This past Sunday, I went with my wife to The Friday Morning Bookclub’s annual couple’s pot luck dinner meeting and discussion. A good time was had by the 18 attendees. We reviewed The Triple Agent by Joby Warrick. It was a lively discussion with fervor and intensity as it was just days after the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon and capture of the second perpetrator.
The book chronicles the events leading to the New Years eve 2009 suicide attack that killed nine CIA and FBI agents and two Afghani employees at Khost Military base in Afghanistan. The suicide bomber was a religious Jordanian physician/ zealot and Al-Qaida supporter recruited by Jordanian Intelligence and the CIA . The book is an easy read and very enlightening about our war against Al-Qaida.
Among the many comments there were the following conclusion that most agreed upon:
A religious zealot will never be converted
Mistakes were both made by CIA/FBI hierarchy and the inexperienced leadership at Camp Khost. Each group was so anxious to get what they felt was outstanding intelligence that normal safety protocols were abandoned.
Guarding against terrorist attacks has and will remain a way of life in our world.
Americans serving in the CIA, FBI and Military against the war on terrorism are extremely dedicated to their dangerous mission. They make numerous and tremendous sacrifices to protect our country and it’s citizens. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
I recommend the book and rate it a 4+
For months the jury had been reviewing the thousands of anonymous submissions for the September 11th memorial contest. Finally they were down to two designs. The Garden, Claire’s favorite was beautiful and a place she could imagine her family and other victim’s families visiting. The second design, The Void was just too dark for her. Although there were artists, politicians, a retired university president and a historian on the panel, Claire was the only jury member who had lost a family member. Claire’s husband had been killed in the attack and she represented the families. It was time to vote and Claire was ecstatic when The Garden design was chosen for the memorial.
The piece of paper containing the winner’s name was passed from palm to palm like a fragile folio. There were a few gasps and “hmmms,” an “interesting,” an “oh my.” Then: “Jesus fucking Christ. It’s a goddam Muslim!
What an amazing premise! What now? Should they eliminate the winner just because his name was Mohammed? Could this be a “healing gesture” as one juror suggested or was it a disaster just waiting to happen. Was the beautiful Garden memorial actually a Islamic garden; a martyrs paradise? What should they do…what could they do? A winner had been selected fair and square.
Mohammed Khan or “Mo” as his friends called him was born in Virginia, the son of Muslim Immigrants from India. He was a talented, ambitious architect. We get to know Mo and feel for him when he gets pulled out of the security line at the airport just because of his name. We are also introduced to Sean, an angry young man whose brother was killed in the twin tower attack and could not accept a memorial designed by a Muslim. And then there is Asma Anmar, a pregnant, illegal Bangladeshi immigrant whose husband was also killed in the attack.
The Submission touches on so many relevant topics. How do we feel about American Muslims? There is still so much fear and confusion when it comes to Islam. Last year as I was driving home I noticed a group of people gathered on the front lawn of the Slade mansion in Pikesville. They were clearly Muslim and engaged in some type of ceremony. At the time I was unaware that the Baltimore Congregation of The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam had bought the property and I have to admit that I was startled and somewhat uncomfortable. We all have a lot to learn. The Submission is a quick read and is definitely food for thought.
I was in elementary school when John F Kennedy was killed. I remember being sent home early from school having no idea of the magnitude of what had just happened. Lee Oswald was charged with the crime, but before he could be brought to trial, he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby. Was Oswald alone responsible for the murder or was he working with someone else? And what would have happened if President Kennedy had been able to finish his term?
What if you were given the opportunity to travel back in time to before Kennedy was killed. Knowing what we know today would you be able to stop Oswald? Would you even try?
In Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, Jake Epping, a high school English teacher is given just that opportunity. When Jake received a call from Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner, asking him to come to the diner as soon as possible, he put down the essays he was grading and went. Al did not sound like himself on the phone and Jake could not imagine why he was being summoned. Nor was he prepared for what he saw when he arrived at Al’s Diner. Al seemed to have aged years and it had only been 24 hours since he had last seen him. And then Al took him to the back of his pantry and showed him the door to the past…a time portal to 1958.
I have always been fascinated with time travel and what is known as the Butterfly Effect, the theory that even a minor change in the past can drastically change the future. Jack Epping does walk through that portal and the repercussions are intriguing to say the least. A great deal of research went into writing this book and I actually learned quite a bit about the Kennedy assassination and the players involved. Stephen King is a wonderful story-teller and this was King at his best. There are no serial killers, no vampires, no dead animals and no evil forces from the other side in this book. 11/22/63 is a suspenseful, exciting read and even has a little romance thrown in. I was disappointed to read that plans for the movie adaptation have been dropped. Apparently the author and producer could not agree on which parts of this massive 800 plus page book should be included. Perhaps it is better suited for a mini series. Now that I would watch!
A 5 Omelet book!
“It was a long time ago”
Although Laurel Nicholson was a successful actress and had been living on her own for years she was still haunted by a child hood memory. The strange man as he approached the back of the farm-house. The sound of her dog Barnaby barking. The abrupt way her mother put her baby brother down on the ground behind her. The look on her mothers face when the man said her name out loud “Dorothy”. And the knife as her mother plunged it into the man’s chest.
As Laurel sat by her 90-year-old mother’s hospital bed, flipping through the family album she couldn’t help but wonder about her mother’s life before she became Mom. The old fashion black and white picture which had slipped from the back of the family album had her baffled. Who was the smiling woman in the picture standing arm linked with her mother? This was the only picture Laurel had ever seen of her mother as a young woman and she began to realize how little she actually knew about her. Who was that man she saw her mother stab from her hiding place in the tree? How could she have just accepted the story told by her parents so many years ago? Laurel had so many questions. What did her mother mean when she uttered the words “I’m so thankful, so lucky to have …a second chance.” Time was running out and Laurel needed answers.
The Secret Keeper takes you back to war-time London. It is the story of three people from different walks of life who’s meeting sets in motion events that would drastically change their lives forever. The plot builds slowly and I have to admit that at first I was wondering where it was going and why everyone was talking about this book. And then the puzzle pieces started to come together. By the time I finished, I was totally captivated by the story and the twist at the end caught me totally off guard!
FACT: Just a few years after its founding in 1636,Harvard University established the Indian College in the 1640s to educate Native Americans as well as English colonists. It did not attract a sufficient number of students for continued operation and funding from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England. The college closed by 1693 and the building was torn down. Its bricks were re-used for another building. In 1997, the college installed a historic plaque in Harvard Yard to commemorate the Indian College. Indian College – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
And this is the basis for Brooks’ book, Caleb’s Crossing. How did Caleb,the son of a Wampanoag chieftain, born in Martha’s Vineyard become the first Native American to graduate from Harvard?
When we first meet Caleb he is 12 years old and clad in “Adam’s livery”. In place of a fig leaf, hung a scrap of hide. Bethia Mayfield watched the young Wampanoag boys from her hiding place among the dunes. They had no weapons and appeared to be playing a game. Their bodies were unlike anything she had ever seen. They were tall, lean and muscular and were painted in such a way that they seemed to glisten. Little did Bethia know the part this young “savage” boy would play in her life or she in his.
Bethia Mayfield, was the daughter of a Calvinist minister living in a small puritan settlement in Martha’s vineyard. She was not your typical 12 year old puritan girl. Bethia was curious about the world and longed to learn despite the fact that girls were expected to be content keeping house and having babies. She couldn’t help but ease drop on her father as he schooled her brother Makepeace, soaking in the knowledge far quicker than he ever could, a fact she was careful to keep to herself.
“Your path is not your brother’s, it cannot be. Women are not made like men. You risk addling your brain by thinking on scholarly matters that need not concern you.”
Caleb’s Crossing follows Caleb and Bethia as they grow from children to adult hood. The story is a fascinating one narrated by Bethia herself and the audio version brings this amazing story to life. It is the story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, who in 1665 really did become the very first Native American to graduate from Harvard.
Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“No one can tell us no. No one can make us stop. We have picked each other, and the rest of the world can go to hell.”
So how do you talk about a book like Pandemonium if you do not want to give anything away? It is almost impossible! Pandemonium is the second book in the Delirium Trilogy. The first book, Delirium had a shocking ending and ANYTHING I say about the plot of this book could spoil the surprise, something I will not do.
All I will tell you is many of the questions I addressed in my earlier review of Delirium were answered in Pandemonium. Lauren Oliver has really stepped up the action in book two and once again has left us with a major cliff hanger. Unfortunately this time we have to wait until spring when the third and final book Requiem comes out to see what happens.
If you enjoyed The Hunger Games and Divergent, the Delirium Trilogy is for you. It is fun, action packed and very entertaining.
For some insight into this YA trilogy, check out my review of Delirium:
In the book “Once We Were Brothers”, Ben Solomon, a retired Polish immigrant, accuses Elliot Rosenzweig, a wealthy Chicago philanthropist, of being a former SS office, Otto Piatek. Ben and Otto were raised in the same house, but ended up on different sides of the Nazi occupation. Ben pursues his accusations with the help of a young attorney, Catherine Lockhart.
Discussion of the book was lively. Some loved the book while others liked it, but thought it was not exceptionally well written. Aspects of the book were thought to be unbelievable, particularly Catherine quitting her job to devote her time to Ben’s cause. Although the book interwove the story of Ben’s pursuit of Otto, with Catherine’s developing relationship with the investigator, Liam, there was not much discussion of the latter aspect of the book.
One interesting part of the discussion focused on Otto’s character as he became more ingrained in the SS. Although Otto may have initially moved more toward the Nazis because he was encouraged to do so by Ben’s father in order to be in a better position to help Ben’s family, some felt that there was no excuse for his involvement with the Nazis at any level. There was also discussion of whether his philanthropy as Elliot Rosenzweig was partly out of guilt, or whether it was totally out of ego and wanting recognition. Some questioned why he would become such a public figure without fear of being recognized.
Overall, there was agreement that the book raised a lot of food for thought, and was certainly well worth reading.
der·vish: A Muslim (specifically Sufi) religious man who has taken vows of poverty and austerity. Dervishes first appeared in the 12th century;…
I just finished listening to American Dervish which was written and read by Ayad Akhtar. Often when I listen to a book read by the author himself, I am disappointed. I wonder why the author did not have a professional read it. American Dervish was an exception. Avaf Akhtar’s beautiful reading made his story come to life. Perhaps because so much of it was based on a life not so much different from his own.
We first meet Hayat Shah as a college student. Out with the guys at a sporting event he had just eaten his first bratwurst sandwich. Yes, he had eaten pork and the world did not come to an end. He actually felt great. He felt unburdened. The next morning Hayat rushed to his Survey of Islamic History class, Quran tucked under his arm, hoping to find a seat near Rachel, a girl he had a crush on all semester. Today he was going to ask her out on a date. Unfortunately the night before the date was to take place, Hayat learns of the death of his dear “Auntie” Mina. He has a lot on his mind, and a story to tell Rachel.
“You’re Jewish, right?”
“You may not like me very much if I tell you what happened……”
Hayat’s story is a fascinating one. It is the story of a young Pakistani American boy growing up in a Muslim home in Milwaukee. A story of a family trying to fit in, a family caught between two worlds. Hayat’s father is a physician, considers himself an atheist, drinks too much and is unfaithful to his wife. Hayat’s mother is an unhappy woman and is always trying to teach Hayat about how to treat a woman, warning him not to be like other Muslim men. When “Aunt” Mina, Hyat’s mother’s best friend leaves Pakistan to escape a bad marriage, abuse and divorce she moves in with the Shahs along with her two-year old son Imran. Life changes when Mina arrives. “Auntie Mina” plays an important role in Hayat’s life, telling him stories and teaching him the Quran. He thinks she is beautiful and loves her dearly and Imran is like a brother. But Hayat is still just a child and some of his decisions and actions have devastating results.
American Dervish is a glimpse into the life of a family torn between assimilation and holding on to their beliefs and customs. The difficulties of growing up surrounded by mixed messages. Yes it is fiction, but the characters in American Dervish are real, faults and all. I could even understand why Hayat made the decisions he later learned to regret. The book also gave me insight into the frightening beliefs of the devout Muslims. I was sickened and frightened by the anti semitic sermon given by the local Imam, as well as the actions of others.
Ayad Akhtar was born in New York to Pakistani parents. Like Hayat he grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His story is a good one and well worth the read.
Hallelujah! I finally finished IQ84. It took me so long to read this book that I had to download it from the library three times! That has to be some kind of record. Fortunately there was no waiting list for the e-book and each time I received the “your library book has expired” message, I was able to immediately re-download it and start reading just where I had left off. To be fair, this really is three books in one although the kindle format sure made it seem like one very long book.
When books one and two of 1Q84 were first published in Japan in 2009, a million copies were sold in just one month. This is my first Murakami, so I had no idea what to expect. The name IQ84 just kept popping up and when I saw on Amazon that it was October 2011′s best book of the month, I decided to give it a try. The story was fascinating and it certainly was different than anything I had ever read before.
IQ84 takes place in 1984 Tokyo. When we first meet Aomame she is riding in a taxi on her way to an important, yet mysterious appointment. Eyes closed she is listening to Janacek’s Sinfonietta playing on the radio. The sound quality is wonderful, yet strange and Aomame is surprised that after only a few bars she is able to recognize the symphony. Unfortunately there is a traffic jam and Aomame realizes that there is no way she is going to make her appointment unless as the driver suggests, she does “something extreme”. He then advises her of an emergency exit which would get her out of the mess. Before Aomame steps out of his taxi, he warns her “please remember: things are not what they seem.” The first unusual thing Aoname notices is a policeman’s uniform. “His pistol, too, was a different model”. When did the police change their uniforms? Aoname kept up with the news. Surely she would have read about something like this! And this was the first of many things that just didn’t seem right. Yes, something was very different.
Tango Kwana taught math at a private cram school. He had no friends other than his much older married girlfriend, whom he met several times a week in his apartment. He had no family to speak of other than his father who was in a sanitarium for people with cognitive disorders. When Tango, a talented, yet unpublished writer was asked to secretly rewrite a manuscript which had been entered into a literary contest, he reluctantly said yes. The author, Fuka-Eri was a 17-year-old girl who rarely spoke more than a word or two at a time.
The book alternates back and forth between the lives of these very unusual people and although you don’t know how or why you know that at some point their lives will collide. There are so many unusual characters in this book, and so many bizarre things that happen that you would have to read it to believe it. It is a book about an alternate reality, and yes it is a very strange book! Although it look me what seemed like forever to read it, I was never bored and found it to be a fascinating read. It could however have been a couple hundred pages shorter!
This month’s book…….Made me cry!
Thought provoking story
Unsettled my soul
Provoked many emotions
Just not fair
How would you describe The Story of Beautiful Girl in three words?