Category Archives: Books

A manual for cleaning women: selected stories by Lucia Berlin

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It is my first experience with Berlin. It will be memorable. I would read a line, then close the book and savor the words and the feelings they bring. A smile in the corner of the mouth. A raised brow. A look into the sky. A chin bending to my heart. Anger. Peace. Wonder. A sense of lost and found.

I found Berlin’s writing multi layered and pluri dimensional. I felt puzzled and pissed off at the same time but not in a dismissing way. It enflamed the curiosity to continue reading through the 400 pages of the Manual. I read them her life’s stories told by other characters and a manual for letting go of the past or cleaning, if you wish.

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“The Cuckoo’s Calling” by J.K. Rowling

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I read none of Rowling’s Harry Potter’s books and was curious about her writing style. This curiosity lead me to her crime fiction. The “Cuckoo’s Calling” is a 2013 novel of this genre by J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

It kept me entertained at night when sleep was not too eager to come. The novel did not leave any effect on me. And it is meant as a compliment.

Some of the main characters – a private detective named Cormoran Strike and his assistant – Robin are interesting. The story line is around the investigation initiated by a killer who hired a private detective to look into his famous sister’s “suicide”.  The story has a bit of everything: a bit of intrigue, a bit of crime, a bit of human show of vanity and a touch of unpursued love.

The novel is a first of a series. I would not read the others for now. Maybe later.

“Sayonara” by James Michener

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I was looking to read something by Pulitzer winner writers. My research guided me to the work of James Michener. His historic take interplayed with human destinies sounded appealing. So I picked one of his novels – “Sayonara”.

“Sayonara” was written in 1954. It is the story of an ace US pilot falling in love with a Japanese actress and all the prejudices this couple encountered in the turmoil of those times. It is a beautiful tale of love and devotion, struggles and choices, gifts and sacrifice.

I noticed that the novel needs the reader to forget “Instagram” standards of fame, bravery and beauty and take the things as human as they were back then.

“Tom Gates” by Liz Pichon

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I was looking for something hilarious to read. Tried “The Royal Treatment (The Crown Jewels Romantic Comedy Series Book 1)” by Melanie Summers. It was quite good but not really the thing I needed.

My kid chose from the Scholastic book club “Tom Gates” by Liz Pichon. And that was it! The hilarious reading I looked for. She devored the 12 books of the series in no time. It was contagious so I started reading it out loud for a laugth together. It is the best wake up book. No need for an alarm clock in the morning.

Each book has stories of a boy told by a boy, with all the glory of family, school and social life one has at the age of eight. And each page has very funny drawings. For lots of inspiration. Now I know how to convey the message in the next project report 😉

“Winston Churchill” by Katie Daynes

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I loved to read the book my kid picked last week from the school library. Actually, she read it. And I re-readed with her.

The author did a very good job with explaining in plain language the life of one of the most fascinating personalities of the last century. The pages with the story of Churchil’s life from age five to his last days are filled with pictures of his life’s events.

Kids and adults alike can learn lessons of resilience from the man who hold jobs which required decisions that impacted millions of lives. Next time I would get bugged by a trivial matter at work, I’ll gently remind myself about it.

We also learned that Churchil’s hobby was painting. Another take away from the book: balance your professional/school demands with something which makes you happy. Balance your brain hyperactivity with works of hand, as my grandmother would say.

“The secret agent and other spy kids” by Allan Zullo

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This book made me realise that the fairytales readings are a stage we moved through. It is the true stories now that fascinate my kid. She chose from her Scholastic offer “The secret agent and other spy kids”. The book tells 10 true stories of spy kids from the times of the 1781 Revolutionary War to the two world wars and the war in Korea in 1951. It is a good introduction into certain stages of American history through the stories of real-life teenagers who “left their mark in the shadowy world of espionage” who took risks for their country.

The reading will require an adult help with understanding some of the history and military concepts new at this age. So it can be a nice book reading time spent together.

“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts

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I loved the story. It is a story of a human, filled with his life’s joys and tragedies and many in-betweens. The author tells his own story of an armed robber and fugitive who found escape in Mumbai, India. He opens his soul to judgement in a vulnerable yet self-accepting way. Lin, the name of the main character, gives his best to the city which adopted him, curing slam dwellers in a free clinique he set up and serving mafia with skill and devotion.

To me, it is story of unmet childhood needs and choices as an adult. His longing for a father’s love, he never had as a child, makes him loyal to a mafia boss, up to the point of joining him on a deadly mission to Afghanistan. His love of a woman he meets in Mumbai – Karla – is unshared, as his heart is filled by regret and broken by so many wars he fought with heroin, addiction and violence he brought and suffered.

The author’s depiction of simple Indian men and women is heartwarming. He pays tribute to their traditions and customs with a delicacy and tact of a respectful guest in a country, which adopted him without a question about his past. It is the place which baptized him Shantaram – “man of peace”. “…they saw something in me that I didn’t know was there.”, said Roberts in an interview to BBC.

The author finishes the novel with the start of a new adventure, softly inviting the reader to open the sequel ” The Mountain Shadow”.