Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Black Ops. Inc. Series by Cindy Gerard

One day during my two week 'not feeling well' time when scrolling down my bookmarks on book blogs I came into the forgotten site of 'Xoxo After Dark' (xoxoafterdark.com). There is a free read section. Mostly Fantasy and Romance and not always to my liking but from time to time something pops up. And this series did. You normally have a limited time to read them free directly from the internet.

This Black Ops. Inc. series remind me of Alison Brennan's books on the Kincaid family. It is the same easy read, very thrilling stories and a little bit of romance in between. This series is about a bunch of tough, brave and gorgeous men and women who fight for the good side! Yes, it is a lot about the good guys and the bad guys. The series start in Sierra Leone where our guys are on a mission with their special forces group. One of them dies in the attack. This makes them think of what they are doing especially since they suspect that he died by foul play.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Book beginnings on Friday

I will use this wonderful book for the book beginnings challenge. This one is really wonderful and this is the kind of beginning that captivates me from the first line:

I'll never forget the night it snowed over Calcutta.


Yesterday I was a little tired due to a cold so I decided to spend the day reading (what luxury even if the upper respiratory system is blocked!). I grabbed a book from my TBR shelf since the reader was set for loading! The book I choose is from one of my absolute favourite writers, Carlos Ruiz Zafón. His "The Shadow of the Wind" is a magic book, as is "The Angel's Game". I thought that I picked the third book in the series (although they are all independent books). How wrong was I not! The third book, I have now learned, is called "The Prisoner of Heaven". This turns out to be the second book of two he wrote in the 1990's for Young Adults (the first being "The Prince of Mist"). However that might be, it is certainly a book also for adults.

Ruiz Zafón does not disappoint you. This is just another of his magic books which is written in such beautiful prose that it almost makes you loose the story just for the beauty of the words. There is, as usual in his books, a mystery story that erases the line between real and make believe. It takes place in Calcutta in principal in May 1932, but the book starts 16 years earlier in 1916 when Lieutenant Peake saves newborn twins (a boy, Ben and a girl, Sheere) from an avenger with, what seems like, supernatural powers. He manages to deliver the twins safely to their grandmother before he meets his faith. To protect the children the grandmother leaves the boy with an orphanage run by a friend of the family. Ben grows up there and 16 years later when the orphans are considered grown ups and have to leave the place the story continues.

Seven of the children in the orphanage created their own secret society called Chowbar Society and there meetings take place in a deserted, derelict house they call the Midnight Palace. It is a very tight group and for these orphaned children they only have each other. They know they will meet for the last time on the eve before they all have to leave the orphanage for a new life on the outside. This is the same eve as the grandmother visits the orphanage with her niece to speak to the director and to reveal the identity of the boy she left with him 16 years earlier. The niece, while waiting for her grandmother, meets the other youngsters and the ball has been set in motion. How little do the group know what the near future bears in mind and how their loyalty to each other will be stretched to the very limit.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Kinship With All Life by J. Allen Boone

If you have any kind of animals this is a book for you but of course for all animal lovers. Dr Dolittle invited us to 'speak to the animals' and this is book that has the same message but maybe on another level. The initial story of the book is about the German shepherd Strongheart who
Strongheart
was a famous movie dog in the 1920ies. He came to stay with the writer for some time and a very strong bond developed between the two. This was of course a very well trained dog and when you read about their time together he seems very human. Ah, but stop... this is exactly the point. Boone means that we humans always put ourselves above the animals and think ourselves superior. However, in the dealings with Strongheart the writer discovers time after time that the dog has his own private sphere and life which is on an equal level with himself. Mentally, we have to see each other as equal creatures and try to find the level where we can communicate with each other. Words are not always necessary although we often seem to think so. There are many fantastic stories in the book on how intelligent this dog was. You wish you had a dog like that to teach you a thing or two!

Having been very successful with Strongheart, Boone continues to investigate people who live very closely with their animals and seem to have a special bond, for example indians and their horses, bedouins and their camels and horses. They see their animals as equals and all of us have been created by a higher authority to understand each other. You have to open your mind to one another. You think though that to reach this universal language and understanding with animals it works with a dog like Strongheart. However, Boone tells in his book on how he managed to use this universal language of love to also capture the spirits of other animals. In the book he tells the stories how he befriended a skunk, ants, earthworms and Freddie the fly...!


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Visit to Amsterdam

Your local bread shop!
As I mentioned in the Tulipomania post we had scheduled a trip to Amsterdam for the long weekend. Although I have lived in Brussels for 16 years we never visited the city (although my husband have been there before). Well, some things you regret! This is a wonderful city and I should have visited it much earlier. But...never too late! There are a lot of things to see and just to walk around the city is a pleasure in itself. The wonderful canals, the beautiful Dutch houses, the flowers, the house boats just about everything. The people all speak English and they are all very friendly.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and having settled into our Designer hotel, Artemis, in the outskirts of Amsterdam we took the bus downtown. First the important thing to find something to eat and then we were ready for the Rijksmuseum where the main attraction is Rembrandt's 'Nightwatch'.
The Library in the Rijksmuseum
Nightwatch by Rembrandt
I like art, especially the old masters (not so much modern art), but I am no expert. However, the paintings here from 16-17th centuries are absolutely fantastic. The Dutch painters portrayed very well everyday life which I think is far more interesting to see than gods and goddesses (although they have their charm as well). Unfortunately we were late and they closed an hour early that day so we really had to rush through this section and had to run (more or less) through the 18-19th centuries. This is a very good excuse to go back to Amsterdam to have a proper look. And the LIBRARY I could have stayed there for some hours (have a look at the picture).
The Flower Market
The Flower Market from the
canal by night

Afterwords a walk around the canals and the flower market before we headed to eat in the highly recommended Indonesian restaurant Sama Sebo (http://www.samasebo.nl/en/) where we had the famous 'rijstafel'. Two different kind of rice with I think at least 15-20 small dishes to go with it. Yammi!

Saturday saw us walking around the city again.  Our first aim was  Anne Frank's house but as it turned out we were not the only onces! The queue was too long so we had to settle for a picture. Instead we headed to the other side of the canal to visit the Tulip museum. This is a very nice, rather small museum but with all the information on how the tulip came to Europe and Holland, the Tulipomania and the present day tulip market in Holland. Very interesting.