Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Friday, 29 June 2012

Book Review: Michael's Reward- Written by Mario Bernheim

Michael's Reward: How to Get God's Attention, When Your World Is Falling ApartMichael's Reward: How to Get God's Attention, When Your World Is Falling Apart by Mario Bernheim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The author transports you into the mind of Michael Whiley. Michael Whiley is a very successful man who has a turn of unlucky events happen that make him become homeless, wifeless, childless and broke, but not broken. Through Michael's test he develops a strong power in faith, belief in himself and the mysteries of the universe. This is a great book to read and the author, Mario Bernheim weaves a tale that will have you on the edge of your seat, crying one minute, and laughing the next, but always intrigued by his poetic imagery and powerful storytelling.
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Michael Whiley through his own sheer will power and FAITH  not only  turns his life around, but comes out shining even more victoriously and abundantly than before his crisis. On top of that, he builds the good fortune in his life and is able to be an extraordinary generous philanthropist. Every negative in his life he turns into medicine. Michael is Christian, but this book could be for anyone of any faith.Which is one reason why I am writing this review.

Three fourths the way through the book,Michael turns his seemingly miserable life around. When, he does this I see this as turning something negative into a positive. I interpret this in Buddhist terms, as doing Hindokko Yakku or turning poison into medicine.

This book is an absolute page turner. It's also inspiring, quotable and at times has you questioning your own sense of faith in yourself. It also helps you see your life in the bigger picture. And, helps you assess your long term goals, dreams and visions.

I am very happy I read it and would recommend it to my friends of all faiths, including Buddhist.
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Monday, 25 June 2012

Jane Austen- Mansfield Park


Mansfield ParkMansfield Park by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read all of Jane Austen novels and am in the middle of reading Northanger Abbey, Austen's last novel written and published posthumously.

I love Mansfield Park, I love the character of Fanny Price. She starts out a very humble girl, but has guts to stand up to her wealthy uncle in many ways. First, she opposes his profession as a Slave Trader in the West Indies and then when she refuses to marry the family friend, even though he’s wealthy, she infuriates her uncle. This is what I love about Fanny Price is that she’s completely independent and strong willed has a mind of her own, and refuses to be bought. She wants love like all women and wants to marry for love on top of it. She is in love with her life time cousin, who wants nothing more than to live a quiet life. But, he’s been her loyal friend and has loved her whole life, what more can one woman ask for. Secondly, she refuses to marry the man that she doesn’t love who is a bit of a philanderer. In the end, she ends up marrying and with the man she really loves who has always loved her.


Fanny Price is my hero and my favorite heroine of all the Jane Austen novels.

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Book Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


 PERSEPOLIS is a GREAT BOOK ! This book is not only funny, witty with it's raw honesty, but it's a great insight into the Iranian culture. A young girl, MARJANE, flees Iran during the Islamic Revolution and goes to  Austria,she tries very hard to fit, including finding a group of friends that are " anarchists" and becoming her High School's Pot Dealer. She falls in love, gets thrown out of her apartment for theft and lives on the Vienna streets for awhile. She becomes very ill and has to go to the hospital, finally, fed up of her life in Austria and longing for her homeland Iran, she returns home.

Once home, ironically, she encounters the same culture shock she experienced in Vienna, Austria. Feeling very judged by her previous classmates and feel the malaise of not fitting in, she decides to end her life, when she fails at that, she sees it as a sign from the universe that she is supposed to live, and after that she has a rebirth. She re-invents herself and becomes a life affirming Aerobics Instructor, a sophisticated woman who wears make up, drinks and has a boyfriend. She ends up getting married to her beloved, and finally when the Iranian politics get too intense and her freedom as a woman more and more oppressive,  family pleads her to leave Iran for good. She ends up moving back to Paris and becomes a successful graphic designer

Persepolis is a wonderfully, humorous, biographical account of Marjane Satrapi's life. I like the character Persepolis, she's feisty,bold and intelligent. She is also very funny and there are many favorite parts of the book, one is when the Nuns tell her, " Iranians don't have any manners", and she feisty replies, " All nuns used to be prostitutes. Another part, while reading the book Marjane's Mother's favorite, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex she pees to get the man's perspective, just as De Beauvoir suggested. I found myself laughing out loud to the surprise of many an onlooker on the bus, but I didn't care  this book was just too entertaining.

Marjane is a great heroine, among the great heroines in Literature, Scarlette O'Hara, Jane Eyre and Gwyneth Harlow. Persepolis is a GREAT book, and like all GREAT books they can be read over and over again.




All blogs are written by Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo More Tales and Adventures in Sabrina's London Diaries
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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Book Review: Tolstoy -The Resurrection

Tolstoy, Leo. The Resurrection. New York:  Penguin Classics, 1966.

 In Tolstoy’s The Resurrection, the protagonist, Prince Nekhlyudov realizes that the young innocent woman in the jury trial, who is now being sentenced to ten years of penal servitude in Siberia, is his once beloved lover Katusha, who he had impregnated and abandoned ten years earlier. After discovering this Nekhlyudov goes on a mission to absolve himself of the guilt of ruining Katusha ( now the prostitute, named Maslova), to assure that she will not suffer anymore He goes on a spiritual journey of reform and good-will, traveling not only the panoramic  landscape of Russia, going to the far eastern part of Siberia, but into the homes of the peasants who are filthy, and into the gaol where he sees much suffering and in justice towards the prisoners. In this process of reformation, Nekhlyudov realizes that the cruelty and violence that are sanctioned by the Russian government do not help to reform the damned or punishable, but rather, perpetuate their depravity and their hopelessness, thereby creating more crime and rebellion. Nekhlyudov, disliking what is evil in the men around him, was  able to dislike what is evil in himself, and attempted to reform himself.  The hatred he felt for the men in his life lessened when he self-reflected and realized that within himself were the same faults and weaknesses. Knowing this and making a determination to reform himself gave him supreme peace, instead of the original insensitive arrogance he felt towards his countrymen, an arrogance which is a common trait of rich aristocracy.

What I believe Tolstoy was attempting to express in writing The Resurrection
is that each one of us, at every moment is being pulled by either our animal nature, that is selfish and cares solely for our own personal universe, or our spiritual self, which regards the happiness of others, and bring us true lasting happiness and peace. Tolstoy uses the character of Nekhlyudov to stand as metaphor for the dying Russian aristocracy that is insensitive and callous to the sufferings of the  poor, by dong so he indicts the inhumane penal system, and the brutally cruel institution of Russian serfdom. Tolstoy  asks the reader  and society as a whole, to reflect and to part from the hypnosis of social conditioning that believes human life is dispensable.  I think Tolstoy  wrote The Resurrection  to awaken in the hearts of his countrymen compassion and respect for their brothers. Ultimately, this novel has stood the test of time, because one- hundred years later, the simplistic candor of his message is clear, that we alone must liberate ourselves from that human impulse to feel that we can use and exploit others out of our own animal greed and ignorance. Tolstoy enlightens the reader into discovering, that we are all connected and that our happiness is inseparable from others and he wants the reader to engrain with their lives the simple fact that no one is immune to the law of causality and the pain we inflict onto others is eventually felt in our hearts.






All blogs are written by Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo More Tales and Adventures in Sabrina's London Diaries

Friday, 14 October 2011

Book Review: Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Daniel Deronda (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (B&N Classics Trade Paper)Daniel Deronda (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by George Eliot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Eliot, George. Daniel Deronda. New York. Harper & Row Publishers,1878.





The book Daniel Deronda, written by George Eliot, is a story about selfishness, redemption, and Zionism. It is a social novel in that it speaks about the limited choices women had for financial independence in Victorian England. Gwendolyn, the main protagonist of the story, is a vibrant and outspoken young woman, who gambles not only at the roulette table, but also with life itself. She frequents a Parisian casinos where she gambles. It is here that she meets with the English gentleman Daniel Deronda. Daniel, while rowing down the river Thames, saves a woman, Mirah’s, life, when he finds her trying to drown herself. Mirah, he discovers, is a Jewess and singer and he makes it his mission to help her become happier. In the meanwhile, when Gwendolyn’s parents become ruined, her mother informs her of a position at the home of a bishop where she could work as a governess. She obstinately refuses believing working as governess would be far too demoralizing. Gwendolyn would prefer to marry a man she does not love, the cold aristocrat Henleigh Grandcourt, than work as a governess. As her life with Henliegh Grandcourt becomes daily more and more unbearable, she begins to seek the friendship of Daniel Deronda. In the meanwhile, Daniel, discovering that he is a Jew by birth, marries Mirah and decides to work for a Jewish unified state. Henliegh Grandcourt drowns in a boating accident in Genoa. Gwendolyn is finally free of her obnoxious husband. Daniel becomes an immensely positive influence on Gwendolyn’s life. Daniel tells her, “ Our happiness comes from helping others and not just thinking about us”(483). Gwendolyn resolves to put her wretched past behind her and become a more altruistic person beginning with being a good sister and daughter.



This is a very ambitious novel in which Eliot explores a myriad of human conditions. Eliot explores selfishness vs. altruism with her two characters, Gwendolyn and Daniel Deronda respectively. I like the sensitivity in which Eliot explores the racial issues of Jews living as outsiders in a homogenous society of nineteenth century England. I especially like how she uses Gwendolyn’s character to expose women‘s limited opportunities in Victorian England. Gwendolyn practically prostituted herself out to the wealthy Grandcourt and once she was married she had to live as a slave to his patriarchal rules. I believe Eliot was showing the reader society’s low estimation of women, women not having rights as far as property, education, marriage and divorce are concerned. I believe Eliot is trying to show us that many women like Gwendolyn led oppressive existences. This is a great historical novel for its social commentary and raw exposure of the shallow values, and mores of Victorian England.











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All blogs are written by Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo More Tales and Adventures in Sabrina's London Diaries

Friday, 7 October 2011

Book Review: Dai Sije Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese SeamstressBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sijie. Dai. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Translated from the French by Ina Rilke. Anchor Books. A Division of Random House, Inc. New York. 2000.





Set during the China’s cultural revolution Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is the tale of two friends Luo and the narrator, (name never gets mentioned) who get sent to work in the coal mines for “ re-education” to the ways of Mao. It is there they become acquainted with the beautiful “Little Seamstress” and both fall in love with her. They also encounter a suitcase of the classics and get transported to the inspirational world of literature. The classic books they read give them the strength and inspiration to survive the harshness of their daily existence in their small village in communist China, where food is scarce, their clothes are lice ridden and people enjoy a an elixir of buffalo blood . Their mutual admiration for the “ Little Seamstress” gives the young men with their first taste of true love, boyish romance and fantasy. The “little seamstress” although very beautiful is just a simple, unsophisticated village girl. It is her lover Lou’s ambition to refine the “ little seamstress” by reading to her the words of Balzac. But in the end, it is the “little seamstress” that is most influenced by the power of literature as revealed when she decides to run away from the village surreptitiously. Confronted by Lou as to why she is leaving the village for the city, she explains,” that she had learnt one thing from Balzac: that a woman’s beauty is a treasure beyond price.” (184).



Dai Sijie pays tribute to the power of literature to influence, transport you to other lands, give hope, nourish the mind and brain cells with intellectual food, and most importantly inspire you to be better than who you are. In Balzac and the Little Seamstress, Dai Sijie´s spins a charming tale of friendship, first love and the suffering of those that experienced communist “ re-education” . Dai Sijie in his simple and short book, has very wisely introduced the historical milieu of China in the seventies. He has done this in a very subtle and circuitous way so that the reader can readily identify with the first whisperings of love and romance and is reminded of their own first impressions of classic literature. Dai Sijie, himself a film-maker was sent for re-education between 1971 and 1974. He has made his home in France since 1984.









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Friday, 2 September 2011

Book Review: Benito Perez Galdos- Two Tales of Married Women

Fortunata and Jacinta: Two Stories of Married Women (Penguin Classics)Fortunata and Jacinta: Two Stories of Married Women by Benito Pérez Galdós

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Galdos is the Spanish Dickens. He's completely underrated and if you like Victorian literature you are certain to like this too.



Galdós, Benito Pérez, Fortunata and Jacinta. Two Stories of Married Women. Translated with an Introductionby Anges Moncy Gullón. The University of Georgia Press. Athens. 1985.

Galdós masterpiece work Fortunata y Jacinta: Two stories of married women is , an accurately drawn social portrait of nineteenth century Madrid. Written in four parts from 1886-1887. According to Turner, who wrote the introduction for Fortunata and Jacinta , the novel is set in the following historical background: Carlist wars, palace of intrigues, the revolution of 1868, an overthrow of the Queen Isabella, the brief reign of Amadeo of Savoy, the abort of the First Republic and the Bourbon restoration ( Alfonso XII ).

The book depicts both the lower class and bourgeois society through two female Fortunata and Jacinta. Galdós weaves a witty, entertaining yet complicated and engaging plot. The story is told between huge dynasties, and close knit families where cousins marry cousins and your next door neighbor is likely to be your relative. Set in Madrid Spain, Galdós true to the tenets of realism, gives the reader an actual true to life portrayal of the shopkeepers, egg sellers, hookers, merchants, clerks, government officials, aristocracy, entrepreneurs, and neighbor all coming and going vibrantly within the stark contrast of the lower, and upper class neighborhoods of Madrid. Galdós powerful use of imagery gives you a feeling of being in Madrid: smelling the smell of hot chocolate and doughnuts, smelling the rain or seeing the mist frost a train window. Hearing the loud mouth vulgar hookers and gypsies that put their hands on their hips, or whether it’s with the bourgeois Santa Cruz family enjoying a night at the Opera at the Royal Theatre of Madrid not so much because they enjoy opera, but because they can afford to go. Perhaps, Barbara Santa Cruz taking a trip to the tailors in Madrid’s finest boutiques to buy the best chambray linen or going shopping to buy the best sirloin and the best tobacco for her husband Baldomero to enjoy on Sundays.

Galdós writing is a great historian much of his writing takes place in the 1870´s, during the Alfonsine era of Spain. Fortunata and Jacinta is such an intellectually rich novel that it can be analyzed on many levels: psychologically, historically, religiously, and even from the feminist point of view. Galdós tells this story in four parts, as each part subsequently unfolds it draws you deeper into the mystery of these interesting, yet all too human and loveable characters. With characters as real and familiar we can not help but recognize ourselves are shortcomings and at the same time our beauty.

What is unique about Galdós, that I haven’t seen in the Russian and French writers is his complete absorption and intricate detail that is at once captivating and intriguing. His narrative structure and style is utterly powerful and mesmerizing drawing the reader, into the unknown world of Madrid Spain in the late nineteenth century, where the use of the phaeton was still in vogue and it was customary for women to wear a flower in their hair. In the introduction of Fortunata and Jacinta, Page after page, Galdós, tells this story and you don’t want to put the book down. This should be required reading for anyone studying World Literature so they can compare with other writers from the realism literary movement like Dickens, and Balzac.





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Friday, 19 August 2011

Book Review: The Second Sex, by Simone De Beauvoir

The Second SexThe Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

De Beauvoir. Simone. The Second Sex. Translated and Edited by H. M. Parshley. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.


Simone De Beauvoir, is the writer of many books of fiction including Les Mandarins (The Mandarins,1954); Memoires d'une jeune fille rangée (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, 1958). Her philosophical, existentialist feminist treatise, The Second Sex, was written when she was close friends with existentialists Jean Paul Sartre. In this controversial non-fiction book, De Beauvoir states that women are not the first sex, but the second sex, the “Other.” We are not the first chromosome, we are the second chromosome. She describes women as being in relation to men, not as a separate identity, but existing as an attached appendage. Her book´s treatise and primary purpose was to demonstrate the many myths that have perpetuated throughout history, religion and science that say both directly and indirectly that women, is "the Other", that women are the weaker sex, less qualified for everything under the sun.

For me, when I read The Second Sex, I was utterly fascinated and enthralled. This book gave me a richer foundation from which I can look and revere my own womanhood. It also gives me a more profound sense of pride of being born with two XX chromosomes instead of just an XY.


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Friday, 22 July 2011

Book Review- Anne Bronte- Agnes Grey- The Private Life of a Governess

Agnes GreyAgnes Grey by Anne Brontë
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bronte, Anne. Agnes Grey. London: Oxford University Press. 1845.


Agnes Grey written by Anne Bronte, the youngest of the Bronte sisters, is an autobiographical account of her life and experiences as a governess. Anne Bronte has set out in her own first personal narrative voice to describe the dark side of governesship. In Agnes Grey , Anne Bronte depicts her experiences with two families that employed her, the Murray’s and the Bloomfield’s. Within both families she has to tolerate vile, spoiled children, disrespectful parents, and jealous servants. Agnes Grey is not just governess novel, but a historical novel that depicts what daily life was for a young middle class governess in nineteenth century England. In this novel Anne Bronte was able to record for posterity, point out the specific obstacles and humiliations that many governesses herself included endured to ultimately elevate her status in society’s eyes and gain dignity. This novel Agnes Grey although a real depiction of governess life, is predictable and sometimes lacks sophistication of plot and story telling.

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Friday, 15 July 2011

Thackeray's Vanity Fair: Becky Sharp shallow citizen or conscious Victorian damsel?

Vanity FairVanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair. A Novel Without a Hero. London: Barnes and Noble Classics, 1999.
Thackeray´s Vanity Fair is a novel that portrays the life of a social climbing governess Becky Sharp, and ultimately her descent into “vanity fair.” “ Vanity Fair” is a term that Thackeray coins to describe the misaligned values of those obsessed with social status, peerage and the vulgar acquisition of money by any means. This novel is also an historical account of the status consciousness that was rife in Victorian England. Thackeray shows the vileness of human nature through his main protagonist, the exploitative, calculating and callous Becky Sharp, who ends up a shallow citizen of Vanity Fair. Becky manages to ruin tow men, both Rawdon Crawley and Jo Sedley,[ yet comes away with a fortune]. Thackeray juxtaposes Becky with her childhood friend Amelia Sedley from the Pinkerton´s school, and shows that an angelic Amelia may not be as witty and sharp as Becky yet, in the end, she is far more noble.
Thackeray is a superior raconteur in subtly exposing the self-delusion, ego, vanity and shallowness of human nature. He accomplishes this by many twists and truns of plots and sub-plots through which the story unravels. The plot, multiple themes and climax of the tale include the lives of the lovers of Vanity Fair. Rawdon and Becky Sharp, William Dobbin who is enamored of Amelia Sedley who is enamored of George Osborne who, like every man in the novel, is also enamored with Becky Sharp. Thackeray tells the tale of Vanity Fair through the prism of Victorian status conscious England. He writes his book through the dramatic lens of a country at war. The historical backdrop of the novel is one of war, as the main characters depart their lovers to fight in the famous battle of Waterloo. He describes each characters vain interactions with one another and shows the reader, in very specific details, how each, with his or her own vanity, have earned their membership in Vanity Fair. Thackeray´s novel Vanity Fair is rich with the study of human character, sin, vice, evolution, descent and then reflection.

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