Friday, November 8, 2013

Book Review: How to Draw Cartoons by Lou Darvas

This is one of those books that I really wished I had read when I was a youngster, trying to get his hand around painting something, anything that didn’t look like a scratch on the paper.

While reading the words and going through the simple, yet detailed images I felt like, yes, I could try start drawing again, now that I finally got to know how. This book promises to help the rookie navigate the world of cartoon drawing and it does exactly that, in a straightforward and impressive in its simplicity way. I’d recommend it to everyone out there who’d like to discover the hidden artist in them.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review: The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister by George R.R. Martin

I have to begin by saying that I’m a huge fan of Mr. Martin and his work and that Tyrion Lannister is one of my all time favorite literary heroes. In fact I’d dare add that I didn’t enjoy A Feast for Crows as much as I should for the simple reason that Tyrion was nowhere to be found.

However, having said that I just have to point out that in my opinion this book came out a few years too early. Since dear Tyrion is still alive and kicking I’m certain that he’d be able to grace us with many more of his witty remarks. Oh well, there’s no use complaining about something that’s already done.

Did this book make me smile? Yes it did, since it reminded me once again what is it that I like about this character. I should also say that the beautiful drawings also capture some of his persona as depicted in the TV series. But, yet again, there’s not enough material in here to keep the fans happy.

Perhaps the next book published in this vein should be The Transformations of Arya Stark, who’s not a lady but a wolf.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Review: Chasing the Storm by Martin Molsted

The best thing about the ebook revolution was that it gave us, the readers, the opportunity to discover a lot of new authors, from all over the world. One of the best ones out there, at least when it comes to thrillers, is the Norwegian Martin Molsted.

Chasing the Storm is an action-packed story that follows the exploits of a reluctant at first adventurer, as he struggles to solve a couple of mysteries, with the help of some unlikely allies. Torgrim Rygg, that used to work for the Norwegian Secret Service, but who resigned after a few near-death experiences, is a hero who seems to be at war with himself; a tortured soul that no longer knows where it belongs.

It all begins when Rygg, while in Hamburg for a business trip, saves the life of a Russian journalist, who has a long list of enemies. Marko Marin clashed heads, time and again, with the rich and powerful in Moscow, so he is in constant danger. He knows all too well that he’ll always be one, and as such he believes that he could use Rygg’s services.

Rygg on the other hand isn’t so eager to help, as he’s used to his routine by now. Routine however breeds boredom, and boredom is something that he desperately needs to escape. So when Marin asks for his help he answers that call. What follows is an adventure that will take him to his native Norway just for a while, to Croatia, back to Hamburg, to Russia and to Egypt, and finally to Cyprus. During this long journey he will get to meet some likeable characters and a few vicious villains, and come face to face with death on more than one occasions.

The author created a fast-paced thriller, with a movie like plot, that reminds the reader of the Bourne adventures by Robert Ludlum. All his characters are well-sketched, and he seems to know his geography and the new geopolitical map very well. Torgrim Rygg, his protagonist, as I read, is here to stay, and I must say that his presence is more than welcome. Heroes like him are easy to like, and adventures of this kind have a lot to offer to the modern spy canon. I’d highly recommend this book to all the fans of the genre.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: Daybreak by Fabio Volo

Fabio Volo came to my attention with One More Day (read my review here), a great novel that I’ve read only recently. What I like most about him is his voice, a voice that can follow many rhythms and talk in an almost lighthearted way about some of the most important things in life.

Daybreak is the story of a marriage that’s going really bad. Both the parties, Elena and Paolo, are unhappy, yet for some reason they stay together. Perhaps that has something to do with their need to have somebody to lean on, perhaps not. Paolo is his mother’s boy, always quiet, always obedient, and unable to cut the cord that ties him to her. Elena is a woman that flirts with depression and who finds it hard to dare exit her dead-end current life and start anew.

We read about their story and her thoughts in her journal, while we also take a look at her present life. As in One More Day, the author gives the reader many beautiful turns of phrase, words that stick to the head and the heart. However, no matter how beautiful words can be, at the same time they can cut like a knife:

“I imitate my idea of an ideal wife; I imitate my friends who are happily married; I imitate who I was at the beginning of my marriage, someone I don’t know how to be anymore.”

How can someone escape their life? And, more importantly, how can they escape the ghosts that haunt their soul? The answer is simple, by seeking a new love. But, even if they find it, will that new love save them? According to Carla, Elena’s best friend, yes, it will. But, how can she be so certain, she who did almost everything wrong in her own life?

Volo does a great job in building the internal worlds of his characters. None of them is innocent, and none of them is guilty. They all have to carry their own burdens, but not all of them can be happy; not really. As we read Elena’s journals we come to know some people who are constantly in conflict, with themselves and the others, without even realizing it; people who are most of the time weak, but every now and then strong; brave and coward; dreamers and conformists.

This is not a perfect world that we live in, but, the author seems to suggest, if we don’t fight to change our circumstances, we’ll never have a chance at finding happiness. His story is a story of ordinary people, beautifully written, that tries to find an audience in one’s soul, and it manages to do just that. This is a sentimental novel that can be read with pleasure by anyone, no matter their gender. And the friends of Italian literature will surely find something to love in its pages.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Review: Montalbano’s First Case by Andrea Camilleri

I’ve been reading Andrea Camilleri for more than 15 years now. I think the best thing about his stories is their simplicity. He doesn’t seem to try to impress the reader by creating exploding scenes of chaos and mayhem; he just wants to tell a story.

As the title suggests this book is all about Montalbano’s First Case. The good detective, who was to become a celebrity one day, in this story is young, but not so inexperienced. He lives and works in Mascalippa, but not for long since soon he’s going to be promoted to an Inspector and probably move to another town. The truth is that he doesn’t seem to care so much about the promotion, but he does care about the transfer, as he really wants to go away. Not long before he departs, he takes in the landscape:

“In a matter of seconds he saw the landscape of Mascalippa and its surroundings pass before his eyes. It was certainly splendid, but not his cup of tea. For good measure, he also saw four cows grazing on the withering grass. He felt a cold shiver down his spine, like a bout of malaria.”

His new place of work and residence is Vigata, a town by the sea. He becomes chief of the department there, and soon enough he comes to realize that the whole show is ran by the Mafia; the rich can get away with anything, while the poor have to suffer the consequences. However, not everything is black since there are a couple of people, one of them a cop, that really like to do what’s right.

The new beginning in his career proves somewhat difficult, but Montalbano is not one to run away from trouble. The more some people of power try to push him into the corner, the more he fights back. Corruption is not something he can tolerate, but he knows that if he wants to make a difference he has to balance on a tightrope, made from remnants of the past and the realities of today.

Maintaining the peace however, doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s willing to allow the criminals go unpunished. He’ll do anything to get them, even if that means breaking the law: “Olė! I give you Inspector Salvo Montalbano: otherwise known as the acrobat,” he thinks sarcastically as he enters the house of a suspect through an open window.

This book is a little bit short if compared to the other adventures of the good Inspector but it is a fun read and the characterization is solid. And the mystery and the language, keep the reader’s interest alive until the very last page. If you’re a fan of the author you’ll love it, but you’ll also enjoy it if you’re a lover of Italian literature. It may be short, but it marks the beginning of a literary legend, and as such it deserves all the attention it can get.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Short Story: The Price of Love

The time has come for her to pay the price, the most painful and heartfelt price of all, the one for love. They are punishing her, in a cruel way, because she has fallen in love, for the first and only time in her short life. Why do they have to do that to her? She cannot claim to understand the workings of their narrow minds; she cannot allow herself to accept their logic. Is love a crime? Not for her, but apparently for them it is. But what business is it of theirs anyway? That’s a question whose answer she knows, and yet…

She thinks of him. She thinks of him constantly. As time rolls by her unseeing eyes, she pictures in her mind his black eyes, his light gaze when he met her, his harsh face, and the warmth of his future embrace. He is such a beautiful man, the axis of her universe, and as such she considers herself lucky for meeting him, and unlucky for what is now happening to her.

Luck though, or fortune, or whatever you may call it, had no part whatsoever to play in this story, even though the first time they met it was accidentally. She first saw him at a cousin’s house and so did he. They’ve noticed each other without making eye contact, but simply by observing. As he would tell her at some point in the near future he really liked her kind of clumsy ways, her shyness, how she laughed and even the way she kept silent. He was enchanted by the olive green color of her eyes, her long dark curly hair and the smoothness of her skin that at times seemed pale as milk and at others pink as a newborn rose.

The truth is that she felt uncomfortable as she sat next to him, and for that she had quite a few things to blame; the fact that she was too young, just a teenager; her unwillingness to let herself relax; but mostly the conservative and almost oppressive environment in which she grew up. Her uncle was a modern and broadminded man, always sporting a smile on his face, while her father seemed to be stuck in the muddy waters of yesterday; he was an angry man who couldn’t take no for an answer and who demanded modesty and obedience to the extreme. The house of the one was full of joy, that of the other full of silences and hidden sorrows. She felt like she was drowning while at home, as if she was in an open prison but without any privileges to show for it. Her little joys could be counted on the fingers of a wanting hand: the music that she used to listen to at low volume in her room on the radio, the books that she borrowed from the school library and which she actually had to smuggle into the house, the movies she watched in the local cinema without her father’s knowledge and the visits to her cousin’s house. There was nothing else in her life, nobody else, not even her mother, a quiet little woman who just served and obeyed her husband, and never paid too much attention to her.

And then she met him, and the wanting hand acquired the missing finger, the most important one. He was three years older than her, an age difference that doesn’t count as much in the adult world, though in her eyes at first it seemed huge, like an unsurpassable obstacle. He is nineteen, she used to think, and I’m only sixteen. He is nineteen and I’m only sixteen. That almost became her mantra before she got to know him better. She was a high school student, while he was working at a construction site. That was the only job he could get, he said. Their town, though coastal, was too small and too poor to offer its inhabitants no more than a few options when it came to work. It was a difficult job, his was, but as the time passed he got to like it. He enjoyed building things up, it made him feel useful and a creator of sorts. Every day I create, he used to tell her with a teasing smile. At least you don’t destroy, she would answer when she finally got to find her way around him with words. He lived and he created, while she simply survived day to day; that’s how she really felt. Until their first date, if one could call it that.

They didn’t see each other for some time after that first meeting. Their paths, which were never supposed to cross, drifted apart and she took that simply as a fact of life. She suffered though, as she thought of him day and night. She thought of his eyes and shivered at the thought of his beautifully shaped body, she couldn’t help but remember his voice which made some strange, or rather unknown sensation, come crawling out of her body, and she kept asking herself what was going to happen if she ever saw him again. She would smile, in pain. Foolish dreams. Why do I feel like this? Is this how love is supposed to be? Agony; that’s a word she came to know well; agony over a what if that could never come to pass.

For a few weeks she looked as if she was walking on an invisible tightrope and over an unseen vacuum. She was absentminded all the time, she kept more than usual to herself, she seemed to try hard to overcome the boundaries of her miniscule world, but most of all she tortured her poor soul with the notion that if she forgot about him all would be fine again; even though the word fine could not ever come close to describe how sad her life really was. Nobody could see nor understand the drama she’s been going through and none of them was able to comprehend how much her inner world was constantly changing, with all its ups and downs, with the sad smiles and the wide open but blind eyes. For them she was the same as ever: a young woman growing up in modesty and obedience, and full of respect of the customs of old.

That lasted for two months, a time shared equally between big sorrows and little joys, between bitter tears and unseen smiles. And then, she met him again. That meeting though was no accident. As she was the leaving the school one day, heading for home, she saw, or rather felt him, waiting nearby. His eyes were like a sun calling out to her, and she simply followed that call, even though she felt at a loss at first, like daydreaming in a haze. She was happy and she was scared. She didn’t know what to do. Should she just keep walking, following the well-paved routes of custom, or should she head towards him? She wanted so much to get close to him, her heart and her soul urged her to do so, but her logic and her fear told her otherwise. What if someone saw her? Then what?

He sensed her dilemma and gave her a way out. He started walking slowly towards the beach, while she, though reluctant, followed him from a distance. It was February, the air was cold and unforgiving, the clouds looked menacing in the sky, and thus no one else but them could be seen strolling at the beach. Their footsteps looked as if they followed a path of their own on the sand, away from the prying eyes of the other people, away from an unfortunate encounter with someone else. It was later rather than sooner that she found herself standing in front of a fisherman’s cabin. And there he was, at the footstep, eager, kind of nervous, and unsmiling, waiting for her.

“I’ve been thinking about you,” he said the minute she was close enough to hear his hard yet gentle voice, his near whisper. But she had no answer to that. She was at a loss for words and bereft of courage, looking at her hands, seemingly waiting for them to give her the answer she so desperately needed. She smiled, for a fleeting moment. Words were struggling to find their way out of her tightly sealed lips in vain. A sense of fear and of joy, a feeling of yearning and of shame, seemed to have taken over her whole being, making her mind drift in a thousand different directions at the same time, the thoughts piercing her heart with the painful but so beautiful arrows of love. She had so much to say, yet she didn’t know how. A baby, that’s how she felt; not a cry baby but a baby nevertheless.

So there she stood, right in front of him, weak, speechless, now embracing her own body, while wanting, needing to embrace his more than anything else in the world. And then she lifted her gaze, not towards him but away. She looked at the beach, the pebbles that seemed to have created their individual paths in the winter sand; at the sea and its waves that seemed to scream at her that now was the right moment, the one she waited for, the moment of emotional truth.

As for him he let her be. He just looked at her with the corner of his right eye, trying not to make her feel more uncomfortable than she already was, and waiting for a word, a movement, a reaction of sorts to what was happening there, in the spaces occupying their oppressive silences. He waited. And he waited. Until he got tired, or rather, until he made up his mind that the only thing he could do was take the initiative and lead the way.

So he opened in a deliberately slow way the door to the cabin and stood still, waiting for her to get inside. She seemed to hesitate and looked a little bit scared. But then she gazed deep into his eyes and all of a sudden she was transformed, she became determined and her body language suggested that she at last felt a little bit relaxed. She rushed inside and he followed, afraid that at any given moment she could lose her nerve and run away.

It was obvious that their refuge from the world belonged to some fisherman. Wherever she turned her eyes she could see fishing nets and rods, hooks, knives and baits and lots of tools of every kind. In the far right corner there was an obviously handmade wooden bed with an old mattress on it, while an ancient table stood at the opposite corner in front of a tightly closed window, surrounded by three little stools. The place smelled of sweat and salt.

He headed for the table and sat on one of the stools, and a moment later she followed suit. Her eyes looked wet and dark, hopeful and uncertain, but he could see there was no trace of fear in them anymore and that was a good omen. They sat in silence, as if the slight movements of the hands, the lightness and the darkness of their eyes, had the power to say everything there was to say.

“What is this place?” she finally asked, and that made him widely smile. At last, he thought, we can talk.
“It used to belong to my father. He passed away last year, so now it’s mine.”
“How? How did he die?”
“Do you remember last year’s storm? The Storm? It was then. He and his boat were taken by the sea.”

Of course she remembered. The storm had hit her town but not her home. It had hit his though and that was so bad. He said nothing more but he didn’t look sad. Maybe he told this short story so many times already that it could no longer affect his feelings, make him feel sad or angry or whatever people feel when they lose someone they love. Besides, she didn’t have any kind words to offer, no condolences whatsoever, since she didn’t know the father, and she hardly knew the son.
“What about the rest of your family? Do you have any brothers and sisters?”
“I live for them, for my sisters I mean, and I help my mother out. I have no brothers even though my father always wanted another boy. But I wouldn’t say he was unhappy with the girls either; maybe he even loved them more than he did me, since they are so young; more than ten years younger than me actually.”
“And how old are you?”
“I’m nineteen. And you are sixteen, right?”

That was a statement and not a real question, so she didn’t bother answering. Her cousin told him how old she was, no mystery there. She thought she would have to give her a piece of her mind, and then lowered her head and smiled to herself and the table. When she brought it back up again, he saw him simply sitting there and looking at her, observing her every move, trying to invade the privacy of her thoughts, without seemingly working too hard to do so. What else could she ask him? What else could she say?

It was for the first time ever in her young life that she felt so confused and so happy at exactly the same time. It was more than obvious that she wanted to open her pale lips and talk to him, really talk, and tell him everything there was to say about herself, to surrender all her secrets, to admit that she also thought about him, but she simply couldn’t, because she didn’t know how, no one ever taught her the way. Thus she just sat there in silence, playing with her fingers, creating invisible shapes in the empty space between them, in an effort to hide from him the mayhem and chaos of her inner world.

“I’ve been thinking about you,” he said again, repeating word for word his previous statement, making all the silence and all her anxiety explode in myriads of miniscule pieces, which in a miraculous way brought her out of her protective shell, woke her up from her stupor.
“And so did I,” she almost whispered to herself, and that was all he needed to hear  to allow himself to relax in order to say all that he wanted to say.
“I don’t know why, but from the very first moment I’ve met you, I felt that I really needed to know you, if you understand what I mean. I wanted to know you better that is. I’ve never met anyone like you before. Someone so… so… different. Yes, that’s what I thought, that you were different from the other girls, but I couldn’t say how. I still can’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s something about you that… No, I can’t really point my finger on it. What I can honestly say though is that that was the first time in my life that I felt so happy for meeting someone, anyone. Just by looking at you I felt…”

Speechless maybe, just like now. All of a sudden he stopped talking. He started breathing hard, as if something or someone was choking him. But while he looked as if his head was going to explode, she felt happy and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t stop a wide smile from taking over her whole face, her whole being. Even my body is smiling, I can feel it. If they were in a movie the whole world would be dressed in colors, blossom with flowers and showered in music. But they were not. They were in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere. And that’s where paradise was; his and hers. I have to talk to him, she thought, yet she still didn’t have the words she needed. But even if she did, what would she say? She’d make a fool of herself, that’s for sure. She wanted to go close to him and hug him, like they did in the movies and in most of the books that she read, but she couldn’t. She wanted to move her face closer to his, to feel her breath caress his, and to kiss him, but just the notion of doing so made her legs feel weak, and her body started to tremble. This is like a badly written comedy, she mused, or a tragedy, I don’t know.

“We should go. Your family will be worried if you are too late, and I think that the wind has changed direction so probably there’s a storm on the way.”
He got up and extended his hands forward, inviting her to take them in order to help her up, as if she needed any help. And she did take them, without a second thought. They were warm and harsh at the same time, like the surface of a rock that was curved by the powerful winds in the high mountains.
When they came out the sky was dark and ominous and the clouds were traveling without tremendous speed across it, seeking the place, close by or far away, where they were meant to unleash their watery fury. The sea was dressed in foamy waves, untamed and wild, unforgiving. They stood there marveling at the elements of nature and trying to find a way to say goodbye but the words, for once more, seemed to evade them.
“We’ll talk again soon,” he finally said, and then let go of her right hand which he was still tenderly holding, and started slowly walking away towards the town. The scene that took place not too long ago, with him leading and her following was replayed, but everything now had changed. The previous footsteps of uncertainty were replaced by those of a future promise.

That night, in her bed, remembering step by step and repeatedly the events of the blessed day, Bahar felt so happy that she wanted to die. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see his, and every time she brought her hands together, she could feel his; Emre’s. Life is beautiful, she thought and she wanted to say it out loud, to shatter the silence of the night with her wild cry. Life is beautiful! But it will only remain so if no one comes to tear it and Bahar’s dreams apart.

Emre proved true to his word. They met again and again. Sometimes often and other times not, since they had lots of things to do, and their affair could not become public knowledge. He had his job and his family, and she had her school and her oppressive father. Their dates always took place at the cabin, the modest abode of their common love. Bahar started feeling like home when she was there; like it was her home; a real home; unlike the one she lived in. The former was the house of life and joy, the latter one of pain and certain, yet unseen, slow death.

Their love that was born in silence, have began steadily but slowly to dress itself with the gems of words, and the words gave way to touches, which in their turn lead to desire. And then, at long last came the fulfillment of their most secret and sacred passions that sooner rather than later raised above them the thick mists of fear; the fear that no matter how their love blossomed, and no matter how much they loved each other, the other people, their narrow minded society, would never give them the chance to live together. Emre had no objection whatsoever to commit himself to her, to marry her, so they could create a family of their own, but Bahar had serious doubts as to whether that could ever really be, as she was certain that her father, that ancient man who couldn’t really comprehend that this no longer was the 19th century but the digital age, would stand in their way. If she talked to him, if she revealed her love for Emre, he would respond the only way he knew, with violence; he would hit her, just as he, every now and then, hit her mother. He was the king and they were his minions. They just had to sit still, shut up and obey until he told them otherwise. So they had no choice but to keep their love a secret, until she finished school maybe; perhaps by then things would change. They could do nothing but hope that the passing time would show them a way out of their dead end.

Time though would betray them, despite the fact that they invested their every hope and dream on its fleeting existence, as it was working not for but against them. If it had a face and a tongue, maybe it would show itself to them in all its abhorable glory and tell them that they were only given one chance and they’ve lost it; they’ve wasted it in inaction. They never thought of running away; he had a mother and two young sisters to take care of, and her good heart would never allow her to ask him to sacrifice his family for her.

Why? She’s asking herself now. Why and how did things come to this? Couldn’t they just let us live together and in happiness? What’s it to them? Why did they have to kill our joy and declare our love a sin? Where is their justice? Where is their humanity? Where is their compassion? Liars! Damned liars, that’s what they all are. And hypocrites. They take the Word and they transform it into something that doesn’t bare any resemblance to it. They believe in the Holy Scriptures but they practice the unwritten laws. They talk about love but they do nothing but spread hatred. Justice, that’s the word they use to describe their need to destroy…

The beginning of the end came about the usual way, as far as that part of the world is concerned. Somebody told Bahar’s father that she saw her many times walking on the beach with a man, someone he knew for certain that he was no Muslim. And of course he became angry; he always wore his fury well. He started to belch his daughter and curse the damned man who despoiled her. And then he remembered his family’s good name, its honor, and headed for the cellar, where among other things of old, he used to keep his rifle, a remnant of a long forgotten war. He loaded it in a hurry and started for the beach to find them, to punish them. And there they were. No need for words. He shot Emre and killed him on the spot. His warm blood came out in a rush to water and paint the sand with the color of love. As for her, he snatched her with force by the hair and dragged her like a lifeless doll all the way to his house, where some relatives and the obvious suspects, who can’t keep their noses out of other people’s business, have already gathered to watch the show; a travesty of trial. She was found, by a raging crowd of men, guilty as charged, and convicted to death. They would kill her. And there’d be no trial for her father, the double murderer, as that was the way of the land—Antalya, cursed and blessed are you— when it came to crimes of honor. She resigned herself to the will of her executioners. Besides, now that he was gone she had no will to live. But she never gave them the pleasure of showing fear; not once have she shed a tear; she didn’t beg for their mercy.

During those long moments she looked as if she wasn’t there. The body seemed devoid of a soul; it resembled an empty shell that was expected to fall apart any given moment. The eyes could stare but not see; the ears could hear but the brain could not comprehend the words that reached it. If there was one thing she could feel that was impatience. She couldn’t wait for this dreadful show to end so that she could head to the place that he now was and thus meet him once again. If that was the paradise of the just or the hell of the sinners, she really couldn’t any less care.

Right now she wants to talk, to scream, but she can’t. She’s desperately trying to do it though. She has to do it, she simply has to, since with every breath she loses, with every breath she wastes in agony, the closer she gets to him. Come on Bahar. Come on my love. I’m right here… She thinks she can hear his voice traveling the earth or the ether —though that’s now an unknown substance to her— in an almost magical way, in order to reach her. She’s buried alive. The fresh soil embraces her body and warms her soul, and slowly takes her life away for her, and steadily brings her closer to a more beautiful one, him; he is her life, her pretty life. Come on. Hurry up. You’re almost here. She’s smiling now; she’s smiling while she dies. And if there is up there, or down here, or anywhere, a god and she gets to meet him or her, she’ll bow her head and express her gratitude to the supreme being. She’ll thank him or her for the stupidity of men that allowed her to leave this world behind feeling something that they would never feel: real bliss!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: The 5:2 Fast Diet: Easy, Healthy and Delectable Low Calorie Recipes That You Can Make Now by Diana Clayton

Being on a diet is in some ways a necessity these days. Most of us live in fast food nations, which means that we consume food that’s not only healthy, but also full of calories.

Diets have been around for a long time, but not all of them worked. In the old times most people used to fast, something that helped their bodies recover all the lost energy and, of course, burn fat.

How does someone exactly do that, without suffering that is, seems to be the question in everyone’s mind. According to the author of this well-researched and handy guide, the answer is: quite easily. Intermittent fasting is the solution to the problem. As we read it does not only help someone lose weight, but it also reduces the risk of disease and improves mental health.

The great majority of the people that go on a diet and fail to follow through, seem to blame the lack of variety in their food choices for the fact. This book however can make liars out of them, since it doesn’t only provide dozens of recipes within its pages, but it also highlights how many calories are included in each meal. So the people can choose what to eat, each according to their needs. And the best part is that they only have to do it just twice a week.

A diet can be a difficult process for some people, but at the same time it can be an exhilarating experience, as during it they could discover quite a few culinary pleasures that will cost them almost nothing, and which will help them achieve their goals. All they have to do is try, and there’s not a better place to start than in the pages of this book. This is one of the best diet guides out there, at least in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 National Book Award Shortlists Revealed

The 2013 National Book Award Shortlists have been announced today. Below you'll find the contenders in all four categories. The winners will be revealed on the 20th of November.


Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers 
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
James McBride, The Good Lord Bird 
Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge 
George Saunders, Tenth of December


Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin 
Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields
George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief


Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog
Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion
Adrian Matejka, The Big Smoke
Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture
Mary Szybist, Incarnadine: Poems


Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck
Tom McNeal, Far Far Away
Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone
Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Crime Factory Issue 14

The new issue of Crime Factory magazine just came out and I have to say (really, I HAVE to say it) that it's a must-read. "And why is that?" one may ask. There's a simple answer to that: it includes two book reviews I have written (one of which contains a small mistake, not mine, but oops anyway). The books in question are Reckoning by R Thomas Brown and Unseen by Karin Slaughter.

Yes, I know, reading my reviews doesn't qualify as a good enough reason to buy the magazine, but what about all the other reviews, the interviews and the fiction, with and by, Indy authors? What about the quality articles? And what about the chance to discover some new great crime fiction talent?

Did I sell it to you yet? If not, never mind. Maybe one day you'll come to discover the pleasures of reading this magazine all by yourselves.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

10 Favorite Books

This is the second list I present in this blog, and hopefully more will follow in the coming weeks. As one can guess from the title this is a list of 10 favorite books, but not The List. I have read thousands of books over the years, some new, some old, and a few ancient, so one list would never do them justice. Below you will find books that I’ve read during the last few years, and which I’d place under the label of Modern Literature. Most probably I’ll compile another couple of lists under the same label, and also, at least, one consisting of classic titles. I know that some of my selections will look strange in your eyes, but every reader is different, and good fiction has many champions out there. Now, where shall I begin? Oh, this will do…

1.    Please Look After Mon by Kyung-sook Shin. I had this book on my eReader for a long time. I knew the story, I’ve read great reviews about it, but somehow I always chose something else over it. That was until that blessed day came when I started reading and everything changed, as I found myself in reader’s heaven. If you love stories with a heart, you’ll love this book. Read my review here.

 2.    The Secret Scripture and On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry. I know that I’m cheating by placing two books by the same author in the list, but Barry is such a good writer that I don’t have too much of a choice. I remember that when I’ve first read The Secret Scripture I kept thinking, ‘No, I’m not a writer,’ since if I were to compare myself to Mr. Barry, well… You can see my review in Greek (yeah, I know, this sucks) for the latter here, while you can read about On Canaan’s Side in English right here.

 3.    Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. This is the book that made me fall in love with Japanese Literature. It consists of two novellas, the eponymous Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow. Yoshimoto is one of those writers that can easily find their ways into a reader’s heart. All her books, with the exception of Amrita, are quite short, but while reading them you always find yourself traveling into another world; a world full of thoughts, emotions, dreams, and magic. I apologize again but I don’t have a review in English. You can find one in Greek here, while you can read what I had to say about her latest book The Lake, if you follow this link.

 4.    Ocean Sea and Silk by Alessandro Baricco. Here I go cheating again. I am so so sorry. No, I am not. The truth is that I couldn’t choose between these books. The first I’ve read 14 years ago while staying at the island of Karpathos in Greece, and it got stuck in my head ever since. The second I’ve only read a couple of years ago and it rekindled my interest in Baricco’s work. Here we have an Italian author that is a master of emotions and one of the best storytellers to walk the shores of his land in the last century or so.

 5.    A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. A friend suggested Mr. Martin’s work to me a few years ago, and since I started reading him I never looked back. He is one of the finest storytellers of our times. His prose is beautiful and fluid, his action sequences are amazing, his plots are quite intriguing, while I also enjoy his sense of humor. I don’t think that many writers could produce a thick volume like A Feast for Crows, which is something like a link connecting two parts of the great story, and get away with it... in one piece. Anyway, if fantasy (and popular) fiction can be as good as this, then I say that I’m faithful fan of the genre(s).

 6.    Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. Well, it’s always good if someone laughs every now and then, and if you read this book you’ll laugh a lot. Roddy Doyle is a great author, who’s not always at his best, but Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is considered by some as a modern classic and I totally agree with them. Perhaps I should add a book or two as companion reads, but there’s plenty of time to do that in the future.

 7.    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I can’t explain why but this is my favorite Murakami novel. Everyone else is talking about Norwegian Wood or the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but for me the author has reached the peak of his creativity with the book at hand. There’s no need to expand on it since you can read my review here.

 8.    No one belongs here more than you by Miranda July. Wow! What the fuck! Amazing! Yes, yes, yes! These are just a few of the expressions I’ve used while reading this great collection of short stories by the multitalented Miranda July. As I was going through her stories I felt as if she was talking directly to me, and I kept thinking that I should have been the author of most of them. As it seems Mrs. July lives in my head (and that’s not a good place to be; honestly).

9.    Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo. Pedro Páramo is one of those books that I call ballads; a novella that talks about people and their troubles, their everyday lives, their hopes and their fears, and about love. And much more. How much can you say in a few pages? Too much actually, if you know how to say it.Someone could call this book "experimental". Somebody else could say that it's "crazy." However, no one could possibly state that it is not an important one, since largely it is thanks to it that the magical realism of Latin America came to be.

10.    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaňo. The late author was as good as they get. His knowledge was wide, his technique absolutely stunning, and his prose, at moments, simply breathtaking. The Savage Detectives is a book in love with books, but it’s also a journey, into the wilderness of a land and an era, into the joy and failures of youth, and into the abyss of the human soul. If you ever asked yourself, what is that special thing that makes literature great, all you have to do is read this novel and to get your answer.