Book of the month: June & July

Torrey Pines, San Diego, CA - Shot w/ a Leica M3

Torrey Pines, San Diego, CA - Shot w/ a Leica M3

The last two months were particularly busy for me, so I didn't read as much as I would have liked to, but I still made time to read 3 books and almost finish a 4th one.

The first one I read was "Beneath a Scarlet Sky", by Mark Sullivan. You can find it here.   

This book is simply fascinating! I couldn't put it down! I highly recommend it! Since the beginning I knew it would make it for a great movie - and it indeed will become one soon (more about it here).

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Based on the true story of the forgotten hero Pino Lella, whose life does seem like something out of a movie or a novel, "Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of his incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours".

The official book summary reads:

"Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share."

This book has everything: adventure, romance,'s an instant classic you must read.

The second book I read I was "The Alchemist", by fellow Brazilian Paulo Coelho. You can find it here

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I must say I was never interested in reading Paulo Coelho because of my mom, a Portuguese/Literature professor who never liked his writing and always thought it was too poor, linguistically speaking, if compared with other Brazilian writers. So I always had this preconception against him.

One day in June, however, my wife Alejandra came home with a book and she told me: "Please don't look at the cover. Just open it and read it, please". I did. Fifty pages later, she told me I could see the cover. It was "The Alchemist", one of her mom's favorite books.

Well, what can I say about this book? It does have a beautiful message, and it is indeed written with a simple language, which may disappoint the more purist who are looking for the art of writing but, looking from a different angle, it is perhaps this more accessible writing - along with its core messages - that took the book to millions of people around the world, and that is an amazing achievement. The more people read, the better.

It is a cute little book that one could read in 1 hour or so, and it is the book that I would probably give to my child one day, to inspire her/him to listen to her/his heart and follow her/his dreams. It wouldn't make it, however, to my top 50, even top 100 favorite books of all time.

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The third book I read, which I finished just a few days ago, was "Snow Falling On Cedars", by David Guterson

I found this book at a little free library at a park near our house here in San Diego. Its concept is simple: leave a book, take a book.

The official book summary reads:

"San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies.  But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder.  In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt.

For on San Pedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries--memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost.

Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched.  Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense-- one that leaves us shaken and changed". 

You can find the book here

I really enjoyed this book. It took me only a few days to finish it. 

It's a poignant, compelling and beautifully written story that engage us not only with great characters but also with a moody atmosphere one can almost feel, smell, hear and see. I certainly recommend this novel to those interested in having a glimpse into the situation of Japanese in the USA during the WWII, which is told here through a brilliant writing that is at the same time rich and easy. 

This book has history, love, drama, pride, honor, prejudice, suspense,'s a fine book I will definitely keep recommending.

How about you? What are you reading now? What book(s) would you recommend me? I'd love to hear from you!

Happy reading!


Bernardo Salce