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The Eleven

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This fictional account of a fictional artist commissioned to paint a fictional painting of the eleven most prominent players in the last days of France's Reign of Terror, which is to say those who have executed thousands upon thousands of individuals for being on the wrong side of the Revolution, those historical figures, Robespierre, Saint-Just and Collot, to name a few, creates, what good be, a very good story of a point in a struggle which is sometimes overlooked or lost in the annals of time or perhaps just ignored as being part of the bigger picture which is that of the French Revolution.OK, now you may breath. It seems as if the reader needs a shovel to get past the flamboyant verbiage in this novel to see the author's intent. When many sentences run over one-hundred words one tends to forget the point of the matter and needs to be an archaeologist to reach the story. Michon's attempt to show how artists use their craft to portray history is very intriguing and would be far more enjoyable and informative had it been written more concisely.
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in L:etter

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Zany, absurd, witty, charming and clever story about what can happen to an intelligent and content community of islanders when Totalitarianism comes to town. You see, approximately a century ago, the founder of the little island of Nollop, Nevin Nollop, wrote a holoalphabetic sentence which the islanders have come to hold in the very highest regard and the author almost a sacred genious. Yet, after one hundred and some years something is not holding this sentence together. The High Council of the island takes it upon itself to outlaw the use of Z, to utter it or any other forbidden letter is grounds for corporal punishment, banishment and in some cases death. Soon the freedom to use Q is taken away. Not so much disorder with those two little used letters but when the vowels begin to become illegal a few islanders begin to take action. Yet, nothing can stop this Council from seeing anything other than Nollop's post-humous hand at play, not logic, not human suffering, not intellectual deprivation, nothing until at last the alphabet is reduced to just five letters. Except that is for Ella Minnow Pea. This strong willed and steadfast young lady works until the bitter end to prove that Nollop is not the genious everybody thought he was. Great characters, well written, novel idea. It's a thought provoking read and I hightly recommend it.
My Name Is Red

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"I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well." In the very first line of My Name is Red Pamuk relates the death and troubled soul of one of the Sultan's most skilled miniaturists, Elegant Effendi And so, begins the reader's journey into the secretive and often abusive world of miniaturist artists working in Istanbul in the 16th century. It is at a time in history when the long sought after city is at a crossroads. Geographically as well as artistically, Turkey is on the edge of Asia and Europe. A country trying to hold on to its Mongol influenced artistry while the introduction of Frank and Venetian styles are beginning to influence some of the artists. Master miniaturist, Osman relates the difference, "Meaning precedes form in the world of art. As we begin to paint in imitation of the Frankish and Venetian masters...the domain of meaning ends and the domain of form begins." Oh, for the introduction of perspective, shadows and the horizon line! Until this time figures were drawn with no relation to space, nor time. How this will change art that has always been depicted as seen through the eyes of Allah, from above, and not from a human's street level perspective, to do so is considered blasphemy. Yet, how enticing to see portraiture where none had existed before. Influences so difficult for some to resist and one is trying to halt. The world of Elegant's fellow miniaturists is especially at risk and from this select lot one of them will kill to retain the past. Just as if the reader were Istanbul, Pamuk keeps the reader on the edge till the very end and takes him through the city's dark and deserted streets to places one may not have known existed. It is a journey of murder, incredible artistry, mystery and love. Each chapter is written as if spoken directly to the reader. You are a part of the scene, you are an observer who knows what is in the hearts of each character. A touch of magical realism comes forth as artists renderings talk to you and relate their story. My Name is Red is truly an incredible piece of historical fiction that proved to be informative as well as entertaining. It's pages contained everything I look for in a great novel.
Travels with Charley in Search of America

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I enjoyed this book, but I thought it bittersweet. Steinbeck was "In Search of America" and he did discover both the beauty and ugliness found in America in 1960 but I couldn't help but feel that he was searching for his youth and hoped to discover it in his old stomping grounds. He was a stranger there, however, old friends saw him differently and rehashing old memories only lasts for so long. Like most trips I've been on that seem to go on just a little too long, it seems both Mr. Steinbeck and I had the same feeling about his journey. Let's go home already!Charley was indeed a wonderful traveling companion.
Dark Places: A Novel

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I truly loved this story as well as my introduction to Camus. It was weird, his writing style gave me the feeling that I was watching a B movie but not in a negative way. Having much of this book take place in Algiers gave it an esoteric and other worldly atmosphere. It gave the reader the impression of being an observer into the world of the protagonist, Meursault. He seems to be ambivilent about many things and virtually emotionless where others would certainly be affected. He lets the world pass before his eyes without being much aprt of it. He seems to be just an observer, as well, even when he commits an act that will change his life completely.A real page turner and very thought provoking.
Take Your Time: The Wisdom of Slowing Down

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This book is, clearly. a self-help guide designed to assist those who feel rushed, or that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all they had planned. In a society where texting while driving and people chattering on their phones in the check out line of the grocery store are becoming the norm Easwaran discusses the importance of "one-pointed attention". That is, doing one thing at a time and doing it well, giving it your full attention. If you think multi-tasking is an attribute, think again. If your partner wants to talk, stop what your doing, make eye contact and listen. The kids want to go to the park, keep your cellphone at home and be with them, not only physically but completely.So, how does one do this when there is so much that we believe needs to be done and done right this very moment? One must slow down the mind. How? One can begin by slowing down the mind through meditation and mantram. It means living in the present, letting the past be forgotten and the future to be anticipated. Focus in the here and now, for as Easwaran said, "When we live one hundred percent in the present, we are one hundred percent alive.I liked this book. I will attempt some of his techniques and try to give people the attention which each and everyone deserves.Just a thought. This was an Early Reviewers book which appears to be a compilation of Easwaran's other books/ideas. As Easwaran passed away in 2009 this may be an attempt to keep his work and non-profit organization viable. I hope it works. Perhaps some of today's woes could be abated by somethng as simple as people listening to each other.
The Dinner

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Early in The Dinner, Koch borrows Tolstoy's line from Anna Karenina "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" and uses it as a springboard for narrator and key figure in the story Paul Lohan to expound on how unhappy couples need unhappy people to validate and fuel their unhappiness. I'd like to change that line for the purpose of this book to, Functional families are all alike; every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way. The "way" of the dysfunctional Lohan family is partly due to a hereditary trait but then there are others who bring their own brand of dysfunction to the story. The book is nicely and cleverly divided into courses. Each course serves up a new dish of information for the reader to digest and reveals what brings the Lohan brothers and their wives to this particular restaurant. We learn much from Paul's regressions regarding the events which may have brought them to this point. He adds commentary on this wife, Claire, their son, Michel and various people who have had the very unfortunate opportunity to meet Paul and his wrath. I found the story slow, the characters unlikeable and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth and wanting to top off The Dinner with a glass of Alka-Seltzer.
Speak

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I've finally had the chance to dust this book off, I too can add my praise for this book.Melinda Sordino and her fellow ninth graders are all searching for their voice. They are all gradually becoming the people that will take them into the future. Melinda, however, has had a tramatic experience during the summer she enters 9th grade and the friends she once counted on no longer want to associate with her. Her growth is stunted by this experience and her inability to talk about it naws at her very being. Her parents are concerned but too busy to figure it all out. She's left to face it alone and only with the patience of her art teacher and her lab partner does she gain the courage and insight to come into her own. Anderson's use of humor gives Melinda a soul, the reader feels for her.I really loved this story and was very pleased with the outcome. Hightly recommend.
Have You Seen Marie?

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A short story with a dash of magical realism which describes the struggle of a middle aged woman dealing with the death of her mother and the void it leaves in her life even at this stage in her life.Wonderful illustrations by Ester Hernandez.
El Regalo De Navidad

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"The sacred contents of that box are a parent's pure love for a child, manifested first by a Father's love for all His children, as He sacrificed that which He loved most and sent His son to earth on that Christmas day so long ago. And as long as the earth lives, and longer, that message will never die."That is what this book is about. Either the readers beliefs will be reaffirmed, rekindled or renounced. Perhaps a little sappy, a tad corny and maybe a bit righteous but, none the less, at times it simply gave me goosebumps and acts as a reminder that our lives with our families are ephimerel and to hold them oh so close.
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