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25
Aug

#Non-Fiction America’s War

 

Structure: 480 pages
Part 1 – The Preliminaries ch 1-7
Part 2 – Entr’acte (“between the acts”) ch 8 – 11
Part 3 – Main Card ch 12-18

 

My Notes:

 

USA fights wars:

…1776 for independence
…1861 for slavery
…1980 US embarks upon a war for oil

 

Central irony:  

  1. For America’s War for the Greater Middle East
  2. US’s tendency to focus on solving one problem,
  3. to exacerbate a second and plant the seeds of a third.”
  4. See: Wikipedia ‘Operation Cyclone”

 

Trivia:

  1. I noticed in chapter 1
  2. sound bites used in 1980s that
  3. …are now used by Trump!
  4. US didn’t want a distressed angel (Carter)
  5. ….passing judgement on their failings.
  6. The US wanted a president who would fix things!
  7. Carter viewed himself as “an agent of the Lord’
  8. Trump referred to himself as ‘the chosen one’
  9. …while speaking
  10. on his role in the ongoing trade war
  11. between the US and China. (21 Aug 2019)

 

Note: Ch 6:

  1. Especially interesting was the conscious
  2. effort by the US in 1982
  3. ….to open a secret channel
  4. ….to provide Baghdad with sensitive intel,
  5. satellite images, PC’ hell’s and heavy trucks.

What was USA’s plan….long term?

  1. US needed Saddam and with this non-military help
  2. it enabled Iraq to avoid outright defeat in Iraq-Iran war.
  3. …but why?    Answer: pg 132
  4. “…US had a compelling interest in positioning Iraq as a
  5. counterweight to a dangerous Islamic Republic.”

 

Note: Ch 7:

  1. The book comes alive for me with the
  2. US to hunkering down in Saudi Arabia and
  3. preparing to remove Saddam from Kuwait.
  4. My favorite no nonsense General
  5. “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf jr.
  6. He planned and led Operation Desert Storm—
  7. which defeated the Iraqi Army and liberated Kuwait
  8. Pg 117 this would be
  9. “…Vietnam done right,
  10. …with a decisive victory the result.
  11. No shilly-shallying allowed.”

 

Conclusion:

  1. Don’t worry about memorizing all the names, dates, etc
  2. focus on the big picture…the important stuff will stick.
  3. This book is a wonderful re-cap of
  4. the history of the War for the Greater Middle East.
  5. Strong point: Bacevich makes non-fiction read like a novel!
  6. Great read…for history buffs!

 

Last Thoughts:

  1. What was the MOST important thing I learned?
  2. …the 4 reasons why USA is still waging the
  3. War for the Greater Middle East.
  4. War has the seal of approval of Republicans and Democrats
  5. Aspiring Presidential candidates find it expedient to ‘support the troops’ (war)
  6. Individuals/institutions benefit from a long conflict (military industrial complex)
  7. MOST importantly…
  8. Americans appear oblivious to what is occurring.
  9. All the more reason
  10. ….to read this book!

Bacevich is a West Point graduate. He holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University before joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998

17
Aug

#AWW 2019 Ashley Kalagian Blunt

 

 

Conclusion:

  1. Ashely Blunt is a young Australian author
  2. …but she writes like a seasoned pro!
  3. I was very impressed by her writing skills.
  4. Her writing is designed to draw the reader
  5. effortlessly from page to page
  6. windowpane prose, clear and quick.
  7. #Bravo

 

 

My notes:

POV: story from the POV of the less violent brother Verzh
to contrast him with is Armen (violent)

Strong point: The powerful theme of revenge shows
the destructive nature it has over people.
When a person becomes consumed with the desire for vengeance,
it ultimately destroys them.

Strong point:  fast paced, text is sharp and short…
I can rarely find an adverbs that would slow text down.
Actions are indicated by a carefully selected verb…that say it all.

Strong point: concentrates on the five senses
activities and smells of in the kitchen in the first few pages brings the story immediately to life
kitchen smelt gound lamb an onion
platters piled with roast eggplant, capsicum and lamb skewers
vine leaves stuffed with rice and lamb
dolma slick with olive oil
…You can see it..you can smell it in your imagination!

Strong point:   imply violence… in narrative instead of burdening
reader with blood and gore on the page.
Details are left to the reader’s imagination.

Strong point: let body revel the emotions” as the character works through problem he’s facing.

Body:

  • shoulders hunched,
  • thumbs squeezed inside fists,
  • thick shoulders, full head of coal black waves,
  • fingers tight around the gun handle,
  • wore aviators his eyes mirrored
  • voice low, steel running through it,
  • calves already cramping,
  • hamstring seized,
  • shoulders military square,
  • eyes bore through him like a x-ray,
  • pushed glasses up with index finger
  • smacked his fists to his thighs,
  • fists came up in frustration
  • arms tight against chest, shoulders hunched,
  • hands shoved under thighs,
  • raised one meaty hand,
  • knees shaking,
  • held had over her heart,
  • dropped his head into his hands,
  • felt ribs tighten
  • thrust chin out, clenched an unclenched his hands,
  • unsteady hand,
  • knees threatened to buckle
  • flinging his arms,
  • skeletal edges of his cheeks,
  • eyes stared at the ceiling,
  • withered muscles,

 

 

Strong point: pull the camera in close

Close-up:

  • sweat streaked his forehead
  • scar across left cheek
  • sweat patch on back of his shirt
  • sucked in a shaky breath
  • biting his lip
  • pain spread into his temple..his teeth
  • blood trickled…from his nose,
  • ground his jaw
  • two gold teeth glinted between Softie’s lips
  • raised an eyebrow
  • ran his tongue over his top front teeth
  • upper lip bulging
  • fingernails dug into his palms
  • narrowed eyes fixed on his brother
  • felt his cheek twitch
  • sharp nod
  • glasses slid along the sweat of his nose
  • eyeballs locking on him, cheeks burned,
  • forehead vein pulsing
  • dug toes into thick pile of the rug
  • mustache curled at one side, lifted by a half-smile
  • squeezed the heals of his hands against his temples
  • neck muscles taut like rope
  • running knife under his fingernails

 

Structure:

Present – assassination news spreads…Vrezh must know if brother is involved
Flashback – 10 years ago school after coming to Australia
Present – 1 month after assassination Vrezh secretly following brother
Present- interview Softie and Verzh (Sofite = describes father and brotherhood he belonged to)
Present – Verzh and brother drive back to Sydney
Flashback – 10 years agoVerzh called to school rector’s office
Present – 2 months after assassination – description Softie’s shearing shed and meetings for nest plans
Flashback – 10 years ago… school Anzac Day April 25 speech
Present – Verzh things about Softie’s order….learn about bombs
Present – verzh debating with himself if he can set off the bomb…Verzh has a plan
Present – Verzh has recording device
Present – Verzh visits Softie alone…and the shearing shed goes up in flames
Present – Verzh in hospital…six days later he is released
Present – Years later…..end

 

16
Aug

#Short Stories “Show Them a Good Time”

 

 

Conclusion:

  1. This collection is worth your reading time.
  2. I enjoyed 5 of 8 stories ..62%
  3. That’s a good score!
  4. Only one story was a MAJOR disappointment
  5. …too long… not topic for a short story:
  6. Abortion, a Love Story….advice?
  7. …it should have been developed into novella.

 

My notes:

Show them a Good Time: – reading time 1 hr 45 min

Single setting: (garage with forecourt, gas pumps and mini-store cashier
Characters: 2 main characters Speaker (nameless) and Kevin
Flattery describes their personalities, how they clash.
Later we discover the turning point and ironic reversals of character traits.
Conclusion:very good, excellent story to begin the collection as ‘hook’.

 

Sweet Talk– reading time: 25 min

Setting: country farm
Summer break: Speaker tells of her ‘adventures’
other teens/friends next to the Virgin Mary statue
New houses on council estate brought in new boys….
Arrival: the Australian (30s) handy man…who wasn’t a bit skilled.
Speaker is in love with him! ( puppy love)
Conclusion: Started off well….but just fizzled out.
No real story to sink your teeth in…just
a 14 yr teenager searching for a summer adventure.

 

Hump reading time 20 min
Setting: father’s bedroom
Characters: Father (70 yr) (dying) – mother – speaker
Action: family funeral
Problem: speaker discovers lump in breast
Conclusion: somewhat engaged, bored still a confusing story….

 

Abortion, a Love Story:  reading time ….??
Setting: college campus
Just as I was trying to understand the
speaker and her lover Prof Carr…..
the story made a U-turn and it is all about
another character Lucy!
Conclusion: …I gave up after 20 minutes.
This is just NOT a short story.
Flattery has stumbled upon some interesting material

…but is is NOT the right topic for a shot story
Flattery should take some time and commit this narrative to a novel.

 

Track: reading time: 30 min
Setting: NYC
Characters: speaker (young Irish girl – boyfriend (comedian, famous)
Topic: the RISE snd FALL of a relationship
Core message: “…Never give people what they want.”
Conclusion: disturbing, introspective
…something you have to experience to write like this!
Good work.

NOTE: 2017 White Review Short Story Prize for Track, one of the best Irish short stories of this millennium.

 

Parrot:   reading time 30 minutes
Setting: Paris..visiting art exhibition
Characters: significant other (?) – speaker – stepson
Opinion: First sentence is confusing in an effort to be profound.
I’d rather a short line with few words to shock the reader of set the tone.
I will keep reading the story because I want to review all 8 selections
…otherwise I would have ditched this story…just b/c of this 1st sentence.
Core message: musings of unhappy woman in relationship, her rebellious young
stepson and almost daily conversations with mother
(…still in Ireland) and speaker in Paris does not help.
Flashback: speaker tells us about her husband’s first wife…ill, perhaps mentally ill.
Flashback: trip to Paris with her mother
Flashback: spying her husband’s first wife in a store…a week later she would be dead.
Conclusion: Despite the weak start and confusing title (minimal meaning in the story IMO)…the narrative developed nicely. Good

 

You’re Going To Forget Me:  reading time  15 min
Setting: hotel room. book presentation. hospital room
Characters: Speaker (author on book tour) – her sister (7 months pregnant
Core message: telephone conversations between the women
Topic: importance of what others think about you
Question: is it ever ‘small talk’ between sisters…or is everything important?
Conclusion: intense….great story about sisters, very good.

 

Not The End Yet: reading time 28 min
Setting: car park
Characters: Angela (teacher 41 yr) – nameless men (salesman, 45 yr, 47 yr, 55 yr)
Topic: blind dates…they feel like dental appointments !
Clinical, horrible…must get through it!
Conclusion: Delightfully amusing!

 

 

 

 

9
Aug

#Poetry Ockham NZ Award Winner 2019

 

 


Conclusion:


57 poems
I enjoyed 23
….that is 40% which is a good score.
Helen Heath writes about science, grief and motherhood.
The poems dealing with personal loss, death and birth were the
most memorable.


Favorite poem? “The Owners”
Ms Heath leaves the reader with an impression of sadness.
Ray, James and Gordon are men who have fallen in love with their
customized life-sized dolls.
These people have given up living an taken dolls as their lives.
…emotion invested in a doll that will never return it.

I sympathize with these doll lovers….even if I’m shaking my head.

3
Aug

#TBR 2019 list: Tin Man

  • Author: S. Winman
  • Title: Tin Man
  • Trivia: 2017 shortlist Costa book Awards
  • Trivia 2019 longlist Dublin Literary Award

 

Finished: 03.08.2019
Genre: novel
Rating: C-
Conclusion
:

  1. This book is about loneliness.
  2. I found the book to be an attempt to
  3. paint loneliness with landscapes….
  4. (sunflowers fill the frame,
  5. swallows soar with heat on their wings (pg 210)
  6. and not describe
  7. the deep feeling of loneliness
  8. …like a mould growing slowly around you.
  9. Yes there are cries of the heart that evoke your emotions
  10. …but all in all the book was too lyrical, too sugar-spin sweet
  11. and just seemed to scratch the surface of the ache of loss.
  12. #Disappointed
25
Jun

#Poetry Eva Bourke (Irish poet)

 

Finished: 25.06.2019
Genre: poetry (39 poems)
Rating: A+++

 

Conclusion:

  1. Perfect 92 pages to enjoy during a heat wave
  2. …refreshing as a glass of summer lemonade with ice!

  1. Not every poem is a ‘home-run’ but all in all
  2. an excellent collection!
  3. Poems are like people.
  4. When you meet people you can like someone immediately
  5. …or don’t even like them at first. Then, gradually, as you get
  6. to know them you begin to apprecaite their qualities.
  7. So is it with poems:
  8. poem is immediately enjoyable
  9. reminds you of something you experienced
  10. “ How true, I felt exactly the same!”
  11. Some poems are  hard to understand at first.
  12. .and by the second reading you start
  13. to understand what the poet is really saying.
  14. My favorite poems were:
  15. Seeing Yellow – excellent (…hospital visit to the now late poet Pearse Hutchinson)
  16. Heimat – breathtaking
  17. Lament for the Birds (discover who Bourke is talking about …poem is a puzzle!)
  18. My brother writes to me – (…reality of chemotherapy and counting swallows)
  19. By the River – pastoral poem at its best!
  20. Plans – dedicated to her husband Ono …the love of her life (RIP 28.12.2017)

 

Strong point:

  1. Eva Bourke makes some
  2. …original and imaginative comparisons
  3. to convey shades of meaning in a few words.
  4. Example:
  5. Sunflowers:  ‘rough stalks like tourches’
  6. Sky:  ‘so smooth like a freshly ironed sheet’
  7. Birds: ‘…fell like stars from the sky into the river to catch their prey’
  8. Beetles: “…like miniature knights chiselled from jet
  9. …dispatched on impossible errands..”

 

Last thoughts:

  1. ….IMO
  2. 11 Excellent poems
  3. 8 very good poems
  4. 12 average…did not make emotional impression on me
  5. 8 .. not my kind of poems
  6. …experimental, fragmented
  7. …for poetry die hards!
  8. Book is available via Kindle
  9. …and perhaps in your library!
  10. #QuickRead
  11. .poetry  really does refresh the soul!

 

“Seeing Yellow” (title poem  about sunflowers is…..magical!)

 

13
Jun

#Non-fiction Pulitzer Prize for Biography 2019

 

Conclusion:

  1. I agree with other readers
  2. ….this book is comprehensive and very detailed.
  3. It is important to realize that there
  4. …are different types of non-fiction:
  5. literary non-fiction vs commercial non-fiction:
  6. There’s a difference between the book as
  7. cultural work of art and the book as entertainment
  8. …in the same way that there’s a
  9. difference between a classical symphony and a musical.
  10. If you are looking for a high octane entertainment buzz…
  11. you may be disappointed…as I was.
  12. If you see this book as a glimpse into an area of progress
  13. in the Harlem Renaissance…and all that has come out of
  14. that movement...you will be delighted.
  15. It depends on what you are looking for.
  16. #DecideForYourself
8
Jun

#Play The Glass Menagerie

  • Title: The Glass Menagerie
  • Playwright: Tennessee Williams
  • Genre: memory play
  • Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
  • Performance: Broadway debut  31 March 1945
  • Trivia: 1945 NY Drama Critics Circle Award  Best American Play
  • Wikipedia link:  The Glass Menagerie
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly reading plan
  • #20BooksOfSummer

 

  • Actresses:
  • Amanda Wingfield is one of the great
  • roles written for older women for the stage.
  • Many great actresses have played the part:
  • Laurette Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Joanne Woodward,
  • Maureen Stapleton Jessica Tandy, Julie Harris, and Jessica Lange.
  • The most recent was May 2017 with Sally Field:

Quickscan:

  1. The Wingfield family is based on the plawrights family.
  2. Restless son Tom. (based on the playwright)
  3. Crippled sister Laura
  4. Manic mother Amanda.
  5. The entire play is Tom’s recollection
  6. …of his sister and mother
  7. as he has never been able to forget about them.

 

Dysfunctional family…falling apart

  1. Faded Southern belle (Amanda)
  2. having outlived the southern past.
  3. Amanda – Tom – Laura
  4. …characters tear each other apart.
  5. Setting:
  6. moved from the South to urban society
  7. searching for the American Dream

 

Themes:

  1. Illusion vs truth 
  2. Parent (Amanda) not able to accept who her
  3. children (Tom, Laura)  are
  4. …and what they will not be

 

  1. Appearance vs reality
  2. Success  is dependent on appearance
  3. ….girls should be attractive to entertain gentlemen-callers

 

  1. Past vs present
  2. Fantasizing about the  past  – Amanda faded Southern belle)
  3. Running away from the past – Tom, aspiring poet, writer
  4. Unable to see past or future  – Laura, detached from reality
  5. …her unicorn doesn’t even represent a realistic animal!

 

Life lesson:

  1. One can try to escape the past and one’s ties to family
  2. …. but the bonds are too strong’
  3. Tom has managed to escape the family but
  4. they still have a psychological hold on him.
  5. At the end of the play Tom says:
  6. “Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me,
  7. but I am more faithful than I intended to be!”

 

  1. Note:
  2. The troubled life of Rose Williams
  3. …haunts the works of her brother Tennessee.
  4. Williams was devoted to Rose and cared for her until his death.
  5. Rose is the model for the withdrawn, disabled “Laura Wingfield”
  6. …who seeks refuge in her
  7. …collection of glass animals in The Glass Menagerie.

 

Conclusion:

  1. Masterpiece!
  2. #MustRead
11
May

#NSW Premier’s Award Winner 2019 The Lebs

  • Author: Michael Mohammed Ahmad
  • Title: The Lebs
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Hachette Australia
  • Trivia: 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Award WINNER Multicultural  Writing
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #NSWPLA
  • @HachetteAus

Introduction:

  1. M.M. Ahmad, second generation Arab-Australian Muslim
  2. whose family was illiterate.
  3. He has worked very hard to become a creative writer:
  4. four years completing an arts degree
  5. two years completing my honors degree
  6. another four years completing my PhD.
  7. M.M. Ahmad deserves 5 stars!
  8. Next generation of new Australian writers….

 

Conclusion:

  1. Gritty, raw look at
  2. the world that M. M. Ahmad knows so well.
  3. His grandparents came to Australia from Lebanon in 1970
  4. …with no money and no education.
  5. Ahmad has worked hard to master creative writing
  6. …and his 2nd novel is the result.
  7. It is a compelling achievement.
  8. The language is filled with expletives
  9. …but I’ve learned to read around that aspect of the book!
  10. Main character is Bani…a teenager dealing with
  11. many of the usual issues teenage boys face —
  12. gender, sexuality, race, and class….
  13. whilst also trying to obtain an education.
  14. Bani is a Leb second generation Arab-Australian Muslim
  15. growing up in Western Sydney between the
  16. years 1998 and 2005
  17. …what he is describing feels like  a war zone!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I saw M. M. Ahmad accept the NSW Lit Award 2019
  2. for Multicultural Writing via an internet link
  3. with the ceremonies on April 29th.
  4. I was not going to read this book but felt I should
  5. investigate another side of Australia  other than bush stories.
  6. M. M. Ahmad has impressed met with his novel.
  7. Gripping  look at  the Arab-Australian Muslim male identity.
  8. It is told from the perspective of Bani Adam
  9. a fictional version of the author.
  10. This book is buoyant, intelligent
  11. …and very satisfying as it
  12. …delivers a solid dose of uncomfortable truth.
  13. #MustRead
17
Apr

#NSW Premier’s Award shortlist Robert Lukins

 

Finished: 17.04.2019
Genre: novel
Rating: A+

 

Quickscan:

  1. During the freezing English winter of 1962,
  2. seventeen-year-old Radford is sent to Goodwin Manor.
  3. It is a home for boys who have been ‘found by trouble’.
  4. Drawn immediately to the charismatic boy…West.
  5. …Radford soon discovers that each one of them
  6. …has something to hide.

 

Cover:  symbol =  great oak

  1. “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”
  2. Or as Chaucer wrote in 1374,
  3. “as an oak cometh of a litel spyr (sapling)”.

 

Conclusion:

  1. Strong point: foreshadowing
  2. Lukins interjects the ‘thoughts’ of winter
  3. …that builds the tension.
  4. You know something dreadful is going to happen:
  5. …Winter drew air into its cheeks and readied its spears
  6. …perhaps a lesson could go untaught
  7. Winter’s hands could remain clean of blood.
  8. Strong point: foils  Teddy (rector)  vs  Dr. Cass
  9. Cass – remains sullen and soundless, without humor
  10. Cass – remnant of  past..pre-WWII  (spare the rod, spoil the child)
  11. Teddy – his eyes sparkled with clarity
  12. Teddy – sweet eccentricity, charming father figure for the boys
  13. Best Quote: Teddy
  14. “I will stoke you, because fire lies unnourished in all your centers.”
  15. Strong point: character Teddy …extraordinary, words of wisdom for the boys
  16. Teddy is accused of being weak, to soft on the boys by Dr. Cass
  17. Teddy wants the boys to feel like brothers not rivals: “you must help each other.”
  18. Lukins illustrates one of the wisest truths we all need to learn
  19. through the character of Teddy:
  20. Criticism (discipline) should be like a rain
  21. … gentle  enough to nourish growth
  22. …without destroying the roots.
  23. #GreatDebutNovel
  24. ...hope to read more by R. Lukins!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. This book surprised me as a debut novel
  2. That is why I gave it a 5 score instead of a solid 3.
  3. Usually the theory is write what you know.
  4. My first thought was how could a man in Australia
  5. …write about a correctional school in England for boys
  6. ..with the “wrong attitude”?
  7. Lukins placed more emphasis on character development
  8. instead of a sense of place.
  9. So it does not matter  where the struggles take place
  10. …as long as the reader discovers how the character(s) change.