domingo, 23 de janeiro de 2011

The Last Song

One of my students recommended this book for me to read and then lent it to me. She ranted and raved on and on about it and so, that of course, left me curious and anxious to start reading the book. One of my favorite books – “Dear John” – was written by the same author, Nicholas Sparks and so I already was accustomed to his style of writing which is easy to read. And so I started the book. At first I wasn’t super enthralled by it and thought it was just another romantic-teens-on-puberty novel; but as I read it, somehow it just caught my interest and I couldn’t let the book down and would even read it as I was walking in the bus terminal going to catch my bus. I started this book one day and finished it the very next day. It wasn’t a “big revelation” book or a “changed my life” book but it was definitely a nice read and made me think a bit more about how family bonds are important. If this book had a word to define it that word would be “sweet”. I know they also made a movie with it but I still didn’t have the chance to watch it. Nonetheless, I am still adding here the trailer of the movie as a “sneak peak” review on both the book and the movie.

Book Review:
In this wonderful story, seventeen-year-old Veronica (better known by her nickname Ronnie) Miller goes off to spend the summer with her dad in a small North Carolina beach town. She is reluctant for several reasons. Chiefly, it's because she has become estranged from her father over the past five years, ever since her parents underwent the proverbial messy divorce.
Ronnie has also been the typical big city girl. She's used to the high-fashions, private school, and nightlife of New York City, in meccas like Greenwich Village, SoHo, and the Upper West Side. Dropping her in a sleepy southern town seems apt punishment for Ronnie's recent episodes of angry rebellion. These included a run-in with the law for shoplifting, newly dyed jet-black hair with a screaming purple streak, and sporting Goth style fashions.
These factors, and the various challenges Ronnie faces, make her a character that tween and teen girls can easily associate with. They also drive this book's inter-generational appeal.
Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong?
As the novel progresses, though, Ronnie falls totally in love with her new life: with the town, with sea turtles and other native marine life, with her bothersome younger brother, and also with her father -- and the music he'd abandoned along with his family. Most importantly, Ronnie falls in love with a young man.
The guy she runs into (literally) at a boardwalk fair and beach volleyball match, initially seems all-wrong for her. He is a jock, a preppy, the would-be prom king, and a townie; in short he represents the very things Ronnie has been rebelling against. At first, Ronnie is more attracted to a girl named Blaze, and the troupe of dangerous, beer swigging street performers she hangs out with, than to Will. But as romance novel fans know, love always finds its way.
The Power of Love
As the jacket copy of this Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group novel says, this romance is " unforgettable story of love in all its myriad forms -- first love, love between parents and children. The Last Song demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them."
Whether the reader is already a Nicholas Sparks fan or The Last Song is his/her first introduction to the beloved author, he/she will fall in love with Ronnie, the other characters, and this story. Some readers, such as this author's 15-year-old daughter, will have trouble picturing Miley Cyrus as Ronnie, Nevertheless, they will root for Ronnie as she struggles with her emotional turmoil, stands up for the turtle nest, and ultimately wins.
You Must Read The Last Song !
Or does Ronnie lose her quest? The only way to find out is to read The Last Song, the latest romance novel by Nicholas Sparks. The next reader may devour it from cover to cover, even in a single day, as many fans of Sparks books say they do.

sábado, 22 de janeiro de 2011

Eat, Pray, Love

I didn’t expect this book to have such a huge effect on me - but it did. And I didn’t think it could make me change so much – but change I did.
Since I finished reading this book I started already with a few changes in my life. Five to be exact:
1.)    Diet. I am eating raw food for a whole month. Like, literally nothing cooked. So basically my diet is made up of fruits, vegetables, grains, raw oatmeal, yogurt and dried fruits and nuts. It’s really not that bad
2.)    Meditation. That is one of the main changes I have had in relation to my life concerning this book. In the back of my apartment, after the kitchen and laundry room there is a little maid’s room (but since we have no maid it’s become a “study/office” room). The room is quite small and stuffy, without a door and piles of books are strewn in every corner. Nevertheless it has now become my own little “meditation corner” where I have my Bible, glittery pink agenda (which I use exclusively to write my thoughts at the end of every meditation session) and pen inside a shelf which are my daily companions. I can’t say meditation has been something easy for me – if you allow me to be completely honest, it’s actually one of the hardest things for me to do all day. Even though it’s only for half an hour, my mind races, argues, makes lists, wanders, and gives million turns a second. It’s maddening. But I also know that it’s all about letting go and that is something I am still learning how to do, so until then it’s me, my mind and our crazy relationship.
 33.) Liberation. I have a bad addiction. Like, real bad. Since I was 11 years old, in puberty age, hormones going wild and crazy with those first pimples beginning to pop out I started to vent my frustration on the very complex issues of life – like not being able to go to the JETT’s weekend party, being grounded, feeling like my breasts were tiny lemons compared to all the other girls, “Mr. Popular Preteen” staying with one of my girlfriends; just to name a few… - well, I started to vent my frustration on life by picking my face. By popping, messing, squeezing and driving my nails into my skin sometimes up to the point of blood spurting out. Not cool. As the years went by my problems changed, my worries now were on how to pay my bills, what I would do with my life, studies, etc. but my way to “stress out” was still the same: lock myself in the bathroom, stay in front of the window and pick, pick and pick! And after it was all done and over I just HATED myself. As time went on, my bad habit just got worse and up to a few weeks ago I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror and would tell myself over and over how ugly and unattractive I was and that I was a complete failure and would never be able to stop picking my face no matter how hard I tried - and believe me, I had been trying for 10 years straight – I had done endless promises, sat on my hands, asked friends and family’s help, did 101 face treatments and the last thing I had done was buy two pairs of white gloves to wear 24/7. But all to no avail.  I came to tell myself that I just had to resign to always having my face covered in deep, dark marks, large scars and having to wear a thick mask of cover-up wherever I went (though lately even that wasn’t being enough to hide the ugly truth). And then I read this book and decided that one thing I wanted to do was stop picking my face. And I did, just like that! I don’t know if it was the meditation, the change of heart and mind, the Yoga, new diet, or whatever that contributed; all I know is that as I read the part in which Liz describes the delicious, mouth-watering food that she is eating in Italy I felt like I MUST eat the same. And then I thought:  “If I really want to eat something scrumptious like Elizabeth does I am sure I could. It wouldn’t be a big deal. I have the money, I can afford it. I could most certainly make the time for it even if it means rescheduling a class or two. And I am sure that if I don’t feel like eating alone, one of my students would be more than glad to join me and my special meal. But then again, I would have to do something to deserve such a treat. What would that be? Something that would be hard for me to do but that once done I would know it was more than worth it on just the first bite the banquet I will delve in for the next many hours… yet what would that be?” and then it came to me: Stop picking your face. “IMPOSSIBLE!!!” was my next thought. “But I want to eat something like that soooo bad…and I never do. I work 10-16 hours a day (yep, from 6:00 am till 10:00 pm) from Sunday to Sunday and skipping meals is an everyday occurrence. And whenever I do eat at a restaurant I do so looking at my watch every five minutes and never get to fully enjoy a meal as Liz does in Italy. And that is unfair. I know I am not in Italy, not with depression and not on vacations; but I still want to enjoy one of the greatest pleasures in life. And my little head here tells me that I have to do something to gain this long, expensive and fancy meal and yet It’s (my mind) asking for something totally out of question, because I haven’t been able to stop picking my face for a million other important and urgent reasons so why would I be able to do so just for a plate of food, eh?” And so I stayed, arguing with my mind and trying to make some sense of it when I finally put an end to it all and decided if nothing else it was worth a try (another thing that also helped a LOT was knowing that I would force myself to wear those horrid, white, clown gloves from the time I woke up till the time I was asleep!). And so, to make an already long story a bit shorter, I went for it and have been a week without picking even a single pimple on my face. I know it’s not a very long time at all, but I think that it’s my longest record on “not-picking-my-face” since I was 11 years old, and so just that says something for itself, no? If I can keep it for three weeks longer, you can be sure to expect me at the fanciest restaurant in town where I will be spending the full day there! :D
4.) Along with not picking my face I also decided to give it a help on healing and becoming smooth and “scar less” so I am now also doing a mud mask everyday right before I start meditating. Good results already have been visible for all to see. 
5.) This one is easy. No, actually it’s more than easy: its peasyyyyyyy!!! I need to do the following things weekly: go to Yoga class, Indian Dance class, read a book and write a blog post. No problem. No problem at all!!!

You see, for me reading this book not only made me want to change but also made me go after the change by having concrete goals I could run after and reach in the end of it all. And more than that it has made me want to go back to having a balanced life. I know I am a serious workaholic and need to stop sometimes to enjoy myself - and by enjoying myself it doesn't necessarily mean going to a bar with friends or to the best nightclub in town (which is what I usually do here to kick back a bit and relax). Instead it can be me just having fun by myself and getting to know myself even better. I can go for a walk in the beach, sleep a few extra hours one day without feeling totally guilty, watch a cute romance or funny comedy with my sister, play some board game with my family, get myself a body massage, get to know my own city - and the list is just endless. So now I am wanting to force myself into living a balanced life in every sense of the word. Not only professionally but also emotionally, spiritually and socially. Giving it a try, lets see where I will get to! Wish me luck!!! :D

Here goes the book review:

Early on in "Eat, Pray, Love," her travelogue of spiritual seeking, the novelist and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert gives a characteristically frank rundown of her traveling skills: tall and blond, she doesn't blend well physically in most places; she's lazy about research and prone to digestive woes. "But my one mighty travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody," she writes. "I can make friends with the dead. . . . If there isn't anyone else around to talk to, I could probably make friends with a four-foot-tall pile of Sheetrock."
This is easy to believe. If a more likable writer than Gilbert is currently in print, I haven't found him or her. And I don't mean this as a consolation prize, along the lines of: but she's really, really nice. I mean that Gilbert's prose is fuleled by a mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible, and makes the reader only too glad to join the posse of friends and devotees who have the pleasure of listening in. Her previous work of nonficition, "The Last American Man" (she's also the author of a fine story collection and a novel), was a portrait of a modern-day wilderness expert that became an evocative meditation on the American frontier, and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002.
Liz with her Brazilian husband, Felipe
Here, Gilbert's subject is herself. Reeling from a contentious divorce, a volatile rebound romance and a bout of depression, she decided at 34 to spend a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia. "I wanted to explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country, in a place that has traditionally done that one thing very well," she writes. "I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two." Her trip was financed by an advance on the book she already planned to write, and "Eat, Pray, Love" is the mixed result.
At its best, the book provides an occasion for Gilbert to unleash her fresh, oddball sensibility on an international stage. She describes Messina, Italy, as "a scary and suspicious Sicilian port town that seems to howl from behind barricaded doors, 'It's not my fault that I'm ugly! I've been earthquaked and carpet-bombed and raped by the Mafia, too!' " Later, she sees a Balinese mother "balancing on her head a three-tiered basket filled with fruit and flowers and a roasted duck — a headgear so magnificent and impressive that Carmen Miranda would have bowed down in humility before it." Gilbert also takes pleasure in poking fun at herself. At an Indian ashram, she winningly narrates the play of her thoughts while she tries to meditate: "I was wondering where I should live once this year of traveling has ended. . . . If I lived somewhere cheaper than New York, maybe I could afford an extra bedroom and then I could have a special meditation room! That'd be nice. I could paint it gold. Or maybe a rich blue. No, gold. No, blue. . . . Finally noticing this train of thought, I was aghast. I thought: . . . How about this, you spastic fool — how about you try to meditate right here, right now, right where you actually are?"
"Eat, Pray, Love" is built on the notion of a woman trying to heal herself from a severe emotional and spiritual crisis; Gilbert suggests more than once that she was at risk for suicide. But where she movingly rendered up the tortured inner life of Eustace Conway, the gigantically flawed subject of "The Last American Man," Gilbert has a harder time when it comes to Gilbert. Often she short shrifts her own emotional state for the sake of keeping the reader entertained: "They come upon me all silent and menacing like Pinkerton detectives," she writes of feeling depressed and lonely in Italy, "and they flank me — Depression on my left, Loneliness on my right. They don't need to show me their badges. I know these guys very well. We've been playing a cat-and-mouse game for years now. . . . Then Loneliness starts interrogating me. . . . He asks why I can't get my act together, and why I'm not at home living in a nice house and raising nice children like any respectable woman my age should be."
But wait a second — Gilbert is a New York journalist who has spent the prior several years traveling the world on assignment. In her chosen milieu, it would be unusual if she were married and raising kids in a house at age 34 — by her own account, she left her husband precisely to avoid those things. I'm willing to believe that Gilbert despaired over having failed at a more conventional life even as she sought out its opposite — complications like these are what make us human. But she doesn't tell that story here, or even acknowledge the paradox. As a result, her crisis remains a shadowy thing, a mere platform for the actions she takes to alleviate it.
What comes through much more strongly is her charisma. On a trip to Indonesia well before her year of travel, she visited a Balinese medicine man who read her palm and proclaimed: "You have more good luck than anyone I've ever met. You will live a long time, have many friends, many experiences. . . . You only have one problem in your life. You worry too much." He then invited her to spend several months in Bali as his protégé. At another point, Gilbert petitions God to move her husband to sign their divorce agreement and gets a nearly instant result; later she devotes a love hymn to her nephew, whose sleep problems, she learns the next week, have abruptly ceased. Putting aside questions of credibility, the problem with these testaments to Gilbert's good luck and personal power is that they undercut any sense of urgency about her future. "Eat, Pray, Love" suffers from a case of low stakes; one reads for the small vicissitudes of Gilbert's journey — her struggle to accept the end of her failed rebound relationship; her ultimately successful efforts to meditate; her campaign to help a Balinese woman and her daughter buy a home — never really doubting that things will come right. But even Gilbert's sassy prose is flattened by the task of describing her approach to the divine, and the midsection of the book, at the ashram, drags.

By the time she reaches Indonesia, Gilbert herself admits that the stated purpose of the visit has already been accomplished. "The task in Indonesia was to search for balance," she writes, "but . . . the balance has somehow naturally come into place." There would seem to be only one thing missing — romance — and she soon finds that with a Brazilian man 18 years her senior who calls her "darling" and says things like, "You can decide to feel how you want to, but I love you and I will always love you." Gilbert acknowledges the "almost ludicrously fairy-tale ending to this story," but reminds us, "I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue."
Rescue from what? The reader has never been sure. Lacking a ballast of gravitas or grit, the book lists into the realm of magical thinking: nothing Gilbert touches seems to turn out wrong; not a single wish goes unfulfilled. What's missing are the textures and confusion and unfinished business of real life, as if Gilbert were pushing these out of sight so as not to come off as dull or equivocal or downbeat. When, after too much lovemaking, she is stricken with a urinary tract infection, she forgoes antibiotics and allows her friend, a Balinese healer, to treat the infection with noxious herbs. "I suffered it down," Gilbert writes. "Well, we all know how the story ends. In less than two hours I was fine, totally healed." The same could be said about "Eat, Pray, Love": we know how the story ends pretty much from the beginning. And while I wouldn't begrudge this massively talented writer a single iota of joy or peace, I found myself more interested, finally, in the awkward, unresolved stuff she must have chosen to leave out.

segunda-feira, 17 de janeiro de 2011

Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Masters

This was a truly inspirational book. Before I touched this book I didn't have a clue to what Hasidism was about. I started the book twice and and thought it was so boring that I stopped on the first few pages. It was only at the beginning of this year that I promised myself to read it throughly. And once I started I couldn't let go!
Basically, it's a rough chronology of the hasidic movement in Judasim and talks about the lives and the tales of the hasidic masters. The tales open your eyes to different truths about spirituality, especially on pride and serving one another. 
The tales of Nahman of Bratslav are covered extensively, as were the lives of several compelling figures such as Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and Levi-Yitzhak of Berditchev.
Souls on Fire definately didn't make an instant Hasidc expert out of me, but it did give me a feeling for the history and traditions of a movement that, in the years of the holocust, played a major, if indirect, part in the preservation of Eastern European Jewry and it's culture.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes that I gathered from the book from different Hasidic Masters:

Baal Shem Tov: "Whoever loves God exclusively . . . . excluding man, reduces his love and his God to an abstraction."
Wiesel's Grandfather, a Hasid, but not a Rebbe: "To induce others to believe is easier than to believe."
Menachim-Mendl of Kotsk: "In Hell one prays better than in Paradise."
Rebbe Bunham of the School of Pshiskhe: "I think that I could reform any sinner - except a liar . . . . and the worst liar is one who lies to himself."
Very little though, in this book, can be read in a literal sense. To get the full impact of the book it is necessary to suspend reliance on reality in favor of imagination and perhaps a touch of compassion.

Book Review:
Hassidism, its tales, legends, and masters, has always been a source of mystery and confusion. "Souls on Fire" is a journey through Hassidism. Traveling from the source and further development of this unique Jewish religious manifestation is a joy when led by the mind and sould of Elie Wiesel. His personal and emotional input, the tales and legends included throughout the book, and his non-academic but rather humane approach (a typical Hassid) is the most sincere attempt in trying to understand and "speak of the unspeakable," sparkling light into a religious fervor born out of anguish and despair. The purpose is not to agree or understand, but rather to believe.

quinta-feira, 13 de janeiro de 2011


Every Brazilian should read this book. It talks about how to save money so you can be financially stable in your old age, howto's of buying an apartment, investing on the stockmarket, how to be frugal, manage your budget, plus a whole more truths about finances and economy written in a language that is simple and easy to understand. Another good point is that since it was written by a Brazilian it's aimed specifically for the Brazilians and the writer understands It's a book not made to read but yes, to study. No hurry, no deadline, only a pen and paper in hand to write it all down and then put it in practice. Read it - I am sure it will do you good! :D

Book Review:
In a clear and didatic form, Mauro Halfeld revolutionizes the way Brazilians manage their money. He bluntly discusses how to build your budget, purchase real estate and invest financially.His recommendations are practicaland accurateEnjoy!