Friday, April 28, 2017

Review of What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball




The first thing you’ll notice when opening the pages of What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball (Atlantic Monthly Press, April 2017) is the Solomon family tree. You may end up referring to this tree frequently as one character after another is introduced. After all, this is a multi-generational family drama starring Yakov Solomon, his children and his grandchildren. It’s a bit confusing at first, until you get to know them all.

Yakov – “a real sabra, born in Israel seventy-five years ago. He’d gone to school with Rabin, supped with Barak, was the guest of the kings of Jordan and Morocco” – is the founding member of a Jordan Valley kibbutz who has built a very successful construction company. Yakov is married to the “beautiful and worldly” Algerian-born Vivienne. Heartbroken when her non-Jewish boyfriend fails to follow her to Palestine, she brazenly states, “I will never love you, Yakov Solomon!”

Yet the couple raise five children and the novel follows this second generation and their offspring. There is Marc, the Israeli naval commando who moved to Los Angeles only to find his asset management firm accused of a vast money laundering scheme. Marc’s sister Shira is a self-absorbed movie actress whose career is more important than caring for Joseph, the 11-year-old son she leaves to fend for himself in Jerusalem while she travels with her actor friend Ayelet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Magnificent Bahá'í Gardens of Akko, Israel



On the slopes of Mt. Carmel, overlooking Haifa Bay, is a small, but very impressive golden dome. This is the Shrine of the Bab, a mausoleum that is the second holiest Bahá'í site. Looking down from the scenic viewpoint on Yafe Nof Street you see the eighteen monumental terraces, the domed shrine, the lower city, the port, and the Mediterranean coast all the way north to Rosh Hanikra.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Recent Reads April 2017 Edition

It’s early morning and the train pulls out of the station. I’m on my way to work, but first I make myself comfortable. I take my tablet out of my backpack and load the latest novel I’ve been reading. Within minutes I am lost in the plot. The train races along, passing through one station after another. And then it’s time for me to get off the train. I put away my tablet, eager to return to my book on the journey home.

I do most of my reading on the train. Here are some of the latest books I’ve been reading. Enjoy!

The Girl from the Sea by Shalini Boland (Adrenalin Books, June 2016) is another psychological thriller with “Girl” as part of its title, but this one stands out from the rest. A woman washes up on the beach and can't remember her name or who she is. Her supposed family and friends come forward to help her reclaim what appears to be a perfect life, but something doesn't seem right. Everyone appears to have ulterior motives; nothing is as it seems. Complete with a plausible, page-turning plot; believable characters; and an unexpected ending, this thriller will stay in your mind for some time.



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What a Typewriter Bar Mitzvah Gift and Devoted Creative Time Can Do for Your Writing

I had this conversation with author Lia Mack a number of years ago but she has just re-posted it on her new blog. In the interview, Lia stated that my "insight and inspiration for fellow writers is, as always, spot on!" Lia, thank you so much for that, and for re-posting the interview.

One of the questions Lia asks is: "If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself if you could speak to the aspiring writer you once were?"

Find my answer and the rest of the interview on Lia's blog!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Day I Bumped into the Prime Minister of Bulgaria



During the two years we lived in Bulgaria, my wife and I regularly left our home in Sofia to drive into the countryside, exploring picturesque villages and visiting ethnographical museums. We were eager to learn everything we could about Bulgarian history and culture. I was constantly researching new places to visit.

On one extended December weekend, my wife and I traveled to Burgas, on the Black Sea coast. Despite the cold breezes and cloudy skies, we drove all the way south to the Turkish border and then back to Sozopol, an ancient seaside town that serves as a crowded resort in the summer months.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review of Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen




They clean. They clear tables. They wash dishes; they wash floors. They walk the streets, ride the buses. They are dark-skinned, indistinguishable, and most of them don’t speak our language. They are all around us, but we don’t acknowledge their existence. We see them in our peripheral vision, yet we never see them at all.

Eritrean refugees in Israel, who hardly ever feature in our concerns, take center stage in the novel Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (Little, Brown and Company, February 2017). They make a very strong impact, one that starts late at night on a dark desert highway. Dr. Eitan Green, recently relocated to Beer Sheva with his family, slams into an Eritrean man and leaves him for dead.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How Bulgarians Welcome the Month of March




Walking the streets of Sofia during the month of February you come across stands selling an assortment of small items, all of them red and white in color. Looking closely, you see packets containing pieces of string, tassels, intermingled red and white yarn. Small woolen dolls – a male and a female. Souvenirs? Good luck trinkets?

Pedestrians quickly make their purchases and hurry on their way. Everything is in preparation for the month of March, and for the holiday that hopefully heralds the arrival of spring.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Romantic Weekend in Israel’s other Walled Old City



We lift our glasses of champagne to toast the setting sun. The Mediterranean is golden, nearly wave free as evening falls. Framing our view are white roofs topped with solar panels and satellite dishes. We hear vendors’ cries from the alleyway below and the muezzin’s call from a nearby mosque. We drink our champagne as the sun dips into the magnificent sea.


We are in Acre (Akko in Hebrew), a small city located across the bay from Haifa. Our sunset view is from the rooftop of two ancient houses beautifully preserved, restored, and merged into the boutique Efendi Hotel. We are at the start of a romantic weekend, a gift in honor of our special birthdays this year from our family. We are eager to explore the wonders of this colorful old city.