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Archive for the ‘Memoirs’ Category

Although Mr Latimer and I may not always agree, ideologically, I can totally admire his views and opinions, as they were expressed in this book,  “Speech-less, Tales of a White House Survivor”.  He is an idealist, like myself.  Therefore, I found this book refreshing.  Matt Latimer pined from the time he was a teenager for the day when he would be a presidential speechwriter.  After finishing law school, he set out for Washington and held a variety of jobs working for increasingly powerful politicians.  With each job, Matt came with idealism and expectations, and repeatedly received what I like to call a proverbial slap in the face.  Although he retained respect for many of his former employers, the system in which he and they operated was not at all what he had thought.  Nevertheless, he persevered, and continued to work toward his goal of a White House job.  Finally, his dream job presented itself.  Writing for George W. Bush.  At the White House.   With all of the excitement of youth, and none of the jadedness he could have had by this time, Matt set out to change the world through his job of helping to craft speeches for his Republican president.  Unfortunately, although he remained loyal to Bush, his faith in the Republican party and the conservative movement was greatly shaken over the years of his service.  By the end of his tenure, he wasn’t even sure he considered himself to be a Republican anymore.   Although I can greatly sympathize with the disillusionment that Matt faces by the end of his career in politics, I am refreshed to find someone willing to say it like it is.  There are so many books that come from Washington insiders, and as someone who is more than a little jaded myself, I find it difficult to decide whom to believe.  I tend to believe this author, not because I enjoyed his depiction of his own party, but because someone willing to recount what he did about his own party and the people in it, and still remain idealistic and hopeful and fair, seems more credible to me.  Of course, as an idealist myself, I tend to be naive about these things.  So, what do I know?  I found this book to be easy and enjoyable, and the author very likable.

I give this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:    Anna

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This book, which details the writing of a blog about the experiment of attempting to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, is one that I am glad that I read, but I am also glad that I am done.  The author of both the book and the blog, Julie Powell, is a directionless secretary working in New York and living with her husband, Eric.  Her life, as she describes it, is hopeless and depressing.  There is a shrewishness about Julie that makes me wonder what her husband sees in her.   I suppose there is a very real possibility that Eric is also a major jerk, and Julie just didn’t write about that.  She does seem somewhat self-involved.  I did enjoy the descriptions of Julie trying to cook her way through this tome of a cookbook, but the whiny filler in between, I could have done without.  I have always suspected that professional chefs make really difficult things look easier than they are, so Julie’s struggles and subsequent successes and failures were very reassuring to me.  And I did feel sympathy for our heroine when she discovered, right at the end of her year-long odyssey, that her hero, Julia Child, had no appreciation whatsoever, for her year of hard work.  But, I must admit, that was one of the very few instances when I felt the likability of Julie Powell.  When all is said and done, if I had to choose between Julie and Julia as someone to spend time with, I would choose Julia, hands down.  Sorry, Julie.

I give this book 2.5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:    Anna

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This book, “My Life in France”, has as its heroine a woman who embodies the essence of “joie de vivre”.  The story begins with the marriage of Julia McWilliams to Paul Child and there subsequent move to Paris for Paul’s job with the American government.  Although already in her 30’s and a seasoned traveler after working in Ceylon for the US government, her arrival in France is portrayed as though through the eyes of a complete innocent.  Each detail of her first meal in France is outlined lovingly and delectably, as though she had just finished eating it.  There is a glorious use of description in this book, most especially when describing the food and the cooking techniques.  France was a spiritual home to Julia, as she herself states, although she remained firmly tuned in to her American audiences throughout the cooking career she began to carve out for herself while in France.  What shines through so clearly in this book is Julia and Paul’s love of France, the French people, French food, and the French way of life.  It also needs to be said that the love and support that Julia and Paul had and provided one another is moving and inspiring.  These two were made for each other!

The process of compiling the recipes for her tome, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, was fascinating, if exhausting.  Collaborating with two dear French friends, the work was tedious, time-consuming and seemed to be totally fulfilling, at least for Julia.  The peek inside the process of actually writing a cookbook is very interesting, but it surely makes the rest of realize that this is not something that just anyone can do.  No matter how much one might enjoy cooking.  Julia Child, it seems, needed to cook in the same way that she needed to eat.  She did both voraciously, passionately and joyfully.

This is a very friendly and easy book to read and great fun for anyone who remembers seeing episodes of The French Chef, or any of the other appearances Julia made on TV throughout her prolific career.

I give this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:         Anna

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Let me just begin by saying that I think that everyone needs to read this book.  This is a powerful story about a one man grass roots movement to eliminate terrorism by building one school at at time.  I know that this may sound crazy, but Greg Mortenson is a force of nature and through reading this book, he makes you  believe that this is possible.  In fact, Mr. Mortenson, makes you believe that to go about it any other way is crazy.

Greg’s story begins with a failed attempt to climb K2, the famous peak in northern Pakistan.  He gets lost and winds up in a small village where he is shown extraordinary kindness in the midst of extraordinary poverty.  The people of this village, their kindness and tenacity inspire Greg to offer, nay, promise to return and build a school for their children, who were currently conducting their studies outside in the wind and cold.

Eventually raising funds, learning to conduct business in Pakistan and making friends whose trust he has gained through his honesty and faithfulness to his mission, Greg and his foundation go on to build many schools, primarily for girls, to whom education was previously not available.  The reader follows Greg from village to village, meeting with adults and children alike who have repeatedly been let down by the American and the Pakistani governments.  We are able to witness the birth and rise of the Taliban, and how this turn of events makes Greg’s mission even more important.  We are shown, through the journey of this brave American, that education is the key to stability and peace in this region.

This book is not only an incredible story of one incredible man on a mission, but a plea for help.  The work that Greg Mortenson is doing is important and I believe that one day he will be awarded a Nobel peace prize for his efforts.  He builds these schools one village at a time and is always in need of aid.  I recommend that you read this book and spread the word.  We should be talking about Greg Mortenson for a long time to come.

I give this book a hearty 5 out of 5 bookmarks!

 

Reviewed by:    Anna

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eat pray love

This book, by Elizabeth Gilbert, is, in my opinion, a book about hope, above all else.  It is about hope and the goodness and generosity of the universe.  Gilbert, trapped in a marriage which does not make her happy, makes the heart-wrenching decision to leave the relationship.  The process is difficult and painful, but, because she is open to the gifts of the universe, Gilbert finally is able to close that chapter of her life and proceeds to explore that which she thinks will make her happy.  Gilbert wants to have a relationship with God, and she wants to be happy.  And, she wants to learn how to balance pleasure and spirituality.  Consequently, she takes a year off of work, and indulges her love of travel.  Spending four months in each of three locations, she decides to immerse herself in the local culture of each locale to learn what she can from each.   Beginning in Italy, a place she is inexplicably drawn to, she explores nothing but food and language.  Her next four months are spent in an Ashram in India, practicing yoga and meditation.  Finally, she lands in Bali, a place which, to Gilbert, embodies balance.  All along her journey, she comes in contact with various people, seemingly, just when she needs them.  She learns to trust her instincts and to keep her spirit open to what the universe has in store for her.  

I found this book to be more enjoyable than I initially thought that I would.  Our heroine is perfectly imperfect, and going along with her on this journey, seeing her at her worst, watching her learn about herself and and learn to forgive herself, offers the reader a true sense of hope.  There can be a light at the end of any tunnel, no matter how dark.   An uplifting, pleasurable and spiritual read for anyone who is or wants to be open to the gifts of the universe.

I give this book four bookmarks.

Reviewed by: Anna

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The Glass Castle

After reading The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, I am grateful

This memoir is an extraordinary story of growing up in abject poverty. Brilliant and talented enough to get jobs, the eccentric parents of Jeannette Walls refused to be tied down by normal societal conventions, such as regular work. Life-long self learners, the Walls parents passed this love of learning onto their four children. They passed on many other lessons as well. How to feed oneself from a very early age, how to deal with hunger when there was no food how to be resourceful, resilient and fearless, are a few of the “gifts” the Walls children learned from their life-loving, but often selfish parents.

I must admit that these children, growing up as they did, with loving but often unattentive and neglectful parents, do appear to be supremely capable of dealing with whatever life has in store for them. They have already dealt with almost everything one can imagine. I look over at my own children, traditionally raised, but molly-coddled, by comparison to the Walls children, and I wonder if, by preserving their childhoods for as long as possible, I haven’t made some inevitable life lessons a little harder to learn. Does that proverbial slap in the face of life’s realities settling in on us hurt more if we receive it when we are young, or if we put it off?

The Glass Castle is so reminiscent of the American classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that I found some of the similarities remarkable. But, perhaps, the lesson meant to be learned here is not that these stories (both memoirs, in truth) are so unique and rare, but that they aren’t unique and rare. They serve to shed light on truths that have been common to many American for generations. What is, perhaps, rare is taking such a close and intimate look at these truths. in addition, for all of the hard truths that these stories share, and which are so honestly and simply told, what I as a reader was left with was a sense of hope. There is always hope. That is the real truth. That is the true gift.

So, read The Glass Castle and feel grateful. This is a story which shows us how to be grateful for every blessing life bestows, whether it came easily or painfully. A gift is a gift, and there is always hope.

I give this extraordinary story 5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by: Anna

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