Thursday, June 30, 2016

Books about young and priviledged

Nowadays, if you pretend belonging to the middle class it is almost impossible to not count among your friends at least one start-up lawyer or a successful media star. The psychology and challenges of those people are an interesting topic to consider and in my efforts to better understand them, I pick up in the last weeks two related books.

May friendship privail

The Priviledged is a slow paced investigation into friendship, from teenage years to early adulthood. Three girl friends brought together by the random mysterious social accidents are getting back in touch when their excentric star and deeply unhappy part of the trio, Amanda, is going through deep troubles. They pretend now of being grown-ups, with a career behind, but mostly they all of them, at different levels victims of their own problematic relationship with their parents and emotional distress. Most of the story is going backwards, an investigation into the near past, with details that create suspense and mystery in understanding the last piece of the puzzle: How and where is Amanda? Even though the ending is far below the expectations of the suspense skillfully created, I enjoyed the writing and realistic overview into the world of high-end people more or less accidentally on the top of the ladder and their educational ambitions. With a life 'so much scrutinised, so little respected', personal drama are unfolding and the book outlines precisely those torments and pains.
Rating: 4 stars

The killer in the law office

Take one very high-stakes law firm with top notch clients in Silicon Valley and hard working lawyers with a billable record of more than 24 hours the days. And a young lawyer, with a serious academic credential and an ambitious family, but who secretly dreams about opening his restaurant while watching food shows of Julia Child. When one of the firm partner is mysteriously killed, the relatively mediocre Howard is starting his own investigation, also charmed by a bold lady investigator. 
I loved the suspense and the build-up of the mystery, as well as the path to discover the killer. However, I've found that the personality of Howard is not as clearly portrayed as its role in the investigation would have requested. Also, the language is too pretentious and sometimes sounds like a short Dada-ist play, but probably this is how law-life sounds like sometimes. 
As a summer, weekend read, it is good enough to keep you entertained.  

Rating: 3 stars

Disclaimer: Books offered by the publishers via

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Late Blossoming of Frankie Green: Women discovering their powers

Frankie is an easy going young lady, happily married with her first love, but her beautiful dream will be broken when at her first wedding anniversary, her husband seems to want a bit more from their marital relationships. 'Don't you ever wonder what else is out there, Frankie?', is the question that broke her stable universe into many broken hearts pieces. 
Disappointed but curious to find out what is wrong with her, she is starting an exciting journey of self discovery at the end of which everything will look different because she, the timid and unexperienced Frankie, is finally reaching to be the person she was meant to be. 
At the same time, the book is following the stories of her two other girlfriends, Em and Letty, both of them going through lifecrossroads, with hard personal and professional decisions to be taken. At the end, all of them will succeed with a stronger self and more self aware. They will start seeing their lives with completely different eyes and this is part of the normal growing up process.
The writing is humorous and easy going, with a story offering to the reader some extraordinary revelations. I love the smooth play with suspense that happily wake you up from the cozy summer reading mood.
It is a book that makes you think, inspires while keeping a smile on the corner of the mouth for the whole time of reading. A good companion for your summer - or winter - retreats or just for the weekend.
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher via 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Writers secrets: Jessica Lipowski about becoming an author

I virtually met Jessica Lipowski during the interactions of the big travel chat community of travelers on 'The Road Less Traveled' (#TRLT) on Twitter and was further introduced to each other and invited to be part of the Beta Reader group for her first book 'Flavors of Life'. And I instantly feel in love with the book: stories of life ad resilience of restaurant owners in Amsterdam. I definitely wanted to know more about the history of this book and challenges of being a writer, and the result of my curiosity is the following interview. As for the book, I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the food culture but also looking for inspiration and motivation to make its dream come true.

How did you decide to write your book?
The idea for Flavors of Life can be traced to one sunny afternoon in August, 2012. While exploring Amsterdam, my partner, Matthijs, and I discovered a Caribbean restaurant. It got us thinking, surfacing several unanswered questions. What makes a Caribbean restaurant, a Caribbean restaurant? What kind of food do they serve? Who is the owner? Is the owner from a country in the Caribbean or just a fan? Why did they open this restaurant in Amsterdam, of all places?
These thoughts led us to another realization, reflecting on just how international Amsterdam really is. We heard the statistics outlining how many nationalities call Amsterdam home (180), however, it wasn’t until we looked closer that we saw how diversity has impacted the restaurant scene. Furthermore, I knew why I moved to Amsterdam, but it made me curious why everyone else chose this small, yet beautiful and open-minded city. For a while, I had been tinkering with a few different book ideas, but for one reason or another they just weren’t feasible at the time. When we stumbled upon this Caribbean restaurant, it resonated with me that many others experienced similar dreams.
Additionally, we often read reviews, newspaper articles, and Blog posts about the restaurants, specifically detailing quality of the food, friendliness and promptness of the service, and cleanliness of the establishment, yet what is often forgotten is the person who created the experience: the owner. From a young age, I have been captivated by good stories. I love meeting people and hearing about their life. Combined with my journalistic background and passion for writing human-interest pieces, not to mention my love for fabulous food, I decided to interview international restaurant owners, digging into their history – from childhood to present day – to discover exactly how they got involved in the restaurant industry, as well as how they ended up in Amsterdam.

The book party
The fear of the black page

What is the most difficult part of being a writer?
Facing a blank page. When I started writing, I had a ton of information to sort through, but I had absolutely no idea where to begin and how to organize it. What is important to this person’s life? What is important to the reader? How should I, and can I, best tell this story? I also had to convey emotion from a third-person perspective, which can be challenging. On top of all this, I had to do this for 42 different chapters!

How do you fight writers' block?
I sometimes look at a blank page for hours, not knowing where to begin. When this 
pens I do one of three things. 1. I write down anything, literally. Sometimes all I need is to get that first word on paper. 2. Go through the interview transcription and start outlining facts. That helps get my thoughts in order. 3. Do something else, like Pilates, watch a television show, read a book, or cook dinner. That often helps get the creative juices flowing.

Jessica introducing her book
What are your recommendations for your beginner writer?
Start writing! Like anything else, you’ll get better with practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance, too. Ask others to critique your work. Constructive criticism will help you grow. Most importantly, don’t stop writing! You don’t have to necessarily start with a book; begin a blog or take up some freelance work, and even if you decide to write a book and your work takes 5, 10, or 20 years to complete, you can do it! Trust your gut, and don’t give up on your dreams. The blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it.

'Writing will continue to be a part of my life'

What are your next writing plans?

What comes next? That’s a good question. Depending on how everything pans out, I am potentially interested in publishing another book. I have a few ideas in mind, but would like to develop them further before publicly commenting on the concepts. Regardless of where life leads me, writing will continue to be a part of my life.

Photos by Robert Hart, courtesy of Jessica Lipowski

Learning about Mr. Matisse. And his cutouts

Teaching children about arts, especially about the life of big artists is not an easy task, and in order to be successful, one should offer an interesting, attractive looking material. Mr. Matisse and his cutouts, to be released in English this September, from the original Dutch version, is an illustrated book, aimed to explain the work and life of the creatiive Matisse. Based on episodes from his life, it creates a story covering his specific art, the cutouts.
'Mr. Matisse's room was his whole world, and he was colouring it himself' describes in just few words, the colourful and inspiring world of the artist. The main message is that the biggest strength of the artist is to create its own world. It encourages children to follow their dreams and dare use their imagination. I've found that the illustrations are even more attractive to the reader, especially the youngest ones, than the text, as it keeps the Matisse style and therefore helps the further identification of its specific staple. 
At the end of the book, a short biographical introduction is added, which completes the general perspective on the artist.
The book can be easily used as material for art lessons for children up to 8 years and more. 
My biggest disappointment it that more cutouts should have been recommended, and even some useful exercises included that would have create even more familiarity with the artist's work by creating direct memories and experence of its art. 
Rating: 3 stars
Disclamer: Book offered by the publisher via