Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day - Let's always remember.

“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.” – Lee Greenwood

In a small tribute that will never be enough to thank American soldiers and their families for their sacrifices, I would like to leave some beautiful quotes and direct you to a History Channel's Memorial Day Tribute page. They have beautiful pictures and this video will surely make you cry.

And now for some quotes:

On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation!  — Thomas William Parsons

We who are left how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?

– Wilfred Wilson Gibson

Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.  — John A. Logan

Postcards Giveaway Winner

It is time to announce the winner of my 100 Free Postcards sponsored by My Postcard Printing. With the help of the winning comment was no. 4:

Congratulations to Trisha and thank you all for stopping by my blog and participating in the giveaway. Make sure you come back soon because I will have two giveaways coming up this week: signed Android Karenina and  Raven Stole the Moon + Red Umbrella from the book's cover.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The PassageI don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that almost everyone has heard about The Passage by Justin Cronin by now. At least  the people in the booking world have. And for good reason now that I’ve read it myself. I’m not kidding when I say, I have been waiting for this book my whole life. Well, maybe I’m over the top a little bit :), but The Passage is such a book that will make you feel like this is it, you have found what you were looking for in the reading department.

Project NOAH was supposed to make U.S. soldiers invincible. The virus found in the jungles of Bolivia turns humans into powerful, indestructible beings but it also kills them shortly afterward. One scientist, with the help of U.S. Army is determined to make this deadly virus work for humans, not against them. The experiment conducted on twelve death row inmates takes a tragically wrong turn when the twelve subjects, who are now fully functioning virus carriers and no longer humans but vampires from your worst nightmares, escape and devour every living creature in their way.  Soon, the human species faces extinction and the only person that can save people from this fate is a six-year-old girl, Amy with the help of an FBI agent, Wolgast and a nun from Sierra Leone, Lacey.  Will Amy succeed and will humanity persevere or will the consequences of  trying to tame what cannot be tamed be finally too high a price to pay? Well, you just have to read The Passage to find out :).

I think I already made it pretty clear that I loved this book. I will say it again though, just for the effect, I LOVE THE PASSAGE!!!!! I have been on the lookout for mean, nasty and bloodthirsty vampires for the longest time. I will be honest with you here, I got really sick of the noble, out-of-this world beautiful creatures who drink blood only to survive but really are our best friends. This is not what you’ll find in The Passage. The vampires, or virals as they are called by some, are some mean SOB’s whose hunger takes over every other instinct and who are nearly indestructible. I guess I have a mean streak in me but I really enjoyed myself reading about them.  This book is actually pretty scary and I don’t say it lightly. I have read my shares of horrors and not much can scare me but Mr. Cronin did a pretty good job doing just that. I suppose, it’s mainly because all the time while reading The Passage, I kept thinking how the story might not be as far fetched as it seems on the surface. That possibility plus awesome action that stops only to allow a reader to take a short breath kept me literally on the edge of my seat. I swear to you, I had The Passage-related dream every night while reading it.

The Passage however, is not all vampires, action and nightmares. It is also a novel with some beautiful writing, sometimes almost lyrical prose that you normally wouldn’t look for in a horror novel. That’s why I even hesitate to label the book and categorize it in any one way. It’s a study of characters, of what people are really made of, it’s a scary look into what our future might be (whether the cause are vampires or some other nasty things we dabble in unnecessarily) , and finally it’s an enthralling ride that will take you places you never thought you wanted to go until you got there and will put in your path people you’ll love, hate and feel sorry for until you’ll realize you don’t want to part ways with any of them. And guess what, you won’t have to. At least not for long because The Passage is actually book one of a trilogy (YAY!). I am very happy that there gets to be more of Amy and a few other people that I can’t reveal here. Let me just say that I was very happy with the way things ended for now. Thank goodness, the ending was just as good as the whole novel and didn’t ruin the experience for me (it sadly happens more often than I care to admit). That’s that, I won’t sing any more praises and will just ask you to go and dive into The Passage yourself.

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher, Ballantine Books.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Book List: I thought I'd hate you but I love you!

The Book List is just a short and fun meme hosted by lovely Rebecca from Lost in Books that allows you to share books and make a list of books! Who doesn't love lists?!?
Today's topic is:

3 Books You Thought You'd Hate But Ended Up Loving

Reading Lolita in Tehran1. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Nazar Afisi

I at first didn't know what to expect of this book, then a few pages into it, I was afraid I would really dislike it because it was very slow. But in the end, it was one of the best memoirs I read last year. Here's a little bit of my review:

Reading Lolita In Tehran is not an easy read. Nor should it be such. You cannot write down in any easy terms memories and experiences that defined these women and became their everyday terrors. However, it is a beautiful book and well worth the time you’ll spend reading it. It is written in a way that’ll become personal to every person that reads it. For me, Azar Nafisi gave me the greatest gift a writer can give to a reader: a new appreciation for literature, which sadly and quite unconsciously I have started to take for granted.

Passion Unleashed (Demonica, Book 3)2. Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione
Hey, what can I say! Never in my life had I thought I would be as enthralled in a paranormal romance story as I was reading this book :) I literally blew through it in one day and I know my cheeks were burning red while I was reading.
This is what I thought about Larissa and her book:

Most importantly, Larissa is one heck of a paranormal romance writer. She has a skill for creating the most twisted demonic characters and for writing a book that is actually very touching because amidst all heaven breaking loose, the whole evil world going at it, there is still enough space for a very human feeling called love. I know that it sounds a little tacky, but I can’t help it. I have to give credit where credit’s due and Passion Unleashed is a perfect book to get completely lost in and forget about the world outside, if only for a few hours.

Boxed Set (Books 1-7) and Hogwarts Express Bookends3. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

For years I refused to cave in to the 'Harry Potter hysteria'. I think I was one of the biggest, most adamant opponents of this awesome story. And then, one day, I started listening to it on audio and my life hasn't been the same since. BTW, Jim Dale is a master performer and if you are a fan of Harry Potter, you should give the audio version a try.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation
I’ve read a fairly large amount of books over the course of my life. And if you are familiar with my blog and reviews, you’ll know that I also read a wide array of genres and don’t really have one favorite type. As long as it’s fiction, I’ll read almost anything (all right, I won’t read erotica). In my reading adventures, I have only managed to find a handful of real jewels. Not that other novels are bad. No, most of the books are really good, sometimes even awesome. But there are a few among those books that have this special radiance and as soon as I read them, I know that they will become my lifelong companions. Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok is one such book.

Kimberly Chang comes to America with her mom straight from Hong Kong. They were living there as Chinese immigrants and thanks to Auntie Paula, Kimberly’s mom’s sister, they now have a shot at a life in New York. Kim is still a little girl, barely 11 years old but she has to grow up very fast. Instead of riches and abundance, the Changs are dumped in a rat and cockroach infested Brooklyn apartment, with no heating, with broken windows and one stained mattress for furniture. Kim’s mom, to whom she always refers as Ma, speaks no English and therefore relies on Kim a lot. But there is one talent Kim has and that’s her talent for learning. She is actually almost a genius, especially for math and scientific subjects. And so , through the pages of Girl In Translation we follow Kimberly and her mom as they try to make a better life for themselves as immigrants in a country that holds more promise than any other place.

There apparently are many immigrant stories on the market nowadays. I haven’t read any of them, mainly because I’m an immigrant myself and just never felt the urge to read about something I was experiencing first hand. However, something made me want to read this particular story. I guess you could blame it on wanting to step outside of my safety zone. I will forever be grateful for doing that because within the pages of this small and unassuming book, I found a brilliant and beautiful heroine, a girl who is all I wished I could be. She is strong and resilient, she knows what she needs to do, which path to follow in order to have that better life bother her and her mom dreamed of. But most importantly, Kimberly is not driven by a selfish want of money and materialistic luxuries, but by her love for her Ma. It really was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time to watch the love these two shared.  Ma’s story really broke my heart several times. It’s so much like my mom’s story that reading about it was almost uncanny. Before arriving at New York, Ma was an intelligent, person, outspoken and educated and a gifted violin player. Because she spoke no English, she was all of a sudden reduced to dumb creature who works at a factory at slave wages and is forced to forget the dreams she once might have had. It’s really sad to read about. But there’s also hope and light at the end of the tunnel and I appreciated that the most.

Girl In Translation is a beautiful novel that I read in one day and I didn’t want to end. I loved the redemptive quality of it and the good message that it carries. I know some people are disappointed with the ending but I was happy that the book ended the way it did (that’s all I say so I won’t spoil it). Jean Kwok is an immigrant herself and even though the story of Kimberly is not her story, she is very accurate at portraying the immigrant experience and I mostly appreciate the fact that Kimberly and her Ma do not have a victim mentality and are not victims of circumstances. Instead, they both stand for what I admire most in women: strength, resiliency and an ability to remain true to themselves no matter the hardships.

I read Girl In Translation as a part of Women Unbound challenge. I hope that having read my review, you get the gist of why this book belongs to the category of 'women unbound'. The story of Kim and her mom resonated with me on a deeply personal level. I am an immigrant, a woman, a daughter and a mother myself and could find parts of me in this beautiful story as well as admirable traits that I can only dream I could share with Kim and Ma.

Special thanks to Shelf Awareness and Riverhead Books for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis

The Borgia Bride: A NovelThe Borgia Bride gives us a story of beautiful Sancha of Aragon. She grows up as the natural daughter of the future King of Naples, Alfonso II among people who love her: her younger brother Alfonso, her mother Trusia and her grandfather, King Ferrante. Soon, she finds out that there is one person who does not care for her and who will do everything to spite her. That person is her father. When Sancha’s grandfather dies, her father marries Sancha off to Jofre Borgia, the youngest son of Pope Alexander VI, also known as Rodrigo Borgia. Jofre is a young, timid boy who grows up to be a timid man, so unlike his father and his siblings, Cesare and Lucrezia. Soon after the marriage, Sancha and Jofre are called to Rome to live with the pope and his family. Because of her beauty, Sancha stirs lust in her father-in-law, jealousy in her sister-in-law Lucrezia and what she thinks is love in her brother-in-law, Cesare.  She soon finds out what cruel and dangerous her new family is and that the rumors of incest, murder and evil are not rumors at all.

The Borgia dynasty is well-known and because of the tales of sexual passions, fables of poisoning of the opponents and incest, it will always remain one of the most infamous and talked about historical families. Ms. Kalogridis is without a doubt, the author who captured this period in history brilliantly. I appreciated that none of the major players in this story were fictional ones. It adds credence to the book and, for me, it is one of the main reasons I like historical fiction so much. Most importantly, the author managed to achieve what only the most skilled authors do: while not straying from the facts too much and adequately portraying true historical events, Jeanne made The Borgia Bride a fascinating work of fiction as well. There was absolutely nothing boring about it. Sancha is an intriguing woman, who has enough ability to scheme, to be strong and to even be cruel at times, in order to survive in the nest of vipers. She is painfully honest about her own shortcomings, especially about her love for treacherous Cesare Borgia. She loves him deeply despite his true nature and I think that is her biggest tragedy. Sancha does not linger however, she does whatever is necessary to stay alive and that’s what I admired about her the most.

But there is more complexity to The Borgia Bride. The secrets of Borgias come undone one by one and even though there are so many of the characters, I never got confused with who was who or who did what. The whole storyline was flawless and despite the 500 pages, it read so quickly I never even noticed that it would soon be finished. Jeanne Kalogridis is the author that will make any reader appreciate historical fiction. She weaves in period details, true facts and fiction so well that you get transported into her books’ world without even noticing and when you come out, that world stays with you for a long time.While I do realize that not everything in this book may be historically accurate, I still believe that many accurate historical facts are incorporated in there and this author really makes it fun to read historical fiction.

Friday, May 21, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregal Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Melanie Dobson is an author as well as the owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media. A former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, Melanie has worked in the fields of journalism and publicity for more than twelve years. Her first book is Together for Good. Melanie lives in Oregon with her husband, Jon, and their two adopted daughters, Karly and Kinzel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825425905
ISBN-13: 978-0825425905


The glass door was locked, but that didn’t stop Camden Bristow from yanking on the handle. The imposing desk on the other side of the glass was vacant, and the receptionist who usually waved her inside had disappeared. Behind the desk, the Fount Magazine logo mocked her, whispering that the money she so desperately needed had disappeared as well.

She pounded on the glass one last time, but no one came to the door.

Turning, she moved to a row of windows on the far side of the elevator. Sixteen stories below, swarms of people bustled toward their next appointment. Someplace they needed to be. Not long ago, she’d been rushing too, up and down Park Avenue to attend meetings at ad agencies and various magazines . . . including the suite of offices behind her.

Human rights. Natural disasters. Labor disputes. Whenever the photo editor at Fount needed the most poignant pictures for news articles, he called her, and nothing had stopped her from capturing what he needed for the next edition. She’d dedicated the past five years to responding to Grant Haussen’s calls, but after she came back from Indonesia two months ago, he stopped calling her.

She’d e-mailed him the pictures of the earthquake’s aftermath along with her regular invoice of fees and expenses. He’d used the pictures in the next issue, but apparently discarded the invoice. She never received a check, and he didn’t return even one of her many calls.

A few years ago, she wouldn’t have worried as much about the money—those days her phone rang at all hours with freelance assignments to shoot pictures around the world—but her clients had slashed their budgets and were using stock photos or buying photographs from locals. The current results weren’t as compelling as sending a professional, but keeping the lights on—the rent paid—trumped paying for the best photography.

Her clients may be making rent, but she hadn’t been able to pay hers for two months. Her savings account was depleted. The income from her Indonesia shoot was supposed to appease her landlord and credit card company. Even though she hadn’t heard from Grant Haussen, she held out hope that she might at least recoup the expenses for her trip so she could pay off the whopping flight and hotel charges on her credit card.

All hope shattered when she read the morning’s headline.

Fount Magazine Declares Bankruptcy

Others may have skimmed past this article, but the news stunned her. Three hours ago, she left her studio apartment and started walking until she found herself in Midtown, in the lobby of the Reinhold Building. A few staff members might remain at the Fount office, packing things up. Or if there were some sort of bankruptcy proceedings . . . maybe she could collect a few thousand dollars. Just enough to pay a portion of her bills while she tried to find more work.

It appeared that no one had stuck around to say goodbye.

The elevator dinged behind her, and she turned away from the windows and watched a skinny man in overalls push a mop and bucket into the hallway. He was at least two inches shorter than her five foot six.

She forced herself to smile, but he didn’t smile back. She pointed at the offices. “I need to find someone at the magazine.”

He grunted as he dipped his mop into the gray water and wrung it out. Shoving her fists into the pockets of her long jacket, she stepped toward him. “They owe me money.”

“You and half this dadgum town.”

“Yes, but—”

“They ran outta here so fast last night that the rubber on their shoes was smokin’.” He flopped the mop onto the tile floor and water spread toward his boots. “I’d bet good money that they ain’t comin’ back.”

Camden slumped against the window. Even if she were able to track down Grant, it wasn’t like he would personally write her a check for money the magazine owed. He was probably out hunting for a job already, or maybe he was stretched out on his couch watching Oprah, enjoying the luxury of not having to report for duty. He could collect unemployment while he slowly perused for a new gig.

Unfortunately, there was no unemployment for freelancers.

The janitor swabbed the mop across the tile in straight brushstrokes like he was painting instead of cleaning it, taking pride in his work.

She understood. At one time she had been proud of her work too. There was nothing more exhilarating than flying off to a country rocked by tragedy and immersing herself into an event that most people only read about. She was onsite to see the trauma, feel the aftershocks, though she never allowed herself to get personally involved. It was her job to record the crisis so others could help with the recovery. All she needed to do her job was her camera equipment and laptop.

Because of all her travels, she hadn’t accumulated much stuff over the years. Her landlord had furnished her flat before she moved in, but for almost five years, the apartment and everything in it had felt like hers. It was the longest she’d lived in one place her entire life.

But tonight, her landlord was changing the locks. Her home had been rented by someone else.

The man pushed his mop by her, ignoring her. She couldn’t blame him for his indifference. This city was full of people who needed a job—he was probably trying as hard as he could to keep his.

She would mop floors if she had to. Or scrub toilets. It wouldn’t pay enough for her to make rent, but maybe it would keep her from having to call her mom and beg for cash. If she called, her mother would pass the phone to her latest boyfriend—a retired executive living outside Madrid. Camden would rather sleep in a shelter than grovel to him.

She hopped over the wet trail left by the mop and stepped into the elevator.

Her landlord said she had until five o’clock to pack her stuff and vacate the building. The little credit she had left on her card wouldn’t pay for a week in a Manhattan hotel. And the few friends she’d made when she wasn’t traveling were struggling as much as she was. One of them might let her sleep on a couch, but she’d be expected to help with rent.

The elevator doors shut, and she punched the button for the lobby.

Where was she supposed to go from here?

The basement of the town hall smelled like burnt coffee and tobacco. The navy carpet had faded to a dull gray, and the dais at the front of the room was scuffed with shoe marks. Five men and two women sat behind a table on the platform—the bimonthly summit of Etherton’s City Council.

As the town mayor, Louise Danner presided over the city council from the middle chair. Her hoop earrings jangled below the signature Bic pen she propped behind her left ear. Copper-colored bangs veiled her smudged eyebrows.

Three steps below Louise’s chair, Alex Yates drummed his fingers on a stack of proposals and tried to listen as Evan Harper begged the councilors to let him tear down the barn on his property and replace it with a guesthouse.

In the eight months since he’d moved to Etherton, he learned that Louise Danner was almost as permanent a fixture in Etherton as the town hall. Within days of him taking this job, she told him exactly how she became mayor over the eleven thousand people in their town.

She had been born in a small house off Main Street and reigned as valedictorian over Etherton High’s Class of ’67. Armed with a degree from Marietta, she returned home after graduation and worked in several businesses across town until she secured the job of hospital administrator. Louise served on almost every town committee for the next thirty years, from historical preservation to the garden club, but when she landed the mayorship almost eight years ago, she dropped anchor.

She’d spent a boatload of money to retain her position during the last election, and with the state of the town’s economy, she would be fighting to keep her job when voters went to the polls in five months.

Alex rechecked his watch. It was almost lunchtime, and Evan Harper was still pleading his case. Alex saw the dilapidated barn every morning on the short drive to his office. Guesthouse or no guesthouse, he agreed with Evan—someone needed to put the structure out of its misery. A hearty gust of wind would end its life if the council wouldn’t approve demolition.

Alex stifled a yawn as Evan named all the people who could stay in the guesthouse including his wife’s elderly parents and his daughter’s college friends. Apparently, no one had told the man he couldn’t filibuster city council. If the mayor didn’t curtail Evan’s speech, he’d probably pull out the local phone book and read until the councilors adjourned for lunch. And once they walked out of the room, they may not reconvene in time.

Alex couldn’t wait for approval. He needed an answer today.

For the past month, he’d been quietly courting the owner of the ten-acre property at the edge of town—part of the old Truman farm. If the council concurred, the owner was ready to sell the land and farmhouse for a pittance. The town could buy it and use the property to help with their plans to revitalize the local economy.

Alex caught the mayor’s eye and tapped his watch.

“Thank you.” Louise interrupted Evan before he finished listing off every construction supply he’d purchased for the guesthouse. “I think that is all the information we need to make a decision.”

Evan plucked another piece of paper from his stack. “But I haven’t read the neighborhood petition.”

“We appreciate all the time and thought you’ve put into this, Evan.” Louise propped her chin up with her knuckles. “We’ll let you know if we have any other questions.”

Evan sat down on the wooden folding chair at the end of the row, and Alex leaned back as the council began discussing the hot issue of preservation versus progress.

Most of the councilors were successful business leaders and attorneys, passionate in either their pro-growth or anti-development stance. Today he needed to convince them that voting “yes” on his proposal would commemorate the town’s history and lay the foundation for their legacy while generating new revenue and development for the town.

Alex glanced at his watch and sighed. If it took the councilors forty minutes to decide the fate of a rickety barn, how long would it take them to make a decision on his proposal?

When he parted ways with corporate mania last year, he thought he’d left behind the constricting strands of red tape that kept him from doing his job, but he’d learned that Etherton’s residents, along with the city council, rode the high of debate until they were forced to vote. Sometimes the debate lasted weeks, or even months.

Edward Paxton led the charge against development. He didn’t want his town to change nor did he want Alex involved with any of the town’s business. Rumor had it that he wanted his grandson, Jake, to take the economic development position that Louise had created last spring to solicit new business. The only problem was that no one else on the council wanted Jake Paxton to be involved. Edward seemed to hold a personal vendetta against Alex for stealing his grandson’s job.

At least the mayor was on his team. She’d gambled when she hired him, but he assured her and the council that he’d deliver. On their terms.

After almost an hour of discussion, Louise called for a vote, and Evan smacked his knees when they approved his guesthouse with a 4–3 vote. He saluted the row of councilors as he rushed out, probably on his way to rent an excavator. Alex guessed the barn would be in a heap when he drove home tonight.

He sighed. If only getting the council to approve a project was always this easy . . .

Etherton needed the tax revenue from new businesses to fix its brick streets, increase the police force, and build a high school. The city’s officials expected Alex to find a way to merge their small town charm with big city business.

Blending these two ideals was no small feat. Not long after he moved to Etherton, he worked a deal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a piece of farm property at the edge of town. Some towns didn’t want a Wal-Mart, but since their local economy had tanked, he thought most of the locals would welcome the store. After all, most of them drove forty-five minutes each week to visit the Wal-Mart in Mansfield, and this would bring discount clothes, groceries, car care, and—most importantly—jobs to their back door.

He was wrong.

When the council voted last December, residents of Etherton packed City Hall, a chorus of dissension over why their town couldn’t bear the weight of a conglomerate. The icy room turned hot as tempers flared. Small business owners threatened to overthrow the seats of every council member who supported the proposal.

In the end, the council rejected his plan. The town desperately needed the revenue and the jobs, but apparently not enough to put out the welcome mat for a mega store. A local farmer bought the field to plant corn, and Etherton missed out on the much-needed sales tax that would flood into Fredericktown when Wal-Mart opened its doors there this fall.

The council told him they wanted new business, but they wanted something quaint that would fit the town’s celebration of all things old. It was a hard task—but he’d found the perfect solution. If the residents were willing to risk a little, he was ready to deliver both quaint and classy . . . wrapped up in a pretty package and tied together with a sound financial bow.

Louise slid the pen out from behind her ear and tapped it on the table. She dismissed the few people in the audience, explaining that the rest of the meeting was a closed session, and then she pointed at him. “You’re up, Alex.”

He straightened his tie and stood to face the councilors. It was about to get hot again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome: A NovelThere are books that get me fairly upset, enough to keep me in this state for days or even weeks until I vent about what’s bothering me to someone.  Now, you’d think that a book blog is a perfect place to vent. But I have found it’s not necessarily so, mainly because now I am crowded by doubts if I will offend anyone or make people all of a sudden dislike me, so on and so forth. I have been hesitating to write the review for Under the Dome more than ever because I know that this book is liked by majority of readers and I know why I could offend others by disliking the things in it that are the reasons they love this novel so. To make the long story short, my review might be controversial.

Stephen King has written another behemoth. With over 1000 pages, Under the Dome is a story with tons of characters, a lot happening and plotlines to entertain a reader for days. One October day, the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine gets separated from the rest of the world by a mysterious transparent wall. It soon becomes apparent that nothing and no one can get in or out through the wall. It’s called the Dome for a reason too, because that’s precisely the shape of it. Now this little town with big personalities for residents has to fend for itself, with no outside help but also no outside interference. And that means that a scheming selectman Jim Rennie has a free reign and can finally be the ultimate law without consequences. People die, they’re murdered, killed or give up hope and commit suicides. Soon, there will be no more gasoline for the generators and subsequently no more electricity. But the evil reign of Rennie and his “helpers” is not what the residents of Chester’s Mill should fear the most. There is something much more sinister coming their way.

You have no idea how I wanted to read Under the Dome. I was so excited when I got it for Christmas that I thought I would actually fall asleep hugging it. Stephen King is after all one of my all-time favorite writers and Under the Dome was supposed to be a work of art akin to The Stand (which happens to be my most beloved book of his and the golden standard for all dystopian literature). The excitement waned quickly, when I realized that Under the Dome is a crowd pleaser. There, I said it. For the first time ever, Stephen King decided to write a book that would stroke the egos of the majority, instead of coming up with something new, something that’s non-conformist and that eludes the mainstream. The characters are very cliché, I almost couldn’t believe that the most evil, corrupted and power hungry person in the whole book would be a Republican, Christian white male. Really?! Could you have come up with anything more obvious than that, Mr. King? I don’t think so.  Political orientations aside, I was most bothered by King taking cheap shots at Christians. I have to be honest with you, I am sick and tired of writers doing that nowadays, especially when it happens to be an author I respect and like for his unparalleled characterization skills. King chose the road of least resistance because who is honestly going to not like reading about this ‘far right, fundamentalist Christian looney’.  If you read majority of the reviews, people love it. Well, I hate it because written word is a powerful weapon and Under the Dome propagates a stereotype that happened to be unjust and hurtful.

Technically, King is still somewhat successful. He knows what he’s doing when introducing a cornucopia of characters without having a reader dazed and confused. You will most likely have no trouble with finding your way among the residents of Chester’s Mill. Character development is flawless and I had clear images of each and every person featured in the novel even though the descriptive passages and adverbs and adjectives were few and far between. You want to read a fest of ‘show and don’t tell’? Grab Under the Dome.  Despite all of the above however, at the end of the book I realized I couldn’t care less about any of the residents. It was a shock to me because that never happened with other King’s books.  One last thing, this is not another Stand. The Stand is a timeless masterpiece and Under the Dome pales to transparency in its light, almost as if Mr. King ran out of ideas and there were no more tricks up his sleeve.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Book List: The Longest Wait

The Book List is just a short and fun meme hosted by lovely Rebecca from Lost in Books that allows you to share books and make a list of books! Who doesn't love lists?!?
Today's topic is:


This is probably the toughest for me to  do since I have so many books that I actually cannot say 100% which ones have been there the longest. I decided to go with non-fiction books because I don't own as many of them as fiction ones and it's easier to come up with the ones I might want to read for the longest time.

Einstein: His Life and Universe1. Einstein by Walter Isaacson

I bought this book when it first came out in hardcover years ago. I was very excited when I got home and then I put it away and it has been staring at me from the bookshelves ever since.

Color Me Butterfly: A True Story of Courage, Hope and Transformation2. Color Me Butterfly by Y.A. Marlow 
Back in my days as an employee of Borders, I noticed this book on Women's Studies shelf and wondered what a memoir is doing in there. And then I read the synopsis and decided that I should get it for myself as I was in a sad place in my life and needed someone else's story to lift me up. I am sad to report that I didn't even read page one from the time I brought it home. It is however on my priority list for this year.

17763. 1776 by David McCullough
I think most people are familiar with this book or at least have heard of it, if not read it. I loved his John Adams and I really have no explanation why I haven't read 1776 yet.

What's on your TBR list?

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Darlington Woods by Mike Dellosso

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He is a regular columnist for, was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years, has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets, and has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers association, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and FaithWriters, and plans to join International Thriller Writers once published. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master’s Graduate School of Divinity.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 281 pages
Publisher: Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799189
ISBN-13: 978-1599799186


Present day

As he pressed his beat-up Ford down an uneven stretch of asphalt, Rob Shields had death on his mind. His own. The void within him had grown to colossal proportions, opening its gaping black maw and swallowing any hope or happiness he once had. Lost forever. No chance of return. Death welcomed him, enticed him, drew him in with its easy ways and comfortable charm.

Oh, he knew he would never do it. Taking his own life had a certain appeal to it, held a certain freedom that his bleak outlook on life longed for, but it took a much braver— or dumber—man than he to actually pull it off. But still he wanted, maybe needed, to pretend he was as serious as murder. And that meant it was time to see the house. If he was to fantasize about putting an end to his journey, he at least wanted to see the place that had promised a better life. Just one visit, one look, would satisfy him.

He glanced over at the empty passenger seat then into the rearview mirror at the vacant spot in the backseat. Kelly would be jabbering about what beautiful country this was.

“Look at the wildflowers. Oh, I love wildflowers.”

And little Jimmy would be singing away to his MP3 player, getting the lyrics all wrong.

Man, he missed them.

A familiar sadness overcame him, and he once again thought of his own death. He couldn’t bear to live without them any longer . . .

Life had become a great burden, an endless source of sadness. Every day was lived in despair. Unhappiness and discontent had become his bedfellows. He would see the

house, allow himself one evening of pleasant dreams about what could have been, then return to Massachusetts to live out the rest of his life in isolated misery. And in his mind,

that in itself was a form of suicide. A living death.

Rob depressed the accelerator, and the odometer needle climbed nearer to seventy. On the horizon, heat devils performed an arrhythmic dance, and the sun-scorched

blacktop appeared to be glossed with mercury. The road cut through pastureland like a hardened artery. To his right, a handful of horses stood motionless, their noses to the ground. To his left, the land stretched out like a green sea, undulating slowly to an even tempo.

Mayfield had to be no more than an hour away, but the fuel

gauge said he needed gas now. Up ahead, an elderly man in a ball cap was on both knees working his garden. Rob slowed the car and stopped beside him. The older gent turned his body slowly, revealing a patch over one eye.

Rob leaned across the center console and spoke loudly. “Where’s the nearest gas station?”

The old man cupped one hand around his ear and raised his eyebrows.

Rob said it louder. “Where’s the nearest gas station?”

The man nodded in the direction Rob had been traveling. “’Bout a mile down the road. Shell station on the left.”

“Thanks,” Rob said, and he pulled away. In the rearview mirror he could see the man watch him for a moment then return to his garden.

Exactly one mile down the road Rob steered into a cracked-asphalt lot and up to an old-style analog gas pump, the kind with the rotating numbers. He didn’t even know those kind still existed. The station had seen better days. From the sun-bleached Shell sign to the grime-coated plate-glass window of the little convenience store to the scarred and faded blacktop, everything spoke of neglect. This was one outpost time had forgotten.

Rob got out of the car and noticed the handwritten sign on the pump: Pre-pay inside. Management.

Walking across the lot, he could feel the day’s heat radiating through the soles of his shoes. A little bell chimed when he opened the door. A thin, fair-skinned man with shoulder-length hair nodded at him from behind the counter.

“Thirty in gas,” Rob said, reaching for his wallet.

The clerk punched some buttons on the register and said, “Thirty.”

Rob paid him. “How far to Mayfield?”

The clerk looked up. “Where?”


After a quick shrug, “Fifty, sixty miles.” He looked like he wanted to say more, so Rob waited. “Not much in Mayfield.”

“A house,” Rob said.

“Your house?”

“Should have been.” Then he turned and left. The bell chimed again on his way out.

At the pump, Rob unscrewed the fuel cap and inserted the nozzle. Jimmy always loved to squeeze the trigger.

“Can I pull the trigger, Daddy?”

That’s what he called it, a trigger. He’d pretend the nozzle was a cowboy gun. Thoughts of his son flooded Rob’s mind, and he did nothing to stop them. Now was a time for remembering, for soaking up every good feeling and every fond image left to enjoy.

When the rolling numbers hit seventeen dollars, a quick movement caught Rob’s attention. He jerked his head up and toward the side of the store where a stand of shrubs sat quiet and motionless. Then he heard it, a muffled giggle, and his breath caught in his throat. He knew that giggle. Knew it like the sound of his own voice. The movement was there again. An image ran from the shrubs to the rear of the store and out of sight. The nozzle snapped off and fell to the ground with a solid clunk. Rob knew that run too, the shortened stride, the slightly exaggerated pumping of the arms. He could feel his heart thudding all the way down to his fingertips.

It was Jimmy. His little buddy.

Crossing the lot in large walking strides at first, then a run, Rob rounded the building fully expecting to find his son, Jimmy, red-faced with brown hair matted to his forehead,

waiting in a crouch to scare him.

“I got you, Daddy!”

Instead, all he found were a few rusted-out fifty-gallon drums, a stack of dry-rotted tires, and a haphazard pile of rebar. His breathing rate had quickened from the short sprint, and beads of sweat now popped out on his forehead and upper lip. He wiped them away with the sleeve of his T-shirt.

He walked the length of the building, scanning the field of

knee-high grass behind it. “Jimmy?”

But no answer came. Not even a rustle of grass. And no giggle.

“Jimmy,” Rob said in a normal volume, more to himself than the phantom of his son that had haunted him now for going on two months. The visions—the psychologist called

them hallucinations—had come frequently at first, sometimes as much as once a day, then grew more sporadic. Until now, he hadn’t had one for over two weeks. At first,

Rob was convinced there was a purpose to them, a meaning. Maybe they even meant Jimmy was still alive, waiting for his daddy to find him and rescue him. Maybe. The psychologist disagreed. Rob thought he was a quack and stopped attending the weekly sessions.

Scolding himself for once again allowing his frazzled imagination to dupe him, Rob returned to his car like a man taking his final stroll down the long corridor to the electric

chair. The sun’s heat now seemed more intense, and his shirt clung to his back and chest.

He picked the nozzle up from the ground and balanced it in his hand.

“Can I pull the trigger, Daddy?”

Every time he pumped gas he’d think of Jimmy. It was one of those little things that would haunt him the rest of his life. But it was a haunting he welcomed. After squeezing out the rest of his thirty bucks, Rob returned the nozzle to the pump, opened the car door, and was hit by a breath of heat.

Sitting in his car was like hanging out in an oven, but Rob did not turn the ignition. The air outside was still and the heat sweltering. Sweat seeped from his pores, wetting the front of his shirt. He thought of the image of his son and that familiar gait and noticed his hands were trembling. Tears formed in his eyes, blurring his vision.

“Jimmy.” He said the name again, as if it were some holy word that could cross the span of the finite and infinite and bring his little boy back. He wanted to hold him, bury his

face in Jimmy’s hair, and draw in the smell of sweat and cookies.

“I like how you smell, Daddy. You smell like a daddy.”

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Rob started the car, pulled away from the pump, and headed east toward Mayfield.

As he drove, the empty seats beside and behind him burned like hot coals. As much as he tried, he could not dismiss the memory of Kelly reaching over and placing a graceful hand on his thigh, her hair rippling in the wind, a smile stretched across her face. Nor could he stop glancing in the rearview mirror, half hoping to see Jimmy bouncing against the back of the seat.

Rob slapped at the steering wheel. He knew he was going mad, that the solitude of the last three months had nearly driven him over the edge and blurred the line between reality and fantasy. And he was obsessing again. He had to think of something else, so he turned his mind to the house his great-aunt Wilda had left him. He’d never seen the place, had never even met Wilda. But when he found out he was the sole heir to the house, his mother raved about how much Kelly and Jimmy would love the place. That was six months ago.

Before his world got flipped on its head and everything went to pot.

Before he went insane and entertained thoughts of death. The boy and his mommy walk back to the car to clean his hands. He’s been working on a candy apple for some time, and it’s creating quite the mess. Daddy told them he’d meet them at the lemonade stand. Lemonade is great for a warm day, he said. The grass in the parking area is brown and ground into the dry dirt from everyone walking and driving on it. His mommy is holding his clean hand and singing a Sunday school song about Joshua and the battle of Jericho. The boy is still thinking about the eagle the man behind the table was holding. He never knew eagles were so big. And when it looked at him, it seemed to see right past his skin and into his insides. They had other things at the stand too—an owl with big yellow eyes, a couple different kinds of snakes, and an aquarium full of toads—but the eagle was his favorite. He wondered what it would be like to be able to fly like an eagle, way up in the sky where no one could bother you, seeing the whole world at once.

“Here we are,” Mommy says. Their car looks extra clean because Daddy washed it just before they left. The black paint looks like a dark mirror and makes him look funny, like one of those curvy mirrors at the carnival.

Mommy opens the trunk and leans over into it, looking for the napkins. It reminds him of a poem about a crocodile with a toothache. He wishes he could remember all the words. Something about the crocodile opening so wide and the dentist climbing inside, then SNAP! Mommy always claps her hands real hard at that part, and it always makes him jump.

A man comes up behind Mommy. He’s wearing dirty old blue jeans and a tight black T-shirt. His face is big and round, and there are a lot of little scars on his cheeks. His eyes are placed real close together and pushed back into his head. With his shaggy hair and large face, the boy thinks he looks like a head of cabbage.

“Excuse me,” the man says. He reaches out to touch Mommy’s hip then looks at the boy.

Mommy jumps and stands up fast. She turns around and looks at the man, crossing her arms in front of her. She seems nervous. “Yes?”

Cabbage Head looks nervous too. He pushes his hand through his hair, and the boy notices the sweat on his forehead. It makes his hair wet where it comes out of the skin. “It’s your husband—”

Now Mommy looks scared. “Wha–what’s wrong?” Her voice shakes.

“I need you to come with me.” He looks at the boy with those deep eyes then back at Mommy. “The boy can stay here at the car. We’ll only be a minute.”

Mommy bites her lower lip and looks around. She kneels beside the boy. She looks real scared and is breathing fast. Her hands are shaking, and she’s still biting her lower lip. “Stay here, OK? Don’t leave the car. I’ll be right back. Don’t leave the car.”

She hugs the boy then kisses him on the cheek. Opening the back door of the car, she motions for the boy to get in. “Remember, stay here. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back for you soon.” She closes the door, blows him a kiss, and leaves with Cabbage Head. The boy watches as they walk away and disappear behind a trailer.

It doesn’t take long for it to get too hot to stay in the car. He opens the door and slides out, staying low to the ground so no one will see him. He leans against the car, but the black metal is too hot. So he sits Indian-style on the ground next to the back tire and picks at the grass. He wonders what could be wrong with Daddy. Did he have a heart attack or get cancer? Mr. Davies next door got cancer last year and died. This scares the boy. Maybe Daddy’s just lost and the man needs Mommy to help find him. He thinks about the man and his deep eyes. They were like the eagle’s eyes. Something about them didn’t look right, though. The boy feels like if he looked at them long enough he’d see things that would give him nightmares for a very long time. And they would see things in him too.

It seems like a long time of sitting by the tire and picking at brown grass before the boy hears footsteps coming, the sound of dry grass crunching like stale potato chips. He stands and looks around, hoping it’s Mommy. But Cabbage Head is coming toward him, alone. Where’s Mommy? Is she with Daddy, and the man is coming to take him to them?

Cabbage Head comes close. He’s sweating even worse now, and his hair looks like it has been messed up. He offers the boy his hand, a big meaty thing that looks like a bear’s paw. “C’mon, son. You must come with me.”

“Where’s my mom?” the boy asks. He notices his own voice is shaking.

“She’s fine. She wants me to bring you to her.”

The boy can tell the man is lying. He wants to run away but is afraid he’ll never find Mommy or Daddy on his own. “Where is she?”

Cabbage Head closes his hand and opens it again. His wide palm is all shiny with sweat. “Come. She’s waiting for you.”

There’s no way the boy is going to hold the man’s hand. He turns to run but the man catches him by the arm. “Oh, no, you don’t. You’re coming with me.”

The boy tries to holler, but the man’s sweaty hand is over his mouth, pressing so hard it hurts. The boy has never known what it is like to be so scared. He’s sure Cabbage Head is going to kill him, or worse, keep him alive but never allow him to see his mommy or daddy again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekly Geeks: We Might Need a Shrink here!

Weekly Geeks has an awesome topic this week. Tara from 25 Hour Book suffers from P.A.B.D., short for Post Amazing Book Depression. I won't replicate the whole post here. I will only quote a few sentences here and there but make sure you read Tara's thoughts on this phenomenon. Anyway, I love the idea and believe that we all suffer from it, it's just that we didn't know the name and now here it is:

So what is P.A.B.D.?

Post Amazing Book Depression - The over-whelming sad feeling one gets after finishing a great book.

Some signs of P.A.B.D.:

*missing characters

* often includes talking about characters in day to day life

* hearing songs that remind you of certain characters/scenes

*constant rereading of the same book

Have you had PABD?
What book caused it? How did you deal with it?
Boy, did I have P.A.B.D.!!!!! Many times over! But I will limit my experiences to two books and one series.All of them I read many years ago and I still keep thinking about the characters and plots and about how amazing the whole experience was. The saddest part is that no matter how many times I re-read the books, this experience will never be the same. The best part is, these books are so awesome that every time they're re-read there is a completely new experience waiting right around the corner (or should I say, right around the page).

The Children's War
Book number one is:

The Children's War by J. R. Stroyar.When I bought this book from the bargain pile in Borders seven years ago , I had no idea what was in store for me. I'm surprised more people are not talking about it. It's the best alternate history book I have read so far.

From Publishers Weekly:

What if the Nazis had won WWII? This isn't the first time a writer has tried to visualize that possibility, but nuclear physicist Stroyar comes up with perhaps the most lavishly detailed scenario so far, realistically describing an alternate 21st century in her massive debut. The author, whose own family suffered under the Nazis, spent a decade on research and travel to Eastern Europe and areas of the former U.S.S.R. With frightening authenticity, she weaves a gripping page-turner that revolves around two men who strive to undermine the Nazi regime. First is Peter Halifax, an Englishman with multiple identities who was orphaned at a young age, adopted by the Underground, betrayed and then doomed to a life of abuse. Then there is Richard Traugutt, an ambitious Nazi official who secretly spearheads the Polish resistance movement's efforts to infiltrate the Third Reich and hasten its demise. When Peter miraculously escapes a life of tortured servitude to a ruthless Nazi official, he blunders into the Polish underground. As Peter and Richard's complex stories unfold, the author layers her fictional tale of modern-day life in the Third Reich with historical accounts of actual atrocities as well as the role of the Polish resistance movement during WWII. The most daring section of the book showcases the underground's plan to use Peter's tragic story as a means to gain support from the North American Union, the only free territory in the world. The author's uncompromising portrayal of an American public inured by evidence of atrocities and only interested in sensationalist personal revelations is a strong indictment of civilized society. Those entranced by what-if scenarios will find plenty to delight them in these pages.

Mary Queen of Scotland & The Isles: A Novel
Book number two is:

Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George 
I know that a lot of people like this book by Ms George the least but it's my favorite of hers so far (beats even Memoirs of Cleopatra for me, even though this one's good as well). It's actually the book that sparked my love for historical fiction of which I had known nothing before. 

From Publishers Weekly:

From the author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII comes another massive, painstakingly researched novel that makes history live. Like all tragic figures, George's Mary Stuart has a flaw: a personal and political naivete, misunderstood to the end, that leads to her downfall. Recreating the Elizabethan era with a sure eye for telling detail, George uses her entirely plausible vision of Mary's private life to explain the failures of her public one. Mary's story becomes an allegory for the victory of morality over human weakness; her reign, a symbol of the abuses of rule by "divine right"; her death, of the triumph of the rule of law. Readers will empathize with Mary's pain over an unhappy first marriage, the wrenching upheaval of adultery and her searing realization of trust misplaced and loyalties lost, finally coming to know with her the peace of a soul at rest in God and the glory of a meaningful death. With her use of authentic period language, her gifts for assured pacing and accomplished characterization, and her ability to convey the complex political issues and intrigues of 16th-century England and Scotland, George has created an engrossing novel. Moreover, her deep sympathy for her subject renders Mary an entirely real and unforgettable heroine.

WITCH-HUNT The Legend of the Ice People.
Depths of Darkness: the Legend of the Ice PeopleBook number three is actually a whole series. The Legend of Ice People by Margit Sandemo. I first read it in Polish when I was 14 years old and my life has never been the same since. This is the best piece of historical paranormal fiction ever. Unfortunately, the English speaking world had to wait a very long time for this series to be translated and now it's still only available in England. I hope that some American publisher will jump in and buy the rights to it because we're missing a great series here. 

From the author's UK website:

Winter 1581: a deadly plague outbreak robs sixteen-year old peasant girl Silje of all her family. Homeless, starving and shepherding two foundling infants, she stumbles through the corpse-strewn streets of Trondheim on Norway’s northern coast.

Heading desperately for the warmth of the mass funeral pyres blazing beyond the city gates, she encounters in the shadowy forest one of the infamous Ice People, a fearsome, strangely captivating ‘wolf man’. He offers help -- and she feels irresistibly drawn to him. But what is the terrible fascination ? And where will it lead ?

Spellbound, the opening volume in The Legend of the Ice People, begins a journey that spans four centuries and interweaves romance and the supernatural in narratives that are passionate, earthy, often erotic and imbued above all else with a powerful narrative drive.