Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review of ‘Men Without Women’ by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami. Need I say more? Okay, I will. It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. I have a bookshelf filled with his novels. I just finished reading his latest short story collection, Men Without Women (Knopf, May 2017), which was published in Japan in 2014 and now has been expertly translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen. I will proudly add it to my shelf.

The book includes seven short stories, all of them centered around the theme of men living without women. That isn’t to say there are no women involved. In fact, the opposite is true. The stories are really about men dealing with loneliness, even when there are women in their lives.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Interviewed by Bulgarians in Detroit

Recently I was contacted by Daniela Natcheva, editor of the electronic newsletter, Bulgarians in Detroit. Daniela interviewed me about my book Valley of Thracians, my connection to Bulgaria, and the similarities (and differences) between Bulgaria and Israel. The interview appeared in the May 2017 edition of the newsletter. Included here is the interview.

Where do you live now? Have you visited Bulgaria again (after 2010)?  

I was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and moved to Israel with my family when I was fifteen years old. I have worked in many different jobs and eventually ended up in online marketing. My position was relocated to Sofia for two years (2009-2010). Upon my return to Israel I found myself thinking constantly about Bulgaria. My experiences in Bulgaria gave me inspiration for my writing, and the novel Valley of Thracians was the result.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The American Israeli Who Writes About Bulgaria

In July 2016, an interview with me appeared on the Foreigners and Friends website. The website was run by my friend Imanuel Marcus and has since merged with The Sofia Globe. The interview appeared shortly after my novel The Burgas Affair was published in Bulgaria (in Bulgarian).

Foreigners and Friends (FF): The fact that "A Burgas Affair" is set in Bulgaria is not a coincidence, right?

It’s not a coincidence at all. The terrorist bombing at Burgas Airport in July 2012 upset me greatly, not just because five Israelis and one Bulgarian were killed in the blast, but also because I never expected that such an attack could occur on Bulgarian soil. Having grown up in Israel I was quite familiar, unfortunately, with suicide bombings, explosions on buses and at marketplaces. In Israel, everyone is very security-conscious, but Bulgaria, I believed, was supposed to be safe territory. I felt this way because I lived in Sofia for two years and never was worried as a foreigner, an Israeli, or as a Jew. And also, I had been to Burgas Airport so I could clearly picture where the bombing took place.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Why Israelis Think Gal Gadot Is Wonderful

Diana, princess of the Amazons and trained to be an unconquerable warrior, leaves a sheltered island paradise to fight alongside man in a war to end all wars. Diana then discovers her full powers and her true destiny. She is Wonder Woman.

Released this week by Warner Bros. Pictures, the film "Wonder Woman" is directed by Patty Jenkins and is based on characters from DC Comics. The much-anticipated live action superhero film starring Gal Gadot is here at last!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review of A ‘Horse Walks into a Bar’ by David Grossman

A man walks into a nightclub. The man has been invited to see the stand-up routine of a well-known, slightly past-his-prime comedian. Sitting down for the performance the man expects an evening of comedy, jokes, one-liners, humorous anecdotes about the comedian’s life. That is not what he gets.

In A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman (Jonathan Cape, November 2016), we meet Dovaleh Greenstein as he stands on stage to entertain a mixed audience typical for an Israeli nightclub – couples, soldiers, people out for an evening’s entertainment. At a table in the back is the story’s narrator, Avishai Lazar, a retired judge who knew Dovaleh as a boy. Avishai has since forgotten their childhood experiences and wonders why Dovaleh has invited him to the club.

Dovaleh’s monologue begins. He tells a few jokes but the audience’s response is mostly forced laughter. The jokes just aren’t funny and they’re mixed with personal stories which are hardly amusing. The comedian is far from being comedic. His tales become painful to hear. The audience gets restless; some people stand up to leave the club.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ionia Martin Reviews 'Valley of Thracians'

This review was posted on the Readful Things Blog in 2013. It was one of the very first reviews of the book!

When I first read the description for this book, I thought “Bulgaria?” That is certainly an unusual setting. It really is, and that, I believe is part of this book’s charm. I get tired of reading stories that are set in the same place over and over. I like it when the author not only uses a different setting than the norm, but also knows something about the setting they choose, and this author clearly does.

The descriptions are beautifully penned. You can see the colours before your eyes and feel the atmosphere as you read. There were actually a couple of passages in this book I went back and read again after finishing, simply because I enjoyed them so much.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Pilgrimage to Bulgaria’s Rila Monastery

Nestled in mountain forests an hour and a half south of Sofia, the Rila Monastery is Bulgaria’s most popular tourist destination. It is the country's largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery, attracting both the faithful and the curious. As a pilgrimage destination, it is known locally as the Jerusalem of Bulgaria.

Jodie and I visited the Rila Monastery on a number of occasions, driving down from Sofia with our visitors from overseas. The monastery made such an impression on me that I staged a pivotal scene from my novel there. Walk through the arched entrance and your eyes will open wide with amazement.

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.