Review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

15451058¬†As I mentioned in my previous post, this year I want to branch out from my typical genres. I want to explore books that others recommend to me, and not just those that I stumble across in my travels. On that note, I joined a book club set up by Emma Watson on GoodReads, and the first book on the shelf was this one. I don’t read a lot of non fiction. In fact I’m pretty sure the non fiction books I have read I could count on both hands. I didn’t go into this book club expecting anything other than having my mind and perspective opened up a little bit, and that’s exactly what the book did.

It’s a telling of the life of Gloria Steinem, and it just so happens to take place during a time in the world when the movement for equality was just starting out. What I found fascinating about this book was not the particular details about her life, nor her history growing up – but her interactions with others. Some of the sections of the book really made me think about things in a different way, see a new perspective, and that’s what I loved about it.

In one section that really moved me and opened up my mind, Gloria is talking with the American Indian and Alaskan Native Caucus.

“As one Native delegate said, “Other Americans have histories and families and gene pools in their home countries. If French or Arabic is forgotten in America, it’s still being spoken somewhere. We have no other country. If our languages are wiped out, they can’t come back. If we disappear here, that’s it.””

This quote really stood out to me. It was something I had never thought of before, and clarified why being able to keep their culture was such an important thing. The next moving quote is when Gloria is describing the lives of the various taxi drivers she had listened to over the years. This entire chapter was particularly moving for me, but one conversation stood out from the rest. She’s driving around New York City after 9/11 and talking with a taxi driver.

“There were also anonymous graffiti that had appeared as if by contagion all over New York with the same message: Our grief is not a cry for war. “Thats how New Yorkers feel,” the driver said. “They know what bombing looks like, and they know what hell it is. But outside New York, people will feel guilty because they weren’t here. They’ll be yelling for revenge out of guilt and ignorance. Sure, we all want to catch the criminals, but only people who weren’t in New York will want to bomb another country and repeat what happened here.””

Wow. Now, I know this quote probably doesn’t capture how 100% of New Yorkers felt, but that quote is so incredibly powerful and spoke to me on a level that I hadn’t anticipated.

It’s hard to describe how I felt as I read through this. It reads less as an autobiography and more like a novel, if that makes sense. It didn’t feel like what I was reading could possibly be real, or have possibly happened, and yet, it did. She teaches us to take the time to listen and makes the point time and again that ‘listening circles’ are powerful. All in all it was not what I was expecting (but then again, what was I expecting is hard to pin down) and quite an enjoyable read that really made me think.

4/5 stars

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Review: The MacKinnon’s Bride, by Tanya Anne Crosby

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I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like thinking. I picked up this book back in April when I was doing a lot of travelling and I completely forgot to write a review when I finished reading, so it’s a bit late. It helped that I also got the book free on Amazon during a promotion. You can never go wrong with free books.

This highland romance novel was about Iain MacKinnon and his son (who is kidnapped at the beginning by the English). In retaliation for the kidnapping, Iain captures the daughter of his enemy, expecting to use her as a bargaining tool. Things don’t work out in his favour though as the English laird doesn’t want her back. She is of course, furious at being kidnapped, and in a typical romance story sort of way, they fall for each other while the rest of the MacKinnon clan look on with disapproval.

I didn’t start getting into the story until the last 25% or so. It felt like there was a lot of “filler” material throughout, as though the author was trying to meet some sort of page deadline. I enjoyed the basic story, but the characters (for me) fell short. I grew frustrated with Page as soon as I met her. One minute she seems hell bent on getting her way and is a ferocious lion and the next second she’s as brainless as a scarecrow without any real reason.

Still, it was exactly the type of book I was looking to read, and I suppose I got what I was looking for.

3/5 Stars

 

Review: The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grisson

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I love books that are historical fiction, and was surprised to hear that this was Grisson’s first novel. It’s about a white woman who grows up as a servant girl on a plantation, experiencing life from that perspective. Yes, the book does have stereotypes and they can come across strong at times – but – the writing was really well done, and I loved the story. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down.

The life of the servant girl is one of a lot of pain and heartache. Lavinia loses her parents while on a ship from Ireland, and is taken in by the servants of the plantation. She witnesses all of the horrible things that happen at “the big house” and eventually as she gets older, she moves from the servants quarters to the big house because of the colour of her skin. She’s shown that she is not like the servants, even though she has no desire to treat them ill or begrudge them in any way for her upbringing.

The book isn’t sunshine and roses that’s for sure. There’s a LOT of heartache that goes on, a lot of angst and pain. Life was hard, and Grisson does a wonderful job of conveying that feeling. The characters are colourful and detailed, and you really get a sense of what the plantation would be like – something that almost always pulls me into a book.

Highly recommended, though keep in mind it does follow stereotypes and isn’t a very happy novel. I still feel that the writing style and the story itself is able to overcome these things.

4/5 stars

Review: The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

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From time to time I really enjoy reading a good historical romance, and The Duke of Shadows offered me just that. You first meet up with Emmaline Martin as her world is torn apart while she travels from Britain to India. She is to meet her betrothed but along the way deals with incredible heartache that leaves her falling for Julian instead. The book takes place in the 1800s and if you’re tired of meek mellow women as main characters – then this is the book for you.

I had a hard time putting it down, I’m pretty sure I read all of it in two days or so. The characters are richly detailed and the story is so incredible that you can’t help but continue along trying to find out what happens next. Writing about the British rule in India is certainly not an easy topic and the story was actually believable, while being both entertaining and horrifying at the same time. The author doesn’t dance around the acts of violence that took place, but at the same time there is a harmonious balance between those acts and everything else going on. Of course there are also some pretty detailed sex scenes, it is, after all, a romance book. If you enjoy historical romance at all I highly recommend giving this book a read.

4.5 / 5 stars