Monday, December 31, 2012

Good morning, day, afternoon, or evening (I really cannot predict what’s the time where you’re living), and I would just like to send out my thanks and appreciation to all of you who have been coming to this website and reading what I have to say.

If it wasn't for you, I probably would have stopped this a long time ago. Once again, thank you for helping to make me what I am today, have a Happy New Year and enjoy your holidays, whatever they may be!

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce – A Spiritual Awakening

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Book cover)
Harold Fry is a man who lives life as a routine; every day, he goes through the exact same procedures, having become somewhat of a robot, at least physically. What’s worse, his wife simply cannot stand him, hating the way he does literally everything, from talking to tying his shoe laces.

On a day which was supposed to be exactly like every other one, Harold receives a very surprising letter from a woman he has last encountered over twenty years ago. That woman is lying close to death, and the letter is her final goodbye. Inexplicably unfazed by this turn of events, Harold hastily writes a reply and goes to deposit it into his mailbox.

However, as novels like this usually have it, Harold makes an encounter on his short journey to the mailbox, one which convinces him that he has to deliver this letter in person, and so he sets out on a pilgrimage across the countryside, a trip during which he makes many strange encounters which remind him of the meaning of being alive.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

“Threat Vector” by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney – Warfare Evolution

Threat Vector by Tom Clancy - book cover
When most of us think of warfare, we probably imagine ourselves dozens, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of soldiers going head to head with each other, whether it’s with clubs and swords or tanks and machineguns. Over the past few decades though, warfare has changed tremendously to the point where technology and intelligence dictate who the winner will be without question. As it happens, relatively little is written about this kind of warfare, the one fought behind closed doors at headquarters, and that’s exactly what we get with Tom Clancy's and Mark Greaney's Threat Vector, a novel with Jack Ryan as the main protagonist.

This time around, as Jack Ryan returns to the Oval Office a new threat arises: the Chinese Government finds itself forced to comply with the expansionist policies of General Su Ke Qiang, which leads to a declaration of war on Taiwan. Not content to sit idly by while such dramatic events occur, the United States Government comes to the protection of Taiwan, and that’s where things start to get complicated.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith – The Hidden Menace

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame - book cover
Release date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 384
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Most of us know Abraham Lincoln as the president who abolished slavery and then got shot by a then-famous actor while attending a play at the opera. The more you look into his life, the more it seems that he was above ordinary men, and the secret journal discovered by Seth Grahame-Smith only confirms that suspicion.

In that journal, Lincoln discusses a part of his life no one knew about, the one where he learned his mother was slain by a vampire. With the help of his height, his unparalleled strength and his mighty axe, Lincoln sets out on a bloody and gruesome adventure to rid the world of the vampire menace, and most importantly, to avenge his mother’s death.

Friday, December 28, 2012

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green – A New Beginning at the End

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Book cover)
I think it wouldn't be too far-fetched to say that the concept of death is one which has captivated the minds of humans unlike any other subject out there. It comes for everyone at one point or another, yet not a single person truly knows beyond all doubt what happens when one dies.

There are many attempts to provide an explanation for what happens beyond the realms of death, but they are all conjectures; until someone finds a way to come back from the beyond and tell us what’s up on the other side, we’re relegated to mere hypotheses. In any case, regardless of what we all think about, it is without question most of us dread the day the reaper will come for us… while for some it may be quick and painless, for others it can be a whole different story. Such is the case of Hazel, a young woman who is terminally-ill with cancer, in John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

“Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel – The Royal Trial

Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel - book cover
Release date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 412
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Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel is the anticipated sequel to Wolf Hall, and if you haven’t read it yet I suggest you do. You can check it out in my Wolf Hall review. In any case, for those who have read it, this time around Henry has become disillusioned with the woman whose hand he so desperately fought for years earlier, mostly because she bore him no son.

Things get even worse when Anne Boleyn becomes the center of gossip as Katherine, who was exiled from the court, passes away. Thomas Cromwell stands ready to bring the Anne down as soon as Henry commands it, and so begins one of the most convoluted trials, that of the Queen herself. Unlike the previous book, this one doesn’t wander all over the place, something which can mostly be attributed to the setting already being created in the first book. There are also less characters and storylines to follow this time around, but rest assured the quality more than compensates for the lack of quantity.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

“Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel – Bloodlines and Bloodshed

Release date: October 13, 2009
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 560
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In case you aren't familiar with how England worked during the 16th century (and the Middle Ages, for that matter), the king and queen would basically rule over a bunch of lower classes, and as long as there is a clear successor to the throne, things work more or less normally.

However, in Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel we are being shown the life of Henry VIII, who is fresh out of luck as he cannot seem to give Britain what it wants: a male heir. A lack of a heir would mean that all sorts of crazy people would be able to make a claim for the throne, inevitably plunging the country into a civil war.

The king is trying to rupture his marriage with his current wife, but instead of support finds that the rest of Europe as well as the Vatican frown upon his decision. However, amongst a sea of detractors emerges on man, Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious, charming, brutal, idealistic and opportunistic man, and he takes the king’s side.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

“Wormhole” by Richard Phillips – The End of an Era, or the End of a Race?

Wormhole by Richard Phillips - book cover
Wormhole is the final part of the Rho Agenda trilogy written by Richard Phillips, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the first two books yet, then I highly recommend you do so before reading this review, unless of course you like to spoil books for yourself. You can read about the first book in The Second Ship review, and about the second one in my Immune review.

In any case, this time around Dr. Donald Stephenson has been imprisoned under the pretext that he committed crimes against humanity, which isn’t exactly false. However, scientists in Switzerland discover a new menace, one which risks to swallow the entire Earth whole, and the Rho Project is what can stop it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

“Immune” by Richard Phillips – The Miracle Cure

Immune by Richard Phillips - book cover
If you haven’t read the first book of The Rho Agenda trilogy trilogy, then I strongly suggest that you do, because I’m probably going to spoil something about its ending... however, I guess such things are inevitable when writing about a trilogy. In any case, here is my review of the The Second Ship. Now on with the review.

The second book in the trilogy takes off pretty much where the first one ended: the NSA director failed to contain the Rho Project, which has led to it being infiltrated into the government. What’s worse, the alien Nano-serum (notorious for causing death) is being administered to the people under the pretense of it being a magical cure for all of their problems.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

“The Second Ship” by Richard Phillips – Welcome to Earth

The Second Ship by Richard Phillips - book cover
Regardless of whether or not you believe in UFOs and extraterrestrial beings, you have to admit that pondering the question is quite interesting, especially considering the promptly covered and classified possible encounters we have had with them or their technology.

In the Rho Agenda Trilogy written by Richard Phillips, the story begins in the book titled The Second Ship, where for sixty years a UFO which crashed mysteriously has been kept secret behind the walls of an underground laboratory.

However, just as the government got ready to tell the public the entire truth about it, three teenagers have to misfortune (or is it the fortune?) of running into a second ship which was just outside the military’s reach.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

“The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers – The Golden Nightmare

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers - book cover
Release date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 240
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By itself, the Middle East is home to some of the most breathtaking pieces of scenery ever, ranging from cold and snowy mountains all the way to vast terrains and dunes made golden by the sun’s rays shining off grains of sand.

Unfortunately, as is made amply obvious in The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, the Middle East is home to things much deadlier than its scenery, with the whole war thing going on. In the novel we follow the journey of two recruits which have been deployed as part of the force tasked with taking over the city of Al Tafar, Iraq.

The novel doesn't really take that long to set up the action, and it begins fairly early with battles against partisans and insurgents inside the city. However, as time goes on and one, it becomes increasingly clear that bullets really aren’t their worst enemy; the heat, the wait, and the constant mental pressure seems to be what they have to worry about.

Friday, December 21, 2012

“A Higher Call” by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander – A True Story of Compassion Between Enemies

A Higher Call by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander - book cover
Release date: December 19, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 400
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First off, I’d like to say that even though A Higher Call by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander is mostly a novel, the events depicted within it were based on real stories, at least as far as the overall path traveled by the two main characters goes.

I’m sure you are already familiar with World War II from history text books, television shows, movies and whatnot, so I’m kind of going to skip over explaining the importance of this world event; even if you aren't an expert, you probably have an idea as to how things were for and between the Allied and the Axis, which is enough to understand this novel.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

“Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Chaos Explored

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Series: Incerto
Release date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 544
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From his previously-published book The Black Swan, it is no secret that Nassim Nicholas Taleb doesn’t believe this world to be an orderly and predictable place; the events which truly dictate humanity’s fate are almost always the ones nobody sees coming. In Antifragile, Nassim digs deeper into the concept of chaos and how its existence is necessary.

What does the title refer to exactly? Well, it seems that in this book Nassim coins the term "antifragile" in reference to that which flourishes under stress and disorder. For instance, when human bones are broken they grow back stronger and revolutions become more powerful as people try to suppress them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

“The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Is the Truth Really Simple?

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb - book cover
Series: Incerto
Release date: May 11, 2010
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 444
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Ever since humans have gained the ability to form and express thoughts we have tirelessly searched for answers to questions such as "why are we here?" and "why does the world work the way it does?" Different people turned to different places for answers; some turned to religion, others to science, while many others simply came to the conclusion they will never get an answer. While I’m not going to claim I've found the answers to those questions, it is very possible that Nassim Nicholas Taleb at least partially answered the question as to why the world works the way it does, in his bestseller The Black Swan.

Just to clear things up, this book has pretty much nothing to do with the movie by the same name. As a matter of fact, the name may very well be the only thing they have in common. In this case, we are presented with a philosophical book where Nassim explores the concept of the black swan, an event which is deemed practically impossible to happen and yet does, often carrying tremendous consequences behind it.

The book took its name from the black swan philosophical thought experiment during the 17th century. In that experiment, it was deemed that the chances of finding a black swan (at least from a European’s point of view) are impossible for no one has ever seen anything but white swans. However, in 1697 explorers found a black swan in Australia.

While Nassim explores a myriad of concepts in his book, the main point he is driving at is that the events in our world which are truly important are often the most unpredictable ones, for they open doors which we never suspected even existed. He believes that we place far too much importance on events of the past repeating themselves.

He presents some convincing examples, such as 9/11 and the stock market crash, two events which were completely unpredictable and had a tremendous impact on the world. Chances are that you won’t really end up liking the world of the black swan, but the fact remains that Nassim isn't here to take sides; he is here to try and communicate the conclusions he has come to from his own observations about how the world really works.

Also, I feel it has to be added that the second edition of The Black Swan has been released, and in it Nassim adds an extra essay called On Robustness and Fragility, in which he discusses what most people probably wanted to hear: what to do and how to handle yourself when navigating the black swan world, and more importantly, how to exploit it to your advantage.

All in all, an eye-opening book, and if it won’t change your way of thinking, it will at least give you something to think about for the next couple of weeks.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (1960)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (1960)

Personal site

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese-American author, essayist, scholar, statistician and risk analyst whose main topic of concern is that of probability, and everything that comes associated with it. He is well-known for his 2007 book, The Black Swan, in which he rather interestingly analyzes the concept of unpredictable events.

More of the Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book reviews:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"The Jakarta Pandemic" by Steven Konkoly – The Apocalypse in Your Backyard

The Jakarta Pandemic by Steven Konkoly - book cover
Most of us would like to believe that all these thoughts and discussions about the end of the world are only speculations from curious minds... however, at the back of our heads we know everything ends at some point, and I believe it’s that fear which makes stories about survival in a post-apocalyptic setting so attractive to us.

In The Jakarta Pandemic, Steven Konkoly capitalizes on that fear, following Iraq War Veteran Alex Fletcher, as he first desperately attempts to keep his family safe from the flu pandemic, and then works with the entire neighbourhood to fight off a threat far greater than a deadly virus, which says a lot about the kind of evil they are facing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

“The Edge of Never” by J.A. Redmerski – How to Find Oneself

The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski - book cover
Release date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Forever
Pages: 496
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Practically every person who is living on this Earth, in first-world countries at least, has a daily routine, a world which has been carefully built; a family, friends, a career, relationships, favourite hangouts, food preferences… etc... etc...

However, the truth is that there are many dissatisfied with knowing where their life is going next, at least from time to time, and wish for nothing but the ability to disappear and reappear elsewhere with a completely clean and blank slate.

Unfortunately though, going on a spontaneous road-trip into the void is something which would doom most people to failure, at least in the real world. However, literature sure as hell doesn't have to stick to any rules, and in J.A. Redmerski’s The Edge of Never, the main protagonist, Camryn Bennett, sets out on an adventure just like the one described above.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

“The Cowboy and the Cossack” by Clair Huffaker – The Wild East

The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker - book cover
Release date: December 4, 2012
Publisher: AmazonEncore
Pages: 386
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Describing The Cowboy and the Cossack as a western doesn't really do it justice… as a matter of fact, there may not really be an official genre for this type of novel. And that, in my opinion, makes it at least worth checking out.

Written by Clair Huffaker, The Cowboy and the Cossack takes place in the Far East as fifteen cowboys with a giant herd prepare to cross thousands of miles of Siberian wilderness. To help them out, a group of Cossacks, elite Russian warriors, are sent to escort them.

As they begin their march, the cruel winter becomes only one of their problems. First, there is an intense clash of cultures, not only for a lack of communication, but also for a disparity in fundamental beliefs, especially between the leader of the cowboys, Shad, and the commander of the Cossacks, Rostov. On top of that, they have to contend against the fearsome Tartar army who would very much like to exterminate them all.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

“The Pillars of Earth” by Ken Follett – Building a House for God

Most of us see the Middle Ages as being an era filled with glorious knights, honorable kings, well-meaning peasants, beautiful princesses, swords, books, fancy cups, and so on and so forth.

However, what many of us forget to imagine, when thinking of the Middle Ages, is the horror. Indeed, these were extremely violent times when teachings of faith were taken very literally, a time when justice was about as arbitrary as it could ever be. In Pillars of Earth, Ken Follett explores the lives of a master builder and his community as they try to build a cathedral in an attempt to protect themselves from evil.

Friday, December 14, 2012

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen – Money, Marriage and Class

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - book cover
Release date: January 13, 2014
Publisher: Tribeca Books
Pages: 256
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It seems that authors always become more appreciated after their time has passed, and unfortunately Jane Austen is no exception to this rule; her novels, Sense and Sensibility as well as Pride and Prejudice are some of the most well-known and revered works of writing today, being complex and thought-provoking on a number of different levels.

I guess it’s not too far of a stretch to say that Pride and Prejudice is the better known of the two novels, perhaps because it deals with somewhat darker themes, being centered around Elizabeth Bennet, or more precisely, on what she perceives.

I’m not going to give you a description of the plot, because it would be a bit too convoluted for our purposes here. However, what I can say is that this is one of those books with a large number of characters, all of them intertwined and connected with each other in one way or another.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“Winter of the World” by Ken Follett – Wars Aplenty

Winter of the World by Ken Follett - book cover
The first book in the Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants, introduced us to the five families, the setting, the characters themselves, the morals of that time. The second book by Ken Follett in this trilogy, Winter of the World, picks up where the first one left off, as each family is headed for some kind of war-related turmoil.

I really won’t go into detail as to which family faces what (let’s admit it, it would take a me a long time and you probably wouldn't even read it anyways), but in one way or another, each one of them finds itself entangled in some kind of significant conflict, whether it’s against actual people or ideas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

“Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett – The Turn of the Century Revisited

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (Book cover)
When we think of times past, how people must have lived, interacted and worked, let’s admit it, most of us have a very limited and romanticized notion about that. We know bits and pieces from what we read in books and saw in movies, and from those pieces we try and put together the big picture as best we can.

Not to say Ken Follett has lived at the beginning of the twentieth century, but he seems to be a man who has done his research and knows more than most about that time period… after all, he wrote an entire trilogy following the story of five families in that world, with the first book of it being Fall of Giants.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

“Veronika Decides to Die” by Paulo Coelho – What is Happiness?

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho, even though he has started to publish books relatively late in his life, has become quite known for being willing to explore heavier and more controversial themes, and in Veronika Decides to Die he does so inspiring himself from his own life. The story starts off by presenting Veronika, a woman by all measures should be happy: she is young, beautiful, popular, has a lot of friends, a loving family, boyfriends, and a job that she actually kind of likes.

However, she never exactly feels complete, despite everything being seemingly perfect. And so, on a cold November morning, she decides to kill herself by overdosing on pills. However, she wakes up not in the afterlife but in a mental hospital, where some bad news are given to her: she only as a few days left to live. Needless to say, this is one of Paulo’s more tragic works of writing, and yet, somehow it still manages to be uplifting. Paulo doesn't just take the beaten path and looking into how Veronika starts to value each day she has left.

Monday, December 10, 2012

“The Fifth Mountain” by Paulo Coelho – The Trials of Faith

The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho is one of today’s most unique and ambitious writers, tackling on the most complex and convoluted subjects he can find. I've already reviewed his masterpiece, The Alchemist, in which a man was taken on a tremendous journey of soul-searching and self-discovery. It seems these themes are quite close to Paulo's heart, as they can once again be seen in another one of his modern classics, The Fifth Mountain.

The Fifth Mountain follows the story of the prophet Elijah who must flee the Phoenicians who in the ninth century B.C., under the orders of their princess Jezebel, execute all prophets who do not worship Baal. Instructed by an angel of God, Elijah flees to Zrephath, where he finds love and comfort in the eyes of a young widow. However, God has other plans for Elijah as soon, his entire world is torn apart by events which keep getting worse and worse, setting him on a road to undergo desolating trials with no weapons other than love and his faith. For the heaviness of the story and themes this novel conveys, it has to be said that the writing is quite simple and easy to understand. This, in my opinion, is one of Coelho’s true qualities: being able to deliver the exact message he wants all while remaining simple, concise and easy to understand.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

“Eleven Minutes” by Paulo Coelho – Redemption of the Heart

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho
Eleven Minutes is considered by most people as being Paulo Coelho’s most controversial piece of writing, mainly because it is centered on a rather unusual type of protagonist, a young prostitute. While many people may have unsavory opinions of them, it is important to understand that many of them haven’t gotten into their lifestyle by their own choice… many are forced into it either by circumstances, or worse, people.

In any case, this is pretty much the kind of character we are presented wit here, with Maria, a young girl from a Brazilian village who had her heart shattered time and time again as a young girl. One day, she meets a Swedish stranger, and after he promises her fame and fortune, she leaves with him for Geneva. Needless to say, Maria’s adventures went far from how she expected them to; she became a dancer at a restaurant. Eventually, Maria manages to become a high-class prostitute. However, this novel is about much more than simply telling the coming-of-age story of a young girl with an unfortunate life.

Paulo Coelho takes it much deeper as we are treated to rather philosophical diary excerpts from Maria’s diary. I won’t go into too much detail about them, but in the end it felt as if the book became an exploration of the nature of love and sexuality.

First of all, when I was reading this book I didn't really have an opinion one way or the other about the main character’s line of work. The way I see it, different people have different lives which lead them to different places, and it just so happens her life was led in an unfavorable direction. Perhaps this contributed to me not being completely able to care about what Maria went through.

However, what kept me going where the diary entries where Maria explores the baser human instincts which pretty much drive us to live on day after day and keep on going even through the darkest of times: love, passion, and sexual desire. From what I understood, it seems that Paulo Coelho believes that one of humanity’s greatest mistakes was to willingly separate sex from love, and he makes a pretty good case for it with his novel. Whether or not he is right about it is only for you to judge.

Paulo Coelho (August 24, 1947)

Paulo Coelho

Personal site

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian novelist and lyricist, sometimes known by the name of Paul Rabbit. His unusual and deeply-moving novels have made of him one of the most widely-read authors today, earning him an array of international awards, including the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. His most famous novel, The Alchemist, has been translated in over 67 languages to date.

More of Paulo Coelho's book reviews:
The Supreme Gift
Veronika Decides to Die
The Fifth Mountain
The Alchemist
Manuscript Found in Accra

Saturday, December 08, 2012

"The Black Box" by Michael Connelly – Harry Bosch’s Blast from the Past

The Black Box by Michael Connelly - book cover
Twenty years ago, back in 1992, Harry Bosch was assigned to investigate the murder of a young photographer murdered during the L.A. riots. Bosch never managed to solve the crime as it was handed off to the Riot Crimes Task Force, where it remained unsolved forever. However, twenty years later Bosch gets his hands on a ballistics report which leads him to believe the young photographer’s death wasn't just collateral damage to the riot. After that, in true Harry Bosch style, he goes on an adventure to find the missing piece of the puzzle that will tie everything together, a "black box" if you will.

Friday, December 07, 2012

“The Affair” by Lee Child

The Affair by Lee Child - book cover
It seems that every story is sparked by a seemingly routine and banal event, and in The Affair by Lee Child, that something is the murder of a woman on a train track.

Elite military cop Jack Reacher is called in for the investigation, and quite quickly he manages to put together the pieces of the puzzle, and they all point to a soldier on a nearby military base. Unfortunately for Jack, said soldier has some of the country’s most powerful people on his side. Reacher decides to join forces with Elizabeth Deveraux, a local sheriff, and together they unravel a vast conspiracy.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by The Affair after the last Jack Reacher novel left me a bit disappointed. It seems that Lee Child has taken extra care to develop characters, scenes and events, and it shows in many ways.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

"Mugged” by Ann Coulter – The Definition of Rocking the Boat

Mugged by Ann Coulter - book cover
Release date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Sentinel Trade
Pages: 336
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)

First of all, let me say that I do not live in the United States, and if I did, I wouldn’t have voted for either candidate in the last election because in the end, they all answer to the banks and won’t significant changes the other candidate wouldn't have.

If I had a gun to my head and had to vote though, I guess I would have chosen Obama, but only because I would vote against Mitt Romney, mostly because of how out-of-touch he was with reality for an overwhelming majority of American citizens. In any case, I’m just saying that I’m not the closest follower of political events, yet I gave Mugged by Ann Coulter a chance. In Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama, Ann Coulter basically discusses what she believes to be the left’s agenda to "patronize blacks and lie to everyone else".

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

“Merry Christmas, Alex Cross” by James Patterson – Crime Doesn’t Rest, even on Holidays

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson
Detective Alex Cross has survived through countless seemingly-deadly affairs using nothing but his seemingly super-human McGuyver-like intelligence; regardless of what situation he is in, he always thinks of something. It seems that such a man has earned the right to spend Christmas without having to escape certain death, but it seems crime thinks otherwise.

First, someone robs the local church’s poor box, and who else but Alex Cross has to solve that crime. Things then escalate rather suddenly as our beloved Protagonist finds himself saving a family from a hostage situation… as if he doesn't have enough on his shoulders with a family to save, it seems even his life ends up coming under threat.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

“Mad River” By John Sandford – The Loss of Innocence

Mad River By John Sandford - book cover
While these thoughts may be considered as demented and perverted, the truth is that there is some kind of freedom to be had in being past the point of return, on the run, and being able to do literally anything, knowing that it doesn’t matter how much worse things get because the end will be the same. This line of thinking is perhaps what drove Bonnie and Clyde on their rampage (amongst other things), and it seems to be driving three murderous teenagers from rural Minnesota in Mad River by John Sandford.

While their first victims may have been circumstantial, it can’t be said that the trio, consisting of a couple and a sidekick, didn't take pleasure in them. As a matter of fact, soon after taking care of their second victim they decided to go ahead and repay some "debts"... at which point they stopped caring altogether, decided to go on the most (and perhaps the last) thrilling adventure of their lives.

Monday, December 03, 2012

“God’s Grammar” by Mick Mooney – Is Love the Answer?

God’s Grammar by Mick Mooney - book cover
Release date: November 17, 2012
Publisher: Lightview Media
Pages: 188
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA)

First of all, before talking about this book there are a few things I’d like to put out there: I do not believe in the existence of a God, at least not as described in religious texts. I don’t categorically deny it, because after all, the inexistence of God cannot be proven, yet the way I see it, the burden of proof lies in the hands of those who claim he is real, and so far not a single undisputable fact has been presented which points to his existence.

That being said, regardless of whether or not God is real, his alleged teachings deserve some attention, with the main one being that love is what needs to be shared with one another above all. Mick Mooney explores precisely this theme in his latest novel, God’s Grammar.

The novel starts off quite simply, presenting us with the life of Sam, a regular guy, working as a grammar teacher, with regular problems. One day, he comes home to find God sitting in his living room, offering him a lesson. It basically consists of God asking Sam questions, slowly guiding him to the truth and revelation he wants him to see, leading Sam on a journey of soul-searching and self-discovery that will change his life forever.

Unlike some readers, I wouldn't use this novel as a basis for trying to understand how God works (at least I don’t think those who believe should). It is, after all, a story of fiction coming from the mind of a regular human being.

However, what I believe you should do is set aside your beliefs and focus directly on what Sam is learning in his journey; in the end, what he learns on it transcends the existence of a supreme being and focuses on something very real which all of us know yet can’t seem to fully understand: love.

Regardless of what your religious beliefs are, I’m sure you’ll be able to get something out of this book, and if you want to get it, simply head on over to the following link below

Mick Mooney

Mick Mooney

Personal site

Mick Mooney is an Australian-born writer who has dabbled on both sides of the fiction line. His work revolves around religion, God's grace, the power of his love and such. He is known for a number of books, including An Outsider's Guide to the Gospel, Snap and God's Grammar.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

"Agenda 21" by Glenn Beck and Harriet Parke – The Rise of a Very New World Order

Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck
What today is known as America, in Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck, is known as The Republic. There are no rulers in The Republic, no congressmen, supreme courts, and most importantly, no freedom; there are only citizens and the seemingly omnipotent authorities.

Citizens are only used for two tasks: creating energy and reproduction. The guards follow their every move, and needless to say, most lives simply do not have a goal. The Republic was created as a result of the universally-imposed Agenda 21 by the UN, and this is the world Emmeline was born into.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

“The Round House” by Louise Erdrich – Coming of Age Like You’ve Never Seen It

The Round House by Louise Erdrich - book cover
Release date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 336
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On a calm Sunday just like any other, a woman by the name of Geraldine Coutts, who lives on a reservation in North Dakota, receives a call which asks her to head over to The Round House, a place where the local people pray. As Geraldine arrives though, she is brutally assaulted and left for dead. Fortunately, she survives the ordeal, but is reluctant to reveal what happened or who did it, being in a complete state of shock.

Her husband, a tribal judge, puts all of his efforts and energy into finding the ones responsible and bringing them to justice… however, all odds are stacked against him. In the middle of this turmoil is the couple’s thirteen year-old, Joe. Being unable to help his mother and at the same time frustrated by the lack of justice, he sets out with the help of his three friends, Zack, Cappy and Angus, on an quest to bring the truth to light. The Round House by Louise Erdrich isn’t a National Book Award Winner for nothing (or at least I believe it deserves it).

Friday, November 30, 2012

“The Last Man” by Vince Flynn – You Only Get Betrayed by Your Own

The Last Man by Vince Flynn (Book cover)
I don’t know about you, but I have always had a sweet spot for political/military mysteries and thrillers, mostly because there is always some kind of deep and complex conspiracy at work covered up by a large and convoluted web of deceit. There is just something exciting about imagining the people at the very top fighting each other with intelligence rather than their fists. In any case, that expectation is what drove me to check out The Last Man by Vince Flynn.

The story begins with the kidnapping of Joe Rickman the head of CIA clandestine operations in Afghanistan, with all of his bodyguards being executed. Mitch Rapp, what you could call the CIA’s trump card, has been dispatched into Afghanistan by the director of the CIA, Irene Kennedy, in order to find to find Rickman.

However, things slowly start to take a turn for the weird, as Mitch soon runs into the FBI, who are concerned with things other than finding Rickman. Bit by bit, Rapp becomes entangled in a dangerous game with his own government, with there being pretty much nobody for him left to trust. To be honest, this is one of the more entertaining political thrillers I have read up until now. Unlike many other books in this genre, this one advances at a much brisker pace, with there being logical yet still surprising twists and turns at every corner.

Flynn did a great job of keeping me on edge until the very last page, and unlike in many cases, I actually found myself caring for the characters in this story… at least some of them anyways. Also, I won’t give away the ending, but throughout the entire story there was a feeling that nothing was set in stone; just because Rapp was the protagonist did not guarantee success or a happy ending. Again, I won’t say which way things go, but rest assured you won’t be disappointed. All in all, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys what I've described in at the beginning of my brief review.

Vincent "Vince" Flynn (April 6, 1966 – June 19, 2013)

Vincent "Vince" Flynn (April 6, 1966 – June 19, 2013)

Personal site

Vince Flynn was an American author who mostly specialized in politic thrillers, and has actually served as a consultant for the fifth season of 24. He is most famous for bringing to us the Mitch Rapp series, with some of his more popular books being Consent to Kill and Transfer of Power.

More of Vince Flynn's book reviews:
American Assassin
Kill Shot

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

“The Joy of Hate” by Greg Gutfeld – How to Fight Stupidity for Dummies

The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfeld - book cover
Like many of us (I assume), Greg Gutfeld hates stupidity and how it has made our daily lives into a joke, at least the second we take the time to step away and look at ourselves from a distance. Greg believes that all of it stems from our so-called open-mindedness and unconditional tolerance. It’s as if people can be as stupid as they want as long as they do it in a socially-approved way… you can easily live as a racist bigot, as long as you are politically-correct about it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

“The Forgotten” by David Baldacci – Trouble in Paradise

The Forgotten by David Baldacci - book cover
It seems that David Baldacci has a certain liking for writing stories about super special agents from governmental agencies, as was seen in one of his most prominent works, The Innocent. In The Forgotten, Baldacci revisits a similar concept, following the work of John Puller, a special agent in the U.S. Army. Right before his aunt died living out her days in the ironically-named town of Paradise, Florida, she sent a letter to Puller in which she suggested that beneath this tranquil resort inhabited by retirees and wealthy old white men lies a great danger.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

“The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling – Pagford’s War

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling - book cover
Most of you know J.K. Rowling as the author of the Harry Potter books which have become immensely popular over the last decade, with each one of them having a movie based on it. I’ll be the first to admit that contrary to pretty much everyone, I never really liked the Harry Potter series.

My exposition to it was limited to the first fifty pages of the first book and to the first movie. I can’t really explain it, but it just never stuck with me. In any case, regardless of whether you liked Harry Potter or not, you’ll probably be interested in J.K. Rowling’s first attempt at an adult novel (no, not that kind of adult novel), The Casual Vacancy.

Published at the end of September 2012, The Casual Vacancy follows the events occurring in the small English town of Pagford. On the surface, the town seems as quaint as a town can be, with a marketplace, an old abbey, classic stone architecture…etc…etc…

Saturday, November 24, 2012

“Following Atticus” by Tom Ryan – A Snowy Adventure Melted by Love

Following Atticus by Tom Ryan - book cover
Release date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 304
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Tom Ryan was a newspaperman like many others before him, and nothing really set him apart from anyone else. However, on a sad day one his very close friends passed away from cancer, an even which ended up spinning Tom inside out, making him re-evaluate his own life and his decisions.

As a manner of paying tribute to his deceased friend, Tom decided to do the most daring thing he will probably attempt in his lifetime: climbing the forty-eight four-thousand foot peaks found in New Hampshire… twice in a single winter. Apart from paying tribute to his friend, Ryan’s exploits would also be an effort to raise money for charity.

In Following Atticus, Tom Ryan chronicles his adventures, his perilous journeys across the snowy mountains only in the company of one of his best friends, his dog. However, the book goes much deeper than simply stating facts about what happened on the journey. When he sets out on it, Tom can be described as a bit of a pessimist, or perhaps cold-hearted would be more appropriate. However, as he goes on and on with his journey, it seems his heart starts to melt as he begins to really appreciate the greatness and beauty of what he lays his eyes upon.

Another interesting facet of Following Atticus is the relationship between Tom and his dog. I guarantee that those of you who are dog owners will be reading the passages about Atticus with a big smile on your faces, and if you never had the fortune of owning one, then you will be quite amazed at how intelligent, sensitive, comprehensive and communicative dogs can be.

I’d rather not go too deep into the events that occur in the book for fear of spoiling it, but from the way I saw it, in the big scheme of things, Atticus had the bigger, more important role on this journey… he may even have been the reason Tom was able to go through with his plan in the first place.

Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan is the founder of the Undertoad newspaper, and came to the public's attention upon publishing Following Atticus, wherein he detailed the journey he undertook with his faithful dog to climb the 450 mountain peaks in America, some of several thousand feet. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Hall of Fame after after raising thousands of dollars for the Angell Animal Medical Center located in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

“The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel – The Odd Couple Redefined

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel - book cover
Release date: May 1, 2003
Publisher: Mariner Books
Pages: 326
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I’m sure that many of you have heard of this book right about now; ever since it was published in 2001 it has become more and more popular, which may very well be God’s way of laughing at the five publishing houses that decided to reject it.

In any case, a feature film has just been released about it(or has it already been released a long time ago? I can’t possibly predict when you are going to be reading this), and needless to say, more and more people are wondering what it’s all about… it actually reminds me of all the Matrix buzz back when it came out; everyone knew about it, but most didn't have a clue what the plot was.

In any case, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a fantasy adventure novel that is divided into three main parts. The first one revolves around Pi himself (he was named Piscine Molitor Padel in honor of a French swimming pool, the most evil kind of pool there is) reminiscing about his childhood as an adult.

The second part is probably the one everyone heard about, the one where he gets stuck on a boat with a tiger. Well, the story behind it goes something like this: Pi was on a small ship carrying his parents’ zoo’s animals from Japan to Canada, and it got hit by a storm. Pi awakes and finds himself in the company of an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger. The hyena gets hungry and eats the Zebra and Orangutan, but then the Bengal tiger, appropriately named Richard Parker, eats the Hyena.

And so begins Pi’s adventure on the high seas, to keep himself alive as well as his companion, Richard Parker. Not only does he have to make sure he doesn't starve, Pi also has to keep his striped little friend happy, lest he gets really hungry. I won’t go into what the third part is about, just out of fear of spoiling how the second one ends, but rest assured all of them are equally entertaining.

All in all I was actually kind of pleasantly surprised at how light-hearted the story was, despite Pi being delusional from being on the brink of death half the time, and, you know, the part about constantly being trapped on a boat with one of the world’s deadliest animals.

Throughout it all we get to see Pi’s point of view of the situation, his thoughts about how he should proceed to survive, and of course, his philosophies about what is happening around him, and why. Perhaps what drew me to like Pi’s point of view is that he isn't really a Westerner, at least in origin, and it shows in the calmness and perceptiveness of this thoughts.

Say whatever you want, but most of us, Westerners, don’t tend to make the most intellectually and philosophically-geared to our lives, and it’s very interesting to see it when someone else does. Basically, I recommend this book to literally anyone who wants something completely different from what they have read before

Yann Martel (1963)

Yann Martel (1963)

Yann Martel is a Spanish-Canadian author who was, most notably, awarded the Man Booker Prize for Life of Pi, a novel that made heads turn on an international level. He was also awarded the 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, as well as the 2001 – 2003 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - book cover
Release date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: MTV Books
Pages: 224
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While our kids may not be able to believe it, all of us were teenagers once, and we all went (or are going or will go through, for our younger readers) through a coming of age period. While in the moment it may have seemed quite overwhelming, and in some cases not a lot of fun, in hindsight it’s a whole different story… many adults talk about it as one of the best periods in their lives.

As such, it’s no wonder that countless books have been written around the concept of "coming of age". However, at some point it seems as if the books on the subject became quite repetitive; nevertheless, a few stood out, at least in my opinion, and one of them is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which by the way had a feature movie released about it recently.

Just as a side note before beginning, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was first published in 1999 by Chbosky, and in 2012 a feature movie by the same name was released, starring Logan Lerman, Paul Rudd and Emma Watson. I haven’t checked out the movie, but it has a rating of 8.5 on IMDB, which is kind of a major accomplishment, so I’ll let the decision of whether or not to watch it in your hands without giving any opinion.

For those who aren’t familiar with what all the buzz is about, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows the life of Charlie, a fifteen year-old freshman in high school. The story is narrated through Charlie’s letters which he is sending to an anonymous friend. Just so you know, the story isn’t about who Charlie is writing his letters to; it’s about the relatively painful life he is going through. Needless to say, he experiences many things for the first time, both good and bad ones, sometimes together, as is the case when he had his first beer and saw a girl being raped.

The way I see it, what makes this book truly special is the combination of brutal honesty and philosophical questioning demonstrated in Charlie’s letters. He doesn’t simply wander from one even to the next, he thinks, and it seems he has gotten quite good at it… some might say his thoughts are a bit too developed for a fifteen year-old, but I guess that’s way beside the point. The most interesting aspect of Charlie’s approach, in my opinion, is his tendency to question people’s true motivations for what they are doing, whether they can control them or if they are prisoners to them.

All in all, regardless of how old you are, whether you are still in high school or have retired from the workforce long ago, you will find something to keep you hooked to this novel, whether it’s being able to identify with Charlie’s feelings or the simple nostalgia of remembering your own coming of age.

Stephen Chbosky (January 25, 1970)

Stephen Chbosky (January 25, 1970)

Personal site

Stephen Chbosky, born in Pittsburgh, is an American novelist who has also dabbled in cinema, being a screenwriter and even a film director, with his most famous work of writing being The Perks of Being a Wallflower, recently made into a major motion picture that was extremely well-received by all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

“The Light Between Oceans” by M.L . Stedman – Lost and Found Children

The Light Between Oceans by M.L . Stedman - book cover
Release date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 345
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Tom Sherbourne spent four years of his life fighting on the Western Front, and at long last he returns to his homeland of Australia where he becomes a lighthouse keeper on a piece of land, along with his young and beautiful wife Isabel. Unfortunately, during their time together Isabelle has suffered through two miscarriages and one stillbirth… however, it seems that God smiled on her when a dead man with a living baby washed up on shore.

While Tom wants to report the incident, Isabel convinces him to keep the baby and let it grow as their own. However, at some point they return to the mainland and remember that there are other people in this world, and one of them is in pain and agony because of the decision they made.

I won’t really go into greater detail, but if you believe to be able to deduce the twist in the story, you shouldn't shy away from reading it. As a matter of fact, it is quite easy to understand how the couple’s decision to keep a stranger’s baby could affect someone else.

However, The Light Between Oceans by M.L . Stedman is not exactly about the story, which only really serves as a setting for the book’s true intentions, a character study. Many themes are explored in this book, including how to interpret acts of God, how your actions can have extremely far-reaching consequences, what is justice, and others.

If you are looking for some kind of answer in The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, then I’ll have to disappoint you: he doesn't really provide any. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that the characters are living in a world where there are no absolute right answers, where the way things work isn't necessarily fair or logical… come to think of it, it seems we are living in the same world as they are.

M. L. Stedman

M. L. Stedman

M. L. Stedman is, for the moment at the very least, a somewhat enigmatic author in terms of biographical information, though we do know that she was born in Western Australia, currently resides in London, and has written two books so far: The Light Between Oceans and Buzz Books 2012.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

“No Mark Upon Her” by Deborah Crombie – A Web of Murders

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
Release date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 384
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Murder mysteries are a classic genre in literature, and possibly one of the most popular ones as it appeals to practically everyone out there.

Solving mysteries is one of man’s favorite past-times it seems, and there are few mysteries more intriguing than murder. Unfortunately, I simply do not have the time to read all the murder mysteries I would like to, but No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie is one I truly enjoyed recently.

It starts with a K9 research team discovering a woman’s body in a river, at which point the case is dumped in the lap of Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kinkaid. As it turns out, the victim wasn't your average citizen; she was Rebecca Meredith, an Olympic contender on the verge of making a comeback, and needless to say, she had her share of admirers and enemies. The plot thickens even more when it is discovered that Rebecca also happens to be leading a double-life as a detective for the metropolitan police.

At the same time, an investigation headed by Inspector Gemma James, Duncan’s wife, uncovers a series of brutal crimes with many possible suspects to them. Another crime is added to that chain as a murder attempt is committed on the member who found Rebecca’s body.

I’ll stop here, but it suffices to say, the killer in this case is far from being an ordinary psycho, and what’s described above is only the beginning of an enthralling adventure.

For starters, I have to say that the story in this book is phenomenal, even though it isn't exactly anything new. However, the way in which events unfold and their chronology make you impatient to find out what is going to happen next, and most importantly, who is behind all of this and why. The decisions the characters make and the actions they commit always feel logical, even when they don’t seem like it at first; nothing feels out of place.

The language is relatively simple, and as you can guess, with so many plot elements the story moves at a relatively fast pace, although it does slow down in a few places. There really aren't that many layers of meaning to this book, no social criticisms or philosophies to discuss. While it is true that you could always find these elements in any book if you use your noggin hard enough, this one was made with pure entertainment in mind, and nothing else.

All in all, this book allowed me to forget my real-world troubles, at least for a little while, and get lost in a universe where more exciting things are happening.To purchase it, simply click on the following link below.

Deborah Crombie (June 6, 1952)

Deborah Crombie (June 6, 1952)

Personal site

Deborah Crombie is an American author best known for coming up with the Duncan Kinkaid/ Gemma James mystery series. She was the recipient of the New York Times Best Book of the Year award for Dreaming of the Bones, and the Macavity Award in 1998 for the same book, and once again in 2009 for Necessary as Blood.