Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

genghiskhanMost of us have heard about Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. More often, he and his people are regarded as brute, ruthless and hostile. Almost always in a negative setting. Nevertheless, his and the empire’s story is captivating and needs to be told.

In this book, the author, Jack Weatherford tells us the story of Genghis Khan and his empire and how it shaped the beginning of the modern world. Weatherford asks us to reconsider our view of this great leader and his descendants.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World starts in detailing the early life of Genghis Khan, who was brought into the world in the steppe between Mongolia and Siberia. He was named Temujin by his father which means “of iron” or “blacksmith.” It was in year 1206 (if I remember it right) that he became the leader of the great Mongol nation and was then named Genghis Khan. The information on his early life was based on a document discovered called The Secret History of the Mongols. He did not have an easy childhood. He was confronted with many difficulties as a child. He didn’t have a formal education but he knew tradition and he knew that he lives in a dangerous world. His father was murdered and their family was cast out of the clan and so they were forced to live and survive on their own. He was also kidnapped and was forced to be a slave and this started his determination to seek revenge on every tribe that made his life difficult as a child.

The book focused more on the classic Mongol era — the period from Genghis Khan to Khubilai Khan. The stream of details will truly captivate the reader. And well, yes, Genghis Khan and his armies killed many people, sure, but warfare was important in creating the Mongol empire. Through his organized warfare, he unites everyone in every place he conquers regardless of their race and religion. Warfare and uniting the people were big steps that contributed to the foundation of the modern world and Genghis Khan made many laws. Genghis Khan is an extremely reformist leader. He made sure of everyone’s fundamental freedoms, everyone including women. He also advocated for human rights and education.

Genghis Khan and the other rulers of the Mongol empire practiced universalism. Since they didn’t have their own system to impose on their people, they were open to combine systems from the different places they have conquered. They looked and tried for what worked best for the empire. It is also notable that one of the best achievement of the Mongols was their great ability to blend with different local cultures thus giving the empire’s rule an exceptional degree of stability.

In the end, though, the empire was defeated by an unexpected enemy which was the plague. It spread like wildfire. Millions of people died. Eventually the empire started to fall and left divided into smaller kingdoms. Consequently, there came a growing anti-Asian attitude specially focused on the Mongols.

I enjoyed reading this book and hope to read more about Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire. Genghis Khan rocks!

Quotable Quotes:

“Genghis Khan recognized that warfare was not a sporting contest or a mere match between rivals; it was a total commitment of one people against another. Victory did not come to the one who played by the rules; it came to the one who made the rules and imposed them on his enemy.”

“Without the vision of a goal, a man cannot manage his own life, much less the lives of others.”

” …there is no good in anything until it is finished…”

Rating: 4/5 stars


What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

whatthewindknowsWhat the Wind Knows is a perfect book to explain why I love reading. It’s always nice reading about parts of history I know very little or nothing about and with this book, I’ve learned a lot about Irish history. Add to that a stunning love story!

Going into this book blind, it came as a surprise that this is a historical fiction/romance having two narrators which made the events a lot more interesting and clearer given the two perspectives from the two main characters. Moreover, the history of Ireland woven into an unexpected and remarkable time travel.

Anne Gallagher, our main character, was raised by her grandfather, Eion, who taught her almost everything about the world except for one thing — where they came from. Eoin’s dying wish was for his ashes to be spread in Lough Gill where he himself was born and raised. Devastated and heartbroken for her grandfather’s death, Anne packed her things and flew to Ireland. She made several inquiries and soon found herself alone in a boat in Lough Gill and was swallowed by a thick fog, clueless which way to row. Moments later, a bigger boat came to sight with three men aboard and one of the men shot her and she fell in the water. She soon blacked out and the next thing she knows, a man she didn’t recognize was calling her name.

I know almost nothing about Ireland’s history and their fight for freedom back in the 1920s and this book was very informative and inspiring. It also gave me a chance to get close and get a glimpse of the people who lead Ireland to their freedom from England. Michael Collins seemed so real. In fact, the characters all seemed to come to life and I loved them. They were all captivating. I adored them all. Specially Thomas! I love this guy!

I was so delighted with Anne and Thomas’ love story and I loved that the author gave us both their perspectives on the same events. I’m not normally into time travel reads but this just works so perfectly for me.

This is my first book from Amy Harmon and this was quite an introduction to her works. She is a wonderful storyteller and she just became one of my favorite authors already. I can’t wait to read and explore more of her books.

I loved this book so much — history, romance and time travel all in one! I must say, this is one of the best love stories I have ever read. The many years of waiting, the heartbreak, oh, it’s all so worth the time reading this gem. This easily goes to my top favorites this year and in my heart for a long time. Great book! Highly recommended!

Quotable Quotes:

“But the wind and water know all the earth’s secrets. They’ve seen and heard all that has ever been said or done. And if you listen, they will tell you all the stories and sing every song. The stories of everyone who has ever lived. Millions and millions of lives. Millions and millions of stories.”

“We turn memories into stories, and if we don’t, we lose them. If the stories are gone, then the people are gone too.”

“If you can’t say them, write them. They last longer that way.”

“Tragedy makes for great stories, but I’d much rather your story–the one you live, not the ones you write–be filled with joy. Don’t revel in tragedy… Rejoice in love. And once you find it, don’t let it go.”

“Someone very wise told me that we keep the people we love in our hearts. We never lose them as long as we remember how it felt to be loved by them.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

pachinkoPachinko follows the story of Sunja and her family through four generations across Korea and Japan. It describes the experiences of Koreans during the Japanese occupation in Korea and the harsh discrimination they had to endure in Japan during that moment in history. Sunja and her family, as well as many Koreans, didn’t have much choice at that time but to struggle in order to survive.

There are so many characters in this book, some we encounter very briefly while some take part throughout the entire story. Even with a large cast of characters, Min Jin Lee was able to let us glimpse into each one of them and how they lead their lives. What I found most interesting was how she managed to put the characters in similar situations and how the characters chose to deal with it.

It’s a lengthy read but don’t let that stop you from reading for the book was greatly-paced, you wouldn’t want to put it down.

Min Jin Lee’s writing style is simple but elegant. The characters seem to speak in a such a way that it penetrates through the heart and touched me and made every part of the story realistic. Somehow, I did not want the book to end. I love that I’ve learned more about some part of history I have been keen of knowing more since I was in high school. And the fact that I have been working for a Korean company for quite some time now makes the read more interesting. In a way, I sort of feel like I understand more about them now.

This was a very entertaining and wonderful read and it could even be a great TV drama.

Highly recommended to everyone.

Quotable Quotes:

“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”

“Learn everything. Fill your mind with knowledge—it’s the only kind of power no one can take away from you.”

“Yes, of course. If you love anyone, you cannot help but share his suffering. If we love our Lord, not just admire him or fear him or want things from him, we must recognize his feelings; he must be in anguish over our sins. We must understand this anguish. The Lord suffers with us. He suffers like us. It is a consolation to know this. To know that we are not in fact alone in our suffering.”

“You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.”

“No one is clean. Living makes you dirty.”

Rating: 5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟




Quote of the Week

Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny.

~Steve Maraboli

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Book #19. A story of hope and incredible strength.

This is a story about one family who were one night suddenly taken from their home in Lithuania and became victims of the mass deportations in 1941 to Soviet labor camps.

I found this very interesting because it was written according to a 15-year old Lithuanian girl named Lina. She is just like other 15-year olds and she loves to draw.

That night when the Soviet soldiers came to their home, Lina, together with her mother and younger brother, were taken to a dirty train car with other people. Her father still wasn’t home that night and so they were separated since then.

Throughout the story, Lina felt the need to draw everything she sees in whatever piece of material is available. She drew almost everything that happens about the people around her, during the long years of journey, who were all just trying to survive in that extraordinary time. It is through great love, incredible strength and hope that Lina survives.

This is my first book from Ruta Sepetys and I loved it. I liked the way the book was written. I personally found it very powerful. I had tears in my eyes at some point.

So if you haven’t read it yet, please do. It’s krasivaya!

Quotable Quotes :

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness.”

“Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?”

“Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy—love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.”

“I planted a seed of hatred in my heart. I swore it would grow to be a massive tree whose roots would strangle them all.”

Rating : 5/5

Bayon Temple

The Bayon Temple was one of my favorites when I visited the Angkor temples in Cambodia.


It felt surreal exploring this temple while these 200-something faces stare at you, which makes the experience a lot more interesting. 450

Book #52 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

The perfect read to end my 2015 Reading Challenge! Book #52…

 If you don’t have any idea about the Palestine-Israeli conflict, this book offers an excellent introduction about it and about the suffering of the people of Palestine.

1947 — the year that was — for the Jewish, the creation of their homeland, the state of Israel; for the Palestinians, the year their land was taken from them, the year they became refugees.

This is such a powerful story about the sufferings of the Palestinians in the hands of the Israelis that will leave you raging with emotions that I have to keep reminding myself that it was a work of fiction (though most happenings were based on facts).

A beautifully written book that gave me a different view about the Palestinian people and everything they have lost. It’s one of the most heart-breaking books I’ve ever read, I recommend it to everyone.

What a perfect read to complete my 2015 Reading Challenge! 🙂

Favorite quotes : ““Always” was a good word to believe in.”

“He brushed his lips against mine, pulled me closer, and I felt as if I had lived all my life for that kiss.”

“I was a word drained of its meaning. A woman emptied of her past. The truth is that I wanted to be someone else.”

“Baba’s absence since the war had grown as big as the ocean and all its fishes. As big as the sky and earth and all their birds and trees. The hurt in my heart was as big as the universe and all its planets.”

Rating : 5/5 stars

Book #43 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Book #43 for my 2015 Reading Challenge is this wonderful piece of historical fiction.

A beautiful story about trust, faith, friendship, relationships, change, survival, love, second chances, etc.

I never heard of orphan trains until I saw it on Goodreads. Apparently, about 200,000 homeless children from crowded cities in the US were put on these trains to find new families in the West. These children are then paraded in every train stops where people who are willing to adopt can check and question them. Those selected children will go with their new foster parents right then and there as soon as the paper works are done. Those who weren’t lucky enough to be chosen will re-board the train and try their “luck” in the next stop. Vivian, an Irish immigrant, was one of those children.

In this fictional tale, Vivian at 91, forms an unlikely friendship with Molly who is several decades younger than her. Their stories are interwoven together and thus came this beautiful book.

The writing was simple and the dual storyline was well-applied. It certainly kept my interest from start to finish. (And I love the book cover!)

Favorite quotes : “I am not glad she is dead, but I am not sorry she is gone.”

“You got to learn to take what people are willing to give.”

“I like the assumption that everyone is trying his best, and we should all just be kind to each other.”

“I learned long ago that loss is not only probable but inevitable. I know what it means to lose everything, to let go of one life and find another. And now I feel, with a strange, deep certainty, that it must be my lot in life to be taught that lesson over and over again.”

“So is it just human nature to believe that things happen for a reason – to find some shred of meaning even in the worst experiences?”

Rating : 5/5 stars



Listening to the audio guide about the sad stories of some Khmer Rouge survivors in this pathway among the trees surrounding the lake was the most heart-breaking part of my visit in the Killing Fields.

It surely takes time to understand it all.

Stone Face


A couple of giant stone faces in Bayon Temple.

Killing Tree


A Chankiri Tree or Killing Tree was a tree in the Cambodian Killing Fields against which children and infants were smashed because their parents were accused of crimes against the Khmer Rouge.

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