Karolina’s Twins & The Dutch Wife

Book Pairing

Both these novels held my interest till the very end.  All the while, I kept trying to guess what the main outcome of the story was for each.  I was successful with the first book but was very shocked and pretty much in denial, when I found out the truth in the second tale.  Karolina’s Twins is about an elderly woman, named Lena, who is desperately seeking the help of a married couple (the wife being a lawyer and the husband being a private investigator).  It has been years since the Holocaust and Lena is a survivor, recently widowed but she needs to find two adult women, whom went missing as babies during that time.  They belonged to her best friend and she needs to know if the daughters are still alive—as she made a promise to look after the twins if anything happened to her friend.  As we read on, we are in present day but are quickly brought back to the 1940’s when Lena begins recalling her past.  Why Lena chooses to start the investigation only now is part of the mystery but things get complicated when her only son gets suspicious and wants to sue the very people who could solve the case.  In The Dutch Wife, Marijke and her husband are taken into custody by the Germans, as political prisoners during WWII, for helping to hide Jewish families.  We follow the hardships that Marijke has to face in the camp and her decision to become a prostitute in order to survive.  At the same time, we are taken forward to Argentina in the 1970’s and see how Luciano (a homosexual student in journalism) is abducted by the government and tortured to reveal more political protestors.  How Marijke’s and Luciano’s stories link together will make you shake your head fiercely.  Both novels cover the second World War, involve secrets about illegitimate children and feature two timelines.  There are very dramatic and disturbing scenes in each book, which makes them seem so vivid and raw.  You feel what the characters have gone through and it makes you wonder what you would do in their situation.  If you are into literature about the Holocaust, these are really good gems!  Although they are fiction, stories like these need to be told to reveal what people went through—and still do today, in some cases.

 

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Petty: the Biography

HisLit

I am a huge fan of Petty’s music.  Ever since I heard his songs on the radio, I always looked forward to his next release and I knew (no matter what) I would enjoy it.  His style was real and either got you mellow or wanting to dance.  I have been in love with the South (Carolina in particular) for some time and when I found out he was from Florida, my heart got warm and fuzzy.  I received this book for my birthday last year, by request but I only started reading it after he passed away.  I was heartbroken at the news and I wanted to know more about him.  What I discovered was that he had an estranged relationship with his abusive father and that he was part Cherokee.  Zanes reveals to us that Petty was actually quite a shy individual who could hardly stand to be on stage performing in front of thousands.  He knew he had talent and wanted to share it but his nerves would often get the better of him.  He knew that making it big would be a huge hurdle—especially after getting hitched and becoming a father.  He needed the money but he wished he could get the fortune without necessarily claiming the fame.  He had such a love and skill for writing and playing music by himself but he was so used to growing up with his friends, whom helped him form the group they became.  We are given the scoop of how things weren’t always smooth among the band members but that good memories were certainly had—not to mention successful albums.  Reading this book is simultaneously like watching a documentary on Petty and listening to his songs.  It is always interesting to read about the man or band behind the instruments.  There is another level of appreciation for these artists and their creations, once you find out their story.

HisLit title read-alikes:
Here are a few books you may find interesting if you liked Petty’s biography:

The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip by Michael Barclay
Not Dead Yet: The Memoir by Phil Collins
Runnin’ with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen by Noel Monk and Joe Layden

The biographies we read about talented musicians have an even more profound effect when the artist featured has passed away.  The books become a souvenir that act as a sort of eulogy and a respectful nod to the person who made this world better, by spreading their unique music—which may have meant everything to a dedicated fan.

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Wonder

Book vs. Movie

  

I read the book and loved it.  Even though it is a young adult novel, it speaks to a wide audience.  It was such a special story that I was very excited when I found out the movie was being made.  I was so curious to see how the novel would be portrayed.  Would it follow the same sequence of events?  Would it look at the situation through different characters’ eyes?  Yes and yes.  The movie did a great job going through almost the whole tale without a hitch but admittedly, some characters did not have their point of view expressed, as in the book.  There are very slight discrepancies between the two but overall, I was very satisfied and cried just as much watching it as I did reading it!  The actors were chosen wisely; they all fit their parts.  One nice touch that the movie delivered was short cameo appearances by Star Wars personalities, which made Auggie’s imagination vivid as he shared it with us.  If everyone could learn about this fictional story (that was inspired by a real condition), people would be more sympathetic to those who may not always look like others.  The message that you take away from either the book or film is the same: when you have to choose between right and kind, always choose kind.  My suggestion is to read AND watch this story—it is so “feel good” that you would want to experience it more than once.  Definitely an important lesson in this day and age!

 

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A Street Cat Named Bob

A Five Star Pick

There are so many pet stories that can bring smiles and tears to your face, with some that are also meant to inspire.  Bob the cat certainly brought hope to an addict at a time when it was much needed but unexpected.  It was the late 90’s when James Bowen was down on his luck and addicted to drugs in London.  He hardly ever had two pennies to rub together.  Life on the street was tough but it was on the streets where eventually Bob, the friendly ginger cat, had come in from.  In 2007, just like Bowen, Bob had no real place to call home.  Bowen was living in a housing program when the two met.  Bowen went busking on the streets, where the cat followed and he was soon making additional money by having Bob drum up business.  The pair was attracting attention.  A wonderful friendship bloomed.  Bowen was able to get a job with The Big Issue, in addition to collecting money from his street performances.  In essence, the cat allowed Bowen to find an apartment for himself to live in and become clean from his addiction.  Bob accepted his role in Bowen’s life and together, they have claimed fame.  The book came out in 2014 and there are other books that feature Bob but this one is what started the whole phenomena.  A movie was made and Bob can even be followed on Facebook or Twitter.  The story is a testament to how humans and animals can save each other’s lives through the special gift of companionship.

 

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Jane Steele & Mr. Rochester

Book Pairing

  

So, as some of you know, I am a Jane Eyre fan.  I wrote a post about it long ago, which you can see here, in case you missed it.  It is one of my five-star picks.  I will read anything that has to do with Jane Eyre (just like I would for Anne of Green Gables).  The two novels featured here, hit the spot.  I paired them together because they share the same theme.  Simply read the titles and it will be obvious.  The first one is a take on what would have happened if Jane was actually the one with a secret from her past.  In this case, she is a murderer and she is not sorry for it, either.  The Gothic tone is very much there throughout the novel and this new Jane is just as likable (if not more) than the original one.  We see how a fiery female character can get the man of her dreams, despite her major fault.  The second book looks at Mr. Rochester’s life in the Jane Eyre story.  That’s right—we finally get to see how the mysterious and charming man grows up and gets involved in the mess that is his marriage to a mad woman.  It is a fascinating retelling written in his voice and you become all the more sympathetic to his character.  It is so complimentary to Jane Eyre, that you would think the author had come across some lost papers of Charlotte Brontë, revealing notes on his side of the tale.  In fact, reading the story from his point of view makes the classic version seem even more dark and tragic, despite the happiness that is found at the end.  If you are a hardcore fan like me, grab these novels and enjoy—you will not be disappointed!

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Iceland Defrosted

HisLit

A book that will grab you from beginning to end—especially if you enjoy traveling to exotic places and indulge in eating, drinking and being merry.  Iceland sounds like the type of place to visit if you are a sci-fi fan.  The reason I say this is because it is a country filled with “out-of-this-world” geological freakishness and beauty, all on the same island!  In the book, it is described as if you were literally walking on another planet.  Volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, lagoons, Northern Lights, crazy winds and geysers are just some of the highlights from this hidden gem.  You like beer?  Apparently Iceland has the best.  Their coffee is not far behind.  Looking for adventure, driving off the beaten path?  Plenty of square mileage for that; just make sure your vehicle is equipped with the right tires/gear.  Want to celebrate New Years in a big way?  This country knows how to party when the clock strikes midnight.  Everyone and their uncle has personal fireworks to set off on the street.  And don’t forget that grilling on BBQs outside throughout the Winter season, is also popular.  They even celebrate Husband Day in January!  Have I convinced you to go yet?  How about telling you that their water is practically the freshest and coldest on earth—if it were up to them, bottled water wouldn’t exist there.  Some areas of Iceland have a strong odour of sulfur; a result of the natural, geothermal springs.  But that shouldn’t bother men too much, as it resembles another smell they may be used to, when among a group of buddies 🙂

HisLit title read-alikes:
Ready to explore its fascinating landscape after reading Hancox’s experiences?  Besides a good travel guide, here are a few books that can better prepare you for your next trip to Iceland:
Iceland: Land of the Sagas by Jon Krakauer and David Roberts
Gnarr: How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World by Jon Gnarr
History of Iceland by Gunnar Karlsson

If you always wanted to publish your own novel or record a kick-ass music album, you may be inspired by the residents of Iceland.  The top pastimes here are writing and composing songs—and they are pretty damn good at it too.  You’ll even become familiar with some Icelandic terms, once you are done with Hancox’s memoir.  Read it today, travel tomorrow!  … Just watch out for the trolls, elves and fairies …

 

 

 

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The Imitation Game

Book vs. Movie

  

The book recounting Alan Turing’s life is remarkable and interesting (sometimes going beyond my comprehension, because I am quite horrible at math).  The movie was based on the biography but it seemed to make more sense to me.  The real question is how these two compare.  Obviously, the book states facts and includes accounts from others about how Turing lived his very secretive life (unfortunately, many documents that included him were destroyed).  The film was a Hollywood rendition, which glorified Turing (and rightfully so!) but it added parts that either weren’t necessarily accurate or never happened.  The reason I know this is because I had read the section that had involved him in the war and cracking the code but in the DVD, it played out differently.  The most exciting part of Turing’s life was not spelled out clearly in his biography.  The movie showed how Turing approached the problem with his team and how dramatic the breakthrough became—but did it really happen how it was portrayed in the film?  No.  The book is very long and—truth be told, I sadly did not finish it but I would very much like to, eventually.  What I mean to say here, is that The Imitation Game was one of my favorite DVDs from 2014 but if it was not true to the biography, were we being fooled?  The movie was completely engaging because of how crazy the story came together and the hardships Turing’s team had to face when they did discover that they could solve Enigma.  It seems as though the things that made me enjoy this film the most were the fictional elements, which were created for cinematic drama.  Turing was a closeted homosexual and did get engaged to his friend Joan Clarke but other moments were written in to create tension and conflict (such as when Turing discovers a spy on their team, or when he is almost kicked off the team).  In this case, I would suggest that if you wanted to read what little there is to know about Turing’s real life (and even at that, it is many pages), you should definitely pick up the book.  If you wanted to see a movie with great acting and a clever/entertaining plot, watch The Imitation Game—knowing that it is loosely based on Turing’s life.  I only found out about this amazing man because of the film and I am sure there were others like me.  I wanted to learn more about him, so I started reading.  I think that was the most important point of the on-screen version.

 

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