Monday, December 28, 2009

Laura Childs - Author - Book Reviews

Scrapbooking series
Berkley Prime Crime Books
Frill Kill - 2007
Death Swatch - 2008
Tragic Magic - 2009
Authors website

I have now read 4 books in the Scrapbooking series. Motive for Murder (book 4) was reviewed last week. The next 3 are reviewed here.

Books 5 to 7 respectively are as follows - Frill Kill, Death Swatch and Tragic Magic

The major characters of these books are Carmela Bertrand, her ex husband Seamus Meecham whos family own one of the local banks, Carmela's friend Ava and the local police detective, Edgar Babcock.

I really enjoyed these books a lot and I read all 3 books in just 2 days.

Frill Kill
With Halloween barely a week away, things are spookier than ever in New Orleans. A party at Juju Voodoo draws a fabulous throng, and Carmela's friend Ava has hired a sexy tarot card reader named Giovanni to work the crowd. What he doesn't foretell is that on her way home, Carmela will discover the body of a beautiful model behind a Dumpster--and be attacked herself!

In the meantime the model's former employer hires Carmela and Ava to create a new look for their next runway modelling show. As well as running the scrapbook shop, tryinn to kep her ex-husband Seamus away from her (he wants to give their marriage one last try) and designing a new runway show, Carmela is very busy - but not too busy to ask some questions and try and discover who killed the young model.

Carmela and Ava take a trip at night out into the Bayou to determine if Giovanni and his brother are murderers. Carmela's evidence is tested and is proven to eliminate the brothers.

So Carmela goes after another possible suspect. But when she finds herself lost in the backstage area of the building where the runway shoot is to be hold, the murderer comes after her. Carmela is rescued by Edgar Babcock, the local police detective.

Death Swatch
Amid zydeco rhythms and popping champagne corks, scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand and her friend Ava are partying in the French Quarter. It's Mardi Gras, and they never imagined this might be the scene of a murder, but as the evening progresses, float designer Archie Baudier is found dead on the balcony--strangled with a barbed wire garrote.

As Carmela flirts with handsome detective Edgar Babcock, she also ponders the odd clues; gold paint on the victim's shoes, a ransacked apartment, and a glimmering gold doubloon.

The local TV reporter Kimber Breeze gets in on the act by creating a werewolf mystery. Her TV program is losing viewers and she is desperate to get them back and at the same time, grab some new viewers as well.

Tragic Magic
Design-wise Carmela Bertrand of Memory Mine scrapbook store is tapped to create spooky set decorations for Medusa Manor, a new haunted house attraction in New Orleans. But a flaming body hurled from the third-floor tower might just put a damper on the project.

Carmela and Ave set about tryng to find out who killed Melody (the owner of Medusa Manor) while continuing to decorate the Manor. Melody's husband is at the top of the suspect list. It turns out that Melody was killed over a painting that she had purchased at auction. A painting that turns out to be very valuable.

In this adventure Carmela is also having to deal with her divorce and her ex-husband Seamus, as they try to come to an agreement in their divorce settlement. Seamus's sister Glory does not want Carmela to get anything. Once the settlement is signed, Carmela is now free to go out with her new boyfriend - police detective Edgar Babcock.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Altar of Eden - Book Review

Altar of Eden
By James Rollins
Harper Collins - December 29, 2009
Author website

Someone is re-creating the ancient animals who died off thousands of years ago - including neanderthal man and the sabre tooth tiger. This story also mentions fractals in the brains and how they cause heightened intelligence. Mix genetic engineering and sabretooth tigers with fractals and you get the perfect intelligent hunting animal.

When a sabretooth tiger escapes captivity the hunt is on by Lorna Polk, a veterinarian, and the US border patrol, to prevent the creature from killing tourists and boy scouts. Meanwhile the men from the company who created the beast, are also moving to either recapature the animal or destroy anyone who knows about it.

This was a very exciting book - plenty of action from start to finish. This book is not part of the SIGMAN series, but it is still an exciting novel on its own. It actually reminds me a lot of one of Rollins early novels - called AMAZONIA

I stayed up to 1 AM reading this book - I could not put it down.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Motif for Murder - Book Review

Motif for Murder (A Scrapbooking mystery)
by Laura Childs
Berkeley Prime Crime Books 2006

For those of you like scrapbooking and have not heard of Laura Childs - well you are in for a treat. Laura Childs is the author of 3 mystery series. One of these series stars amateur detective, Carmela Bertrand. Carmela owns a scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The shop is called Memory Mine.

In the terrible wake of Hurricane Katrina, scrapbooking shop owner Carmela Bertrand has her hands full getting Memory Mine back in business - and her relationship with her ex-husband, Shamus, back on its feet. But the reconciliation is shattered when Shamus is kidnapped from their home. And when Carmela hurries to tell Shamus's Uncle Henry, she finds him sitting in his library-with a bullet through his forehead.

As a memorial to Uncle Henry, Carmela puts together a sentimental scrapbook of memories and keepsakes. What she doesn't realize is that her book holds a clue that could identify the fiend behind the kidnapping and killing. And when the murderer finds out that she may be on to him, he's going to try to close the book on Carmela once and for all.

This novel also features altered books. While I personally am not a fan of scrapbooking, I did enjoy this novel very much. I have several others in this series on reserve at the library.

Laura Childs is a pseudonym for Gerry Schmitt, former owner/CEO/Creative Director of a marketing/advertising firm in Minneapolis. Laura Childs is the bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mystery series and the Scrapbook Mystery series. She is a consummate tea drinker, scrapbooker, and dog lover, and travels frequently to China and Japan with Dr. Bob, her professor husband.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

End of Year - 2009

The Xmas roundup of 2009.

The year started off great. I was in school, doing a diploma in business administration and thoroughly enjoying myself. I was also finally losing weight after being somewhat obese for the last 25 years.

It is now the end of the year and things are not so good.

1 - My son is now at home for the next 2 weeks (school Xmas holidays) as he is no longer in daycare. He likes that I can drop him off at school at 9 and pick him up at 3.30 but thats only because I am not working.

2 - I have been out of school for 5 months and still have not been able to find a job. Which is why my son is out of daycare. One must have a job to keep the daycare subsidy.

3 - Because I have lost so much weight (70 pounds) and we now have very cold weather outside, (arctic winds but no snow yet) my body is FREEEEEEZING. I have lost all my insulation and now I have to put on extra layers of clothing just to keep warm inside my own apartment.

4 - My husband brought me a SNUGGIE for Xmas to help me keep warm. It is very warm too. Fortunately some places in town also sell them so we did not have to buy one online. And yes I got the free booklight as well.

5 - I have been working with a number of employment agencies trying to improve myself. I have a good cover letter and a good resume, and I am still getting some interviews. BUT I dont get the job offers.

So either it's my grey hair that is scaring them off, or it might my lack of confidence and enthusiasm. I have an appointment next week, to do a mock interview on video (with an employment agency) and then to discuss it afterwards to find out what I need to improve. I hate being on video or TV, but this is necessary.

6 - I am still reading books. I dont review so much now because I just do not seem to be able to finish what I am reading. Right now I have bookmarks in 8 different books. One book I am still reading is a chunkster - over 600 pages.

Every now and then I pick up a light fictional book from the library and read that.
I will have a new review up after this post.
Thats enough from me for now. I hope you all have a....

Very Merry Christmas and

a Happy New Year

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Challenges for 2010

Of all the challenges I have signed up for, in the last 3 years since I started this blog, I have only completed TWO that I know of. The Canadian Books challenge and the In Their Shoes Challenge.

So this year (or next year 2010) I am signing up for 4 challenges.

The First Challenge is the Art History Challenge as I love reading about Art History

This year there will be four levels of participation in the Art History Challenge:

Curious - Read at least 3 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.
Fascinated - Read at least 6 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.
Enamored- Read at least 9 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.
Utterly enchanted - Read at least 12 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.

I dont know yet which of these levels I will do.

The Second Challenge is my own Great Books Challenge for 2010. This challenge has 2 levels of participation - Easy and Hard
Easy - you read 6 authors from my Great Books list
Hard - you read 12 books from my Great Books list

The Third Challenge is the Relic Novels Challenge Where I must read novels about relic hunting. One example would be Indiana Jones.

There are three levels to this challenge.
Initiate Hunter : Read at least 6 relic novels
In-training Hunter: Read at least 12 relic novels
Master Hunter: Read at least 18 relic novels

The Fourth Challenge is the Bibliophilic Challenge - similar to the Bibliography challenge I hosted a couple of years ago. You have to read books about books.

This challenge has 3 levels -

Bookworm: Read three books
Litlover: Read six books
Bibliomaniac: Read twelve books

For this challenge I am going to read Nicholas Basbanes’ Trilogy – A Gentle Madness, Patience & Fortitude and A Splendour of Letters. At least that is the plan.

I will do my best to compete all 4 challenges in 2010.

And for those of you who wonder where all these challenges come from - they come from the Novel Challenge Yahoo Group. And these are just the up coming challenges for 2010.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

First Winter Storm has arrived

Today is December 9th. We had a brief snow fall, a few days ago, for an hour. However the snow did not settle.

Today, as I type this, we are in the middle of a major Snow Storm. We are expecting 10 to 15 cm of snow to accumulate, plus strong ice cold winds and temperatures that feel like -15 degrees.

The media says this is a new record. It is the first time in the very long time that Toronto has gone the entire month of November without snow.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Am Hutterite - Book Review

I Am Hutterite
By Mary Ann Kirby
Polka Dot Press (Saskatchewan)

In 1969, Mary-Ann Kirkby's parents did the unthinkable. They left a Hutterite colony near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba with seven children and little else, to start a new life.

Overnight, the family was thrust into a society they did not understand and which knew little of their unique culture. The transition was overwhelming.

When Mary-Ann leaves Fairholme, she embarks on a mission to reinvent herself. She is put in the awkward position of denying her heritage in order to fit in with her peers. Her book details her painful and often humourous attempts to adapt to popular culture as she comes to terms with the heart-breaking circumstances that led her family to leave community life.

Few Canadians are aware that the prairie region is home to the largest concentration of Hutterites in the world. Their appearance and cloistered lifestyle have often made them the objects of prejudice and suspicion but beneath the black hats and polka dots lies a spirited and proud community of storytellers, artisans, inventors, teachers, carpenters, and agrarians who have made significant contributions to the North American cultural tapestry and economy.

This book takes us inside Fairholme Colony where Mary-Ann Kirkby spent the first ten years of her life. Her intimate portrait of Hutterian people opens a window on a closed community and reveals a way of life that seems extraordinary to the outside world.

As a television reporter, Mary-Ann Kirkby spent years telling the stories of others. Now she is ready to share her own. I Am Hutterite layers the rich traditions of colony life with the stark realities of intolerance and mistrust, weaving a gripping tale that tests the power of forgiveness.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recession biting hard

I have now been unemployed for almost 4 months and still no job yet.
It is somewhat depressing.

I personally think that I am being discriminated against just because my hair is grey. Thats why I went back to school, to show that my skills are up to date.

It is not working.

Tonight is the official school graduation.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Has Dan Brown found the lost symbol?

I posted a review of Dan Browns latest book - The Lost Symbol - a few weeks ago. That has nothing to do with this post other than the title.

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is called the Pioneer Woman - about a housewife who moved from the city to the country when she married a rancher. Anyway her blog has been about life on the farm, her family and cooking. She got the bright idea to put together a cook book. After a year or so of hard work, and requesting recipes from her readers, Ree's cook book has finally been published - October 27th, 2009.

At the Walmart store in Little Rock, Arkansas, last week, the Walmart staff seemed to have lost the old symbol and found a new symbol. This is the cookbook in question. Ree thought this stand was hilarious.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winner - 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize

2009 Scotia Bank Giller Prize

The winner for 2009 - The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre

Book details

The Bishop’s Man centres on a sensitive topic - the sexual abuses perpetrated by Catholic priests on the innocent children in their care. Father Duncan, the first person narrator, has been his bishop's dutiful enforcer, employed to check the excesses of priests and, crucially, to suppress the evidence. But as events veer out of control, he is forced into painful self-knowledge as family, community and friendship are torn apart under the strain of suspicion, obsession and guilt. A brave novel, conceived and written with impressive delicacy and understanding.

I looked through the short list of nominees. The only book I thought might be interesting to read is the Golden Means by Annabelle Lyons.

The Golden Mean is, ostensibly, the story of the philosopher, Aristotle, and his pupil, Alexander. Aristotle has yet to become the director of the Lyceum and his pupil has yet to become Alexander the Great, the conqueror of the known world. In succinct and detailed prose, Annabel Lyon not only illuminates an historical period but explores issues that are achingly contemporary: the purpose(s) of education, the destinies (and responsibilities) of the gifted, the influence of parents, the jealousies of scholars, the complications of tribalism, the tension between belief and science, and the relative merits of the life of the body versus that of the mind. The characters, some historical and some fictional, are, in their multitude, kind and noble and petty and vicious; they are recognizable to us all. This is a wise and thoughtful book.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Books - Book Review

Books, a memoir
by Larry McMurtry
Simon and Schuster 2008

This turned out to be a rather interesting book. Lots of short chapters with stories about Larry's shop, his book buying, his collecting, other books sellers he met and where they are now.

I cant say much more because there really is no story to this book. Just a lot of short chapters.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Empire of the Word - TVO documentary series

I know I dont normally write about TV programs, but this is a documentary series to start on November 25th on the TVO channel in Ontario that I just had to mention. It involves my two biggest areas of interest - reading and history. There are 4 weekly episodes and covers the history of reading.

Official website (not open until November 25)

When did the written word first appear, and how has it changed the course of human existence? How do you make peace when all you want is revenge? And why does the most polarizing scientific theory of all time still matter 150 years after its publication? This November, TVO explores these questions and more through a thought-provoking range of documentary, drama and current affairs programming.

Wednesdays at 10 pm starting November 25 on The View From Here, TVO presents the world premiere of the four-part documentary series Empire of the Word. The jewel in the crown of TVO's season-long programming commitment to literacy, the series is an eye-opening, epic journey into the origins of reading and its impact on more than 5,000 years of human history. At the heart of the series is the question of why reading has survived throughout the ages. Host and renowned Canadian-Argentine writer Alberto Manguel takes viewers around the globe to meet the characters and revisit the events that create the story of the written word, including the genesis of the alphabet, the world's first novel, role of religion in reading; the invention of the Gutenberg press, and the technological revolution.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tiger Warrior - Book Review

The Tiger Warrior
By David Gibbins
Headline Publishing 2009

Another Jack Howard adventure story. This was a bit out of my league as it involved India, China and the remains of the army of Crassus, who lost a battle at Carrhae in 53 BC.

In 1879 Lieutenant John Howard, Royal Engineers, arrived at the Godavari river in southern India to survey the land for the British. He witnesses something unspeakable and then disappears.

In the present day, John Howard's great great grandson, Jack Howard is diving in the Red Sea and makes an astonishing discovery. What he finds leads him and his team to India and from there to Afghanistan, to Central Asia and finally to Western China.

There is a lot of history in this novel. David Gibbons, the author, has notes at the back. The following events mentioned in this novel are true, he says.

Crassus' last battle at Carrhae
Rampa Rebellion of 1879-81 in India

While the battle at Carrhae was real, the fate of the survivors as told in this novel is fiction.

The Rampa rebellion was explained in quite some detail, as there are a number of surviving british military journals giving details.

How these two events are connected is totally fictional, but it still makes a great story.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale - Book Review

The Thirteenth Tale
By Diane Setterfield
Originally published 2006
Anchor Books Canada 2007

Margaret Lea grew up in an antiquarian bookship. Her father owned and ran it. Margaret would spend hours reading these antiquarian books whenever she was not in school.

As I read the first chapter describing Margarets life, I was quite jealous. I do wish I had grown up in an antiquarian book shop in real life. Despite my fathers love for reading, which I inheritted from him, he was an accountant, not a book seller.

Anyway Marget is asked to be a biographer of a mysterious woam who is a well known writer. Her name is Vida Winter.

As Vida tells her story, Margaret eventually disocvers that Vida is not who she says she is.

Once upon a time there were twin daughters living up at the great house. Their names were Adeline and Emmeline. They lived with an old uncle and varuous housekeepers. Their mother was put into a psychiatric ward after the twins were born.

When the twins were 14 the great house burnt down and the twins disappeared. One bodyy was found in the ruins. It turns out to be a half sister of the twins and who looked just like them. Her name was Vida. Adeline changes her name to Vida and then takes care of Emmeline.

By the time Margaret arrives at the house to write Vida's biography, some 60 years have passed.

Vida refuses to say what happend to Adeline and Emmeline after they disappeared. Vida has published a book of short stories, There were 12 stories in it, but there should have been 13.

Margaret figures out who Vida really is and what happened to Emmeline. As a reward Margaret receives the manuscript of the 13th tale, just as Emmeline and Adeline (Vida) both die. Margaret chooses to not publish the 13th tale.

It was an interesting book, but I was rather disappointed that there was nothing more about antiquarian books after the first chapter.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet - Book Review

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet
by Colleen McCullough
McArthur & Company

Everyone who has ever read good literature knows about the Bennets. That family from Pride and Prejudice with 5 daughters - Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Lydia and Kitty.

The time is now 20 years after the end of P&P. Mrs Bennet has just died. And everyone gets together for the funeral.

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are still married. They have 5 children - Charles, Georgiana, Susan, Anne and Cathy. The Bennet Curse is what Darcy calls it. Their marriage is floundering because there are no more sons and the one son they do have, is not living up to Darcy's expectations. Darcy no longer visits Lizzie's bed.

Jane is still married to Charles Bingley. They have 8 living children (7 boys and 1 girl) but Jane has lost 4 other babies and she looks older than her years.

Lydia ia still Mrs George Wickam, but is now an alcoholic (in modern terms). George has been sent to various wars and lately to America - purely to keep him away from Lydia. Once again this is Darcy's doing.

Kitty had made the best marriage. She married Lord Menadew. She had a coming out season in London and was able to capture a Lord.

Caroline Bingley is still not married and she still lusts after Fitzwilliam Darcy.

And then there is Mary. The middle Bennet daughter. The one who was left to care for Mama Bennet after the other daughters all had their scandals and left home. Darcy has paid an allowance to Mary to care for Mrs Bennet for the last 17 years.

Mary has not be a docile daughter for all these years. No way. She has read every single book in the library. When she finally meets up with Elizabeth at their mothers funeral, she can see how tired Jane is from so many pregnancies. She makes a statement to Elizabeth that is shocking.

"I know I am not supposed to be aware of such things, Lizzie, but can't someone tell brother Charles to plug it with a cork??"

"Mary!! How do you know of such things, How can you be so indelicate?" exclaims Lizzie in shock.

"I know because I have read every book in the library, and I am tired of delicacy about subjects that lie so close to our female fates." is Mary's reply.

This is the first sign of Mary being independent. Fitzwilliam tries to have Mary come live at Pemberley as a proper spinster of their class should. Mary refuses and makes her own plans. Mary has become enamoured of a person named Argus who writes letters to the newspapers about the social inequalities between the upper and lower classes.

Mary decide to write a book about the poor people and the best way to know about the poor, is to go out and live like a poor person. So Mary sets out on a trip by stage coach (not the post mail which is for the upper class). She is leered at and groped by men and gets lost of the hills of Darbyshire. When she refuses one too many men, she is hit over the head by one man and then abducted by another man. She is then forced to be his scribe and to write down his thoughts on religion. He has a following of young children, who disappear when they turn 12 or 13.

For 2 months the family search for her - most of this searching is done by Ned Summers - a half black man (his mother was from Jamaica) and a very close friend of Darcy's. Darcy too has secrets, secrets he has never told Lizzie in 20 years of marriage.

Finally Mary is able to escape from her captor and is eventually found and rescued. The Bennets decide to start up an orphanage for these children who have no idea where they come from and therefore have no home parish to go to.

Lizzie and Fitzwilliam beging talking and Lizzie explains why she no longer allows Fitz into her bed. She felt that he raped her on their wedding night. What to him was passion, to her was rape (although she did not use that word). She said it was by force. She would lay there as a statue while he did his business. This went on for the next 10 years until he stopped visiting.

Fitzwilliam is devastated about how his actions were perceived. He promises to show Lizzie how good love can really be. At age 50, his passions are no longer uncontrollable as they used to be when he was 30.

There are 2 deaths within the Bennet family. One is a Bennet daughter. The other is Ned Summers. Finally all the secrets are coming out.

Oh and Mary (by now only 36) finds her true love and gets married as well. She gives birth to a healthy boy. Lizzie too has another child (at age 41) - finally a second son.

I really really enjoyed this book. I love Mary. I too am a middle child and I too an somewhat independent. I love how Mary tries her best to be independent in that day and age (early 1800s) but how she is used and abused just because it is assumed, by the men, that women have no brains and are good for nothing except making babies. Even in the 21st century, men still think this way about women.

GRR that makes me so MAD!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Visit to the Dentist

For those of you who remember my sons emergency trip to the hospital last year when he had an abcess in his tooth, and how much he screamed when the tooth was removed with a pair of pliers....well this month he went back to the dentists again.

In September he began complaining of sore teeth again. This time I made an appointment with a pediatric dentist and the difference was unbelievable. This time my son had 3 visits to the dentists in late September and early October. He is now 7 years old - and it is 18 months after the hospital stay.

The first visit was for x-rays, cleaning and polishing. My son behaved beautifully. The second visit he had to get 2 cavities on one side filled, He screamed non-stop for the whole 40 minutes. I had to help hold down his hands so he would not push the dentists or the assistants hands away.

The third week we went back to get fillings for the other side and he behaved like an angel. It was incredible. He lay there quietly, hands on his tummy and did exactly what he was told. I had kept drumming into him all week that this next visit was exactly the same as the last one so he now knows what to expect. And he did.

The dentist asked - what is your secret. My son replied - I know what to expect now.

Once again there was a down side to these visits. My sons teeth have grown in rather crowded and haphazard way, and some of the teeth have not come down as they should, So he will need orthodontist work eventually to space his teeth out properly so that there is room for those missing teeth to grow into the right places.

I hope he will not need "railroad tracks". I dont think he will be able to accept those on his teeth. His teeth are pretty sensitive already. The dentist said there was a wire that could be wrapped around the back teeth to hold them in place to allow space for the missing teeth to grow in. This is the cheapest temporary method - around $400.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Firebrand - Book Review

by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Penguin Books 2009

I have only read one book by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Mists of Avalon. I think I read this book in the mid 1980s - around 25 years ago. I cannot rememebr what it is about. The point is that I have never read any of her other books since that first one. Until now.

I have just finished reading Firebrand. It is a modern retelling of the Trojan war, based on the Illiad and the Odyssey. It is also written as if it is from Kassandra's point of view. Princess Kassandra, who was a prophetess, was also the daughter of King Priam of Troy.

I have never been able to read the Iliad and the Odyssey in the original translations. The language was just too old fashioned. But this book follows the story in modern english and I really enjoyed it. Yes this is a chunky book (600 pages) but it is well worth the read.

The characters are written so that you cannot help but be become involved with them. We follow Kassandra through her life until she is roughly aged 23. The Trojan war actually began after Kassandra's brother Paris stole his bride (Helen of Sparta) from her husband Menelaus.

If you want to know what really happened in Troy, over 3000 years ago, then this is the book to read. I could not put it down.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Q & A - Book Review

Q & A
By Vikas Swarup
Simon and Schuster 2005

For those of you who dont recognise the title - this is the book on which the movie Slumdog Millionaire is based.

The questions from the TV series in this book are different from the movie, but the basic storyline is the same.

Also the book does not have Raj on a long search for his lost lady love as the movie does. In the book, Raj is saving money just to get out of the slums.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Losing my Virginity - Book Review

Losing my Virginity
By Richard Branson - The Autobiography
Virgin Books 1998
Reprinted 2003

This is everything you ever wanted to know about Richard Branson, written in his own words, about how he grew up to become a millionaire. Richard started his rise to fame and riches at age 16 when he started a student magazine in London, England. He thought life was a chalenge and loved taking risks.

He goes into some detail of the Virgin Airways and how British Airways (BA)constantly badmouthed Virgin airlines to anyone who would listen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Lost Symbol - Book Review

The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown
Doubleday September 2009

Well I purchased my copy this week - I got 40% off the original retail price which I thought is was very a good deal. I stayed up to 2 oclock this morning reading this latest Robert Langdon adventure. This novel takes place in Washington DC.

Peter Solomon is the director of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. He is an old friend of Robert Langdons and on this day he calls his old friend Robert Langdon (who lives in Boston) and asks him to come to DC to deliver a lecture for a function, because the original speaker has fallen ill. Robert is also asked to bring the package with him that Solomon had asked him to look after many years earlier.

When Robert arrives in DC he is taken to the Capitol Building and manages to arrives at the National Statuary Hall right on 7 pm. Instead of finding a crowd gathered to hear his lecture, there is noone there. Robert then receives a mysterious phone call from the man who claims to have kidnapped Peter Solomon. Shortly after, a scream is heard from the Capitol Rotunda.

On the floor in the middle of the Rotunda is a ghastly item. A bloody hand and forearm, wearing a masonic ring, stuck on a wooden stake so that the hand is pointing upward. On the fingers are tattoed some small symbols.

Robert recognises the symbol and the meaning of the hand. The Hand of the Mysteries is an invitation to take a journey to discover the sacred wisdom and greatest secrets of the ages.

And so the journey begins. Robert has 12 hours to find Peter Solomon before the madman kills him. In return the madman wants to know the answers - what are the greatest secrets of the freemasons. Robert has help and hindrance from the CIA in the form of the Director of the Office of Security. He must travel around the city of washington DC to find the clues. Robert's visits take him down into the depths of the Capitol, to the George Washington Masonic Memorial, to the Botanic Gardens, to the Washington National Cathedral and to the House of the Temple.

The gist of the novel is that the mind is much more powerful than we think.
Everyone has heard the saying that we only use 10% of our brains.
So what is the other 90% used for?
Well this book will answer that question. I guarantee it!!!

I thoughly enjoyed this novel for the new knowledge I learned - both of freemason history and what the human brain is truely capable of doing - if we just believe.

The main and official book website
The Lost Symbol in Australia
The Lost Symbol in UK
The Lost Symbol map of Washington DC
Dan Brown Video Interviews
Noetic science
Freemasonry and The Lost Symbol

The Key of Solomon was supposed to be the original title of the next book according to Dan Brown himself. So why is the story now completely different?

Sighs of relief are likely still rising from Vatican City (this month). Masonic lodges in Europe and North America, on the other hand, could be excused for feeling a little twitchy. They’ve just been caught in the eye of a literary storm by bestselling storyteller Dan Brown. Book Review - Canada

Noetic sciences are explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing—including intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses. Noetic sciences explore the "inner cosmos" of the mind (consciousness, soul, spirit) and how it relates to the "outer cosmos" of the physical world. (see noetic link above)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Foreign Body - Book Review

Foreign Body
by Robin Cook
G P Putnam & Sons 2008

I have not read a Robin Cook novel for quite some time. So when I saw the newest novel on the library shelf, I grabbed it.

There is a new area of tourism that is rapidly increasing. It's called Medical Tourism and it involves patients from the western countries (mostly USA) who fly to New Delhi in India, to have medical procedures done in private hospitals. These patients pay out of pocket for these procedures either because they cannot afford the costs of the health insurance required back in USA, or more likely their insurance company has denied their request for the specific procedure.

This is a very common problem in USA. Usually these procedures are elective. They are not medically necessary to save the patients life right now, but if the problem is left alone, the patient will eventually die.

Jennifer Hernandez is a 4th year medical stduent at UCLA University Medical school in Los Angeles. She was raised by her grandmother Maria Hernandez in New York City.

One day Jenifer hears a news item on CNN that an American woman, Maria Hermandez from Queens, NYC, has died in a private hospital in New Delhi after having a hip replacement operation. Jennier calls her fsther to find out where her grandmother is. She is shocked when he tells her that Maria went to India to get the operation done.

Jennifer contacts the company ion Chicago that set up the visit. Its called Foriegn Medical Solutions. They tell Jennifer that her grandmother is doing fine and that she is resting well as eating. They give Jennifer the phoen number of the Queen Victoria Hosiptal in Delhi. Jennifer cals them and is eventually connected with the voicemail of her grandmother's case officer Kashmira Varini. The hoapital operator also assures Jennifer that her mother is recovering nicely.

A few hours later, Kashmiri Varini calls and the nightmare begins. Yes Maria is dead. How would Jennifer (as next of kin) like the body to be dealt with? Embalming or Cremation? They need an answer today. Jennifer demures and tells Varini that she does not want anything done to the body until she gets there. She has the right to say goodbye. So Jennifer takes time off from her residency and flies to India.

Every time Jennifer speaks to Varini on her cell phone, she is pushed for an answer as to what to do with the body. Jennifer wants an autopsy. The Indians refuse to allow it. It can only be embalming or cremation.

As a medical student Jennifer begins to wonder what they are covering up. Maria's death certificate said it was a heart attack. Jenifer knows that Maria was given a clean bill of health at UCLA just the month before and that her heart was in excellent condition.

Just before Jennifer flies to India there is another news item on CNN. Another american has died in the same private hospital. He too was listed as having an heart attack. When Jennifer arrives in India there is a third item on CNN - a third American with a heart problem has died. This time he was a young man - just 40 years old with a wife and two young children. Patients from the USA are now cancelling their operations in large numbers.

Jennifer begins asking questions and they hospital staff refuse to answer them, They continue to push Jennifer to answer their question. Embalming or Cremation?

Jennifer knows that if either are done, no autopsy is possible. Jennifer calls on her mentor Laurie Montgomery back in the USA to come and help. Laurie and her husband Jack are both forensic pathologists and they do autopsies as a matter of routine.

When Laurie and Jack arrive, they must sneak Marias body out of the hospital cafeteria cooler (where it has been kept) and take it to another private hospital with autopsy equipment. There Jack and Laurie discover that Maria died of too much anasthesia. They take photographs.

Upon their return to Jennifers hotel, they discover that Jennifer has been kidnapped. The kidnappers are those who have been killing the patients and they want to know what caused Jennifer to become suspicious so that that she refused to allow embalming or cremation.

Jennifer escapes with the help of one of the nurses - specifically the one who killed her grandmother. The killers are arrested and Veena (the nurse who killed Maria) is allowed to come to UCLA on a medical scholarship to attend UCLA medical school.

This was an excellent novel. As always Cook has done his tresearch well. I could not stop reading it and I read it all in 24 hours - allowing for sleeping and eating.

Airframe - Book Review

by Michael Crichton
Alfred A. Knopf 1996

This is one of Crichton's early novels, but one that I had not read. I learnt a lot about how airplanes are made. In California there is a plane manufacturer called Norton. They make planes. Mostly they make planes to order, but the orders are slowly dropping off. If the company does not get a big sale soon, it will be out of business.

Norton does not make engines. Engines are made by other companies and installed as per the customers requirements. Norton only makes the frame of the plane.

Transpacific flights is a small charter flight company that flies between Hong Kong and Los Angeles. On this flight the plane was a Norton plane. Towards the end of the flight the slats were somehow deployed and the plane started doing funny things. 3 passengers died in flight and a crew member died a few days later. 56 passengers were injured.

KC is a Quality assurance VP at Norton. It is her job to find out what happened on the flight and she has only one week to do it in. She must also keep things under wraps.

The novel covers that one week that KC has been given. She must deal with the managers, the president of Norton, the unions, the media, the staff who who are testing the plane to see what went wrong and also the crew of the plane.

The media start off with the assumption that the plane was faulty. KC assumes that the plane was not at fault but that the pilots were at fault. She eventually discovers that it was not the first officer who was injured, but the pilot. His cap had been found at the back of the plane. What was he doing out of his seat at the time of the incident? And if he was at the back of the plane, who was in the pilots seat?

It is an exciting novel and at the end there is an unexpected twist that lays the blame on the crew and not on the plane. The media were planning to go with the story that the plane itself was at fault. KC threatens to sue them if they publish that story or any other about Norton.


Friday, September 25, 2009

The Exodus Quest - Book Review

The Exodus Quest
By Will Adams
Harper Collins 2008

Two years ago I read and reviewed a novel called The Alexandria Link. It posited a theory that after the Jews left egypt (the exodus) they settled down in Arabia, and NOT in Palestine. This book puts all the facts together and comes up with a logical and credible account of how and why the exodus happened.

In this book, Daniel Knox, an archaeologist,makes a discovery that will redefine jewish history.

The Essenes or Gnostics were thought to have been just one sect and made up of only one group located at Qumran. Daniel discovers proof that there were other gnostic groups in Egypt at the same time. Two of these gnostic groups in Egypt were the Therapeutae and the Carpocratians. The large jars found in Qumran that held the Dead Sea Scrolls had only ever been found at Qumran.

Daniel found the lid to one of these jars in Alexandria. It came from an archeological site near Lake Mariut, just outside of Alexandria. When Danile tries to investigate, he is blocked at every turn and refused permission to search their site.

Daniel continues to investigate, and eventually finds the proof of the jewish origins. But not before he is shot at, loses his memory, is abducted, recovers his memory and is almost drowned. Finally he finds the tomb of the real Adam. Ahkenaten's tomb.

Excerpt of the Exodus Quest

You've got to understand that the Bible isn't historical. It's a collection of folk-tales designed to convince the Jews that they had broght their Babylonian exile and the destruction of the Temple upon themselves. Thats why so many of the stories follow the same basic moral path.

Man makes covenant with god. Man breaks covenant. God punishes man.

Exactly. One explanation is that person or people who put the bible together, actively looked for stories that fit this pattern. But there is another possibility.

Take Adam and Eve for example. The first man and woman right? But even the Bible tacitly admits that there were other humans around. Cain was branded for killing Abel, so that others would know not to harm him. Which others? He married and had a son named Henoch who founded a city, which you cant exactly do if you are alone in the world. So maybe Adam and Eve weren't the first humans being in a biological sense, but only in a spiritual sense. That is, maybe they were the first to understand the true nature of God.

Ahkenaten and Nefertiti.

Think about it. Here you are living in Amarna. It's your paradise, your Eden, your promised land. You are certain that nothing can go wrong because this is the home on earth of the one true god, and you are under his protection.

But something does go wrong. You're expelled, forced to flee in the night, then to leave Egypt forever. How is this possible? Surely the only explanation is that you made your god angry in some way, failed him in some manner. You vow to never let that happen again. You renew your covenant and in return, God leads your people to a new Amarna, a new promised land. But not in Egypt this time. In Canaan.

Decades pass, centuries. The people of the exodus splinter into different tribes. Each tribe has their own identity, their own stories, but they all have the common bond of flight from Egypt. They pass their stories down from father to son to grandson, down through the generations. Hundreds of years later all the stories are blurred and unrecognizable from what really happened.

Then the Babylonians arrive. (600 BC) They defeat the Israelites in battle, they destroy the temple and take the Israelites into exile.

Once again the Israelites wonder how such a calamity could have overtaken Gods chosen people. They look to their heritage, gather all the different traditions together and begin weaving them into a single narrative about Adam and Eve, Abraham. Issac, Moses and Joseph, all those journys back and forth between Egypt and Canaan. But in fact these stories were not about numerous patriarchs, and ages and places at all. They are all about one patriarch, one age, one place. They are about Akhenaten and Amarna.

SOURCE - Michael Rivero from What Really Happened

Reliable archaeologists, after examining excavations that contain pottery shards and buildings, concluded that archaeological finds don't substantiate the biblical history of Jerusalem and its importance during the eras of a united Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon.

Egypt is literally littered with the ruins of the ancient temples and palaces of her rulers. As much as has been found, it is estimated that only 1/3 of Egypt's archeological wonders have been uncovered to date. A newly discovered temple was uncovered while digging a sewer line, and a cache of finely preserved mummies was literally stumbled over by a cow in a pasture.

Iraq's ancient heritage was enshrined in its ancient sites and museum. As a result of the war, many of those sites have been damaged or destroyed. Part of the ancient city or Ur now lies underneath a US air base runway. The treasures of the museum have only partly been recovered. The treasures from the looted archaeological sites have been scattered to the world.

Likewise, Iran has a rich archaeological heritage marking its place in history.

All of this wealth of archaeological treasures must of course annoy Israel. We are raised from birth with Old Testament tales of the greatness of the ancient Israelites, of the powerful kingdoms of Solomon and David and the first temple. Yet Israel, while rich in antiquities, is almost totally devoid of artifacts from this supposedly glorious time in her history. The existence of the fabled First Temple was supported with just two artifacts, a carved staff ornament in the shape of a pomegranate and the Jehoash tablet. Both of these artifacts have been exposed as frauds. We are told that once there was a magnificent temple on that hill, but it "all went away." The wonders emerging from the soil of Egypt, Iraq, and Iran serve as a constant reminder that ancient buildings of such a scale as we are told the First Temple was simply do not vanish without a trace.

There is considerable reason to suspect that the tales told in the Old Testament are just that; tales. The Bible is not science, it is the collected stories of a primitive tribal people reminding each other how important they are. And like fishermen talking about the one that got away, or Ramses with his temple carvings of the did-not-really-happen victory over the Hittites at Kadesh, the writers of the ancient testaments assumed that the people they were telling stories to had no way to verify the claims for themselves. So "embellishment" was a low-risk activity.

We do know from the available archaeological evidence that the Exodus probably actually happened to the Hyksos, not the Israelites. We know that the story of Moses is suspect because no Egyptian princess would hide a Hebrew child inside Pharaoh's household, then give the kid a Hebrew name

"Moses" is actually an Egyptian title meaning "Prince" and is included in the names of many Pharaoh's names such as Tut-Moses, Ah-Moses, Ra-Moses (Ramses) etc.

Likewise, the story of Masada may be less than accurate. The remains found on the mountain were buried with pig bones, something no proper Jewish funeral would tolerate, which suggests that the bodies found and venerated as heroes of ancient Judea were actually those of dead Roman Soldiers.

But a good story is a good story and the writers of the ancient texts were probably not thinking much further into the future than the guys who pen the "Celebrity dates space alien" stories you see at supermarket checkout lines. The fact that the celebrity is a real person does not prove the space alien exists. It's just a story.

Given enough time, even a simple story written in jest can take on a life of its own. Scientology began as a bet between two science fiction writers; look how wide spread that has become in just a short time.

But, over time, entire religions with attendant wealth and power structures have been built on the premise that these old testament stories really happened exactly as written. And today, here in the 21st century world, science has started to catch up with these ancient legends and call many of them into doubt.

So, for a nation that justifies its existence on the writings of the Torah, the plethora of sites and artifacts confirming the ancient histories of Egypt, Iraq, Iran, etc. etc. etc. must seem a dire political threat for a nation whose own ancient history seems to have left little if any traces at all.

Sources on Akhenaten

Ancient Egypt online


Akhenaten the Heretic

Akhenaten and Nefertiti


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Archimedes Codex - Book wins award

The first winner of the Neumann Prize of the British Society for the
History of Mathematics (BSHM) has been announced at the Society’s Autumn
meeting, held in London on Saturday 19th September.

The prize, which will be awarded every two years, is for the best book
in the history of mathematics which is aimed at a broad audience. This
year’s winner is The Archimedes Codex by Reviel Netz and William
Noel. It tells both of the life and work of one of the ancient world’s
greatest mathematicians, Archimedes of Syracuse (/c./ 287 BC – /c./ 212
BC), and of the hi-tech scientific detective work surrounding the
rediscovery of a 10th century copy of some of Archimedes’ work which had
been hidden beneath the text of a 13th century prayer book.

The book weaves together a number of themes, including the importance
and creativity of early mathematics, the production and transmission of
ancient manuscripts, and the big science which surrounds the analysis of
such documents.

Professor Martin Campbell-Kelly of the University of Warwick, and chair
of the judging panel for the Neumann Prize, said that “although the
panel was faced with a strong shortlist of books /The Archimedes Codex,
/with its readable combination of history and modern scientific
sleuthing, emerged as a clear winner.”

Reviel Netz, Professor of Classics at Stanford University in California,
and Dr William Noel Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books from The
Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland were delighted with the award.
Speaking on behalf of his co-author, Professor Reviel Netz stated that
“The British Society for the History of Mathematics has an international
reputation for scholarship, and we are hugely honoured to be the
inaugural winners of this award.”

Dr Peter Neumann OBE, the academic and Emeritus Fellow of The Queen’s
College, Oxford in whose honour the prize in named, stated “I am very
gratified that the standard was so very high on this, the first year of
award. I was very pleased with the remarkable diversity of the books on
the shortlist and that from that shortlist, the award should be made for
the remarkable book by Reviel Netz and William Noel.”

I am posting this article because I read and reviewed the book earlier this year, and really enjoyed it. Source - Ex Libris email List

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hetar Series - Book Reviews

A Distant Tomorow
The Twilight Lord
The Sorceress of Belmair
The Shadow Queen
By Bertrice Small
Authors website
The World of Hetar

I have spent this week reading a new (to me) series of Books - by Bertrice Small. Ms Small writes lusty historical romances. Generally they would have to be rated R18. This series of Books is called the World of Hetar. The central character is a half faerie and half human girl called Lara.

Lara is the faerie version of Joan of Arc. She has a destiny - to reunite the world of Hetar and bring peace to the land. The world of Hetar has several landmasses. The largest is called Hetar. It is divided into 6 areas - the city of Hetar, the Midlands, the Forests, the Desert, the Coastal Kingdoms and the Outlands.

The Forest is the home of the Forst Lords and also of the Forest Faeries and the giants. The Desert is the home of the Shadow Kings - a mysterious magic and long lived race of beings. The Midlands is the farming area and produce most of the food for the city of Hetar. The Coastal Kings produce luxury goods for Hetar and the Outlands are where the "savages" live.

Hetar is ruled by a Council. This council has 2 representatives from each area except the Outlands. The city is becoming too crowded and the Midlands can no longer produce enough food for the city. Gaius Prospero is a merchant. He is the head of the Merchant guild and on the council. He is also getting greedy. He wants to be emperor of Hetar. He also wants to invade the Outlands to anex more land to grow food or Hetar.

Lara is a half faerie and half human girl who was born in faerie land but then given to her human father to raise when she was 3 month old. Her father is a mercenary. He wants to become a Crusader Knight (the eleite mercearies). But on Hetar Looks and Appearance are everythiing.

So Lara comes up with a plan for her father to get enough money to join the crusader knights. She tells her dad to sell her as a slave to the pleasure houses, (what we call bordellos). Lara is 14 years old at this time. She has no idea that she has a destiny, nor does she know what that destiny is.

So Gaius purchases Lara and then attempts to sell her in a private auction to the highest bidder - in this case the owners of the Pleasure Houses. but when they see Lara's beauty, they begin to argue amongst themselves and even start fights. So Gillian, the Head of the Pleasure Houses guild, stops the auction and refuses to sell her to any pleasure house. Gaius wants his payment so Lara is sent to the Coastal kingdoms to be sold.

One the way to the Coastal Kingdoms, they must pass through the Forest. The Head Forester purchases Lara as a slave and Lara spends a year with the Cruel Forest Lords. As a faerie Lara has the abiity to produce children only when she chooses. The Foresters were cursed by a faerie many years before and they now beleive that only another faerie can undo that curse. The Foresters demand that Lara give them a son. She refuses to do. Lara's only friend in the Forests is the giant Og whose mother was killed by the Foresters when they killed everyone who would know of the curse.

Lara and Og escape from the Forests and eventually arrive in the desert where they meet the Shadow Kings. Og is given a job as the horse master and Lara is taught how to use her magic and how to fight, how to love and how to trust. She is also renunited with her faerie mother and faerie grandmother whom she has never known.

Eventually Lara's destiny calls to her and she must leave the Shadow Kingdoms. She heads for the Outlands. There she meets Vartan - the lord of the Outlands and of the Fiacre clan. she learns that the people of the Outlands are not savages as the Hetar believe.

The other 4 book tell of Lara's journey, her family, her husbands, her lovers, her children, her new home on Terah, how she rescued and saved the clans of the Outlands from Gaius's invasion, and how she must protect Terah from Gaius Prospero, the Emperor of Hetar. The old ways of Hetar are fading. Lara must teach the people new way to live.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nineteen Minutes - Book Review

Nineteen Minutes
by Jodi Picoult
Atria Books 2007

This book revolves around 4 characters. Alex Cormier and her daughter Josie. Lacy Houghton and her son Peter. It is also about school violence and why it happens.

Alex is a lawyer and has just been promoted to the superior court of New Hampshire after spending 5 years as a district court judge. Alex is a single mother with just the one daughter Josie.

Lacy is an OB/GYN and she delivers babies. Lacy and her husband Lewis used to have 2 boys. Joe the older son had been killed by a drunk driver the previous year. Peter the younger son was withdrawn and depressed. Joe had been the favourite son, the smart one, the sports jock and the social butterfly.

Peter was always a very quiet kid, and fron the day he started kindergarten, he had been bullied by his school mates. Peter never said anything about being bullied. Peter was always being told by his teachers and his parents - Why can't you be more like Joe? But Joe was not perfect either. Joe had also teased Peter at school.

When Joe died the parents had both grieved over the loss of their smart son and they pretty much left Peter to his own devices.

Peter had only one friend - Josie Cormier. they hads been good friends in the lower grades. But when Josie had started making new friends, she was pressured by these new friends to stop being friends with the weird guy Peter. So she did. By the time they reached high school they had drifted apart.

This was the scene for the violent massacre at the local high school. Ten kids were killed and dozens wounded.

The first half of this novel was about Josie and Peters early lives when they were friends. The second half of the book is taken up with Peter's trial - as the state and the town of Sterling (New Hampshire) tried to understand why Peter Houghton had gone on a killing spree.

This was Jodi's first book to debut at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

I know what it is like to be bullied. When I was 8 and 9, I was bullied by a kid who was from a different school than mine. But I had to walk past his home every day going to and from my school. He owned this big huge dog (possibly a german shephard). Every day he would have this dog, crouch and jump up on me and then stop me from walking forwards, and sometimes the dog was even told to push me into the road, in front of oncomimg traffic

When I was 10 I got my first bike and was allowed to ride to school. So while I still passed his home, I was going too fast for him or his dog to catch me.

To this day I am terrified of large dogs (german shephards, labradors, huskies) and I am terrified of any large dog is running around free where I am, because they might attack me.

There is one large labrador dog in my apartment building who is so quiet and so well behaved that I know he wont hurt me. I have never heard him bark in all the 7 years I have lived in this building.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Deat Heat - Book Review

Dead Heat
by Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale 2008

The is the fifth and last book in the Jihad series. I reviewed the Copper Scroll (the 4th volume in the series) a few weeks ago. 4 Nuclear bombs are dropped on 4 US cities - Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle. Millions of people are killed.

Jon and Erin Bennett are in Jordan helping the refugees there. James McPherson, the president of the USA is killed when Los Angeles was nuked. He was at the democratic convention. Fortunately the Vice President was in Florida. He is quickly sworn in as president and he contacts the Bennetts asking then to come home from Jordan to help.

The Bennets dont make it home. Erin is killed on the road trip to the airport and Jon is kidnapped and sent to a terrorist nation.

The new government settles in at NORAD in Colorado. The question is - who dropped the nukes? Was it china? Or was it some other nation? When Oak starts the ball rolling for the USA to attack China, the situation becomes heated. But Oaks's decisions are not to the liking of some military officals. Oaks is convinced that the chinese did it and is shot for his decisions. The head of DHS becomes the new President.

The result comes in that the last second that the refined uranium from the nuclear fallout came from North Korea. Indira Rajiv (the Indian traitor from the Copper Scroll) confesses to Jon, who is in North Korea, that it was her idea of nuking the USA. She explains why she did it.

The world is out of balance. I don't beleive there should be only one superpower in the world. It's too dangerous. A country that is answerable to noone becomes arrogant, corrupt, bloodthirsty. And that is what has happened to America. She swaggers about the world as if she owns the place. She bombs civilians without mercy. She thinks she is superior to everyone else on the planet and its not right. The world is out of balance and I decided to set it right.

The Israelis perform a surgical mission to penetrate North Korea and rescue Jonathan Bennett. The new President fires nukes at North Korea. And right when the bombs explode, the rapture occurs.

The one thing I did not like was reading, on literally every single page, was an urging for someone to accept christ into their hearts and to become a follower of jesus and get a free ride to heaven, because this were the last days.

DUH these events were (or will be) created by MAN and not by God.
Those preaching parts were very sickening to read so I skipped over them.
I heard it at church every week as a child. So boring and repetitive.

As I said on the Copper Scroll review - Christians MUST understand that they are not supposed to be bringing about the end of the world. Only Jesus can do that, (as per the bible) and if jesus (god) chooses to not do that - well then thats his decision. The christians should not be trying to interpret what they think god wants them to do.

As we watch those Christians doing what they can to bring about the last days, do so because they desperately want to know that their faith in god is real and not a lie, not a delusion. The longer god stays away and does nothing, the more proof there is, that god either does not exist or chooses to not involve himself in the pettiness of humanity.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cathedral of the Sea - Book Review

Cathedral of the Sea
By Ildefonso Falcones
First spanish publication in Spain 2006
English Translation by Nick Caistor 2008
New American Library 2008

Spain in the year 1320 is a place of great danger. Bernat Estanyol and his infant son Arnau, are forced to escape to Barcelona after Bernat’s wife is appropriated by the cruel feudal Lord of Navarcles. In Barcelona, Bernat and Arnau can be freed from their ties to the feudal land if they live for a year and a day without being found.

But life is never easy for the Estanyols. Despite their hopes, they find that freedom is a relative term when one is indebted to an unforgiving and devious brother-in-law. After the tragic death of his father, young Arnau finds himself orphaned and alone. With nobody to turn to, except the Virgin Mary and the Santa Maria del Mar church, Arnau devotes himself to the church and embarks on a life filled with drama, war, riches and love that his father, a former serf, could never have imagined for him.

Faced with hunger, war, a city in turmoil, and the Spanish Inquisition, Arnau finds a way to escape from his pre-determined feudal destiny: through faith and hard work. He finds love, friendship, and embarks on numerous careers: as a builder of the cathedral, as a moneylender, as a soldier. Cathedral of the Sea tells the extraordinary story of the first populist: a good man who never forgets his humble origins.

Though set in the distant past, Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones is distinctly modern: concerned with what it means to be a man, father, son and, most of all what it means to be free. Cathedral of the Sea is an intensely readable and relatable novel. Engrossing and compelling, the story of Arnau Estanyol is not to be missed.


This is a Chunkster book. It has 600 pages. And I enjoyed every page. This was a great story. If you like history, you will love this book. Yes it took me a week to get through it, but I never got bored with it. There was advanture and action happening on every page.

This story tells of Arnau's life growing up in the time of the Holy Inquisition, Of How he became a bastaix - a labourer of the Sea. And later a soldier and then a money changer. We follow Arnau as he is brought before the Holy Inquisition just because he was getting too rich and the catholic church did not like competition.

The Cathedral of the Sea (Santa Maria del Mar - St Mary of the Sea) is a real church in Barcelona. It was built in the 1320's. The website said it took 5 years to build. This novel says it took 55 years. I dont know which is correct.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol
By Dan Brown
September 15, 2009
Due out 2 weeks from today

Dan Brown's new novel, the eagerly awaited follow-up to his #1 international phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code, which was the bestselling hardcover adult novel of all time, will be published on September 15, 2009.

The Lost Symbol will once again feature Dan Brown's unforgettable protagonist, Robert Langdon.

'The Lost Symbol is a brilliant and compelling thriller. Dan Brown's prodigious talent for storytelling, infused with history, codes and intrigue, is on full display in this new book. This is one of the most anticipated publications in recent history, and it was well worth the wait,' said Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor in Chief of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Brown's longtime editor, Jason Kaufman, Vice President and Executive Editor at Doubleday said, 'Nothing ever is as it first appears in a Dan Brown novel. This book's narrative takes place in a twelve-hour period, and from the first page, Dan's readers will feel the thrill of discovery as they follow Robert Langdon through a masterful and unexpected new landscape. The Lost Symbol is full of surprises.'

"This novel has been a strange and wonderful journey," said Brown. "Weaving five years of research into the story's twelve-hour timeframe was an exhilarating challenge. Robert Langdon's life clearly moves a lot faster than mine."


Medusa - Book Review

Medusa (A Novel from the NUMA Files)
by Clive Cussler & Paul Kemprecos
G P Putnam & Sons 2009

I love this series of books from Clive Cussler.

Kurt Austin is the head of the special assignments team for NUMA. This is the same job that Dirk and his mate Al Giordino were doing for many years before Dirk got married to Lori and his kids showed up. But I guess it was inevitable - that things had to change.

Dirk Pitt now has a non-active role as the Director of NUMA and Admiral Sandecker is now the Vice President of the USA.

In this book Kurt and his team (Joe Zavala, Paul & Gamay Trout) are investigating the cause of a new flu outbreak in China. Then Kurt learns that one Chinese Triad gang developed the flu and released it. They intended to destabilise the Chinese government and bring the Triads into power.

This triad has 3 leaders - a set of triplets. Each is in charge of a different area of the business. One triplet is in Shanghai, another is in Hong Kong and the third is in USA.

The triad has hijacked a private laboratory that was hidden underwater in the Melanesian area of the Pacific Ocean, nor far from the island of Pohnpei.

Kurt and Joe are charged with finding out what happened to the laboratory and to do anything they can to rescue the scientists being held there. Paul and Gamay must do whatever they can to trace the origin of this new strain of flu, and find a vaccine for it. Part of the vaccine is derived from the toxic venoms of jellyfish - hence the title name Medusa.

The action runs from DC to Florida to Boston to the Caribbean, to Pohnpei to Shanghai. This is another excellent adventure. It is also entirely appropriate to have an adventure story about a flu of unknown origin at the exact same time as the world is also battling a flu of "supposedly" unknown origin. It is called Swine Flu.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Poisoned Season - Book Review

A Poisoned Season
by Tasha Alexander
William Morrow Books (Imprint of Harper Collins)2007

This is the second Book in the Emily Ashton series. Emily is now out of mourning and can at long last wear bright colours again. Once again Emily and her husbands friend Colin Hargreaves get involved with murder and pretenders when Mr David Francis, an acquaintance, is poisoned.

There is also a new gentleman in town. Charles Berry who claims to be descended from the French Royal family and therefore is demadning that he be given support and money in order to reclaim his throne. Mr Berry was born and raised in USA and did not learn the french language. Emily finds this odd. Charles is also interested in acquiring any item or article that used to belong to Queen Marie Antoinette.

At the same time, artciles that used to belong to Marie Antoinette begin to disapper from the owner houses. Emily and Colin travel to Paris, Istanhul and Santorini (Greece) to discover the thief and to find the person who poisoned David Francis.

This was a another great book. I read this in just 2 hours yesterday sitting in Berzscy Park while my son had fun at the Buskerfest. I could not put it down.

And Only to Deceive - Book Review

And Only to Deceive
by Tasha Alexander
Harper Collins 2006

I found a new author last week.

Tasha Alexander has created a wonderful central character - a strong woman who knows her own mind, who is educated and who does not accept all the traditions and rules that high society says she must.

Her name is Lady Emily Ashton and she lives in London England during the time of Queen Victoria.

In this book (the first in the series) Emily was under a great deal of pressure from her mother to marry a suitable man with a title. Emily herself is the daughter of an Earl. In order to get away from her mothers demands and interference, she agrees to marry Philip, Viscount Ashton. Philip's hobby is to go hunting in Africa. This he continues to do after the marriage and within 6 months, he is dead.

Lady Emily must go through 2 years of mourning. During this time she must wear nothing but BLACK for the first 12 months and then ONLY gray and muted colours during the second year of mourning. Emily uses this time to start reading the Greek classics in order to understand why her husband was interested in the classical era. Emily's mother does not put too much pressure on her daughter during the first year but in the second year, the pressure to get married again starts up again

Philip had a best friend. His name is Colin Hargreaves. He takes it upon himself to show Emily what her husband was like and why he was killed. It turns out that while philip was hunting in Africa, he ws also chasing down antiquities to save them and donate them to museums where they would be safe. Emily and Colin discover a ring of forgers who forged these antiquities in order to sell the real ones and replace them with false copies in the museums.

By the time Colin and Emily had discovered who the forgers are, they have also discovered that it was the forgers who killed Philip because he had discovered their activities.

I really enjoyed this novel. Emily's mother was extremely exasperating and very intrusive. There are now 4 books starring Lady Emily Ashton. I have read the second book - review up next - but have yet to find the last 2 books.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lori's Song

Lori's Song
by Lori Foroozandeh
Outskirts Press,
Denver, Colorado, 2009
Lori's website

This books tells a horrendous story of an American woman in a prison camp somewhere in Iran, who was tortured purely because she was an American.

Lori was abused as a child and married at age 15 to get away from her adoptiive family. She had a son, Douglas. The marriage broke up and Lori went back to school to become a nurse. She graduated in 1985.

Sometime in the mid 1990s Lori married Mohammed Foroozandeh, an Iranian. Upon marrying him, she automatically became an Iranian citizen under Iranian law. In the late 1990s Lori and her husband went to Iran to live. They lived in the southern city of Shiraz.

For 2 years Lori worked as an english teacher, forced to be submissive and to wear the all covering chador (aka burkha). Mohammed also abused her as well. He slapped her regularly whenever she was not submissive enough or fast enough.

Lori taught teenage girls and young women at a private college. This is a photo of Lori's students at the college. Leila, on the far right, was drowned in the backyard pool by her father because she was caught with a man she was not married to. Lori (in the middle with the blond hair and white shirt) was stunned by this punishment.

Lori's husband, Mohammed Foroozandeh was a drug addict and a drug dealer. He was always making business trips and then he began a new business as an "immigration consultant". This became Lori's job after she was forced to leave the private college. The Iranian government was putting pressure on the college to not hire the infidel American.

Lori was the front person for the immigration consutant business. She had all the knowledge of immigration to USA and what was required. Mohammed found the Iranian clients who were willing to pay big money to get to the USA. He charged very high prices. Then the money would disappear. Lori eventually discovered that Mohammed was using the money to buy drugs.

When Lori entered Iran, she was forced to give up her passport to the Iranian immigration department. In the year 2001, Mohammed decided that he needed to leave Iran. He arranged for them to leave by bus. At the bus station the day after 9-11, the police arrived and Lori was captured. Mohammed got away.

Lori spent the next several months in a prison camp where she was tortured. Other prisoners in the camp either had American sympathies, had relatives in USA or had busines contacts in USA. Lori was handcuffed to another girl who was supposedly part Iranian and part American. Her family were also in the same camp. The family eventually escaped, but not before the girl died. They took Lori with them.

Lori eventually made her way to Teheran but when she went to the Swiss embassy (who also handle US interests in Iran) she was turned away and they refused to help her because they considerd her to be a liar. They claimed her story was impossible The Iranians did not torture, they said. Lori had no passport and could not leave Iran legally. She found some friends and supporters in Iran and one of them eventually got her passport back.

When Lori arrived back in USA she wanted to tell her story to the public.But every where she turned, the media and the government refused to listen to her, refused to beleive her and refused to allow her to go public.

Lori has been back in USA now for several years. She has spent msny years dealing with her PTSS - post traumatic stress syndrome - and has found another wonderful man to whom she is engaged.

She also decided that she must let the world know the truth about Iran. No mainstream publisher or newspaper will touch her story, so Lori has had to publish it herself.

No post for 3 weeks - my apologies

I am so sorry I have not posted for the last 3 weeks, but I am currently still looking for a job. So I am not reading as much as I usually do. I have sent out lots of emails but with the recession going on right now, I am not getting any responses.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Julie & Julia - Movie & Book Review

Julie & Julia (Movie)
Movie Released - August 2009 (in Canada)
Writer & Director - Nora Ephron

Julie & Julia. (Book)
by Julie Powell - This is the real Julie Powell
Little, Brown & Company
September 2006

I read this book sometime earlier this yer - I think after my food challenge ended. Because someone wrote a review for the challenge on the last day. So I never got to review it.

Today I went to see to see the movie of the same name - Julie & Julia. It was wonderful, charming and excellent. I really enjoyed it.

It was funny - Watching Julie Powell learning how to cook lobsters was hilarious.
And it was sad as well - we see Julia Child's husband Paul, being interrogated under Senator McCarthy's witch hunts of the early 1950s.

The movie is based in TWO books. Julie Powells book based on her Julie & Julia Project blog.
Also based on Julia Child's memoir, MY LIFE IN FRANCE, which she wrote with her grand nephew Alex Prud'homme.

Julia Child died in Santa Barbara, California August 13, 2004. Thats 5 years ago this Wednesday. She was born in Pasadena in 1913 as Julia McWilliams.

So if Julia was an American - why did she always speak with a fake french accent. Meryl Streep does it as well. If I didn't know that Meryl Streep speaks perfectly good American English, anyone would have though she was a french born person, speaking english with a foreign accent. Does anyone know why Julia always spoke in a fake french accent?

And one last comment. It was fun seeing Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci together again - playing completely different characters than they did in the movie - The Devils Wears Prada. This is what acting is really about, Playing different characters and making them believeable.

Anyway, if you love cooking - and even of you dont - you have to see this movie. It's all about marriage and life and love and laughter.

Julie & Julia movies at Yahoo

Julie & Julia official website

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Creative Company - Book Review

Creative Company
By Andy Law
Originally Published by Orion, London, UK, 1998
Published by John Wiley & Sons, NYC 1999

St Lukes Communications website
An article about St Lukes From Fast Magazine : Issue 06 : December 1996

I realise this is a business book, but I really enjoyed it. I found it very interesting. This is about Andy Law, an Englishman, and how he created and founded a new advertising agency in London in the early 1990's.

He wanted a new kind of company - one where all the employees were owners and where they could all be partners instead of being told what to do and having no part in the decision making.

Andy and his partners called the company St Lukes after the patron saint of creative people. It is now called St Lukes communications.

St Lukes has gone on to break all kinds of records and to make unusual ads that are winning awards all over the world.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mao's Last Dancer - Book Review

Mao's Last Dancer
by Li Cunxin
Berkeley/Penguin 2003
Author's Website

We have all heard of Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Barishnikov, Natalia Makarova- all three famous Ballet stars who defected from Communist Russia in the 1970s to find freedom in the west.

How many of you have ever heard of a Chinese dancer name Li Cunxin (Lee ShwenSing)? Probably most of you are saying, WHO?

Well this is his story. Those of you from Texas may remember his defection in 1981 when he was held captive in the chinese consulate (in Houston) for 21 hours, along with several american friends, because he was choosing to NOT return to China as he was supposed to.

This is the autobiography of Li Cunxin that chronicles his life in China under Mao Tse Tung (Zedong). Li was born in 1961 in a very poor village in Qingdao Province (on the Shandong Peninsula north of Beijing). He was the 6th of 7 sons - there being no one-child policy in those days. Li's eldest brother was 13 years his senior. Li grew up as a epasant child, and did not srat school until the age of 9.

At the age of 11, he was picked by his teacher to be sent to the Beijing Dance Academy where he would learn Ballet. Li spent 7 long years in Beijing, only going home for a brief 3 week vacation at the chinese new year (in February - the middle of winter). For seven years Li danced and was educated from 5.30 am to 9pm for 6 days of the week, only have one day off for himself.

In 1979 Li finally won an opportunity to visit USA on a dance scholarship. He was to spend 6 weeks in Texas as a student learning the more famous western ballets (swan lake, nutcracker etc) none of which he had learned.

One of the things Li had been taught as a child was that America was a very evil place. The Americans hated anyone who was not white, they enslaved the black people and there were many people sleeping on the streets. Which meant that Americans were very poor.

When Li Cunxin went to Texas in 1979, he finally understood that Mao Tse tung (Mao Zedong) had lied to the chinese people. Yes there were American people living in the streets, but nowhere near as many as the chinese government had claimed. Ordinary middle class Americans owned their own houses with indoor plumbing. Li grew up in a small village with an outhouse.

When Li returned home after that short trip, he begged his teachers to allow him to go to America again. He really wanted to learn how to dance better. Finally in 1980 Li was given permission to return to USA for 1 year.

In 1981, just before he was due to return to China, Li went to the chinese consulate in Houston, Texas and told the officials there that he would not be returning to china. They refused to let him leave. Li spent 21 hours stuck in the consulate before an agreement was reached between the Chinese and US governments for Li to be allowed to stay. Mr Bush (Later President Bush 41) was the one who was most responsible for this. Part of the agreement was for Li to never write a book about his life. He kept that rule for 20 years but has now decided to tell the world the truth.

This is Li in 2006 - aged 45.

Li stayed in USA for 16 years. He was married twice but the first marriage did not work out. He remarried an Australian dancer. Li Cunxin, his wife and his children all now live in Australia.

This was an excellent book. This is the real story of what it's like to grow up in Communist China. A movie of Li's life is due to be released shortly.

Mao's Last Dancer Movie - to be shown at Toronto Film Festival September 2009

Mao And Then - Sydney Morning Herald October 2007