Tag Archives: book review

“The billion dollar spy” by David E. Hoffman

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The main character of this non-fiction book is Adolf Tolkachev, a soviet engineer at a top secret military defense institute in Moscow. He spied voluntarily for almost 7 years and had 21 meetings with undercover CIA officers right under the nose of KGB in late 79s-early 80s. Tolkachev delivered to the United States a library of top secret documents about the design and capability of radars deployed on Soviet fighters and interceptors. It saved billions to the United States at the expense of the soviet military. He was caught due to a defected CIA officer who sold him to KGB for a bit of money and «refuge » in Russia. Howard did this in revenge of CIA kicking him out after a failed polygraph test just before his assignment to work with Tolkachev.

As I was reading the book, I realised that as I was peacefully playing outdoors, men in suits were also playing a game called « whose’s longer » in their race to dominate the world. I also thought that spies are literally made by systems. I do not mean the trainings. I mean by how the system they devote themselves wholeheartedly breaks them ruthlessly to the point of no return. Be it in Soviet Union or in the United States.

“If you want to write” by Brenda Ueland

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I found the central idea of the book in these lines “creative power is in all of you if you give it just a little time; if you believe in it a little bit and watch it come quietly into you; if you do not keep it out by always hurrying and feeling guilty in those times when you should be lazy and happy.”

The book requires a certain openness to spirituality to inhale some of the book’s ideas especially on reason and inspiration and concepts like that.

Brenda Ueland is convinced that we all can and shall write: “But if (as I wish) everybody writes and respects and loves writing, then we would have a nation of intelligent, eager, impassioned readers; and generous and grateful ones, not mere critical, logy, sedentary passengers, observers of writing, whose attitude is: “All right: entertain me now.” Wouldn’t that be truly great? I think so.

She takes a strong stance on critics and argues her case, quite persuasively. Among the many reasons she gives: “Another reason I don’t like critics (the one in myself as well as in other people) is that they try to teach something without being it.”

So, if you want to write you’ll find a supporter in this book. If you are already writing, you might find yourself coming back to the 12 pieces of warm advice this book concludes with.

“A man called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

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I just finished the book. And I cried. And I laughed. It is so human I wanted to embrace it. The author does so much justice to the roller coaster of the life of this amazing couple at the center of the narrative – Ove and Sonja.

The story line is rich, tender and explosive. It embraces such a diversity of characters throughout the book that at times I thought I am reading two or three novels in parallel. Yet, by a masterly stroke of the pen, they come together as one. It is quite extraordinary.

My favourite quote: “And when she giggled she sounded the way Ove imagined champagne bubbles would have sounded if they were capable of laughter.”

“The salt path” by Raynor Winn

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That’s some tale. I “walked” for miles and miles on the English coast line with this amazing couple – Moth and Ray. The reading made me straighten my back, lower my shoulders and relearn acceptance.

This couple in their 50s lost their home, family business and all income and walked into their next stage with their 8 kg each backpacks. On top of that, Moth was diagnosed with some incurable disease… . They endure, overcome, cry, despair, get up, and move on.

I read some of the reviews after I read the book. Some saw it as a diary, others as a coast guide and national geographic type of writing. Some focused on the homeliness side of the story only. Others on the iterations… It has it, indeed, a little bit of each. As with any reading, we will find there only what we have inside already…

My favourite quote from the book: “A new season had crept into me, a softer season of acceptance.”

“My life in France: the life story of Julia Child” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

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If you wonder about life in Paris in late 40s seen through the eyes of an American, this book might be of interest. Narrated by the main character – Julia Child – the book is a very personal take on life in Paris at that time, French cuisine being at the center of it. And it’s natural – it is that Julia Child, the legendary self-made cook, author, teacher and media presence in the times of those ugly boxes entering the Americans’ homes.

You’ll find here the history of Child’s first 728 page long cooking book, which she wrote and re-wrote with two of her French friends – “Mastering the art of French cooking”. It takes you literally through its notes, side notes, authors’ arguments, endless trials, tests and failures of recipes. And that’s important as at that time, “editors seemed to consider the French preoccupation with detail a waste of time, if not a form of insanity”.

Child pays tribute to all great chefs she met and learned from as well as to all who taught her tricks of the trade, ranging from bakers to meat, fruit and vegetables stands sellers from the regions of France.

I found the last chapters on Julia entering the TV world less interesting, yet those years were important for the effect she had on households and cooking people. Some stories there are funny too. Filming with a Dutch cameraman in a French open air market, for instance.

“One Day“ by David Nicholls

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“One Day” is reminder of living in the now. Not “when I’ll … then I will” kind of thinking. The novel is a story of two people in love with each other who lived their lives in parallel for almost two decades, until they married and lived ever happy until her life was abruptly interrupted by an accident only couple of years into their marriage.

The story line is braided in different years in different location, so I would not describe the reading as relaxing. You’ll have to make a bit of an effort to follow back and forth. It is absolutely worth it. You’ll see.

“A return to love” by Marianne Williamson

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This book left unequivocal impressions and it can foster a number of inner reflections at some deep personal level. I guess it requires a personal preparedness for some of its parts.

The author calls for a return to the basic instinct – love – in the spiritual sense. It explains some of the principles of “A course in miracles” and offers tips to practice it. Even more valid in trying times we go through individually or collectively.

The writing is largely based on Christian beliefs and the author appeals to some other religious values to make the point heard by readers who share other different values.

Marianne Williamson is an author and she lectures internationally in the fields of spirituality and new thought. At present her lectures take place once a month to standing room audiences at Town Hall in New York and twice a week to filled auditoriums in southern California.

“The Confessions of Catherine de Medici” by C.W. Gortner

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Do you ever wonder how things really happened down the history path? As stories were told and told, written and re-written, translated and interpreted, which parts are really true? We will only know it to some extent and that only if we really want to.

I picked up the novel because the author made an effort to find out more than just what remained in the “official” history. He researched the correspondence of those times and letters written by this amazing women, a mother of nine, who survived her husband and 7 of her children, while reigning a country torn apart by bloody religious wars between men who called themselves “Christians”.

Historians chose to depict her as a cold-blooded poisoner and author of the infamous St Bartholomew night in Paris. If you want to learn more and debunk some myths surrounding this famous historical figure, then this novel will take you through Catherine’s tough childhood as an orphan, her ascend to the French throne, her international diplomatic skills, her sacrifices as a mother to save her children and the Valois dynasty, her titanic efforts to bring peace by promoting religious tolerance, her contributions to the French art and architecture, among many many more.

Thank you 2019

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When I was little, year 2000 seemed stellar years away. And now I say “Hello 2020!”

As I finish this year in my kitchen with crème patissière under my nails, I choose a moment of solitude to write down a few thanks to the passing year.

Thank you 2019,

for my new motherhood experiences. It is a 3D of past, present and future. Kids are unattainable teachers. We just have to open our hearts.

for a magic encounter with a new painter – Conny Famm from Sweden at his “Nordic Grace” exhibition. His “State of soul” is divine.

for my privileged and intimate friendships, which are untouched by distance. You know who are.

for my great professional relationships, which evolved into friendships. You know who you are.

for a new and growing sorority of spirits, regardless of our genders and age. We know who we are.

for many brilliant books I read this year.

for “Angel” by MyiaGi, my song of the year.

for a few small traditions I helped create, which continue to benefit those who need it most.

for my Grandmother’s traditions I sacredly follow on our special family occasions. It is my way to keep her in our hearts. Some of them fill our stomachs just fine, which she also loved doing for us, just like this cheese pie.

for the patience of my hubby when he fights his unspoken “You bought again so many!?, as he knows that I will support all forms of women’s entrepreneurship.

for new wisdoms I discovered and share with my daugthers. Here is a selection of my favourites:

  • The story you tell yourself is by far more important than the story other people tell you.
  • There is no truth in suffering.
  • Patience is a virtue few have, and those who have it gain it all.
  • What others say or do is about them. If you internalise it, you make it about you.
  • There are two basic emotions: fear and faith. The choice is yours.
  • Your behaviours demonstrate your values. Choose what you show to the world.
  • Age does not register with those who are busy with good deeds.
  • People who say that they will do it and then actually do it are rare. Be one of rare ones.

Thank you, 2019! Hello and welcome, 2020!