Monthly Archives: June 2008

After the Fire

Ater the Fire: A True Story of Friendship and Survival by Robin Gaby Fisher is beautiful and moving. Grab a box of tissues before sitting down with this one. You will cry, (but I promise it’s in a good way.)

On January 19, 2000, a fire raged through Seton Hall University’s freshman dormitory, killing three students and injuring 58 others. Among the victims were Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos, roommates from poor neighborhoods who made their families proud by getting into college. They managed to escape, but both were burned terribly. AFTER THE FIRE is the story of these young men and their courageous fight to recover from the worst damage the burn unit at Saint Barnabas hospital had ever seen. It is the story of the extraordinary doctors and nurses who work with the burned. It is the story of mothers and fathers, of faith and family and the invisible ties that bind us to each other. It is the story of the search for the arsonists–and the elaborate cover-up that nearly obscured the truth. And it is the story of the women who came to love these men, who knew that real beauty is a thing not seen in mirrors. -(Official book description)

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Summer Reads

I’ve got a stack of books I’m reading this summer. Some I’ve started, some I’ve finished, and some are still untouched, but it’s not even July, so that’s okay.

God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre by Richard Grant.

I originally picked this book up for research purposes. I was writing a story about a man who gets lost in the desert between Mexico and California, and so I thought it would be interesting to read a first hand account of what that general region is like. Well, I got more than I bargained for because this book was fantastic.

The author, Richard Grant, a British journalist, developed what he calls an “unfortunate fascination” with this region. He traveled the Sierra Madre as an “outsider” and a “gringo”, ignoring the warnings of those who told him it was a death sentence. Some of the characters he meets up with include drug smugglers, Indians, murderers, marijuana and opium farmers, folk healers, corrupt policemen, pistol toting children, and surprisingly, a gay man who makes a good living planning quincea├▒eras.

This is a good book for those who like travel non-fiction, fantastic writing and hilarious dark humor.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama.

You can say I’m being biased simply because I support this man for President, but I’m telling you in all honesty and from an objective point of view, this is one of the most engaging and well written books I’ve ever read.

Barack Obama is an incredibly gifted writer, finding the perfect balance between insight, intellect and the ability to weave together a story that is both poignant and perceptive.

One may wonder how a Caucasian reading this book can relate to the struggle and confusion of a bi-racial man, but the seeking of identity and desire to “belong” while staying true to oneself are universal rights of passage.

Reading this book that at times focuses heavily on race, only affirmed for me that human beings are more alike than different.

¡Caramba! A Tale Told in Turns of the Cards by Nina Maria Martinez.

This one I have yet to read but when I do crack it open, it’ll be while laying in the hammock with a margarita. Here’s the description:

Welcome to Lava Landing, population 27,454, a town just this side of Mexico, where Miss Magma reigns and rockabilly and mariachi music are king. Enter our protagonists, Natalie and Consuelo, self-described “like-minded individuals.” They spend their days at The Big Cheese Plant and their nights at The Big Five-Four, the hottest spot in town. But they have long-term projects, foremost among them to cure Consuelo of her unreasonable fear of public transportation and long car rides so they can finally take Natalie’s 1963 Cadillac convertible on the road trip it deserves.

Sounds kind of like a Spanglish Thelma and Louise. Weird? Maybe, but I like it. I have to admit the cover is what got me to pick this one up, but skimming through the the first few pages had me stifling laughter in the library.

Take this line of dialog for instance, “There was this little old guy trying to cross the street and he got himself runned over because some pervert was busy checkin out my nalgas. He was even usin the crosswalk.”

I can tell, this one is going to be good.

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee.

I’ve just started reading this one. The plot is interesting but I’ve yet to feel connected to the characters, though they are already well established in the first chapter.

The book is Ms. Lee’s first novel and has gotten mixed reviews. From what I’ve seen, it seems you either really love it or really don’t. It’s worth the effort if it falls into that first category.

This national bestseller is the story of Casey Han, the American daughter of Korean immigrants. Casey has a degree from Princeton, a secret white boyfriend, an addiction to the finer things in life, but no job.

The overall themes of this novel include race, money, religion, love and overall, finding out what it is you want from life and not succumbing to the expectations of others.

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani.

In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great.

Despite her lowly station, the young woman blossoms as a brilliant designer of carpets, a rarity in a craft dominated by men. But while her talent flourishes, her prospects for a happy marriage grow dim.

Forced into a secret marriage to a wealthy man, the young woman finds herself faced with a daunting decision: forsake her own dignity, or risk everything she has in an effort to create a new life.

I’ve read a few chapters of this one and it’s a beautiful story that pulled me right in. It’s written with rich detail, believable dialog, and plenty of emotion.

What is on your summer reading list?

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Greater Than You Think

Greater Than You Think by Thomas D. Williams is subtitled, “A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God”.

While I’ve never considered myself an atheist, even during the years I struggled most with my religion, one thing that has always been certain is my uncertainty. Faith is not my strong point, and so I often find myself reading books of this nature; books one would typically use to encourage a non-believer.

After reading this book I did not have any kind of great epiphany but I found the arguments well thought out and convincing. In a society that would increasingly have us believe that faith in any religion is a sign of weakness and naivety, this book offers reassurance that one can be both a thinker and a believer.

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Dark Summit

Dark Summit by Nick Heil is the true story of one of the most controversial and deadliest climbing seasons on Mount Everest.

What caused the deaths? Were there too many inexperienced climbers given access? Were safety procedures not followed? Or could it be that climbers surpassed those in need of help, to instead continue their climb to the summit, putting their own goals and dreams above the life of another human being?

Without finger pointing, the author, Nick Heil, recounts the events of that 2006 season as they took place. You decide what lessons are to be learned.

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