Monday, August 31, 2009

A Poisoned Season - Book Review

A Poisoned Season
by Tasha Alexander
William Morrow Books (Imprint of Harper Collins)2007

This is the second Book in the Emily Ashton series. Emily is now out of mourning and can at long last wear bright colours again. Once again Emily and her husbands friend Colin Hargreaves get involved with murder and pretenders when Mr David Francis, an acquaintance, is poisoned.

There is also a new gentleman in town. Charles Berry who claims to be descended from the French Royal family and therefore is demadning that he be given support and money in order to reclaim his throne. Mr Berry was born and raised in USA and did not learn the french language. Emily finds this odd. Charles is also interested in acquiring any item or article that used to belong to Queen Marie Antoinette.

At the same time, artciles that used to belong to Marie Antoinette begin to disapper from the owner houses. Emily and Colin travel to Paris, Istanhul and Santorini (Greece) to discover the thief and to find the person who poisoned David Francis.

This was a another great book. I read this in just 2 hours yesterday sitting in Berzscy Park while my son had fun at the Buskerfest. I could not put it down.

And Only to Deceive - Book Review

And Only to Deceive
by Tasha Alexander
Harper Collins 2006

I found a new author last week.

Tasha Alexander has created a wonderful central character - a strong woman who knows her own mind, who is educated and who does not accept all the traditions and rules that high society says she must.

Her name is Lady Emily Ashton and she lives in London England during the time of Queen Victoria.

In this book (the first in the series) Emily was under a great deal of pressure from her mother to marry a suitable man with a title. Emily herself is the daughter of an Earl. In order to get away from her mothers demands and interference, she agrees to marry Philip, Viscount Ashton. Philip's hobby is to go hunting in Africa. This he continues to do after the marriage and within 6 months, he is dead.

Lady Emily must go through 2 years of mourning. During this time she must wear nothing but BLACK for the first 12 months and then ONLY gray and muted colours during the second year of mourning. Emily uses this time to start reading the Greek classics in order to understand why her husband was interested in the classical era. Emily's mother does not put too much pressure on her daughter during the first year but in the second year, the pressure to get married again starts up again

Philip had a best friend. His name is Colin Hargreaves. He takes it upon himself to show Emily what her husband was like and why he was killed. It turns out that while philip was hunting in Africa, he ws also chasing down antiquities to save them and donate them to museums where they would be safe. Emily and Colin discover a ring of forgers who forged these antiquities in order to sell the real ones and replace them with false copies in the museums.

By the time Colin and Emily had discovered who the forgers are, they have also discovered that it was the forgers who killed Philip because he had discovered their activities.

I really enjoyed this novel. Emily's mother was extremely exasperating and very intrusive. There are now 4 books starring Lady Emily Ashton. I have read the second book - review up next - but have yet to find the last 2 books.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lori's Song

Lori's Song
by Lori Foroozandeh
Outskirts Press,
Denver, Colorado, 2009
Lori's website

This books tells a horrendous story of an American woman in a prison camp somewhere in Iran, who was tortured purely because she was an American.

Lori was abused as a child and married at age 15 to get away from her adoptiive family. She had a son, Douglas. The marriage broke up and Lori went back to school to become a nurse. She graduated in 1985.

Sometime in the mid 1990s Lori married Mohammed Foroozandeh, an Iranian. Upon marrying him, she automatically became an Iranian citizen under Iranian law. In the late 1990s Lori and her husband went to Iran to live. They lived in the southern city of Shiraz.

For 2 years Lori worked as an english teacher, forced to be submissive and to wear the all covering chador (aka burkha). Mohammed also abused her as well. He slapped her regularly whenever she was not submissive enough or fast enough.

Lori taught teenage girls and young women at a private college. This is a photo of Lori's students at the college. Leila, on the far right, was drowned in the backyard pool by her father because she was caught with a man she was not married to. Lori (in the middle with the blond hair and white shirt) was stunned by this punishment.

Lori's husband, Mohammed Foroozandeh was a drug addict and a drug dealer. He was always making business trips and then he began a new business as an "immigration consultant". This became Lori's job after she was forced to leave the private college. The Iranian government was putting pressure on the college to not hire the infidel American.

Lori was the front person for the immigration consutant business. She had all the knowledge of immigration to USA and what was required. Mohammed found the Iranian clients who were willing to pay big money to get to the USA. He charged very high prices. Then the money would disappear. Lori eventually discovered that Mohammed was using the money to buy drugs.

When Lori entered Iran, she was forced to give up her passport to the Iranian immigration department. In the year 2001, Mohammed decided that he needed to leave Iran. He arranged for them to leave by bus. At the bus station the day after 9-11, the police arrived and Lori was captured. Mohammed got away.

Lori spent the next several months in a prison camp where she was tortured. Other prisoners in the camp either had American sympathies, had relatives in USA or had busines contacts in USA. Lori was handcuffed to another girl who was supposedly part Iranian and part American. Her family were also in the same camp. The family eventually escaped, but not before the girl died. They took Lori with them.

Lori eventually made her way to Teheran but when she went to the Swiss embassy (who also handle US interests in Iran) she was turned away and they refused to help her because they considerd her to be a liar. They claimed her story was impossible The Iranians did not torture, they said. Lori had no passport and could not leave Iran legally. She found some friends and supporters in Iran and one of them eventually got her passport back.

When Lori arrived back in USA she wanted to tell her story to the public.But every where she turned, the media and the government refused to listen to her, refused to beleive her and refused to allow her to go public.

Lori has been back in USA now for several years. She has spent msny years dealing with her PTSS - post traumatic stress syndrome - and has found another wonderful man to whom she is engaged.

She also decided that she must let the world know the truth about Iran. No mainstream publisher or newspaper will touch her story, so Lori has had to publish it herself.

No post for 3 weeks - my apologies

I am so sorry I have not posted for the last 3 weeks, but I am currently still looking for a job. So I am not reading as much as I usually do. I have sent out lots of emails but with the recession going on right now, I am not getting any responses.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Julie & Julia - Movie & Book Review

Julie & Julia (Movie)
Movie Released - August 2009 (in Canada)
Writer & Director - Nora Ephron

Julie & Julia. (Book)
by Julie Powell - This is the real Julie Powell
Little, Brown & Company
September 2006

I read this book sometime earlier this yer - I think after my food challenge ended. Because someone wrote a review for the challenge on the last day. So I never got to review it.

Today I went to see to see the movie of the same name - Julie & Julia. It was wonderful, charming and excellent. I really enjoyed it.

It was funny - Watching Julie Powell learning how to cook lobsters was hilarious.
And it was sad as well - we see Julia Child's husband Paul, being interrogated under Senator McCarthy's witch hunts of the early 1950s.

The movie is based in TWO books. Julie Powells book based on her Julie & Julia Project blog.
Also based on Julia Child's memoir, MY LIFE IN FRANCE, which she wrote with her grand nephew Alex Prud'homme.

Julia Child died in Santa Barbara, California August 13, 2004. Thats 5 years ago this Wednesday. She was born in Pasadena in 1913 as Julia McWilliams.

So if Julia was an American - why did she always speak with a fake french accent. Meryl Streep does it as well. If I didn't know that Meryl Streep speaks perfectly good American English, anyone would have though she was a french born person, speaking english with a foreign accent. Does anyone know why Julia always spoke in a fake french accent?

And one last comment. It was fun seeing Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci together again - playing completely different characters than they did in the movie - The Devils Wears Prada. This is what acting is really about, Playing different characters and making them believeable.

Anyway, if you love cooking - and even of you dont - you have to see this movie. It's all about marriage and life and love and laughter.

Julie & Julia movies at Yahoo

Julie & Julia official website

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Creative Company - Book Review

Creative Company
By Andy Law
Originally Published by Orion, London, UK, 1998
Published by John Wiley & Sons, NYC 1999

St Lukes Communications website
An article about St Lukes From Fast Magazine : Issue 06 : December 1996

I realise this is a business book, but I really enjoyed it. I found it very interesting. This is about Andy Law, an Englishman, and how he created and founded a new advertising agency in London in the early 1990's.

He wanted a new kind of company - one where all the employees were owners and where they could all be partners instead of being told what to do and having no part in the decision making.

Andy and his partners called the company St Lukes after the patron saint of creative people. It is now called St Lukes communications.

St Lukes has gone on to break all kinds of records and to make unusual ads that are winning awards all over the world.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mao's Last Dancer - Book Review

Mao's Last Dancer
by Li Cunxin
Berkeley/Penguin 2003
Author's Website

We have all heard of Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Barishnikov, Natalia Makarova- all three famous Ballet stars who defected from Communist Russia in the 1970s to find freedom in the west.

How many of you have ever heard of a Chinese dancer name Li Cunxin (Lee ShwenSing)? Probably most of you are saying, WHO?

Well this is his story. Those of you from Texas may remember his defection in 1981 when he was held captive in the chinese consulate (in Houston) for 21 hours, along with several american friends, because he was choosing to NOT return to China as he was supposed to.

This is the autobiography of Li Cunxin that chronicles his life in China under Mao Tse Tung (Zedong). Li was born in 1961 in a very poor village in Qingdao Province (on the Shandong Peninsula north of Beijing). He was the 6th of 7 sons - there being no one-child policy in those days. Li's eldest brother was 13 years his senior. Li grew up as a epasant child, and did not srat school until the age of 9.

At the age of 11, he was picked by his teacher to be sent to the Beijing Dance Academy where he would learn Ballet. Li spent 7 long years in Beijing, only going home for a brief 3 week vacation at the chinese new year (in February - the middle of winter). For seven years Li danced and was educated from 5.30 am to 9pm for 6 days of the week, only have one day off for himself.

In 1979 Li finally won an opportunity to visit USA on a dance scholarship. He was to spend 6 weeks in Texas as a student learning the more famous western ballets (swan lake, nutcracker etc) none of which he had learned.

One of the things Li had been taught as a child was that America was a very evil place. The Americans hated anyone who was not white, they enslaved the black people and there were many people sleeping on the streets. Which meant that Americans were very poor.

When Li Cunxin went to Texas in 1979, he finally understood that Mao Tse tung (Mao Zedong) had lied to the chinese people. Yes there were American people living in the streets, but nowhere near as many as the chinese government had claimed. Ordinary middle class Americans owned their own houses with indoor plumbing. Li grew up in a small village with an outhouse.

When Li returned home after that short trip, he begged his teachers to allow him to go to America again. He really wanted to learn how to dance better. Finally in 1980 Li was given permission to return to USA for 1 year.

In 1981, just before he was due to return to China, Li went to the chinese consulate in Houston, Texas and told the officials there that he would not be returning to china. They refused to let him leave. Li spent 21 hours stuck in the consulate before an agreement was reached between the Chinese and US governments for Li to be allowed to stay. Mr Bush (Later President Bush 41) was the one who was most responsible for this. Part of the agreement was for Li to never write a book about his life. He kept that rule for 20 years but has now decided to tell the world the truth.

This is Li in 2006 - aged 45.

Li stayed in USA for 16 years. He was married twice but the first marriage did not work out. He remarried an Australian dancer. Li Cunxin, his wife and his children all now live in Australia.

This was an excellent book. This is the real story of what it's like to grow up in Communist China. A movie of Li's life is due to be released shortly.

Mao's Last Dancer Movie - to be shown at Toronto Film Festival September 2009

Mao And Then - Sydney Morning Herald October 2007