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Posts from the ‘#20BooksOfSummer 2017’ Category


#Non-fiction: Say Nothing



  1. The books concerns the Troubles in Northern Ireland
  2. …beginning and ending  with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.


Strong point: 

  1. This is a very good book if you want
  2. …to know what it felt like during The Troubles
  3. fear, omertà, code of silence  title: “Say Nothing”.
  4. Keefe’s writing style is cinematic.
  5. — POV meant to simulate the experience of watching a movie.
  6. setting, characterization, structure
  7. create visually dynamic scenes
  8. London car bombs, ch 11
  9. force feeding Dolours and Marion ch 14
  10. gruesome hunger strikes (Dolours, Brendan and Bobby Sands)


Strong point:

  1. Keefe realizes that this book has its ‘edgy sides’, unpleasant to read...
  2. …but he also knows the only way to keep the reader (in this case…me)
  3. engaged from cover to cover it to use the “glue” of empathy.
  4. Dolours is mentioned 525 x (…thank you Kindle).
  5. I keep reading because I feel connected to Dolours
  6. …interested in her plight.
  7. …wondering what makes a girl become so revolutionary, political?



  1. Hook1972 – chapter one as Jean McConville is dragged
  2. out of her house
  3. ….and thrown in a van by masked thugs.
  4. Her body was finally found 43 years later in 2003.
  5. The crime remains unsolved.
  6. This book was slipping away… from me but
  7. …on page 50 things started to change!
  8. Chapters alternate between the Prices sisters (Dolorus and Marian)
  9. ..and the McConville’s (Arthur and Jean….and their children)
  10. …top-ranked IRA Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes.


  1. This is a lot to take in
  2. ….it is almost numbing to read about  The Troubles.
  3. Many key players are dead,
  4. Brendon ‘the Darkie’ Hughes (1948-2008)
  5. James Martin Pacelli McGuinness (1950-2017)
  6. Dolours Price (1950-2013)
  7. …one is still living Gerry Adams (1948)
  8. Irish republican politician who was the
  9. …President of Sinn Féin until 2018.
  10. He advocated for a political movement to run
  11. parallel with the armed struggle.


Last Thoughts:

  1. I learned more about a period in recent history
  2. I hadn’t known much about.
  3. It was a loose framework for a historical look at
  4. …some of the everyday people who got caught up
  5. in the violence of the IRA.
  6. It’s a sobering book
  7. It is a hard read so…
  8. …prepare yourself to be drained
  9. ….when you close the book.
  10. #HistorySeenInRearViewMirror

#Classic Animal Farm

Finished: 26.02.2020
Genre: allegory (140 pg)
Rating: A+++


  1. Timeless classic
  2. …..every one should read it
  3. …soon to be a Netflix film.
  4. After 50.308 reviews on Goodreads about this book…
  5. …there isn’t much more to tell!
  6. The story, published in 1945, is an allegory for
  7. Stalinist Russia in which animals rebel against the
  8. humans who own their farm and adopt
  9. the rule of equality for all.
  10. By the end of the story, a group
  11. of pigs has begun ruling the animals.
  12. Animal Farm is considered a work of social satire
  13. because Orwell employs irony to criticize
  14. the individuals/groups depicted in the novel.
  15. This story demands that readers think.
  16. Presenting the novel as a beast fable
  17. …contributes greatly to its brilliance.
  18. Lessons learned:
    1. Power corrupts
    2. Revolutions tend to come full circle and devour their peoples
    3. Even good, descent people are vulnerable
    ….to power hunger and leader worship.


  1. All animals are equal, but some animals are MORE equal than others.” (ch 10)
  2. This statement is ironic because the concept of
  3. all are equal and “more equal” is really contradictory
  4. and does not make sense.


  1. The 7 commandments are changed…
  2. Each commandment is changed and the animals
  3. THINK they remember it the way it was before
  4. ….but are not sure.
  5. Irony: the READER KNOWS the pigs are taking over the farm
  6. …instituting a totalitarian regime
  7. ….but the animals don’t.


  1. The sad irony that a well-intentioned
  2. …”revolution” intended to bring about equality
  3. and a better life for the animals ends
  4. by recreating the same inequalities and
  5. …tyranny that provoked it in the first place.

Short stories: Like a House on Fire



Flexionexcellent – great last sentence  – wife-husband relationship.

Ashes –  excellent – great last sentence –  son-mother and recently deceased father relationship.

Laminex and Mirrors wonderful….very funny yet touching.
Narrator is an 18 yr cleaning girl in hospital who establishes a connection  with an old dying man.  The matron keeps a close eye on our young girl when she lingers too long with her new friend: ”matron calls her in a tone of permafrost…she snaps in an  enraged whisper.” The old man is whisked away by the girl for a surprise  hot steaming bath. ” Haven’t felt this way in years…weightless.” The old man also gets at the desired but forbidden cigarette from this young cleaner…he’s elated and says “Your blood is worth bottling.”

Tender – Honest, often-hilarious perspective of family life with the backdrop of an approaching appointment for the mother’s biopsy. She remains the Rock of Gibraltar for her family despite her fears.

Like a House on Fire – Hilarious description of father who is chief child-care provider (…suffering from lower back pain)…while he gets the Christmas decorations from the attic…puts the tree in the bucket with bricks to anchor it. The children are not in the Xmas mood but Dad says: “TV of off until every piece of tinsel is on the tree!” Family life and on Christmas eve and relationship with wife endearing and told in details we all see around the house!Absolutely terrific!! It seems every story gets better and better! Bravo Cate Kennedy,  this was the BEST story!



  1. These are the notes I made about the first five short stories.
  2. It seem every story got increasingly better!
  3. Unfortunately….the rest of the stories failed to dazzle me.
  4. The first 5 stories tasted like a sparking glass of champagne
  5. ….they went straight to my head!
  6. The last 10 stories tasted like sparkling water
  7. … refreshing but without the ‘bubble buzz’.

Wrap-up #20BooksOfSummer 2017



  • 20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy at!
  • The challenge is to read 20 books off your TBR list.
  • June 01  – September 03
  • Hashtag#20BooksOfSummer


  • My original plan was to read 20 books on
  • Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels.
  • I managed to read 16…then I was sick of classics!
  • I find if you  DON’T  make a list
  • ….reading will be more fun.
  • Just choose the book according to your mood.
  • Pleased with my results:   44  books


My list:   16/20   from Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels :


  1. The Postman Always Rings Twice – J.M. Cain READ  4.0
  2. The Death of the Heart by E. Bowen – – READ – 2.0
  3. The Ginger Man – J.P.Donleavy – DNF …. abandon after 100 pgs. (bah)
  4. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser – READ 3.0
  5. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh  – READ – 4.0
  6. Ragtime  by E.L. Doctorow – READ 3.0
  7. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – READ  5.0
  8. Go Tell It On The Mountain by J. Baldwin – READ  5.0
  9. As I Lay Dying  by William Faulkner – READ –  5.0
  10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov – READ   5.0
  11. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner – READ  2.0
  12. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler – READ – 3.0
  13. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence – READ 5.0
  14. Loving by Henry Green – READ    4.0
  15. I, Claudius by Robert Graves – READ    4.0
  16. Under the Net – I. Murdoch – READ – 5.0


  2. The Bloody Mary Book – E. Brown – READ  3.0
  3. Walking the Nile – L. Wood – READ  4.0
  4. Running Hare – J. Lewis-Stempel – READ   5.0
  5. Dear Ijeawele – C.N. Adichie – READ  5.0
  6. Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America – J. Leovy – READ – 5.0
  7. Coming Up Trumps – J. Trumpington – READ    3.0
  8. Kennedy and King – S. Levingston – READ    5.0
  9. Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon – 5.0


  1. FRENCH:
  2. Un Vie – S. Veil – READ – 4.0
  3. Rue des Boutiques Obscures – P. Modiano – READ  5.0
  4. Retour à Killybegs – S. Chalandon – READ – 4.0
  5. Une femme à Berlin – M. Hillers – READ – 4.0 – French
  6. Seul Dans Berlin – H. Fallada – READ 3.0


  2. Open and Shut – D. Rosenfelt – READ 5.0
  3. First Degree – D. Rosenfelt – READ 5.0


  1. SF  – Fantasy:
  2. Doomsday Book – C. Willis – READ 3.0
  3. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien – READ   3.0
  4. Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien – READ – 3.0
  5. Vaster Than Empires and More Slow – U. Le Guin – READ 5.0
  6. Principles of Angels – J. Fenn – DNF – 1.0 – Bah!
  7. The Martian – A. Weir – READ – 5.0


  1. Fiction:
  2. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – READ  4.0
  3. Short Stories –  Dear Life  by A. Munro (Nobel Prize 2013) – READ  3.0
  4. Short Stories – Shatterday & Other Stories – H. Ellison – READ  11/11
  5. Seven Plays – S. Shepard – READ – 5.0
  6. The Persians – Aeschylus – READ 3.0
  7. The African Queen – C.S. Forester – READ    5.0
  8. Lincoln in the Bardo  – G. Saunders – READ – 1.0





  1. Jill Leovy examines one of the most disturbing facts about life in America:
  2. that African-American males are, as she puts it,
  3. just 6 percent of the country’s population
  4. …but nearly 40 percent of those murdered.
  5. This is a world that most journalists never cover
  6. …and most of America never sees.



  1. This book was researched and written in interval over 5 years.
  2. Los Angeles crime reporter Jill Levoy embedded herself in 2008
  3. ….in the 77th and Southwest squads LA.
  4. She shadowed homicide detectives.
  5. This is an impressive revelation about the
  6. …devastating  true story of LA crime, race and intimidation.
  7. One of the detective heroes is John Skaggs.
  8. His working life was devoted to one end:
  9. making black lives expensive, and worth answering for.

  1. Leovy tries to penetrate the mystery of the disproportionate
  2. …black homicide with her stats and surveys of case outcomes.
  3. This book was an eye-opener.
  4. #MustRead



Un vie: Simone Veil



  1. The biography of Simone Veil is impressive.
  2. She survived the Holocaust and rose to the high echelons of
  3. French judiciary, minister of health in French government,
  4. President of European Parliament and  member of l’Academie française.
  5. In the book Veil mentions many key French political players in the past:
  6. Pompidou, Sarkozy, Giscard, Mitterrand, Chirac and Raymond Barre.
  7. Strong point:  Simone Veil tells us about her family, childhood in Nice.
  8. Her deportation to concentration camps lingers as the most poignant part of the book.
  9. Veil recalls a Polish Kapo (female guard) saved her life by helping Simone
  10. and her mother and sister to stay alive.
  11. This woman who has been a mystery all of Veil’s life told her:
  12. «Tu es trop belle pour mourir ici…»
  13. You are to beautiful to die here.
  14. Simone Veil dedicated the book to her family…
  15. Yvonne, her mother, died in Bergen-Belsen
  16. Her father André Jacob and her brother  Jean, assassinated in Lithuania.

Last thoughts:

  1. I knew nothing about Simone Veil
  2. …but my first words after finishing the book were;
  3. “What a woman.”
  4. The first and last part of the book (childhood, deportation – retirement)
  5. were the best sections of the book.
  6. The political references (middle section) will speak to people
  7. …who have  more ‘inside information’…about France’s past governments.
  8. If I compare this book to Ravensbrück by Germaine Tillion….I would
  9. have to give Tillion the better marks for writing.
  10. Un Vie  bothered me a little bit….
  11. Un Vie is sober.
  12. Veil writes free from exaggeration or speculation.
  13. She he told us the sober truth…yet plein de tristesse.
  14. If you want to really experience what life was like for a women
  15. ….in Hitler’s WW II concentration camps….read Tillion’s book
  16. Ravensbrück ….plein  de vie, plein d’élan, plein de resistance.
  17. It will haunt you….as it does me.


State funeral for Simone Veil  July 2017:

French Republican guards carry the coffin of French politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil during a a tribute ceremony in the courtyard of the Invalides in Paris, France, on July 5, 2017.
Holocaust survivors are joining France’s president and European dignitaries at a special memorial ceremony for Simone Veil, who rose from the horrors of Nazi death camps to become president of the European Parliament and one of France’s most revered politicians.


Lincoln in the Bardo

  • Author: G. Saunders
  • Title: Lincoln in the Bardo
  • Published: 2017
  • Trivia: #20BooksOfSummer Challenge
  • Trivia: Short list  #ManBooker2017



  1. Although the novel has small historical
  2. …entries and background information
  3. …I was very disappointed with the rest of the book.
  4. The main storyline of the novel covers the course of one night.
  5. The main narrative concerns Willie Lincoln’s first (and only) night in the bardo.
  6. Bardo = intermediate state shortly after death before passing on the hereafter.
  7. I expected more Lincoln
  8. ….and got a lot of  chit-chat with quirky ghosts in the bardo.
  9. They relate anecdotes about their lives.
  10. Boring.
  11. If I read the paperback book
  12. ….I probably would have abandoned it.
  13. Since I used the audio book
  14. ….I just put on my earphones
  15. and kept walking until I reached my front door.
  16. Will this book win The Man Booker Award?
  17. Not getting my vote!


Last thoughts:

  1. Once again there was no planning.
  2. It was just hit and miss.
  3. I just choose a book from the short list
  4. …. and was very disappointed.
  5. I should have selected
  6. Mohsin Hamid, Colson Whitehead
  7. …or Zadie Smith.
  8. I’m sure one of these 3 books will win!


Une femme à Berlin


Marta Hillers:

  1. German Journalist Marta Hillers was born on 26th May, 1911 in Krefeld, Germany.
  2. She died on 16th Jun 2001 Basel, Switzerland aged 90.
  3. She is most remembered for A Woman in Berlin.
  4. Marta  studied at the Sorbonne.
  5. She traveled throughout Europe and Russia.
  6. Hillers was fluent in French and Russian.
  7. She was in the position of a ‘mediator’ in some situations during the war.
  8. She is in Berlin during the occupation by the Red Army.
  9. This book is a summation of her notes 20 April – 22 June 1945.



  1. Any recollection of a war experience is impressive.
  2. Hillers  gives a an account of daily life in Berlin
  3. during the Soviet occupation.
  4. The most remarkable aspect of the book is Hillers’ point of view.
  5. She details the mass rape by the occupying forces
  6. …and how women choose a Soviet officer as protector.
  7. That was their best option in a bad situation.
  8. There were so many women who underwent treatment in Berlin
  9. after the Russians left……the doctors called it ‘rapports forcés’.
  10. Weak point: The writing feels restrained.
  11. There were very few descriptions of traumatic emotions.
  12. Hillers told us just about as much as she felt comfortable with.
  13. There are many people in this book based on
  14. friends, neighbors and work/study associates of Hillers.
  15. She took care to  conceal names
  16. combine aspects of  two people to build a new ‘person’…
  17. described her attic apartment as having  2 rooms in order to…
  18. conceal the description of the…
  19. larger living quarters she really had.
  20. She did not want the place to be recognized.
  21. Hillers controlled her emotions.
  22. “Je n’ai pas besoin de parler en
  23. peux cacher mes connaissances du russe….” (pg 326)
  24. On the last pages the author sums up her feelings:
  25. “From now on…nothing will easily shake or weaken me.” (pg 386)
  26. Désormais, plus rien ne parvient à m’ebranler aussi facilement.


  • The part of the book that
  • …impressed me the most was on page 283-284.
  • A young Russian officer asks Marta Hiller:
  • “Has anyone ever hurt you?
  • Est-ce qu’on vous  a fait du mal?”
  • She responds:
  • “Oui, monsieur, enfin vous comprenez.
  • C’est la guerre.
  • We will no longer speak of it
  • N’en parlons plus.”


Last thoughts:

  1. This is a book about the ‘raw side’ of life during WW II Berlin.
  2. I think that has played an important part in the  many 5 star reviews.
  3. The book sweeps the reader into a war torn Berlin from a female POV.
  4. There are better books written about war.
  5. I would recommend Vasily Grossman’s
  6. A Writer at War : a Soviet Journalist with the Red Army, 1941-1945
  7. Grossman does not sugarcoat the Red Army’s actions…
  8. and adds his poignant and at times critical commentary
  9. …he had as war correspondent.


  1. The book was first published in English in 1954 in the United States
  2. …was published anonymously.
  3. When it was published in Germany in 1959, the author was
  4. accused of “besmirching the honor of German women.
  5. Hillers refused to have another edition published in her lifetime.
  6. The  book was published posthumously in Germany in 2003
  7. ….again anonymously.
  8. It met wide critical acclaim and was on the bestseller list for weeks.
  9. A controversy broke out when a literary editor revealed the author as Hillers.



The Two Towers


  • The Hobbit in February  – READ
  • The Fellowship of the Ring in March – April – READ
  • The Two Towers in May – June …oops August – READ
  • The Return of the King in July – August (...a race against the clock!)


14 August :  finally finished  The Two Towers

I need a lot of ‘nudging’ from Brona’s Books  to keep on schedule

  1. I pushed, pushed and pushed  myself today to finish the book.
  2. The storyline still feels simple filled with references to fog, sun, dark forests.
  3. It seems the mist is always a version of…
  4. …moves slowy, lay thick on the world, rise and curl, like ragged shadows.
  5. If I skim the parts of treebeards, ents, hobbits,
  6. …elves and orcs  trampsing through
  7. ..the countryside and just read the plot
  8. ….the book could be read in a few hours.
  9. Yet it is the nature and the adventure of following
  10. …the characters on a map of Gondor, Rohan, Edoras, Isengard etc
  11. that excites and delights the Tolkien fans.
  12. I am not one of them.

  1. This book just felt like hard work.
  2. I had to figure out who was Sauron,
  3. remember that the Nazgûl, Sauron’s deadliest servants are also called
  4. Ringwaiths, Ringwraiths, Ring-wraiths,
  5. Black Riders, Dark Riders, the Nine Riders, or simply the Nine
  6. …and constantly looking out for eagles who were
  7. Tolkien’s deus ex machina to save some heroes!
  8. Just when I thought I was understanding the book
  9. …along comes palantír of Minas Ithil, one of the seven seeing stones.
  10. I told Brona this  review was going to be a rant…
  11. …and she was ok with that!


Very…last thoughts:
I am reading all the books Tolkien
but I am not a fan of this genre.
Therefore my score for each book will be average 3 stars.
Of course there are others that give Tolkien 5 stars…and I’m
sure J.R.R. Tolkien deserves it!

After a marathon reading day….13 and 14 August..
We lose Boromir (and his horn), laugh with Treebeards and ents
Gandalf breaks the staff of Saruman the White, an Istar (wizard)
and end this gruesome day with a battle through
cobwebbed tunnels and the vicious spider Shelob!
Brona, I did my best….and have just one more book to read!

  1. I am fulfilling my commitment to #HLOTRreadalong2017
  2. and will be glad when I have reached the end of
  3. The Return of the King!
  4. Ah, yes…. at times I am laying by the wayside and cannot get up!
  5. Good news, when I look up I see the stars!
  6. Because….

  1. I did it for you, Brona!




Bobby Kennedy: The Making of Liberal a Icon



  1. Most of what Larry Tye tells us has been written before.
  2. Tye does an excellent job of taking the reader thru
  3. Bobby’s life and his political career in particular.
  4. Larry Tye includes new information gleaned from
  5. …RFK’s private archive that was opened in 2014.
  6. I just put the audio book on….and listened all day!
  7. Fascinating!


Last thoughts:

  1.  Larry Tye gives the reader a
  2. front row seat during at the back room drama of RFK years!
  3. Bobby was not an intellectual as his brother JFK.
  4. Bobby knew how to USE intellectuals!
  5. #MustRead or #MustListen
  6. Trivia: RFK’s favorite beer was Heinekin
  7. Trivia: RFK’s favorite cocktails were Daiquiri or Old Fashioned
  8. Trivia: RFK’s last child was born after his death.
  9. The baby girl was named Rory….the Irish version of Robert.


My notes:

NEW: RFK never forgave Edward R. Morrow in toppling Joseph McCarthy

NEW: According to RFK..McCartyism is Americanism…with its sleeves rolled up.

NEW: Joe McCarthy – RFK connection: I have never read about this time in RFK’s life. My knowledge of RFK began with 1960 and his brother’s presidental champaign. JM reminded RFK of his father. RFK’s loyalty to McCarthy grew out of the devotion to his father.  RFK and McCarthy had  many characteristics in common:
— able to be thoughtful to friends yet cruel to others
— able sensitive and yet insensitive
not able to anticipate the results of what he was doing

NEW: RFK took it upon himself to root out corruption in the Teamsters Union. But Tye explains that there was a thin line between fervour and fanaticism.
RFK vs Jimmy Hoffa was an explosive combination.
I did not know of how deep the toxic ongoing animosity  between these two men was.

NEW: 1 in 4 Americans were catholics in 1960…
yet Roman Catholicism was still a stigma in the 1960 presidential election.
In 2008 things had changed Obama’s race and not religion was the issue.

NEW: RFK turned down the offer of Attorney General in his brother’s cabinet, but after long deliberation, soul-searching and a talk with the patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy…RFK’s fate was decided.

NEW: Senators had the votes to defeat RFK’s appointment. LBJ was furious…this would be an embarrassment for the new Vice-President.
LBJ had to prove he could get the votes needed for JFK’s cabinet…even though LBJ LOATHED Bobby!

NEW:  RFK led the greatest investigative attack on organised crime ever seen in the USA. I have always thought…this put RFK AND JFK on a maffia ‘hit-list’.
RFK upset Joe Bonnano famiy in NY, the Patriarca crime family in Rhode Island, DeCavalcante crime family in NJ and worst of all….Sam Giancana of the maffia in Chicago. It is rumoured that Jimmy Hoffa had once said: “Somebody should bump this guy off (RFK).”
Yet in the book The Devil’s Chessboard (D. Talbot) an explosive, headline-making portrait of Allen Dulles, the man who transformed the CIA into the most powerful—and secretive—colossus in Washington, there was the suggestion that Dulles used his CIA contacts and was involved in the assassination of JFK…en perhaps RFK !
Will we ever know the truth?

NEW: During RFK’s three years as attorney general his office prosecuted 2 congressmen, 3 state supreme court justices, 5 mayors, 2 chiefs of police and 3 sheriffs …and ALL democrats!
RFK and JFK made many enemies!

NEW: Frank Sinatra….investigation was never triggered by RFK.  Why? There were too many links to the Kennedy family, political machine and JFK (…Frank often facilitated the supply of ‘women’ to visit JFK).

NEW:  The seeds for the Cuban Missal Crisis were planted two Octobers earlier (1959). Eisenhouwer quietly agreed to back Castro’s home-grown opposition. CIA drew op a plan in March 1960 to train and equip a paramilitary force of Cuban exiles. Castro’s welcoming of the Russian help in 1962 did not come out of the blue…it was a response to American agression. My memories about those ‘ 13 days’ in October 1962 are vivid. The political back round went way above my 11 year old head. Yet I sensed the tension that my parents radiated every time they listened to the news!

NEW:  WHAT THE… Kennedy had microphones planted in the cabinet room and taped the conversations with his ministers. No one had a clue that they were being taped! JFK was able to turn on the bugs with the help of a hidden button. JFK could turn it on or off…at his pleasure!  These recordings were JFK’s and RFK’s non-shareables.

The public found out about these tapes in 1973…and it took another 24 years to have the last of the Cuban Missal Crisis tapes to be released!