Tag Archives: book review

“Redhead by the side of the road” by Anne Tyler

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“Redhead by the side of the road” is almost a day in a life of Micah – a man encapsulated in his own world where he puts the order of small things about the joy and mess of human interactions: “He lives alone; he keeps to himself; his routine is etched in stone.” When a 17 year old knocks on his door, distressed and in need of a roof, Micah’s life is shaken. His realisation of past relationships failures push him to rekindle his last one in an attempt to embrace the joy and messiness of a life shared with a loved one.

I read it in almost one go, so if you a looking to read something unsoliciting and light, this can work.

“The Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri

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The Beekeeper of Aleppo is about profound loss, but it is also about love and finding light”, Lefteri tells us. This is what she witnessed on the camps in Athens during her time as a volunteer. This is a work of fiction, yet its story line is as real as the lives of millions of refugees of war and famine.

Lefteri’s writing is marvelous, marked by poignant honesty and the lightness of early mornings. I held my breath, I shed tears and I smiled as Lefteri took me on Nuri and Afra’s journey from war-torn Aleppo to England, from the loss of their only son to a reconnection, from murder to overcoming an animal desire to kill, from the loss of a business to a newly found passion for training others to succeed, from blindness to vision, from bottomless sadness to relived giggles of companionship. Books like this are a great reminder not to judge anyone – you never know what the person has been through. We are all migrants on Earth, in a sense or another.

“Ten Things About Writing” by Joanne Harris

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Joanne Harris knows a thing or two about writing, as a world renown author and the Chair of the Society of Authors. I was delighted to discover her book about writing. I love it when people are generous in sharing their knowledge.

The book will take you into the insights of the writing process from start to the publication and beyond. It will unveil the secrets of what makes a story, characterisation and detailing. And it is all written with honesty and no-non-sense. Joanne is incredibly encouraging towards aspiring writers: “Remember, … , that just writing is an act of bravery. You have the courage to do what it takes to give your voice the chance to be heard. Don’t do it because you want to be the next J.K. Rowling, or Maya Angelou, or Margaret Atwood. Those are already taken. Do it because your voice is unique. Only you can take this chance. No one else will ever be you, or tell your story the way you can”.

After this book, I also realized that I am more demanding as a reader. Joanne is right. If after 10 pages I am not fully absorbed by the story or if the author states the obvious (“the rain is wet” ), I will close the book and look for something else to read.

“Battle mind. How to navigate in Chaos and perform under Pressure” by Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg

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If you are looking for inspiration in times of adversity, you’ll find it in this book: “My basic reason for writing this book is that I believe that people can become better at dealing with adversity, if they know the concept Battle Mind, and master the underlying techniques.” the author tells us.

The concept of Battle Mind came from military psychology. Accordingly, the Battle Mind is “a state of mind that helps soldiers survive, focus, and take action in military operations, where there is no room for hesitation.” Merete takes forward the question why do some people perform better under pressure, while others lose control and offers practical guidance and techniques to master the art of dealing with crisis and emergencies. 

In addition to the practical advice and actionable tips it offers, I appreciated the book for a number of other reasons. It is rich in real life stories from battle fields to corporate floors to learn from. It contains numerous references to other great books and research papers to get further in-depth inspiration for a “yes, we can” mood any project manager needs to exhibit for the team to follow suit.

“Independent people” by Halldor Laxness

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“Do yourself a favour and read Independent People. Opening this book is like opening a chest of treasures.”. – Chicago Tribune. Indeed, though arm yourself with a ton of patience, I would say. This was not a fun reading and I suspect it was not a fun translation job. It has to be said that the English translation by J. A. THOMPSON is considered one of the finest into any language of Laxness’s masterpiece.

The main character, Bjartur, requires a lot of patience. His stubbornness is monumental and costs him his wives and children’s lives. His idea of an independent man as an owner of sheep and land is explained at length against the background of economic rise and fall of Iceland during the WWI and shortly after. At some point, the novel felt like a economics and political science book, which was rather annoying, as it did not seem to add to the understanding of the character. Nevertheless, the value of the book of this author awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and its translation in English remains indisputable.

“The strange adventures of H” by Sarah Burton

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A “from rags to riches” story line in London’s epic times of plague and big fire, this novel is heartwarming. H, a 15 year orphan, survives the streets of London without loosing her humanity, kindness and integrity, against all odds.

It is a truly epic journey of a girl in only a two year time lapse to remind us that “there is no disaster which can befall humanity, that we will not fail to make worse by our own hands, for it is fear that makes us cruel.” A happy ending, a marriage on a ship, justice restored and new born babies will bring a smile to the reader’s face at the end of this epic journey.

“Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys

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“The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the deadliest disaster in maritime history, with losses dwarfing the death tolls of the famous ships Titanic and Lusitania. Yet remarkably, most people have never heard of it”, Sepetys tells us why she wrote “Salt to the Sea” in the Author’s Note. The effort and extent of the research she went through, together with an impressive number of people, is truly admirable.

“Salt to the Sea” is a story of refuge to the west during the WWII. It dispels the myth that people in the West had it easy. Once again, as in “Between shades of gray”, Sepetys chooses to tell the story through the eyes of children and youth, who caused none of the atrocities, yet endured it all: “Abandoned or separated from their families, they were forced to battle the beast of war on their own, left with an inheritance of heartache and responsibility for events they had no role in causing.” Books like these acknowledge them in ways no history book does it. And this is why Sepetys deserves all my respect for her work.

“Out of the Easy” by Ruta Sepetys

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Yet another great piece by Ruta Sepetys. “Out of the Easy” takes us into the world of a daughter of a prostitute in New Orleans of 1950s.

A mysterious death, the life in a brothel, a strong madam character, blackmail and mobsters, friendship and romance, dreams and aspirations, authenticity of the New Orleans atmosphere and the warmth of human relations all come together for a truly gripping reading.

“Between shades of gray” by Ruta Sepetys

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“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?” in this world. A watch of a grand father for the life of a young boy?

This is not an easy reading, as it permeates with human suffering beyond understanding. The plot unfolds in soviet Lithuania of 1941 and takes us on the forced journey of a Lithuanian family to Altai and, then next to the arctic circle. The unbelievable hurdles they go through and their stamina are humbling.

I lived in the soviet Union in the years of its glory and we knew nothing about the price people paid to build the infrastructure and resources we benefited from. It took years for the veil over repressions, forced labour, mass deportation to come down after the fall of the Berlin wall.

I am grateful to authors like Sepetys who do the research, talk to people who lived through it all and then put it on paper for us to read, even as historical fiction.

“The Fountains of Silence » by Ruta Sepetys

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Ruta Sepetys knows how to write a story. It was my first book by her. It was truly gripping, even for my ever busy brain. This novel is definitely one of my top 5 favorite fiction works.

An estimated 300,000 children were stolen from their birth parents and sold into adoption during and after the Franco regime in Spain. Sepetys made us see the story through the eyes of these children and their mothers. And she did that with a dignifying and respectful writing style. Some sceneries bring tears to eyes, some can make you laugh. I find it truly admirable that she manages to stay both proud and humble in her writing. I am looking forward to read more by her.