segunda-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2010

A Matter of Honour

Ummm...what to say about this book? It wasn't a book that impacted me, or made me think about life, want to be a better person, etc. etc. It was basically just a novel which was a good read during long boring bus ride hours, heh! I didn't understand the whole story and the style of writing is a bit old fashioned (specially when talking about "secret missions", sex and crime) but it's readable and makes time pass quicker.

Here is a  book review I found on it:

Plot Summary of Matter of Honour
"An unemployed ex-military man inherits a sealed letter in his father's will. It is an old letter that his father, at the insistance of his wife, had never opened. His father's letter to him instructed him that he was only to open the letter if a matter of family honour came up. This excellent book takes the reader over many countries in Europe as foreign agents try to take his inheritence from him. The item in question is worth far more than monetary value. This book could have been given a sub-title of "Chase" as there is a great one here. For anyone who likes a good book with a chase in it, this is one of the best. In the book the protaganist and the antagonist share the spotlight between right and wrong equally while an unknown protaganist is only briefly but effectivly seen. A highly recommended read." 

quinta-feira, 2 de dezembro de 2010

Lying on the Couch

I don't know if I have ever mentioned this, but since I was young I was fascinated by the world of psychologists, psychiatrists and people that used to work with other people. Maybe the fact that they all tended to go to the crazy side made things a bit more interesting...lool!!!
Anyways, about two weekends ago I was rummaging through Ximena's books when I found one that instantly called my attention: "Lying on the Couch". I didn't know much what it was about other than the fact that it was related to psychology and so I snatched it for my new read (even though I was reading four books at once already). 
I started reading the book at once and couldn't drop the book until I reached page 75, and even then, it was for the sole purpose of digesting all I had just read. It was sexually explicit, polemic, made me question myself and others and want to enter a bit more into the inexplicable human mind.
Today I finished the book and am still digesting all that I read. It opened my eyes and head to many different aspects of human nature that I had never come to think about. Being real honest, I didn't completely like the end of the book. Wait. Let me refrase that: I liked the end of the book but it most definitely wasn't the one that I was wanting and must less expecting.
And so, for all those looking for a real polemic read, go ahead and pick up this book!
Here is the book review: From the bestselling author of Love's Executioner and When Nietzsche Wept comes a provocative exploration of the unusual relationships three therapists form with their patients. Seymour is a therapist of the old school who blurs the boundary of sexual propriety with one of his clients. Marshal, who is haunted by his own obsessive-compulsive behaviors, is troubled by the role money plays in his dealings with his patients. Finally, there is Ernest Lash. Driven by his sincere desire to help and his faith in psychoanalysis, he invents a radically new approach to therapy — a totally open and honest relationship with a patient that threatens to have devastating results.
Exposing the many lies that are told on and off the psychoanalyst's couch, Lying on the Couch gives readers a tantalizing, almost illicit, glimpse at what their therapists might really be thinking during their sessions. Fascinating, engrossing and relentlessly intelligent, it ultimately moves readers with a denouement of surprising humanity and redemptive faith.

terça-feira, 9 de novembro de 2010

The Kite Runner

I had already watched the movie before - about three years ago - and despite the movie having caused an impression on me it was nothing compared to the book. The craziest thing is that I could only remember the begining of the movie and so as I went on reading the book from the time Hassan and his father Ali, leave Amir's house I could barely remember anything else which made it all the more exciting as I read and watched the book unfold in my head.
It's no wonder that this story became famous and spread all over the world. One of the many reasons for this must be because it strikes a few common chords: forgiveness, friendship and redemption.
I personally couldn't help but think of many personal experiences and how things could've been different if I had made the right choice, the right decision. Some things I know I can no longer go back and "fix them"and its no use for me to stay crying over "spilt milk"; but others...yes, other instances I still have the power to go back and say sorry, make up, try again and in the end tell the one I wronged: "For you, a thousand times over" and then do so.
For every choice there is always a consequence. But for every choice there is also a second chance, a chance  "to be good again."

This time I extracted portions from Wikipedia on the mentioned book.

The Kite Runner is a novel by Khaled Hosseini. Published in 2003 by Riverhead Books, it is Hosseini's first novel, and was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007.

Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara who is the son of Ali, Amir's father's servant, spend their days in the then peaceful city of Kabul, kite fighting and roaming through the streets. Amir’s father, a wealthy merchant, who Amir affectionately refers to as Baba, loves both the boys, but seems critical of Amir for not being manly enough. Amir secretly believes his father blames him for his mother’s death during childbirth. However, he has a kinder father figure in the form of Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend, who understands Amir better, and is supportive of his interest in writing. Amir tells us that his first word was 'Baba' and Hassan's "Amir,' suggesting that Amir looked up most to Baba, while Hassan looked up to Amir.
Assef, a notorious sociopath and violent older boy with sadistic tendencies, mocks Amir for socializing with a Hazara, which is, according to Assef, an inferior race that should only live in Hazarajat. He prepares to attack Amir with brass knuckles, but Hassan bravely stands up to him, threatening to shoot out Assef's left eye with his slingshot. Assef and his posse back off, but Assef threatens revenge.
Hassan is a successful "kite runner" for Amir, knowing where the kite will land without even watching it. One triumphant day, Amir wins the local tournament, and finally Baba's praise. Hassan runs for the last cut kite, a great trophy, saying to Amir, "For you, a thousand times over." Unfortunately, Hassan runs into Assef and his two friends. Hassan refuses to give up Amir's kite. Amir searches for Hassan but hides when he hears Assef's voice. Assef decides to teach Hassan a lesson by raping him via the anal cavity. Amir witnesses the act but is too scared to intervene, and returns home ashamed, guilty for not being able to help his best friend. He feels that his cowardice in Hassan's rape would destroy any hopes for Baba's affections, so he says nothing. Afterwards, Hassan and Amir keep a distance from each other. Amir reacts indifferently because he feels ashamed, and is frustrated by Hassan's saint-like behavior. Already jealous of Baba's love for Hassan, he worries that if Baba knew of Hassan's bravery and his own cowardice, that Baba's love for Hassan would grow even more.
Amir, filled with guilt on his birthday, cannot enjoy his gifts. The only present that does not feel like "blood" money is the notebook to write his stories in given to him by Rahim Khan, his father's friend and the only one Amir felt really understood him.
Amir felt that life would be easier if Hassan was not around, so he planted a watch and some money from his birthday party under Hassan's mattress in hopes that Baba would force him to leave; Hassan falsely confesses when confronted by Baba about the watch and the money. Baba forgives him, despite the fact that, as he explained earlier, he believes that "there is no act more wretched than stealing." Hassan and his father Ali, to Baba's extreme sorrow, leave anyway. Hassan's departure frees Amir of the daily reminder of his cowardice and betrayal, but he still lives in their shadow and his guilt.
Five years later, the Soviet Union invade Afghanistan. Amir and Baba escape to PeshawarPakistan and then to FremontCalifornia, where Amir and Baba, who lived in luxury in an expensive mansion in Afghanistan, settle in a run-down apartment and Baba begins work at a gas station. Amir eventually takes classes at a local community college to develop his writing skills after graduating from high school at age twenty. Every Sunday, Baba and Amir make extra money selling used goods at a flea market in San Jose. There, Amir meets fellow refugee Soraya Taheri and her family. Soraya's father, General Taheri, once a high-ranking officer in Afghanistan, has contempt for Amir's literary aspiration. Baba is diagnosed with terminal small cell carcinoma but is still capable of granting Amir one last favor: he asks Soraya's father's permission for Amir to marry her. He agrees and the two marry. Shortly thereafter Baba dies. Amir and Soraya settle down in a happy marriage, but to their sorrow learn that they cannot have children.
Amir embarks on a successful career as a novelist. Fifteen years after his wedding, Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, who is dying from an illness. Rahim Khan asks Amir to come to Peshawar, Pakistan. He enigmatically tells Amir, "There is a way to be good again." Amir goes.
From Khan, Amir learns the fates of Ali and Hassan. Ali was killed by a land mine. Hassan had a wife named Farzana and a son who he named Sohrab. He had set up a life for himself in a village outside Bamiyan, but returned to Baba’s house as a caretaker at Khan’s request, although he moved to the little hut in the yard so as not to dishonor Amir by taking his place in the house. During his stay, his mother Sanaubar returned after a long search for her son, and died after four years. One month after Khan left for Pakistan, the Taliban ordered Hassan to give up the house and leave, but he refused, and was executed, along with Farzana. Khan reveals that Ali was not really Hassan's father, and that Ali was sterile, and that Hassan was actually the son of Baba, and therefore Amir's half-brother. Finally, Rahim Khan tells Amir that the true reason he has called Amir to Pakistan is to go to Kabul to rescue Hassan's son, Sohrab, from an orphanage.
Khan asks Amir to bring Sohrab to Thomas and Betty Caldwell, who own an orphanage. Amir becomes furious; he feels cheated because he had not known that Hassan was his half-brother. Amir finally relents and decides to go to Kabul to get Sohrab. He storms out of the house in a rage, but later returns and tells Khan will go find Sohrab. He travels in a taxi with an Afghan driver named Farid, a veteran of the war with the Soviets, and stays as a guest at Farid's brother Wahid's house. Farid, initially hostile to Amir, is sympathetic when he hears of Amir's true reason for returning, and offers to accompany him on his journey.
Amir searches for Sohrab at the orphanage. In order to enter Taliban territory, Amir, who is normally clean shaven, wears a fake beard and moustache, to avoid the punishment the Taliban would otherwise deliver. However, Sohrab is not where he was supposed to be: the director of the orphanage tells them that a Taliban official comes often, brings cash, and usually takes a girl back with him. Once in a while however, he takes a boy, recently Sohrab. The director tells Amir to go to a soccer match, where he could see the procurer making speeches at half-time and wearing black sunglasses. Farid manages to secure an appointment with the speaker at his home, by saying that he and Amir have "personal business" with him.
At the house, Amir meets the man, who turns out to be Assef. Assef is aware of Amir's identity from the very beginning, but Amir doesn't realize his childhood nemesis until Assef starts asking about Ali, Baba, and Hassan. Sohrab is being kept at Assef's home where he is made to dance dressed in women's clothes, and it seems Assef might have been raping him. (Sohrab later confirms this saying, "I'm so dirty and full of sin. The bad man and the other two did things to me.") Assef agrees to relinquish him, but only for a price—cruelly beating Amir. However, Amir is saved when Sohrab uses his slingshot to shoot out Assef's left eye, fulfilling Hassan's threat made many years before.
While at a hospital treating his injuries, Amir asks Farid to find information about Thomas and Betty Caldwell. When Farid returns, he tells Amir that the American couple do not exist.
Amir tells Sohrab of his plans to take him back to America and possibly adopt him, and promises that he will never be sent to an orphanage again. However, US authorities demand, among other things, paperwork as evidence of Sohrab's orphan status. After decades of war, this is all but impossible to get in Afghanistan where, as Amir says, many dead have no certificate just as they had never had a birth certificate. Amir tells Sohrab that he may have to temporarily break his promise until the paperwork is completed. Upon hearing this, Sohrab attempts suicide. Amir eventually manages to take him back to the United States without an orphanage, and introduces him to his wife. However, Sohrab is emotionally damaged and refuses to speak or even glance at Soraya. This continues until his frozen emotions thaw when Amir reminisces about Hassan and kites. Amir shows off some of Hassan’s tricks, and Sohrab begins to interact with Amir again. In the end Sohrab only shows a lopsided smile, but Amir takes to it with all his heart as he runs the kite for Sohrab, saying, "For you, a thousand times over."

sexta-feira, 5 de novembro de 2010

Guia Prático Para Cuidar do Seu Orçamento

For all those that have depts or liabilities: Read this book!!! One of my students lent me this book and I took a few weeks to read it through and study it well since I am very interested in the areas of economy, investments, etc. The first four chapters of the book were incredible and I took a few practical steps towards cutting down my costs by planning my financial life a whole year ahead of me. I know, I never thought I'd have the means and will to do so and I must say that it took a while for me to do all the calculations and work out the numbers, but now I can proudly say that my financial life is neatly mapped out ahead of me until the end of 2011 and I am feeling quite proud of myself! Well, the other chapters of the book were an interesting read but completely unapplicable because the author is reffering himself to people that are in dept and how they can get rid of their depts and I, thankfully, am not even close to being in dept and nor do I have the typical "in dept" profile that most of those people have. For example: I don't have any credit card, I only use live money when I buy something, checks are something inexistant in my wallet and I pride myself in never borrowing money from anyone. But nevertheless this book was a good "eye opener" and it set me on the right path to start saving even more money! $$$
As always, here is a short book review on it: 
This is a book for men and women, husbands and wifes, parents and children - written for people of any social-economical class that wish to absorb informations and dedicate themselves to reach financial stability in short, medium or long time period. The informations and guidance given in this book apply to any person who pretends to have an organized financial life. Altogether it's a true manual of introduction in the world of finances that serves for both the housewife that is unlearned in the subject as wel as to the bank manager who pretends to expand his knowledge in this area. 

quinta-feira, 14 de outubro de 2010

Dear John

Dear John...what can I say about the book that I now consider as one of my favorites? To the book which made me cry more than I have ever cried reading a book? To the book which made me want to change sooo much in myself and become a better person? To the book which made me think about forgiveness and be able to take the plunge and forgive my sister who I hadnt talked for almost two weeks? 
a few weeks ago I was doing my nails and decided I would put on a movie to watch as I went through the long process of soaking, filing, cutting, painting and then waiting for my nails to dry... my dad reccomended me a "slow but nice movie" called "Dear John". I watched it twice. My sister joined me the second time and halfway through the movie said out loud: "What is that noise? OMG Chris, its you crying!!!" Yes, I cried my eyes out. It stayed in my mind for days. It made an impact. And lo and behold, the other day when I was giving one of my students a class this book stares me in the face: "Dear John" and before I knew it my treasured prize was in my bag and in my hands the moment I sat in the bus going to my next class. As always, not everything is the same as it is on the movie. In the movie the main character, Savannah is this stunning blond beauty with this unconciouss naïveté all about her. In the book she is a short good looking tan girl. The whole story has its little differences here and there but to my great surprise I almost fell off my chair when the end of my story finishes completely different from the movie. In the movie they end up 'happily ever after' but in the book he disapears and does the hardest decision ever in his life to make her happy since he loves her so much. But even despite my  astonishment at the sad ending of the book I think I prefered the original ending (the one in the book) because it portrays the true meaning of love and what love is all about.
"The secret to happiness is to dream dreams you can reach" is one of the first phrases in the book. I thought about that. It makes total sense. I learnt a lot about life, about putting others happiness first, of letting go of selfish attitudes and doing what it takes to see others happy - even if it means sacrificing for them. Well, hats off to Nicholas Sparks and his fantastic took me on a journey which I will never forget and I am a better person because of it. 

Book Review:
An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. "Dear John," the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love--and face the hardest decision of his life.

domingo, 10 de outubro de 2010

Résistance - Agnes Humbert

Finished reading this book today and must give it a thumbs up and reccomend anyone who complains about life to read it. The book is strong reading material specially when you know its the truth and nothing but the truth... and that what happened to her happened to millions and millions of other human beings too. The amazing thing about Agnes is how she can retell all of her suffering and horrid happenings with so much irony. Her sarcasm and ironic style of writing just makes you want to delve in the book and into her mind as well.There is a part in the book which she is talking to one of her close friends - an ex french prisoner - and he tells her the most horrendous stories that he saw happen before his own eyes. He explains how in the camp that he was a prisioner in the german would get all the "intelectuals" and do experiences with them. For example: they would tie them naked with a leash on their neck and to get a bowl of food to keep from starving they had to go on all fours and bark like a dog. The worst one is him retelling of how one day the german soldiers decided to do another new "experiment". They chose five jews - a lawyer, an administrator, and three doctors - and then got five cows. They put the men behind the cows and forced them to copulate with the cows. He was one of the men who's task was to hold the cows still. As he preformed his job he said that the germans laughs filled his ears and that is the worst sound he ever heard in his whole life. The book is filled with these and many more other cruelties - but in the end, after she goes through it all her will power is strengthened, her sense of justice is fortified and yet she never loses her human compassion which flows freely from her heart.
Here are some snippets of a book review I found online:

  1. Résistance
  3. : Memoirs of Occupied France
  4. by Agnès Humbert
Agnes Humbert is a captured member of the French Resistance and is shipped off to Germany for 'war work'. Immediately after the war, Agnès Humbert, published an account of her four-year incarceration, first in a French prison in the centre of Paris, then as a slave labourer in Germany. Her book, now translated for the first time into English, is unusually detailed, unlike those of many victims who chose not to tell their stories until years later when memory is no longer fresh. Agnes was an unusual woman. Born in 1894, the daughter of an army officer, she became a Symbolist painter and married an Egyptian artist, moving with him to a Breton village to raise their two sons.
She was an early anti-fascist and a woman of the left when those terms meant fellow travelling with the Soviet Union. After her marriage broke up in 1934, she went to work at the anthropological institute, the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, part of a distinguished team of specialists in art and culture that as soon as France fell in 1940 formed one of the earliest organised Resistance groups.
The activities for which she was punished were so paltry: a little newspaper, scrawling slogans on banknotes. But the underground circle was quickly betrayed and its members arrested. A was taken to a prison on the rue du Cherche-Midi, where she spent a year in solitary confinement.
In her coffin-like cell, there is nothing but the loneliness and mental torment of total isolation, apart from a system of communication with the other prisoners whom she never sees. But the French prison is luxury compared with the deportation to Germany. If you ignore, for a moment, Nazi Germany's political ideology and ask what made it tick, the answer is sadism. It enjoyed inflicting pain and reducing human beings to zeroes.
It did not only do this to Jews, Gypsies and Slavs, and its enemies like Humbert, but to its own citizens for pathetically trivial infractions of domestic law. The slave labour units were governed by the same principles as the death camps: work the inmates to death on starvation rations in an experiment to see what the human body can endure before it gives out.
Her account is agony to read and the I am frequently forced to ask if one could have survived more than a few days under the torture she describes. The women are covered in crabs and lice, they are making rayon in factories with toxic chemicals burning their skin, fed on a few hundred calories a day. They have no soap. They own a toothbrush and comb that they continuously steal from one another. Without scissors, their toenails grow into their own flesh. Not even the clothes on their backs are exclusively their own. 
What kept Agnès Humbert going was her personality: her will, her optimism and her political beliefs. She is absolutely certain that Germany will be defeated because she believes in a moral universe in which all is set to rights again by human struggle. 
But the Nazis are not capable of making her 'destructed'. From the moment she is liberated by the Americans, her formidable powers of organisation are revived, ready to help the newly occupying forces alleviate the suffering of survivors and arrest the perpetrators. She returned to France, but her health was damaged by what she had endured. She died in 1963. Her book adds to the small record of how the human mind can preserve the heart and soul intact against all attempts to annihilate it.