This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski

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“Between two throw-ins in a soccer game, right behind my back, three thousand people had been put to death.”

 

A painful writing of the atrocities of Auschwitz. Achingly disturbing. The stories loosely autobiographical. Borowski allows the reader to relive his memories and experiences, leaving you deeply affected and distraught. We are introduced to a prisoner, Tadeusz serving as the voice. Borowski, a young man surviving yet never quite escaping his lingering nightmares. As you read each story you wonder if these served as a catharsis or a dispiriting exercise. Each story inflicts pain, you’re curious if the pain can ever be salved, perhaps Borowski answered my question with this personal account and his demise by his own hand lending this to be an even more incredibly powerful read.

Borowski left me in deep thought as I found myself asking the question of How did this happen? repeatedly and will continue to ask myself this question in the hopes history never repeats.

There can be no beauty if it is paid for by human injustice, nor truth that passes over injustice, nor moral virtue that condones it.”

 


Paperback, 180 pages
Published August 1st 1992 by Penguin Classics (first published 1947)
ISBN13: 9780140186246

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Why Not? Conquering The Road Less Traveled by John Brown

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Cerebral Palsy, a developmental disease impacting motor coordination, affects 3 out of 1,000 births. While medical intervention such as physical or speech therapy, ambulatory aides like wheelchairs or braces, help a child achieve a productive life, John Brown was determined that he would leave his mark on the world. Born in the early 50’s with a type of spastic CP impacting his gait and balance, but leaving his speech intact, John and his strong willed mother fought against the times’ conventional wisdom and doctors’ predictions that he would never walk. After completing a degree in broadcast journalism, he embarked on a 44 year career as an award winning Philadelphia radio disc jockey, traffic reporter and meteorologist, retiring in October 2013.

Such an inspiring memoir sharing multiple poignant messages, eliminate the word ‘CANT’ from your vocabulary and life, TRY everything even if it’s a miss, maintain a POSITIVE attitude and outlook. Sage words and advice from a man dealing with an extended challenge from birth as John Brown tells of his past, present and future.

John Brown tells of his life with Cerebral Palsy. He begins with childhood through to his retirement. As you read John’s story his challenge becomes invisible as he never uses his CP as a crutch, or an excuse, rather a vehicle propelling him to forge ahead no matter the hand dealt. He has CP but CP doesn’t have him. His positive outlook is evident, he zest for life apparent and his fearlessness to try new things apparent. He sets a wonderful example for all to follow.

His mother played a key roll in his attitude, she never treated him ‘differently’ and she disregarded physicians early bleak prognosis. John continues with his story and the reader learns of his wife and her influence in his life as well. No doubt this man is blessed with a strong line of support by family and extended family. Donna (wife) shares her feelings regarding life with John in a loving candid manner.

John’s story is honest, filled with humor and unfailing optimism you’ll find yourself motivated and heady from the intoxicating impact of John’s words and actions. He also provides advice for those dealing with disabilities.

A wonderful story full of inspiration and encouragement. A man limited only by the limits he sets himself. John Brown is an example of living life on your terms even when aspects are out of your control, embrace your imperfection and live life to the fullest no holds barred. Lovely memoir.

If you take away anything, it’s that you can succeed despite having the odds stacked up against you . That you should not be afraid of failing because in failing there is learning . Find something you really enjoy doing and give it your all and be the very best at it . I know these are all clichés you’ve heard before, but they are true .


Paperback, 178 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press (November 3, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-1478742265

The Strangers in the House by Georges Simenon

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Dirty, drunk, unloved, and unloving, Hector Loursat has been a bitter recluse for eighteen long years—ever since his wife abandoned him and their newborn child to run off with another man. Once a successful lawyer, Loursat now guzzles burgundy and buries himself in books, taking little notice of his teenage daughter or the odd things going on in his vast and ever-more-dilapidated mansion. But one night the sound of a gunshot penetrates the padded walls of Loursat’s study, and he is forced to investigate. What he stumbles on is a murder.

Simenon has a knack for noir, at least for this reader. I appreciate his emotionally cerebral approach and find all his stories appealing.

Loursat is a difficult character to warm up to. I found myself wanting to slap and embrace him. Just when you sense Loursat has finally emerged from his stupor he slips back into old habits while acknowledging his error, he’s apathetic and pathetic. He’s not just an absent parent, he’s absent from life. You have hope as he somewhat cleans up his act but you soon realize it’s only temporary although far from the recesses where he first started his decline. As all of Simenon’s characters, Loursat is heavily flawed, with few redeeming qualities. Forced into a self discovery journey his missteps continue without remorse or regret. Redemption unattainable as his relationship with his daughter is negatively cemented, the damage irrevocable.

The courtroom scene was rather sterile. Simenon’s writing pulls the reader through once again creating the edge solely relying on Loursat. His affecting characterization in tandem with solid writing conveys the atmosphere perfectly.

Loursat’s years of drinking should have killed him, his road to sobriety seems a miracle given his history and short time without drink, plausibility heavily questioned. Despite my dislikes it’s still a worthwhile read, writing alone makes the effort gratifying.


Paperback, 194 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by NYRB Classics (first published 1940)
ISBN13: 9781590171943

Finding Ecstasy: How Buenos Aires, a Brazilian, and the Blues Saved My Sex Life (and My Soul) by Rebecca Pillsbury

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This story invites readers to not only engage in the beauty of one woman’s journey of self-discovery, but to embark on their own journey toward living life to the fullest and highest degree possible.

I feel privileged to have sojourned along with Rebecca. Her journey was honest, open an insightful. Having insight into her desire to satiate her thirst in discovering her true essence reminded me of my own path to self discovery.

Rebecca was determined to forge her own beliefs in mind, body and spirit. Questioning her environs along with parental influence, religious teachings and her own unanswered questions she established her own path and discovered more than expected along the way.

Even when Rebecca obtained her answers she dug deeper and as she matured and evolved her questions expanded and so did her curiosity and craving for more. It was beautiful to witness the girl metamorphosis into a woman.

Her independence and courage was inspiring. I loved her wanderlust and admired her for traveling alone exploring her chosen destinations without fear while soaking up the culture and vibe each location offered. She is an uninhibited traveler and learns from her destinations, social interactions and her sense of surroundings.

As her sexuality, personal growth along with spiritual discovery unfolds, she reveals her many layered discoveries with incredible rawness, humor and unbelievable insight. A story women will enjoy as well as relate to in some form. A candid lens into a young girl turned woman discovering ecstasy.

From my experience, I’ve learned that finding ecstasy first lies in the belief that you always have a choice as to how you want to react to any given circumstance and, therefore, how you want to experience your own life. Second, ecstasy lies in the belief that you are worthy of love—releasing the fear and expectation of needing to be loved by another and simply loving yourself. Third, ecstasy lies in the courage to be vulnerable.

 


Paperback, 292 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by Duende Press (first published May 14th 2014)
ISBN13: 9780991525416

The Door by Magda Szabó, Len Rix (Translator)

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The Door is the story of friendship between two very different women in post-war Hungary.

Post war Hungary – two very different women forge a friendship. A writer and a housekeeper develop a complicated bond, a intricate psychological dependency of sorts – healthy and unhealthy.

The women are explored in tremendous detail. The narrator is mute but her thoughts vocally seep through the narrative as she reveals herself and her feelings and thoughts of Emerence. We are privy to the many relationships surrounding Emerence and we witness the narrator stumble upon her own success as she is somewhat removed from Emerence’s intimate circle.

The story is presented in the form of memory, reflection, therefore lacking an abundance of dialog. It is tragic, brilliant and sad. It’s a narrative requiring the reader to slowly enjoy the complex layers as they are revealed, it is slowly thoughtful and meant to be savored in this exact manner.


Hardcover, 262 pages
Published October 20th 2005 by Harvill Secker (first published 1987)
ISBN13: 9781843431930

Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam’s Madame Nhu by Monique Brinson Demery

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I found this book revealing a tiny bit more of the elusive and very private Madame Nhu. I seriously doubt we will ever know this woman, and frankly I believe she orchestrated this plan. She strikes me as a woman thoroughly taking pleasure in being an enigma, mysterious to the end and even loathed.

Demery confirms this woman possessed a thirst for power, her authoritarian demeanor very apparent, and barbed tongue gained her the title of “Dragon Lady.” She never allowed males to control or dictate to her, her actions were of her own accord. After the assassination of her husband and brother-in-law, she entered seclusion for over thirty years, again encouraging the veil of mystique and curiosity for many.

Demery attempts to connect the dots of Madame Nhu’s life through her self imposed isolation with questionable success. Nhu supposedly granted Demery access to her diaries, obviously a connection developed between the two.

I doubt the essence of Madame Nhu will ever be known, I doubt those closest to her ever fully understood this formidable creature or her talents, honestly I don’t believe she ever revealed herself to anyone fully, only she knew her authentic self.

Interesting, shedding light on a controversial woman during a turbulent and chaotic time in history. Madame Nhu will forever remain an unappealing question mark.


Hardcover, 280 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2013)
ISBN13: 9781610392815

A Knock on a Door by Christos Kallis

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A Knock on a Door is the debut collection of poetry from Christos Kallis. It demonstrates great flexibility of style, experimental touches and eccentric twists. The poems range from the abstract to the lyrical, from explorations of religion to love and the human condition.

I found this to be a wonderful collection of poems. The poems are abstract with an ambiguous edge, expressive without being formulaic. There are several lines within each individual poem undoubtedly striking the reader. The collection ranges from a artsy senseless to sensual. No doubt Kallis holds promise. Contemporary with a rogue feel, sparking your interest.


Ebook 32 pages
Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers June 30, 2014
ASIN: B00LFSS9VI