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Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

Current giveaway: “Flight of the Goose” by Lesley Thomas

  

 

Title: Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess

Author: Jerramy Fine

Format: Hardcover

Number of Pages: 320

ISBN: 978-1592403523

Publisher: Gotham

Date of Publication: January 10, 2008

2.5 stars: I really wanted to like this

Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess

I bought this book eagerly, especially after seeing all the positive reviews on Amazon. I wish I could be giving it one, and I know this my review will probably not do well in the rating system, as I’ve seen all the semi-negative reviews get tons of negative votes and comments…. but I want to be honest.

The blurb says that when she was six, Jerramy Fine decided she would marry Windsor family member Peter Phillips.  Great, cute- but the problem is that Jerramy didn’t grow up.  I understand wanting to be a princess, pretty much all girls do. But there is reality. I mean, Jerramy is essentially a groupie. If by chance any English royalty ever struck up a friendship with her, they’d most likely be appalled and creeped out when they found out her whole life was spent obsessed with them. Many reviewers have said they believe this story is about never giving up on your dreams… but really to me it is all about a girl who was obsessed with somebody she never met and didn’t know. Jerramy really comes off like a stalker. It would have been different if she just loved England, and didn’t have such an agenda.

Perhaps if this story was fiction, and not a memoir, I’d be more accepting of it. However I could not get into it. I don’t blame all of it on Jerramy of course. I couldn’t help but be appalled when reading a part about Jerramy and her mother being in the grocery store and her mother yelled at another customer about what something was made of. Then when Jerramy complained her mother had embarrassed her, her mom replied something along the lines of: “If I’ve made one person question what they were eating, then it was worth it.” I’m sorry, but that really struck something with me. I cannot see it ever being okay to embarrass your child like that. It’s no wonder Jerramy wanted to escape from her family.

Again, perhaps if this was called fiction, and not a memoir, I’d be more accepting. As it is, although I wanted to like it, I cannot give it a positive review.  And the majority of the reviews for this one are exactly that: positive.  So am I just not getting it? I don’t know. 

Make up your own mind by buying your own copy on Amazon.

Missed my last post? It was:  BUYING BOOKS AS PRESENTS

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Title: “Surviving Ben’s Suicide

Author: C. Comfort Shields

Format: Hardcover

Number of Pages: 260

ISBN: 978-0-595-70530-6

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.

Date of Publication: April 23, 2008

5 stars: How do you survive the suicide of a loved one?

 A Woman's Journey of Self-Discovery

“A month after Ben died, days and nights were long.  I tried to fill them with early morning walks on the beach and early evenings of painting in the garden.  At night, when I could not sleep, my mother and I would sit on my bed for hours talking about life, death, ghosts, and Ben.  But every morning I looked at the phone on my bedside table, knew that Ben would never be on the other end, and felt a deep void that I thought would never go away.” (“Surviving Ben’s Suicide” pg 1)

 

As for what this book is about, the title pretty much explains it all.  It opens with a preface from the author.  She explains how when Ben died she searched for books on how to deal with losing a significant other to suicide, and came up empty.  And when she began to write her own story, how many encouraged her to write it as fiction.  I admit that the words flow so well that they seem like they are fiction.  I’m drawn into the story, and then have to shake myself as I realize, “Oh wait, all of this really did happen.”

Perhaps my favorite parts of the book are the descriptions.  Shields clearly has a way with words as she describes Ben.  It is heartbreaking to read in the beginning, as she describes crumbling up a wildflower that Ben had picked and saved, only to moments later try to scrape the dust back into the envelope the flower was originally in.

Since I’ve never been in the same position as Shields, I cannot say whether or not this book would be helpful after the suicide of a loved one.  But I thank her for sharing her experience, and I would hope that this book, would be a comfort to those going through the same thing.  See below for my interview with C. Comfort Shields, and a details on how to win “Surviving Ben’s Suicide“.  

But don’t just take my word for it!  My friend Meghan aka Medieval Bookworm wrote a great review of this book too. Read it here 🙂 

 

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After reading “Surviving Ben’s Suicide“, the author- C. Comfort Shields, agreed to answer a few questions for me.  Hello Comfort and thank you for being with us here today!

Q.  Because you use the initial C, I admit to being curious as to what your first name is.  Plus I noticed that you are called Comfort throughout the book.  So my first question is, what is your first name, and is there a reason you published your book only using the C? 

A. That’s a great question. My full name is Caroline Comfort Shields, but I have always been called Comfort. My parents named me Caroline after my great-grandmother. Comfort was the middle name of my parents’ dear friend, Nathan Comfort Starr, who was a poet and an expert on the Arthurian myth. Years later, we learned that we had several ancestors from England named Comfort. It was a popular man’s name during the Middle Ages. My parents wanted me to be called Comfort, but they felt that Caroline Comfort had a better ring to it than Comfort Caroline. Normally, I go by Comfort Shields, but I decided to keep the initial C in my memoir, because it reminds me of my beloved great-grandmother.

Q.  Something that I always wonder about when I pick up a book is the cover art.  It’s only since I’ve started doing author interviews that I realized I had the power to ask about it.  So, my next question is: did you have any input in the cover for your book?

A. I’m fascinated by cover art, too. I chose the photo for the cover of the book. The woman in the photo is not me, but I liked the idea of the cover showing a woman who looked like me, from behind, sitting in a quiet and peaceful place and thinking. The designer decided to make the background black and white and the woman’s figure in color to represent how I was writing in present time, while looking back into the past and re-examining my life and the place that my relationship with Ben had in it. I asked the designer to try to create a meditative and serious mood, while not being overly dark, since the message of the book is positive and life-affirming.

Q.  Through your book I believe you have done something remarkable, and that was to immortalize Ben.  You’ve shared with us who Ben was, and allowed us to see how special he was.  And though your entire book is in itself a message, is there anything you’d like to say to those who are considering picking this up?

A. Thank you, how nice of you to say that I have immortalized Ben. That makes me feel wonderful, because bringing Ben’s character to life was one of my greatest difficulties, while writing the book. Sometimes, I think that it is most difficult to describe or ‘show in words’ the people to whom we are the closest. Putting my feelings about Ben and my memories onto paper was something that I struggled with for years, while working on my memoir. In the end, I felt that dialogue was the most effective way to show who Ben really was, and I have received several emails from people, who have said that their favorite part of the book was the series of phone calls between Ben and me towards the end of the book, because the conversations brought Ben, and my relationship with Ben, to life.

That brings me to your question, which is what I would tell people, who were considering reading my book. I would talk about how strongly I feel about the place of memory in our lives. Of course, the word memoir comes from the French, memoire, which stems from the Latin, memoria or “memory”. A major theme in Surviving Ben’s Suicide is the power and the importance of memories in one’s life. To me, the most tragic thing that can happen, when a person undergoes a serious loss in his or her life is to repress one’s emotions and memories. So often, we are told to ‘move on’ after the death of a loved one. That phrase can be extremely unhelpful to people in the depths of mourning. Everyone grieves in his or her own way on his or her own time. In fact, for most of us, it is impossible to forget those we loved. Trying to do so, can cause us to become full of rage, despair and, eventually, to explode, taking out our feelings on ourselves or others. Perhaps the most critical lesson that I have learned, while writing my memoir, is that our memories of the people we have loved and the events that we have endured become part of who we are. The more we examine and re-examine those memories, the wiser we become and the more able we are to treat ourselves and others better in the future.

Q.  On a lighter note, let’s finish with my usual final bookish questions!  What kind of books do you like to read?  What is your favorite book?  Who is your favorite author?  Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. I love to read memoirs and autobiographies. I have always been fascinated by other people’s lives. My favorite author is Anais Nin. Her early diaries opened up a new world for me, when I was in college. They inspired me to be more open about my own life. Since then, I have read all of Nin’s diaries, essays, and novels. I love to re-read the books in my library, because, as I change, I find that my interpretations of my books change. Currently, I am re-reading Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin. I love Trillin’s voice and find the book to be wonderfully straightforward and poignant. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is another favorite writer of mine. If one had to write the perfect ending of a book, I would recommend getting as close as possible to the end of Love in the Time of Cholera or No One Writes to the Colonel.

There you have it folks!  Surviving Ben’s Suicide” can be purchased here, and I recommend you do.  Don’t forget to take a minute to visit Comfort’s new blog.

ATTENTION: Carrie from Planned Television Arts sent me an extra copy to give away to one lucky commenter.  All you have to do is comment on this post telling me why you’d like to win and read this book, AND mention something about my interview with Comfort.  (Don’t just say “I want to win this!”)  Link to this post and tell me about it for an extra entry.  The contest will run from now until July 31rst at 12:00am EST.  So lots of time for you to spread the word about it!  Good luck 🙂

Thanks to C. Comfort Shields and Carrie Wallick.  

Missed my last post?  It was STILL HAVEN’T BOUGHT “ABERRATIONS” BY PENELOPE PRZEKOP?

Missed my last review?  It was REVIEW: “WORLD MYTHOLOGY” (2ND EDITION) EDITED BY DONNA ROSENBERG

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Title:  “Victor Kugler: The Man Who Hid Anne Frank”

Author: Eda Shapiro & Rick Kardonne

Format: Hardcover

Number of pages: 136

ISBN: 13 978-965-229-410-4

Publisher: Gefen

Date of publication: January 2008

5 stars: One everybody should read

 

                                                         The Man Who Hid Anne Frank

 

“I first saw Anne Frank when she was only four years old, in March 1934…. Even in those early minutes of our acquaintance I was struck by her large, dark brown eyes; those probing, searching, questioning eyes.”(pg 34) So said Victor Kugler of his first meeting of Anne Frank.

 

I had doubts about this book.  I knew that “The Diary of Anne Frank”was published by her father in order to get her story out there.  However, not knowing anything about Victor Kugler, I was afraid that this was yet another person trying to make money by telling their story.  I was relieved that this was not the case.  My fears about this book were set to rest after reading the preface.  Victor Kugler told his story to Eda Shapiro from 1969-1973, and later died in 1980.  After Shapiro passed away, her husband Iriving Naftolin had Kugler’s memoirs published with the help of Rick Kardonne.

 

To many, the name Victor Kugler may be unfamiliar.  Those who have read “The Diary of Anne Frank”will recall Mr. Kraler being the man who hid the Frank family and their companions.  Kraler and Kugler are one and the same.  It was hard to read this book knowing that Kugler’s hiding place would eventually be discovered, and what would happen to the Franks. 

 

“Again and again they tried to movie it but they failed.  Finally, they found the hook that kept it in its place.  The hook was unfastened and they moved the bookcase.  The door leading to the staircase and rooms above was now exposed.

My heart sank.

The moment I had been dreading for two years had now arrived.

I realized the object of this search.  I knew we had been betrayed.  The secret had been revealed and our plans had failed.  The eight people in the Secret Annex were now doomed.  A terrible fate awaited them all.” (pg 52)

 

7006.  That was the number that was sewn onto Kugler’s jacket in the concentration camp he was sent to after the Franks were discovered.  From there he traveled to two other concentration camps before amazingly escaping on a bicycle while his group was attacked by British Spitfires.  He credits his survival to many who helped him on his travels, and he remembered them all.  Among them were farmers who sheltered him and gave him clothing, a woman who warned him about a dangerous road, and a boy who directed him.

 

There were a few things I was disappointed in after reading this book, but there weren’t many.  One was the length.  I found it entirely too short. Added to that, there are sections that aren’t really Victor Kugler’s story.  I wanted to read about Kugler, and how he helped the Frank family.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d care to read any more after the Secret Annex was discovered, but I stuck with it and found I couldn’t turn away from Kugler’s experiences in the concentration camp.  I found them both sickening and alarming, but how could anyone feel differently?  I do admit that I found the later sections, after Kugler’s move to Canda, a bit boring since Kugler was no longer in the thick of things.  Overall, this was a very moving book.  Like Anne Frank, Kugler’s story should never be forgotten. 

 

(Thanks to LibraryThing’s EarlyReviewers Program, and Gefen Publishing House)

 

Missed my last post?  It was UPCOMING READS, REVIEWS, AND FREE BOOKS.

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Title: “Alexander’s Lovers”

Author: Andrew Chugg

Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 220

ISBN: 978-1411699601

Publisher: Lulu.com

Date of Publication: April 29, 2006

5 stars: Couldn’t have been better

Alexander's Lovers
 

This is a fascinating and helpful book about Alexander the Great and his lovers. What information is included in the book?

The first 60 pages or so are about Alexander’s life and accomplishments, including sections on “The Pursuit of Darius”, “The Brahmins and the Mallian Arrow” and “The Mutiny at Opis”. Then there is a lengthy section on Hephaistion (pgs 64-130). The wealth of information here is astounding. Many different sources are quoted and credited for their input, allowing us to see where the similarities and differences are in their information. There are also various sketches of statues and copies of paintings (black and white). Compared to Hephaistion, the other sections in the book are quite small. But considering how important he was to Alexander, this makes sense.

After Hephaistion, pages 131-143 are on Barsine. Next is the section on Bagaos the eunuch. (pgs 144-154). Many histories have left out Bagoas entirely, preferring that he not existed. However there is undeniable evidence that he did exist, and again there is a wealth of information here on him. Bagoas is followed by the section on Thalestris (Queen of the Amazons) and Cleophis (Queen of Massaga) from pages 155-163.

One of the greatest mysteries about Alexander was why he married Roxane. Many argue that she was the only woman he ever loved. Roxane’s section is 164-184, followed by Stateira and Parysatis (The Persian Princesses). Pages 185-197 deal with the Persian Princesses, including their backgrounds, and their political importance. A short epilogue follows this section, and includes the fates of Alexander’s relatives- including his brothers/sisters/mother/ and children.

I quite enjoyed this book. As another review stated, this is perhaps the most written about Hephaistion anywhere, and it is very helpful to finally have it all in one place instead of constantly cross referencing. Remember, as Alexander once said, “He too is Alexander.” It is sad that there isn’t more information on him, considering his importance to Alexander. It even seems that his successes were downplayed, although after reading this book you will see that he was a brilliant strategist and general. In closing, Alexander the Great is an important figure in history, and true scholars will want to pick up Chugg’s story.  

For more on Hephaistion and Bagoas (if you are at all interested in historical fiction), I’d recommend Mary Renault’s Alexander the Great trilogy- Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy (A personal favorite!), Funeral Games.

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