Monday, November 2, 2015

by Alexander Helas

Christian Matters is a neurotic architect living in Chicago, USA, but after a bizarre episode throws him off his morning routine, he abandons his promising career, girlfriend and home for a life-changing journey to San Francisco, where he meets a cavalier aristocrat named Lester Rothschild and his beautifully extravagant love, fortepianist Ella Athens.

Mysterious and insane, Lester takes Christian on his adventure to open Société, the most luxurious entertainment complex at the heart of the world's richest city. But with the chance meeting of an unlikely visitor and the sudden death of a lover, colliding events lead Christian to unravel the true ambitions behind the greatly anticipated opening of Société, and discovers the fate of something much greater is at stake. 

I'm definitely intrigued and will have a completed review shortly!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The House at Sugar Beach, Helene Cooper

Helene Cooper is “Congo,” a descendant of two Liberian dynasties—traced back to the first ship of freemen that set sail from New York in 1820 to found Monrovia. Helene grew up at Sugar Beach, a twenty-two-room mansion by the sea. Her childhood was filled with servants, flashy cars, a villa in Spain, and a farmhouse up-country. It was also an African childhood, filled with knock foot games and hot pepper soup, heartmen and neegee. When Helene was eight, the Coopers took in a foster child—a common custom among the Liberian elite. Eunice, a Bassa girl, suddenly became known as “Mrs. Cooper’s daughter.” For years the Cooper daughters—Helene, her sister Marlene, and Eunice—blissfully enjoyed the trappings of wealth and advantage.

But Liberia was like an unwatched pot of water left boiling on the stove. And on April 12, 1980, a group of soldiers staged a coup d'État, assassinating President William Tolbert and executing his cabinet. The Coopers and the entire Congo class were now the hunted, being imprisoned, shot, tortured, and raped. After a brutal daylight attack by a ragtag crew of soldiers, Helene, Marlene, and their mother fled Sugar Beach, and then Liberia, for America. They left Eunice behind.

A world away, Helene tried to assimilate as an American teenager. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill she found her passion in journalism, eventually becoming a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She reported from every part of the globe—except Africa—as Liberia descended into war-torn, third-world hell.

In 2003, a near-death experience in Iraq convinced Helene that Liberia—and Eunice—could wait no longer. At once a deeply personal memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified country, The House at Sugar Beach tells of tragedy, forgiveness, and transcendence with unflinching honesty and a survivor's gentle humor. And at its heart, it is a story of Helene Cooper’s long voyage home.

My thoughts:
This is a perfect example of a Memoir that reads like a novel.  Helene Cooper recounts her childhood growing up privileged in with a nice house, fancy cars, Nancy Drew books, vacation abroad and her very own "Bassa" sister Eunice.  I was drawn to the story as in many ways, Helene's childhood mirrors my own.  I grew up in a house about 2 miles from the beach, had household help, singing Blessed Assurance in church on Sundays and reading Nancy Drew books.

Prior to reading this Memoir, I had no idea Liberia was a colony formed by freed slaves way back when.  Helene weaved stories of her childhood while adding snippets of the social and political climate in Liberia at that time. I was saddened by the breakdown of the government though to be honest, that system with the powerful rich vs the weakened poor would never work for an extended period of time. 

You will need to read this book to learn about the tragedy and heartbreak this country faced as well as the beginnings of peace and hopefully prosperity in the region.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Goldfinch

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

My thoughts:
Theo was a boy when he lost his mom, an event that would change him forever. Moved by grief and pain, tumbling from one home to the next, finding friendship in the hard, tough teenager Borys.....his life was constantly on edge.

As I read the novel, I found myself completely wrapped up in Theo's life and would wake each morning wondering how he would spend his day. I laughed and cried with him and hoped his mother's love would keep him alive and well.

I believe this could have been "that" great novel but alas, it was way too wordy (I gave it 3 stars). I am quite happy I read it and would urge you to do the same.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Light Between The Oceans


About the book:
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

My Review:

I started this book back in June and was only able to finish it in December. That said, it was a good read but gave it 3 stars because it was a bit "wordy". I felt the story could have been told in fewer pages.

I admired Tom's strength of character but couldn't help but being angry with him for giving in to Isabel. No matter what cards you are dealt, you cannot take someone's child. It just doesn't end well. The downside was that so many lives were turned upside down.

Despite the anguish and despair, the author was able to find a happy ending for Lucy-Grace and I for one was very happy about that.