Margitte's Reviews

Margitte's Reviews

Historical fiction, mysteries, family, travel journals, memoirs, crime thrillers. I Just love a good read.


"I live life with passion, compassion, a sense of humor and some style" - Dr. Maya Angelou.

The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg by Betsy Robinson
The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg - Betsy Robinson


Zelda McFigg was born the antithesis of Hollywood perfection and unintentionally knew what her purpose in life would be. She would have the audacity to live her life and remind everyone, she would meet on her journey, of everything they did not want to be. In fact, she was everything the winners feared and despised. The sight of her made them stagger in resentment. In life's experiments she would become a one-woman control group.

Born to an absent father, a drunken mother, dependent on herself for survival, and a mission to become an actress, she had no moral compasses from anyone to guide her through the pitfalls of adulthood. It resulted in her making big mistakes that would ultimately catch up with her later in life. She ended up being an illegal teacher for more than thirty years as well.

The only love she understood was food. And more food. And then some more food. Until she became so obese that no one in their right social mind would want to be in her presence. At the age of 14 she knew she had to leave her mother's house. Thus began a journey of survival in which she exchanged her intellectual abilities for a roof over her head; watched ruthless people steal her horses and plow themselves all the way to successful lives; experience the shock of betrayal where she least expected it. But in the end she did not give up. She stood up for herself and wrote her memoir, just to prove a point! 

"Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest." , - Mark Twain.

The story is a tragicomedy in which a sensitive, soft hearted young lady discovers more than the brutal truth behind the 'winnerisms', or should it be called winner mentality, and what it really entails. Despite the treatment she must endure, she remains a fighter with talent and insight to survive any challenges coming her way. It is remarkable story of a young woman who managed to survive on her own, dodge the foster care system, with no backup support and nobody to to take care of her, while she had enough compassion to assist other people to become the best people they could ever be. Her joie-de-vivre is refreshingly original.

The story is in memoir form and well-structured. The plot is slowly building up to a crescendo and a tension line is subtly snaking through the tale. The final moment of truth, in which she also must address her own problems, happened when her life slowly turned stale, like the old peanut butter sandwiches she often nicked from the school cafeteria and her patience just took a final hike. 

"In July of 2009, to pick up some extra money, I had agreed to teach a two-week summer school course called The Basics of Writing.

The class was packed due to Moose Country parents’ alarm at the propensity of their instant-messaging, texting adolescents to mistake abridged, abbreviated, acronymed vocabulary and butchered syntax for acceptable writing. Sitting in the front row of my first class was Walt Edelman. How I loathed the boy.

“Miss McFugg,” he said, mispronouncing by design, “can you please tell us how many and what brand of pencils we should have for this class? My mother will only allow me one number two with a half-eaten eraser. My baby sister likes to chew.”

“Mr. Edelpuss,” I began with no idea what would ensue, “are you so dense or naïve as to think that I would believe the president of the PTA would send her progeny to this esteemed establishment of remedial education with only one half-eaten pencil? Your attempts at creative disruption are matched only by the thimble of grey matter sitting atop your neck that only a loving mother could mistake for a brain.”

For the moment of stunned silence that followed I thought I had achieved a victory.

“Miss McFuggle,” responded Edelman, his attempted cheerfulness belied by the redness expanding across his normally pasty face, “your ineptitude for teaching a remedial writing course is matched only by your delusions of literacy. Charlotte’s Web is an old fashioned movie for kindergartners!” He threw up his arms in a victory gesture and the class roared. Then, milking the moment, Edelman rose from his chair, bowed, and parodying my savior, my idol, Mr. Cronkite, he removed his eyeglasses and mimicked, “And that’s the way it is.”

As the class applauded, I felt something slip loose inside me. Some sliver of a thing that keeps one from strangling contemptible children with flaccid mouths on under-sized cantaloupe heads. I don’t know whether it was his disparagement of the work of Mr. E. B. White, or his insult to Mr. Cronkite, or my grief at my loss of the American dream, but before I knew it, I was on Edelman, pushing him into his chair, my fingers closing around his insolent, toothpick neck. I felt his heart pounding as I squeezed and twisted, and I will not lie to you—it was delicious.

And that was the last thing about the incident that I remember. The next I knew, I was lying on the A-frame table, a vestige of the pre-computer days of shop, in Principal Appleton’s office, and Mrs.Lambert was jumping and flailing like a crazed band conductor, screaming, “I think she’s dead. I never changed her mailbox tag. Oh God, she’s dead!”

Although the narrative is presented in the first person, and with often hilarious moments build into the tale, the protagonist never became narcissistic or egocentric at all. She helped other people more than she helped herself. Her inexperience made her trust the wolves in sheep's clothing, and had to learn a lesson late in her life. But she did not gave up her fight for survival. She never gave up on the American dream. It made her one of those rare winners in life who could celebrate the true spirit of real leadership and what it was suppose to be about.

The wit was often unexpected.

"Although it is commonly diagnosed as a disorder, in my opinion, lactose intolerance is only a problem if one lives in the company of others."

It took me quite a few moments to grasp the meaning of the above statement, and when it did, I rolled around laughing. Honest, in-your-face writing like this, takes a huge amount of guts from a female author. I absolutely loved her spunk to do it.

"One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" came to mind in spending time with this remarkable, feisty, driven girl. The situation is outrageous, weird and unbelievable. Yet we all know it is possible, tragic in its truth. 

"New Age gurus tell you, love does not cancel hate. Or hurt. Or resentment. Or a desire for rectification. I am living proof of that.
That boy that I sometimes miss, he also disgusts me. And even though I want no contact, I cherish the fact that we are forever connected.
Yes, I want him to hurt, but I also long for him to succeed, to be happy, to know love. I have always wanted these things—from
the day I met him to now. So you see I do know something: I know that even though I may have done it badly, even if it made me somewhat crazy, even if it was unreciprocated, mocked, and pitied, I am grateful that I took the risk.

Since being known to be a rebel myself, and always rooting for the underdog, being one myself in so many ways, I can state without any doubt, that I would have loved to have Zelda McFigg as a friend. Gold comes molded in so many forms. 

I am a devoted Mark Twain fan. I imagine him in my life in those self-indulgent moments when I can feel so very sorry for myself. He would probably tell me to get over myself, I am simply not important enough, and that will jolt me back to reality in no time. In fact, he did say at one point, 'Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.' And if that is not the compassionate, sobering words by a friend, what is?! Hehehe. 

Betsy Robinson's writing constantly has a 'Mark Twain-esque' under current flowing through it: direct, call-a-spade-a-spade honesty, that had me laughing, while I actually wanted to cry. She has a chutzpah to her that I have not found in any female author anywhere, anytime, ever. She has a new devoted admirer in me, for sure. 

Zelda McFigg's survival kit contains a healthy dollop of humor which is the most important lesson she is teaching us in this book. Would I recommend her as a role model for young people? Of course not! A person who eats her problems away, seek love in mountains of fodder, makes catastrophic decisions and becomes an experienced lock-picker? Nope, it ain't gonna work, right ? But still, everyone should read this book to understand how the American dream worked for her. She was dirt poor, unattractive, unlovable, and undoubtedly obese. But she did have something else: a cheek to persist. And a gentle grace which defined everything for her. 

This is everyone's story who had to take on the world single handedly and won (or lost). The narrator's voice is so authentic, it does not fit into any literary molds. But it is this individualistic cry for recognition that makes this book worth reading.

 However, I will repeat what I have said in another review: 

"The mother of all No-No's in my book always was, and still is, an over-indulgence in 'logue-fests'. You know, those epi-, pro- and other logue-paraphernalia, such as an additional introduction and foreword, destroying, even polluting, an otherwise promising novel." Another pet peeve of mine: adding too many reviewer comments to the introduction turns the actual book suspect. Lose it! For these reasons the book loses a star.

But overall, I loved this entertaining, insightful seriocomic fictional memoir. Absolutely recommended, for sure. 

5 Stars
The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber
The Cold Cold Sea - Linda Huber

Cornwall, England.

Maggie and Colin Grainger have been enjoying a holiday at Cove Cottage for two weeks with their two children, Joe & Livvy, when Livvy, three years old, disappeared under the watchful eye of both parent on the beach. The one minute she was with her mother, running off to join her dad and her brother at the rocks. The next moment she was gone. Maggie, in her state of grief, could not come to terms with the disappearance of her child and hardly had the energy left to take proper care of their son, Joe. The investigation was officially called off but the file kept open, which had Maggie in a constant fear of the telephone. She simply was not ready for the final confirmation of the inevitable.

Philip and Jennifer Marshall lived in Devon, when his grandmother in California was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He flew over to take care of her while Jennifer stayed behind. His stay in California was elongated and Jennifer decided to move into a bigger house in the meantime, being pregnant with twins - which was kept a surprise to Philip. The move proved to be difficult for their daughter Hailey, who also had to start school in the new neighborhood for the first time. A shy withdrawn child, she slowly opened up to her teacher, Katie McLure. Upon his eventual return he found changes he had to accept for the children's sake. Life was different and challenging.

That is the background of the plot that slowly turned into a chilling, heart wrenching, disturbing saga, in which grief played a pivotal role in shaping people's conduct and minds. The love of these two mothers for their children triggered the most basic instincts known to mankind and the results were devastating and shocking.

This is the second novel by Linda Huber that I read. As with the first novel, The Paradise Trees , I was immediately pulled into the suspense which grabbed hold of me in the first paragraph and never ended until the very last sentence.

The book addresses the fears of all parents, and drives the reader's emotions up and down the normality chart with ruthless intent.

Although the story dragged a bit, it was an unbelievable intense thriller that kept me glued to the pages with no way out. The reader does not want to step aside although it was at times impossible to breath normally. I constantly, silently, cried out: "For Heaven's sake stop this! Stop this, I cannot take it anymore!"

A brilliant, enlightened and wonderful wonderful wonderful experience. Linda Huber will fast become a must-read British author for anyone enjoying psychological thrillers. Her writing style is excellent. I cannot actually find the right words to describe it. You just know someone is playing you like a fiddle and it's not the plot or the characters.

A review copy was provided by Legend Press via NetGalley for review. It was an amazing read. Thank you!

5 Stars
This Little Piggy by Bea Davenport
This Little Piggy - Bea Davenport

This is a psychological thriller beyond belief!

In 1984, the coal miners of Britain went on a strike that eventually would take two to three generations to recover from.

Clare Jackson is a reporter who missed a promotion due to personal reasons and had to recover from both events happening simultaneously while being sent on an investigation into the death of a nine month old baby, Jamie, on the housing estate where many of the miners resided.

She is a reporter for a local newspaper in the North East of Britain and basically acted as a one-man-band who never stopped for anything, as long as she could prove that she was the better choice for the promotion and shame her bosses.

She meets Amy, a little girl in the dilapidated flats, who had many stories to tell, some were fact and some fiction, and could not share everything she knew with the people around her. Nobody wanted to believe her.

Amy's situation spurred Clare on to become more than just a reporter. She instinctively wanted to protect and nurture the little girl despite warnings from her friends to stay away and stop her unprofessional attachment to 'a story'. But Clare was convinced that she could help Amy to become the adult she would like to be. She did not want to disappoint a little girl who had nobody else to take her hand and believe in her. 

Clare became Amy's first real friend; a person she could trust. With Clare, being in the emotional state she was, combined with the psychological connection she felt she had with Amy, events started very soon to spiral out of total control for everyone involved. Clare related to Amy's situation. She was another statistic in the same column of history than Amy. She is an older version. She simply understood. 

With her own unresolved issues influencing her actions, Clare tried to cover the human story of the baby, while also reporting on the situation behind the picket line where miners and police were increasingly moving into a volatile situation.

While being a walk down memory lane for us who remembered the strikes and its profound aftermath, this book also exposed human behavioral patterns which are not only possible, but scary as hell.

This is the second book I read of the author. The first one was 
In Too Deep .

Both books have the same theme of little girls who were ostricised, rejected, socially isolated by their peer groups for different reasons. The effect it had on them manifested itself in their later relationships and actions.

I was so impressed with Bea Davenport's first novel, that I recommended it to many many people who love this genre. It is still one of the best books in this stable that I have read. This Little Piggy, with its powerful plot; various strong support characters; constant, relentless, and never-ending suspense; detailed and vicious psychosomatic, as well as somatopsychic undercurrent, is a brilliant second try for a seasoned journalist in her own right. It is just as much a strong historical fiction-candidate as it is a psychological thriller

My goodness, what a story! It was simply brilliant.

The review copy was provided by Legend Press via Netgalley. THANK YOU for this wonderful opportunity.

4 Stars
Time Of Death by James Craig
Time of Death: An Inspector Carlyle Mystery (Inspector Carlyle Mysteries) - James Craig

Inspector Carlyle investigates the murder of Agatha Mills, which took place in her apartment across the street from the British museum. Her husband is arrested for the murder as all evidence point to Henry Mills's guilt. But he refuses to admit it was him and commits suicide.

What started out as an open-and-shut-case becomes something totally different soon, although nobody, except Inspector Carlyle, is convinced. The ripple effect across London, diplomatic offices, and international companies, forces the laid-back detective to work longer hours than he hoped for. After all, life is pretty mediocre in his quarters and he doesn't appreciate his feathers being ruffled too much. He loves his walks around town, since he never learnt to drive, doesn't even possess a license to do so. He enjoys his elongated breaks away from the office, his slow breakfasts and lunches in quaint little restaurants, and a personal mobile phone which he seldom answers. Off and on he remembers to visit the gym. He needs to stay in shape, right? Yes, he is a slow mover, a relaxed person, a quiet operator. However, his mannerisms are making a lot of people nervous. Very nervous. Especially when he refuses to close the case and hand in the report. 

I don't want to go into the complicated plot, developing after the first murder, and spoil the surprise. The drama keeps the reader hooked way more hours than was planned as it is. Losing-sleep-hooked. Nothing spectacularly dramatic hammers away at the heart muscles, or causes severe headaches, but below the seemingly suave exterior an angry river is pulsing through the story. Manipulation, corruption, back-stabbing, greed and danger: it's all there and it's very real. 

The protagonist is brought alive in all his splendor. Everything about the detective's life is painted in multiple colors. He becomes important to the reader. The dangers facing him becomes our concerns. His enemies shake up our core much more than the inspector's. He is not a nice man in every sense. The reader might not even like his attitude at all. And yet, we are rooting for him in getting his job done. A constant sense of foreboding is keeping the reader at it, come time or social objections to the opposite! The suspense is heightened by John Carlyle's 'casual' encounters with the antagonists. A joke and a laugh neutralize many volatile situations. But he is also a man who does not steer away from raising the stakes and getting people jittery and drinking away their concerns about his slow but steady approach into their lives and secrets. They know he is coming for them in his own way. 

The story is multifaceted. In fact, it is rich in British textures and hues. I was pleasantly surprised with the content of the plot. There is a constant hanging knife suspended over the characters'lives. The suspense becomes intense, unbearable! The comment. It might be a cliffhanger, for all I know, since this book forms part of a series. But it was good enough for now, anyway.

A wonderful, relaxing, yet intriguing read. I haven't read the author before, but will certainly consider his other books. I enjoy his writing style. You don't need any other relaxers with this kind of book in hand.

The book was provided by Witness Impulse through for review. Thank you for this excellent opportunity.

5 Stars
Judgment (A Cassidy & Spenser Thriller) by Carey Baldwin



I can either do a clinical review or write down what I feel at this very moment. Oh, let me do both and get it over with.

Let's start with the emotional reaction. It scared the DNA out of my family tree. It had me jumping out of my own skin into another personality type. It had all the juices in my body curdling in my ear drums. It made my petrous bone shudder and shake. I almost did not make it, honest to God.

If you know Dr.Kay Scarpetta in Patricia Cornwell's psychological thrillers, and you loved it, this is the book for you! Be my guest. Enjoy!

As I explained my reaction to the Scarpetta series, to a friend on Goodreads, I almost did not make it that time either. The difference between now and then is, that I read those books during the night, never slept a wink, locked all the doors, locked hubsters out, taped the windows closed, insisted on the guard dogs sleeping on my bed, check the cats'nails, instructed them to attack anyone trying to open my bedroom door, and curled up in terror until all three books were finished. 

When I started this book last night I was too tired to continue reading, so I sneaked it into my office day this morning after starting with it around five already! Thank goodness I did not continue last night.

I am not trying to be funny, but if you want to laugh do so and then read the book yourself! Then it will be my turn to holler and howl and I won't feel bad at all for doing just that! I am still shaking.

But nevermind, let's get to the clinical part now.

Dr. Caity Cassidy's father, Thomas, was convicted and executed for the brutal rape and murder of Gail Falconer, fifteen years ago. Caitey attended his execution and pledged to herself that she will get behind the truth. She thought he was innocent. Obviously, the Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona did not think so. The only man to support her at the event was her father's lawyer, Harvey Baumgartner (Tree gardener in English). He handled her father's case pro bono. They were friends from church - her father's best friend in the end. She was eighteen years old at the time. The event inspired her to climb into the mind of killers, which resulted in her PHD. She became a forensic psychiatrist profiling these mad people. She wanted to prove that her father did not have the psychological make-up to do it. She employed private investigators with no success.

Harvey Baumgarten requested her services for one of his clients, Judd Kramer, in a case against the latter. While consulting in court, a killer walked in and shot everyone. There were four victims. Kramer and his deputy escort-- shot just outside the courthouse, with Baumgartner and Dr. Caitey Cassidy --shot inside. Judd Kramer survived. She barely survived herself. Only because her four year long rival, FBI Special Agent Atticus Spenser (named after Atticus Finch, the hero in To Kill a Mockingbird), saved her life. They’d been on opposite sides of a contentious case more than once. And there was also that personal incident a few years back . . . but fortunately no one knew about that little gem of a disaster except Spense and her.

They had no other choice but to work together on this case. Caitey's ordeal was not over, as they soon found out. The killer did not target her by accident. There was to be a second round and she needed protection. Spencer offered it. She had to move in with him.

He baffled her. One thing she noticed was that he always had a miniature Rubik’s cube, attached to a keychain, in his pocket. He often pulled it out, scrambled it, solved it, and shoved it back in his pants pocket, all in less than a minute. He also knew how to prepare kung pao tofu with edamame,dowsed in a spicy peanut sauce. This man was not only soft on the retinas, he was also multi-talented. Behind his Old Spice must be a story too.

But that just for interest's sake. What really happened after the shootings rocked their world. As in totally. 

Judd Kramer died in hospital, along with the pharmacist. More young women ended up dead. Caitey was now confronted with first the death of Gail Falconer, and now Sally Cartwright, Darlene Dillinger and Annie Bayberry.

Fast moving, thrilling, captivating, entertaining, scary, brilliant! A tale marked by all the elements of a psychological thriller par excellence.

The only rattling bone in my scull is the acronyms and abbreviations that was spread all over the text. I gave up in trying to find them all on the internet. "DETECTIVE RILEY BASKIN paced the precinct lunchroom with a PB and J gripped in his hand" Oy! I thought it was a high caliber murder weapon and was diving for cover, until I peaked through my fingers and realized he was eating it. I could only wish him luck until this moment, because I still don't know what it is!

So yes, let me admit it. I LOVED THIS BOOK !!!

This book is a Witness Impulse, HarperCollins Publication, provided through for review. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.

0 Stars
Not A Chance In Helen by Susan McBride
Not a Chance in Helen: A River Road Mystery - Susan McBride

Wealthy widow, eighty-one year old Eleanora Duncan, lived alone in her Victorian mansions after her husband Marvin died and she lost her only son in a car accident, caused by her daughter-in-law. 

She was a member of every imaginable club and associatioin in River Bend, Illinois, not because she was wanted or popular. On the contrary, if she wasn't so wealthy and a benefactor to all of them, nobody would have cared to even speak one word to her. She never had a good thought about anyone; she blamed Jean, her daughter-in-law, for her son's death and refused to talk to her. Her cat, Lady Godiva and Zelma, her house assistant, were the only two souls sharing her life. 

Zelma dedicated her whole life to Eleanora. She worked for her since she was sixteen years old. Mrs. Duncan told Zelma she did not need anyone else in her life. Zelma did not have family, never got married, and therefore had no children. Eleonora was her whole life.

Seventy-five-year-old Helen Evans saved Eleanora's life one sunny day when a car almost ran her over. The surprised Mrs. Duncan told Helen that someone was trying to kill her. And then she did die. 

The town had to answer to the death and had a lot to say in return. Three people visited Eleonora that day. There was Stan, her down-and-out brother-in-law who couldn't keep his inheritance intact. She constantly had to send him cheques for survival. He stood to inherit if she died. Then there was Floyd Baskin, the eco-terrorist who relied heavily on her husband's contributions to his cause. She was trying to get him cut off from her husband's beneficiary list in his will and Baskin was aware of it. Jemima Winthrop accused Eleonora all these years that her family stole the Winthrop inheritance and tried to wiggle a piece of land out of Eleonora to build a library. Eleonora ignored her. Jean, her daughter-in-law heard of the incident that morning and brought her some gourmet snacks, trying to mend relationships with her. It did not work.

5 Stars
Murder Is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens
Murder Is Bad Manners: A Wells and Wong Mystery - Robin Stevens

Well say hello to a combination of Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars and Blyton's boarding school books. Add to that a touch of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot and you've got it made!

Only this time it is 1934. Thirteen-year-old girls Hazel Wong(from Hong Kong) and Daisy Wells (from the English upper classes) have formed their own secret club, the Wells and Wong Detective Society at the Deepdean School for Girls in England. They are quite successful in digging up secrets from everybody in school, with Daisy the number one snoop. She is the perfect English girl, highly popular, and knows everything about everyone and she's good at it.

Hazel Wong is her side-kick, initially the quiet, polite one, meticulously clean and precise in everything she did. Until she discovered the secret to melt into the mass of girls in the school. Sloppiness and less-clean appearances were expected. It was the secret of the rich girls in school. Never show wealth! Whatever you were, never strive to be the brightest girl in class either! Mediocrity is the name of the game. Fake it. Act. Be good at it. Hazel was not only extremely intelligent, she also turned out to be the second best pretender in school. Daisy was the best. And that is the reason why they became the best of friends.

Prestige, honor, and tradition draw the best of the best to the school. Teachers were strictly selected for positions at the school. It was just the perfect set-up. Life was perfect.

But then Miss Bell was no longer at the school. She resigned, was the official announcement. Hazel knew better. She found Miss Bell's body in the gym, went for help, and when she returned, the body was gone!

The Wells and Wong Detective Society had suddenly their work cut out for them and they had to act fast to prevent the murderer from getting away with it. But oh dear, for every murder there is a murderer, and more skeletons appear out of nowhere in the closets! What to do!? 

COMMENTS: Hazel Wong is the young narrator of the tale and never ceases to keep up the lively, vivid energy of two thirteen-year-old girls. There's nothing childish about the story. The prose is funny, witty, innocent, wise. I constantly smiled and sniggered for the actions of these two ambitious girls and their dorm mates. 

I loved this whodunit. The drama managed to keep me totally immersed in the atmosphere of the time, the labyrinth of suspects, the guessing of motives and the neverending suspense.

The other reason why I loved this book, is because I attended a similar girls school. I felt so at home in the halls and dorms of the age old buildings and its occupiers. I totally identified with the characters. It was a superb trip down memory lane. Even the church pipe organ in the hall of Deepdean School for Girls was familiar. 

Overall I am of the opinion that this book is just as enjoyable for grown-ups as it is for teenage girls. Well-written, well-plotted and well-done.

The ARC was made available by Simon & Schuster through for review.

Thank you for the opportunity. What a delight!

Other People's Houses by Lore Segal
Other People's Houses: A Novel - Lore Segal, Cynthia Ozick

I really feel humble to write this review for an autobiographical memoir by an award-winning author who was nominated for the Pullitzer Prize in 2008. Then I console myself with the idea that I am an ordinary reader with limited knowledge of literature and creative writing. It is kind of a relief, since it allows me to use a creative freedom in my review for which I do not have to apologize!

Other People's Houses deals with a ten-year old Jewish girl's life after Hitler came into power and Jewish people were removed from society in Europe. Jewish children were ostracized, isolated, threatened, bullied and assaulted. No more non-Jewish friends. They were barred from parks, theaters and schools. Teachers refused to teach them. Parents were stripped from their citizenship and jobs.

From the foreword by Cynthia Ozick:                                                                                                 
In 1938 a particular noisy special train from Vienna--it carried the frenetic atmosphere of a school bus--was stopped in Germany to be checked for contraband. The passengers fell silent with fear, as if each one secretly suspected herself of being a smuggler. Then the signal was given to pass on, and all at once the cars began to vibrate with singing and cheers, just as though school holiday had suddenly been declared. And, in a macabre way, so it had, since all the passengers were Jewish schoolchildren, and all of them had been expelled--from school, from home, from country. Their excursion was names the Children's Transport (the parents were to follow later), but it might more accurately have been called Children's Pilgrimage. For some--those who embarked in Holland--it was a delayed pilgrimage to the death camps. For the rest--among them Lore Groszmann Segal, the author of these memoirs, then ten years old--it was a pilgrimage towards joyless England and the disabilities of exile, and, more poignantly, toward a permanent sense of being human contraband."

Lore Groszmann remembered the first ten years of her life in Austria, the following ten years in England, three years as a young woman in the Dominican Republic and then New York. From a bitterly cold December night, 1938 to the 1st of May 1951 was the period she had to survive until their permit to enter the USA was granted.

The memoir is written with an honesty and humbleness, commemorating the life of an only child who had to be sent off on the Children's Train from Austria to England, not knowing if she will ever see her family again. 

In the preface of the book, the author explains the tone of her memoir:

" I am at pains to draw no facile conclusions--and all conclusions seem facile to me. If I want to trace the present from the occurrences of the past I must do it in the manner of the novelist. I posit myself as protagonist in the autobiographical action. Who emerges?
A tough enough old bird, of the species
 survivor, naturlized not in North America so much as in Manhattan, on Riverside Drive. Leaving home and parents gave strength at a cost. I remember knowing I should be crying like the little girl in the train across from me, but I kept thinking, "Wow! I'm off to England"-- a survival trick with a price tag. Cut yourself off, at ten years, from feelings that can't otherwise be mastered, and it takes decades to become reattached. My father died in 1945, but tears did not come until 1968, when David, my American husband, insisted I owed myself a return to my childhood. I cried the whole week in Vienna, and all over the Austrian Alps."

The engaging tale described the mental tools she had to develop to survive on her own being moved from one foster home to the next. She became accustomed to the class system in England, by being moved from the wealthy family of a Jewish furniture manufacturer in Liverpool - an Orthodox family who spoke Yiddish, which she couldn't understand or identify with at all, to a railroad stoker and his family, a milkman's family and the upper class of Guilford where her mother later would work as a maid. She would be living with five different families: There were the Levines, the Willoughbys, The Grinsleys, and finally Miss Douglas and Mrs. Dillon

Her mainstay was the contact she maintained with her parents through letters. Each letter had an uncertain destination in Austria. Making friends was a challenge. She was overbearing and demanding, but mostly misunderstood by grown-ups who did not realize the urgency and scope of the horror of Eugenics and the Holocaust playing itself out in Europe. While she tried to assimilate into a new country, new language, new culture, she relentlessly campaigned for exit visas for her parents. Her father, formerly a senior accountant at a bank, and her mother, a qualified music teacher and housewife, eventually acquired work visas as domestic workers. It was the only option available to them. 

Her experiences and thoughts, as a foster child, which she wrote down in a purple notebook at the time, would become Other People's Houses. It was first published in 1964. These valuable notes and memories enabled the author to remain true to the young girl's emotional intelligence in that period of her life. The honesty in the book validates the experience. For instance, as a young girl, unable to fully comprehend the minds of adults, she pushed her dad to fall, subconsciously expressing her feelings of anger and hopelessness against him for being unable to take care of her and her hardworking mother in England. Her cruelty towards her grandmother when she destroyed the latter's illusions and admiration of Liberace on the black and white television set in their two-room apartment in New York, takes some courage to admit! Even her cruelty towards a fellow Kindertransport friend is explained in detail. 

This is a story of immigration and assimilation. Of finding new social bonds within challenging circumstances. The story of a lonely little girl who translated pain, guilt, grief, agony, stress and constant fear into suppressed anger, arrogance, ungratefulness, often rudeness and stubbornness. It made her unlikable. Although her parents were able to escape to England, they were not allowed, as domestics, to accommodate her into their lives. Domestics were not allowed to have their children living with them. 

It is unsure why this book is called a semiautobiographical novel. It just doesn't fit a factual memoir, written in the first person (the author does explain in the preface why she wrote it this way, though). Her relationships with her family, their journeys to safety, and their new lives in England, the Dominican Republic and eventually America, was very well written. She had to live with a grandma who had one aim in life and that was to insult the entire world, beginning in the family, rippling out to neighbors and strangers. Grandma targeted the individual members of humanity one by one, everywhere she landed up. 

Lore had to face the disappointment in her hero, uncle Paul, who never could find his groove. She had to discover love in unexpected places, often misconstrued and misunderstood. It would take her many years of experiences, to finally figure it out. She herself had to close up emotionally to protect herself against the hurt of strangers. She learnt as a young girl not to trust. 

The picturesque prose kept me riveted to the book. I did not expect a story with a beginning, a middle and an end with drama worming through the tale. But the author's narrative skill painted a perfect landscape of displaced people who had to re-align themselves into humanity. She told the story so well, that it became one of the best memoirs I have ever read. 

The documentary film "Into The Arms Of Strangers" , winner of the Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 2000, visually enhances this book. Both Lore and her mother Franzi, who lived to the ripe old age of 100, was interviewed for this documentary. It is recommended to everyone interested in this story! In fact, when I closed the book and thought about the review, I sat for long while thinking about this little girl. It encouraged me to read more about the Kindertransport. Watching the documentary had the tears rolling down my face. Everybody simply need to watch it!

An estimated sixty million people died in the deadliest military conflict in history. Which means that 54 million people died during the Second World War, trying to stop Hitler's expansionism and his continuing killing of more than the already 6 million Jewish people. In the same period spanning between 1934 to well into the 1950s, another thirty million Chinese people lost their lives due to starvation under the Mau regime. How can you not cry, thinking about the horror of it all? I was thinking about the parents who have sent their children into battle, including millions of non-Jewish people, who ultimately paid the price for freedom for all. My dad went to the same war, fighting on the British side, and came home a totally different, almost unrecognizable person. I was born many years later and was told his story when I was a young woman.

The book is so well-written, however, it is a pity that there were so many gaps left in it. Some experiences never made a full circle. It was just left hanging. It is neither acceptable in a memoir, nor a novel, IMHO.
For instance: the little girl, who became a strong survivor, had one wish, and that was to make friends, be accepted, understood and loved. Although she did not express love in any form in the book, it is evident in her treatment of the people she cared about. She found it difficult to connect to young men, although she wanted to get married and have children. Some of her colorful, notorious romantic experiences are described in the book. But the man she would ultimately marry just fleetingly graced the tale, without any explanation of how they met, or how the relationship culminated into marriage. Her quest for romance is a sub plot in the story, and creates an expectation with the reader. It was just left hanging sterile out to dry in this particular instance. I haven't read the author's other books, but from reading a biography of her life, it seems as though all her books, written for adults, must be read to get the full picture. Her writing is also influenced by the magic realism which was started by Garcia Marquez. It became the axle of her writing adventures. 

The book ends where she is financially barely surviving as a some sort of painter of graphic designs, after working as a receptionist and a filing clerk before that. In a sense there is little evidence of any joie de vivre displayed in the book. A cold, emotionally devoid cynism, intentional or unintentional, winds its way through the entire story. Readers who do not appreciate direct,frank, almost blatant, honesty, will find some of the protagonist's actions offensive. For others, it might be refreshing. I loved it. 

The story concludes with a young woman disappearing into mediocrity. It doesn't make sense for a girl who had too much shutzpah to let it happen! But then again, it is based on reality. Personally, I would have preferred the inclusion of her later accomplishments as a teacher at various universities. She won several literary awards. The book could have celebrated the spirit of a survivor and a fighter. It would have validated the little girl who had to survive on her own and made it. The book could have been so much more. However, the title says it all. It was the first phase of a displaced person's life who were forced to become part of the furniture in other people's cultures, beliefs, homes and lives. Therefore, the tale concludes where she ends this period of her life. 

The story was well-focused and the economical use of words eliminated any possibility of word-dumping. I still would have loved to know if Lore loved flowers, or became enchanted by a rainbow, or ever bonded with a pet. Was there anything that balanced out the challenges she had to endure? Which positive factors, impressions or experiences completed her persona? Was there just not room for it in the book, or was it absent in her life? Which part of her young life inspired her positively; which memories did she left behind. Did she ever experienced happiness? Which elements of her new adopted country was embraced or appreciated? Was there anything she appreciated in other cultures? 

Nevertheless, this was still a magical literary experience. A wonderful, endearing, excellent piece of writing. What a joy!


This was Lore Segal's first novel and brought her international acclaim.

The book was provided by Open Road Media through Netgalley for review. Thank you very much for this wonderful experience.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
The Hundred Year House
The Hundred-Year House - Rebecca Makkai

My dearest Laurelfield,

Your tale started out as a short story about male anorexia. The author have no idea what the hell happened next, and neither do I, sorry to say !

The first woman, Violet Saville Devohr, to step over your threshold, understood the meaning of doors when she said to her husband: “You may shut me in, but I can shut you out. There are two sides to every door, Augustus.” And then she proceeded to commit suicide by her own rules. She defined the rest of your story as a painting hanging over your mantelpiece, being a constant reminder of what you had to witness and endure.

[First paragraph of the book: 
"FOR A GHOST story, the tale of Violet Saville Devohr was vague and underwhelming. She had lived, she was unhappy, and she died by her own hand somewhere in that vast house. If the house hadn’t been a mansion, if the death hadn’t been a suicide, if Violet Devohr’s dark, refined beauty hadn’t smoldered down from that massive oil portrait, it wouldn’t have been a ghost story at all. Beauty and wealth, it seems, get you as far in the afterlife as they do here on earth. We can’t all afford to be ghosts. ]

Built in 1900, you experienced some tumultuous moments through four significant time periods: 1999, 1955, 1929, 1900 - and lived to tell the tale of pride, vanity, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth and covetousness. A side-tale of opportunism, violence, abuse, extortion, and scavenging completed your sad tale.

You were firstly a house with a name - Laurelfield. Secondly,you were a mansions with a gatehouse and infamous wealth providing the status behind you. But oh dear, thirdly, the inhabitants, not you, were infested with insanity, greed, bad blood and bad luck. You had so many doors: some wide open, some formidably closed. Your windows were big and welcoming. Anyone could enjoy a view, from the inside out, or outside in.

Like our pets, you reflected the personalities of the artists gracing your rooms for twenty-five years, and they had the audacity to blame you for everything happening to them. Yes, they even blamed the ghost of Violet for their misdemeanors, mishaps and bad blood.

["Violet, Violet, dragged here against her will. Was that the magnetic force behind her haunting? She was pulled, and so she pulled others. Toward ruin, toward redemption, toward love, away from it. Why? Because she could. ]

Some people blame God for their louzy lives, but these lot were either agnostic or atheistic, or too self-absorbed for that. They call themselves artists, I beg you! A character in the movie As Good As It Gets accused another of "being a disgrace to depression" Really, they were that and even more. They were a disgrace to art!

If I were you, I would have spooked these conniving, plotting moochers and high-class squatters out. Got Violet to move the furniture around in broad daylight, when ghosts were not suppose to be active and have them running away by the speed of lightning!

But you endured. Even when your tale was told backwards, too many characters killed the story, and cliffhanger moments threw your history into confusing chaos. Goodness me, Laurelfield, were you ever able to figure our who was whom in the end? Who sired Grace, and who was Zee really? Who really died, and who is really alive?

For crying out loud, I couldn't. I almost succumbed to some of the characters' insanity!

They were all con-artists! Yes, thinly veneered and slightly educated: you know, academically distinguished, mentally challenged, but emotionally arrested!

[Zilla, yes, one of the multitude of personalities got it right though: 
"Zilla realizes something, and it takes her a minute to wrap herself around the idea. She’s always thought of Laurelfield as a magnet, drawing her back again and again. But that’s just it: A magnet pulls you toward the future. Objects are normally products of their pasts, their composition and inertia. But near a magnet, they are moved by where they’ll be in the next instant. And this, this, is the core of the strange vertigo she feels near Laurelfield. This is a place where people aren’t so much haunted by their pasts as they are unknowingly hurtled toward specific and inexorable destinations. And perhaps it feels like haunting. But it’s a pull, not a push." ]

And this is where I love and leave you, dear Laurelfield. You are the only thing I fell in love with in the end! You were so worth it!


In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer.


There is an expression in Netherlands 'Met de deur in huis vallen', in German 'mit der Tür ins Haus fallen', in Afrikaans'met die deur in die huis val' - which, translated directly, means 'falling into the house with the door'. And that is what I want to do with this house ... mmm... review: getting directly to the point. No beating around the bush.

So here it is: This book annoyed the living daylights out of me.

But wait! Before your heart drops to the floor, catch it for a second, and if you later feel like dropping it anyway, be my (as well as Laurelfield's) guest! But not now. Not yet!

Narrative: Brilliant!
Language: Brilliant!
Characterization: Brilliant! Sadly, way too many characters and none of them lovable.
Theme: Mmmmm......messy but a great idea;
Plot: Confusing - too many sub plots;
How the plot, characters and setting relate to reality: Excellent.
Entertaining Outstanding!
Detail: Outstanding!

HOWEVER: I did feel the last two periods, 1929, 1900 - messy and chaotic, were more a form of information-dumping, to enhance the plot. It was as though the story lacked validation and needed this information to make sense, but it did not initially fitted into the main story in the first period, 1999. It was therefore added as an urgent, yet messy, after-thought. Did not work for me. The inverted chronology might define this book, as is evident from all the attention it receives, but I did not like it. Neither did I appreciate the end landing in the middle of the book.

Conclusion By golly! What a captivating unbelievably suspenseful read! The story caught me from the get-go and had me reading non-stop until the end. I did want to end it all into the second half, though but kept going. Optimism and hope it is called.

I won't pursue another book written in this style, though. It was just too confusing. For a club read: excellent! I do consider reading the book again to understand its deeper nuances and hidden plots better. I want to.

Was it worth my time? Yes. The prose was outstanding. I will read the author again. She's good with words.

The book was provided by Viking Press through Netgalley. Thank you for this great opportunity.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
The Parrots by Filippo Bologna
The Parrots - Filippo Bologna, Howard Curtis

The Beginner, The Writer and The Master compete for a prestigious book award. To win the award they have to ensure enough votes for their books. All three desperately wants the accolades and will do anything required to gather enough support. Even if it meant that “If you’re not capable of creating a work of art, you have to become a work of art.”

They soon will discover that self-indulgence can only be successful if the social architecture of their environment allows them to succeed. Death, illness, women, workers and pets become Dionysiac metaphors for their personal ambitions and soon prove to be the factors they should have considered important enough, in the first place, in their quest for fame and fortune. 

One of them demanded to win, one expected to win and one hoped to win. Not that all three of them acted out of free will. On the other hand, some temptations simply had to be yielded to, with unimaginable consequences. The morphology of the book industry is such that their choices of agents, publishers and editors played a major role in the sinister outcome of the event. All three formed part of formidable teams, either acting as instigator or victim in their own plots. 

Whatever they envisioned for their destiny made them aware that the hardest part of any life, even a glamorous one, is to find one's feet and stay standing. Some of them won't find their feet in their quest to seek self-justice. One of the contestants had to address a complex dilemma for which there was no easy solution, only a dramatic outcome. The surprising twist in the end almost make this book a thriller. Almost, but not quite!

All three of them established some fundamental truths to feed their egos, such as: ..." suffering is a leper who walks with bells on his feet..."

"Life is too short to be devoted to suffering, people who suffer want to suffer, suffering is an invention of man: above the clouds the sun is always shining".

"The day of his divorce? A liberation. His father’s death? The deposition of a weary king. The end of a friendship? Social cleansing. 

Everything that happens can become an opportunity. In all these years, The Writer has been the personal gardener of his own success. He has carefully mowed, watered and fenced off the evergreen lawn of his well-being. And now? Now he won’t allow anyone to get close, and fires off a volley if he so much as sees anyone lurking around the fence of his life. The obvious threat comes from outside, because inside his garden
there is nothing and nobody that can harm him, he can run free without fear of tripping up: there are no obstacles or rusty tools in his garden."

Pathos, empathy, a little whiff of love, and even compassion define the authentic narrative playing itself out in a modern Rome. A tinge of surrealism creeps into the tale with the black parrot becoming some sort of unwanted, as well as feared totem.

The narrative skill used in the book, makes it an informative, often poetic, as well as entertaining read. Numerous phrases caught my imagination, such as: " His thoughts were watered by wine, fermented by the first sunshine of spring. "(paraphrased)


"When we are old we may say wise things, but when we are young we say true things."

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

"The Parrots " was provided by Pushkin Press through Netgalley for review. Thank you for the opportunity. I also bought the book, and I am happy with that. There will be quite a few people whom I know, would love to read it. I cannot wait to share it!


A searing satire of the literary world, in which three men fight - to the death? - for a coveted literary prize

Three men are preparing to do battle. Their goal is a prestigious literary prize. And each man will do anything to win it. For the young Beginner, loved by critics more than readers, it means fame. For The Master, old, exhausted, preoccupied with his prostate, it means money. And for The Writer-successful, vain and in his prime-it is a matter of life and death. As the rivals lie, cheat and plot their way to victory, their paths crossing with ex-wives, angry girlfriends, preening publishers and a strange black parrot, the day of the Prize Ceremony takes on a far darker significance than they could have imagined.

‘A hoot, written with a shrewd eye for the absurdity of certain literary egos’ - The Times
‘A five-star satire on literary vanity… A wonderful, surprising novel’  - Metro
‘A scathing satire about the murky world of Italy’s prestigious literary awards… Bologna paints a comically grim picture of a culture of back-stabbing and deceit’

Financial Times and Evening Standard Book of the Year 2014

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
5 Stars
Shopping for Buddhas by Jeff Greenwald
Shopping for Buddhas: 25th Anniversary Edition, with a New Preface by the Author - Jeff Greenwald

Best-selling author Jeff Greenwald traveled extensively all over the world, writing stories, sending them back home to America, when technology was practically non-existent. That in itself became an adventure. The travel bug originated from his mom and the restlessness was a genetic favor from his dad. He wrote several articles for a variety of magazines and acquired valuable experience for his later work.

He worked as a photographer and journalist during the Seventies and Eighties when the transition took place from fax machines, to slow internet, to the super-fast information highway and had to adapt to the challenges it brought to the survival of travel writers.

He realized that he had to find an angle in his books that would make them unique from any other format available. He settled on writing a travel story, in which he writes his personal experiences around a central theme, and at the same time provide historical, cultural, geographical as well as political information about the country that will satisfy the traveler to the place too. His story would have a beginning, a middle and an end. And since he never ended up writing the novel, he decided to add a touch of character development to the people he share his travels with. And what characters they were! Intelligent, funny, innovative, diplomatic, mysterious. 

Shopping for Buddhas proof to be exactly what he set out to do with the book. It is the story of his personal growth and development, while travelling to Nepal in a quest to find the perfect statue of a Buddha. He also had to write an investigative article on the international illegal trade in artifacts. 

His personal mores and values clashed with the lifestyle of the people of the country, he visited more than once, and the more he returned there, the more he had to address the conflict it created within himself. 

'Every time I get off the plane in Kathmandu—right after climbing down the roll-away stairs and stepping onto the runway at Tribhuvan International Airport—I let out a whoop of jubilation. Something in the air is so immediately exotic, so full of the promise of liberation from the veneer of bullshit slopped onto my soul by Life in the Western World, that the moment of contact releases a shock of energy. I see it now as a kind of grounding: like touching a brass doorknob after shuffling around on a rug.

Shopping for Buddhas also provides valuable information to shop for quality products. It opens up the art scene, antique as well as modern, and provides the reader with fascinating tips on what not to buy and what to pay. 


He wanted a specific Buddha: "That pose: Buddha in full lotus, his left hand resting in his lap, untrembling. Fingers of the right hand gently grazing the ground. That was the pose I wanted."He wanted to discover a Buddha that made him sigh with a feline growl of primal longing. 

The real inhabitants of the country, in all their splendor, good and bad, is part of the story. He becomes part of the furniture himself, observing the superficial world of the tourist traps. This element in the book distinguishes it from just being a sterile travel manual and makes it a much deeper experience in the end. 

The political turmoil is discussed from the author's point of view: the outsider, looking in. He observes the power at play and the manipulation and window-dressing applied to impress the outside world.

By now, at the eleventh hour, the “improvements” had expanded to a level far beyond a simple revamp of the city’s surface area. I noticed, as I bicycled down the street, that all the familiar cripples, the ragged men who scoot around on little carts or pull themselves along the ground on pieces of tire rubber, were mysteriously absent.

They’d been “relocated,” I was informed—but to where? And where were the infamous rickshaws, with their barefoot drivers, garishly painted cabs and pathetically skewed awnings? Had they, too, like that ill-fated car within eyeshot of the King’s motorcade, been taken off to some “lonely place”? p.110

The cows, of course, remained; but even they seemed somehow manicured, deodorized and freshly shampooed. It was as if the entire city were being given a gigantic enema!"

He lives among the Nepali people, make good friends, adapt to the local diet, and blend in with his new environment.

 "We shared one of those perfect cohabitations that occurs maybe once every two or three lifetimes. I remember it as a constant stream of intelligent fun, punctuated by crippling stints of eye, nose and throat infections, worms, amoebas and boils. 

 He consults a corpulent guru, named Lalji, who could advise him on how to change his outlook in life to ensure success in his work. He would visit Lalji a few times during his visits to the country. Finally Lalji confronts him : “I challenge you to create something—one thing, however small, however large!—that does not reflect the fact that you are both completely dissatisfied and highly critical of everything in the world!”

Lalji's insight into the author's life is rejected at first, but then, over a period of several years, reconsidered. It becomes the axis that will control all changes in his life and lead him to a dramatic moment of enlightenment.

"It sounded right, so I said it again—and again—realizing, as I continued to utter those two words, that I had lit on a great secret, had collected a fabulous blessing, entirely by chance. I had discovered my personal holy mantra; the incantation that would save me whenever I felt tempted by the luxury of self-pity, or distracted by the affectation of self-doubt. Not only was it my mantra; it was the ultimate, the highest mantra of all!

With a gentle subtle comment he warned against the water in the country. He showered with his mouth firmly closed. Tried not to breath in the shower to avoid inhaling "even a drop of the deadly local water (I actually knew one woman who showered with a snorkel)"

He watches a little boy and his dad flying a kite in the park, and realized that technology developed in many more forms than the West could ever imagine. Even in the small, mundane things, developed manually, another magical skill was perfected. 

"With their incense and prayer flags, their sacred architecture and tantric rituals, their ability to breathe life into wood, metal and stone, the people of Nepal and Tibet have spent centuries forging two-way bonds between the material and ethereal realms. It may have seemed like paper, sticks and string—but the tiny kite was a conduit for direct communication between heaven and earth"

"Nepal seems so much more vivid than life anywhere else, I would answer with a single word: time. There is a quality to time spent in Nepal that can only be described as inhalant. Back home in the Wild West, time hips by with the relentless and terrible purpose of a strangling vine filmed in fast motion. A week, two months, ten years snap past like amnesia, a continual barrage of workdays, appointments, dinner dates and laundromats, television shows and video cassettes, parking meters, paydays and phone calls.

In Nepal, the phenomenon is reversed. Time is a stick of incense that burns without being consumed. One day can seem like a week; a week, like months. Mornings stretch out and crack their spines with the yogic impassivity of house cats. Afternoons bulge with a succulent ripeness, like fat peaches. There is time enough to do everything—write a letter, eat breakfast, read the paper, visit a shrine or two, listen to the birds, bicycle downtown, change money, buy postcards, shop for Buddhas—and arrive home in time for lunch."

Enough. I made way too many notes! It was a fascinating read. I could go on and on about the prose in the book, the way the story enfolded, and elaborate further on the information provided to enrich the experience, such as the Hindu & Buddhist mythology, the detail of political corruption, horrific human rights abuses, and so much more. It was indeed highly interesting facts and impressions. 


Suffice to say, that this is the kind of travel book I expected to read when I chose it. I expected a subjective travelogue from the perspective of an outsider with compassion for a country, and that is what I got, with a plot and story line thrown in as well. It was an uplifting, informative, adventurous and entertaining read. 

Yes, Shopping For Buddha gets five stars.


The publisher provided this review copy of Travelers' Tales; 25th Anniversary Edition (July 21, 2014) through Edelweiss. 

Thank you for the opportunity to read it. 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
5 Stars
Find Virgil by Frank Freudberg
Find Virgil - Frank Freudberg

Mark Muntor was undoubtedly an unwilling Christ. He refused to pay for the sins the world has heaped up on themselves. Starting at home, he had to endure his enormously fat wife, who smoked two packets of unfiltered Camels a day, taught their two daughters to do the same, and left him after the divorce to live without real human contact for ten whole years. 

There was his chain-smoking drunkard dad, who called him a loser for not saving his mother's life after she overdosed and committed suicide. His dad blamed him for not being more than the sum total of the person he became. Muntor was also a laid-off journalist, who wasn't appreciated by his industry either. He was convinced of that.

His friends did not fare better either. They were like the rest of America:

"dump, useless people who perhaps read an average of five books a year, mostly bullshit recycled pop-spych disguised as self-help, and romance stories. Muntor read more than 200 books per year and could have qualified for several PhDs by now. The fat, lazy and ignorant lived on, like cows chewing the cud of the Madison Avenue and government propaganda that had replaced intellect in American life. People were too stupid and weak to understand the lesson he presented to them. They polluted their bodies and minds with physiological and intellectual poisons—drink, drugs, cigarettes, ludicrous TV shows, books aimed at the masses. He had hardened himself, become even more of a model of human potential. His body was a temple, and he was the high priest. The more people failed to respond to the lesson he delivered merely by walking out the house each day, the more he became devoted to his mission. In the end, he knew that the cows would never learn."

And now he is the one dying of lung cancer. He was the perfect example of what a gift it was to be born in a healthy body with a powerful mind. He was simply not meant to die, at the age of fifty six. He treated his human armor against the elements with respect all his life. He would show them all what he was made of. He would take a few sinners with him. Deservedly or undeservedly, they would make him the hero of his own American Masada. 

Building his Masada required more than the victims going down with him. He needed the tobacco companies, the FBI, the media hype and every other which way to storm the walls of his fortress of righteous control and fail miserably in doing so. He needed them all to fuel his legend, his hero status, his place in history. Incognito was simply not his middle name. Period.

His time on earth was short, his dreams big, his body unwilling, his spirit indestructible. Suicide, being nature's own severest form of self-criticism, would not be the ironic outcome of his own Masada. No, he had Danté's Virgil from the greatest poem ever written, on his side. Written seven hundred years ago, and divided into three parts, the Inferno, Purgatrio and Paradiso, it would become the ultimate building blocks of his own revenge. He would start off by mailing 700 letters to the carefully chosen unsuspecting inhabitants of his American Masada...

COMMENTS: I was initially livid at the protagonist's arrogance as well as the 'what if' element behind the story and the devastating consequences this book could have if it landed in the wrong hands, because, we all know it is possible, how many times have this kind of lunacy served to cause immeasurable sorrow in America. Who can ever forget the Uni-bomber, the school shootings, and so many more?

I still do not subscribe to the message in the book and it undoubtedly has an influence on the subjective appraisal of its content. I strongly reject the idea of forcing people to die if they do not want to accept mores and values being forced upon them. So yes, does it make me a groupie to the average American psyche? For sure. Now get over yourself and get lost, with my compliments, Muntor! Or a simple 'Now bite me' will do nicely. Everyone in the world has problems, and my opposition to this kind of mind-mmmm-fornication, is your problem, Muntro. You've so chosen the wrong opponent, Muntro! If I was one of those people, hot on your trail, even your mama's pictures of you on her bedroom wall would have burst out in tears, and that's guaranteed, Muntro!

And so said the body language of all the American characters in the story as well. And this is why the book should be read! 

The further I steamed through my chagrin and distaste of the whole set-up, the more I realized what a brilliant book this was and I simply hated myself for admiring the master at work behind it all. 

Every single element in the book played a pivotal role in the construction of the strong outcome. Yes, melodramatic and grotesque in form and structure, as all good, American, psychological thriller movies require, since it has movie potential, it worked splendidly! 

The sub themes in the book, well developed, reminded me so much of John Lennon's words "Life is happening to us while we're busy making other plans." All the characters had their own stories to tell, and a distinguished role to play in the riveting saga. 

There isn't much surprises in the character choices nor in the theme. Was the message, new, or successful? The information used in the book to attack the tobacco industry was as stale as the smoke in a closed-up restroom. More people smoke than ever before in the history of the world. A fact that has been, perhaps conveniently, left unsaid. More young people have made it their drug of choice. Ironic, right? 

However, the thrilling suspense kept me in deep trouble and hopelessly determined to finish the book in one sitting, come Hell or high water. The development of the story line, the characters, the mind games, compassion, as well as the pragmatism made this an excellent read. Nobody in the book is perfect, which is endearing and acceptable. It makes the story so much more possible. They are all people we can relate to. 

Was the book worth the angst? Yes, even the reader is controlled! It felt like being held captive in a serial killer's mind with no way out. The only escape was to storm ahead to the ending. The last period finally set me free. I fell asleep exhausted but immensely relieved. You have simply no idea!

So, without further ado, five stars it is! 

An Inside Job Media publication through Netgalley. Thank you for the opportunity.

4 Stars
The Life of a Banana by PP Wong
The Life of a Banana - Pp Wong, D C Feeney

The title of the book made me smile, since a 'banana' was meant to describe a Chines person with a western up bringing. Yellow outside and white inside. In my country we have the 'coconuts'. It seems as though there will always be confusion and bitterness when second generation immigrants have to adapt to their country while the parents expects them to uphold their old cultures and beliefs. In our country's case it is not immigrants, but indigenous groups adopting the western lifestyle. 

Xing Li is a young school kid, born in England from Hong Kong parents, whose mother dies shortly before she is heading for school. Her dad is long gone. She and her brother must move into Grandma's house where she soon discovers a life she is not used to, neither find acceptable. There is her heartless grandmother, her aunt Mei, the sad uncle Ho, the tortoise and her missing cat, Meow Meow. She also has to find her own voice among white racist learners in the prestigious school she is sent to. Her friend Jay, a Chinese Jamaican boy, becomes her mainstay and support when the prejudice and bullying become brutal. She has a lot of growing-up to do, very quickly, while the lack of support from her grandmother drives her more into her own private little world where she has to vent for herself and she is not good at it yet!

However, she learns in the end what love really means and in how many forms it manifest itself. Some are less obvious than others. She also learns that things are not always what it looks like. 

PP Wong is a refreshing new voice in the British literary world. Although I have no problem with racism combined with bullying, being spotlighted, I do believe that too much repetition of the situation, weakens, instead of strengths the message as happened in the book. The same thing happens when a world music hit gets played 24/7 for as long as the listeners can stomach it, until they start contacting the radio stations and plead with them to not play it anymore. Less is always more!

For young people, particularly, this book is a must-read. It is one of those experiences that forces the reader to learn more about the people they never get to know in their communities. What a wonderful new discovery it can be to accept people different from ourselves, into our lives. Of course it counts for both immigrants and old inhabitants alike. 

A great read!

For what it is worth - the book cover should be reconsidered! Phew!

A NetGally read offered for review by Legend Press. I loved the experience. Thank you.

4 Stars
Crossing The Line by Frédérique Molay


Crossing the Line is the second book in the Paris Murder Series. Chief Nico Sirsky is back full time in his fourth-floor office at the Paris police headquarters, 36 Quai des Orfèvres. Three months ago he was wounded in his leg and is still recovering from the experience.

The new love of his life, Caroline, the gastroenterologist at the Saint Antoine Hospital, has given him new hope and enthusiasm for his work. His teenage son Dimitry is doing very well and life is good.

But his first day back feels like landing on his feet running, when he has to oversee a jewel heist and a cadaver head on a university lab table with a rare message buried somewhere sinister inside it. It is also not the only head rolling around on these tables! Marcel, the former butcher, is the meticulous body processor at the university and does not have any trouble in providing body parts to all the different medical departments of the university. With three thousand cadavers moving through his freezers each year, there is no shortage of anything for no student.

The message could have been a student prank, if it wasn't for the circumstances surrounding the deceased. And soon a much bigger case is opening up when powerful people get nervous around the discovery. Sirsky has politics and power breathing down his neck to solve the case which threatens to rock the country if not solved yesterday!

The problem with a Frédérique Molay book is that it gets the reader into serious trouble. It is fast-paced, detailed, and riveting! Unputdownable! The brutality and refinement balance each other out in the roller coaster plot around an apparent suicide, an unfortunate boat accident and a downright brutal murder. Love takes on many different forms in the tale, surprisingly so!

A perfect murder mystery! A brilliant pshyco-thriller!
The last time I wanted to nail all the windows and doors close and force all the cats and dogs to sleep on my bed, was with Patricia Cornwell's master forensic sleuth, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. I promised myself never to venture off into a series like that ever again! But sadly, my memory is way too short! I've completed the second book in this Paris Murder Series now, and true to my martyr nature, I cannot wait for the third one! Someone must take me gently by the hand and save me from myself! But honestly, I NEED TO READ THE THIRD ONE SOON! I know, I intervention is needed, but I simply cannot help myself! Why......oh......why?!

A review copy was provided by Anne Tager, through Thank you.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
The Walker On The Cape by Mike Martin


In the quiet, laid-back fishing village of Grand Bank, southeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada, a foggy morning becomes more than just another day when Mavis Emberley's soup burnt on the stove.

People along the coastline in Grand Bank could set their clocks by Elias Martin. Every morning, even when the fog floated in from Fortune, they saw his hunched figure climb and disappear in the mist that ran the shoreline like a rum runner. You could put a pot of soup on to boil when he set out and be sure that when he appeared again that the potatoes, carrots, and turnips would be soft and sweet.

Mavis Emberly was one such soup-maker who relied on Elias Martin to set the pace for her weekly batch of pea soup.

“There he goes,” she remarked to her husband, Francis, "Time to put the soup on”. 

An hour and a half later Francis Emberly muttered, “Something’s burning in that kitchen, maid.” Mrs. Emberly ran to the kitchen to turn off her black bottomed soup with a smattering of non-religious but surely immoral curses and immediately realized that something else was wrong besides her spoiled soup. Elias hadn't returned. "Or else I missed him," she decided.

The point is: Seventy-two year old Elias Martin was dead.

Every morning for the past eleven years Elias Martin had his breakfast of hot porridge and thick molasses bread smothered in partridgeberry jam. Then, rain or shine, he began his solitary walk from his small blue house on Elizabeth Avenue in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, down through the Cove, and until the winter snow made it impassable, up over the hills to the Cape.

Two tourists found his body up on the hill. Heart attack, it was declared at first, and soon the town began to simmer with stories boiling over in Mug-Up Café, the restaurant of Sheila Hillier.

The only one who knew for sure was Elias Martin and he sure wasn’t talking. Who would finally unravel the mystery of the Walker on the Cape?

Thirty-two year old Sergeant Winston Windflower, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a full-blooded Cree from the Pink Lake Reserve in Northern Alberta, thought Elias's death was suspect and he planned to get to the bottom of the simmering, boiling pot. For once there was more to work on than the petty crimes and motor accidents in the village. And as an incomer, he still had to prove himself after being there for only one year. But what to do when there were always secrets to protect in a small community like this?

He had his vice too, he did.

Some men smoke, drink or chase women as their vice. Windflower's was peanut butter cheesecake.

With the shocking death of Elias, more peas in the pot of Grand Bank got names:
Marge and Harvey Brenton - affluent members of society; Harvey's pay roll included a few people from the justice and political systems, it seemed;
Mayor Francis Tibbo; who wanted rules to be applied, excluding his own family;
Roger Buffet - with a history still to be discovered;
James Sheridan, and his mother Georgette who had more than just a sentimental bond with Grand Bank;
Howard Stoodley, a retired Crown Attorney;
Sheila Hillier - more than just an excellent cook in her café;
Constable Eddie Tizzard - the everyday tornado, the gale-force wind around town;
Dr. Vinjay Sanjay - Winston's chess and Scotch partner, coroner and medical doctor;
Staff Sergeant William Ford; a new friend in the making;
Inspector MacIntoch of Marystown - the boss;
Kevin Arsenault - Acting inspector;

And then there was the Poison of Kings and the King of Poisons, and some rotten fish in Newfoundland, and cops with dirty hands in the chain of command ... files disappear, investigations are mysteriously stopped, the plot thickens!

This is a skillful, interesting, relaxing, as well as an entertaining first novel by Mike Martin. The endearing characters soon become the reader's friends as well, and the Canadian cuisine makes a splashing entreé into the p(l)ot. Never a dull meal for those readers living outside of Newfoundland, Canada!

As the first book in the Sgt. Winston Windflower mystery series, the introduction to this fishing village is well-plotted and fast paced. It is not a mysterious read, but rather a day to day reflection on the inhabitants's lives as the plot unfolds in clear-cut prose.

The presentation of Grand Bank and its inhabitants leaves the reader with just one mission, and that is to read the two other books as well:

The body on the T and Beneath the Surface

It is a guaranteed pleasant, relaxing experience throughout.

3 Stars
Beneath the Surface by Mike Martin
Beneath the Surface (Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series Book 3) - Mike Martin

  Everything changes when the quiet, serene community of southeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada, is shaken up by the murder of Amy Parsons, a champion rower in the Women's Championship Race at the St. John's Regatta. And suddenly nothing seems to make sense anymore. What was the purpose of the Chinese tourists, led by a Russian tour guide earlier in the year? The discovery of a pink mobile phone with the numbers of prominent public officials including a judge and a Member of the House of Assembly, and senior police officers from both the RCMP and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary are kept a secret. Possible exposure will have several heads rolling; people are nervous; and sergeant Windflower is center to all the mayhem which secretly rages through the inner circle of power and privilege. Loyalty and friendships are tested. Yes, some powerful people are looking to bury this stuff deeper than the mines on Bell Island and sergeant Windflower's sense of fairness is in the way.

Through it all, Windflower is bombarded with weird dreams, which only his uncle Frank, a dream weaver, can interpret. A new world of voices from the past opens up for Windflower.

It is as much a community story as it is a detective, murder mystery; just as much a love story as it is a celebration of Canadian customs and cultures, a travel journal. Informative, yes. A gentle, dignified approach to serious issues. The combination of all these elements ensures that the community of Grand Bank won't be forgotten. I loved the opportunity to be back and enjoying their company again. This book is the next best thing to living there!

A much enjoyable read, due to all the combined elements in the book.