4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and pre4.5 stars actually. Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.
A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and precocious young girl as the main character. All set in an exotic, magical, yet politically volatile country and time.
About: When Eleanor Cohen is born there are auspicious signs that she is not your normal child. She is to be a prodigy with gifts of memory, languages, extreme intelligence and something which is just a tad mystical. Set in the late 1800s in what is now Turkey, 8 year old Eleanor finds herself in Stamboul within the struggling Ottoman empire, after a decision to follow her father. As the fates conspire she is linked to the king - Sultan Abdulhamid II - and becomes his adviser for a short time during the ill fated years of his declining empire.
Thoughts: This was such a lovely read with my very favorite type of female character, one who is strong, brave and kind. Yet Eleanor is also beyond brilliant. Endearingly she makes a few girlish decisions creating a wonderfully realistic and exceedingly likeable character.
As a historical fiction novel, it is light enough to appeal to those who are not so historically inclined (like myself). I would even recommend the book to young adult readers due to its wonderful character and easy to read lyrical writing style. For those that enjoy history, also mentioned are classic texts which are significant to the political choices made within the novel, making it of particular interest.
As Lukas’s first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul is complex yet easy to read. His descriptions are sensual but there is no sex in this story, and many volatile elements are just alluded to. This combination gives the novel a very strong appeal -it’s a rare combination in my experience and leads me to think that Lucas is an extraordinary writer. He took six years to complete this story and it shows.
In my opinion this book is rated 4.5 stars since it doesn’t get much better - a lyrical historical novel with mystical yet realistic threads. I am wondering when we will see his next book? Hopefully it won’t be another six years....more
In this wonderful, humorous, and powerful story - Nidali is a strong teen caught between self discovery, and the constraints of war within a culture w
In this wonderful, humorous, and powerful story - Nidali is a strong teen caught between self discovery, and the constraints of war within a culture where women are subjected to very confining roles. The story opens with her “Baba” hoping for a the birth of a boy, due to his awareness of the difficulties facing women in Kuwait. In doing so he accidently names her Nidal. When realizing she is a girl, he adds an i creating Nidali, the narrator’s name.
Born in America from an Egyptian and Greek mother and a Palestinian father Nidale’s roots are as complex and ethnically diverse as the middle east itself. When the family moves back to Kuwait in the volatile 80’s from American, they will eventually be forced to leave again. Eventually they will immigrate back to America, confusing and complicating the question of where exactly is home?
Here is a quote which sums the title up of A Map of Home. After leaving Kuwait, Nidali has drawn a map of Palestine while sitting at the family table while talking with her father:
“You still remember that?” I nodded and looked at the map nervously, hesitant about whether I’d drawn it right. I pointed at the western border and asked, “Is that right?” “Who knows,” he said, waving his hand dismissively …
“What do you mean, Baba when you say ‘who knows’?”
“Oh habibti. That map is from a certain year. The maps that came earlier looked different. And the ones that come after, ever more different.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean… there’s no telling. There’s no telling where home starts and where it ends.”
Hilarious and thought provoking A Map of Home is a down to earth insight into the complexities of middle eastern cultures. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a mostly lighthearted view on difficult and often misunderstood subjects – war and who are our middle Eastern neighbors. ...more
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition ofOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition of a twelfth-century Sufi poem and is done in predominantly fall colors with a mix of ancient and modern styles.
About: A conference of birds is led on a quest by a poet who has turned into a hoopoe bird after a disturbing dream. Gathering them together, he wishes to know the reason for all the wrongs in the world and a way to change them. But to do so they must find the king – Simorgh.
As they travel a long and arduous distance, the birds come to realize that each of them is but a tiny piece of an immense and larger whole. Flying through the daunting terrain (valleys of tribulations and mazes) to reach their goal, most will not survive the trip. But those that do will receive a gift - a realization that what they are seeking from their quest can be found inside each of them.
Thoughts: Read several times over, allowing the art and poetry to settle, this book gets better with each subsequent read. It’s deep message is told metaphorically, visually, and simply, with a spiritual twist that transcends religion. A tale which moves us to know we are all on a journey to one place, a trip which many may not entirely understand.
It has only a small amount of writing but mostly images that appear to be tempera paint and carved block print on beautiful thick colored paper (I would love to see the author’s originals). The images are done in warm earth tones except for the culmination of the story where Peter Sis uses cool and vivid colors to give the crescendo a significant visual meaning. Importantly the art work feels both ancient and modern giving the impression that it is an old story told in a new way.
A relevant rendition that is just as meaningful today as it was a thousand years ago. I can see this book sitting on an office or home table, or in front of a comfortable chair or sofa, since it is a relaxing read. This is a terrific holiday gift for a special person, professional, or family. I give this book a 4 star rating. I loved it and will read it again....more
A wonderful autobiographical graphic novel detailing the Kafkaesque story of Iranian cartoonistOriginal review by John is posted at Layers of Thought.
A wonderful autobiographical graphic novel detailing the Kafkaesque story of Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani, as he goes from idealistic writer, to detainee in the feared Iranian prison system, to homeless fugitive and refugee.
John’s description: Neyestani was a children’s cartoonist working for an Iranian newspaper. Despite the increasingly radical nature of the government he felt safe as he contributed to the leisure section of the paper and not the political section. But one of his innocent cartoons inadvertently sparks tensions with some Azerbaijanis in the Islamic Republic, who feel insulted as a cockroach in the story uses an Azeri word. In a tense political climate, tensions lead to demonstrations lead to riots, and the Iranian government needs someone to blame. Neyestani and his editor are called in for questioning.
After a Kafkaesque series of events they find themselves detained indefinitely in Iran’s horrendous prison system and then placed in solitary confinement. Eventually he is unexpectedly released – albeit on a temporary basis. Fearing for his future, Neyestani and his wife flee the country and travel through Dubai, Turkey, Malaysia and China, trying to find some form of freedom and a place they can call home. But they find life as refugees with no legal status is almost as stressful as the life they have left behind.
John’s thoughts: This is a powerful and eye-opening story, that is told with the help of some excellent illustrations and plenty of dark humor. You get an insider’s view of some of the complex political, cultural, ethnic and authoritarian issues within the Islamic Republic – and it is not a pretty picture.
Neyestani is put through an absurd series of events, and throughout the story draws some parallel’s with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, even using a cockroach as a theme that runs through the story. He goes through his own transformation from a young easy-going idealistic writer, to a beleaguered and downtrodden prisoner, to a fearful and anxious fugitive. The absurdities are almost hilarious; but this really happened.
I’d rate this book four stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes intense autobiographies or who wants to better understand what it is like to live in a radical and authoritarian state. And don’t be put off by the fact that this is a graphic novel – I think that the format actually allowed the author to enhance the story-telling.
A sweet and mostly realistic tale, with touches of the magical. The story addresses connections to loved ones after death.
Mini Synopsis: This is a translated work which is a sweet and fantastic tale about a young boy whose family moves to Israel from New York to care for his aging and dying grandfather. Michael, his American name, is a loner of a child and prefers adult company to that of children. He is comfortable with this move since he does speak fluent Hebrew.
Upon arrival to Israel, he meets his grandfather and they become very close. Over their time together his grandfather shares his knowledge of his special gift, that Michael also possess. Only Michael doesn’t realize how special he really is.
My Thoughts: I enjoyed this tale with its many interesting themes, such as addressing dreams, death, respect for the old, thinking about rebirth, reincarnation, sharing past lives, vegetarianism, morality and recognizing special gifts.
Several problems I had with the book is that it did not feel completely translated in a few small areas; there were bits which could be confusing for an American reader. I imagine that this was remedied since the copy that I read was an ARC – advanced read copy. Another is that one of the characters, Michael’s grandfather’s housekeeper/girlfriend, was portrayed as a difficult person. My problem was that although she cared for his grandfather, his grandfather’s home, did all the cooking, and after a move did these things for Michael's family as well, she was treated with disrespect by the entire family. Not a great role model for a child.
All in all, I adore translations and when looking beyond the annoyances mentioned above, I give this book 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot....more
A purportedly true, but billed as fiction, tale of a young man’s harrowing travels outOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
3.5 stars actually.
A purportedly true, but billed as fiction, tale of a young man’s harrowing travels out of Afghanistan into various countries. Struggling as an illegal immigrant he eventually obtains political asylum in Italy.
About: Enaiat wakes up one morning to find his mother has abandoned him in Pakistan, after their small family’s flight from their home village in Afghanistan. Their village had been overtaken by the Taliban, who believe that Enaiat’s people have no value and treat them as such.
His mother, forced to leave her son for her survival, advises him on how to behave while he is asleep as she departs. So begins this young boy’s travels to many different countries where he is all but accepted. He finds that there are crocodiles not only in the sea but almost everywhere, with the title referencing an attempt to cross the Mediterranean in a too small rubber dingy to find relative safety. This is Enaiat’s amazing tale as he tries to find a home, sustenance and survival.
Thoughts: A short and engrossing novel at only 224 pages, it’s been translated from Italian to English. Author Fabio Ceda tells Enaiat’s story to the reader from the boy’s perspective – in the first person with occasional interjections and questions for the boy by the author. Due to the nature of memory and the lack of concrete evidence to support a factual book, the story has been designated fiction.
I listened to the book in audio and found it was hard to put down. I couldn’t stop rooting for Enaiat while admiring his ability to get by in the most horrific circumstances. This is my favorite kind of narrator – one who overcomes the odds no matter how difficult the situation, and Enaiat’s experiences where at times terrifying.
This book is a testament to the human spirit and the will to not only survive but to thrive no matter the situation. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the Middle East and particularly Afghanistan. It’s a 3.5 star read in my opinion and is also done well in audio. Recommended for adults but especially teens....more
This was an easy read, with an interesting and relevent story line - child abduction, terrorism, and how best intentions, beliefs and actions can confThis was an easy read, with an interesting and relevent story line - child abduction, terrorism, and how best intentions, beliefs and actions can conflict. However, I felt like the ending left me dangling wishing for a bit more substance.... It was like there should be a lesson here. But what is it? ...more