Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Bared to You" by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day - book cover
Release date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 338
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Love and attraction in modern society are very complicated concepts that have thousands of little nuances to them. In most places, there are various pre-programmed personal and social expectations for those who fall in love with each other, just like there is an unwritten rulebook on how they must behave and how they should react to various situations.

Fortunately, many of us choose not to follow those imaginary social constraints, but it doesn’t necessarily make the process easier, as Sylvia Day clearly explores it in her novel titled Bared to You: A Crossfire Novel.

To give you a brief description, the story is that of a beautiful woman who finds herself irresistibly attracted to Gideon Cross. They start a romantic relationship and as they become increasingly obsessed with each other skeletons start to fall out of their closets, putting their love for each other to the test time and time again.

The characters in the book are practically transformed by the relationship they are having… but is it for the better, or for the worse? As you can probably see at this point, Bared to You bears various similarities with Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James… as it explores a troublesome and practically tormenting relationship between two people who simply cannot be torn apart from each other.

Whether you are looking for a character study on how romantic relationships can evolve or simply seeking to entertain yourself with a dramatic love story, then this book will definitely be right up your alley.

Sylvia Day (March 11, 1973)

Sylvia Day (March 11, 1973)

Personal site

Sylvia Day is an American writer who also, on certain occasions, likes to go by the pseudonyms S.J. Day and Livia Dare. Her writing is centered more on erotic adult fiction, and not for nothing: her Crossfire series became an international bestseller… as a matter of fact, she is the bestselling author in over twenty countries around the world.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - book cover
It is somewhat fascinating that regardless of the fact that we are all humans, we always managed to find ways to differentiate and categorize ourselves, whether it is based on gender, race, age, political alignment or religious beliefs.

One of the least explored aspects of World War II was the treatment Asians had to endure back in America; the Japanese were shipped off liberally to special camps (not concentration camps, but not exactly your jolly summer camps either) because they were suspected to be with the enemy. And that’s without mentioning all the brainwashed bigots who made it their objective to sniff out the Japanese spies at any cost. Jamie Ford wrote a book somewhat looking into that issue titled A Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It tells the story of a young Chinese boy Henry living in Seattle during the war.

The story is recounted from two perspectives, both of them belonging to Henry. However, the first one is his perspective in the moment, with the second one being his take on things 40 years later. Henry recounts not only his misadventures, but more importantly, how he found himself face-to-face with racism with the inability to do anything about it. He was forced to wear a badge which said "I am Chinese" and he could not reveal his friendship with Keiko, a Japanese student and the interest of his young romance. Needless to say, they do get separated with their only hope being that the war will end and that the prejudice will die out.

All in all, this book is somewhat of a cutesy romantic tale which spans a very long time. However, beneath the romance story lies something much more interesting: an exploration of what it was like to live in an Asian family during one of America’s most turbulent times. There is an in-depth look at the rampant prejudice, racism, and even repression from the government as Asian families (although mostly Japanese) were constantly subjected to police raids while being completely helpless.

In addition to that, Jamie also takes the time to look into the dynamics of Asian families living in America and the importance nationality plays for them, or at least for the older members of the family. All in all, an entertaining read with interesting and compelling thoughts to be found beneath a somewhat banal love story.

Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford

Personal site

Jamie Ford is an American writer who has gained much of his fame from his bestselling debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, earning the #1 Book Club Pick for Fall 2009/Winter 2010 by the American Booksellers Association. According to the man himself, he is also working on a series for young adults, something his agent doesn’t even know yet (provided he did not read his website).

More of the Jamie Ford's book reviews:
Songs of Willow Frost

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" by Tucker Max

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max - book cover
Release date: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Citadel
Pages: 368
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Most of us have heard and possibly even experienced the old saying that fact is stranger than fiction, or that fact can be more exciting than fiction.

Well, it is very possible that few people have experienced this phenomenon as well as Tucker Max has, who today writes for his own website. He has had quite the young life as a prominent drunk and fornicator who managed to get himself into bizarre situations, each one more absurd than the last one.

Naturally, Tucker believed that letting such an experience go to waste would be a crying shame and so he decided to share his stories with the rest of the world through the medium of a book appropriately-titled I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

The book is written fairly simply as Tucker simply recounts the various stories he has had, such as the famous sushi pants story during which he manages to lose his pants during a drinking contest at a sushi restaurant. Naturally, these stories are far more detailed in the book and there are 30 of them in total, and while I will admit that some of them were underwhelming and probably not as funny as they sounded in his head, they still make for a relatively entertaining read.

Do not expect to get any life-changing philosophy from this book; this is just simple and straightforward entertainment as a guy simply tells the story of his life and the moments which marked it. Actually, come to think of it, this book makes the perfect read for when you simply want to relax without having to think too much.

It is even written in a very simple style as each segment of the event is recounted chronologically with a little time indicator next to it, although the accuracy of those time indicators is quite questionable considering the stories told. Anyways, if you like to relax by reading something light, then this is definitely your thing.

Tucker Max (September 27, 1975)

Tucker Max (September 27, 1975)

Personal site

Tucker Max is an American public speaker and author who has taken to chronicling his various partying and sexual experiences through short stories which can be found on his website. He has also taken to writing books, with his I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell having made it as a New York Times #1 Bestseller at one point, and having made the list every year from 2006 to 2011.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Slaughter-house Five" by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut - book cover
Release date: January 12, 1999
Publisher: Dial Press
Pages: 288
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Perhaps somewhat unconventional, Slaughterhouse-Five tells us the famous story of Billy Pilgrim, a veteran of the Second World War and a POW (Prisoner Of War), who has become unstuck in time and is reliving various events of his personal chronology in no particular order… and in some cases, he relives these events simultaneously.

The story mostly takes place inside Billy’s head, who after being traumatized by the Dresden bombing drifts through a number of historical events, with his role ranging from a mere witness to someone who is directly implicated in the actions.As is the tradition with Vonnegut books, there is a very large cast of characters, many of which recur time and time again throughout the story.

The sci-fi author Kilgore Trout and the aliens referred to as Tralmafadorians, who apparently look over his life, constantly reminding him that the concept of causation doesn’t necessarily exist, there is no order in the universe, and that there is no objective motivation for us to keep on existing.

As Pilgrim goes on through his memories he tries to find some kind of meaning to his life, and he kind of does upon meeting a mysterious beauty by the name of Montana Wildhack. After having a child with her, they all decide to travel to a supernatural plane where they are reunited with Kilgore, the Tralmafadorians, and the ruins of Dresden, after which they all dissipate throughout the infinite plains of existence.

As you can imagine, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill novel as apart from presenting a seldom-seen type of story it also touches on complex philosophical concepts which people have been debating about for centuries, such as whether or not causation is real, whether there is order in the universe, and why we exist. While this isn’t exactly a relaxing read for a lazy afternoon, it is very interesting and will offer you not only a compelling story but also some interesting perspectives on life itself.

Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922 - April 11, 2007)

Kurt Vonnegut
(November 11, 1922 - April 11, 2007)

Personal site

Kurt Vonnegut was an American writer, a great pioneer and titan of literature who managed to profoundly move people from all corners of the world. His satirical humor is something sacred uniqueness in the world of literature. His most famous works include (but are not limited to) Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five, and it should be mentioned that he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Prisoner of War Medal.

More of the Kurt Vonnegut's book reviews:
Cat’s Cradle
Breakfast of Champions

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Catch-22" - 50th Anniversary Edition by Joseph Heller (Author) and Christopher Buckley (New introduction)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller - book cover
Perhaps one of the most recognized cornerstones of American literature, Catch-22, written by Joseph Heller, presents a comic and downright absurd story which revolves around Yossarian, a pilot who not only has to deal with hundreds upon hundreds of men trying to kill him, but also with his own army.

Things get more and more absurd as the amount of missions he must serve keeps on increasing and increasing with no end in sight. Perhaps the most ridiculous concept of this book is the catch-22 itself; in this case, it is a bureaucratic rule according to which a man is considered to be insane if he willingly continues to go on dangerous combat missions… but if that man makes a request to be removed from duty, then he proves himself sane and can therefore not be relieved.

While the book itself is downright funny at times, it still moves at somewhat of a slow pace, not to mention that the descriptions are abundant, which is an understandable turn-off for some people.

However, if you do not mind reading through a bit of fluff, you will be treated to one of the most exquisite works of literature in existence as you follow a hero whose world seems to turn on him more and more with every chapter. By the end of it, you will be wondering who is really the enemy out there as Yossarian’s army is giving him much less respect than his enemies.

All in all, a funny and exciting read which explores some very interesting concepts when it comes to not only war, but bureaucracy and human nature in general. A 50th anniversary edition has been released in April 2011 and it contains a new introduction by Christopher Buckley, numerous critical essays as well as reviews Alfred Kazin, Anthony Burgess, Norman Mailer, and many others.

The edition also includes numerous personal papers and photographs from Heller’s archive. Keep in mind however that the 50th anniversary edition hasn’t been released on Kindle yet, so you will need to order the paperback or the hardcover formats in order to get it.

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999)

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999)

Born in Brooklyn in 1923, Joseph Heller has become one of the most prominent figures in the world of literature, blessing readers with original and intelligent novels, being responsible for timeless works such as Catch-22 and Good as Gold.

Something Happened

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell - book cover
Release date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Pages: 336
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For most of us, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who blend in with the rest and those who stand out. As it happens, in most cases those who stand out from the crowd and walk down their own path become quite successful, or at least notable people throughout their lifetime. Some people may refer to them as outliers of society, as Malcolm Gladwell did in his aptly-titled book Outliers: The Story of Success.

In his work, Gladwell looks into a number of highly talented, famous and successfully people who achieved their goals by walking the less-traveled path. Naturally, Malcolm doesn’t just chronicle the lives of these people as he seeks to answer a question: what makes them high-achievers, and how are they different from the rest of us?

As an answer to his own question, Gladwell proposes a very interesting idea: we are paying far too much attention to how these successful people talk and behave rather than where they came from. After all, a person’s culture, family and upbringing play a tremendous role in how they are going to end up in the future. In the end, Gladwell uses the information he learned in order to shed light on some of the most pressing mysteries of the present world, such as:
  • How someone can become a multi-billion dollar software tycoon
  • How one is to climb the ranks and become a world-famous soccer player
  • Why most Asians are just so good at math,
  • And most importantly, why the Beatles were one of the greatest rock bands on the face of the Earth.
All in all, Outliers makes for a light, entertaining, interesting and informative read that will have you smiling all while presenting a very interesting look at why life goes on the way it does for some people; it’s the perfect read for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Malcolm Gladwell (September 3, 1963)

Malcolm Gladwell (September 3, 1963)

Personal site

Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist of Canadian origin, a bestselling author as well as a public speaker who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. All five of his books (five so far, anyways) have earned themselves a spot on The New York Times Best Seller list, with some of the more popular ones being The Tipping Point, Outliers and David and Goliath.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Release date: March 29 2011
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 304
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Many of us have wondered at one point or another whether there are people living outside the confines of conventional civilization who have managed to master some aspect of life much better than we have.

Well, Christopher McDougall may very well have an answer to that question as in his book titled Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen he looks at the Tarahumara Indians, living in Mexico’s Copper Canyons, who have gained the ability to run hundreds of miles without resting or injuring themselves.

I know that this sounds like some kind of sensationalist fairy tale to lure you in to a rather conventional story, but ear with me. Christopher is himself a long-time runner and a renowned journalist who has won a number of awards; his integrity has already been put to the test many times, and he succeeded on each occasion.

In any case, Christopher explores not only how the Tarahumara Indians live, eat, socialize, work and exercise, but he also takes the time to explore high-tech science labs at Harvard where ultra-runners are trained… kind of like how Ivan Drago was trained in Rocky IV. As you could have probably guessed, in the end Christopher documents an ultimate race between the Tarahumara runners and America’s Ultra-Runners, taking place in the Copper Canyons.

In the end, McDoughall’s amazing coverage of the Indians and their counterparts from the Western world goes beyond simply showing us who the fastest people on Earth are… it aims to inspire us, to show us that most, if not all of us, were born with running in our blood.

Christopher McDougall (1962)

Christopher McDougall (1962)

Personal site

Christopher McDougall is an American author and journalist who made a sudden splash in the world of literature with his 2009 best-selling novel, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe[...], documenting a reclusive Indian tribe capable of seemingly superhuman feats of speed and endurance.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Release date: August 1, 1999
Publisher: Plume
Pages: 1200
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Many of you are probably familiar with Ayn Rand, a Russian-American novelist who wrote all-time classics such as We the Living and The Fountainhead. Many consider her magnum opus to be Atlas Shrugged, a complex philosophical book which presents a very bizarre and imaginative story in which Ayn Rand explores the concept of objectivism.

In Atlas Shrugged, we are presented with a story which follows a man who successfully stopped the motor of the world. However, the consequences of his actions are far from clear-cut; some see him as a destroyer, others as a liberator.

The novel explores how he goes onwards and fights battles against those who look up to him, even the woman he loves. Also, what is the motor of the world? What drives men to act the way they do? Needless to say, the novel itself is quite grand in the scope of events and concepts it covers; you will find something new in it with every read.

How is the book? Well, to start things off let me just say that this is not for those who are simply looking to relax on a lazy Sunday afternoon, unless of course your idea of relaxing is to get invested in a heavy, complex and unconventional story. Ayn Rand used Atlas Shrugged in order to explore the concept of objectivism and how it would work in a human world. She applies the concept to everything the characters do and think, creating a very unique world populated by all kinds of fascinating characters ranging from a lowly railroad tracks worker to a philosopher who decides that it is best to become a pirate.

All in all, Atlas Shrugged brings to you not only a brilliant and irresistible mystery story, but it also manages to be a philosophical revolution; read it with an open mind and be ready to discard some of the premises which make up your beliefs, morals, values and convictions.

Ayn Rand (February 2, 1905 - March 6, 1982)

Ayn Rand (February 2, 1905 - March 6, 1982)

Personal site

Ayn Rand was a Russian-born (Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum) American novelist , screenwriter and playwright who is best-known for two specific novels published in her illustrious career: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to that, she is also to thank for the development of the concept of objectivism. She was awarded the Prometheus Award and inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - book cover
Release date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition
Pages: 592
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Witches, vampires and demons have been part of popular culture for a such long time now that many people wince just at the idea of having yet another story revolving around them.

Well, as writers have shown us time and time again, the human imagination is practically limitless as there are always new and exciting ways to tackle a subject, something which Deborah Harkness has undoubtedly done in her book titled A Discovery of Witches, which is part of the All Souls trilogy.

To give you a brief idea of what it’s about, the story is centered around Diana Bishop, a young scholar who also happens to be the descendant of a long line of witches. At some point, while in Oxford’s Bodleian library, she stumbles unto an ancient alchemical formula… needless to say, the formula was enchanted and its rediscovery sparked a chain of events, the first one being the creation of fantastical world inhabited by divine as well as nightmarish creatures.

While at its base the story sounds stereotypical to no end, there are various interesting themes examined in it. For example, Diana has actually vowed to live like a human and not a witch for her life, a perspective which continually conflicts with the actions she must undertake. Bit by bit, she comes to understand that normal life is just an unattainable illusion for her, abandoning her hopes of studying texts and partying instead of fighting demons and witches.

She also meets a very old and wise vampire by the name of Matthew Clairmont who helps her navigate the magical world and achieve her goals.Apart from offering the regular thrills of a supernatural story, A Discovery of Witches also takes the time to explore the inhabitants of that fantastic world, their origins, going into more complicated things such as genetic mating, sharing powers, and the relationship between good and evil under a number of circumstances, including one in which both are under threat from an external source.

Deborah Harkness (April 5, 1965)

Deborah Harkness (April 5, 1965)

Personal site

Deborah Harkness is an American author, novelist, scholar, and a self-described wine enthusiast. After publishing two works of historical non-fiction while working as a history professor at the University of Southern Carolina, Harkness then penned her most famous work to date, A Discovery of Witches.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Sh*t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern - book cover
Release date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: It Books
Pages: 176
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The internet era has opened up a world of possibilities for normal people who had something to say but weren't known celebrities for whom the world stopped turning.

Blogs, social networks and video hosting websites have allowed anyone to gain worldwide-caliber exposition, proving that many seemingly-average Joes out there were indeed wise people with good pieces of advice to share.

Such is the story of Sam Halpern, a man who is described his son as being an angry and vulgar Socrates; for a few years now millions have been following his philosophical thoughts and musings on twitter. When Sam’s son (Justin Halpern) came home after a hard break-up, he decided to record all the things his dad would say to him and wrote a book based on that titled Sh*t My Dad Says.

As you can imagine, this isn’t a very serious book which mostly consists of relatively short thoughts on practically any topic in life, ranging from modern-day hair combing to the worst possible thing a person can be (a Nazi, according to Sam). So what makes this read notable? Well, the main selling point of this book is that it doesn’t hold back at all… there is zero concern for political correctness or any of that stuff; it’s just a wise and experienced man sharing his thoughts on the world, what he thinks on various issues.

Of course, the book isn’t just a collection of vulgar words either as Sam Halpern isn’t the kind of man who talks without saying anything; every quote in the book teaches you a bit about life, and the best part is that Sam manages to do it in a very humorous way.

All in all, this book is a perfect read for literally anyone who is looking to relax a bit, laugh, and learn things about the world from a man who has undoubtedly been alive longer than you.

Justin Halpern (September 3, 1980)

Justin Halpern (September 3, 1980)

Personal site

Justin Halpern is an American author who has recently gained a lot of fame for writing Sh*t My Dad Says and maintaining a blog by the same name. Halpern spent most of his career in the world of writing, trying his success in Hollywood as a screenwriter and a full-time writer for Maxim magazine’s online publication.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic" by David Limbaugh

The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic by David Limbaugh - book cover
Release date: June 4, 2012
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Pages: 400
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The election of Barack Obama was a historical moment as it marked the first time the United States would be governed by a black president. However, some people got over the novelty factor quite fast as it became apparent that one’s skin color doesn’t really have an impact on their ability to govern a country.

David Limbaugh is one of these people and he even went as far as writing a book titled The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic in which he examines from a critical point of view what exactly the Obama administration has done to America in their first term.

While a few believe Obama to be doing a wonderful job and wish him to remain, Limbaugh takes a more broad look at things, at where the country is headed. He explains how the Obama administration is progressively turning this country into a place where bureaucrats, and possibly anyone who works for the federal government, have more power of the lives of other people than they do themselves. Limbaugh looks into the capitalist way of life adopted in America, at the huge deficit the country is currently facing, as well as the counterproductive ways in which the government is dealing with public services and welfare programs.

To make a long story short, the book looks into the true cost behind Obama’s capitalist scandals, how he is destroying the economy while shushing those who actually try to save it, how the Obama administration has violated the constitution time and time again, how they have given unreasonable amounts of power and control to shady and unelected bureaucrats, and much more.

It may very well be the most critical look into the Obama administration, providing some very powerful arguments, complete with proof, that Obama is in fact driving the United States into peril and self-destruction.

David Limbaugh (December 11, 1952)

David Limbaugh (December 11, 1952)

Personal site

David Limbaugh is a conservative American political commentator, and as usually comes with such a territory, an opinionated author (yes, he is the younger brother of Rush Limbaugh). He has written several books on the topics of politics, law and Christianity, including Jesus on Trial, The Great Destroyer and Absolute Power.

Friday, June 08, 2012

"Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - book cover
Release date: June 10, 2008
Publisher: Harper; Reissue edition
Pages: 352
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If there is one way of setting a story which has always managed to catch the audience’s attention, it’s when it all (or most of it at least) takes place in a single location, let it be a room, an office, or perhaps even an entire building. Naturally, developing a story without being able to change the setting is more than problematic from a writer’s point of view, which is why so few have managed to successfully pull it off.

Ann Patchett may very well be one of those people as her novel titled Bel Canto takes place almost exclusively in the home of the vice president in South America. It starts off as a great and lavish party, as some of the world’s richest and most famous personalities have gathered in the honor of a very respected and powerful businessman, Mr. Hosokawa.

Unfortunately (or fortunately from the reader’s point of view), the party is then crashed by a number of gun-wielding terrorists who take the entire place hostage.Naturally, panic ensues and it soon becomes clear what the terrorists’ scheme is: get ransoms for the world’s richest people, which in itself is actually quite sound. However, the situation starts to evolve strangely as some of the terrorists begin developing a bond with certain hostages. What started as a nightmare that could end forever with a gunshot turned into a beautiful and amazing story of love, friendship, compassion, and altruism.

Ann Patchett manages to take an already-popular concept and make it new again, adding her own personal touch to it. While this may not necessarily cater to those who are expecting realistic plot developments and violence, I believe it will be perfect for people looking for a warm yet tense read.

Ann Patchett (December 2, 1963)

Ann Patchett (December 2, 1963)

Personal site

Ann Patchett is a writer of American origin. She received numerous awards and accolades, the most prominent ones being the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 for her masterpiece, and some say her magnum opus, Bel Canto.

More of the Ann Patchett's book reviews:
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
State of Wonder

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

"State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett - book cover
Release date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition
Pages: 384
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Many of us have wondered at one point or another what it would be like to undertake a trip in the insect-infested Amazon forest. Many of us imagine the exotic flora with a number of majestic and vividly-colored animals to be found at every turn.

However, most of us do not stop to wonder as to the psychological impact such a trip would have one us, especially considering that we would be in unknown territory with there being hundreds of things out there which can kill us.Well, it can be said that Ann Patchett went the extra mile in her book titled State of Wonder in which Dr. Marina Singh goes on an odyssey in the Amazon on a mission to find her former mentor, Dr. Swenson.

Naturally, not all is clear with this disappearance as it happened in a crucial period during which Dr. Swenson was working on a valuable new drug. As Marina goes deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness she will not only have to deal with the immediate sacrifices she is making to achieve her goal but also with demons from her past who simply cannot let her go.

While at its core the story can described as a textbook cliché, the book goes much further than that. Apart from providing a breath-taking description of the Amazon forest, Ann Patchett also devotes many of her pages to examining Marina’s state of mind as she battles onward, into the unknown. The contrast created by the lush scenery and the cruel challenges is especially interesting to observe. All in all, the book makes for a very enthralling read and should really be a pleasure to anyone who enjoys stories which can be classified as a character study.

Ann Patchett (December 2, 1963)

Ann Patchett (December 2, 1963)

Personal site

Ann Patchett is a writer of American origin. She received numerous awards and accolades, the most prominent ones being the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 for her masterpiece, and some say her magnum opus, Bel Canto.

More of the Ann Patchett's book reviews:
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
Bel Canto

Monday, June 04, 2012

"In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Erik Larson has already established himself as one of the most interesting authors on an international scale, with real masterpieces such as Devil in the White City, perhaps his most famous work to date.

Well, after having explored serial killing and Chicago at the turn of the century, Erik Larson set his sights on 1933 Berlin and the troubles an American family is going through while trying to survive under the rising Nazi movement.

The story starts in 1933, as William E. Dodd becomes the first American ambassador in Hitler’s Germany. Naturally, William does not come along as he brings his family, consisting of his wife, son and daughter, along with him. Being strangers in a strange land, the Dodds do not really know what is what, but their daughter, Martha, is starting to take quite a liking to the parties there as well as the handsomely-groomed men of The Third Reich.

Eventually, Martha falls in love with Hitler’s Germany and changes romantic partners like socks, even becoming the lover of Rudolf Diels, the chief of the Gestapo. However, as the persecution of the Jews becomes more and more commonplace, eventually turning into an official policy, the father becomes increasingly worried, attempting to reach back to his own government who remains largely indifferent towards the situation.

We are taken through the life of the Dodds as they witness how Germany is turning into an autocratic police state, with Jews being persecuted, freedom of speech being censored, not to mention various unsettling new laws which are soon to be passed.While we may know a lot about it from history books, the fact remains that the time during which Hitler rose to power may very well be one of the most confusing periods in mankind.

Even today, we are still asking ourselves how people could have committed themselves to supporting such atrocities. Erik Larson explores this turbulent time with great diligence, filling it with accurate historical facts while managing to maintain his work of fiction at the center of the reading.

All in all, it is great for those who are looking for a historically-accurate and intriguing book which explores human character and how one of the greatest tragedies in the history of humankind occurred.

Erik Larson (January 3, 1954)

Erik Larson

Personal site

Erik Larson is an American author of non-fiction and journalist whose works touch on the more morbid and practical side of life. The Devil in the White City, for instance, is an exploration of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and the infamous crimes perpetrated by the serial killer H.H. Holmes, while in In the Garden of Beasts, his latest work, looks into the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, William E. Dodd.

More of the Erik Larson's book reviews:
Dead Wake
The Devil in the White City

Saturday, June 02, 2012

"The Charge: Activating 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive" by Brendon Burchard

The Charge: Activating 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive - book cover
Release date: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Free Press
Pages: 272
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Many throughout history have pondered as to what actually drives humans to keep on living every day. Among the numerous theories which have been presented the most popular one may very well be Abraham Maslow’s Hierarcy of Needs, which basically classifies what is most important to people, with the main driving factor being basic needs of safety and sustenance.

However, this hierarchy was elaborated at a time when life was very different for the common person, and as motivational speaker Brendon Burchard argues in his book titled The Charge, we should take a new approach today to what drives human ambition.

In his book, Brendon Burchard uses numerous studies in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, not to mention first-hand observations made on personal experiments, in order to identify ten different drives of human happiness. These ten human drives are: control, congruence, caring, competence, change, creative expression, connective, challenge and consciousness.

Is this book really worth reading or is it just some ego-tripping motivational speaker who thinks he knows it all about the world? Well, to be fair, the answer as to what drives humans hasn’t been found, even after all this time. However, nobody can deny that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs doesn’t fit in modern society; it is an outdated model which is no longer representative of the truth for many people.

As such, it may be worth looking into other theories which aim to explain why people keep on living in modern society, and Brendon Burchard’s The Charge provides some very interesting insights and arguments. All in all, it is a worthy read for people with an open mind who like to ponder on complicated philosophical questions.

Brendon Burchard (September 18, 1977)

Brendon Burchard (September 18, 1977)

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Author of the number one New York times bestseller, The Millionaire Messenger, Brendon Burchard is a generally busy guy in life, being the founder of the High Performance Academy and even the Experts Academy. Virtually all of his works of writing center on human motivation and how one can gain the most out of it.