Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Dark History: The Popes by Brenda Ralph Lewis

Publisher: Metro Books
Pub. Date: March 2009
ISBN-13: 9781435102101
Pages: 256
Ratings: 5 out of 5
Summary: The pope is considered to be the sucessor of Saint Peter and the leader of the Catholic Church. Throughout the centuries, there have been good popes...and unfortunately some bad ones too. In this book, Brenda Ralph Lewis tells us the some the pontiffs' immoral and scandalous deeds from bribery, nepotism, sexual affairs, and even mass murders.
Review: Just when I thought Ms. Lewis was through amazing me with her other book A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of Europe, here's another book that trumped it. In A Dark History: The Popes, readers are introduced to the most shocking and controversial stories of the papal history.
Just to name a few, readers are introduced to John XII (955 - 964) who ran a brothel in the Vatican. It was said that he drank toasts to the Devil when drunk. If you think that's not shocking enough, how about Alexander VI, (1492 - 1503) who had eight children with his mistresses?(Yes, you read right...mistresses as in plural.) Just as Hitler was responisble for killing six million Jews during WWII, Innocent III was responsible for killing a million Cathars whom he believed were heretics. I guess he's not so innocent after all.
Readers will also be interested in the chapter called The Galileo Affair. Galileo defied the church teachings by saying that the earth orbited around the sun and not the other way around. He was accused of heresy and therefore was found guilty during his Inquisition. He was almost 70 years old.
This book also has plenty of illustrations and pictures. Some pictures were gruesome enough to make my skin crawl. This book was also well-researched. I learned so much. I believed that Ms. Lewis outdid herself.
Recommendation: If you're in the mood to get creeeped out or just reading some weird history, you will not be disappointed if you get this book.

A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi

Publisher: Cedar Fort
Publishing Date: June 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1599552354
Pages: 352
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: In Newbury, Connecticut, ten year old Janet Troy is murdered. Leia Bines, an FBI agent, is called in to help the local detectives to solve the case. In the same town, Dr. Peter Gram, a child psychiatrist, admits Naya into the hospital after a near fatal incident. Naya is also having some disturbing nightmares that involves Janet. Leia and Peter are forced to work together. Will they find the murderer before he claims his next victim?

Review: A Circle of Souls is Dr. Preetham Grandi's debut novel, and it's such a priviledge to read it. The book is a real page turner that has kept me at the edge of my seat. If I didn't have any commitments that afternoon, I think I would have finished the book in one day. The pacing is fast as if the author isn't likely to waste time. The book takes the reader for a thrilling ride.

The book also explores the subject of the paranormal. Naya is a gifted child who is able to talk to the dead. Through her drawings she is able to express the dreams she has about Janet. Her drawings also become the only clues to what really happened to Janet. Having very little leads, Leia has no choice but to go with Naya's drawings.

The character I liked best aside from Naya, who I thought was interesting, was Peter. He was a workaholic doctor who genuinely cared for the well-being of his young patients. His ability to be culturally sensitive of Naya, who's from India, made me like him even more.

I think that the only issue I had about this book was that how quickly I suspected who the murderer was...and even though the author tried to lead me on to different direction, I still wasn't surprised who the killer was.

Still, I thought it was a very good debut novel. Great read and awesome plot.

Recommendation: Wonderful book! If you like psychological, mystery thrillers and some mysticism, then this book is for you.
Additional note: I want to thank Dr. Preetham Grandhi for sending me the advanced reader copy so that I had the chance to enjoy this fascinating story. I look forward for more of his work.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Christmas in July

Doesn't that cake look scrumptious?

The books that I ordered finally came yesterday. What a treat it was! I came home past 11 PM after working a twelve hour shift, and I was sooo tired that I just wanted to crawl into bed and forget the whole world existed. Of course, that changed when I saw the packages sitting in the living room. Well, not really. I still wanted to sleep, but I figured that could wait after I opened up the packages.
What's in the mail? I realized that not only did I receive the books I ordered online from Barnes and Noble, I also got the books from the Naval Institute Press. Sweet! I tore those packages like a kid tearing through presents on Christmas Day.
The books that I ordered from Barnes and Noble (and they're still having their clearance sale, by the way) were Heartsick by Chelsea Cain, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Bloom, North River by Pete Hamill, The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty, and The Best American Short Stories (2008 Edition edited by Salman Rushdie and Heidi Pitlor).
The books I received from the Naval Institute Press were the Women of the OSS Sisterhood of Spies by Elizabeth P. MacIntosh and Stranded in the Philippines by Scott A. Mills. I am especially excited to read Stranded in the Philippines. I'm not sure if I should ditch the books I am currently reading now and start reading this one.
Even though my To Be Read pile list had gotten longer, I can't wait to read them. The next question is: Which one should I read first? Oh, the life of a bookaholic.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Woo-hoo! I have just been given a Kreativ Blogger Award by Shellie of Layers of Thought. It's so wonderful to get an award, don't you think? So what is the Kreativ Blogger Award?

The award is a meme. Here's what you do if you decide to accept it. List seven of your favorite things...and then choose seven people who deserve this. Whether it's their writing style, their background layout, or blog content, decide whatever factor or factors that make the nominees' blog creative and stand out.

So...I'll start with my 7 favorite things. You don't have to say why these are your favorites, but I just wanted to share.
1. Books, books, and more books - I can never get enough books.
2. Writing - I love, love, LOVE to write.
3. World History - Some people might groan at this, but to each his own. Heehee. :)
4. Chocolate - ice cream, cake, name it. I am a chocaholic as much as a bookaholic.
5. Mocha cappuccino - I love coffee but this is my favorite kind.
6. Fall season - I like how the leaves turn into different colors. The weather is not too hot or cold either.
7. The scent of Gain Original Scent detergent - Hands down, it is the best smelling detergent I have ever used. If it was a drug, I will probably get high on it.

Now I'm going to list the nominees. Honestly, there were so many creative blogs out there. I ended choosing eight instead of seven. I also included why I picked them.

1. Shesten of I Heart Monster.
I love her blog. Shesten titles the categories in her blog rather differently. For example, the title of her book reviews is Book Inspection. Creative? Yes, definitely.

2. Jules of Jules' Book Review.
I love the background of her blog. It's so pretty...and her layout is so organized. When I first visited her blog, I stayed there for hours. She also joined these reading challenges. I don't know how she does it but wow.

3. Sheila of One Person's Journey through a World of Books.
Sheila seems to do it all in her blog - reviews, giveaways, author interviews, and guest bloggers. There's just a wealth of information there. I think her blog is one of the coolest blogs I've ever come across upon.

4. Fantaghiro23 of Coffeespoons.
I've always liked the title of her blog. It's very original. Most of the books she's reviewed are books I've never even heard it's very interesting whenever I visit her blog. I also love the heading of her blog - very cool, very hip.

5. Amy of Chic Book Reviews.
The picture of the chick is always such a nice welcome whenever I visit her blog. It's so cute with its glasses. She also hosts giveaways like Self Help Sundays and Free Fridays. Great titles and very original. What I like about her blog best is her enthusiasm...especially the way she ends every entry with, "Read on Chicks." Delightful!

6. Sumthinblue of Bookmarked!
Talk about variety! Sumthinblue reads and reviews different kinds of books and also blogs about her book adventures which makes her blog very interesting and enjoyable. When I visit her blog, there's always something new.

7. Nana of Everything Victorian.
Books, poems, even pictures - Nana blogs about anything that has to do with the Victorian Age. It's a fairly young blog, but I'm really fascinated by its content. I love the poems of the different poets she posts and pictures of the Victorian ladies she posts are so beautiful. So if you like anything or everything Victorian...give her blog a visit.

8. Peter of Kyusireader.
I've nominated Peter before for the Lemonade Award since he always has such a good attitude when he blogs. Now I'm nominating him for a second award for the creativity in his writing style and his blog subjects. This guy just never seems to run out of ideas to blog about books. I'm never bored whenever I visit his blog, and I get good laugh when he writes something hilarious.

That's it, folks. Congratulations to everyone.

What's On Your Desk Wednesday?

What's On Your Desk Wednesday is a weekly book blog meme hosted by Sassy Brit of Alternative-Read.Com. Here are the rules, and they are pretty straight-forward.

You can do one of two things or both.

1. Grab a camera and take a photo of your desk. Or anywhere you stack your books/TBR pile. And no tidying! Add this photo to your blog.Tag at least 5 people.

2. List at least 5 BOOKISH things on your desk (Examples are TBR pile or books you haven't shelved...) List at least 5 NON BOOK things. (Like some of the more unusual items on your desk/table?) Tag at least 5 people to do the same.

Once you're done, go to Sassy's blog and post your link. That way people can visit your blog and see the pictures you have posted.

Peter from KyusiReader tagged me last Wednesday, but due to time zone differences and my work schedule, I wasn't able to post pictures of my desk and tag people. If you can't do it this Wednesday as I am already late posting this (at least according to my time zone), no problem. Just post your pictures and tag your fellow bloggers next Wednesday. It's a lot of fun though.

So here's my desk:
Yes, I know. It's small, but it has so much junk on it.

I have more than five bookish things: three how to write novels/short story books; a writer's idea book which I use when I have a writer's block or if I need to do any writing exercise; and two books that I'm currently reading, Shanghai Girls and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. As for non-bookish things (and I have more than five in this category), I have a red notebook sandwiched between the books. Piled on top of the books is a see-through plastic case where I put all of my essential writing tools: index cards, pens, pencils, highlighters, post-it markers and notes, and etc. Behind that is my printer, scanner, and copier. I also have my red cellphone, my coffee cup, and my mouse.

More non-bookish things: my HP desktop PC with a red (my favorite color) background; my MP3 player; and my bills, which I pay mostly online. I also have a cushion for my wrists in front of my keyboard since I have arthritis in my hands.

Tag! You're it! Here are the 5 people I've chosen for this fun activity.

1. Yvette of True Crime Books Reviews.

2. Suzanne of Chick With Books.

3. Alaine of Queen of Happy Endings.

4. Anna of Diary of an Eccentric.

5. Okbolover of Okbo Lover.

No cheating, guys. And remember...have fun. :D

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Publisher: Random House Inc
Pub. Date: April 2007
ISBN-13: 9781400096275
Pages: 431
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: In 1940, Nazi Germany invaded France. In Suite Francaise, Nemirovsky wrote about the French evacuation of Paris. Chaos among the Parisians set in as they try to escape their enemy. Moving from Paris to the occupied German town of Bussy, the French were forced to live with the enemy in their own homes. It’s a story of strength and survival and of people at their worst and at their best.

Review: Suite Francaise is divided into two parts: Storm in June and Dolce. In part one, Storm in June, the story opens in the eve of Nazi occupation of Paris. A series of characters are introduced such as the Pericand family; the writer Gabriel Corte and his mistress Florence; the married couple Jeanne and Maurice including their son Maurice; and Charlie Langelet. Each of them deals with survival as they go on their exodus from Paris and into the countryside. What I loved about this book was how the author brought me right into scenes. I could feel the panic they felt as they tried to leave Paris. The author was also quick to point out how the poor, the middle class, and the rich dealt with the evacuation. While the rich were quick to prey on the poor, war had no boundaries and everyone no matter what class they came from was greatly affected. I felt that the poor suffered more though.

The evacuation scenes did remind me of Byron Henry and Natalie Jastrow while they tried to escape Poland during the Nazi invasion from Herman Wouk’s Winds of War. That’s another great book, by the way, if you haven’t read it.

Part two is titled Dolce. Some of the characters from Storm in June are included here, but the story has proceeded into the rural town of Bussy. By now the Nazis have invaded Bussy and the townspeople are forced to open their homes so that the soldiers have a place to stay. The town has no choice but to let the enemy in their lives or else they will face death. Although it is engaging to read Storm in June, I found Dolce to be more fascinating. I’m not sure if it’s because of the forbidden attraction of the German officer, Bruno, and Lucille, a French woman who’s trapped in a loveless marriage but it certainly does add a twist into the story. One thing I’m certain why I like it is because I felt closer to the characters than I did from Storm in June, but perhaps that was the author’s intent. There were far more characters in the first part than in the second. I felt that Lucille from Dolce was the most dynamic character of all. Although she befriended a German officer, she showed that she was a French patriot first by aiding a troubled family friend to escape the hands of the Nazis.

Recommendation: If you’re a die hard fan of WWII- related books like me, do not miss this book.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: April 2004
ISBN-13: 9781594480003
Pages: 400
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: Amir and Hassan are childhood best friends and are close as brothers but each belong to a different class. Amir is a son of wealthy businessman while Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant, and therefore Amir’s servant as well. Hassan also belongs to the minority group of Hazaras who are despised in Afghanistan. Their friendship is torn apart by an unspeakable and heinous crime that will forever haunt Amir even after he tries to escape the past. America becomes his haven, but he returns to Afghanistan to face his sins and atone for them.

Review: I’ve read books where I’ve shed a tear or two, but this book was the one of the two (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was the other) that made me cry in buckets. If I had read this book in a cafĂ© or library, people might have thought I was crazy. Seriously, though, The Kite Runner made me grab the tissue box. There were books that touched me and inspired me. The Kite Runner was different. This book punched me in the gut. I felt so many emotions: shock, anger, sadness, and pity.

Though what began as an innocent, happy and carefree childhood for Amir, he witnessed a horrible crime that involved Hassan. Consumed with guilt, he became a tortured soul even though he escaped to America, married a beautiful and kind Afghani woman, and obtained a successful career as writer.

As an adult, Amir was forced to go back to Afghanistan to save Hassan’s son, Sohrab, who was suffering from the hands of the Taliban. Yet, even after he and Sohrab escaped the Taliban, Amir still faced challenges which included gaining the trust of the traumatized Sohrab.

I have to admit that Amir was not my favorite character, but that slowly changed as he transformed and redeemed himself which didn’t happen until the end of the novel. The plot was very original. Hosseini’s a wonderful author. Although I enjoyed A Thousand Splendid Suns, I think that The Kite Runner was his masterpiece.

Recommendation: Read it if you haven’t already. You are missing a lot. This book is already a modern classic in my eyes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sites to See

It's been almost a week since my last entry. Apologies, my dear readers. My new work schedule is a little weird. I work for seven days straight and then I'm off for seven days. Yesterday, which was my first day off, all I did was sleep all day. I remember using the bathroom and eating once, but the rest of the time, I devoted it to rest.

I'm supposed to do my reviews tonight, but my mind is just in a fog right now. I will do them sometime this weekend.

I have been doing absolutely nothing tonight except visiting other sites, and I found two that may just be added to my reading collection. My blog is mostly about books and book reviews but sometimes I'd like to talk about other things. Otherwise, it can get boring, don't you think?

Since I live in America, most of the books I have read are by American authors. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I feel that my reading material is pretty limited. Every once in awhile, I wonder about what kind of stories do international authors have to tell about their country, their people, their customs, and their history. This is where Words Without Borders come in.

Based here in the US, Words Without Borders is a nonprofit online magazine from international authors. The stories posted here are translated into English. They also published a book called Literature from the Axis of Evil, which is made of writings from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and other countries that the US have had some bad relations with. I think that would be an interesting read though. Sometimes, I think that we are so blinded by the everyday headlines of these countries that we forget that they are people too. And maybe...there are those who love to read just like us.

If you're like me who loves to read anything that has to do with world history, you might enjoy visiting History World. It's a giant online encyclopedia devoted to world history. There are timelines and articles. The articles written vary from broad to specific subjects of history. Being in the medical field, I particularly found the History of Medicine very informative. Under the subject of Surgery, they featured articles such as Minoans performing trephination, which is the scraping of the skull to let the demons escape. They also have an article titled John of Ardene and Anal Fistula. Anal fistula is a surgical procedure done if there's an abscess in the anus which is caused by prolonged horse riding. Ouch! It's a good thing cars were invented.

There you have it, fellow readaholics. Two sites to check out when you're out and about the web. I've definitely added them to my reading collection...although I probably won't read the anal fistula article again. Ugh.

Happy reading. ^_~