Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Overall rating:
The Time Traveler’s Wife is an entertaining novel. It may not be one of the future classics of American literature but it touches the always fascinating subject of time traveling.
Claire and Henry met each other in 1991 when Claire was 20 and Henry 28 years old. In reality Claire already met Henry when she was 6 and he was in his mid-thirties. It is a love story that lasts for the entire life of one partner and for a set time for the other. 
I have mixed feelings about this: on one hand it is fascinating to get to know your soul mate all your life; on the other hand, it takes away the element of surprise and it puts you in a permanent ‘waiting’ mode.
Ms. Niffenegger, the writer, hints at the fact that time travelers may be a different, and maybe more evolved, species of humans. Of course, there are always ethical issues to consider… For example, imagine that someone goes to 1970 and leaves a tablet behind. What would be the reaction and how could that change the course of history? What about giving your past self advantageous information? I guess that a super human would be possible after all. 
I have to admit that I am dense when it comes to understanding parallel universes, time continuum and traveling, and anything about advance Physics. I always think, how would the people in the past be still alive if I go there from my present?
This book is available in paperback.
Beauty and use of language:★★★

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Promise by Pearl S. Buck

Overall rating:★★
Lao San was the Third son of Ling Tan, a farmer in a village in China, and his wife Ling Sao. Mayli was a futile young woman raised in the US by her father. The Promise is the love story during times of war of these two characters.
Lao San decided to leave his village and join the rebels to liberate his country from the Japanese invasion. His connections landed him in the military and as he ascended in the hierarchy he obtained, among other benefits, a new name: Sheng.
Mayli was bored with her comfortable life in the US and decided to return to China searching for her roots and her identity. She had a somewhat relaxed existence in China as well. This uneventful life pushed Mayli to join the army as a nurse.
Sheng’s division was sent to rescue a British-America platoon that got trapped in Burma during World War II. Little did he know that Mayli was in the same division with the rest of the nurses and doctor that accompanied the soldiers in that mission. The assignment was extremely difficult and, in my opinion, not successful. At the end of the day, the Westerners showed their true colors… in all shades.
This book is available in paperback.
Beauty and use of language:★★

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Overall rating: ★★★★
Aomame was on her way to “work” when the taxi got into a traffic jam on the Metropolitan Expressway. Traffic was not moving and Aomame could not be late, not for this job anyways. The driver suggested she got off through the emergency staircase that would take her to street level; from there she could take the subway and arrive at her destination on time. Aomame decided she didn’t have anything to lose and followed the taxi driver’s advice.
Tengo was a math teacher on a school and a part time writer for a magazine. His editor, Komatsu, received an interesting story for a contest his magazine sponsored. Komatsu proposed Tengo to meet with the author, 17-year old Fuka Eri, and rewrite (polish) the novel so it could enter, and win, the contest.
These two events took Tengo and Aomame to the year 1Q84, for Aomame where Q stood for question, and to the town of cats for Tengo. What made 1Q84 different to 1984? For starters there were two moons in 1Q84 as well as the existance of the Little People.
In this novel, or should I say epic novel, Haruki Murakami takes the readers through an intrisic world where reality and fantasy are intertwined. The characters have depth, a great deal of introspection, and the book presents a number of philosophical and ethical questions that make us examine our own convictions.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.
Originality: ★★★★
Beauty and use of language: ★★★★

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cascata Grill Restaurant

Overall rating:★★★★★
Last Friday my friends B and I decided to go to Cascata Grill to take advantage of Miami Spice event. The terrace of the restaurant faces the golf course of Turnberry Resort and Spa in Aventura. There is also a cascade that goes really well with the rest of the ambiance.
I ordered the caprese salad as appetizer, the skirt steak for entrée and the lemon tart for dessert. All three dishes were delicious. The caprese salad had a reduction of balsamic that was a real treat to the palate. The meat was really tender and seasoned to perfection. The lemon tart was exactly as I expected it: strong lemon taste and not very sweet.
The service was excellent. Just a note: this is a restaurant to go to enjoy food and view without rush – i.e. if you’re on a schedule this would not be the place to go.
Value: (based on Miami Spice prices):★★★★★

Monday, August 26, 2013

The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Overall rating:★★★★
Allan Karlsson decided to escape the senior citizen home on the day of his 100th birthday. He had one problem with the place: too many rules – no alcohol, no cigarettes, and all meals at the same time and all tasteless. Allan wanted to buy some vodka, after all it was his birthday and not every day one gets to become 100 years old.
After he jumped out of the window of his room (on the first floor) he decided to go to the bus station and take a bus far away from the home. At the station he meets a much younger man with a big suitcase who needed to use the restroom but it was not possible to get inside with the big suitcase. The young man asks Allan if he could take a look at his suitcase while he went to the bathroom. Allan agreed with the clarification that if his bus came before the young man came out of the restroom Allan would leave anyway. The bus came, the man had not finished his business, and Allan decided to take the suitcase with him on the bus. I personally thought this was a great way to start the story.
The adventure started the minute Allan took the suitcase. He made friends and enemies on the way but for someone like Allan with so much experience in the world, who had been very high and very low, these events didn’t seem to bother him.
As the events of the suitcase unfold, the readers get to know Allan’s story and life experience. It seems that Allan was involved in the main events of the 20th century – since the start of World War II and the atomic bomb to the fall of the Soviet Union.
The entire novel is a satire of politicians, history, justice system, legalities, etc. It is a light read, entertaining, and for those with a good sense of humor, funny. Jonas Jonasson did a great job bringing Allan and the rest of the characters to life… I did not know Albert Einstein had a brother.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.
Beauty and use of language:★★★

Friday, July 19, 2013

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Overall rating:★★★★
The third and latest novel by Khaled Hosseini, And The Mountains Echoed, tells the story of different characters and the turns and detours their lives took. They all have one thing in common: they are related or became in contact with Pari and Abdullah’s involuntary journeys.
Abdullah was Pari’s older brother who felt and exercised the responsibility of a father. Abdullah was seven years older than Pari. Their mother died after giving birth to Pari. Abdullah took care of Pari as a parent would: he fed her, consoled her, played with her…
A series of events took place resulting in Pari and Abdullah being separated for the rest of their lives. It was indescribably painful but life goes on and they had to adjust to their new environment.  It is incredible how many consequences one decision could have! The title could not be more appropriate.
The main story, as well as the secondary ones, is very deep and powerful. The sense of emptiness that Pari and Abdullah separation caused was captured and transmitted superbly to the reader. While I was reading this novel I felt the desolation that the characters must have felt in those years.
Mr. Hosseini takes the readers across different continents and cities; Kabul, Paris, California, Tinos… Life can chance in an instant, people adapt to the new situations, but at the end of the day the love we experienced and knew will never go away… in the worst case it would stay as a ghost or as in Pari’s case as an absence of something vital.
This book is available in hardcover and Kindle.
Use and beauty of language:★★★

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

Overall rating:★★★★
Portrait in Sepia is the second book of the unusual trilogy that started with Daughter of Fortune and ends with House of Spirits. Aurora Del Valle decides to write her story and the experiences of the people around her. Aurora grew up with her paternal grandmother, Paulina Del Valle. The events take place between 1862 and 1910.
Paulina Del Valle was not the end-of-the-19th –century typical woman. She had a keen sense of business and made a deal with her husband to have her own bank account in England with the profit her business ventures brought. In a time when women depended completed of the closest male relative this was extraordinary.
Aurora grew up with this model of feminism. With time Aurora was able to become an avant garde woman herself. It is true that the beginning of the 20th century looked promising for women as some rules were relaxed, still it was not well accepted that a woman worked outside the house, had a trade, and even worse, had a lover while still married (divorce did not exist back then).
Portrait in Sepia starts in San Francisco, specifically in Chinatown. Isabel Allende, once more, makes a great job of describing the smells, people’s physical appearance in a way that immediately transported me to where the scene was taking place. From San Francisco, Aurora and Paulina traveled to Europe, and after Paulina’s husband death, back to Chile permanently. Once in Chile, Ms. Allende takes the reader somewhere south of Santiago (I suspect to the Puerto Montt area) where the landscape was generous and paradisiacal.
The connection to the next book, House of Spirits, is a subtle one. Rosa and Clara, Nivea and Severo’s daughters (two of the main characters in House of Spirits) are mentioned once in Portrait in Sepia. I remember when I read this passage the first time. I became a little dizzy with the realization that I was being taken back to where everything started.
This book is available in paperback..
Beauty and use of language:★★★★