Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

by Lisa See

Copyright 2005
Pages: 263
ISBN: 1-4000-6028-1

The setting is 19th century china–a world of secluded women’s chambers, foot binding, sworn sisterhoods, and the secret written language of nu shu. While there is family life, marriage, tragedies, and every other one of life’s realities, the book is about the friendship that bonds two women.

Lily and Snow Flower are contracted and sworn to one another as “old sames,” a relationship deeper than marriage, although formally arranged in much the same way. As readers we are given a very intimate look at a the private lives of these women through their story and the role that their secret language plays in it, both symbolically and practically.

The novel reads like a memoir, with a very inviting tone. The nu shu messages exchanged in the story are beautifully poetic, and the general structure and word choice of the book give it a special feel, creating a subtle exotic feel that makes it all the more attractive. A feminine book to be sure, but far too graceful for the chick lit label, which tends have a sassier tone. It’s a perfect poolside summer read.

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El Juego del ángel

Protosecuela de La sombre del viento

Protosecuela de La sombre del viento

Por Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Editorial: Vintage Español
Nueva York
667 páginas
ISBN 978-0-307-45537-6 (Tapa blanda)

Para aquellos que a veces piensan que el mundo real tiene una elasticidad imprevisible, que la verdad cambia con el tiempo y la hora y su perspectiva, y que tal vez el mundo cambie su forma tras su paso, este libro (la protosecuela de La sombra del viento) es para ti.

En alguna época antes de la guerra civil en una Barcelona dibujada en blanco y negro, el personaje principal del cuento, David Martín, un hombre de una familia deshecha, cuya madre lo abandonó a un edad joven, y a quien ella dejó con un papá destrozado por la guerra Hispano-Americana, por la pérdida de su esposa, por su pobreza y por su ignorancia, encuentra éxito inesperado como periodista y escritor.

Después de años viviendo como una cucaracha, David alquila el apartamento de sus sueños, el apartamento de la torre, abandonado por años, el cual tiene un pasado oscuro y amenazante. Con la ayuda de su amigo rico e influyente, Pedro Vidal, David logra un contrato para escribir novelas populares que le dan una vida de independencia aunque de poca satisfacción. Desde una distancia, ama a la bella Cristina, la hija del chófer de Pedro, que ni siquiera sabe de su existencia, al menos al principio.

David vive una vida muy aislada, que se vuelve aun más trágica con el descubrimiento del tumor cerebral que lentamente lo lleva a una muerte segura. Logra la salud y la ‘salvación’ después de hacer un trato con el Príncipe de las tinieblas, aunque sin saber haberlo hecho. Pero su salvación llega a ser nada menos que una pesadilla larga y lenta, donde David pierde lo poco restante e importante en su vida.

Seguimos a David mientras él busca la verdad con respecto a su editor misterioso y amenazante, distinguido y de modales frígidos—él rico Andreas Corelli, un hombre con un pasado oscuro quien es la fuente de su pesadilla, y también lo seguimos mientras él busca la verdad sobre el dueño anterior del apartamento de la torre, un hombre con un cuento desafortunado, el cual tiene un paralelo con la vida de David y que contiene el secreto de su propio destino.

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The Code of Kings

by Linda Schele and Peter Matthews

Full Title: The Code of Kings, The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs

How different it is to walk through a ruined city when it has beome a historical place–to “read” a building and to know who looks out from a sculptured portrait. (P.13)

How to describe this book? It’s an interesting fusion of archeology, culture, linguistics, history, and art.

The book covers seven different sites. There are explanations of glyphs, architectural elements, orientation of the city in terms of Mayan cosmology, and rules of the ball game.

In terms of visuals, there are many black and white and full color shots of archaeological sites, A list of personal names of kings and nobles with descriptions, a pronunciation and spelling key, and a very cool Glossary of Gods and Supernaturals

Here’s a peek at the chapter listing:

  • Chapter 1 Pyramid Mountains and Plaza-Sea
  • Chapter 2 Tikal: Toh-Chak-Ich’ak’s Palace
  • Chapter 3 Palenque: Hanab-Pakal’s Tomb
  • Chapter 4 Copan: The Great Plaza of Waxaklahun-Ubah-K’awil
  • Chapter 5 Seibal: The K’atun-ending Commemoration of Ah-Bolon-Abta Wat’ul-Chatel
  • Chapter 6 Chich’en Itza: The Great Ballcourt
  • Chapter 7 Uxmal: The Nunnery Quadrangle of Chan-Cha-K’ak’nal-Ahaw
  • Chapter 8 Iximche’: The Capital of the Kaqchikel Maya

There are plenty of maps and a complete dateline of the book in chapter 1, too.

I think what I like best about this book is the style. The information is very valuable, but that isn’t what makes me read a book like this cover to cover. Cold hard facts can be rather boring. The casual conversational explanations with the occasional anecdote tossed in are what hold my attention throughout.

A great read and a fabulous book if you plan on going to any part of the Mayan world.

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Las mujeres de Adriano

por Hector Aguilar Camín

Justo Adriano Alemán, abogado, historiador, profesor y escritor, amó solamente cinco mujeres en su vida. No es una suma grande, según su propia opinión, y en las historias de amantes famosos, no es una cifra alta ni admirable. Pero lo que separa a Adriano del hombre común, es que amaba a las cinco mujeres, todas, al mismo tiempo, por años.

Las amaba a cada una como una muestra de amor distinta y única, y gozaba a cada una por sus encantos de cuerpo y de índole propia. Decía que nunca engaño a ninguna de sus amores porque amaba cada una en una manera diferente. Cada mujer era un ser diferente, con sus propios dones, y ninguna de las mujeres competía con ninguna de las otras – no se puede intercambiar una por otra. Y, como dijo él… “No me sentía infiel ni charlatán por el hecho de ocultar a mis mujeres la existencia de las otras. Yo lo justificaba dentro de me como un acto de cortesía. La moral de la infidelidad es la discreción. Querer a una no me hacía querer menos a la otra y en un sentido no las engañaba dando a otras lo que no podía dar sólo a una.”

Dijo que no quería más de cinco amantes porque sólo una más le hubiera abrumado y le hubiera quitado la posibilidad de las otras.

El cuento de su vida es la historia de estos cinco amores. Las mujeres eran Regina Grediaga, su primer amor a quien perdía muchas veces y conquistaba de nuevo; Carlota Besares, una mujer que tenía diez años más que él y quien era su maestra respecta al mundo carnal; Ana Segovia, que tenía una pasión jacobina y a quien Adriano admiraba por la naturaleza ontológica de sus nalgas – la encarnación de la idea platónica de las nalgas – y quien fue su primera y única esposa; Maria Angélica, abogada y historiadora, quien bajo su apariencia exterior de poco agradecida quedaba riquezas – una mujer infinitamente mejor desnuda que vestida, “con ojos grandes que sólo encendía sus tonos invitadores a la luz del día y quien tenía bajo sus prendas sin talle una abundancia de escultura griega”; y Cecilia Miramón, una estudiante de él en la universidad, increíble por la dureza de sus carnes, “la rapidez de sus glándulas,” y la flexibilidad de su cuerpo; una mujer “generosa con su cuerpo y universal en sus deseos.”

La historia de Adriano y sus mujeres es como un diario de un viaje en el extranjero, con comentarios sobre los lugares de interés y la comida interesante, salvo que las mujeres son la comida, cada una un platillo de riqueza. Aunque los detalles de sus encuentros son a veces gráficos, el cuento no es pornográfico sino que sensual. Y lo que destaca es la alegría, el placer y la felicidad que Adriano experimentaba por estas mujeres.

Al final perdió a todas al mismo tiempo como las piezas de un juego de dominó – con la caída de la primera, cayeron todas. Pero las conquistó de nuevo, poco a poco.

Adriano tuvo una vida que cualquier otro hombre puede ver con envidia, tanto por la riqueza de su vida carnal como por la profundidad y satisfacción de sus amores.

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Night

Night

by Elie Wiesel

“As a human document, Night is almost unbearable painful, and certainly beyond criticism.”

–A. Alvarez, Commentary

Many many tears later, I can affirm that reading a true account of the reality of Hitler’s prisoners physically hurts. Reading imagined horror is one thing. But reading the horror of someone’s actually remembrance is excruciating.

Elie Wiesel and his family were taken from their home in the spring of 1944. Less than a year later, both his innocence and his family were dead.

Faithful, educated people were reduced to their most base instincts, left with the sense that God had left them to rot. The only aim was to avoid death and every decision, all critical in the context of survival, came with haunting consequences.

Within that frame, the small acts of compassion suddenly take on so much significance. They’re moments that are heartbreaking precisely because they mean so much. A gesture of decency in a civilized world is expected, but in a world where burning people alive is no more than cleaning house, it means a glimpse of humanity.

The text is written very simply, with unembellished raw honesty. Wiesel shares the confusion, disbelief, fear, numbness, shame, and heartache that made up the days and nights of his imprisonment. He speaks in the voice of a witness forcing himself to testify, to meet a sacred obligation to tell what happened so that it doesn’t happen again…ever.

It’s a tiny book that you can read in one sitting. It took me several months, digesting only small bits at a time every couple of weeks. Not because of any excessive graphic description—which it doesn’t have—but because this is not a story, it’s a true account of how evil humanity can be.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Skinny Bitch

by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

I haven’t gone bitter, it’s the title of a book. Believe it or not, my husband got the audio version (I forgot the reasoning), and I’ve been listening to it on his iPod Shuffle.

It’s written by Rory Freeman (a former agent of Ford Models) and Kim Barnouin (a former model with a Masters in Holistic Nutrition).

The topic is pretty much weight loss through healthy life style choices.

Some parts are pretty funny:

Scientists use formaldehyde to sanitize and preserve things…”they don’t f*ing eat it!”

“Government agencies don’t give a sh*t about your health.”

She made me burst out laughing more than once.

But then it takes a wrong turn. It gets way too preachy and uses scare tactics that sound flat out desperate and extremist.

Ever seen an animal rights rally with pictures of animals ripped to hell and farm workers torturing them for fun? Now you can hear all about it and feel like you’re there.

She goes on a disgusting, overly graphic, and emotionally manipulative description of every horrible thing that goes on in animal product factories.

It’s valuable to know the facts, but seriously, it’s entirely over the top.

I will say, the information on body function and the way we process food is very good. She does a great job of explaining how everything works and why.

But even here I wonder. I mean, sometimes the tone is conversational and relaxed. And then there’ll be several long and complex sentences in a very formal and academic style. She balances the tone in most segments, but blows it completely in several others.

Then there’s the exposé on the forces that are conspiring against us. Seriously, she actually says, “Trust no one.” Once again, her facts are great, but the delivery… oh the delivery. Soap box anyone?

Overall, I liked the book. Not a favorite. Not sure I’ll give at Christmas. But still, it has it’s good points.

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East of Eden

by John Steinbeck

First things first: This is a long one… but oh so worth it! Here’s the summary (or at least part of it) from the book side panel:

“…Set in the rich farmland of California,’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwining destinies of two families–the Trasks and the Hamiltons–whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry between Cain and Abel.

Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new, rich land. But the birth of his twins Cal and Aron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives, nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness, enveloped by a mysterious darkness.

…[Steinbeck] explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.”

I read it a few years ago. Now, with summer just around the corner, I was browsing my shelves for some of the new books I have waiting to be read. As soon as I set eyes on East of Eden, I felt a rush of emotions remembering everything I thought and felt when I first got a hold of this novel.

The characters are so well written, they feel absolutely real, even the best and worst of the lot, which are usually the characters that are overshot. That’s the best recommendation for this book.

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