12.1.2016

The People in the Photo by Helene Gestern

I love letters. (Not <3 letters, just letters in general). I love writing them and receiving them. Email, text, DMs, are fine and convenient but not can compare to what goes into communicating through letters. Perhaps I’m romanticizing something that may seem trivial but consider the effort that is dispensed (write, fold, stamp, and mail), of course it’s the “thought” that counts but I always appreciate “effort”.

Our two characters have explicitly displayed plenty of effort in search of truth, love, and possibly redemption. Helene and Stephane venture on a trip down memory lane, crossing different decades and countries. This is a story of love and less, perpetual loss because of guilt and pride. This book reminds us that the human experience doesn’t necessarily have to end when you do. Read this book and you’ll understand.

12.1.2016

The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan

“The Serpent’s Shadow” is the last book of the Kane Chronicles trilogy and what a ride it has been. The battle against Apophis and his legions of demons and House of Life detractors has finally reached full circle and the end (preferably not the world ending) depends on if Carter and Sadie Kane can summon enough courage to capture the Primordial of Chaos’ sheut and recite the final rites while dealing with a million other things that could (and it did) go wrong in their lives. How exasperating…but not surprising.

Rick Riordan has expanded his universe gradually throughout his career. He has introduced us to Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and more recently Norse mythology. I’m looking forward to what he will do next—should we expect a crossover series OR will he introduce his readers to another mythology?

11.23.2016

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen

One of the challenges of reading fiction books in general, is keeping tabs of the numerous characters who are all, in essence, main characters. I guess you can make the argument that the black dress was the sun and the nine women that came in contact with it were celestial bodies orbiting it. But I disagree. The dress is integral of course to the story; however, it was fated to meet these women whose lives filled the book with hilarious tidbits of traversing daily musings and misunderstandings.

The only downside to casting more than one main character is attempting to include them in some kind of order that makes both sense and complimentary to the other characters and to the reader. I think this author tried but it wasn’t working for me. The overall story was great but I wished the author focused on maybe two or three characters that she could afford to expand their stories.

11.22.2016

The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick

It has been interesting reading a book that was published in 1958 during the Cold War, when newly independent nation states were up for grabs between two global superpowers. From what I can surmise from the authors; it seems the stories of Americans living, working, fighting, and loving in Asia were a cautionary tale to the public about high moral and political risks when two completely different nations continue to resist rather than understand each other.

My favorite line from the book was from the American Ambassador’s recommendations about the recruitment and training of the Department of State staff: “But, I repeat, grand patterns are no more than the sum of their tiniest parts, and it is on this basic level that we are losing the struggle.” Slow and steady wins the race, is what he’s saying. He was worried that the U.S. government was focused on giving instead of creating—creating a bond with the host country based on mutual understanding instead of bargaining over imported ideas and materials.

All in all, this was a fun read filled with lessons we can all learn from.

11.22.2016

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

The story in its entirety is a long roundabout meet-cute. I’d like to think that the two central characters discovered themselves while searching for each other. For Laurent, the bookseller who discovered Laure’s handbag, realized it is possible to fall in love and be unapologetically happy again. (This man cannot be real: bookworm, model citizen, likes cats…and cats like him too!) For Laure, the victim of a late night mugging, rediscovered her audacity within her introverted nature to pursue the identity of her silent hero. Romances like this are rare, the fated couple never met in person and you, the reader, cannot wait for them to meet. I was thankful for the other characters of the story because they kept the couple from retreating from an exciting opportunity.

Laurain’s story is short (I finished it in a day, before lunch actually.); which I am not disappointed about. The dialogue is clear and concise without muddling the prose to the point of confusion and the reader to boredom. The story does give out an old-school (black and white T.V.) vibe but it’s surprisingly modern for today’s readers.

10.20.2015

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Our favorite spy-to-be has begun her second year at Madame Geraldine’s Finishing School and she’s already tracking another evil plot purported by someone that will affect someone or something. As usual, she doesn’t entirely have all the details…yet. She’s no long a novice—personally, I don’t think she was ever one since her entry. So far we can count on her acute observation skills and sharp wit to bring to light the unfortunate reality of spy school culture: the lines between friend, foe, mentor, nemesis, homework, and extra credit are absolutely blurred.

Aside from the mind-numbing lessons of how to conduct oneself as a lady of qualit-ay; Sohpronia is taking massive mental notes about everything and everyone. It seems she has gotten everything under control but there’s always one thing that will complicate a young girl’s life: boys. This second book will surely show progress in Sophronia’s potential as a spy and a lady.

09.23.2015

ASAP Science by Mitch Moffit and Greg Brown.

Once in a while, I like to indulge myself in junk-food literature. This could be a buzz-feed article, a celebrity’s interview, or the comments section on news websites. They’re not necessarily bad – if you read them in moderation. The book is riddled with quirky illustration which adds a sense of whimsy and wonder from answers to mundane questions and topics such as:

Are silent farts more deadly?

Selfie science: Why do we hate photos of ourselves?

The Science of Sexy.

The Science of Procrastination.

The answers presented in this book are concise and relatable to everyone. Of course that should be the case. The book is written for everyone, scientist or not. Check it out! You’ll enjoy it. I’m sure because it’s in the science.

09.23.2015

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Here we go again! I started another book series by Gail Carriger – and I’m glad I did. Gail Carriger’s series all relate to each other but they can still be read as stand-alone stories. Some of her characters from the Soulless series do appear in this series but the series’ focal character is not Aleixia but an equally inscrutable and fierce young lady, Sophronia. She’s a hopeless case, at least according to her mother. So like any other concerned parent she sent her daughter to a lady’s finishing school. She hoped the school will smooth out the rough edges of Sophronia’s personality and terrible inclinations. However, her mother had unknowingly send her daughter to a school of spies where young ladies and trained to use their feminine wiles to gain information and weapons (discreet ones of course) to “finish” off anyone who stand’s in their way.

The Victorian steampunk world created by Gail Carriger seems glamorous and robust – there’s no shortage of the different contraptions our protagonist encounters; especially when they’re trying to kill her. Of course, there’s a conspiracy afoot and the one girl who resisted the idea of finishing school is caught in the middle of a power struggle between forces she does not yet know. My favorite part of the book is the rag-tag team Sophronia puts together. I have always been a fan of Robin Hood, the tale; and it’s only logical I am excited about Sophronia and her band of misfits.

I am optimistic this series will not disappoint. I do find it odd, that there wasn’t much tea drinking mentioned in the book. There were mentions of delectable pastries and coal, yes coal, being consumed. Read the book and find out why!

09.15.2015

Claimed by Tarah Scott

I am not ashamed to admit, I love—er, enjoy reading romance novels. I guess it’s because it soothes the raging cynic in me, who is more inclined to read about practical topics such as Science, Finance, and celebrity melt-downs. I don’t really care for the “boy-meets-girl” context of most romance novels. I’m more interested in romance novels that depicts a couple fighting external forces or unbearable circumstances to preserve their—say it with me, LOVE. Perseverance in the face of adversity and rampant bigotry makes for a great romance novel—for me to read…no, to care to read. And here, Tarah Scott introduces us to another fabulous love story of Lady Roshlyn and Sir Talbot.

Of course, these two have nothing in common other than: they’re both gorgeous and very idealistic. Their union will be widely beneficial—we’re talkin’ “peace-between-Scotland-and-England”. Lady Roshlyn and Sir Talbot are both pawns of a greater scheme of these two kingdoms, perpetuated by brutal politicking and, lack of a better term, national security. But their different views about the political and cultural future of the highlands provides most of the plot and the undeniable attraction each harbors for each other. But fundamentally, Lady Roshlyn wants independence for herself and her country; while Sir Talbot simply wanted peace of mind for himself.

The author does a good job describing the settings; unless it’s an “action” scene and the setting zones right into the main characters. Maybe it’s a usual practice by many writers but it limits the story, especially in action scenes, to just focus on the characters deprives the readers of the effects of the environment impacting the actions and thoughts of the characters. I don’t blame this author in particular because it IS very difficult to pull off a well written “action” ridden prose. Describing a scene and sounding out internal dialogues can be strenuous for the writer and if done incorrectly, off putting for the reader. But overall, there was action, lovemaking, and swooning moments which makes this book a good weekend read.

09.15.2015

Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

I love Greek mythologies! I love mythologies in general. The epic tales of heroes, monsters, magic, and trials are what Hollywood movies hope to recreate, visually. (Obviously I am on the “book” side of the book vs. movie debate) My prejudice aside, the story of Helen is not a new one. There are different versions/interpretations of the character and the events that solidified her in ancient Greek literature and history. Here Amalia Carosella introduces us to her interpretation of Helen, before Troy fell into ruins.

Here, Helen was simply a Princess—the heir of Sparta. She was admired for her beauty—and severely scorned for it too. She was prone to having nightmares of a city sieged by her leading consort, Menelaus, who really, REALLY wanted Helen to be his and his alone. (Red Flag for the psychopath) He and every Greek man loved, lusted after Helen. Can you really blame them? (Maybe a little) She’s royalty; daughter of Zeus; and very—astronomically beautiful. Her stock value was very high, almost unreachable that it would drive any man to do anything to win her over…or just to have her nearby.

The story moved along very well and the author’s descriptions of the settings and characters were vivid and somewhat, creative. She presented the realities of ancient Greek women and the challenges they faced throughout the book; mostly through Helen’s interactions with other characters. She seemed to have taken good care of all her characters except, Helen. I was really looking forward to Helen to really come into her own and rise from the constant damsel station she remained in. But the author stopped short of actually giving Helen an independent –even a defiant voice. I love the historical (and mythical) elements of the story but it seriously lacks progression of the main character.

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