. This is a fabulous book. If you would like to learn more check out my post. My favorite Historical fiction novel, was the Chaperone by Laura Moriarty,You can check out my post here.  Unbroken by Laura Hilderbrand, lot's to talk about with this book.  Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey You can check out my post here. For Women's Fiction, Beth Hoffman's Looking For Me
And finally, Second Star from the Right by Mary Alice Monroe. You can check out my post here.

My best book club meeting was our discussion with Professor Ennis. We discussed Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. We had a wonderful discussion talking about women and her time. The best discussion I led was the book discussion of Unbroken by Laura Hilderbrand. The Healing by Jonathan O'Dell, this was a wonderful read, and discussion. Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick.

My goal for 2014 is to be more selective in books I read.  I still have many books that I wanted to get to, but didn't.  I want to start reading books of my own choosing not feeling pressured by the publishers.  

The one book I want to read is:

Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn
 Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.
Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Snow Child






Snow Child
By Eowyn Ivey


Snow Child is the book debut of Eowny Ivey. She was inspired to write Snow Child because of the Russian Fable, The Snow Maiden.

In 1920 Alaska, a elderly, childless couple, Mabel and Jack are homesteaders. They moved from the United States to escape the reminders of what they left behind.  They were unable to conceive a child.

When we first meet them, they both seem lonely, and isolated, just like the landscape of Alaska. It is beautiful, but then it is desolate and primitive.

One day, Mabel and Jack build a " Snowchild", out of snow. But the next morning Jack finds the"Snowchild" is gone. Where did she go?   Where are the mittens, and the scarf and hat that they left on the Snow Child. The Snow Child eventually appears, and then disappears after Spring comes. Then returns in the winter.  No one can see the child except for Mabel and Jack.

The Snow Child was slow moving.  What made the story was the characters the author created. The characters grow on us. We actually embrace them and care about them.   Her sentence structure, beautiful prose made the story flow.  I appreciated what the author had written after I finished the novel.  There are many themes, and lots to discuss. There were parts of the story that I felt were a bit far fetched, and unrealistic.

 I have not read a novel that takes place in Alaska before. This book describes the landscape of Alaska's beauty. One of our members had been in Alaska. Thinking about it now, it would have been wonderful if she talked about her experiences there. If you love magical realism, than you will love the story.

 Our book club read and discussed Snow Child. I did not expect a discussion, "Was she real or not?
I did not at  all expect this kind of reaction.

At the end of our discussion we discussed and compared Snow Child with The Golem and the Jinni. Another novel we have read for our Jewish Grand Strand Reads.Because Golem and the Jinni has a pair of fantastical figures. Why were we able to accept them but not Snow Child which was similar. We came up with because it was New York and we could relate to the background. With Snow Child we don't know Alaska or the story and couldn't relate to it as well.

I think there was mixed reviews from each of us. Some of us liked the book, some did not.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Tour: Second Star to the Right by Mary Alice Monroe



Second Star to the Right
By Mary Alice Monroe

This is not my typical review, but I am excited about telling you about Mary Alice Monroe's revised, and updated novel. If you love magic, fantasy, mixed in with fairy dust, than you will fall in love with Second Star to the Right. This is not a typical MAM novel. If you go to her website you will find what inspired her to write it.  This is a wonderful book that will make you believe in miracles and magic during hard times, and not so hard times.

I never did read Peter Pan. But, saw the movies, over and over again. I remember as a child two versions, of Peter Pan. The one version was not animated, it was played by Larry Hagman's mother( sorry I can't remember her name). The other was the Disney Version( my favorite).  The Disney version is my favorite.                                                      





The Second Star to the right is part magic, part family relations, romance and sprinkled with fairy dust.

 Faye O'Neil and her children Maddie, and Tom were living in the United States. Until the physical abuse from her husband became unbearable. Faye O'Neil, and her children, Maddie, and Tom left the United States and came to Apartment 14. 

Downstairs lives a physics professor, Jack.  Jack is handsome, and tries to make the moves on Faye.  Both of them are attracted to each other.  Faye fights the urge, but Jack keeps on trying. 

 Upstairs lives Wendy, and elderly lady that thinks anything is possible. She believes that Peter Pan will be coming to her window. The children come to visit Wendy every chance they get.  The children also see flickers of light in their bedroom, could it be?? Tinker??? or something else. 

  Then there is her straight laced daughter that doesn't believe in magic. She fights her mother anyway she can. Her daughter decides she wants to sell the apartment house and put her mother in the nursing home. Wendy tells her daughter if you do that, Peter Pan will not find me.   The children go missing? What happened to them?? Faye goes frantic. Is is possible???? What do you think??? Then something happens to Wendy??? 

 I don't want to tell you the rest because I will ruin it.  Just believe me that this is a wonderful, and a magical story that makes you believe anything is possible.  I just love how Mary Alice Monroe put the story together. 

I did not know how this story was going to link up with magic and reality. MAM does a wonderful story.  When you finish the story you will understand why. It is so touching it makes you believe in anything. If you have had something tragic happen to you, this will uplift your spirits. 

I am so glad Mary Alice Monroe's assistant, Angela asked me to read this.  In fact this is a magical reason. I have been going through a hard time with my Mom and Dad with health issues.  Second Star from the Right is uplifting, and a story of faith. 


Thank you for allowing me to review and participate in Second Star to the Right book blog.











Friday, November 15, 2013

Snow In August: Wondeful Read






Snow in August
By Pete Hamill



This book is not written by a Jewish author, which makes this even more wonderful to read. I am not starting a debate what makes a book Jewish or not?  I am posting it because it is about a Catholic boy, and how he connects with a Rabbi.  
This is the third time reading. Because of our community read, The Golem and the Jinni; we decided to pick this one. Pete Hamill's story is wonderful. 

Michael, Irish Catholic 10 year old. Living in Brooklyn in the 1940's. Michael is a average kid, there isn't any TV. Instead,Michael likes to go to the local movie theatre where he's mom works-with his friends. He also enjoys reading comic books- Superman. 

Michael, and his Brooklyn friends are threatened by the gang, The Falcons. I should say the entire neighborhood is afraid of this thug. Michael just happens to be in Mr. G's store ( Mr. G is Jewish)at the wrong time. Mr. G sticks up for Michael. The thug( can't remember his name), beats up Mr. G pretty badly. Michael witnesses the crime. He is not a snitch; he is not going to tell. In the meantime, a local Rabbi see's Michael one day going down the street, He asked Michael a favor. Because it is Saturday, Shabbat for the Jews, a holy day. Would Michael be the Shabbos Goy? 

What turns out to just be a favor turns into a friendship that will forever change both Michael, and the Rabbi. Rabbi Hirsch wants to learn better English. Rabbi Hirsch asks Michael, if you teach me English, I will teach you Yiddish- Michael agrees. 

What happens is Michael and Rabbi Hirsch become close, and learn about each other. Rabbi Hirsch, we learn about his wife during the Holocaust. We also learn about the story of the " Golem of Prague". Michael we learn about his father's death during the war. But. also the hardship of living in the tenements with his single mother. 

Michael's troubles without his father;trying too grow up too fast. He is trying to be strong for his mother. Since there is trouble brewing on the streets of Brooklyn( Falcon gang). Michael is worried about the Falcons. They think he snitched. Because the cops keep showing up at unexpected places. He's friends have abandoned him as well. He's only friend is Rabbi Hirsch. 

Each of them become stronger and reach out to each other to help each other, as they friendship becomes stronger. Their connection is baseball, and Jackie Robinson. They talk about these two things every time they meet. Michael is excited one day, the Rabbi got tickets for the baseball game. This is all Michael can think about till the actual game. He is so excited. 

After the game, Michael admits to Rabbi Hirsch what happened to Mr. G. Rabbi Hirsch's advise to Michael. Sometimes not telling is worse than the crime itself. 

The rest of the story is very moving and Mystical. I only learned about the Golem from reading Snow in August. It is a very moving sweet story about a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940's. I will worn you that there is antisemitism, and discrimination in Snow in August. But that is the point of the story. 

If you are waiting to hear about the Golem. Yes, there is a golem that is created in the story. But, I am not going to relate that to you. That will just ruin it. The book brought tears to my eyes what happens at the end. I would love to tell you why. But, I just can't. If you do read the book. Check out other background info. about the golem. There is also on Netflix, a episode of X-Files called Kaddish. Then check out youtube, you will find the movie, Snow in August; the movie adaption.

My take of the story, is a growing up tale. There is nostalgia, 1940's, Brooklyn N.Y.  If you bought  or have the newest version of Snow in August. You are in for a treat. Because the back of the book explain's why the author wrote Snow in August.  I Just loved this book. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it. 

Culinary History of the Grand Strand: Book Review of Local Author


When you think of Myrtle Beach, what do you think of first?  Sun, Surf, and good times, right? There is more behind the scenes of Myrtle Beach.  There is a rich history, actually Culinary history that most of us are not aware of.

With all the restuarants on the Grand Strand over 1000. That is at least is what is stated, in the Culianary History of Myrtle Beach, and the Grand Strand. It is written by a local author, Becky Billingsley.

 Becky, Billingsley has lived in this area for over 15 years. She is a food critic, and also manages a website called mytlebeachrestaurants.com.  This is where I knew of Becky through the website.  When I learned she just wrote a book. I had to ask if she would allow me to review her book.  I don't usually review books that are non-fiction about food. But, because she is a local author I wanted to help spread the word about her terrific book.  It is full of old time remedies, recipes, and stories about growing up in the south, particularly the Grand Strand area.

Most of are not originally from here. We are transplants from up north, what we are customarily called a "yankee". The people that live here all year round are not aware of the culinary history of the Grand Strand.  It started with the uniqueness of the people living here 300 years ago. It was at first the native Wacammaw Indians.  Then came the Europens. They were looking for religious freedom. Then came the African slaves.  It is the mix of all these cultures that blended together to make the Grand Strand, what it is today.  There is such a uniqueness, and food that makes this part of the country so different than any other.

Those of us, that are called Yankees never heard of these foods that make Myrtle Beach, and the rest what is called the Grand Strand.   Or heard of these foods but did not realize they originated here.  For you that don't understand the difference of Myrtle Beach, and Grand Strand. I am going to give you a geography lesson.  The Grand Strand is composed of the coastal towns starting at N. Carolina called, Calabash all the way down the strip to Georgetown.

Here is my book review of Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand. I enjoyed reading about the culinary history and the foods available in this area from the time of slavery till now.  It was interesting to learn why they ate, what they ate. Some people were limited because of money. Others because of the location. How they adapted the food. The slave owners ate what the slaves made in their plantation. I found it interesting foods also were prepared by what was available to them at certain time of the season. I never thought about this.

My eating habits were not dictated by this. I am from up north and we had a abundant of food. It did not depend on seasons, and what was available.   I recommend you buy the book if you are interested about the culinary history of Myrtle Beach.

 I enjoyed reading about the development of the Grand Strand area. How the restaurants came about, some stayed, some left, etc.

My only gripe was that the author seemed to want to speed it up too fast. One minute she is talking about 19th Century, then fast forward to early 20th century, and the hotel restaurant boom. What happened!!! How did we get there so fast.  Anyway, I still liked traveling and learning about the culinary history of our area. Thank you Becky, for the book.

You will also find some recipes that may not be possible to make. Since these are old recipes.






Book Review: Richest Woman in America




"After your business is over you may take your colleague to dinner and the theater, or allow him to take you, but wait until the transaction has been closed and the money paid."

These are the words of Hetty Green, the Richest woman in the world.

I bought this book on recommendation of a literary event I went to last year. I am a history buff, and thought this would be a interesting read. I never heard about Hetty Green.

  I was disappointed. I expected to learn about her personal side.  I got a feeling that the author could not get into her head, and she did not understand Hetty. 

This book is non-fiction about the life of Hetty Green. The richest woman in America. She lived during the Gilded Age. Hetty Green was born in New Bedford, Mass, in a whaling town. Her family were from the Quaker faith, and very wealthy. Her father was a financier,dabbled in everything to make money. 

She did not have a good upbringing as a child.  Her father ruled the roost, and kept a upper hand with her mother. Her father did not pay much attention to Hetty. Hetty tried to please her father, and even until his death he was very critical and did not trust her business sense. 

 Later on when Hetty was old enough to appreciate finance, they connected. When she talked business and money with her father. He  would pay attention to her.  Hetty felt love only with the connection of money. 

When her Father,Edward Mott Robinson, and Aunt Sylvie  passed away she expected millions would be left to her. But, instead there was simulations to the will. She challenged her Aunt's will and to this day it is remembered in the courts. 

Hetty was a very head strong, and independent woman. She did not care about high society, and frivolous things. Such as clothes, makeup, and jewelry.

Hetty had a good head on her shoulders. She learned not to panic. Where she made her money was the financial panics. She made her money with her husband, Edward Henry Green with the rail roads, and bonds, and real estate.  She had a better business sense than her husband. 




I was hoping to read about the human side of Hetty. But, there was not much written about it. It seemed superficial.  There were glimpses and speculation. But nothing definitive. One minute she spends wisely, the next she spends frivolously. The book seems to contradict itself constantly. 

What I found interesting is she held on to her children, especially her daughter, Slyvie for dear life. She controlled both her children. When her daughter married at 38 she had a hard time letting go. She did not believe in Women's Suffrage. 

The other thing I found interesting. Mistakes financially are forever made over and over again. Reading the book, and the mistakes made in the Gilded Age were again make a couple of years ago, in 2012! Overspending, it never changes!! You compare overextending of the railroads, to what happened a few years ago. It is the same mistakes. 

I am not interested in finance, and the money end of things. That may be why I did not love this book. There were parts that captivated me and others that were dull. I liked the personal side of Hetty. But when the discussion of business, and money was in the book I was not interested. I just make my money and spend it. Not one of my favorite reads, I did not care about Hetty or her life.

 It reminded me of Christmas Carol, but instead of a man, substitute a woman.  She did not sound like a happy woman. But, she had her children that cared about her.

You can also read a article from USA Today here

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Line Up: Book Blog Tour










Line Up
By Llad Shoham


Today, I have been invited to participate in the TLC Book Tour of, Line Up.  I would like to thank TLC Book Tours asking me to participate.  You can visit the other stops at TLC Book Tours site, and a special treat, a interview at CBS News with the author, Llad Shoham. .
 This is the first time I am reading a novel that takes place in Israel. I have always been told to stay away from books from Israeli author's because of the translation.  Too many strange names, and places.  Even though I know a little hebrew, I have always been put off.

Either, they never heard of this author before, Liad Shoham, or we were told wrong. Because Line Up, is terrific. It gets you at the first sentence and grabs you, and it doesn't let you go. 

I don't know much what comes out of Israel. But, what I do know it is used to be there was limited books translated to English. But, now it seems that there are more authors able to be translated and read by English speaking language. 

I am very happy I read this book. There is many twists and turns, and holds your attention.

It starts in Tel Aviv, Israel,with the noisy retired, older lady, Sara Glazer. She is  watching out in the wee hours of the morning making sure that her neighbor picks up after his dog. 

Sara Glazer, notices a man and a woman, then a struggle, she realizes it is more sinister, it is a rape. But, she keeps her mouth closed. Can she identify the man?

But, what we do know is Adi Regav has been raped brutally. After the rape she and her family will never be the same. Adi, is a single, independent woman. She is terrified every day, wondering what is lurking outside her window. Her father,Yaron sits and waits outside of her apartment building, waiting there to protect his daughter. 

One night, while he is sitting out in his car, while he's daughter is in her apartment. Yaron notices something strange. A man is following a woman. He thinks to himself definitely, this is the same man that raped my daughter. He bring him to justice. But, not everything seems as it should. 

He manipulates he's daughter, and pretty much persuades her to give the confession.  She is not sure if this is the guy, but believes her father, that she is doing the right thing.  But, then she recants her story and is left off.   Why is she being so gullible?  Why is she being persuaded.  Should you always believe your parents? Would you have done the same thing?

The man picked up is, Ziv. He works for a mafia mob boss. But, he is mistakenly picked up. He is not about to tell the real truth about what he was doing outside her window.  He keeps his mouth quiet. They are accusing him of something else.    Then realizing they don't know the original crime he committed.

He is not going to tell the police what really went down. He is released on a technicality. The mafia is looking for him. But, luckily Ziv is one step ahead of them. This is when it gets exciting. 

That is all I am going to reveal. Because if I reveal too much more I will ruin it for you. 

This is not my type of book. I usually read literary fiction, or historical fiction. But, when TLC book tours asked me if I was interested, I jumped at the chance. 

For years I wanted to read something from my "tribe". But,there wasn't anything that took my fancy. I am so glad, that TLC Book Tours contacted me.

I was in the need of a fun book. I have not found any good books to read lately. But, this one hits the spot if you are in the mood of a fun, beach read. 

One thing, I have noticed not putting the author down. The writing is not flowery, or pretty. It is simple writing, like you were reading a newspaper. The author doesn't trick you. He gets to the point. This book doesn't make you think, and question. Just read it for what it is. 

On the cover of the book it did not tell me if the novel was translated or not.  It hit me, the writing was different, perhaps it was not translated.   The writing is not a usually writing style of any authors I know.   Not even John Grisham writes as plain as that. 

Why would the author not write in his native language Israel first. Strange, but it made me think of the writing style.   Anyway,  The novel is a best seller in Israel.  I wonder why??   I thought it was great, no matter if I am not used to the writing style.

                                                                              


                                                                         

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Butler: Movie




I don't usually post my movie reviews. But, when a movie hits me, and I think it is worth spreading the word about, I post my thoughts.

I am a history buff, even though this is recent history mainly set in the 1950's and 1960's during the radical 60's.

This is a part of history when I was young, I used to say, who cares about that time. I was a young girl and thought so what.  But, now I realize this was a interesting time.   I do wish I was a teenager during these times to enjoy, and understanding the radical 60's.  But I was not a teenager, but younger.  It was also a scary time for change, especially for Black America.

I never really understood what Black America went through until I saw this powerful movie.  I now understand what was different from this movie, than other Afro American movies.  This is the first hand story of the Civil Rights movement from the Black African perspective.

I think it is time that we finally start talking about it.  It is a part of history that has been hush-hush about, this including the Vietnam War.  It is almost 40 years and it is still not thrust in front and center.  But, perhaps after " The Butler", there is a need to talk about the radical, politically charged 60's.

Recently, I started to notice contemporary history novels are being set in the civil rights era. But, this is mainly happening with white authors, not Afro Americans. I hope that more books, and movies will be set during this time. Not like books, like the Help.  But, book describing the Afro American experience.  For us White people to understand that time from their perspective.

My thoughts of, The Butler.  I am a Southern gal, a transplant from N. J. I living in South Carolina.  Where they still think there is a confederate flag still flying in the state capital.  There still is discrimination in this state.  But, not  talked openly about it.

That said, my girl friends and I went to see the movie. Before the movie started my friends told me the movie got a terrible review from our local Myrtle Beach newspaper.  So, right from the start I was waiting to hate this movie.  The more I watched the more, I loved this movie. Thinking what were the reviewers talking about?   My girlfriend told me what they were criticizing was, too much crammed into the movie.

That is ridiculous because there is eight presidents he worked as a butler for.  There was so much going on during that time.  There were protests, sit ins, Freedom Riders, Woolworth counter sit in,  college riots, black/white segregation, busing, assassination of JFK, and RFK, and Martin Luther King JR., Vietnam.

SPOILER ALERT+++++++++++++++++SPOILER ALERT++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
  Finally the last part of his history for this gentleman was seeing for the first time a Black American President, Barack Obama elected in his lifetime.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I so loved this movie, there was a all star cast of Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker,  Cuba Gooding Jr. Mariah Carey, Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson.

I would think most people middle age and over would appreciate this movie.  Anyone that did not live during this time may have a hard time relating.  Understanding the time of the radical 60's. unless you know your American history, and presidents, and the time and culture.

The movie, has some controversy surrounding the title of the movie. They had to change the name of the movie from The Butler, to Lee Daniel's The Butler.

The Butler, was first a piece written by Wil Haygood. in the Washington Post. Then Wil Haygood wrote a book with further detail of his life. It was inspired by true events in the life of Eugene Allen, the White House butler.

The Butler, tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond.

I can't give you too much else or I will spoil the movie for you.   I will tell you when the movie was over, there was standing ovation and clapping from the audience.  So, I am not the only one that loved this movie.

 I love movies, and go to the movies with my friends at least once a week.  This summer there was not too many movies I wanted to go to.  When I learned about The Butler coming out, I couldn't wait.    I hope The Butler wins some awards next year.

The actors, took a pay cut just to get  this movie out, and produced. They all knew this was a important film to bring to the public audience.  For Oprah Winfrey to act again after so many years, must speak volumes as well.



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Visit with Helene Wecker






Finally it's here my interview with Helene, the author of The Golem and the Jenni.  If you have not heard of her, you must have had your head in the sand literally. I can't believe being a debut author this is her first novel. Where has she been?

After reading her fabulous novel. I have not read anything that lives up to anything else.  Lush in history and description of character, place, and time.  It is a tour of nostalgic turn of the century New York City, circa 1899.  You can read my review here.



 Hi, Helene thank you for taking the time to visit me at Susan's Literary Cafe.  Welcome!!!

First I would like to tell you Helene, you have become my favorite author of all time.  Your novel speaks volumes to me.  It has all the elements, of historical fiction, magical realism, romance, storytelling, suspense, and so much more.  The best part, because I am a transplant from the north, you bring New York City to life.  It is more thing that I miss living in South Carolina.

Helene is a debut author for the novel, The Golem and the Jenni.     She grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago, and received her Bachelor’s in English from Carleton College in Minnesota. After graduating, she worked a number of marketing and communications jobs in Minneapolis and Seattle before deciding to return to her first love, fiction writing. Accordingly, she moved to New York to pursue a Master’s in fiction at Columbia University. She now lives near San Francisco with her husband( her husband comes from a Syrian family) and daughter.

Helene, What was the inspiration for your novel? Why the characters of the Golem and the
Jinni? And why set it in turn-of-the-century New York, instead of modern New York?

When I was in grad school, I started working on a series of linked short stories about my own Jewish family and my husband's Arab-American family. A couple of the stories were okay, but the rest were not very good, and I knew it. I was talking with a friend of mine about it, and how frustrated I was. She suggested I try a different approach. She knewthat I was a scifi/fantasy geek, and she challenged me to add a fantastical element, to take the stories out of the realm of straight-up realism. So instead of a Jewish girl and an Arab-American boy, I decided to write about a golem and a jinni. I thought I was just taking a break and writing a fun little story, but then it became clear that I had a novel on my hands. I set it in turn-of-the-century New York because that was when the first big waves of Jewish and Syrian immigrants were arriving in America. I thought the communities would be new and chaotic enough that a golem and a jinni could hide pretty easily -- unlike today, when you need a driver's license and a birth certificate, and and everything's on camera. Also, one of my original ideas was to tell the story over a hundred years! I got rid of that idea pretty quickly, though.
As a child, were your parents or grandparents big on Jewish folktales?
No,strangely enough! At least I don't remember hearing any folktales from them. My mother's parents were cosmopolitan German Jews, and Old World folktales weren't really their thing. My dad's parents were Polish Jews, and spoke Yiddish, but I don't remember them telling me folktales. Usually they were too busy trying to get me to eat! Instead of folktales at home, I had science fiction, most of it from my dad: Bradbury and Asimov and Heinlein and Star Trek. Only lately have I realized how closely some of the themes in the old golem stories match themes in classic science fiction -- only instead of golems, it's robots.


What was the inspiration for your novel? Why the characters of the Golem and the Jinni? And why set it in turn-of-the-century New York, instead of modern New York?
When I was in grad school, I started working on a series of linked short stories about my own Jewish family and my husband's Arab-American family.

 A couple of the stories were okay, but the rest were not very good, and I knew it. I was talking with a friend of mine about it, and how frustrated I was. She suggested I try a different approach. She knew that I was scifi/fantasy geek, and she challenged me to add a fantastical element, to take the stories out of the realm of straight-up realism. So instead of a Jewish girl and an Arab-American boy, I
decided to write about a golem and a jinni. I thought I was just taking a break and writing a fun little story, but then it became clear that I had a novel on my hands. I set it in turn-of-the-century New York because that was when the first big waves of Jewish and Syrian immigrants were arriving in America.

 I thought the communities would be new and chaotic enough that a golem and a jinni could hide pretty easily -- unlike today, when you need a driver's license and a birth certificate, and and everything's on camera.
 Also, one of my original ideas was to tell the story over a hundred years! I got rid of that idea pretty quickly, though.
As a child, were your parents or grandparents big on Jewish folktales?
No, strangely enough! At least I don't remember hearing any folktales from them. My mother's parents were cosmopolitan German Jews, and Old World folktales weren't really their thing. My dad's parents were Polish Jews, and spoke Yiddish, but I don't remember them telling me folktales.

 Usually they were too busy trying to get me to eat! Instead of folktales at home, I had science fiction, most of it from my dad: Bradbury and Asimov and Heinlein and Star Trek. Only lately have I realized how closely some of the themes in the old golem stories match themes in classic science fiction -- only instead of golems, it's robots.
Did you mean to write a book so massive, in depth and character?
I didn't start out with that goal, certainly. Then the characters and story lines started to proliferate, and I realized that the book was going to be a lot longer than I'd originally thought. It was intimidating, but also exciting, because that's the sort of book I really love: long and involved, with a community of interesting characters. (I'm thinking of genre novels like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, or realist fiction like the recent Skippy Dies.) At one point the book was a lot longer than it is now, at least 20 percent longer. I cut out a lot at the sentence level, but scenes and subplots too -- extraneous material that wasn't doing much besides slowing the pace.
Did you realize you had the Jewish theme of free will, or was it a accident? I understand you were not brought up in a religious household, but free will is in your novel. The rabbis teach us young about free will, so if that is the case, where did that come from?
The theme of free will came directly from my characters themselves, from the Golem's servant nature and the Jinni's imprisonment in human form. Once I'd given them these constraints, it seemed pretty clear that this would be what they had in common, and what they would talk about. As for when I first encountered ideas about free will, I honestly think it goes back to all the books I've read: stories of robots acquiring sentience, and defying their creators, and so on. Also I remember reading Paradise Lost in college, and being taken with Milton's idea that God knew ahead of time every decision we would ever make, yet we still had the free will to make those decisions. It seemed like a really interesting paradox.
What do you want your readers to come away with after reading The Golem and the Jinni?
Ideally I'd like them to come away thinking about the issues that prompted me to write the book, like the tug-of-war between duty and free will, and between tradition and modernity. Honestly, I get leery at the idea of books with messages; I think the best way to kill a book flat is to give it an obvious message. I'd rather ask questions instead.
Do you call yourself a fantasy writer or magical realism?
Either! Both! I've been calling this book a "literary historical fantasy," and I know it's being shelved all over in bookstores -- in literary fiction, or historical fiction, or fantasy/scifi. Since this is the only major project I've ever written, I'm not sure yet if I'll only be writing genre-tinged fiction. Maybe someday I'll write a book that's completely realist, which honestly for me would be a real feat. So until then I'll just call myself a writer, and leave it at that.

What books would you like to share that you enjoyed ?

book recommendations: do you read Neil Gaiman? His AMERICAN GODS is really, really good. Also you might like JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke

Have you published anything before writing The Golem and the Jenni ?

I have a written a short story, from a online journal. Here is the website at http://www.joylandmagazine.com/stories/san_francisco/divestment
Thank you for visiting and come again when you have some time.

you Helene for taking the time to visit me. Hope to hear, and read more fantastic books by you in the future.

For you book lovers that are living in the south. Please visit your local independent book stores, or solicit your Jewish organizations. I would love to see a book event in the south, particularly South Carolina. Maybe with a bit of luck we can get Helene to come down south. I have corresponded with her publicist and the only way that will happen is if I can promise 100+ people to come to a event.

Please let your book seller know about this terrific writer. If enough people tell their book sellers maybe we can get her to come. I am willing to travel at least 2 hours to see her. Her book is that good.

We southerners don't have a large literary presence here in the small southern communities. But, if you keep telling the book sellers you want Helene maybe someone will bite!!

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