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Category Archives: Non-Fiction

From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island by Lorna Goodison

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review: 4 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (April 23, 2013), Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers, File Size: 635 KB, Print Length: 306 pages (Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0061337560), ASIN: B00C0UHKEM

In From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People Goodison tells her mother’s story through tales from the past. Although the book is a memoir, much of it is fiction because it is an imaginative reconstruction of Goodison’s family history using both fact and fiction. Goodison utilizes ghosts—the specters of her ancestors—as a method of linking the past to the present, and tells the story through voices from the past. Almost all memories of Margaret (Goodison’s grandmother) are reimagined, because as Goodison writes, “[e]xcept for the eldest siblings, Barbara and Howard, most of the children had no real memory of Margaret”. Yet “they always felt her presence, for Doris [Goodison’s mother] quoted her every day” (Goodison 254). Ghosts are the history of the past coming forward, reappearing, and providing insight on prior events.

Lorna Goodison is a poet, an author of short stories, and an artist. She has received several awards for her work, and she has been writing poetry since her teens. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica on August 1, 1947, and From Harvey River is the legacy of Goodison’s roots. Much of the writing reflects the impact of her family’s heritage—a legacy that is driven by spirits and ghosts derived from both African and Jamaican beliefs.

The book itself is a return to childhood, and contains the forgotten and unknowable history of the past, of Goodison’s past, of her mother’s past, and of her mother’s people’s past. Ghosts are non-corporeal beings that are manifestations of ethereal or metaphysical conscious energies. The appearance of ghosts in this story is the transcendence of people from the past moving through linear time and space in order to interact with the characters. This communication creates cracks in space and makes room for a connection between the past and the present, and this breach is often transcended through dreams. Goodison informs the reader the book itself was “handed” to her by her mother’s ghost, when the author “began to ‘dream’ her [mother], as Jamaicans say” (Goodison 2).

From Harvey River is a memoir of Goodison’s mother. On the surface this history appears unremarkable, but the combination of fiction, history, and family lore, told from the point of view of spirits in the past, creates an interesting and intriguing tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it touching, and at times it made me laugh, and other times it made me cry. If you enjoy a good read about interesting people in a unique and fascinating setting then I recommend this book as an excellent read.

To Purchase, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island from Amazon, click here or on above picture

 

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Children of Air India: un/authorized exhibits and interjections by Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of Children of Air India: 3 Treasure Boxes


In the early part of 2014, I went to a poetry reading where Renée Sarojini Laklikar read from her book: Children of Air India: un/authorized exhibits and interjections. I found her words moving and unforgettable.  This assemblage of poems is dedicated to the people who died on Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985, as well as to those who lost their loved ones.  While this plane was flying through Irish airspace, in route from Montreal to Delhi, with a planned stop in London, a bomb exploded. The Boeing 747 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and 329 people died.

Although this book is a work of fiction, and many of the details were derived from her imagination; it merges fact with the fiction.  It many ways it is a form of docu-poetry. Saklikar spent many hours researching and reading transcripts and archives. She was born in India, and lost an aunt and uncle in the bombing of this airplane. She experienced the loss first hand and through her work she has brought the loss of these 329 people into the hearts of her readers.

I found the book well laid out and presented in an interesting manner. It starts with a short introduction that shares with the reader the terrible loss of the individuals as well as the unfathomable injustice of the resulting trial. Throughout the book, Saklikar redacted all the names of the victims, and in many instances, simply refers to the individuals as “Redacted.” For me, this represents the finality of the loss and death of each person.  From page 113, she writes, “Write the names all the way through. Write them down. In writing there is redaction, redact. That is the burning that is the body.”

Part One of the book is “in which N imposes meaning” with “N” representing niece and/or narrator, in other words, herself.  She is searching for meaning for herself, and for those who perished. Through her words she brings the departed briefly back to life, as in page 21,

“…she loves to read,

wins a prize in math.

 

Her sister follows, arms holding

large heavy books…

 

Status: bodies not found.”

 

Saklikar makes the passengers real, and at the same time is able to impact to the reader the  horrendous plane crash. I found the poems that related directly to the passengers very touching, and there were many such poems throughout the book.

Throughout the text, Saklikar effectively uses white space. In so doing she speaks volumes without the use of words. I found this technique haunting, because many of these people’s bodies were lost in the open space of the ocean.

Saklikar is able to blend the terrible with the dispassionate and in doing so able to combine human tragedy within the confines of the impersonal court. In this way she brings into the poetry the injustice of the mishandling of the trial, without sermonizing. She effectively shows both to the reader.

However there were other parts that I did not understand. Like on page 61, it is filled with what appear to me to be random letters, “ACI-ACISS ACPS ACS…” and this page also includes two randomly placed 2.2cm2 squares. Additionally on page 85, entitled “Exhibit: June 4, 1985, in the woods outside Duncan, items of examination,” I did not understand what these items were nor why they were included.

In writing this review, I found the subject matter quite upsetting, and very, very sad. Several times I was moved to tears for the lost of so many people, each one cherished. I recommend this book of poetry as a very good read.

 

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Power Vs Force by David R. Hawkins M.D. Ph.D

Book Review

Book Review

Book review of Power Vs Force: 3 Treasure Boxes

Power Vs Force is a fascinating look at how spiritual power is superior to physical force. Dr. Hawkins backs up his book with thousands of tests to support his position. I recommend this book as a very good read, it is interesting and informative. Plus I like the way Dr. Hawkins shows how good will always overcome evil in the end.

 

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The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of The Art of Choosing: 2 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Hachette Audio, Audible Audio Edition, Listening Length: 10 hours and 36 minutes, ASIN: B003D7S8W4

What is the science and psychology behind making choices, and why do we do what we do? The Art of Choosing looks at what drives our choices and Ms. Iyendar backs up her claims with research. She discusses freedom and control and how these affect what we choose.  In Chapter one, part two Ms. Iyengar says, “When we speak of choice, what we mean is the ability to exercise control over ourselves and our environment. In order to choose, we must first perceive that control is possible.”

Ms. Iyengar has written numerous essays, but The Art of Choosing is her first book. It is non-fiction and it analyzes how people make choices. It was shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2010.

The Art of Choosing is supported by research and surveys with some surprising results. It was insightful to learn how cultural upbringing affects choices. Ms. Iyengar tests children of different backgrounds and those with an Asian upbringing were motivated if they felt their mother made the choice for them, whereas Anglo-American students felt the exact opposite. The same results were observed within factories in these different regions. Ms. Iyengar included research that was done on animals, which I felt uncomfortable reading, but the results cannot be disputed. The information is related in an interesting manner that includes stories, facts and draws the reader in through some well placed questions.

I recommend this book as a good read that provides some fascinating information. Although, I am not too sure what benefit I received other than entertainment.

To Purchase: “The Art of Choosing” from Amazon, click here or on picture above


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My Mother’s Story: The Originals by Marilyn Norry

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of My Mother’s Story: The Originals: 3 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Mothership Stories Society (May 24, 2012), Paperback: 234 pages, ISBN-10: 0987984403, ISBN-13: 978-0987984401

Mothers are unheralded heroes. My Mother’s Story: The Originals is a compilation of the amazing lives of everyday women, as told through the eyes of their daughters.

Marilyn Norry is an actress and she conceived this idea. It started with her own mother’s story and she expanded out to include her friend’s mother’s stories. First she created a stage production, but since the stories are all amazing she wanted to compile them in book form as the editor. She has recently released a new volume in this series: My Mother’s Story: North Vancouver in both stage production and book form.   She has created a website: http://mymothersstory.org/ It is a place where anyone, man, woman or child can share their mother’s or father’s story. She also formed a non-profit society, Mothership Stories Society, to provide a unique place to share all the wonderful stories about mothers and fathers from around the world.

Everyone has a mother, each with her own story of quiet determination, hardship and love. Each woman has a unique life that she deals with in her own way. This project encourages the breaking of the mother taboo, where people are forbidden to talk about their mothers. Instead the focus is on bringing women’s lives out of the shadows into the open where they can be recognized and valued.

The lives of these mothers range from 1890 to present day and each story is compressed to a few pages with one or two photos. Some stories are moving and brought tears to my eyes, others brought a feeling of hope and all showed the determination and wherewithal that is required to be a mother. Each tale is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the women who helped shape our world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it as a very good read. It is a wonderful tribute to motherhood.

To purchase: “My Mother’s Story: the Originals” from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Book Review: 1 Treasure Box

Book Review

Book Review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: 1 Treasure Box
Publisher: Random House Audio, Audible Audio Edition, Listening Length: 13 hours and 6 minutes (336 pages), ASIN: B007MIWUG0

After Cheryl lost her mother in a viscous fight against cancer, she started spiraling out of control and as she began to hit bottom, she realized it was time to take her life back. She did this by hiking alone 1,100 miles up the Pacific Crest trail. This book is the story or her journey, both on the trail and through the mire her life had become.

Cheryl Strayed, whose birth name was Spangler is an American author, and she has written a couple of books, all in the memoir genre as well as several essays, and she writes an advice column: Dear Sugar for The Rumpus. “Wild” was recommended by Oprah, which helped to push it to number one for nonfiction on the New York Times Best Seller list for seven consecutive weeks.

It is great that Cheryl realized her life was out of control and she made a decision to make a change. But she jumped into this journey, like she did most things in life, without really preparing or knowing what to expect. The journey was difficult and she had plenty of challenges, but for maybe the first time in her life, she did not quit. My favorite character was Cheryl’s mother, because she seemed liked a real nice, down to earth type of person who always tried to do her best despite the circumstances. 

I did not really care for either the style or the pacing of the writing in this book. I felt that Ms. Strayed told us what was happening, but she did not really draw the reader in, she did not show us, although there was a lot of potential for this tale to be really truly spell binding. 

I would not recommend this book, and although I thought it was ok, it was not great. Ms. Strayed is not my favorite author and I probably will not read anything else that she writes. Although, I do think that her writing about the Pacific Crest brought more awareness to this wonderful trail.

 

To Purchase: “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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Romance Your Writer Within by Melba Burns

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of Romance Your Writer Within: 3 Treasure Boxes
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc., File Size: 407 KB, Print Length: 175 pages, ASIN: B00636PZPK

Romance Your Writer Within and Reawaken Your Passion to Write is full of helpful and insightful instruction aimed at opening up inner creativity and improving the writing process.

Melba Burns has written several inspiration books for women including Romance the Writer Within And Reawaken your Passion to Write. This non-fiction book is in the education and reference genre, and is a unique guide  through the creative process.

This is a great book for writers and it is stuffed full of practical steps. If followed, the path will lead to deeper and more meaningful results.  The book is aimed towards women, but the exercises within can help anyone, male or female. Ms. Burns has been writing and teaching writing clinics for many years. This book is an amalgamation of all the insight she has gained. It is well written in an interesting and helpful manner.

I recommend this book as a very good read, and it is a helpful tool for any writer. Almost every chapter provides a new concrete method to help bring forth creativity. As a writer, I felt most inspired by the declaration of commitment, and in general I was most intrigued by the blind walk.

To Purchase: “Romance Your Writer Within” from Amazon, click here or on the picture above

 

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

Book Review

Book Review: 3 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Hachette Audio, Listening Length: 5 hours and 35 minutes (304 pages), ASIN: B004V6APR

Tina Fey is Bossypants; she tells about her journey through life and how she became the boss at 30 Rock. This is her autobiography.

The book is amusing, interesting, and at times laugh out loud funny. The picture she has on the front cover is a wonderful depiction of the woman herself. It shows that she is beautiful, funky and capable of poking fun at herself.  She knows she is not perfect and that is ok.

Throughout the book she tells her story, starting as a youth and moving up through the years until 2011 when she was working as an executive producer at 30 Rock. She paints an interesting picture of her father and gives the reader a lot of insight as to how he helped create the person she becomes.  She tells some fascinating tales about what life was like at SNL, how she came to play the part of Sarah Palin and how she felt about her role in that election, as well as what it is like to work with Alec Baldwin, and the roller coaster of 30 Rock.

This is an interesting story about a fascinating woman. She tells an entertaining story while at the same time she also shares her desire to raise a healthy daughter and the importance that women have to stick together. She is a funny lady and her chapters on her weight are very entertaining. Her antidotes about her photo shoot and photo shop were priceless. I was especially moved by her prayer for her daughter and I felt that she was sending a good message to all women throughout her tale.

I highly recommend this book as a very good read. It is a good story that can be enjoyed by both sexes, but I think every woman should read it.

To Purchase: “Bossypants” from Amazon, click here or on picture above

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Hoover’s FBI: The Inside Story by Hoover’s Trusted Lieutenant by Cartha D. Deloach

Book Review: 3 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc., Listening Length: 16 hours and 3o minutes (440 pages), ASIN: B0000545GP


Deke DeLoach gives a thorough account of his experience working for J. Edgar Hoover. Deke was Hoover’s number three man and he gives his version of life with Hoover. He includes all of the big cases the FBI was involved in during this time and gives his inside view on some of the more controversial aspects of life with Hoover.

Cartha DeLoach, known also as Deke, was the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the third most senior official in charge of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. “Hoover’s FBI: The Inside Story”, is a memoir of Deke’s experiences working under Hoover for nearly 29 years.

Deke starts out telling us about the mandate of the FBI, which sets the ground work for the balance of the story. He also describes in detail, specific aspects about Hoover. I thought it was interesting to learn about Hoover’s style and how he dealt with people. Deke also addresses Hoover’s sexual orientation, cross-dressing, the secret files, and how Hoover managed to stay on as director until the day he died.  The story did not flow in a chronological order, instead it bounced around covering all the main historical events, including the assassination of J.F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, as well as the subsequent chase for the culprits. Some of the other items Deke talks about include:  communist spies, working with President Lyndon Johnson, civil rights violations, McCarthy, COINTELPRO and the gruesome kidnapping of Barbara Mackle. All of the stories were captivating and fascinating.

I felt the story was well told, and it seemed to be well supported as well as believable. I recommend this book as a very good read. It is an interesting view of a controversial man and it sheds light on a misunderstood organization.

Favourite Quote:

The FBI is an investigative not an operational agency. We are not a national police force.

 We do not do crowd control, we are not available for guard duty, we do not make decisions to prosecute nor in most cases to arrest. In fact we make few arrests compared to our volume of investigations. We are investigators.

 

To Purchase: “Hoover’s FBI: The Inside Story by Hoover’s Trusted Lieutenant” from Amazon, click here or on picture above


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Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

Book Review: 2 Treasure Boxes
Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); Revised edition (December 27, 2005), Paperback: 208 pages, ISBN-10: 014303653X, ISBN-13: 978-0143036531

What impact does entertainment have on our society?   In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman draws parallels between society’s obsession with entertainment and Huxley’s Brave New World where people escape reality in numerous ways.  Postman believed that television was creating a Huxleyan world view where citizens would stop thinking and instead, come under common hypnosis within a “world of technological narcotics”. Postman also felt that watching television was not the problem and “the solution must be found in how we watch”.

Neil Postman (1931–2003) was chairman of the Department of Communication Arts at New York University and founder of its Media Ecology program. He wrote more than twenty books. Amusing Ourselves to Death was first released in 1985 and in 2005 it was reissued, including an introduction by Andrew Postman.

The book is well written and examines the numerous ways that television watching has changed society. He provides an interesting history of media starting in Plato’s time and moving forward.  His chapter on “Typographic America” was insightful. He brings us forward to 1985, the Age of Entertainment, where information is released in 90 second time frames. Programmers want to do whatever is necessary to hold the interest of the audience. Postman felt that “the problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject manner but that all subject is presented as entertaining.”

This is a good, thought provoking read and I recommend it. In manner ways the concerns that Postman had about television can also be applied to the internet.

To Purchase: “Amusing Ourselves to Death” from Amazon, click here or on picture above.

 

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