All posts by FlorenceT

A human Being and Doing, on living a meaningful and purposeful life.

@FTThum #BookReview ‘everybody lies: What the internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are’ by Seth Stephen-Davidowitz

I am intrigued by the impact of internet on human lives. This book is about an aspect of it.

Title:      everybody lies: What the internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
Author:  Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Publishers: Bloomsbury Publishing, UK (2018)
Format: Paperback
Pages:   338
Genre: Non-fiction, Science, Technology, Psychology, Sociology

 

 

What’s it about?

As Steven Pinker(cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author) states in the foreword, “this is a book about a whole new way of studying the mind” and, I would add, human behaviour.

This book is less about big data science than about the new innovative ways of thinking, of designing, and of approaching the questions we ask of our life.

Stephens-Davidowitz makes his points by regaling the reader with early Big Data collected through Google searches and clicks, predominantly. Facebook also features as with other Silicon Valley data companies.  “everybody lies” gives new and interesting insights into matters such as the effect of assassination of leader on a country’s economy, or going to a great university equates to a better career or larger paycheck.

Stephens-Davidowitz provides a definition of “data” which is no longer limited to numbers or words. For a data scientist such as he, Big Data has four virtues. First, Big Data as “digital truth serum” as people are most honest without an apparent audience leading to honest data on say, sexual preferences or racial discrimination. It provide honest data.  Second, it offers a way to run large-scale randomized controlled experiment through the click of the mouse. Third, Big Data allows us, through the large scale sample, to zoom in on subsets of people and with greater accuracy. Fourth, Big Data provides new types of data.

What’s logical and rational before is no longer enough nor are the experiment results accurate enough. The scope of our sample size has significantly increased withe the internet, so why think small?

That is not to say, as Stephens-Davidowitz points out, that Big Data is the answer but it is a valuable resource which we are ill-advised to ignore. Information is king or queen, and this is truer than before. Social science is becoming real science, Stephens-Davidowitz says. Why? Read the book.

Stephens-Davidowitz encourages us to approach this field with curiosity and creativity when contemplating how we use and manage data. Data however is neither good or evil; it is powerful.  In “everybody lies”, he cautions against what Big Data cannot do and what we shouldn’t do with Big Data.

Would I recommend it?

Reading this book is a pleasurable journey. Highly recommended.

My rating:                 4/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘First Person’ by Richard Flanagan

Because I liked the premise of this book by the 2014 Man Booker Price winner, I thought I’ll give it a try.

Title:      First Person
Author:  Richard Flanagan
Publishers: Penguin Random House Australia
Format: Hardback
Pages:   392
Genre: Fiction, Thriller

 

 

What’s it about?

“First Person” is a quiet yet violent  thriller which begins with the protagonist Kif Kehlmann being offered a commission to ghost-write the memoir of Siegfried Heidl.

Heidl is a notorious con-man and corporate criminal awaiting trial. And Kif is a writer desperate for a well-paying job. How hard could it be anyway?

Little does Kif realise he would put his integrity on the line, even his morality and at times, sanity it seems.

The reader is taken on the journey of a man facing a moral crisis, culminating in an act which even Kif could not have foreseen.

Despite the interesting premise of this book, it was difficulty for me to move forth with it. The narrative seems “stuck” and so is the plot. Heidl feels one-dimensional, as I looked for depth and change in the character. Interestingly, Heidl is based on a real-life con artist John Freidrich whom the author interviewed early in his career as a journalist. Perhaps this explains the more intimate and relaxed feel of the book in parts where Kif is present.

The interactions between Kif and Heidl, and between Kif and Ray,  Kif’s friend and Heidl’s gopher, are worthy reading even if they feel surreal at times. Kif ultimately becomes a witness to Heidl’s destruction.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, if you are prepared to see beyond the structural difficulties.

My rating:                 3.5 /5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Amorous Heart’ by Marilyn Yalom

The title was enticing… so I picked up the book.

Title:      The Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love
Author:  Marilyn Yalom
Publishers: Basic Books, Hachette
Format: Hardback
Pages:   277
Genre: Non-fiction, History

 

 

What’s it about?

As the title suggests, this is a book about the history of love, and so much more.

Ever wonder how the heart icon ❤ came to symbolize love? And why is the heart organ linked to love? It wasn’t always so. Of course, this begs the question – what is the meaning of love across the ages?

The earliest depiction of the heart icon is found in 6th century BCE in what is now Libya. Then it was not associated with love but rather a representation of a seed, a sign for contraception. By 6th century AD Persia, it was symbolic of grapes, vines and wine – abundance. It was in the 13th and 14th century that the heart icon came to signify love. How?

This book traces this evolution in Western culture from ancient times – Plato’s metaphysical idealism of “love” to “Ovidian love…embedded in the flesh, with the “heart” a lofty euphemism for the genitals“.

It traces the narratives of love associated with Eros and Cupid. Does carnality and passion undermine love? Is love pure?

Is heart the locus of love?

Yalom’s research took her from medieval times through Catholic and Protestant traditions (where literature, royalty and religion enmeshed) to literary figures in the likes of Shakespeare and Austen to scientific writings as she laid out the trajectory of love and heart.

“The Amorous Heart” tracks amor (sensual love) and caritas (noble love) across the centuries and tells the story of the origin of the word “romance” to the tales of “true love” where “everything is permitted for those who love” taking it beyond the questions of morals and religion.

It gives an interesting account of the age-old discourse between the religious heart versus the amorous heart when Christianity separated sex and sensual love thus delineating the act for procreation and the passion which gave rise to it.

What does history say of the heart’s ability to love one or more persons? Can it? Ought it? How are heart and love tied to marriage and the place of woman? For it wasn’t always that love is  a desired prerequisite to marriage.

It is interesting for me to discover for example, present narratives of “one’s true love as one who brings out the best in us” and the notion of “unconditional love” are not modern concepts. They can be traced to the songs of the troubadours of 12th and 13th century France, Spain and Germany who professed the same.

This impressive book provides a story of the social evolution of the iconography of the heart, of the sexes in relation to our capacity to love; it serves to demonstrate our natural instinct for love and erotic expression.

Would I recommend it?

A fascinating read of a phenomenon we take for granted and for which we believe we are entitled – love.

Highly recommended for curious minds.

My rating:                 4/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Soul’s Expression’ by Amy Alston

Historical romance is a guilty pleasure of mine… so when I was offered this book for an honest review, how could I refuse…? And in time for Valentine’s Day 🙂

Title:      The Soul’s Expression
Author:  Amy Alston
Publishers: Kindle Unlimited
Format: ebook
Pages:   NA
Genre: Fiction, Historical Romance

 

What’s it about?

The Soul’s Expression is set in the late Victorian era.

Katherine Forrester was coerced into a marriage by her parents, and due to her fears, her marriage has not been consummated.

Her patient husband, after nearly a year of marriage is not so patient anymore.  Her mother-in-law pressures her into seeing a psychiatrist for her “troubles” and Katherine suspects she will be diagnosed with hysteria and locked up.

In a bid to protect herself, she  decides to cooperate fully with her psychiatrist, and unwittingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening.

Then she encounters a situation that she has not ever anticipated. With her life in danger, who will she turn to?

How will this end for a woman with no financial means, nor power or legal status to defend herself?

Will love indeed conquer all?

Would I recommend it?

Yes, for historical romance readers and those sufficiently curios to venture to this genre. It is a quick and pleasant read.

My rating:                 3 /5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World’ by Tasha Eurich

I have a particular interest in self-awareness, so reading this book is for pleasure and professional purpose.

Title:      Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World
Author: Tasha Eurich
Publishers: Macmillan
Format: Paperback
Pages:   357
Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology, Self-help

 

What’s it about?

Author, Tasha Eurich, begins with a lament on  the self-delusion of today’s people, identifying blindspots to how well we know ourselves.

An organizational psychologist by profession, Eurich claims self-awareness is THE meta-skill of the 21st century for success. In a world of operating in the shallows and privileging opinions of the external world, self-awareness separates the achievers and mediocrity.  She referred to studies which showed self-awareness to be lacking despite claims by many leaders to the contrary. The “cult of self”, Eurich states, prevents us from approaching with humility and self-acceptance to truly seeing ourselves.

Insight expounds what insight is, referring to internal self-awareness and external self-awareness, and strategies to survive in a unaware world. Eurich differentiates insight from introspection, stating that introspection does not a self-aware person make. “Thinking isn’t knowing” as a heading to one chapter says.

Being self-aware, or having insight of ourselves, helps us make better decisions in aspects of our lives.

Insight puts forth that no one will ever be entirely self-aware. It is an ongoing process and one which  requires us to let go of the search for absolute truths.

This book feels like a self-help book and yet at times, disguising itself as a theoretical text, or vice-versa. On occasions, the flow is interrupted by anecdotes from Eurich’s professional life.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. It is an interesting read on how we delude ourselves, in our personal and professional lives.

For those who want to better engage and relate with others say, within their organizations, this is a worthwhile read.

 

My rating:                 3.5 /5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

Contemporary poetry I commend to you

I have been reading poetry lately, not the Whitman, Cummings or Oliver but of contemporary poets, many of whom shared their creations first on social media before making it to traditional publication.

Who hasn’t heard of New York Times bestselling author, Rupi Kaur with Milk and Honey (2014),  her debut collection of poetry and prose collection of poems, and the recent The Sun and Her Flowers (2017).  Both books address the ebb and flow of life – triumph and loss, joy and hurt, trauma and healing – in essence tracing the universality of the human condition.

Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

Then there is the works of Lang Laev, born to Cambodian parents in a refugee camp in Thailand and raised in Sydney. She is the author of 5 collections of poems and prose, the most successful being Lullabies (2014) and Love and Misadventure (2013).  Her other collections include Memories (2015), The Universe of Us (2016) with Sea of Strangers due 9 Jan 2018.  As you may guessed from the titles of her books, Lang Laev‘s poems traced her journey in family, love and loving again. I thoroughly enjoyed her writing – her quirky sense and approach to everyday happenings.

Lang Laev, Memories

Incidentally, Lang Laev now lives in New Zealand with her partner, Michael Faudet, also a poet. I discovered Michael’s work Bitter Sweet Love (2016) separate from Lang and it was a fascinating realisation that they are partners-in-crime 🙂  Michael Faudet‘s poems and prose are confronting and verge on the sensual and erotic.  After all he does have a curated erotic Tumblr. On the personal front, Michael Faudet is a mystery in that while he is everywhere on social media, little is known of this Kiwi poet and artist. His other works include Dirty Pretty Things (2014) and Smoke and Mirrors (2017) which is on my wishlist.

Michael Faudet, Bitter Sweet Love

Michel Faber is another poet which I stumbled across in a Sydney book store, his book Undying: A Love Story (2016) that is. Award winning author of 9 other books, this is Michel Faber’s first poem collection written while accompanying his wife through her journey from diagnosis to her passing from cancer. Heart wrenching and entirely beautiful, they chronicle love and despair, anger and sorrow.

Michel Faber, Undying: A Love Story

Finally, an insightful gift Neon Soul (2017) by Alexandra Elle.  The author writes with a rebel spirit, her poems speaking of healing  and positive affirmations, instead of pain which fueled much of contemporary poems.

Alexandra Elle, Neon Soul

There you are, five poets worth checking out. especially  if you are looking for something different and/or accessible.

Enjoy!

~ FlorenceT

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Awaken A New Myth’ by Karen La Puma

I was provided a complimentary copy of this soon-to-be published book in exchange for an honest review.

Title:          Awaken A New Myth: Goddess Warrior on the Hero’s Journey
Author:        Karen La Puma
To be published:     Soul Source (10 Jan 2018)
Format:          Paperback
Pages:             204
Genre:           Non-Fiction – Spiritual

 

 

What’s it about?

“Awaken a New Myth” is the first of 10 spiritual books (A Toolkit of Awakening Series) Karen La Puma has written after nearly 3 decades as an astrologer, hypnotherapist, reiki master and spiritual counsellor.

Weaving the work of Carl Jung, particularly of the Collective Unconscious and archetypes, and Joseph Campbell, in his mythological exploration of the hero’s journey, Karen La Puma proposes a new way of being.

“Awaken a New Myth” entreats readers to discover our light, to have courage to take this journey of discovery. It is premised on our belonging together as a greater Whole. The book is divided into 4 parts (Overviewing the Journey, Answering the Call, Appreciating the Positive and Discovering Purposeful Living) which mirrors the 12 stages of Joseph Campbell’s mythic structure of the Hero’s journey, the journey though taken embodied as the Warrior Goddess.

The abstract language La Puma used can be inaccessible to readers new to the spiritual path, predominantly undefined terms except for the Glossary towards the end.

The use of italicized words and capitalized abstract nouns (eg. Archetypes, Source, Essence, True Nature, Love, Divine, Being) are distracting and confusing, as I attempted to fully grasp their meaning as La Puma intended them. Perhaps it is La Puma’s intention to leave her message abstract and open to her readers’ subjective interpretation?

Awaken a New Myth is a book of ideas, rather than a theoretical exposition. It is a book with heart, and to engage the mind, greater depth is required. Nevertheless, La Puma puts forth her model of the “Goddess Warrior Magnetically Creating the Hero’s Journey” as the “answer for these quickening times, because we now have the ability, the map, and the keys to awaken and co-create a better world”.

Despite the language perhaps more suited to those already on spiritual and mythical paths, the message is a call to live authentically with a willingness to step up to our best self.

As a self-help book, Awaken a New Myth poses many reflective questions to guide readers on the Warrior Goddess’ Hero Journey which readers dedicated to the practice will find insightful answers, and for whom this resonates, a new way of being.

 

My rating:                  2.5/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

@FTTHUM #BOOKREVIEW ‘HOMO DEUS’ BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI

The sub-title “A Brief History of Tomorrow” caught my attention, and as my daughter said, “of course! You are a nerd”.  🙂

Title:          Homo Deus:  Brief History of Tomorrow
Author:        Yuval Noah Harari
Publishers:     Vintage Arrow (3 April 2017)
Format:          Paperback
Pages:             400 pages
Genre:           Non-Fiction – Literary

What’s it about?

What is the meaning of life?

What is the purpose of life?

What compels human evolution?

What motivates human society?

What is the future of humankind?

Yuval Noah Harari attempts to answer these questions and provides, as indicated in the sub-title, a possible future based on human history. It is a book about an apocalyptic future in which technology plays a major role.

Harari is a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose widely-acclaimed 2014 book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” plotted the history of human activity. “Homo Deus” (literal translation to Latin, man-god) is thus a sequel, if you like, to “Sapiens” in charting what the future will hold.

Harari is quick to qualify his hypotheses, that should this book enlightens and thus changes the future away from the trajectory which he predicts then he has done his job. Ominous, doesn’t it?

It is Harari’s proposition that for this century, humans’ search for meaning will be directed at playing God – to create new life forms and as intelligent designers of our own Utopia – that is to achieve bliss, immortality and divinity. This is contrasted with historical human activity geared towards merely meeting our basic needs of overcoming sickness, hunger and war.

“The entire contract [between humans and modernity] can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.” And for this, there will be a price to pay.

Against the backdrop of rapid technological advancement, Harari suggests we will live in the age of data-ism, in which our faith in data and algorithms will be sacrosanct, as our faith in God was. And with the accelerating rise of technology and machines, long-term future is not imaginable nor predictable. Thus, his initial qualification.

The book does not envisage the end of humanity, rather humanity as we know it.  It perhaps serves as a warning against mindless and unconscious reliance on technology and data, and it begs the question: which would you choose – consciousness or intelligence?

And let me end with this – quoting Harari:

The rise of AI and technology will certainly transform the world, but it does not mandate a single deterministic outcome. All the scenarios outlined in this book should be understood as possibilities rather than prophecies. If you don’t like some of these possibilities you are welcome to think and behave in new ways that will prevent these particular possibilities from materialising.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, especially to readers interested in alternate or different perspectives,  and willing to explore diverse conceptions of human civilisation.

My rating:                  4/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTTHUM #BOOKREVIEW ‘BRAVING THE WILDERNESS’ BY BRENE BROWN

I wasn’t sure what I would find – a good reason to read any book 🙂 . And then I cried. Not to worry, you may not as the propensity to break into tears is subjective.

Title:          Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone.
Author:        Brene Brown
Publishers:     Penguin Random House UK (Sept 12, 2017)
Format:          Paperback
Pages:             194
Genre:           Non-Fiction – Spiritual

What’s it about?

You would be certified as having lived under a rock if you have not heard the name “Brene Brown” – a research professor at the University of Houston, Texas and author of numerous bestselling books. Her TED talk “The power of vulnerability” is a must-watch.

“Braving the Wilderness” is Brene Brown’s latest book investigating the landscape of connection and belonging in our human experience. To what or whom do we belong? What is true belonging? Why is connection necessary? The sub-title “The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone” gives away the premise of the book – that it is takes courage and we must stand alone to belong.

As with the saying, you cannot truly love others until you truly love yourself, the same applies to true belonging. Brene Brown calls this “belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone”, “a wilderness – an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching”. Supported by immense research data, anecdotal ad personal stories, “Braving the Wilderness” posits that until we brave this wilderness, we cannot arrive at true connection with and belonging to the world.

This is a deceptively simple book to read, using inclusive language that connects and in her own voice, Brene Brown provides a blueprint, practice she calls it, contained in the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G. to traverse this wilderness.

This book open doors to greater insights, and a lover of alternate perspectives in particular will love this book.

Speaking her truth and giving readers the space to find theirs, this book is not a self-help book. Rather it is a book encouraging us to think for ourselves, to be ourselves, to embrace the humanity within us, in these times of polarised opinions and dysfunctional connections. It urges its readers to find their own wilderness, though “the price may be high, the reward is great”.

Would I recommend it?

YES.

Though as I said you may not cry, this book is sure to spark a recognition within you, a truth which will cause you to explore the life you live. Approach with curiosity.

My rating:                  4.5/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘the first thing you see’ by Gregoire Delacourt

Scarlett Johansson attempted though did not succeed in getting this book banned.  Intriqued? Read on.

Title:          the first thing you see
Author:        Gregoire Delacourt (translated from French by Anthea Bell)
Publishers:     Weidenfeld & Nicholson (August 11, 2016)
Format:          Paperback
Pages:             245
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary; Romance

 

What’s it about?

This is a quirky book of the plight of being famous at first glance. But it is more than that. It speaks of love and loss, of our need to be seen for who we are, especially by our loved ones.

“the first thing you see” is about a handsome unassuming motor mechanic living in a French provincial town, a man with little experience of the world beyond this town, a man whose young life is beset by tragedy.

Then one morning, a movie star turns up at Arthur Dreyfuss’ front door and his life is changed. But she is not what she may seem. Jeanine Foucamprez is after all suffering from an identity crisis. How and why did she choose Arthur?

Arthur and Jeanine are lost, both traumatised by the presence of unloving parents. Yet with each other, they re-discover their lost innocence. Their faiths in the purity of love are restored.

New encounters, or at least those that seem important, always have that effect: you don’t feel sleepy, you never want to sleep again, you want to tell the story of your life, all of it…, and then that hope – you wish you had always known each other, so that you could embrace and love each other, knowing why, with confidence…

How sweet is this?! But there is more…  This is a story of love with a twist, though somewhat easily detected.

Delacourt’s eccentric references to celebrities, movies, and poetry make this book a fun romp through the entertainment industry, both French and American.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, an entertaining quick read.

My rating:                  3/5

 

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 19.52
  Paperback USD 7.7.4
 Bookdepository  Paperback  GBP 4.48
 Booktopia  Paperbook  AUD 16.90

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Sarabande’ by Sarah Hina

This book is captivating!

Title:          Sarabande
Author:        Sarah Hina
Publishers:     CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 10, 2017)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Pages:             372
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary; Romance

 

What’s it about?

“Sarabande” is a story of two people navigating through their lives, bound by their pasts which they must reconcile in order to have a chance at a future they want.

Colin Ashe is a man losing his identity. He suffers from epilepsy which is triggered by music. His anxiety surrounding the possibility of unexpected occurrences keeps him away from a job he loves, and costs him the respect of his wife and potentially the love of his son. Then Colin digs up a box buried in his backyard some twenty years ago by a then young girl.

Anna Brawne is now a renowned cellist, committed to music and Bach. She had buried the box with its secrets to maintain a connection to the one place she calls home.

This box forges a link between her and Colin, creating an intimacy which is the catalyst for the events to follow. With the death of her mother, Anna broke free from the bonds of expectation, only to encounter Colin’s desperate attempt to hold on to his.

Where does integrity lie, in the this age of online connection? Is emotional intimacy enough to sustain a life longing to be complete? Will love redefine the measures of a real life?

What fate awaits Colin and Anna?

Would I recommend it?

Yes, Sarabande is a beautiful love story of triumph and love. I could not put it down and I’d bet neither will you.

And I cannot resist – here is Yo-Yo Ma’s interpretation of JS Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 (Sarabande).

My rating:                  4.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 1.55
  Paperback USD 13.95
 Bookdepository  Paperback  GBP 15.62

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Museum of Modern Love’ by Heather Rose

These words – “A novel inspired by Marina Abramovic” – on the cover of “The Museum of Modern Love” were all the reasons I needed to read this book.

 

Publishers:     Allen & Unwin  (2016)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Website:        www.heatherrose.com.au
Pages:             284
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary

What’s it about?

“The Museum of Modern Love” by Heather Rose traces the soul of Arky Levin, a film composer. Arky is separated from his wife, Lydia. She has asked him to keep a promise.  And he does. So why is he troubled? In his restlessness, he wanders into the MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist Is Present.

The novel spans the 75 days in which Marina performed between the months of March and May of 2010. It goes through the seven phases of a project, as identified by Marina, being:

  1. Awareness
  2. Resistance
  3. Submission
  4. Work
  5. Reflection
  6. Courage
  7. The Gift

So it is that the lives (as projects) which intersect Arky and Marina’s eventual encounter are changed.

This is a story of love, and how we perform love every day.

Love accounted for so many things. A series of biological and chemical interactions, A bout of responsibility. An invisible wave of orality that had been romanticised and eternalised. A form of required connection to ensure procreation. A strategic response to prevent loneliness and maintain social structures.

When Lydia said, “[g]o and write. Make wonderful music. Know that I love you. Have no regrets” then shouldn’t Arky do what she has prescribed?

That is what Arky believes, until he is compelled to discover love’s true gift. And this compulsion is through the art of Marina, whose performance in the MOMA demonstrated the power of connection and the magic of “being seen” by another, beyond the material visibility that is reflected through the context of this novel – the New York rich and celebrities who came to sit with Marina.

This is a story of courage, Arky’s and the participants in “The Artist Is Present” with Marina; people at the crossroads, like Jane, who observes the performance then leaves wondering,

Had it been enough to sit on the sidelines? Had she somehow missed an opportunity for something life-changing, some act of courage?

The courage to not succumb to the should and ought of this world, to face the uncertainty of beginnings.

This is a story of connection – to our past, to each other in the present, and to the future. That we hold the history of us and humanity within us. How we are shaped by the convergence of our past, present and future.

Now, day after day, he looked into the human face, painted with curiosity, and he saw the abyss of history within a human heart. Everyone was its own beaten, salvaged, polished, engraved, carved luminous form.

A connection to our raison d’être – of being open and available to that which calls to us, soul-deep, and honouring it.

All that they are is stored up loud and insistent inside them. But what does it take to be an artist? They have to listen. But do they listen? Most people are filled up with a lifetime of noise and distraction that’s hard to get past.

If Arky’s life is a project, what is the gift? His to receive or to give?

Would I recommend it?

“The Museum of Modern Love” won the 2017 Stella Prize.  A thought-provoking and enjoyable  book definitely worth checking out!

My rating:  5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 13.29
Bookdepository Paperback GBP 13.49
Booktopia Paperback AUD 20.95

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Scent of You’ by Maggie Alderson

For me who’s struggling to see how five months of 2017 is nearly over, I took a mental break and reached for “The Scent of You”.

 

Title:          The Scent of You
Author:        Maggie Alderson
Publishers:     Harper Collins
Publication date:  1 April 2017
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Website:        maggiealderson.com
Pages:             512
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary; ChickLit

 

 

What’s it about?

“The Scent of You” is Australian author Maggie Alderson’s 10th novel. It is a story of loyalty and of letting go, of following your heart or your head, and the conflicts within.

Hippolyta Masterton-Mackay, Polly to her friends, is a mother to Lucas and Clemmie, both of whom are away at university. She is also a successful blogger, an initial hobby which is now work, and a yoga teacher.

Polly is daughter to Daphne, a glamorous model at 85 years of age and living in a posh retirement home. Though she was quite emotionally absent from Polly in her younger days, Daphne now seems to have great insights into the dilemma her daughter is facing. The dilemma – Polly’s husband has vanished after declaring his need for space. What is Polly to do?

It is through her perfume blog in which she wrote of how scents evoked memories, and vice versa, which causes her to chance upon Guy, a gifted perfumer making a break in the world of scents. Guy quickly became one of her inner circle, but could there be more?

Around the same time, Polly reconnects with an old school friend, Edward, with whom she had shared an innocent kiss on the beach. Chum, a nickname for Edward, visits his stepfather at the same retirement home in which Daphne resides. And before long, Polly and Chum are taking long walks in the country, familiar and comfortable with each other’s company. Is familiarity a better choice than the excitement of Guy?

As Polly grapples with her bewildering situation of lost husband and emerging relationship, she is supported by her yoga students, Shirlee in particular.

What will Polly do? Will Polly take this opportunity to realise who she wants to be?

Would I recommend it?

“The Scent of You” is light and entertaining, a worthy beach holiday read. Or read anywhere really.

This book is filled with warm characters, lovable and flawed. Pick it up and enjoy!

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think:                   2/5
Overall enjoyment:               3.5/5
Readability:                           3.5/5
Recommended:                     3/5
Overall Rating:                  3/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 11.18
 
 Booktopia  Ebook  AUD 14.99
 Paperback  AUD 25.50

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘From a Paris Balcony’ by Ella Carey

My birthday isn’t here yet, but I have just finished “From a Paris Balcony”, a gift from a dear friend. Here’s what I think of it.

Title:          From a Paris Balcony
Author:        Ella Carey
Publishers:     Lake Union Publishing  (October 11, 2016)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Website:         www.ellacarey.com
Pages:             290
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary

 

What’s it about?

“From a Paris Balcony” tells the stories of two women from two different centuries, both lost. Louisa Duval (nee West) longed for freedom and independence in conservative 19th century Europe, while Sarah West longed for the husband and family she would now not have.

They are bound by a devastating death, Louisa’s through suicide. To escape the pain in her life, she fled to Paris on a personal mission to discover the story of Louisa, her great great-aunt’s death after discovering a letter written to Louisa’s husband, Henry from one of Belle Epoque Paris’ notorious courtesan, Marthe de Florian. Guided by her instinct, Sarah searched for answers as her path crosses that of Laurent Chartier, an acclaimed artist who seems to be on his own private journey.

Will Sarah find the answers she is searching for? Did Louisa?

The women’s lives ran parallel in their attachment to their ideals and the future they wanted. Will they dare to embrace the lives they have, instead of the lives they wish?

Other than the romance, “From a Paris Balcony” highlights the conflict and hypocrisy of morality, class and norms in late 19th century Europe, particularly Paris and London. It also brings the issue of gender inequality to the fore.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, and enjoy it. There are whimsical and reflective elements to this book, and few could escape the romanticism of the City of Light.

Now I wish I was back there 😉 !

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               3.5/5
Readability:                           3/5
Recommended:                     3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 4.99
  Paperback USD 6.32

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent

A book which I earmarked to read for some time. Finally, I did.

burial-ritesTitle:          Burial Rites
Author:        Hannah Kent
Publishers:     Back Bay Books, April 2014
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Pages:             311
Genre:           Fiction – Historical, Literary Fiction

What’s it about?

This heartbreaking story of a woman’s life journey in early 19th century Iceland gripped me from page one.

Burial Rites is a fictionalised story of a true event – In 1828, an Icelandic servant named Agnes Magnúsdóttir was convicted of killing her employer and another man, then burning their bodies. Hannah Kent’s take, as she explained, was “to supply a more ambiguous portrayal” of a woman who has been seen as a “witch, stirring up murder”.

There is no happy ending, and it is no surprise. But this book is not about finding out what happens at the end, but a study of Anna Magnúsdóttir’s life leading to her execution.

The Icelandic setting of unrelenting cold and unforgiving rocky terrain, is perfect backdrop to this story of poverty and a woman’s place within it. A young girl growing up without love and care, spurned and betrayed by those she depended on, Anna’s shame is writ large in her name, and by all that followed her survival.

There was no prison in Iceland then. So when Anna was convicted of murder, she is sent to live with District Officer Jon Jonsson; his ailing wife, Margret; and their two daughters to await her execution. A young clergy, Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jonsson (‘Toti’) is sent to Anna as a spiritual guide to prepare her for the fateful day.

Reverend Toti initially did not understand the story Anna told, listening through his naïve and blinkered view of the world. But he finally did. And as Anna’s story unfolds, I the reader am confronted by questions.

What makes a person culpable for her actions?

What does it mean to undertake voluntary act? Who is responsible?

How much of our stories are constructed by what was told about us?

How much of us is truly seen and understood?

Would I recommend it?

A solid account. An engaging story. Highly recommended.

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 7.47
  Paperback USD 6.00
 Bookdepository  Paperback  AUD 18.00

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Dinner’ by Herman Koch

Interesting premise, as I read the ‘blurb’ on the back cover. So here goes.

the-dinnerTitle:          The Dinner
Author:        Herman Koch
Translator:    Sam Garrett
Publishers:     Atlantic Books, UK (August 2012)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Pages:             320
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary; Literary Fiction

What’s it about?

‘The Dinner’ is Dutch author, Herman Koch’s 2nd book published in 2009 and translated to English in 2012. It has been adapted for film (US), to be released in 2017 starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. I for one will be watching it. Why? Because the book is intriguing, and I do want to see if it has been translated well to screen and how the characters are portrayed in the film.

The plot appears simple. Two couples – brothers and their wives – meet at an upmarket restaurant for dinner. There is an issue about their children that must be discussed, but obviously such a difficult topic to speak of that they miserably avoided it through 2 courses and various interruptions.

So what is this “important matter” that must be discussed and resolved?

Internal monologue of Paul Lohman, the protagonist, offers readers insight into the psychological state of a younger sibling, never quite living up to a successful older brother, with a chip on his shoulder and repressed anger.  And through his lens, there is the arrogant older brother, Serge, the defiant yet helpless sister-in-law, Babette; and his loving and supportive wife, Claire who is most importantly his ally as against the other couple.

This story ultimately is about what people, and parents, will believe to protect their own psyche and as a defence to love. It provides a slice of the human condition – how we lie to ourselves and what we do when our very existence, as we know it, is threatened.

The story is told in a pace causing annoyance was necessary; the discomfort and unpleasantness evoked in me is testament of how well-written this book is, and portending the reluctance of the characters to name and acknowledge the “important matter” – the almost calm and matter-of-fact manner which belies the undercurrents of tension, fear and malice.

What are their motivations? Or their responsibilities?

Does it matter if the desired outcome is achieved?

How will it end for everyone concerned?

Would I recommend it?

An intriguing book definitely worth spending time on.

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 8.47
  Paperback USD 8.92
 Bookdepository  Paperback  A$11.10

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Grind’ by Edward Vukovic

When approached by Vukovic for an honest review, I could not refuse as I am an avid coffee drinker. The book cover is enticing, and in itself, pip my curiosity. Coffee grind reading…?

grind-coverTitle:          Grind
Author:        Edward Vukovic
Publishers:     CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 2, 2016)
Format:          Kindle, Paperback
Website:         www.edwardvukovic.com
Pages:             398
Genre:           Fiction – Contemporary

What’s it about?

The story is a microcosm of the world at large, bound by the aromatic substance, coffee.  This is an entirely enjoyable and intelligent book, weaving multi-faceted characters through each other’s lives culminating in a powerful resolution.

We have Ziva, a young migrant woman, intelligent and trapped in a world of poverty. Infused with a talent for coffee-grind reading, she lives by her heightened ‘instinctive’ sense.

There is Simon, an angry direction-less man feeling victimised by life and its injustices; the only valuable thing in his life that which he thought could not be taken from him – his special coffee.

And Isaac, pub owner and a man atoning for his sins as he only knows how – the daily overcoming of the temptation of a former vice.

What of Michel, a homeless man by choice, oddly noble man avoiding his past and seeking in his own way to make amends.

Danielle, the young girl with a mentally ill father, bound by circumstances yet still hopeful for a better world.

Masterfully crafted by Vukovic, their lives intersect and will be forever changed, each character finding redemption.

I cannot help but associate the title ‘Grind’ with a different meaning, the grind that is life for the characters, each with a burden to bear. Will it lighten, I wonder…?

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. ‘Grind’ draws the reader into the lives of its characters, reminding us that we all have our privates selves, that it is a priilege to be let into that private world.  We are the same – doing the best we can in our world – no matter the texture of our story; and interconnected – our actions have impact on others .

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:               4.5/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 2.95
  Hardback USD 18.95

~ FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘Santa and the Christmas Dragon’ by Amanda Roberts

With Christmas round the bend, it is a good time to review this children’s book.

santaTitle:          Santa and the Christmas Dragon
Author:          Amanda Roberts
Illustrator:   Cherith Vaughan
Translator:   Yaqian Gong
Publishers:     Two Americans in China Press (2016)
Format:          Hardcover
Website:         www.twoamericansinchina.com
Pages:             32
Genre:            Fiction – Children, Picture-book

What’s it about?

This children picture book tells the story of how Santa got to China. It is bilingual – presented in English, Chinese characters and Mandarin pinyin.

I had expected an education on Chinese culture, and how both cultures perceive Christmas. Instead, this book seeks to cross cultural boundaries, to connect our humanity through common themes – in this instance, good boys and girls deserving of gifts, and how gifts are welcomed. It encourages cultural sensitivity and understanding. I so want to know what the Dragon and Santa learned of each other’s culture.

I wish the fonts were larger and less ‘curly’; legibility is worth noting given the age of children to which it seems to target. The Chinese translation is appropriately lengthier to fit the rhythm of the Chinese language, its tone familiar to Chinese readers.

There are a few discrepancies, perhaps only to adult readers like myself. I will not list them, as this is a book for the young and their imagination. I see no need to taint it.

Would I recommend it?

Overall, an entertaining read. This beautifully illustrated bilingual children’s book will delight young readers.

Ratings:
Overall Rating:                  3/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #BookReview ‘The Valley Where They Danced’ by Emory Jones

I was encouraged to read this book by  the local store owner at Tallulah Point Overlook, GA.  So glad I did.

Valley

Title:          The Valley Where They Danced
Author:          Emory Jones
Publishers:     Emory Jones LLC (2014)
Format:          Hardback
Website:         The Valley Where They Danced
Pages:             290
Genre:            Literary fiction

What’s it about?

The author, Emory Jones, is a local of this area of Northeast Georgia, USA which is the backdrop of this enchanting tale.

It is the early 20th century, shortly after the end of World War I. Dr Tom Garrison a newly licensed doctor travels from Macon, Georgia to be the local doctor in Clarksville, GA.  As he familiarizes himself to the town and its delightful characters, he meets the resourceful Lenore Conley. Even on the first time they meet, they know their destiny is sealed. But a sinister presence lurks. Will it pose a threat? What will become of Tom and Lenore, as their story masterfully told by Emory Jones, closes at Tallulah Gorge, GA.

The tale of the two lovebirds is woven into the tapestry of life and history of the Sautee Nacoochee valleys from the beginning of the hydro electricity dams being built to references to the new motorised vehicle and the aftermath of WWI for those fortunate to return home.  And let’s not forget the two legends of the Sautee and Nacoochee.  Will Tom and Lenore’s fate follow?

Would I recommend it?

A gripping tale amidst the rich historical context kept me glued to ‘The Valley Where They Danced’. How I wish I had read this book before I visited this part of Georgia.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:  4/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 9.03
  Hardback USD 26.95
Emory Jones LLC Hardback USD 26.95

~ FlorenceT

florence-2

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

@FTThum #bookreview ‘I Let You Go’ by Clare Mackintosh

I needed a book to read, and this Sunday Times bestseller was compared to ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on the Train’ so how could I not?

I let you go

Title:          I Let You Go
Author:          Clare Mackintosh
Publishers:     Sphere, Hachette (2014)
Format:          Paperback
Website:         www.claremackintosh.com
Pages:             371
Genre:            Psychological Thriller, Fiction

What’s it about?

Jenna Gray’s world disintegrated when she lost her son, in a hit-and-run.

It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a bid to escape the memories and pain, Jenna ran away to the Welsh coast, initially keeping her identity a secret but gradually, as she re-discovered her old passion and talent and more, her life began to turn around.

But it was not to be, as her past returned to haunt her.

In the meantime, Detective Inspector Ray Steven was assigned to solve this hit-and-run case, only to find the mother of the victim missing, and encountering the world of web-shaming directed at Jenna as he experienced the tension between his career aspiration which demanded that he closed the investigation down and his moral conscience to solve this case. And all this on top of marital problems.

So how did the two worlds converge? This psychological thriller kept me guessing and truth be told, flipping back pages to ‘work it out’.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. An entertaining gripping read by the beach. Kept me up till I got to the twist end.

P/S Clare Mackintosh’s next book ‘I See You’ is due on 28 July 2016. Check it out here.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 9.08
  Paperback USD 6.05
Booktopia Paperback AUD 13.95
Bookdepository Paperback £7.99

 

~ FlorenceT

florence-2

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews