Two For Tuesday Part One: Silver Ladies of Penny Lane by Dee MacDonald

image-376Tess and Orla have been best friends throughout most of their adult lives. So when life gave them lemons and their loved ones let them down, they pooled their resources and bought a dressmakers shop on the corner of Penny Lane. And they’ve been doing just fine ever since.    Or have they?

I have read and adored Dee MacDonald’s books in the past, specifically The Runaway Wife. I was very excited to read The Silver Ladies of Penny Lane especially since the ladies, Tess and Orla, sounded just a bit like me. They are a tad older than I am, but not by much, single, own their own dress shop for plus sized women and are in need of a change of pace in their lives. Tess, particularly, is trying to lose weight before her daughter’s wedding and doesn’t wish to appear to be washed up and left behind in life. I completely understand how she feels. I think there are many women who reach this age who feel that way after our kids are grown and starting their own lives. So I settled down for a nice read with the silver ladies.

Sadly, I found myself dismayed on multiple levels almost to the point that I barely finished reading the book at all. The women own a shop for plus sized women and are overweight themselves. Yet the remarks that they make about their customers are horrible and extremely unkind, mean in fact. For my health I have lost over 70 pounds, so I’m keenly aware of body image. The statements made by the women in this bookdxes are the very things that keep most women from ever stepping foot in a shop like this in the first place. I was utterly appalled! Secondly, I can assure you that if I had a friend who sabotaged my dieting efforts and belittled my thoughts and efforts as often and as fiercely as Orla did to Tess, we would not have been friends for more than a few days, much less for years. She is a horrible friend. I didn’t find her funny. I found her terrible, a bully. And thirdly, some of the dates that these women found themselves on were nothing short of rape! To put these into a context of “humor” is shameful! To suggest that it is okay because everyone is older or senile or overweight or frumpy or whatever we were supposed to think is simply egregious. There was nothing funny about any of this. From negative body images, stereotypes about overweight women, age discrimination to condoning date rape, this is not a book I recommend at all and I am disappointed that it is out there for others to read at all. This is not a matter of being a “snowflake” or too PC, this is a matter of women standing up for what is right and what should not be allowed. Rarely do I give a one star review but this time I think it is very deserved. I am 58 years old and very proud of not being frumpy, silver haired, desperate or willing to put up with a man sexually assaulting me or any other woman – ever! In fact, I don’t need a man at all – and neither do you!

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#TopTenTuesday for #BannedBookWeek

It’s Tuesday and many book bloggers are participating in the fun Top Ten Tuesday post. I thought I would put a little twist on it this week by posting the <b>Top Ten Banned Books for 2017</b>. It is astounding to me that in the 21st century there still are banned or challenged books. Sadly, nearly all of the books are challenged due to race and sex. I’m unsure why parents feel the need to shelter children from knowing about people who might be different from oneself but it is still perfectly acceptable to subject those same children to copious amounts of violence on television, in books and, especially, in video games. Perhaps if we as a people concerned ourselves more about gratuitous violence harming our children, the world would not be in the shape it is in today.

Save the World and read a @BannedBook this week.

The Assassination of Robert F Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up by Tim Tate and Brad Johnson

In 1968, Robert F Kennedy was elected as the Democratic party’s presidential candidate. Immediately afterward, he was shot and killed in the kitchen of the California hotel in which he was staying. Sirhan Sirhan, a Syrian, was arrested and convicted – but the story doesn’t end there. 

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Tim Tate, an investigative journalist and documentarian, along with Brad Johnson, an award winning writer and producer, could not accept the government’s account of the events of that fateful day, a day which transformed the very fabric of our nation.

1968 was a volatile time in American history: civil rights marches, feminist marches, the murder of Martin Luther King; the nation was being torn apart at the seams. The calm in this storm, often, was Robert Kennedy – Bobby – the younger brother to JFK, former Attorney General and darling of the Democratic Party. His murder and the subsequent government inquiries shocked the American people to their core. Sirhan Sirhan, a Syrian nationalist, immediately was taken into custody, charged and convicted of the crime. He has not, however, waivered through the years regarding his innocence.

Before this book was written, RFK, Jr, Bobby’s son, met with Sirhan Sirhan – alone – for hours, just the two of them talking.  Attorney RFK, Jr. asked pertinent questions as any attorney would do. RFK, Jr. came away convinced, without doubt, that Sirhan Sirhan did not fire the fatal shot into his father’s head. He is asking for a re-opening of the case.

As an historian and an admirer of the Kennedy family, I have read extensively about the family, each son, a few of the daughters and both assassinations – RFK and JFK. I know that while John was the flashier of the two brothers, Bobby was the reasonable, thoughtful, quiet one. I also have read Bobby’s journals during a mid-east visit that he and John took before JFK was elected. While JFK was “squishy” on mid-east matters, particularly on the Israel-Palestine issue, Bobby was steadfast in his support of Palestinian and Muslim rights. He wrote extensively regarding his doubts and questions pertaining to Israel’s policies against Palestine and Syria – and no, the Syrian problem is not a new thing, but rather was exacerbated during this time. Bobby supported Syria and the people there. Which begs the question, why would a Syrian kill the only presidential candidate who publicly supported their cause?

Aside from the political fall out that such an act would cause, the forensic evidence never has matched Sirhan Sirhan. In all of the photographs taken, Sirhan is standing in front of RFK when the shot was fired. This is well documented. Yet the bullet fired was to the back of Kennedy’s head. This alone should have raised doubts into the government inquiry, and for many it did. However, no amount of questioning would alter the government’s findings: Lone shooter, Sirhan Sirhan.

Tate and Johnson have conducted extensive research into all of the areas of this assassination and they have presented a well laid out, thoughtful review of the murder, arrest and subsequent inquiry. They concluded, as did RFK, Jr., that Sirhan Sirhan might have been complicit in the murder, but he was not the actual murderer. This does, of course, imply a conspiracy. While I don’t actually believe in conspiracies, as such, I do believe in government machinations and cover-ups. The US has thousands of government cover-ups on record now that once were considered “conspiracies” to the lay American. When governments lie in order to create war against innocent people, an inquiry into the death of a “bothersome” political candidate isn’t far-fetched at all. Remember, too, who ultimately went on to win that election and ask yourself, in retrospect, if he was a trustworthy man. Hardly.

In an interview with The Washington Post, as well as many other venues since, Robert Kennedy, Jr. has pointedly stated that Sirhan did not kill his father, that there had to been another gunman in the room and that a new investigation must be opened. I cannot think of a greater endorsement for this cause than his statement.

I already have admitted to being a Kennedy fanatic and, most likely, would have read this book regardless. It is, however, an excellent book, thoroughly researched and expertly written. The writing is so engrossing that I could not put it down until I turned the very last page – and then I went online to read more! It covers not only the assassination, but the tumultuous times surrounding it. It has been fifty years since this tragedy and it is past time that, as Americans, we address this issue.

I never have been more grateful to receive a book to review than I was this one! My appreciation to @TimTate and @BradJohnson, not only for the book but for their time spent on its research. Thank you, also, to Thistle Publishing Co. and #Netgalley for this opportunity.

 

Convenience Store Woman

This summer is busier than usual here at Macsbooks and books/reading have taken a backseat – sadly. But, now that we’re on the downhill run toward autumn, there will be much more time for pleasurable things – like reading terrific books!

If you love witty conversation, wry humor and quirky characters then Convenience Store Woman is the book for you! 

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Originally written in Japanese, Convenience Store Woman on the surface is a story about Keiko Furukura, a woman whose own parents labeled “a strange child.” Slow to develop, Keiko’s parents were worried about her ability to “fit in” and be a “normal” adult. They wish for Keiko to have a “real job” and a boyfriend. However, Keiko loves her job at the convenience store and her only worry is the pressure to live up to her parents’ expectations.

As the characters come and go through the store, we soon realize that perhaps Keiko is the one who comes closest to “normal.”

Convenience Store Woman is an endearing story, a character study of a myriad of personalities and a tale of acceptance that will warm your heart and leave you wanting more. It also is a wonderful, subtle opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Japanese culture.

This is a beautiful, very short piece of fiction by Sayaka Murata, who still works part time at a convenience store.

My thanks to #Netgalley, the author, Granta Publications and Portobello Books for the opportunity to read this intriguing book.

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

“In Rwanda, they have a word ….: Amahoro. It means peace, but so much more.” 

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Jennifer Haupt writes of the word “Amahoro” often when she is writing about Rwanda. It means a quest for peace, the type of peace that comes within your soul, your essence, when you have truly forgiven someone and now are at rest with the past. It is a difficult state to achieve, much more difficult if you have been through trauma, but it is this peace, the quest for it and the journey taken along the way, that is at the heart of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills. 

This is the tale primarily of Rachel who, after surviving a miscarriage and the death of her mother, feels the need to seek out her estranged father. a photojournalist living in Rwanda. However, it is also about the women of the villages, the aide workers, her father’s new wife who runs an orphanage in Rwanda and about their commonality of grief. Through the story we learn about the horror, the genocide, that occurred in Rwanda in the 1990s, and we learn how difficult it is to put your life back together after such a massive trauma – but also that trauma, no matter how great or small – binds us all together in a very unique way. It is that link that should open our eyes to the horrors we are causing every single day.

10,000 Hills is not meant to be a documentary of the genocide in Rwanda. It is an opportunity for many readers, all over the world, to learn a bit more about this travesty and, through this knowledge, hopefully, to seek out more resources. That is what I adore about world fiction- it whets the appetite to know more. Many who read this never will have heard of Rwanda, nor will they know about the genocide there. Through a beautiful story they will learn. It is the first step.

The tale itself is marvelously written, the prose is beautiful. It is one of those rare books that opens up both another world outside of my “American concepts” as well as nudges me in the direction to seek out my own peace, to be a better person.

Kudos to Haupt for an excellent book that should be read by all. May we and the world seek and experience Amahoro.

Thank you, also, to Jennifer Haupt and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this incredible piece of work.