Thursday, August 9, 2018

Traveling to Rhodes with (Grand)children

When you think of traveling to the Greek islands you probably picture a sun-basked holiday of swimming in azure waters, lying on sunbeds for hours on end, and drinking ouzo at evening meals. While all that sun and all that ouzo might be the perfect vacation for adults, are there enough children-oriented options to keep the entire family satisfied?

Lindos Bay

The island of Rhodes is the fourth largest in Greece and located in the Aegean Sea, 363 kilometers (226 miles) southeast of the Greek mainland. The southern coast of Turkey is easily visible from island’s northwest shore. Rhodes has a population of 120,000 which explodes with some 2 million visitors a year. The island’s vibrant tourism industry is evident by the ubiquitous traditional Greek taverns situated on nearly every corner of the island’s 40 towns and villages.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review of "Less" by Andrew Sean Greer

In the last few weeks I read two Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. I struggled through The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, which won the coveted Fiction Prize in 2013, but I smiled my way through Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Abacus, April 2018) which won the same prize for 2018. Two novels that couldn’t be more different. Both were recognized for their literary merit.

I am not sure what the threshold is for Pulitzer Prize consideration or why one book wins while another remains on the shelf. I had chosen to read The Orphan Master’s Son because its setting is North Korea, and North Korea has been in the news lately. I chose to read Less because it’s the humorous tale of a failed novelist, about to turn fifty, who travels around the world to escape a failed relationship. That sounded just like the kind of book I would enjoy.

The Pulitzer Prize website describes Less as “a generous book, musical in its prose and expansive in its structure and range, about growing older and the essential nature of love.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Practical Tips for Visiting Sofia, Bulgaria


Regular visitors to my blog have heard me say time and time again why you should visit Bulgaria. But you might be wondering, how will you get around when you get there? If you plan to start your visit in Sofia, how will you get from the airport to the city center? If you rent a car, where should you park? If you want to plan a day trip out of the city, where should you go? Is Sofia a good destination if you're vegetarian or vegan? Is Sofia safe to visit?

Luckily all these answers and more are provided by Maria Stoyanova at her blog Travelling Buzz. If you're on your way to Sofia, I highly recommend her article:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Satire of Alek Popov

In the opening chapters of Mission London by Alek Popov (Istros Books, November 2014, translated by Daniella and Charles Gill de Mayol de Lupe), the staff of the Bulgaria’s UK Embassy awaits the arrival of the newly appointed ambassador. “They sat fidgeting ... beneath the map of Bulgaria, with its cold pink and yellow colouring. Malicious tongues had it that the map had been put there not so much to arouse patriotic spasms in the employees but to serve as a reminder of where they came from and where they could be returning if they were not sufficiently careful."

Second Secretary Kishev, who had been in the UK for more than two years, “liked life on the island,” but Ambassador Varadin Dimitrov viewed his staff “as a gang of good-for-nothings, parasites living on the back of the state.” He felt he needed to "remind them that this job was not a winning lottery ticket.”

Monday, June 4, 2018

In Appreciation of Bulgarian Literature


Ever since my return from Bulgaria in 2011 I have looked for ways to retain a connection to the country. In addition to using Bulgaria as the setting for my two suspense novels and writing travel articles encouraging tourists to visit, I have kept my eyes open for books that would refresh my memories of the two years I lived in Sofia.

My connection with Bulgaria led to my participation in Bulgarian Literature Month, organized by the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, a website which “strives to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels.”

During the month of June, “readers will have the opportunity to get an overview regarding Bulgarian literature that is available in English translation.” International readers must take into consideration that very few books by Bulgarian authors have been translated into English. Bulgarian Literature Month, organized and curated by Thomas Hübner, enables English-speaking readers to at least get to “know ... the tip of the iceberg of Bulgarian literature.”

I chose as my topic the first two novels of Alek Popov, a Bulgarian novelist, dramatist, essayist, and short story writer. His novel Mission London was first published in 2001 while his second novel, The Black Box, was first published in 2007. Both books have been translated into English although Popov’s third novel, The Palaveevi Sisters (2013) has not yet been published in English translation. The common element of his first two novels is Popov’s wry, eastern European humor. Popov’s satirical writing gives comical insight into Bulgaria’s efforts to transition from a communist state to a modern democracy.

Read my article The Satire of Alek Popov on the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative website.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Latest Review of "The Burgas Affair"


The Burgas Affair offers a fascinating close-up of Balkan and Israeli politics, and the setting, largely in Bulgaria, was vividly evoked. From my perspective, the settings and the backdrop to the story were the strongest facets of the read, although the character of Stanchev is skillfully written and dislikeable to a degree that merits applause.

The underlying plot structure of the book is well-constructed and full of surprises. I did feel that the relative level of emphasis given to the romance detracted from the level of attention that the mystery itself deserved; tying all the stray elements of the attack and its circumstances together into a convincing storyline struck me as the most interesting part of the book. Certainly an enjoyable read for any readers of political thrillers.

Read the full review on By Rite of Word Reviews.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered by Sarah Tuttle-Singer

Walking through Jaffa Gate you probably pay little attention to the merchants hawking olive wood crucifixes or to the man squeezing fresh pomegranates. You barely notice the women hanging laundry from their balconies in the Jewish Quarter and you take for granted the presence of the vigilant Border Guards. None of this matters as you gravitate toward Jerusalem’s main attractions—its holy places of worship. But what lies behind the green metal doors on the sides of the narrow alleyways?

Those doors are opened for us in Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered by Sarah Tuttle-Singer (Skyhorse Publishing, May 8, 2018), an exploration of both the spiritual and the terrestrial aspects of the Old City. The book introduces us to the Armenians, Christians, Jews, and Muslims who live within its walls.

We join author and journalist Tuttle-Singer as she embarks “on a strange and wonderful adventure where [she is] actually living in Jerusalem’s Old City—a year of living as an insider-outsider, a visitor looking for community, but never really growing roots.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Answer Two Questions Correctly and You'll Win a Prize

Every morning on my way to the Aroma coffee shop where I sit and write for an hour before going to work I pass by the Reshet television studio. At that early hour there is a morning show and I can actually see into the studio as I pass by. One of the hosts of the morning show is media personality Avri Gilad.

On occasion, Avri goes out to the street and catches passersby for a quick quiz. He asks them three questions and if they answer two of them correctly, they win a prize.

I have been stopped twice before and asked to participate in the televised quiz but both times I was in a hurry to get to work. This time, I said OK.

Avri Gilad was certainly not ready for my "clever" spur-of-the-moment replies, as you can see in the video!

Thank you to my son who quickly starting filming when I messaged my family that I was going to be on television! The video was edited and subtitles were added by using the Kapwing Online Video Editor.