fifth gospelPublished by Simon and Schuster, March 2015 *****

This is the kind of book you never want to end. It has everything: a religious conspiracy, scriptural interpretations, biblical artifacts, Catholic scholarship. It is also intellectual, engaging, and thought-provoking.

The Shroud of Turin has been a symbol of Christianity for centuries, but it was recently proved to be a fake dating from the Middle Ages. Ugo, curator of a groundbreaking exhibit based on The Shroud, is set to disprove the scientific evidence based on scriptural and and historical documentation. But when the Ugo is found murdered, it is up to two brothers, Alex and Simon, to find out why he was killed. Father Alex is a Greek Catholic priest living within The Vatican with his son.  Simon, a Roman Catholic priest,  calls him from the scene of Ugo’s murder without explaining how he’s involved. Desperate to help his brother prove his innocence, Father Alex must uncover the secrets of the Shroud that Ugo was going to uncover and reveal to the world.

There is so much going on here, but it is all so deftly woven and expertly rendered. If anyone were to compare this to The DaVinci Code, I would be embarrassed for them. Dan Brown can’t hold a candle to Caldwell. His writing is phenomenal and compelling. I am not a Catholic, but the way he portrays the history of the religion and its principles is approachable and never preachy or self-righteous. I was especially intrigued by the scriptural scholarship presented. The scandalous implications never came across as absurd, and the greater message of uniting the Eastern Orthodoxy with Catholicism is inspiring.

I just really hope it doesn’t take Caldwell another 10 years to write his next book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

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Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead

village of secretsPublished by Harper, October 2014 ***

The fate of Jews in Vichy France is often overlooked and this book recognizes the ordinary French citizens who risked their lives to save their fellow countrymen. The title is a bit misleading, as the subject is actually a group of communities in France situated on an isolated plateau. During the early years of German occupation, this was considered the unoccupied zone, but eventually, the entire country was overtaken by The Reich, and its anti-Jewish laws were enforced everywhere. Due to the remote location of the plateau, numerous Jews were secreted away to isolated villages and farms. A majority of them were children who had escaped prison camps and were, more often than not, orphaned when their parents were sent to death camps in the east.

There are miraculous stories of bravery, selflessness, and close calls. But there is also the tedium of a huge cast of characters, a multitude of welfare and relief organizations, and numerous location names to keep track of. Characters lost their individuality as the narrative progressed and more and more refugees, collaborators, and rescuers were introduced. Overall, it’s a decent portrait of the perils of life in Vichy France, but I wasn’t entirely captivated by the book as a whole.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours.

 

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Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

number the starsPublished by Yearling, 1989 *****

What an amazing little book. Annamarie and her family live in Nazi-occupied Denmark, and when the Germans begin rounding up the nation’s Jews, she will do anything to protect her best friend Ellen. I was so enamored with this story and with Annamarie’s selflessness and bravery. Lowry created a wonderful heroine and successfully turned the harsh realities of war into a story of hope and honor.

 

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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

the diving bell and the butterflyPublished by Vintage, 1997 *****

I was so deeply affected by this book and utterly amazed by Bauby’s fierce determination. Left completely paralyzed by a debilitating stroke, he dictated his memoir by basically blinking the alphabet. I can’t even fathom the isolation he must have felt to be of sound mind in an utterly useless body. It is incredibly tragic and moving and I am completely in awe of this man’s legacy.

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Readathon Updates

UPDATE 5, 7:00 pm:

I read all of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly and it took me a few minutes to decompress after reading it.  Heavy, man.  Completely unfathomable.  Extremely well-written.  But shit.  I just can’t even…

At about 5:00 I finally changed out of the pajamas I slept in.  Into a different set of pajamas.  But I needed to freshen up a bit.

We are calling it a wrap for our most fun readathon ever!  9 whole hours! Rach finished Gone Girl, I finished two books and read another two (Number the Stars by Lois Lowry being the latest completion).

Pages read (Julz): 166, 364 total

Pages read (Rach): 174, 282 total

We are going to spend the rest of the evening organizing Rach’s bookshelves, making brie and raspberry jam grilled cheeses, watching Pride and Prejudice, and drinking Michigan wine.  To those of you staying up for the duration, good luck!


UPDATE 4, 4:00 pm:

I don’t typically resort to cursing when I write, but HOLY FUCK this book.  In case you aren’t familiar with The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, the author “found himself paralyzed and speechless” following a stroke and dictated his memoir by his only means of communication: blinking a eyelid.

Pages read (Julz): 110, 227 total

Pages read (Rach): 64, 174 total

“Alright assholes, whatcha got?” -Rach, upon resuming reading Gone Girl

Speaking of assholes, unopenable pistachios are the worst.

But this face:

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UPDATE 3, 2:00 pm:

Four hours in!  It is cold and rainy here in Michigan.  So it is an ideal day for snuggling up with books.  We have snacked on cucumbers with dill cream cheese and smoked salmon.

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Also, radishes and pistachios.

Mind blown:  my last book ended on page 233 and when I picked up The Tudor Vendetta, I was on page 233.  Whoa.

Pages read (Julz): 57,  117 total

Pages read (Rach): 60, 110 total

Rach is totally engrossed in Gone Girl and keeps making comments while she’s reading.  “Oh snap.”  I just finished The Tudor Vendetta and am about to start The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

UPDATE 2, 12:00 pm

I finished reading Glimpsing Heaven.  It was amazing, I can’t wait to post my review.  Thanks to Trish from TLC for recommending it!

Pages read (Julz): 60

Pages read (Rach): 50

“I just gleeked on my book” -Julz

“Nick just turned into a compete douche if he wasn’t already.” -Rach (reading Gone Girl)

UPDATE 1, 10:00 am

Yeah, so sorry again for the late start.  Additional sleep was necessary.  But I’ve had a white chocolate raspberry scone and fruit salad, so I’m energized and ready to read.  As for this fruit salad, it is quite exceptional and I want to share the recipe with you:

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. The zest of one orange.  Two tablespoons of honey and two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

Delish!  Rach is still snoozing, but I’m ready to read, though a nap may be necessary.  Plus I’m an hour ahead of Chicago time.  Yes, I’m making excuses, but Tanqueray.  I’ll check in in again in a couple of hours…

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Readathon Ready Set Go!

Readathon is here!  My apologies in advance, we will not be starting on time.  Tanqueray.

I am reporting to you from lovely Benton Harbor in Southwestern Michigan.  This is a monumental occasion, as Bestie Rach are participating TOGETHER and we are a snuggled up in her living room ready get our read on.  I will probably post a few updates throughout the day to share what we’re up do and what we’re eating.  Because food is almost as important as the reading.  We’ll be checking in with the blogosphere on occasion to see what everyone else is doing and entering giveaways and whatnot.  Otherwise, there’s not really much structure to our day.

Now some of you may be wondering why Bestie Rach is suddenly showing up so much on the blog this past year.  Well here’s a little background, a proper introduction if you will:  We met in college when I found out she was dating my ex.  Became friends despite him.  Eventually we were sorority sisters and roommates.  We stood up in each other’s weddings, and over the years, Rach would occasionally come Chicago way for fun weekends.  Fast forward:  the beginning of 2014 brought some big personal changes for Rach, and since then, she has been reading more than ever, having fabulous adventures with Julz, and bantering about books on the blog.  After 16 years of friendship, we have never been closer.

rach

circa 1999

My reading pile has changed a bit, as there are two books I really want to finish, Glimpsing Heaven and The Tudor Vendetta.  Then I’m moving on to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Alice in Zombieland, and Number the Stars.  If I have time, I want to start The Fifth Gospel.  My next post is where I will include updates throughout the day, so stay tuned!

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Readathon is Coming!

Readathon_Pocketwatch_Bellezza

This weekend is the bi-annual Dewey’s Readathon, and I’ve never been so excited to participate.  I will be traveling to Michigan to readathon (v.) with my Bestie Rach!  I’ve never done a readathon with a buddy before and  Rach is the perfect readathon companion.  Squee!

We will be kicking off the weekend Friday night by honoring F. Scott Fitzgerald and sipping on some French 75 cocktails and prepping The Food.  My god, we’re going to do it up right. Here are the list of yummy snacks we’re going to devour:

  • Berry salad with balsamic vinegar, honey, and orange zest
  • Cucumbers with dill cream cheese and smoked salmon
  • Brie and raspberry jam grilled cheese

My pile will include:

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook
  • The next Daniel Silva
  • And whatever else I’m currently reading

Rach will be reading:

I don’t know exactly when on Saturday we’ll get started, and I can’t guarantee how late we’ll make it.  But in lieu of late-night reading, (and because there will be much consumption of Michigan wine), we will be watching bookish movies that may include The Ninth Gate, Pride and Prejudice, and The Book Thief.

 

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