Olsson's Book Bits

by Greta Olsson

Choura: The Memoirs of Alexandra Danilova
Copyright 1986
213 Pages, Paperback,
Large size book but small print
ISBN O-88064-103-7

The Boston Globe wrote, "Danilova has written a delightful autobiography that is full of wit, intelligence virtuosity and versatility that she was always praised for..."

I was pleasantly surprised at the intelligence of this top Russian ballerina. She comes across as very straight and very discreet in telling stories about the people she met and worked with in the ballet world. Any ballet lover should thoroughly enjoy this work. She covers not only her dance career and her training, but finally her teaching. The book is dedicated to her pupils.

Danilove lost both parents when she was very young, went to live with her grandmother who also died when the dancer was still a child. Eventually the ballet company became her home and parents. Danilova never knew whether her grandmother was the mother of her father or her mother. She worked many years with Diaghilev and had Massine as a partner on a few occasions. The pictures in the book are beautiful. She comes across as a workaholic and very independent. She was a strong woman. I recommend this book most highly.

The Red Queen
by Philippa Gregory
Copyright 2010
375 Pages.
ISBN: 978-1-4164-6372-3

The novel deals with the Cousins at War: The House of York, Lancaster, and Tudor in the Spring 1453.

Margaret is of the great Beaufort family. She is highly religious and believes it is her destiny to put her son on the throne of England. The entire book outlines her immense struggle and her belief that God put her on earth to achieve this task. In the author's note, Gregory tells us that Margaret "is remembered by feminist historians as a 'learned lady,' one of the very few who had to struggle for the privilege of study; by Tudor historians as the matriarch who founded their house; and by less reverent memorialists as 't'old bitch' who became a mother-in-law from hell. … Some parts of this novel are history, some are speculation, and some are fiction. In particular, we do not know who killed the princes in the Tower, nor even if they died in the Tower. Obviously, the claimants for their throne - Richard III, the Duke of Buckingham, Margaret of Beaufort and her son - were the people with most to gain from their deaths."

Gregory was already an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudors. In this novel she is looking at the "family that preceded the Tudors: the magnificent Plantagenets, a family of complex rivalries, loves, and hatreds."

The White Queen told the dramatic story of Elizabeth Woodville, and now The Red Queen tells the almost forgotten story of the founder of the Tudors. If you like Gregory's writing as much as I do, you'll run to a book store to get this recent work. It's as good as her others.

by Andrew Morton
St. Martin's Press.
Pages, 313, Hard Cover
Copyright 2010
ISBN: 978-O-312-55561-O

Newspapers and movie magazines have printed so many stories about Angelina Jolie that I was curious what else Andrew Morton could tell us. He certainly came up with some startling new stories. He convinced me that Jolie was and maybe still is a mental case. She was bi-polar and a drug abuser in her early years. Her mother had to be equally disturbed.

"The room was stark and bare: white carpet, white curtains, white walls, and no furniture except for a white crib. For more that a year, a baby girl lived there, cared for by a ragtag assortment of babysitters. The child rarely knew if the person putting her to bed would be the one who would dress and feed her in the morning. There were days when her mother, who lived in an apartment three stories below, would not visit.

"That baby girl was Angelina Jolie. She was sent to live in the white room after her father, Jon Voight, left her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, for another woman. Marcheline said, 'Angie reminds me so much of Jon right now that I cannot be around her. It's just too painful.'

"Angelina's earliest childhood memory is of lying in her crib looking out toward the sky from the window. Without knowing the circumstances, Angie would later see that experience as a metaphor for her life. 'I've just been staring out a window all my life...thinking there was somewhere I could finally be grounded and happy.'" (From the prologue)

To me, as a teenager Angie looked too ill-kept and skinny to be considered attractive. She had no discipline and therefore became a law unto herself, posing semi-nude. In one photo a black tape covers her mouth, in another a black leash circles her neck, and in another two black band-aid like strips cover her nipple on an otherwise nude left breast. Many of her friends thought these pictures would destroy her relationship with Brad.

I myself would steer totally clear of such a woman. Her dating pattern was to fall seemingly madly in love with a man, act very possessive, lose interest, and drop him quite unceremoniously. The man would usually be blind-sided. How could she become the most sought after, powerful actress in Hollywood? Jolie's mother believed in astrology and Angie is a typical Gemini - one who exhibits opposing characteristics and views. She gives her six children the same freedom and lack of discipline that she herself experienced. Many who work in her household express sorrow for her children. The youngsters think of their bodyguards as parents. Angie only puts on an act for the cameras.

I would recommend this book only if you are keen on biographies of outstanding people in their field. I enjoyed it and felt surprised at what I learned from Morton. I liked his work on other notables. This book is as good as his others.

Into the Heart of the Mafia
by David Lane
St. Martin's Press.
246 Pages
Copyright 2009.
ISBN: 978-O-312-61434-8

This excellent author has written for The Guardian and the Financial Times. Since 1994 Lane has been The Economist's business and finance correspondent for Italy. His writing is very clear and straight-forward. Although the paper cover to his hardback book shows six men walking abreast, from curb to curb, with their backs to the camera and dressed in business suits, walking downhill in a residential section toward the beach, pier, and sea, his work is restrained, avoiding any detailed bloody drama of mafia crimes. He writes like a good man, sitting in a confessional, talking to his priest, who believes both his mother and grandmother can hear him.

I thoroughly enjoyed his tone and content, and want to read this book again. It's one that I will not give away soon. He takes you through many cities, and has numerous contacts whom he names and questions their experiences of dealing with the Mafia and trying to battle and erase crime.

As an example of one city and the businessmen there: "After he was elected chairman of Calabria's businessmen's association in 2001 he learned even more about how business in the region is under siege. Four words sum up Calabria's businessmen: isolated, ignored, powerless and scared. The situation was so bad that in June 2005 Callipo wrote an open letter to Italy's president, then Arlo Azeglio Ciampi. He wanted action in Calabria and hoped that his letter would get it. The mafia, he said, held the region hostage and deprived people there of important constitution rights like those of running a business and living in a normal society.

"...Seven months before writing to Ciampi he had written to the Ministry of Home Affairs, but got no reply. He talked to two others and got nothing more than a proposal 'to establish a talking shop on the question of organized crime.'

"Following almost five and a half years as its chairman - well over the usual maximum of four years - he stood down from the 1eadership of the businessmen's association in July 2006. 'Security has not improved. Crime, or the threat of it, is the same as before,' he told me. The army had not been drafted to Calabria and the "Ndrangheta", another powerful mafia site/group, continued its hold over the region."

In another area: during the seven years that Caselli worked in the Sicilian capital, from the beginning of 1993 to the end of 1999, his team would investigate nine thousand people "suspected of being in or connected with the Mafia," and win indictments against more than three thousand. Even so that would leave the war far from won. "'Cosa Nostra has been hit but it is still effective, dangerous, and well organized,' Caselli told me in 1998. The years that followed confirmed the prosecutor's grim assessment."

"'For decades, businessmen denied the mafia's existence. But firms had agreements with the mafia and with politicians. Those that did not collude were badly handicapped,' Fabio Cascio the bright young chairman of the small-companies association in Palermo told me when I was preparing the article for the Financial Times."

David Lane has lived in Rome since 1972. His writing shows a tremendous amount of courage and talent.

The start of his journey occurs in Gela.

"'Gela? Why do you want to go to Gela?' asked a friend in Palermo. 'It's the ugliest town in Sicily.' Perhaps it is but it seemed the right place to begin, on Sicily's southern coast in the deep south of the Italian South, much nearer Tunis and Tripoli than Rome, in a town with the blackest reputation for everything in which the mafia excels, such as extortion rackets, economic crime, political collusion and violent death.

"The hotel where I had booked was Gela's best but a local newswire stringer warned me that it ranked low on comfort. I saw what he meant when I drove into the busy service station that shares the hotel's site, checked in and took the lift to my room. A dim corridor with stained carpeting and battered doors to rooms, some with chipped jambs that looked as if screwdrivers or chisels had been used for entry instead of keys, was uninviting and the room matched the corridor. However, the hotel was convenient, an easy walk to everywhere I wanted to go."

Because of the beauty of its views, Gela ought to have become a magnet for tourists. "The fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had swum there, in the clean, clear sea, in August 1937 and later spent the evening dancing with 'young ladies of good Gela families'."

Yet today the area is in bad shape. "'[F]or many youngsters who live in social housing's concrete boxes, or in the decaying homes typical of districts built without permits, the street is the only training ground for life. Here they often bump up against the criminal organizations, their myth of immediate and easy success, and gospel of violence.' Teenagers are not alone in thinking that Gela, a town of about eighty thousand, is short on attractions." Gela offers some leaders in professional crime-fighting higher salaries than they would get in towns with much better accommodations. Of course a leader might be killed before he collected too many paychecks.

A timid traveler might wish to know about such towns in order to avoid them. If it saved one member, or your entire family's lives, you might consider it well worth reading and many times the cost of this hardcover. I wish you pleasure and good fortune. I rode through England, France, and Italy alone on a motorcycle - even on the autobahn, where a heavy man on a motor-scooter joined me for a ways, but had no problems.

Today in my senior years I have been robbed eight times in various apartments. Even some of my college friends think that I'm lying. They don't realize that an older woman alone is vulnerable. They've had adult relatives living with them. There is a big difference between that scene and being a1one. I must say or do something that attracts criminals' interests. They don't harm me; they just take some of my stuff.

In the last two years I've bought a revolver and am learning to shoot. Although I correctly identified one female criminal neighbor to the female cop, she took away my gun and had me carefully watched and examined. I don't lie. Although I reported my neighbor to the police, they believed her lies and had me carefully watched, taking away my gun for a month, while my bipolar neighbor was believed and not bothered by them. I asked a smart friend why the police believed her. 1. The female cop had lied to me when she took my gun away from me. 2. She has lost the ability to know when someone is very straight with her. 3. The neighbor has lied so much that she has become very smooth and convincing at doing it. Ah me!!!

Murder At Yale
by Stella Sands
Copyright 2010
247 pages, Paperback
St. Martin's Press
EAN: 978-O-312-53164-5

"The true story of a beautiful grad student and a cold blooded crime.

"It was violent. It was bloody. And it was deadly.

"At prestigious Yale university. In a soundproof basement lab of a medical school building. Annie Marie Le, a twenty-four-year-old graduate student. Murdered on September 8, 2009.

"No doubt there were words. Then uncontrollable rage.

"B1ood in basement lab rooms told the story - but for days Annie Le's fate remained a mystery..."

(Le is pronounced Lay.) She was super brilliant. Some professors believed Annie to be the best student in her department that Yale had ever had. Some even thought that she was a new, female Einstein.

The young man who is on trial for her murder worked in the lab, cleaning cages. The book was finished before the trial was. He was excellent in going for super cleanliness. Annie was not. In fact, he wrote her a letter on the day she was killed, complaining that she was too careless in how she kept her cages. He may have been too uppity with the star of the department. Annie was 4'11 and 90 pounds. He was much stronger than her. There was much evidence showing that he was guilty.

I would like to know what the jury decides. Annie was so popular and was to be married only five days after she went missing. Possibly her pre-marriage nerves before the big event caused her to snap. If so she was too sorely punished.

It's a very good read!

by Lisa Gardener
Copyright 2005
Bantam Books
448 Pages, Paperback
ISBN: 978-O-553-58453-O

This novel certainly has a very good twist. A man holds a gun against a woman and her child. State Trooper Bobby Dodge watches through the scope of his sniper rifle. When Dodge determines the man is about to shoot, he himself does so, killing the would-be murderer. But the police department puts State Trooper Dodge on trial for the crime.

Another twist is that the wife and mother is not so innocent as she appeared to be. Was Dodge involved with her? Does anyone know the outcome of Dodge's trial against Catherine Rose Gagnon's husband? Dodge seemed a victim himself to the very beautiful, possibly evil, and again possibly very, very clever Catherine Rose.

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