19 Dec 2012

"The Odessa File" by Frederick Forsyth

Have you heard of Simon Wiesenthal? If not you seriously need to google him pretty much right now. He was a very special, very cool man who dedicated his life to chasing nazis who had actively participated in the atrocities during WWII. In his quest to bring these criminals (I'm really wanting to write a much less diplomatic word) to justice, he had to give up a lot of things that most people would be reluctant to and his work paid off and some of the most disgusting nazis were made to pay for their crimes.
Simon Wiesenthal is one of the inspirations for "The Odessa File" by Frederick Forsyth, a 1972 novel, which tells the story of a young freelance reporter who finds himself getting tangled up in the chase of a  
man who lead a concentration camp in Riga. Although the Peter Miller lives a disorganized life of reporting and relaxing with his gorgeous girlfriend, the eh... showdancer... Sigrid. When he comes across the diary of an old man who has killed himself, he first regards it as nothing more than an interesting story. But the more he researches and learns about the story, the more it starts to affect him. It is a gruesome tale of a Jewish man who experiences the worst of nightmares under the nazi regime and Peter Miller decides that he must chase down the responsible commander and find out if he is still alive. And if he is alive, he wants revenge or justice or at least to make this beast face his past.

As crime fiction goes, this one is pretty good. At least in my opinion. As historical fiction maybe not so much... But it works for what it is. The only thing that really got to me was the ending, I would have written that differently. But that might just be me. It is a popular book that has sold a lot so it might be that I'm just being difficult... All in all a bit of a meh read for me, should probably have read a Wiesenthal biography instead.

16 Dec 2012

Are you "Brandwashed"? (by Martin Lindstrom)

Have you ever wondered what on earth persuaded you to buy those red skinny jeans/that post-modern poetry collection/the deconstructed flower vase? Or why you religiously choose Coca Cola over Pepsi? Or feel a strange kinship with the royal family?

If yes, then you NEED to read "Brandwashed" by Martin Lindstrom. For anyone not living in the Amazon jungle or rural North Korea, this will be an eyeopener. For those of us regularly trawling shops for things we don't need, this is a jolt, an awakening.
Lindstrom is a brading guru, has been on the Time magazine Influential 100 list and has worked with a number of the world's biggest, most influential companies on their branding strategy. This is a man who knows what he's talking about. And who will scare the living daylights out of you if you think that you're in charge of what you buy.

Did you know that you can target unborn children through music? For example by playing it in shopping malls thereby instilling a sense of familiarity that will mean they are attracted to going to the mall even as toddlers.

Did you know that you can actually be addicted to lip balm?

Did you know that a royal baby is one of the best PR stunts that a royal family can pull and that it often has a great impact on the popularity of the monarchy?

Did you know that the best way to market a product, the strongest, most impactful way is through referrals and recommendations? So next time you buy something your next-door-neighbour recommended, you might want to ask yourself if they have been employed to recommend it...

Do you want to know more? Well then you'll have to get yourself down to your local bookshop and get "Brandwashed" by Martin Lindstrom - it will give you a whole new take on branding and consumerism...

15 Dec 2012

Non-fiction for Real Women

I like a good memoir or a non-fiction book by a strong women who has opinions and experiences that the rest of us can learn from. These women are like on-the-page mentors and have taught me a lot of things while at the same time making me laugh or cry or both as I read their stories. 
"How to Be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran

"Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" by Florence King

"Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers" by Stephanie Levine

"The Mitford Girls" by Mary S. Lovell

"Female Chauvinist Pigs - Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture" by Ariel Levy

"Mennonnite In A Little Black Dress" by Rhoda Janzen

8 Dec 2012

10 Reasons to Love "Mennonite In A Little Black Dress"

There are a lot (a lot!) of reasons to love "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress" by Rhoda Janzen but here I will pick out ten in the hope that this will convince to read this brilliant book:

1) Janzen grew up in a Mennonite community, left it to become an academic and then went back home to cook and write a fantastic memoir when her hapless husband Nick left her for a guy named Bob that he met on gay.com. She rocks.

2) This quote from page 24: "I hope it's clear by now that the Mennonites wouldn't want me. The only reason they're nice to me is that my dad is famous, my mom makes great pie, and I babysat their kids when I was twelve."

3) Her take on men (from page 62): "Hannah's husband was fabulous. Among Phil's many excellent qualities was the expression of zero interest in leaving his wife for a guy he had met on Gay.com."

4) She manages to make Germanic food such as Platz, Borscht and persimmon cookies sound oddly attractive and I did actually buy persimmons to try the recipes at the back of the book. Thanks Rhoda's mom!

5) Her musings on modern womanhood (page 166): "Consider how impossible it is, for example, to aspire to the role of virtuous woman when professional commitments dramatically interfere with jam delivery to oldsters."

6) Her musings on what makes a man sexy (page 203): "In my opinion, sexiness comes down to three things: chemistry, sense of humour, and treatment of waitstaff at restaurants."

7) Her observations on the sorority that she is faculty adviser to (page 210): "One twelve-degree evening in February, when there was eight inches of snow under a layer of slippery drizzle, my sorority gals celebrated their fellowship by donning denim minis, pink tights, and stilettos."

8) Her explanation of the difference between Amish and Mennonite (page 226): "But the Amish cut away from the Mennonites in 1693 because the rest of us were too liberal. That's rich, no? A liberal Mennonite is an oxymoron if ever there was one."

9) The way she manages her mother who is a typical, practical Mennonite woman who at times approaches life in a different way: "If your mother takes a frozen uncooked chicken in her suitcase to Hawaii, all bets are off. You just go with the flow."

10) The fact that she manages to tell a tragic story about a woman who looks after and takes care of her mentally frail husband who then leaves her when she herself is at her most fragile without letting the grief and the unfairness take over. Instead she turns it into a story about life,  hope and looking towards the future, she is an inspiration.