Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 10 Books I Read in 2009

Top 10 Books I Read in 2009:

  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  2. A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan
  3. The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts
  4. Full Circle by Michael Thomas Ford
  5. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  6. Spine Intact, Some Creases by Victor J. Banis
  7. Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
  8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  9. The Reader by Berhard Schlink
  10. The Rest of Our Lives by Dan Stone

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Title: Auschwitz
Author: Laurence Rees
Publisher: Public Affairs (in USA); BBC Books (in UK)
Genre: Non-fiction, World War II History
ISBN: 978-1-58648-357-9

Reviewed by Michiel Korsmit (my husband)

Great book for everybody interested in the Nazi’s “final solution of the Jewish question.”

The book Auschwitz covers a lot more than the title implies. It gives a deep insight into how the Nazis handled their Jewish question, as well as the treatment of Gypsies, Russian POW’s and other not-wanted or low-life considered populations.

It describes how the Nazis’ top leaders developed their strategy from Jewish emigration in the 1930’s, to forced slavery and extermination in the 1940’s. Also, it tells how the Jewish populations in several European countries were treated by their governments and fellow countrymen. From the heroic Danish population who managed to save almost their entire Jewish community, to the sell-out of the Jews by the Hungarians and Slovaks.

But of course the main line in the book is Auschwitz – how this concentration camp started as a regular Nazi concentration camp for Polish political prisoners, where, of course a lot of brutality and killing occurred, but in the early stages Auschwitz wasn’t anywhere near as notorious as other Nazi concentration camps. However, under leadership from Auschwitz camp commander Rudolf Höss, Auschwitz would through the years develop into the factory of death for which it is now famous.

The book has a lot of interviews with people who were both imprisoned in Auschwitz, as well as with Nazis who “worked” at the camp. The focus on the human aspect of this book makes it an easy read. Since the book is so complete, I can recommend this book to everyone with an interest in this part of history.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Rest of Our Lives

Title: The Rest of Our Lives
Author: Dan Stone
Publisher: Lethe Press (2009)
Genre: Fantasy, Gay Romance
ISBN: 978-1-59021-147-2
Website: www.firstadream.com

The best word to describe Dan Stone’s first novel is “fun”. I usually don’t read a book in one sitting, but this novel was so engrossingly entertaining and fun that I could not put it down until I finished. Also, I usually avoid fantasy or paranormal books like the plague, but another reader’s comments piqued my interests and I’m glad that I put aside my fantasy-genre prejudice, at least temporarily, and bought this book.

This endearing novel is about two polar-opposite witches. Colm, the sometimes clueless, reserved, elemental witch, with all too human foibles, is able to freeze time. Aidan, the quintessentially hot, red-blooded man with a fiery personality, is a well-practiced elemental witch capable of heating things up. When fire and ice meet, the adventures begin. Aidan teaches Colm how to use his gift, and the sparks immediately fly. Colm cannot resist the handsome, outgoing Aidan, and drops his guard and falls in love. The proverbial fly-in-the-ointment comes when Colm and Aidan find out from Aidan’s intuitive aunt that the two of them have been finding, and falling in love with, each other for several millenniums, with Colm always left broken-hearted. Will Colm break the pattern of heartbreak by leaving Aidan for good, or will he believe in the power of love and magic that the two of them are truly soul mates? Will Colm follow his head or his heart?

This is an exceptional first novel that had me literally laughing out loud. The love Colm and Aidan have for each other is palpable and heartwarming. The minor characters are eccentric and fit with the story perfectly.

My only complaint is that the story kept me up to the early morning hours and deprived me of sleep! I’ll be looking forward to reading this talented writer’s next novel, and I hope I don’t have to wait too long to do so. If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining romance, you can’t go wrong with The Rest of Our Lives. Therefore, I give The Rest of Our Lives my highest recommendation.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spine Intact, Some Creases

Title: Spine Intact, Some Creases
Author: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: Borgo Press
ISBN: 978-1434402073
Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoirs
Website: http://www.vjbanis.com/

Victor J. Banis should be hailed a hero for the battles he fought and the trails that he blazed, and every writer should be grateful for all that he has done. He deserves an apology from the Federal government (especially the USPS) for the way he was treated. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, where all men are supposed to be created equal, the government’s treatment of Banis is embarrassing and appalling.

With a trumped-up obscenity charge and trial threatening to send him to prison, and an ongoing possibility of prison for what he was writing, Banis fought back and won.

For me, any American with a social conscience should be furious over the treatment this man endured at the hands of the government – and I for one certainly am outraged.

I don’t normally read non-fiction, but I’m glad that I read Spine Intact, Some Creases. The title alone was humorous and a bit intriguing. Banis effortlessly blends very poignant moments with hilarious tales, and keeps the reader turning the pages. I often read a few paragraphs of this downright, hilarious and laugh out loud funny book to my husband, and he found the stories just as funny as I.

I give this book a very enthusiastic thumbs up. Without a doubt, Spine Intact, Some Creases was the best book that I read in 2008. Buy this book – you won’t be disappointed. Mr. Banis is even posting several chapters of this book on his website - http://www.vjbanis.com/. Read a few of the chapters and then don’t delay ordering your copy. Out of 5 stars, I’d give this book at least 6 stars, so take my recommendation – this is a great book.

Through it all, Mr. Banis kept writing, and thankfully he keeps writing, and his fabulous works are still being published.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Angel Land

Title: Angel Land
Author: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises – Quest Books
ISBN: 978-1-935053-05-7
Genre: Fiction/Adventure/Futuristic
Website: http://www.vjbanis.com/

It doesn’t happen often to me that a book grabs me from the first sentence and holds my undivided attention until the final sentence, but that is exactly what Angel Land did to me. I read into the early morning hours, and I just couldn’t put the book down until I finished, and even though I finished, the story is still with me. That is the hallmark of a great writer.

Angel Land is a futuristic tale of the former United States, which have broken into the Fundamental Christian Territories. The Fundamental Christians are a totalitarian regime who have declared Catholics, Baptists and Jews as heretics. The “Fundies” force gay people into walled ghettos, known as Zones of Perversion, and keep them in line by providing the only medication for the one disease that everyone in the ghetto has acquired - the Sept virus, a deadly mutation of the 20th Century’s AIDS virus.

Thrown into the ghetto of Angel Land, the oldest of the territories, Harvey Milk Walton is seen as a possible savior to some, and as trouble to others. Will he live up to his namesake and find a way to get word to the free states and the world about the evil of the Fundies? Will he open his heart and do the one thing he has decided can never happen - fall in love? These are just some of the questions that will keep you turning the pages of Angel Land.

This is an amazing book with humorous moments, yet also a disturbing book as well. Many of the scenes are reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, while other scenes remind us of the civil liberties that have disappeared in the past eight years. When people start committing evil acts in the name of God and religion, the world becomes a darker place for everyone.

I give Angel Land my highest recommendation, and I think it should be read by everyone.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Phoenix

Title: The Phoenix
Author: Ruth Sims
Genre: Historical, Romance, Gay Fiction
Publisher: Lethe Press; New Edition February 2009
ISBN-10 1590210468: ISBN-13: 978-1590210468
Website: http://www.ruthsims.com/

As someone who is not a fan of historical fiction, I’ll be the first to say that I’m glad that I put aside my dislike for the genre, and read The Phoenix. This was one of the best love stories that I’ve read in a long time.

The Phoenix is a complex love story between Kit St. Denys, the rich, artistic actor with a troubled past, and Nick Stuart, the chaste, conservative, religious physician. Kit St. Denys, born Jack Rourke, and twin to Michael, flees his brutally abusive father after his father kills Michael. Dirt poor, injured and frightened out of his wits, the teenaged Jack escapes to the local theatre where he works and encounters his friend, Lizbet. Lizbet takes him to stay with her wealthy cousin, Xavier St. Denys. It is there, with Xavier, that Jack Rourke rises like the Phoenix and becomes Kit St. Denys. As he enters manhood, handsome, amiable and rich, he encounters the Puritanical Nick Stuart, who grew up in an extremely oppressive religious household. There is an instant attraction, and the two begin an intimate, but forbidden, love affair. Nick is the only man who can keep Kit’s nightmares about his troubled past at bay. The big problem that Kit battles in his love for Nick is his unwillingness to share Nick with God. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings abound, and the “couple” go their separate ways, only to find one another later in New York, with Nick married with a baby on the way.

The hellish nightmares continue to haunt Kit, culminating with a bloody battle with his past. Will Nick be able to save the love of his life from himself? Will Kit ever be able to bury his troubled past? Will Nick’s wife see through his façade and realize that Nick and Kit are in love? A roller coaster ride of emotions ensues, and multiple lives will never be the same. Not until the last chapter will you find out if the Phoenix rises yet again.

The Phoenix is a well-constructed love story with a solid plot. The main characters are so well-defined that you will get a clear, indelible picture of both Kit and Nick, and the minor characters advance the plot exceptionally well. The author did an excellent job of weaving a tightly knit plot and bringing everything to a final resolution.

From the first page to the last paragraph, I was hooked on this novel. I wasn’t exactly a fan of Kit’s until he faced his demons in New York, but after that he had me in his corner. I lost a few hours sleep reading this book because I didn’t want to put it down, but it was well worth it. Definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year. I give The Phoenix my highest recommendation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rain Fall

Title: Rain Fall
Author: Barry Eisler
Genre: Action/Suspense
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 9780451209153
Website: www.barryeisler.com

Rain Fall is the first in the series of assassin-extraordinaire, John Rain. From the very first “hit” to the last, the reader will be enthralled with this intelligent thriller.

John Rain is a specialized assassin – he eliminates his targets by making their demises look as if they died of natural causes. Rain is an outsider wherever he goes. Half-American and half-Japanese, Rain was ostracized from the time he was born. Having served in Vietnam with the American military, Rain later moved to Japan, disillusioned and haunted by the past. With the skills that made him an excellent soldier, Rain channeled those skills, along with a mastery of the martial arts, to become an extremely efficient assassin. Developing feelings for the daughter of one of his victims was not part of his plan, but when emotions get involved, the best laid plans get thrown out the window.

Rain Fall is a book that is nearly impossible to put down. Filled with twists and turns, amazing martial arts fight scenes and intelligent characters, this page-turner is a must read for action/suspense fans. I give Rain Fall my highest recommendation.