Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Books: New Indie authors - get to know some indie writers: Karatsioris, Mudgett and Vandiver

"An ancient being, our storyteller, traps three characters in his web in order to get hold of a special book. Daniel, Cassidy and Igor are three unique individuals, considered outcasts for different reasons. They are about to meet and stick together, as coincidences and forced situations lead them to a journey all around Europe. As everyone is after the Book of the Forsaken, the coming Game is about to take place on the dark side of the moon. But there is a cost to that knowledge. Let alone to the wish to partake."

This book is creative and fast paced, and Yannis has devised an intriguing plot, a fresh take on fantasy with weird characters reminiscent of X-men mutants who can, among other things, read minds and teleport. The narrator, a puppet master of sorts, seems to manipulate the characters' actions and in a funny and sarcastic tone. Although I thought the characters acted naive when they had the coveted book they had to kill for, and trustingly entered the manor of an unknown figure who didn't seem to know who had sent them there and willingly delivered the book to him, the story is nonetheless amusing and a page turner. I'm looking forward to reading the trilogy and finding out the final outcome of this fantasy!

Serpents Unwound

Serpents Unwound by Paul Mudgett

"A data breach at a local hospital has cost a patient his life but is just the beginning of an intricate scheme that stands to unravel the future of electronic medical records. Computer forensics expert, Ethan Deye, is thrust into an investigation that leaves his reputation and the life of a young, naïve hacker precariously intertwined. The unlikely duo must find a way to outsmart the most determined and sinister foe Ethan has ever faced before catastrophe strikes the entire regional health care system."

Serpents Unwound is an action/adventure story that captures the reader's attention from the beginning. It has interesting characters and the plot thickens as you keep reading to find out what is going to happen at the end. At times it can be predictable, though, but it is a quick read and maintains a fast pace throughout.

It needs some editing for punctuation and spelling, but those are not the kind that makes you put the book down at all. The story is well developed and the sequence of events makes sense. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this debut story by Paul Mudgett and would recommend it for those who like a nice action story. Well done!

 In the Beginningby Abby Vandiver

"In 1997, Biblical Archaeologist Justin Dickerson is unhappy with her life in general and has decided to run away from her problems. Intervening, her mentor asks that she go with him to the Fifty Year Jubilee commemorating the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem. There she finds that in 1949 Jerusalem some of the 2,000 year old manuscripts, hidden in clay pots in the caves of Qumran, may have been destroyed.

Justin, obsessed with this revelation, is determined to get to the bottom of the deceit. Uncontrollable emotion takes hold of her, and family and faith help guide her as she unfolds the truth of Earth's ancient mysteries discovering what really happened In the Beginning . . . "

This review may contain spoilers!

A very interesting story, mixing sci-fi with archaeology, which captures the attention of the reader from the first chapters. It makes you want to read it to find out what is going to be revealed at the end. It's a well thought plot, going back and forth from the present to the past to show how the scroll came to be found and "lost", to it being rediscovered again and interpreted by Justin, the main character, a biblical archaeologist.

The story line is captivating and current (news of probable life beginning in Mars are just in!); however, the dialogue between depressed Justin and her family, especially her sister Claire, got to be dull and redundant at times. There are also some editing needed, with proper punctuation and grammar, which could at times distract from enjoying the intriguing plot.

Overall, a very good and thought provoking read, which can fall into the categories of Dan Brown, James Rollins and Steve Berry books! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Location: Xunantunich - an adventure in Belize

Location: Xunantunich - an adventure in Belize

Few might know that Belize was known as British Honduras... in Central America. It's the only country in C.A. where English is spoken. Belize is known for its luscious tropical jungle, spectacular coral reef (second only to Australia's) and old Mayan civilization. One of the most amazing Mayan cities discovered within the jungle is Xunantunich, which is located about 2 hours by bus from the port of Belize City. The drive is almost boring with no interesting landscapes, except for the far away glance at a mountain range called the Mayan Mountains, which resembles a sleeping giant. The rest of the way is cut across the outskirts of Belmopan, the capital, and other smaller villages, where you can see the underdeveloped infrastructure of the small country.

The Mayan Mountains resemble a sleeping giant
To get into Xunantunich Mayan city, we need to cross the Mopan river, near the border with Guatemala, by a hand cranked ferryboat- this crossing is no longer than 5 minutes. Once on the other side of the river, it takes about a mile uphill to the site (yes, you can hike, but you can also go by horse back or van...). There are still many temples and edifices buried within the jungle. The main structure is El Castillo, the main temple, a spectacular pyramid that rises 130 feet above the ground and it's one of the very few pyramids that you can climb if you dare. The climb is steep and challenging; descent is worse... so be careful when adventuring yourself on these steps. However, the view from the top is significantly worth it. You can just imagine the powerful priest addressing the population down below and performing sacrifices to their gods. It's a bewildering image and not to be forgotten - a magnificent jungle all the way down the horizon and the remnants of the Mayan city down below... bringing us a sensation of the peace and beauty our world has to offer, which we all should embrace. 

Beautiful Mopan river
Note on local cuisine: On our way out of Xunantunich, we stopped at a local restaurant (Benny's) to savor the delicious Caribbean cuisine, consisting of rice and red beans cooked in coconut milk, fried plantains, and a coleslaw type salad. (For non vegetarians, there was also chicken!). The restaurant was clean and well kept and it's owned by a local family, and it seems to be a favorite tourist stop for most tours coming in and out of Xunantunich, in the town of San Ignacio.

El Castillo - you can climb to the top


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Location: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Let's celebrate one of the most popular and world known beaches in Rio de Janeiro: Copacabana, also lovingly nicknamed "little princess of the seas" by cariocas, Rio´s inhabitants. The spectacular landscape pictures Sugar Loaf Mountain in the background, making it unique in natural beauty. Copacabana has been a favorite spot for many Brazilians and visitors alike, including Brazilian's famous poet and writer Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Although not a carioca, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, born in 1902 in Minas Gerais state, lived in Rio for most of his life and considered Copacabana Beach one of his favorite places. He used to stroll by the beach, then sit and contemplate life in all its colors and splendor in a privileged area next to the fortress of Copacabana. Drummond died in 1987 and is considered one of Brazil´s greatest poets.

Copacabana Beach with Sugar Loaf in the background
In 2002, to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of Drummond´s birth, a statue was unveiled in Copacabana, in Drummond´s original size, as if he was sitting at one of the many benches he used to sit while taking a rest from his regular walks at the beach, watching as life manifested happily in front of his eyes. The lonely poet is never alone; since the statue was unveiled, it has attracted many tourists who are eager to capture a picture next to the great poet. The biggest challenge, however, is to keep Drummond´s glasses on! Even though a camera was installed in a nearby area to record the movement around the monument, vandalism unfortunately continues, and every once in a while the poet wakes up without his glasses, just to be replaced again... and again. It is amazing to note that his glasses have been stolen 8 times (the latest of 2012 - in mid-June, a new pair was attached once more).
The poster says "don't steal my glasses, read my books instead!"
Always in the news, never forgotten, forever immortalized not only by his poetic words but by his image in this amazing and symbolic monument, Carlos Drummond de Andrade becomes a natural part of the scene, vibrating and resonating with the colors, sights and legends of famous Copacabana Beach.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book: Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin, M.D.

Book:  Mind Over Medicine by  Lissa Rankin, M.D. 

As soon as I glimpsed this book's title, I was interested in reading it. I've always been a believer that the power of the mind can make it possible to self heal. And it was with no surprise that I found this book actually reinforces my beliefs that we can, with the right mind set and the right environment, be a catalyst in developing our own good health.

This book brings in scientific studies to prove we hold the key to improve our health; at the same token, we can make ourselves sick by believing in sickness and nurturing hopelessness. By no means Lissa Rankin suggests for us to ditch the doctors and just think healthy thoughts, but together with positive thinking, the right therapy (alternative or otherwise) and the right environment, cure is possible.

Even the wrong medical provider can sabotage a good cure. It actually happened to me. In two separate occasions, when I didn't like the doctor I was seeing (not enough caring, no good rapport), my treatment didn't yield good results. When I had to seek for a second opinion and actually had a great interaction with the new doctor, the treatment was totally successful because I believed the doctor was capable enough to cure me, and I knew it was going to be alright. Lissa highlights several similar situations in her book, and also tells her own story.

Positive thinking can improve your health, and several factors in your life are also important for your health to thrive. Great examples of health nuts whose health was not OK because they were involved in bad relationships, or unsatisfying and stressful jobs, or something else that aggravated their health no matter what they did externally, illustrates the chapters. If, internally, you're not in peace with yourself and your world, you won't reap all the benefits you could from exercise, diet, etc. Doctors, teachers and parents should read this book and apply the advice given here. It should be mandatory reading!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.