Book Review of Only by Blood

Author: Renate Krakauer

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Only by Blood is not just another Holocaust survival story. The author has crafted a clever mystery. She writes parallel stories about the two main characters, setting up for their inevitable meeting. The reader can glean that the two protagonists are related—the truth playing hide-and-seek between the lines. Only towards the end does the author reveal the specifics of this relationship.

Marnia, the modern-day doctor living in Poland, is bent on learning about her roots because of her mother’s dying wish urging her to “find them…make it right.” Her mother’s plea, uttered with her dying breath cannot be ignored. Her own curiosity regarding the secrecy that shrouds her childhood, leads her to embark on a journey of discovery that will take her from Poland to Canada.

Roza is a young mother who endures and survives the Nazi regime in Poland during World War II. Her journey to save her infant daughter is one that no mother should have to make. Forced into hiding during the war, Roza encounters and overcomes seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations. Miraculously she survives, as does her daughter, Hanka. Together with her husband, the three migrate to Toronto, Canada.

As layer upon layer of both women’s stories are peeled back, it becomes clear that they are somehow connected, and that the relationship dates back to the war years. But the connection seems elusive, at least for this reader, and the exposition when it comes is satisfying. Of course, when I finished reading the book, I wanted to go back and find the bread crumbs that the author had left throughout the book.

The novel is beautifully written. One can’t help but feel sad for the torturous experiences of the Holocaust survivors. The appalling cruelty that one human being can inflict upon another while under the influence of corrupt power is beyond comprehension. One would think that that we would have learned from history to be more compassionate and to never subject another person to those types of brutal behaviour. But the sad reality is that although the world has changed since the Holocaust, war is still a way of life in many regions and people continue to perpetrate hateful acts.

Why I Love Mondays

Happy Monday!

“Now that it’s all over, what did you really do yesterday that’s worth mentioning?” Coleman Cox

345_Why I Love Mondays

The above quote popped up in one of my emails as I started to write this blog. How appropriate and timely for this post about a day that most of us dread. Do you love Mondays? I do. I’m betting that you’re looking at me funny and thinking, “Is she out of her mind?”

Trade in a Corporate Work Day

No, my grey matter is still intact where it belongs, but I did drop something…something out of my weekly routine, that is. More than a year ago, I traded in a corporate work day for a writing day. Best decision ever! Now I look forward to my Mondays when my only obligation is to myself. My calendar is cleared so that all I have to do is write and do all things related to advancing my writing career. When I wake up on Tuesday mornings to write in my gratitude journal, I gratefully state what I accomplished on my date with my creative side. It leaves me wishing for more…but all in good time.

A Fair Swap?

Do you get how liberating and wonderful it feels to shut out the corporate world for twenty-four blissful hours every week? To anticipate only four workdays instead of five? To be able to set my own agenda for what I want to achieve without having my time hijacked by another employee or another crisis? And to find a happy balance between my left brain and my right brain?

Monday Fantasies

On Mondays I create fantasy worlds where I play god, breathing life into my characters or killing them at will. I’ve almost completed my second novel now. No, it’s not a sequel to “Picture Bride” as many of my readers have asked for. Rather it’s a story (working title, “Wait for Me“) about a young woman’s journey to immigrate to Canada after her husband takes a “fake” wife to expedite the process.

Following the publication of “Picture Bride” in November 2014, I started writing its sequel. About a quarter of the way in, I just couldn’t connect with my characters the way I did when I wrote the first book. That’s when I decided to park it for a future date. Better to keep my readers waiting than to turn out work I have a hard time breathing life into at this time.

A Ship-Load of Editing Awaits

Now “Wait for Me” is going through the first round of editing…and it’s a ship-load of work, but I’m loving it. Although I knew that writing a novel wasn’t easy, I didn’t expect it to consume so much of my life. You really have to love this journey to be able to keep up the rigorous schedule you need to maintain to finish writing a book. Now at the editing stage, it’s a major re-write where I just about scrutinize every word and every event. If it weren’t for the novel-tracking workbook that I’ve developed, I don’t know how I’d be able to keep tabs on all my characters and events. If you’d like to try out my Excel workbook with automated time lapse calculations, I’ll be happy to share it with you for free, of course.

So is There a Happy Monday in Your Near Future?

Would you give up a part of your income in exchange for an extra day or two to write or do something you love?

 

Picture by Jeremy Hsiung

Why You Should Work on Your Own Terms: A Book Review

Work on Your Own Terms in Midlife & Beyond

A Book Written by Janine L. Moore

I was Wrong:

When I first came across the book, Work on Your Own Terms in Midlife & Beyond, I had already mapped out my exit strategy from the corporate world. In my mind, I didn’t need any more help to retool for my post-corporate life. The trouble was that I bought the book–it was an impulse buy–, and I couldn’t let a purchase go to waste. So I decided to read it.

I opened it on my tablet during my outbound flight to Portugal where a blissful week of sightseeing and socializing with friends awaited. From the first chapter, Janine Moore hooked me with her engaging style. The first quote I read, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin, drew me in. Then as I read more, I felt more and more connected to Ms. Moore. She spoke to me even though I thought I didn’t need to hear anymore. She made a lot of sense, so I listened.

Every night at the hotel that week in Portugal, exhausted from the day’s activities I’d read the book before going to bed. Ms. Moore advises the reader to read the entire book once, and then re-read one chapter each day, doing the exercises shown after each one. The idea is to rewire your brain by the end of thirty days when you finish reading the book. She wants you “to view the world through a different lens so you can create life on your own terms.”

The Book

Work On Your Own Terms in Midlife & Beyond: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life
Each chapter begins with one or more powerful quotes from the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dale Carnegie, the Dalai Lama, and others, and ends with some action steps where Ms. Moore also lists some suggested reading materials. She cleverly groups most of the chapters under six of our main fears: 1) Poverty, 2) Criticism, 3) Poor Health, 4) Loss of Love, 5) Old Age, and 6) Death. She addresses these fears and how to work with them.

Our fears cripple us if we let them. The author uses examples and quotes to help you tame them. For instance, the fear of poverty drives us to work hard and to amass more wealth than we need, thus cuffing us to our jobs longer than necessary. She uses the parable of the businessman and the fisherman to illustrate how one can chase monetary gains blindly in the name of financial freedom that will allow you to spend quality time with family and friends. However, all this while, that dream is already within the businessman’s reach except he doesn’t know it.

Death finds everyone without exception. The author quotes Norman Cousins, “The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside us while we live.” Food for thought. She also believes that the people who ponder their own mortality lead more fulfilling lives. She uses Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. as an example. He said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

The Message

While I haven’t gone back to re-read the book as recommended by the author–time constraints being my excuse–I plan to do it as soon as I can. I believe in Ms. Moore’s message about working on your own terms. It doesn’t even have to begin at midlife; it can apply to anyone with the right mindset.

Dancing At Ghunsa – A Book Review

Dancing at Ghunsa: A Trek in the Cloud Forests of Nepal

By Glenn Forbes Miller

Dancing At GhunsaThe words are at once poetic and fluid. Glenn Forbes Miller’s book, Dancing at Ghunsa is a feast of words. Miller has returned to Nepal—travelling half way around the world—for his second trek in the Himalaya Mountains. This time he aims to reach the base camp of the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, 8,598 metres (28,208 feet).

The first chapter is titled, “Walk with Me a While.” You’ll realize as you start to read that you’re in it not just for a while, but for the entire hike. Miller takes you on an incredible journey along with his guide, porter, and cook. Along the way he meets many people who come to life in his pages—people in such remote and rustic worlds as to seem unreal, but for images captured in his camera.

Then there’s the terrain over which Miller treks through—rough paths rarely travelled if at all by commercial traffic, and sometimes no paths at all. The hike is not for the faint of heart. “At 12,000 feet, the trail steepens, which reduces me to stutter-stepping, but even so, I can only manage that for five minutes before having to stop and rest.” Couple this with the reduced oxygen at that altitude, his brain can no longer focus on anything save phrases from songs that he uses as rhythm for his five-inch strides.

The mountains are ruggedly beautiful. “Beauty and Danger go hand in hand in the Himalayas.” Even when Miller and his group stop to snap pictures, there is a sense of danger in those heights where often, the best views are taken standing on boulders and rocks.

Take the journey with Glenn Miller to Kanchenjunga’s base camp at almost 17,000 feet. You may never need to hike there yourself and still experience the sights, sounds, and people. I highly recommend this book, especially if you love an adventure and the English language.

Lessons I Learned from Jeff Walker’s Book, Launch

Launch: An Internet Millionaire's Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your DreamsLaunch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your Dreams by Jeff Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hype or Real?

If you’re hoping to become an instant millionaire, you’re in for a rude awakening. You’re not going to become rich just by reading this book.

Why I Read Launch

As an accountant and a business process management professional in the corporate world, I’ve never had the urge to dabble in marketing. There are others whose job it is to sell the company’s products and services. And I’ve never felt like I needed to market myself; people associate with me or become my friends for who I am.

Then I became a writer. My novel, Picture Bride is scheduled to be released by TSAR Publications on October 15, 2014. Suddenly, I find myself in the position of a marketer. True, I have the option to let the publisher deal with the book promotion and only do what they ask me to do. But I’ve never been a good backseat driver. I realized that if I want my years of hard work to be recognized, I have to promote my book. So I started to read books on marketing.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Okay, the book title tantalized and teased…so I bought Launch a few days before its release. Jeff Walker had already turned on his Internet marketing machinery long before the book was on the shelf. It started to drive sales using the methods he teaches. The fact that it climbed to the #1 spot in The NY Times Bestselling List within the first couple of weeks did not surprise me.

What did I learn?

For starters, there’s no shortcut to success. You have to work smart and work hard to succeed. Jeff Walker shows you how to promote your product, but you still have to get down in the trenches. And speaking of product, you need one to sell one—he’ll even give you ideas for that. I have to admit that I found it incredible what some people sell…and the same goes for what some people buy.

The book entertains while you learn—success stories that keep you turning the pages. Jeff Walker’s methods are credible and doable if you are serious about starting an Internet business. After reading the book and watching him speak a few times on video, I believe him. He’s not the sleazy salesman or marketer who turns you off with his pitch.

Conclusion

Does the book give you the license to print money? NO. Go do the work and learn some marketing tricks along the way to promote your product or service. There’s no reason why you can’t have fun doing it. Read Launch, and get some actionable ideas.

Lean In for Those Who Want to Move Ahead

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book made a lot of sense to me. I read some negative reviews where some readers wrote that not all women want to lean in and that Ms. Sandberg can advocate this because of where she is today in the business world. The truth is she states clearly in her book that it is not for every woman or man for that matter. She says that one should lean in if you are in ambitious pursuit of a career.

I believe that her lessons can be applied not just in the corporate world, but in any endeavor that we undertake. I like how she draws parallels to one’s career these days with the jungle gym as opposed to the corporate ladder. Many people don’t move up in a linear manner these days.

The book and its message resonate with me. Two thumbs up here.

View all my reviews

Only as Good as Your Word – Susan Shapiro

Only as Good as Your Word: Writing Lessons from My Favorite Literary GurusOnly as Good as Your Word: Writing Lessons from My Favorite Literary Gurus by Susan Shapiro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best thing about Susan Shapiro’s memoir is that she’s brutally honest. She hooked me at the Introduction and then she kept reeling me in.

Shapiro recounts her relationships with seven mentors who helped her in her quest to a becoming a professional writer. I believe she gave as much, or more than she received from them. She adored and celebrated them.

Jack Zucker, Shapiro’s high school English teacher, stoked her love for poetry. Then Howard Fast, her best-selling author cousin challenged her to “Write a whole book already!” As a self-confessed psychoanalytical fiend, she was more interested in writing poetries and personal essays during her early career. Now she has eight books to her credit.

The other mentors, both men and women, are from her various literary circles. She regards them as friends even while she acknowledges their roles in helping shape her professionally. Her candid accounts of her relationships with these people are witty and humorous.

Ms. Shapiro’s generosity and kindness shine through her book. I, a total stranger, had the pleasure of being on the receiving end when I met her at a conference. She is genuine and sincere; her memoir reflects that too.

This book is a keeper.

View all my reviews

Three Things I Learned From How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn

Why do we buy self-help books?

I don’t know about you, but I buy them when I’m itching to learn something new or to fill a void, perceived or otherwise, that I’m feeling. Then when I read a book that teaches me a useful tool or two, I can’t shut up. My friends and colleagues will hear about it and my family too. So why not write about it too?

Joanna Penn, the author of How to Market a Book has a prolific web presence. Find her on http://www.thecreativepenn.com/. She’s a credible teacher in the niche she’s chosen: helping writers publish and market their books.

What I learned from the book:

  1. When you’re marketing yourself, you can’t be self- conscious.

Joanna Penn says that we write because we either want to help people and make them think or to entertain them. Thus the end product is for the customer. If marketing is about the customer, then feeling self-conscious means I’m focusing on myself. So I’m learning to get over this troublesome and inhibiting naval-gazing.

  1. What is social karma?

Social karma is all about giving and sharing on the internet. Don’t hold back your compliments if you like something you saw or read. Be a giver, not a taker—that’s also my life philosophy. Good karma goes around when you generate positive vibes. Joanna Penn’s generosity comes across as genuine; it permeates her book. She provides many useful links and resources that I’ve clicked. I’ve even bookmarked some of them for future reference.

  1. The Importance of public speaking as an author.

Authors need to learn to be good public speakers. I get that. But, “Being a professional speaker makes you stand out in the crowded marketplace of authors.” This caught my attention. Yikes! I worry about bringing attention to myself. Do I have what it takes to stand in front of an audience and keep them engaged? I’ve chaired many meetings at work—that’s different because I know those people. I’ve even presented at a conference once, but my knees wouldn’t stop shaking. If I want to be a speaking author, then I’d have to tame the trembling inside pretty quick. Luckily, the internet provides lots of resources to help you learn any skill. Joanna Penn shared this link about introverts.

http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts

In closing, the book is well-written, readable, and the tips provided can be easily implemented if you wish to do so. Two thumbs up for How to Market a Book.