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Rachel Carr
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Reading Rendezvous: Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin

Reading Rendezvous: <em> Brooklyn: A Novel </em> by Colm Toibin
Stars (out of five):4stars

In Colm Toibin’s new book Brooklyn: A Novel we embark a wondrous tale of family and love beyond anything else we have read before. Before leaving her small hometown in Ireland, Eilis is surrounded by her people and cannot find a job worthy of her skills in her small town. As an alternative she considers the idea of moving to New York City, an Irish Priest will sponsor Eilis’ travel to America and she jumps at the opportunity. As Eilis leaves her cautious mother and exuberant sister who have an amazing ability to transgress situations she has some concerns for their well being.

Want an adventure story for women? Well this is it! Eilis has a wonderful sense for numbers and is able to work her way through multiple jobs with this amazing skill. She lives in a boarding house –women only- in Brooklyn where she is working on adapting to her new life, surroundings, and reinventions.

Colm Toibin’s book is truly amazing. This novel is infused with history and so much more and it incorporates knowledge of Ireland as well as individuals who surround her. Colm makes it possible for the reader to connect with characters. Brooklyn: A Novel is a story of inspirational change and alteration, this is a story of the 1950’s, affection, and change. Toibin is able to alter his prose in order to accommodate each character and create interesting language. Brooklyn: A Novel is a wonderful adventure story detailing the search for belonging and a quest for love. Although the novel takes place in the 1950’s it contains a universality that transfers to every individual, we each find a little bit of ourselves in Eilis’ character.

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Gabriella
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Slim Goodies by Sole Discretion: Foldable Shoes, Wristlet & Tote

sole discretion foldable rollable shoes wristlet and toteI love heels to there but I am NOT one of those people that says heels are comfortable and no, I don’t go grocery shopping in stilettos.  For someone that hates being uncomfortable, my selection in heels is ridiculous.  I usually go for a super-high, super-thin heel.  It’s not comfy but it’s sure as hell sexy.  Alas, there always comes a point in the night where I need to swap out the shoes (usually on the way home). Going barefoot is never an option so I’ve always had to lug an extra tote bag with a pair of flats with me – until now.

When Sole Discretion contacted me about their Slim Goodies, rollable/foldable flats that came in a wristlet I said yes, please!  There have been a bunch of travel flats that have come out lately and I really wanted a pair.  The box came a few days later and I was very happy with what I saw.

The Slim Goodies flats are comfy and super slim so that they can roll/fold up into a wristlet.  But, it doesn’t end there.  The wristlet doesn’t just hold the flats – it converts into a tote so you have a place to put the heels you just took off – genius!  I opted for the black pair but the Slim Goodies also come in Leopard, Silver and Gold.  All the ballet flats are complete with a cute bow in the front.

Slim Goodies are perfect for the work commute or for those dress up occasions.  For a mere $15 you can have a safety net for your feet that are adorable and practical.  You can get Slim Goodies online at the Sole Discretion shop.

*I received a pair of Slim Goodies from Sole Discretion to review.

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Gabriella
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Reading Is Sexy: What French Women Know About Love, Sex and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind

Reading Is Sexy: What French Women Know About Love, Sex & Other Matters

It’s not their shoes, scarves or lipstick.  It’s this:  French women don’t give a damn.

-Debra Ollivier

I’ve always been enamored by French culture – the language, the food, the fashion, the kisses – I love it all!  So, when I received What French Women Know About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind, I dove right in as if I were going to find out the secrets of the fountain of youth. When I think of French women, I think of stylish, sexy women who eat whatever they want but are always looking tres chic. Who wouldn’t want to know the secrets of French women?

What French Women Know did not disappoint.  It was a very quick read and was written by Debra Ollivier, an ex-pat American woman who married a French man and relocated to Paris.  As an American woman in Paris, she was able to distill the differences between French and American women so that we Americans could get a little bit of that je ne sais quoi.

Ollivier discusses all facets of life -  men, love, fashion, cuisine, motherhood – and lets us in on the belief systems that reveal themselves through French womens’ actions.  It was refreshing to see a different approach to life – one that embraced the positive and the negative – and spurred women to enjoy life to the fullest.  I really enjoyed What French Women Know About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind, and I will definitely be making some adjustments to the way I think and behave.  What French Women Know About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind is available for sale on Amazon.com.

*I received a copy of the book from the publisher to review.

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artiffact
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M.I.S.S. Healthy Bites: Where’s the Beef?

Warning: Photos of raw meat enclosed.  Be weary vegans and vegetarians!

Warning: Photos of raw meat enclosed. Be weary vegans and vegetarians!

For my first taste of home-cooked beef, not just any beef was worthy enough for me to cook and sink my teeth into.  After all, I remember quite vividly why I became a vegetarian in the first place.  But after eating Painted Hills Natural Beef, I might have to say my vegetarian days are officially over.

Click below to read more about where I found this beef, and what I did with it. Continue Reading

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Rachel Carr
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Reading Rendezvous: Every Man Dies Alone by Hanns Fallada

Reading Rendezvous

Stars (Out of Five): 3.5
“As it was, we all acted alone, we were caught alone, and every one of us will have to die alone. But that doesn’t mean that we are alone.”

Okay Ladies, I am writing about a novel that was originally introduced to me via a friend who knew I had a huge interest in the topic. Every Man Dies Alone is a classic story of rebellion during World War II. Originally published in 1947, Rudolf Ditzen –publishing under the pen name Hans Fallada- wrote the novel in a hectic 24 days. This story is one of triumph and rebellion in a country where many of these ambitions were subdued do the impossibility of speaking out against the socialist government.

This story takes place in 1941 in war torn Berlin, where a couple attempts to fight against a hierarchy. The couple has taken it upon themselves to create post cards speaking out against Hitler, the first of which states “Mother! The Fuhrer has murdered my son. Mother! The Fuhrer will murder your sons too; he will not stop till he has brought sorrow to every home in the world.”

Every Man Dies Alone details two sides of the story; the first of which is Inspector Escherich whose job it is to locate and condemn the ‘postcard phantom’ and the other is of Anna and Otto Quangel who attempt to stand up against the people that bind them. Fallada is not only able to incorporate the lives of the Quangel’s and Escherich, but also the lives of the individuals who surround them. Particularly Fallada focuses on the individuals in the Quangel’s building, ranging from a timid Jewish grandmother whose husband was arrested, a Judge, and a Nazi supporting family. While many other characters pass in and out of the dialogue it primarily rotates around these distinct individuals.

Mr. Quangel- originally a factory foreman-has kept to himself; however, when he learns that his only son has died in Hitler’s battle, Quangel transforms from his usual passive self to the progressive and aggressive individual who attempts to fight in every subtle way that he could. As his wife states, “No one could risk more than his life. Each according to his strength and abilities, but the main reason was, you fought back.” This is true as the couple quickly grab the attention of the inspector and their postcards begin to populate the city of Berlin.

“We live not for ourselves, but for others. What we make of ourselves we make not for ourselves, but for others…”

Fallada’s novel brings light to many issues of triumph that were circulating at this time. Yet we learn at the completion of the novel that Otto and Anna were real individuals- Otto and Elise Hampel-who conducted this campaign for over two years following the death of Elise’s brother. When they were arrested in 1942 the Hampels were executed for their ‘transgressions’. The novel was originally written in German and has been translated into to English for many other individuals, that at times it is obvious that there is some confusion with language. While the original dialogue is translated Fallada’s prose evokes a change in each of us. This is not a triumphant tale of survival it is an act of transgression or resistance it is a small campaign that made a difference and stopped the brutality at least for a little bit.
Fallada’s novel was truly amazing and heartbreaking. Every Man Dies Alone enraptures the reader in stories of love and rebellion. It in encompasses everything that we love from a summer beach read but includes historical information and so much more. I leave you with this thought, what would you do in this situation? You would like to think you would speak out but when you consider those who surrounded each citizen you question yourself. So I ask you again, What would you do?

Discussion Questions (adapted from Book Browse)

1. In what way does the apartment house at 55 Jablonski Strasse represent Berlin society as a whole?

2. When we first meet Otto and Anna Quangel we have the sense that their relationship is very static. Does their relationship change over the course of the novel?

3. Hans Fallada creates an atmosphere of fear, where all the characters are afraid of something anything. What is the fear that affects each character? What role does fear play in controlling and motivating Borkhausen? Persicke? Enno Kluge? The judge? Otto? Inspector Zott? Trudel?

4. Although Inspector Escherich is a Nazi, are we supposed to be sympethetic towards him? Does his character change? If so what brings about that change? Why do you think Escherich kills himself?

5. Much of the novel is about disjuncted families – The Quangels, Eva Kluge and her husband and sons, the Borkhausen’s and the Persickes. How does Fallada use the condition of the family to express the condition of the society?

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