Monthly Archives: August 2016

Managing Bubbie

hot bubbie

Bubbies book

 

Managing Bubbie

by Russel Lazega

Managing Bubbie netgalley

CreateSpace| 2015
Hardcover: 244 pages
ISBN: 978-1499126297
Genre: Memoir/Jewish Culture/Holocaust

ARC  E-book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

★★★★★ 5/5

Winner of 20 Book Awards!

“I vant you should make this book.”

Shortly after Lea Lezega’s grandson, Russel, finished college, his Bubbie tells him, again she might add, he must write about her life. It would make them all millionaires! She is certain! Years pass before Russel grabs a pen and starts researching truth from fiction in Bubba’s stories. Ten long years of interviews and document searches confirm that Bubbie indeed led one hell of a life.

And tell the story her eynikl, Russel Lazega has done!  Bubbie would be very proud! Hang on to your reading glasses… As Bubbie says,My life – oy! my life is full of crazy stories.”

Lea Lazega, the ultimate Jewish Bubbie to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is straight out of a Neil Simon play with over-sized tortoise-shell glasses and that instantly recognizable Yiddish accent percolating invectives at one or more family members.  The book opens in Miami in 1987 with Bubbie telling Cousin Leon some far-fetched theory that Ronald Reagan is her long-lost half brother. Trying to follow Lea’s logic feels like running headlong through a corn maze blindfolded.

Nearing the end of her “golden years”, Bubbie finds her body failing her unrivaled spunk and she is as offended by its physical weakness as she was by the murderous Nazis. Despite her better interests she struggles to be the manager of the situation, not the managed. Her family struggles to keep her out of trouble. She has always done what she wants regardless of the rules of civilized and uncivilized society. It is a battle of wits and Bubbie, as she has done throughout her life, wins!

No assisted living facility in Florida will accept her …She’s worn out 6 already…2 in one month! She’s been blacklisted. “She just won’t follow the rules!” Yet in the midst of trying to make her final years comfortable and hitting brick walls,  the younger family members see the strong amazing woman that towed her young family threw hell and back to outwit the Nazis as they muscled their way through Europe.

Lea was born in 1911 in a small desolate Polish village, a child of a skirt-chasing flirt determined to become a world famous entertainer and an iron-willed mother striving to turn her man into a husband. Her parents had just returned to Poland following a five year stint in America; one of Isaac’s misguided efforts to become rich and famous gone horribly awry. There was one good thing that did happen in America. Esther gave birth to Lea’s sister, Evelyn making Evelyn a US citizen and at the first opportunity she returned. Lea, growing up in Poland, a young victim of anti-Semitic bullying and discrimination vowed to follow her sister. I promise mineself then that I’m going to America- No matter vat, I’m going to follow my sister to the greatest country in the world- America.

Lea’s first chance at a new life took her to Brussels, Belgium where her menial sewing factory job didn’t improve her living conditions but it did provide her freedom from her battling parents and the bullies. Soon after, she married a timid tailor and life was rosy with Lea in charge. When rumors of German mistreatment of Jews in far off European countries sifted into everyday conversation in Belgium, Bubbie’s radar told her she needed to leave Europe and head to America.

With one ear to the ground for safety for her family, Lea haunted the halls of governments from Belgium through France and into Spain to obtain those all important documents needed to reach America. Bombs crushed cities, Nazis prowled the streets and countries fell but Lea never lost sight of her goal. So many close calls but always outwitting the enemy. Hunger and abhorrent living conditions never slowed her drive. As always, rules never applied to Lea. Line up, sign up, hands up…not Lea. Her winter passage on foot through the deadly Pyrenees mountains into Spain with her babies was awe-inspiring. And in the end, Lea planted her flag- in America.

Russel has done a phenomenal job of telling Bubbie’s life scattering humorous moments in America with her life during the Holocaust. I guarantee you will cheer her victories and huddle with her in those terror filled moments-just inches from death. He vividly describes Lea and the children cowering behind a large rock in the Pyrenees too afraid to build a fire for warmth against Bubbie’s fury at Ed McMahon for telling her falsely she had won $10 million dollars. Sue him Russel, sue him for me!

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Highly recommended for book clubs.

I conclude with one more story from Bubbie. Listening to President Reagan on TV visiting a War Memorial in Europe. Reagan: For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow…Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation…Bubbie with a tearful eye and a broken smile answers, “Oy, Brother you don’t know the half of it.”

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The Sunlight Pilgrims

Sunlight PilgrimsThe Sunlight Pilgrims

by Jenni Fagan

Hogarth/Crown | 2016
Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN: 978-0-553-41887-3
Genre: Fiction/Survivalism/Dystopias

ARC Hardcover from Blogging for Books and E-copy from edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

★★★★☆

format_quoteThere are three suns in the sky and it is the last day of autumn-perhaps forever…Parhelia...Some say it is the end of times…Icicles will grow to the size of narwhal tusks, or the long bony finger of winter herself… Penitents. B-blizzardmaninsnow.jpglin’-drift. Owerblaw…Snowflakes cartwheel out of the sky……..

Sunlight Pilgrims-
Prologue

The melting of the polar ice has reached its most extreme. Worldwide temperatures are plummeting rapidly. Winter has arrived early and getting worse every day without any uptick. Experts say it might never leave. Temperatures dropping as winter advances -15°F… -30°F … -70°F. Sea water contaminated with fresh water and frozen as far from shore as can be seen with the naked eye. Snowfall depths are unprecedented worldwide. Many believe a new Ice Age has begun.

A setting this catastrophic would seem to be the focal point of the story when in reality it is only the set dressing; choosing to focus instead on the minutia of humanity and three individuals specifically amid the uncertain future of the planet.

quoteDylan McRae, 38, mourns the recent deaths of his mother and grandmother. If his heavy grief wasn’t burden enough, he learns their home and source of family income, an old London movie theater named Babylon, has gone into bankruptcy. His mother’s will contained surprising news of a caravan he now owns in a small Scottish caravan park in the middle of God knows where.  She asked that he spread both women’s ashes in a remote Scottish village, his grandmother’s birth place. Gathering up what belongings he could fit into his mother’s old suitcase including Grandmother Gunn in an ice cream container and Mum in a sandwich box he heads north facing the rapidly approaching deep winter. His plans are to sell the caravan after fulfilling his mother’s last request and head back south to some where warm like Vietnam or Cambodia.

Upon arriving at caravan #7 on Ash Lane he briefly spots a young girl in the window next door. Later in the night he is awakened to a strange noise and discovers a sleepwalking woman hoovering up the street before entering the caravan next door. Reentering the street with a dust-cloth she reaches up and polishes the moon.

The young girl next door is 12 year old Stella Fairbairn. Precocious, bold, foul mouthed and outspoken, Stella arrives on his doorstep to quiz Dylan about his arrival and relationship to the last visitor to that caravan; Vivienne- his mother. Stella has been a girl for the past thirteen months.  Previously she was a boy named Cael. Stella has always felt she was a girl. No doubts. She is bullied at school and obsessed about the changes puberty will bring locking her inside a male body forever.

Constance Fairbairn, Stella’s mother and the moon polisher, is a free spirit and a survivalist answering to no one.  Stella believes she knows just about everything and should go back to teaching. Was she a teacher? We don’t learn if she was but she does have a great deal of trivial knowledge. Constance earns her living removing furniture from the homes of the dead and scouring the town dump for items to be re-purposed.  Her life style and romantic choices have made her the central focus of town gossip primarily for maintaining two on-going and simultaneous 20 year affairs… the result of which yielded young Stella…or as her father prefers Cael.

Constance’s story is more obscure as she has pretty much found her own voice and is happy with her life. We learn what we know about her past from the conversations between Dylan, Stella and other minor (but very interesting) characters. Dylan finds a sketch book left by his mother and discovers family secrets that shake his world and the reason his mother bought that particular caravan. Stella begins to shed false friends unable to support her transgender status at the same time yearns for love and acceptance often daydreaming of a normal life as a wife and mother.

As Dylan, Constance and Stella’s lives are revealed in the light of day, winter shrinks their days and threatens their very survival. When they venture outside, we learn that amidst the approaching apocalypse there is sublime beauty only nature can provide.

Thoughts

  • Transgender coverage was very real and will perhaps give many readers a different perspective and hopefully more compassion and empathy. For me personally, I guess I never realized how brave and courageous someone would have to be to present themselves openly and honestly to the world.
  • Grief has no time limits. Dylan’s story dragged on and on just as it does in real life often stressing friendships and relationships.
  • Love.  Many unique perspectives of love.
  • Survival. Are any of us ready to face a new Ice Age. How would you behave trying to feed your family or keep them warm temperatures at -70°F and with over 10 feet of snow trapped.  The world is trapped. Would you survive?

In the end I was glad that I had done some research on the book before I read it.  It helped to know that the pace of the book would be very slow. As I expected in a true tragic situation, simple life goes on amid life altering outside influences.

Recommended.

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Entwined:

entwined cover
Entwined-

Joyce Wallace Scott

Beacon Press
2016
215 pages

978-0-8070-5140-5
Memoir/Twins

ARC: Hardcover copy from Library Thing’s Early Readers in exchange for an unbiased review.

★★★★★

Few times in my life can I claim to be speechless and really mean it! joyce and judyThis is one of those times. The lives of these two remarkable women will affect you forever.

Joyce Wallace Scott wrote this heart-wrenching memoir to honor her beloved twin sister, Judith. Judy was born with Down’s Syndrome and developed Scarlet Fever as an infant that left her with undiagnosed deafness. Judy, unable to respond to verbal test questions, was thought to be severely retarded with an IQ of 30 and without the ability to live a meaningful life. At 7 years old, under the advice of doctors, she was made a ward of the State of Ohio and discarded like a factory reject. Judy was taken away in the dead of night without any warning to her twin, Joyce, and warehoused for 35 years in the most inhumane circumstances.

The first seven years of their childhood, Judy and Joyce were bonded in a voiceless communion. Too young to understand the cold and seemingly heartless parenting of their mother, Joyce became more than a twin by accepting the role of guardian and caregiver to Judy. With the abrupt severing of their union, Joyce, over the next 35 years, struggled with the ever present loss of “her other self”. As young child, Joyce’s visits to Judy are heartbreaking as she has to continuously beg an adult to take her.

In her search for a way to fill the void, Joyce makes several bad personal decisions, one that results in abandonment by her mother at a time in her life she needed her most. Despite all of her own pain, Joyce never loses sight of Judy’s loveless circumstances.

As an adult, Joyce takes action to become Judith’s guardian welding the two hearts together again. In seeking the best board and care arrangement for Judy, Joyce also learns about Creative Growth Art Center, where adults with disabilities are given free reign to express themselves in the arts. Judy slow rolled into the program but when she found her artistic medium she ignited.

In the last 18 years of her life, this lovely little woman found her voice using fiber art. No one understood Judy’s language or what inspired her work but everyone can feel the message emotionally and visually. Although Judy died in 2005, her silent art can be heard in museums all over the world long after her death.

I find it impossible to describe the resilience and strength these twins revealed throughout their lives.  I highly recommend this memoir be added to every library collection and would make a superb book club choice.

 

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Smooth Operator

smooth operator

Smooth Operator

by Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall

G.P. Putnam’s Sons| August 2016
Series: Teddy Faye #1 (with Stone Barrington)
Hardcover: 339 pages
ISBN: 9780399185267
Genre: Fiction/Suspense/Private Investigators

ARC: E-book from First To Read in exchange for an unbiased review.

★★★☆☆

Galloping Galoshes! Why haven’t I gotten back to Stuart Woods’ books sooner? They always entertain and take you on a suspenseful run through the underworld. Over time I drifted away from my tried and true favorite authors to sample debut authors and different genres. Thanks to First To Read and Penguin Random House I was offered a chance to read Smooth Operator prior to publication.

It felt like I had run into an old friend at the supermarket! The kind of friend where it may have been years since you saw each other but you just pick up conversation like it was yesterday.

Smooth Operator begins a new series featuring Stone Barrington’s friend, Teddy Faye. Much like Clancy’s Jack Ryan or Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Teddy Faye is a master at lethal force and one man wrecking ball.  A former CIA agent, Faye “could disguise himself as anyone” and appear as a distinguished head of state or a bumbling investigator like Colombo.  Before leaving the CIA, he eliminated any trace of his existence. “For all intents and purposes, Teddy Faye had ceased to exist.” And he preferred it that way.

When the college-aged daughter of the Speaker of the House is kidnapped, Faye’s status as a phantom agent makes him the perfect person to unravel this unfathomable mystery. As he threads his way through the waste waters of the criminal world to save the girl, the mystery deepens, the US Congress is threatened and bullets fly.

What can you say about a good cheesy story that has you flipping pages?  There are weaknesses. If you haven’t read previous Stuart Woods books you might not understand the much beloved friendships between fan favorite characters appearing here to help introduce Teddy Faye to the world of “secret agent man”.  Personally I am willing to suspend judgement on the somewhat thin plot lines and the tendency for the story to bog down in places.  Can’t wait for the next book! Just met the guy. Have to give him a chance to get up to speed.

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There Will Be Stars

There-Will-Be-Stars

There Will Be Stars

by Billy Coffey

Thomas Nelson |May 2016
Hardcover: 416 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7180-2682-0
Genre: Fiction/Death

ARC: E-book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

★★★★☆black hole

Bobby Barnes is known by the good citizens of Mattingly, VA as the town drunk. His community feels it’s a matter of time before they scrape Bobby off the pavement or find he has killed an innocent person on one of his drunken high speed road trips. Bobby has that predicted tragic night. As he speeds around the tight mountain curve he is blinded by headlights followed by the unearthly sound of crushing metal and splintering glass. He sinks into a blackness with a curious final thought…there will be stars.

The next morning dawns to Bobby Barnes flopped in the alley outside his service station. Awakening to the sounds of a rat scurrying through garbage near his head, he’s baffled how he could have survived that crash let alone get back home.  Thus begins a strange Twilight Zone-like daily loop that begins with Bobby in the alley and ends each night with the horrifying mountain crash.

Bobby ventures out to Timmy’s store for beer where the dim-witted violent Junior picks a fight when Bobby seems to read Junior’s mind. Junior forces the blitzed Bobby to go with him to meet someone. They arrive at Widow Dorothea Cash’s house where he discovers others from his community that he recognizes – Dorothea, Junior, Tommy, Laura Beth, Juliet and George. This disparate group, unlikely to break bread together “before”, are sharing a lively and loving evening meal together.  Why are they here…together?

Bobby, known by all as a drunken derelict, upsets Dorothea by his unbidden appearance in her house. Eventually she tells him he is now in Heaven and asks that he call her “Mama”.  He learns that in this version of Heaven, Mama Dorothea has direct contact with the Lord through typed letters. With the help of those letters, she guides her flock.

He is told he is now “free” each day without his previous worries for eternity! Every day will start as his last day and every night will end the same as his last night. No exceptions. The group calls each repeat day the “Turn”. Bobby’s first Turn was the hardest, reliving the horrible car crash, but waking the next morning and discovering that all 22 cans of beer he drank the day before were back in the refrigerator made Heaven look pretty sweet!

It’s been a very long time since anyone new arrived in their Heaven and Mama Dorothea knows that Bobby was introduced to the group prematurely. Junior jumped the gun by bringing an unprepared Bobby into their harmonious family setting. As Bobby learns his way around this new “world”, Mama begins to feel her control over her “family” is in jeopardy. He questions every thing; refuses to accept her word as gospel. As he persists in his quest to learn why he is there, others begin to question discrepancies in Mama’s vision.  Mama was right to believe that Bobby’s entrance into their “perfect” Heaven brings a much feared imbalance to their way of life.

My thoughts:
I started this book on the perfect reading day curled up with a cup of coffee in hand. This story immediately pulled me inside and I read faster and faster holding my breath totally in a zone. Somewhere about half-way I found myself easily distracted, surfacing and hoping the story would move on

The imagery was interesting and there were several characters that will leave you wondering about after you finish the book. This type of book is not my usual fare so it is hard to rate it against other books like it. In the end I liked it enough to share it with some friends right away.

I found the dialogue had to follow at times as there would be two voices talking at once and it was difficult to discern who was who…In fairness I was reviewing the unfinished book and that may have been corrected in the final edition.

The overall message was excellent and accentuates that man has been given the gift of free will and we have the freedom to turn to the light or turn to the dark. For those readers expecting a heavy dose of religious fervor, not there. However, there’s a lot of meat on the bone for those hoping that second chances are possible.

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Miss Jane

Miss Jane

Miss Jane: A Novel

by Brad Watson

[The doctor] snipped the cord and took a good look at the child…

A little girl, I believe.
You believe? [said her father]

[She] was born into that time and place…when there was no possibility of doing anything to alleviate her condition. It was something to be accepted, grim-faced…

dogtrot house b-w

Pinterest by Michelle Donham
On Things For My Wall

 

ARC: E-book from edelweiss
in exchange for an unbiased review.

W. W. Norton
July 12,2016

Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN:978-0393241730
Historical Fiction/Physical Disability

★★★★☆

Miss Jane is loosely based on the author’s great-aunt, Mary Ellis (Jane) Clay. The”real” Jane had an unknown abnormality that left her incontinent and made her an oddity in a time when women had few opportunities to forge a life outside of marriage and family. The author’s goal, unlike his previous more heady works, was to fashion a more natural work following one character from conception through her death.

Ida and Sylvester Chisolm led a hard knock life on their subsistence farm in Mercury, Mississippi in the early 20th century. WWI had just ended and the Great Depression was on the doorstep waiting to further challenge poor farm families. Ida having birthed five children and buried two of them by the time she was 39 was glad to have reached the end of that part of her life. Sylvester and Ida were “disposed to darkness of spirit” and they both dealt with the harsh realities in their own negative way. Sly turned to drink and the comfort of his woodland still. Ida turned to laudanum to calm her nerves and when provoked to anger manically chopping wood to match sticks.

Jane was conceived one night when Sly was so drunk he mistook his wife for  “two-dollar” whore and Ida was drugged to unconsciousness. Weeks later, Ida, unaware of the event, was stunned to learn that she was pregnant. She worried that her anger at her husband would somehow doom her unwanted unborn child.

Jane entered this weary world with a congenital defect that was the result of incomplete genital, urinary and bowel development in the womb.  Jane’s dealing with all the challenges incontinence throws at her is the heart of the novel.

I will start right off the bat telling you that I had difficulty rating this book when I finished. So I did what I usually do when I need time to think things through. Pulled weeds and let my mind ramble for a while. As usual, given time, I find my answer. There were many contradictory themes- sexuality/abstinence, hate/love, anger/patience, poverty/wealth, community/isolation, male/female, self-sacrifice/abandonment to name a few to mull over.

Other pivotal characters in Jane’s development were the loving family doctor, her older sister, Grace, and Jane’s one chance at true love (doomed from the beginning). Jane’s uplifting spirit strives and yearns for wholeness; normalcy as known by the rest of the world with the freedom to live openly and without pity. In her quest she discovers her freedom in nature where she knows that she is normal- normal for Jane and is at peace with that knowledge.

Recommended reading for those days you need something quieter.  Sharing the woodlands and trails with Jane will calm your soul.

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