Book Review | Out of Granada by Ben Fine

out of granada coverFocusing on protagonist Miguel, Out of Granada relays the story of a Jewish family, who despite their conversion to Catholicism, must flee Spain for their safety. The book details Miguel’s education in Italy and subsequent training and work in the Italian Wars. It follows as Miguel leads a party of converted families from Granada to Malaga and then over sea to the New World. Battles, pirates and a hint of romance keep the story interesting.

Readers interested in an immersive experience fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500’s will enjoy this accessible novel. There are frequent chapter breaks, making the text fairly quick reading. The author is repetitive at times and sometimes overly descriptive. It seems several edits were made and a final proofreading could have helped to eliminate some of the superfluous text. That said, the book is still a good read. Unfortunately, there are currently no library holdings for this book.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

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The Polygamist’s Daughter : a memoir by Anna LeBaron

lebaron daughter cover.jpgBased on her experiences as one of more than 50 of Ervil LeBaron’s children, The Polygamist’s Daughter relays Anna’s life story from it’s beginning growing up as a cult member to her exit from the cult as an adult. The book recounts many of Anna’s specific memories about activities that she was involved in as a youth, as well as her emotional and spiritual journey into adulthood. The first part of the text focuses on her difficult time living with a type of host family in Mexico. Next she moves often in the US between Colorado and Texas as she attends school. Finally, she breaks away from the cult and finds God and a family of her own.

As a memoir, this book serves as a keyhole looking back on another time. The recounted details were mostly interesting and kept the story going. Times in Mexico and unconventional activities provided the best insights in this text. Though the book flowed decently, adjectives are often overused and result in frequent repetition. The repetitive sentences also appeared in several chapters, making the book ultimately seem more like a YA text than an autobiography. A shorter, more direct book may have been a better choice. The religious emphasis is quite heavy in the book’s second half. This book would appeal to those interested in polygamy, religious coming of age stories, or Christian non-fiction. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Fräulein M. by Caroline Woods

Fräulein M coverStep into 1920’s Berlin to see protagonist sisters Grete and Berni growing up in an orphanage. Fräulein M. shares their story as one sister moves into a Jewish owned flat to work at bars and the other becomes involved in work for the reich. Interwoven chapters allow the novel to include a storyline in 1970’s South Carolina where a young lady is hoping to learn about her mother’s sealed war-time experience. Do not be fooled by the cover image, this book is not about sex.

In this well-written historical fiction piece, Woods presents the lives of multiple characters successfully by focusing on how their actions affect each other. The novel flowed well despite the changing character focus. Berni’s transgender best friend was tastefully incorporated, adding value to the text. Chapters were of appropriate lengths, which allowed for pauses during the reading. This book would appeal to fans of historical fiction or women’s fiction. Check it out from a library near you!

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Fräulein M., you may be interested in The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky (2017). 

Book Review | The Book of Moon by George Crowder

book-of-moonThe Book of Moon follows high schooler Moon Landing through his parents divorce and their custody issues. Dealing with the divorce may be major, but Moon feels he has a host of other problems on his plate in this coming of age tale. Topics discussed include cute girls, Mom on the dating market, religion, skateboarding and others.

Many reviewers have noted the wry tone of this book. The writing style is very casual with Crowder often opting for the conversational tone instead of a grammatically correct sentence; a choice he has made to give more life to the young narrator’s voice. This coming-of-age narrator is meant to mature through the work, and Crowder is mostly successful here, except for a few spots where the progression of voice seems nonlinear. Overall an enjoyable read, I found the first half of the book kept my attention better than the second half. Chapter breaks are frequent making this book easy to pick up and put down, great for reading on public transit. Normally I’d give you a link to check the book out at your local library, but it’s not yet (11 Feb 17) listed in WorldCat. You can find a preview on GoodreadsI received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the author for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Mexico : stories by Josh Barkan

mexico stories josh barkan.jpgMexico is a collection of twelve short stories by Josh Barkan. The book’s characters come from various backgrounds and the stories are not connected other than that they all take place in Mexico. Protagonists include US expats and Mexicans, ranging in age from children to older adults. Themes dealt with include religion, interpersonal relations, gang violence, power struggle, cancer and corruption, among others. While some characters are coming of age, others are changing their ways after a life’s work.

This book is well-written and started out strong, but petered out a little as it continued. That said, each story is thought provoking and works well on its own. The themes and perspectives offered were interesting, but something to pull the reader in and keep his attention was lacking. Because of the format, some characters were not as well developed and harder to relate to. Barkan has incorporated violence tastefully into these stories, which range in length and make the book easy to pick up or put down. This book would appeal to those interested in experiencing a slice of life in another culture from various points of view. Released in January 2017, you should be able to check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz

mountains of parnassus.jpegPublished in Polish in 2012, The Mountains of Parnassus was completed by Nobel Prize winner Milosz in the early 1970’s. Though the novel is classified as science fiction, it is dystopian fiction and currently quite applicable. The book is broken into seven sections and introduces the reader to four distinct characters: an astronaut, a cardinal, an exiled man and a struggling man. Each character has a very different story, which allows for wider reader appeal.

The quality of the writing in this book is excellent. Milosz has set some feelings in words in a very touching way. Some of the characters were easier to relate to than others, and their stories combined well to form the novel. It is a quick read, more of a novella that can be read in a few hours. The text is thought provoking and considering when it was originally written, brings to mind the foresight seen in the writing of Ira Levin. This English translation is expected to be published on January 10, 2017.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the translator/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Film Review | Félix et Meira by Maxime Giroux

Meira feels suffocated, living the life of a Hasidic Jewish married woman in Montreal. Because of strict tradition, she is unable to listen to the music she would like or spend time with friends of her choosing. The majority of her time is to be spent caring for her infant in the confines of her home. When Félix introduces himself to Meira in a neighborhood bakery, her immediate reaction is to flee without speaking. When the couple runs into each other again, Félix shares the news of his father’s passing and gives her a drawing he has made. Meira’s interest is piqued and she begins spending time with Félix and having a new kind of fun that furthers her belief that her current life is stifling.

While Félix & Meira is somewhat slow moving, it is interesting enough to keep the viewer’s attention. The plot is well developed and believable. The film won several awards in Canada, it’s country of origin, but the true highlight of the film is it’s soundtrack. Perhaps those to enjoy this film most would be those affected by similar issues of religious lifestyle restriction, or those wishing to leave a difficult relationship. Check this film out from a library near you.