Review: Bitter Scent: The Case of L’Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott

Bitter Scent: The Case of L’Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott by Michael Bar-Zohar, PhD.

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Michael Bar-Zohar’s “Bitter Scent: The Case of L’Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott” garnered an easy five-star rating from me. This book had it all: history, smut, politics, international intrigue, foreign policy, terrorism, psychological warfare, a touch of romance and so much more–all interwoven expertly–something difficult to accomplish given the amount and range of content covered by the author. The story began as a biography of Jean Frydman, a French immigrant from Poland who became a leader of the Nazi Resistance in WWII’s, Holocaust-driven Vichy France. He eventually worked his way up into the position of a vested partner for L’Oreal…only to be covertly fired by historical Nazis with the goal of illegally complying with the Arab boycott.

Dr. Bar-Zohar explained that the Arab boycott was designed to destroy Israel via the prevention of commerce with any organization(s) that had ties to it. This effected L’Oreal when it purchased another company that had previously built one factory in Israel as well as another entity that had a subsidiary or secondary brand’s facility there, too; and, L’Oreal partner Jean Frydman maintained a dual citizenship status in France and Israel.

When the Arab League “demanded a list of all affiliates” (pg. 8), the reader began to learn about how the League’s political system interfaced with L’Oreal. This boycott had the potential to financially damage additional corporations outside of the beauty industry and those which a person would not have typically associated with L’Oreal at the time: Nestle, Baxter International, Panavision and others. A progressive reveal of the vastness and unexpected international business holdings of L’Oreal took place while the author provided a simultaneous education pertaining to L’Oreal’s Nazi era history of three politically and financially powerful people, how they worked to hide anti-Semitic and collaborationist activities and pasts while they gained power, and (ultimately) how they were linked to Jean Frydman’s removal and attempted divestiture.

Bitter Scent: The Case of L’Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott” impressed me with how well Michael Bar-Zohar conducted his investigative research and taught the reader about a set of parallel histories and how they intersected. It taught the reader that anti-Semitism never ended and that, surprisingly, it existed even within the Jewish community. This story made me want to read books about Vichy France as well as more texts about the Helena Rubinstein empire. The author’s writing style made me wish I could read the book at a much faster pace. It was so well written! My desire to read more pieces by this author led me to add a few more of his books to my reading list; in doing so, I learned that Michael Bar-Zohar also authored books under the pseudonym “Michael Barak.” I highly recommend this book and suggest that readers consider his other investigative pieces.

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Review: Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party by Dinesh D’Souza

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

MOVIE TRAILER:Hillary’s America

“Hillary’s America” is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital HD now! Order your copy here: http://hillarysamericathemovie.com/#dvd.

REVIEW: This book changes you. It makes you wish that you could unlearn what you have read. It hardens you and breaks your heart, leaving you feeling betrayed and enlightened all at once. You are left feeling helpless while simultaneously being motivated and invigorated to do something. It is time for a change; and, Dinesh D’Souza’s “ Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” provides the “Hillary” education and calls to action for his readers.

ABOUT HILLARY: “This woman has been in public life for decades, and yet she has accomplished nothing” (1). Everyone who has followed her career knows that Hillary is dishonest to the core” (2). “Yet when is the last time a major political party nominated someone who has been investigated for corruption so many times, and with an ongoing FBI inquiry?” (5). They’ve been doing it under different circumstances all along, and most of America was marketed to, and brainwashed, into thinking just the opposite of the Democratic party.

“Democrats—the mantra goes—are the party of the common man, the ordinary person. For two hundred years, Democrats have been looking out for the little guy, including historically marginalized groups like women, blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities. Where would these people be without the Democratic Party to protect them and secure their basic rights? Democrats are the party of equal rights, civil rights, and human dignity” (7). At least, that is what they want Americans to think. D’Souza masterfully details the history of the Democratic Party, their games, their marketing narrative, plus their schemes, thievery, and plan of national enslavement leading to all-out slavery. The Democrats are nothing that they say they represent and everything that all Americans should fear.

The Clintons have become the modern-era representation of the Democrats, utilizing the Alinsky model, but by changing government from within…and using many “useful idiots” to help them every step of the way. “Alinsky realized he could recruit allies and direct their hatred to the corporations by appealing to motives such as envy, resentment, and hatred, but all packaged in the rhetoric of equality and justice. He had no illusion that any of this was related to actual justice” (183). “For Alinsky, justice is a province of morality, and morality is a scam. Morality is the cloak of power. Activists appeal to the language of morality but recognize that it is a mere disguise” (183).

Everyone in the United States of America needs to read this book. It serves as an educational tool, a wake-up alarm, and a call to action. The Democratic party’s long-term sociopathic behavior must be brought to a halt. Their trended pattern of trying to stop upward mobility and creating modern day plantations in the inner cities must be reversed while simultaneously convincing the many good Americans who came to believe the opposite of what is right for our country’s future. It is with the aforementioned in mind, and so much more contained in Dinesh D’Souza’s book that “ Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” easily earns its five-star rating.

Review: Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love

cvr_face-to-face-with-jesus-a-former-muslims-extraordinary-journey-to-heaven-and-encounter-with-the-god-of-love-by-samaa-habib

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love by Samaa Habib, Bodie Thoene

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from the GoodReads Giveaways Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: ”For many believers, particularly in the West, persecution is a foreign concept and experience–limited to unpleasant exchanges in the office or over social media. However, for many other believers, from Indonesia to Africa, in North Korea and throughout the Middle East, persecution is common. They suffer in many different ways, from social and economic exclusion to torture, rape, imprisonment and martyrdom for their belief in Jesus”(13).–Mike Bickle, Director, International House of Prayer

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love,” existed as the story of a young, Egyptian female and her conversion from Islam to Christianity. The author, Samaa Habib, received an invitation, from one of her friends, to attend a Christian Orthodox Church service. She was fortunate to have parents who, despite being Muslim and deeply religious, were also open-minded about learning, seeing how others practiced their faith(s), etc. While there, she learned that the God of Christianity valued and loved females equally as much as males. This surprised her; because in Islam, females were worth half or less than that of their male counterparts.

Face to Face with Jesus” covered the wide-spread progression from Samaa’s Egyptian family living under a communist government, to displeasure of it and people’s desire to convert to generalized Sharia Law, and ultimately to being ruled by the cleric-mandated Sharia law. As things changed, her worth to her family also became devalued. Nonie Darwish, also a native of Egypt and whose father worked in the field of military intelligence under Gamal Abdel Nasser, noticed these extreme changes as well and shared them in her book, titled “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.”

In Samaa Habib’s case, it was the first time that she witnessed how religion became a divisive weapon: to “tear personal lives apart and divide and destroy nations” (51). She also saw “cruelty for the sake of cruelty ” (52). “In Muslim countries, women without male chaperones are targets of assault” (109), and she witnessed some of the terrible acts. One could easily understand how this girl’s new-found faith (in Christianity) made her feel protected and helped her to fight back against some fellow Egyptians who became her attackers.

At first, I thought that the “International House of Prayer” was unfairly targeting Egypt’s female population, using “free self-defense classes” as a way to gain recruits and converts from Islam to Christianity; however, the reality was that they did provide an undeniably valuable and life-saving service and skillset to the populace, which also saved the lives of this girl and her friends on multiple occasions. Not everyone would convert to Christianity, but they would convert from intended victims of sexual assault and other crimes to their own personal heroes.

SPOILER ALERT
As the chapters progressed, especially in the “Epilogue,” the soft-sell for Christianity became a hard-pushing one, and I found myself skimming the last parts. The hard-sell became distracting from the author’s amazing life story and the good deeds of her church. It seemed that the sole purpose of the book was to be a religious conversion piece, which varied greatly from what its synopsis conveyed to me; as such, this well-written book and amazing story lost some of its integrity, causing a reduced star rating.

Review: Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism

cvr_unveiled-threat-a-personal-experience-of-funamentalist-islam-and-the-roots-of-terrorism-by-janet-tavakoliUnveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism by Janet Tavakoli

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Author (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: Do not allow the small size of this book fool you into believing that it is not big on content. This is the first piece I have read by Janet Tavakoli, MBA, who utilized this work as a delivery vehicle to share her experiences when she found herself suddenly trapped in the middle of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. In one day she went from being an Iranian man’s, American-born, wife to becoming his property under that nation’s newest laws. “Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Fundamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism” delved into the author’s experiences, connected religious institutions to terrorism, and expounded upon the issues that developed due to the creation of a politically-correct world that began producing a global, fundamentalist, terrorist threat to the United States of America (USA).

Unveiled Threat” began with a focus on Iran and touched on tangentially-related topics in other countries due to their effect on the USA. Prevailing themes included the following:
1. “Poor men want to be rich” (1)
2. Political hypocrisy.
3. Hypocritical use of chador.
4. “Stalkers for Islam” (43)
5. Honor killings.
6. Female genital mutilation (FGM).
7. Islamic rule.
8. Muslim apologetics.
9. Sex abuse scandals.
10. Freedom of artistic expression and speech.

Ms. Tavakoli gave one example that specifically dealt with Muslim outrage pertaining to freedom of artistic expression/speech; I felt that it lacked sufficient context, causing me to be in disagreement with her. The story’s lack of details pertained to the year 2006, when a Pakistani cleric issued a death fatwa on a cartoonist who drew satirical images of Mohammad. I did not find their context to be fatwa-worthy nor good cause for riots. The situation created by the editors appeared repulsive and malicious. I associated this example with the Charlie Hebdo incident, though it was not clearly defined in the book.

The incident involved artistic representations of tied-up Muslims being raped by dogs (as had reportedly occurred to incarcerated people of the same faith). Dogs were utilized because due to their consideration as being the most disliked, lowly creatures in Islam. Other highly-inappropriate, disgusting, and insensitive illustrations went to print. I could not begin to imagine the uproar that would take place in a Westernized nation if, in the same context, there was a contest to draw a likenesses of God, Jesus Christ, or any other holy icon, in order for them to be printed amongst cartoons of children being raped by religious or other authority figures. In this situation, described as artistic expression and/or freedom of speech, moral and philosophical boundaries melted.

Unveiled Threat made for a compelling read that, at its core, focused on personal boundaries being legally melted by changing societal norms. This book contained elements of stories shared by Nonie Darwish, in her book titled, “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.” Plus, Ayaan Hirsi Ali stressed similar warnings in the three pieces I have read of hers: 1.) Nomad–From from Islam to America: a Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations; 2.) Infidel; and, 3.) The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam.

Tavakoli’s book made me hold my breath quite a bit. At times I felt my eyes racing from one sentence to the next because of the energy that the author’s writing style created. The reading enjoyment factor caused the book to easily earn five stars; but, what I thought were minor historical discrepancies did cause me to reduce the work’s overall rating by that of one star. These minute differences in no way diminished the author’s experiences nor intensity of the situations covered in the piece. The most important factual fabric of this book maintained its integrity.

Review: The Fall Of The Shah

cvr_the-fall-of-the-shah-by-fereydoun-hoveyda-roger-liddell-translatorThe Fall Of The Shah by Fereydoun Hoveyda, Roger Liddell (Translator)

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: This passionately-written book written was created as a tri-faceted account of “The Fall of the Shah” by Fereydoun Hoveyda, an Iranian Diplomat, under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Hoveyeda adeptly delved into core themes to support the book’s title; and, I enjoyed reading the up-close perspective and how Hoveyda (and others) reached a point where they recognized that the Shah no longer wished to hear the truth from his court. The author’s brother, Abbas, Iran’s former Prime Minister suffered as a result. I found myself impressed by how well the writer wove a tapestry of parallel histories: foreign intervention to create the rise and fall of the Shah, momentum of the Islamic Revolution, and Abbas Hoveyda’s assassination.

“No matter what one believes about the theories of foreign intervention in Iran’s affairs, there is no denying that the Shah did all he possibly could to bring about the collapse of his dynasty. His armaments policy, the corruption in his entourage, his ruthless repression and stifling dictatorship gnawed like a cancer at his whole system, especially during his last two years in power. Blinded by his own dreams of grandeur and walled off from the realities of the country, the Shah ignored popular aspirations, despised the clergy, and antagonized both the world and his own people simultaneously…with the help of his family he was the true and certain author of his own downfall” (215-216).

The author expertly crafted the final component of this book by leaving the reader with a a few strong and intriguing points for consideration. I did not wish to spoil the book for anybody, but felt compelled to extrapolate one of the arguments. An issue surrounded the events of the 1953 coup: it involved the overthrow of Mohammad Mossaddeq. The question essentially became “What if the coup had failed?” It almost did, but Hoveyda did not want his readers to think about the coup results in the same way that we have since its occurrence. What if Kermit Roosevelt continued with his efforts for the United States government (on behalf of British interests), but the last Shah of Iran decided to not return to his country anyway? Essentially, it would have been an incomplete intervention.

One of my favorite authors, Stephen Kinzer, specialized in the subject of American interventions into foreign countries to protect U.S. “interests.” His book, “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror ” covered the details of this significant historical event quite well. Hoveyda’s book left me wondering, “What would Kinzer think would happen without the return of the last Shah? How would it possibly have altered Iran-US relations? Would the timeline to Islamic Revolution have possibly sped up, stayed the same, or whittled down to nothing? I encourage people to read both Hoveyda’s and Kinzer’s renditions of the the Shah’s decline to decide for themselves.

Review: The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam

cvr_the-caged-virgin-an-emancipation-proclamation-for-women-and-islam-by-ayaan-hirsi-aliThe Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

RELATED MOVIE(S): Submission: Part I (2004) (TV Short) (No Trailer Available)

REVIEW: The moment I started reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, “ The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam,” I realized that I missed her style of writing, having previously read “Nomad–From from Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations” and “Infidel.” The beginning of her book reflected an assertive manner without being offensive, a consistent characteristic offered in all three texts. This approach compelled the me to want to walk in-step with the author while she described her journey and goals. These items included, but were not limited to, the following:

Description of her credentials;
Definition of Muslim absolutism;
Contrasting of Islamic fundamentalist ideology to the Western paradigm;
Depiction of gender-based abuse of women;
Caution to countries to be watchful of fundamentalism;
Summarizing legal, regulatory, and operational barriers to reform;
Advising how martyrdom became established;
Utilization of sociocultural visual models;
Referring to examples by germane experts;
Creation of a valuable list to escape domestic abuse; and,
Elaboration of her film.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali performed her goals without making the reader of previous books feel as though the author was simply doing an inexpensive re-write. The examples, visuals and references the writer provided were solid and easy to understand. A case in point was that I did not remember learning about the sociocultural triangular models prior to reading this book, and I found myself wanting to learn more about them. It caused me to add such books to my reading list.

However, with the author’s goals accomplished and the reader wanting to learn more, one must wonder why this book earned only three stars in lieu of four or five of them? I found the “Part One,” scene-by-scene description of the author’s film, “Submission” to be redundant and unnecessary. It treated the reader as though he/she could not have understood what was already communicated (repeatedly) throughout the book. Progression through the chapter enabled me to graphically envision her scenes, which served as her goal; but it was as if I could not walk out of the movie theater. I was already too invested in (most of the way through) the book. This chapter came across as an over-the-top plug of self-promotion. If she wanted to promote her film, she could have increased the cost of her book and included a CD/DVD of the scene in a pocket/insert.

I had hoped that the chapters that followed the film scenes would enable the author to redeem herself. Unfortunately, such a thing did not occur. It did not destroy Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s message; it simply reduced how I valued this book. The author’s message is conveyed much better in her other books “Nomad” and “Infidel.” I highly recommend those texts.

Review: A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It

cvr_a-thousand-hills_rwandas-rebirth-and-the-man-who-dreamed-it-by-stephen-kinzerA Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

RELATED MOVIE(S): Hotel Rwanda (2004)

REVIEW: The central figure in Rwanda’s rebirth, Paul Kagame, emerged during the first decade of the twenty-first century as one of the most intriguing figures in Africa (pg. 3). “He preaches a doctrine of security, guided reconciliation, honest governance, and, above all, self-reliance” (pg. 3). Three distinct parts comprise Stephen Kinzer’s book, “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It:” colonial rule, genocide, and reconciliation. Rwanda’s current status rests in that of reconciliation. The genocides have been dated as far back as 1959, and colonial rule has been officially established as early as 1884. This time-frame may be equated with the creation of the foundation for this country’s genocide.

The “Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 had awarded Germany control over the territory of Ruanda-Urundi, which today forms the ‘twin’ nations of Rwanda and Burundi” (pg. 24). During World War I, Germany lost Rwanda to Belgium. Belgians took over and created an official, twisted classification system of segmenting Rwandans already existing tribes (Tutsi, Hutu and a minute group of Twa) into racism-based categories.

Laws passed that required Rwandans to always carry their race identification cards. Belgians placed Tutsi into power positions and the Hutu majority into, essentially, servitude and poverty. As the world social climate changed, Belgian alignment with the non-majority Tutsi did not bode well with outsiders. Belgium reduced its presence in Rwanda, placed the majority Hutu in power, and broke its alliance with the Tutsi. The Hutu utilized this situation as a time for payback; and, “the racial designation on the cards, called ubokwo, would later consign hundreds of thousands of Tutsi to death” (pg. 26).

As a child, Paul Kagame’s life was spared due to royal interference at just the right time; ultimately his family had to flee to Uganda to preserve its safety. Paul developed a close relationship with Fred Rwigyema while in a Ugandan refugee camp. At one point, Fred had disappeared to conduct a string of rebel activity for the sole purpose of overthrowing Uganda’s Idi Amin. Once this action was completed, Fred returned, reunited with Paul and shared the rebel knowledge with Rwandan exiles. This knowledge helped them envision an independent Rwanda; thus the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was formed.

“Most RPF leaders…grew up in Uganda, spoke English, and felt no connection to France” (pg. 95); this was opposite of Rwanda’s Hutu regime. Kinzer described how the RPF gained strength and credibility over time and that Uganda supported this group as allies. Prior to the mass genocide of 1994, Kagame negotiated a “Demilitarized Zone” created by the Arusha accords; they also mandated withdrawals of French troops coupled with United Nations neutrality, the latter two points were ones of consternation for the RPF leader. Regardless of the accords, plans continued to develop under Hutu extremists for increased killing of Tutsi. The Hutu hardliners began developing militias and a vocabulary to start carrying out the genocides; “death squads in Kigali could slaughter one thousand people in twenty minutes, kill Belgian peacekeepers (so the rest would withdrawal)…” (pg. 125). One could assert that they created a genocidal culture; it was supported by France and other countries, including the Middle East. The United Nations had no idea as to the haste and extent of the genocidal campaign. Regardless, UN troops withdrew “except for 270 whose main job was to watch the slaughter” (pg. 156).

Stephen Kinzer was thorough in interviewing an array of people familiar with the holocaust and having them define what reconciliation meant to them. It proved to be a word with much more meaning than that found in the dictionary. The word evoked an expectation of all Rwandans and perhaps the outside world as well. The author delivered well on his promise. He provided an in-depth set of lessons all rolled up into a neat package. He took readers on a visitor’s tour in between interviews and casual conversations. Quotes were well-utilized and did not detract from the intensity of neither the story of Rwanda nor the accomplishments of Paul Kagame. “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It” encompassed all of this and so much more…easily earning it a well-deserved five-star rating and a place on my “Favorites” list.

Review: Lenin on the Train: The Journey that Changed the Course of History

cvr_lenin-on-the-train-the-journey-that-changed-the-course-of-history-by-catherine-merridaleLenin on the Train: The Journey that Changed the Course of History by Catherine Merridale

MY RATING: 2/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: Author Catherine Merridale became known for authoring several works involving Russian history. “Lenin on the Train: The Journey that Changed the Course of History” became her newest book. Its basis relied upon the premise that the author travelled the same train tour as V.I. Lenin did to give his speeches and rally followers for revolution. “In April 1917, at the height of the First World War, the exiled leader of the Bolsheviks, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, travelled back to Russia by train” (5); he had developed himself into a revolutionary with the intension of transforming the government via appealing to class struggle.

Merridale wasted no time getting to the rail station in order to begin Lenin’ s tour. But the pre-history would have better developed the story, properly setting the stage for what happened next. She rushed past the 1905 “Bloody Sunday” event, thereby downplaying its significance in the lead-up to the 1917 Revolution. I wished that she had delved into Rasputin’s power over the royal family, coupled with their excesses and assassination(s).  The author adeptly covered the effect of WWI on the country, and this was undoubtedly an incredibly important factor in understanding the mindset of many Russians.  From the impoverished to the bourgeoisie, and up through to royalty, Lenin also achieved a comprehensive understanding of the Russian mindset, which proved valuable in allowing him to develop highly-targeted speeches as his trip progressed.

Lenin on the Train” provided an in-depth approach, or micro-historical account, of a vital facet to the 1917 Russian Revolution. “For almost every socialist who witnessed it, what was happening in February 1917 was a march towards democracy and liberal reform” (225). “Socialism, which required the people take control of everything from economic life to war and peace, was not thought to be possible in a land of boorish peasants. In private, moreover, a good many socialists in Petrograd had been more than a little terrified of responsibility in any form” (225). Merridale’s work delved into these challenged and many others in a manner that reflected her thorough understanding of that historical era. My favorite components of her book that reflected her in-depth knowledge existed as follows:

1. The V.I. Lenin quotes set the tone for each chapter.
2. Notes regarding Russia’s calendar compared to that of Europe enabled the reader to understand travel time and date complexities.
3. A detailed map tracing Lenin’s train route created an additional way to engage the reader.
4. Details pertaining to the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, coupled with threats to the revolution, increased the story’s depth.
5. Stories of Germany’s and Britain’s influence increased the sense of international intrigue.
6. Feuds between Lenin and others demonstrated that his mission did not become easily achieved.

While the aforementioned numbered points served as my favorite aspects of the book, overall I experienced struggles in reading the compendium. There was a lot of back-and-forth in time, that I did not find to be respective to the calendar issue cited in the author’s “Notes on Text.” The dates seemed like they were thrown around without respect to a clearly delineated timeline. Dialectology challenges caused the writer’s style to come across as clunky, stuffy, and dry. Expression not typically encountered in the United States compounded these issues, for example:
1. The happy fortune of that lot must have made Switzerland seem more than ever like the white wolf’s wretched cage” (134). 
2. “Lenin had worked up an appetite, and back in the Regina’s dining room he tucked into a steak…” (197)

Additionally, I found that transitions between paragraphs seemed rough, while sentences within them did not always belong together. Unfortunately, despite the author’s delivery on her promises and demonstrated subject matter knowledge, I ultimately found this book to be difficult to enjoy and finish.

Review: Infidel

“There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

cvr_infidel-by-ayaan-hirsi-aliInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Ayaan Hirsi Ali did it again–she easily pulled a five-star rating out of me for a second time. I had inadvertently read “Nomad” before “Infidel” because I did not have knowledge of this book as being her first one.

Once I started reading, “Infidel,” I was hoping that she would not simply re-state everything I had already read in the other text. She did not. In fact, while the author’s voice was consistent in both pieces of literature, the reader was educated with a series of micro-histories that could not be disregarded, neither in the character development of this fine woman nor in the culmination of Muslim Fundamentalist religious ferver on a worldwide scale.

Ayaan wanted to “…be judged on the validity of (her) arguments, not as a victim.” This stance seemed to exist as a delicately crafted undercurrent of her stories while she continued to educate the reader about her life and that of so many innocent people around the world. When she asserted that “My combat was legitimate,” it was Hirsi Ali’s way of wrapping up all of the facts into a neat package and making it clear to the reader that he/she was in survival mode with the author as well.

The only difficulty I face in writing this review is that anything submitted cannot do this author’s fine work the justice that it deserves. I find myself in awe of her life experience and how she has chosen to manifest them into an incredibly educated, passionate and compassionate existence.

In closing, I cannot wait to get my hands on her next book, “The Caged Virgin,” and continue along the path of this educational journey and heightened sense of awareness that she has created.

Review: The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary

cvr_the-drone-eats-with-me-a-gaza-diary-by-atef-abu-saifThe Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary by Atef Abu Saif

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: “Since 1948–before that in fact, since the British mandate began in 1917–Gaza has barely gone 10 years without a war. Wars stand as markers in a Gazan’s life: there’s one planted firmly in your childhood, one or two more in your adolescence, and so on… They toll the passing of time as you grow older, like rings in a tree trunk.  Sadly, for many Gazans, one of these wars will also mark life’s end. Life is what we have in between these wars” (2). “The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary,” by Atef Abu Saif, Phd., exists as the author’s perspective of his community’s life during Israel’s retribution for the killing of three of its teenage citizens.

The synopsis of “The Drone Eats with Me” leads bibliophiles to ascertain that this manuscript specifically addresses one side of the on-going, multi-generational, and several decades-long Arab-Israeli Conflict. While this work serves as the Palestinian author’s perspective of that struggle, his piece produces a powerful, yet tender, treatment of universal wartime themes that evoke emotional and intellectual perspectives that anyone can find highly-relatable. The writer addresses the role of parent or spouse as superhero, changes in lifestyle, religious practices, and societal norms, access to resources, war categorization, technology, media manipulation, death, survival, and hope for the future.

Categorizing types of war depends upon one’s position—aggressor or defender. Populaces on the receiving end undergo war. Conversely, aggressors wield the power to brand the conflict; it may be “just’ a drone strike, an escalation of tensions, or an operation, etc. Regardless of the situation’s label, drone technology permanently affects the nature of warfare. Atef Abu Saif views the flying soldiers as an entire judicial system. It judges and executes without trial. “We are all guilty until proven otherwise, and how are we ever going to do that, whether alive or not” (12)? Throughout the book, the author establishes that death generates greater power because it appeals to a media-provided wider audience, thereby affording opportunities for the world to recognize the possibility of your innocence…even if it no longer matters to you.

Media outlets require escalating death tolls to maintain their audiences. “Everything is turned into numbers.  The stories are hidden, disguised, lost behind these numbers.  Human beings, souls, bodies–all converted into numbers” (76), and the author’s writing style created vivid and indelible visualization of death to his readers. “To watch as bodies are scattered about in piles in front of you like discarded exam papers outside of school at the end of term, like old letters torn up by a jilted lover, like the paperwork of a bankrupt businessman piling up at the back of his shop.  One leg here, one arm there, an eye, a severed head, fingers, hair, intestines…nothing belongs to anything in particular” (116). This book serves as a delivery vehicle to re-humanize all of the numbers and make many of the dismembered bodies whole.

Being made whole again did not simply equate to surviving a conflict with all body parts intact. Facets of one’s life experienced devastation, too. The author’s mother left her seaside home during the war of 1948, thinking that she would be able to return.  She never could, which unveiled an interesting irony to me. Israel’s policy of “the law of return,” (the right for every Jewish person to return to Israel and make it his/her homeland) did not apply to Palestinians. They had to live their lives under an unofficial “law of no return.”

Dr. Saif sometimes resorted to returning to Arab poetry, because his wife earned her bachelor’s degree in that field. He highlighted and quoted an author named “Darwish.” I immediately thought he referred to Egypt’s former head of intelligence under Nasser, whose last name was also “Darwish.” According to his daughter, Nonie Darwish, the Israelis aimed for a targeted assassination of Col. Darwish—it killed him; but, Nonie’s younger brother had gone with his father to the office that day and incurred significant injuries. The Israelis reportedly provided medical care to the child; the Egyptians did not…something that became a long-standing point of contention to Ms. Darwish. Regardless of this side story, I finally opted to do a search on Arab poets with that same last name. Mahmoud Darwish came up in the results as a Palestinian poet; after reading more about his writing style and themes, I realized that there existed similarities in how Atef Abu Saif and Mahmoud Darwish shared Palestinian concepts and, perhaps, in how they conveyed them. I could not help but wonder if Dr. Saif’s love for his wife motivated the author to become more influenced by Darwish. Either way, Saif influenced me to want to learn more about the older Palestinian author and read his works.

The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary,” could have been about a man who was angry with the Israelis and/or wanted to cheer on the Palestinian Liberation Organization; instead, he used this piece as a vehicle to share the semantics of war. The beauty with which he expressed himself caused the reader to understand the author’s most basic themes, instantly creating an avenue to connect with the writer and create an elevated level of compassion. There was a beauty to how he conveyed universal themes in his subtle delivery of strong analogies. This was a beautifully crafted book, and one that I found to be highly-recommendable.