Category: Reviews

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play – Book Review

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play is Kobe Bryant’s personal perspective of his life and career on the basketball court and his exceptional, insightful style of playing the game―a fitting legacy from the late Los Angeles Laker superstar.

If you’re a holistic basketball enthusiast or die hard Kobe Bryant fan, this is the coffee table book for you! You know what Kobe is about and the book perfectly represents his passion for basketball and his meticulous study of his craft.
As a basketball enthusiast or die hard Kobe fan, you’d appreciate the official Kobe perspective on VIPs in his career and the(/select) thought process behind his approach.

But let me clarify….

Despite the title, what this book is NOT:

1. A step by step guide on “Mamba Mentality” aka “How to THINK like Kobe”–if you are a true Kobe (or Jordan fan) for that matter, you know that his level of competitiveness is innate and if you want the inner workings to that, the closest book to it is “Relentless” by Tim Grover (…MJ’s trainer)

2. a reference guide to Kobe’s mental, fitness and basketball prep–no, this isn’t going to be like Tom Brady’s TB12 nutrition manual nor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Encyclopedia of Modern Body Building” that details what you need to do to physically and nutritionally be at the top

3. an autobiography on Kobe’s life–again, coffee table book w/personally selected thoughts on his basketball career

4. a Bible on all things Kobe– while some coffee table books aim to include all the minutiae a super fan would want , this is not where you are going to find pictures of every single shoe he has worn nor every commercial he has been a part of

“But, but the book mentions ‘Mamba Mentality'”….well if you are a Kobe fan, you’d know that it takes more than one book (“magic bullet”) to encompass the Mamba Mentality. If anything, the Mamba Mentality is about having incredible self awareness, the willingness to outwork and outstudy everyone else and putting the awareness and willingness into action all the time. It’s not that the book is without “Mamba Mentality” but rather it covers the essence of it 100% of the time. He gives you select insight into his thought process on playing against other top players, thoughts/memoirs on people that have inspired him and if anything, the clear notion that he is not going to hand hold any reader on “Mamba Mentality” just because they bought his book.

” I was hoping for a Kobe Bible”….I will have to admit, I would have wanted that too but I have to be upfront that this is not the scope of this book (some other super fan who wants to monetize it can write that book) and from a business perspective, I am sure he realizes that he could sell more than one book about himself. People certainly buy different versions of his basketball shoes, even if one model would suffice for the average joe.

That said, if there is one printed object that encapsulates who the public know as “Kobe Bryant”….this is the book. This is the Kobe book you’d put in a time capsule and share with future (basketball fan) generations.

My Dark Vanessa – Book Review

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Vanessa Wye could never be called a typical teenager. She’s wickedly intelligent, disorganized to a fault and prefers books to boys any day of the week. She also feels forsaken by almost everyone in her life.

The only time that she feels truly seen is in Mr. Strane’s American Lit class. He speaks to her as if she’s a peer – not as if she’s just a child. He understands her on a level that no one else does. And it’s the most intoxicating experience she’s ever known.

The repercussions of their forbidden relationship will bleed into every aspect of her life for years to come. Until the day when a single Facebook post shatters the illusion of the love that has come to define her.

My Dark Vanessa is by far my favourite book so far this year! With her hypnotic debut, Kate Elizabeth Russell weaves a tale that is as disturbing as it is soulful. She made it so easy for me to relate to Vanessa on a very genuine level. I felt her isolation, her complexity and her turmoil as if it were my own. With every layer of her character that was peeled back, a more tender layer was revealed. I saw her as a fragile warrior struggling to hold together all of her jagged pieces. And her strength was awe-inspiring.

This book clearly isn’t going to be for everyone. But for those who can look into the shadows and still see light, this is story that you will never forget.

American Dirt (Oprah’s Book Club) – Book Review

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy―two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia―trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

Lydia Perez Delgado’s whole family, apart from son Luca, are wiped out in an orgy of killing. Sixteen people are slaughtered. This is retribution for her journalist husband Sebastian’s article about Le Lechusa (The Owl) – Javier Crespo Fuentes) who is head of the Los Jardineros Cartel. Prior to this, Javier had spent hours in Lydia’s bookshop discussing literature and poetry with her. Lydia has no clue at this point that Javier is anything other than someone who shares her passion for books. Now, Javier is her enemy and she and Luca have to flee their comfortable life in Acapulco and seek safety in the USA.

The story is chilling, tense and well written as it charts their incredibly dangerous journey, clinging to the top of goods trains, getting robbed and ultimately paying a coyote. The characters are good though I feel more depth to Luca and in the sisters Soledad and Rebecca from Honduras who they travel with. There’s a sense of detachment in Lydia which is appropriate as it’s her way of surviving the trauma of the murders and the dangers of the journey. Her care for all three children is admirable. The younger characters have to grow up quickly in order to survive and they have to endure things no one should.There are some vivid descriptions of the dangers and the landscapes and places they travel through. They meet badness for sure but they also meet a lot of kindness and people who are prepared to help. There are several moments when your heart is in your mouth. The ending is optimistic although there’s awareness of a long road ahead for psychological recovery.


Journey of the Pharaohs – Book Review

Kurt Austin and the NUMA crew risk everything to stop a cutthroat arms dealer from stealing a priceless ancient treasure in the thrilling new novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling grand master of adventure.

In 1074 B.C., vast treasures disappear from the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. In 1927, a daredevil American aviator vanishes on an attempted transcontinental flight. And in the present day, a fishing trawler–along with its mysterious cargo–sinks off the coast of Scotland. How are these three mysterious events connected? And, more importantly, what do they mean for Kurt Austin and his NUMA team?

As they search for answers, the NUMA squad join the agents of the British MI5 to take on a wide-reaching international conspiracy. Their common enemy is the Bloodstone Group, a conglomerate of arms dealers and thieves attempting to steal ancient relics on both sides of the Atlantic. Kurt and his team soon find themselves wrapped up in a treacherous treasure hunt as they race to find the lost Egyptian riches. . . before they fall into the wrong hands.

Cleve Cussler is a great story teller in the tradition of Louis L’Amour. He has a way of capturing the readers attention with the use of imagative history. It is hard to put each book down on the first read and the action continues to build on subsequent re-readings. For the action genre reader, a Clive Cussler novel is a must read.

Where the Crawdads Sing – Book Review

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

This is one of the most moving, caring, emotional novels I have ever read. I read this book only because I had met Delia and have read her wildlife books she wrote with husband Mark Owens. After starting the book this was all I could think about for days. Kya’s life become part of mine and the characters ceased to live on the page… they were alive with me and I was in the marsh, feeling every feather – the air, creatures and the plants. Jumpin’ became a trusted friend and so many moments touched my very soul. I should not have been surprised as Delia has a great style in her wildlife books that I love to read. But a novel like this is not my normal read. Maybe I need to now reconsider what I choose as this book stopped me cold and made me rethink a lot that happened in my life. Delia touched the human soul with her behavioral descriptions. She is not only a respected wildlife scientist, she is a human behaviorist and understands more about the human condition that just about anyone else I know. This is a tremendous treasure of a book and I’m sure it’s staying in my read again list for a long time. Highly recommend the book.

The Mirror & the Light – Book Review

With The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with her peerless, Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

The story begins in May 1536: Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.

Cromwell, a man with only his wits to rely on, has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. All of England lies at his feet, ripe for innovation and religious reform. But as fortune’s wheel turns, Cromwell’s enemies are gathering in the shadows. The inevitable question remains: how long can anyone survive under Henry’s cruel and capricious gaze?

Eagerly awaited and eight years in the making, The Mirror & the Light completes Cromwell’s journey from self-made man to one of the most feared, influential figures of his time. Portrayed by Mantel with pathos and terrific energy, Cromwell is as complex as he is unforgettable: a politician and a fixer, a husband and a father, a man who both defied and defined his age.

The Mirror and the Light (a vivid description of the kingship of Henry VIII (died in 1541) is the third volume in the Thomas Cromwell series of novels by Hilary Mantel (the British novelist who has won two Booker Prizes). The story is the biographical account of Thomas Cromwell the Putney brew/blacksmith’s son who rose to prominence and fell before the ax of the executioner in Tudor England.

Mantell is a great writer of historical fiction and knows the Tudor period like the back of her hand. Her style is poetic and literary. You often have to read her long sentences two or three times to get the meaning. Reading her is slow and her prose is a challenge to master. Several times you have to catch yourself to remember whom is talking to whom. Nevertheless, this book is like you are listening in to intimate conversations among high born sixteenth century ambassadors, and aristocrats. Mantel also enjoys following various characters as they meditate on the past and speculate on the future. Anyone reading her should have a basic understanding of the Tudor times she so well presents to us. There are many characters to keep straight and many stories to follow during the course of almost eight hundred pages. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful book. Enjoy and learn!

Vine Witch (Vine Witch #1) – Book Review

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

I found the idea of vine witches taking care of vineyards very refreshing. The rest of the world building with villagers accepting different kinds of witches and their magic (rather than prosecuting them) was also quite appealing. Plot has some magic, some suspense and some romance in it. There is very little of real drastic graphic cruelty in it but be prepared for some killings, bad witches and vicious demons. And , as a cherry on the top, there is also a surprising ending
I recommend this book to everyone who likes reading fairy tales. It is a perfect escapist book with likable and not over complicated characters and interesting magic world. Great debut.