Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson

Remember my Dorothy Koomson’s collection? Well, I’ve read all of them and will be sharing them with you one at a time over the next few months. Let’s get started with The Chocolate Run. No particular reason why this is first.

Let’s have a look at the synopsis:

Amber Salpone doesn’t mean to keep ending up in bed with her friend Greg Walterson, but she can’t help herself. And every time it ‘just happens’ their secret affair moves closer to being a real relationship, which is a big problem when he’s a womanizer and she’s a commitment –phobe.

While Amber struggles to accept her new feelings for Greg, she also realises that her closeness to Jen, her best friend, is slipping away and the two of them are becoming virtual strangers. Slowly but surely, as the stark truths of all their lives are revealed, Amber has to confront the fact that chocolate can’t cure everything and sometimes running away isn’t an option.

The Chocolate Run is a delectable tale of lust, love and chocolate.

Delectable indeed.

This book is about Amber, Greg, Jen and Matt (Jen’s boyfriend) and how the lives of these friends intertwine with each other. I get a feel that this is the trademark of Dorothy Koomson. It is also obvious in her other books like Goodnight Beautiful and My Best Friend’s Girl. They affect each other’s life not just in a superficial way but rather deeply. We have Amber and Jen, Amber and Greg and also Jen and Greg. Matt played a pretty minor role.

This book is also about commitment phobia and your worst nightmare coming true in certain relationships. Those who have gone through it would be able to identify with it.

While, to me, this is not Dorothy’s strongest book, it was quite addictive – like a box of chocolate, and like a box of chocolate, you didn’t know what you’re going to get. The twist that was thrown in by Dorothy about three quarter into the story was quite unexpected. I certainly didn’t see that coming and it certainly brought about a new dimension into the storyline and made the story what it is.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t impact me as what My Best Friend’s Girl did but it’s still quite a good read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Last Testament by Sam Bourne

It’s time to talk about The Last Testament after The Righteous Man

Let’s get the synopsis out of the way :

An Iraqi boy loots an ancient clay tablet from a long-forgotten vault in the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities.

At a rally for the signing of a historic deal between Israel and Palestinians, an assassin pushes through the crowd towards the Israeli PM. Bodyguards shoot the man dead. But in his hand there’s no gun : only a blood-stained note .

A series of apparently random killings follows as tensions boil over, Washington calls in star peace negotiator Maggie Costello. Maggie finds herself in an impossible situation, especially when she discovers the murders are not random. Someone is killing archaeologists and historians – those with secret knowledge of the ancient past.

*stare blankly*

I actually don’t know where to start. It’s actually quite a confusing book for me. First, readers have to take note of timeline and venue. To compute these into some form of sequence can be quite challenging for my brain cells which would normally be half functioning when I read. (hahah…well, we read to relax, right?) I found myself having to flip back to the earlier pages just to get a sense of the sequence. Sometimes the timeline is in months and sometimes just over a few hours so, yes, too complicating for me.

Maggie Costello being the main lead in the story is not a very endearing character. I was quite annoyed with her time and again. Having fouled up her last negotiation case, she went on sabbatical and took up couples counseling back in Washington. She thought that she can redeem herself by agreeing to take up this case and travel to Tel Aviv. The very reason that she was taken off the last case was the very reason that she’s been assigned this particularly case although she was not aware of it initially. I didn’t like Maggie Costello at the beginning of the book and I didn’t like her toward the end.

If you like politics and thriller, then this would be up your alley. Unfortunately, I felt I took a wrong turn with this one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

If You Could See Me Now by Cecilia Ahern

Cecelia Ahern is the bestselling author of P.S. I Love You. I have not read P.S. I Love You but I have watched the movie countless of times and each time, I would cry buckets. The first book that I read from Cecelia Ahern is Rosie Dunne (later published as Love, Rosie and subsequently published as Where Rainbow Ends) which I read in 2006. I thought it was a very creative book especially the way it was written. I shall share Rosie Dunne with you some other time. Today belongs to If You Could See Me Now.

The version I got was from Hyperion International Edition. It took me a long time as the fonts are real small.

The synopsis :

Everything in Elizabeth Egan’s life has its place. Order and precision keep life under control and keep Elizabeth’s heart safe from the pain she has suffered in the past. Being a mother to her 6 years old nephew leaves little room for error until one day, when Ivan comes into their lives. He is everything that Elizabeth is not – carefree and adventurous. And just when Elizabeth is starting to trust him, it turns out that Ivan isn’t all who she thought he was.

With that, the story of Elizabeth and Ivan begins. It was revealed in Chapter 3 that you can’t actually see Ivan. At that point, I was wondering if this is a ghost story but it would not be the gene of Cecelia Ahern if it is! Unless it’s a romantic ghost story like what Danielle Steel did once with The Ghost. Ivan started off as a friend of Luke and subsequently Elizabeth’s. An friend who loves pizza, and olives and Fridays among others. And Ivan came to both Luke and Elizabeth because they needed him. For you see, Ivan’s an 'imaginary friend' from the lane of Ekam Eveileb where there's a group of 'friends' with various job functions. While Luke is aware of that, Elizabeth is not. She can see him and actually thought that Ivan’s as real as you and me and mistakenly thought that he is the father of one of Luke’s friend.

Talk about denial. Elizabeth’s been in denial all her life. She’s at denial about how her mother has gone on an adventure when she (mother) left home leaving behind a husband, young Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s baby sister, Saoirse. Elizabeth’s in denial about Saoirse as well - she just couldn’t accept that her sister is an alcoholic and that she left Luke the way their mother left them. Elizabeth’s father is in denial all his life and waits for his who that will never return and missed out on the two girls who needed him. I guess you can say that that’s the theme of the story. It’s also about friendship and the fact that Elizabeth can see Ivan when it’s supposed to be only children who can see him shows that Elizabeth never really grew up and she needs to do that in order to live her life the way she should, letting go of the past and living life for now.

But at certain point in the book, I would Ivan real? Can he be with Elizabeth for the rest of her life? Is it possible? He is after all from the land of Ekam Eveileb, a land that we are familiar with :)

I don’t really like Elizabeth but Ivan stolen my heart right from the start. Here’s what he said to Elizabeth at one point and I can read this over and over again.

“Life is made up of meeting and partings. People come into your life every day, you say good morning, you say good evening, some stay for a few minutes, some stay for a few months, some a year, others a whole lifetime. No matter who it is, you meet and then you part. I’m so glad to meet you and I thank my lucky stars for that. I think I wished for you all of my life but now, it’s time for us to part”.

It was stated at the back cover of the book that the film rights to If You Can See Me Now have been bought by Walt Disney Pictures. I also discovered from imdb that Hugh Jackman has been cast for the role of Ivan in the 2011 movie release. Now, that’s something to look forward to.
Cecelia, the daughter of Ireland’s Prime Minister is so talented and so pretty too. I’ve enjoyed her books tremendously and I am looking forward to adding more of her works to my collections.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Monsters Of Gramercy Park by Danny Leigh

This book was a gift. I am very sure of that.

Let me share with you the synopsis:

Wilson Velez is a gang lord in solitary confinement, slowly losing his mind. Lizbeth Greene is a celebrated crime novelist whose inspiration is beginning to run dry. When Lizbeth decides that writing a book about Velez could revive her ailing career, she begins to visit him in prison. Gradually, she becomes drawn into Wilson’s dark world and the pair engage in a complex and fascinating dance of attraction and rejection. For Lizbeth needs Wilson to kick-start her career while Wilson needs Lizbeth to get out of solitary confinement.

I didn’t’ like the book when I first read it. However, I was intrigued by the relationship between Wilson and Lizbeth, the differences, the similarities, the dependency, the betrayal. I was curious to know how it ended and it wasn’t how I expected it to end but then I couldn’t know how else it should end either. Can I say that in a way, I was sad for both of them?

The title of this book is actually the title of the story written by Wilson Velez and it’s this story that is more interesting. One of the reasons that kept me faithfully reading page after page was the interest to see where this story within a story was going. It certainly wasn’t Lizbeth Greene nor was it Wilson Velez but more the gargoyles of Gramercy Park.

Monsters of Gramercy Park was first published in 2005. There’s nothing much I can find out about the author except that he lives in London and has worked as a musician and a journalist.

Would I recommend this book?

Hesitant to say yes – just for the gargoyles.

Forced to say no – because I don’t want you to hate me.

In the end will say – why not? If you have time and nothing to do. It’s not that bad after all.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How they ended up in my collection

If you are familiar with SS2 town square in Petaling Jaya in the early 2000s, you would know that there are 2 shops there that you can borrow books home for a fee. One is called Walk-in-Rent-A-Book and the other was called Novel House.

The concept is very easy. You go in, browse for the books that you like. They do have a huge selection of books from English to Chinese and even comic books for rent. Once you have selected the book or books of choice, pay a deposit and a fee (the fee varies from book to book) and then you can take the book home for as long as you wish. When you are done with it, you bring it back, check it in and collect back your deposit.

While it might not appeal to some people, the concept does work and is an extremely worthwhile arrangement especially if you love to read but don’t want to spend lots of money buying the books or you don’t want to collect these books. It’s also quite a good way to check out authors that you are not familiar with. I have got to know of works from Dean Koontz and many others from such establishments. Quite similar than going to the library except that these are private enterprises and you don’t have to be a member or register your name or anything. Now, let’s say for some reason you like a particular book and decided that it’s a keeper, you can choose not to return the book and just keep it. You will then forfeit your deposit which ranged from RM10 to RM30 depending on the book.

My entry here is about these 2 books that I rented from Novel House sometimes in year 2006. When I wanted to return them after a month or so, I was shocked to discover that the shop has 'chaplap', tutup kedai, close shop or whatever term you fancy.  Instead, it has been converted to a textile shop. When I asked the sales person in the textile shop, they said they have been there for nearly a month. That means, Novel House closed its business around the time I rented these 2 books. As there are no forwarding contacts, there’s no way I can get my deposit amounting to RM40 back. Needless to say, I was pretty upset over it. I could have gotten a brand new book with my RM40.

And that was how these two ended up in my collections. If they are living beings, they would be suffering from rejection syndrome as I didn't want to keep them in the first place.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Amazon's Kindle

When the Kindle first appeared in the market, it’s only available in the United States. Priced at US$260 or thereabout, it’s not something that everyone can purchase. Couple of years down the road to today, I think the Kindle can now be made available to the rest of the world but are still consider quite expensive.

For me, I can purchase probably about 40+ paperback novels for the starting price of a Kindle. Interestingly, today, I saw in the newspapers that Amazon is slashing the price of the Kindle 3G version to US189 and they unveiled the wireless only version at US$139. Still considered pretty expensive but with Christmas just 4 months down the road, I think that’s an extremely good move. Perhaps now more affordable by the mass market, I am still waiting for the day for the price to take an even bigger plunge before even considered getting one. As you know, getting a kindle is just the first step.

Unless I can get my hand on an actual Kindle, I have no idea about the features. Benefits wise, I can think of many.

While I don’t disagree that e-book is the way to the future but I guess I am still rather old schooled and just love the feel and touch of printed books. It feels more therapeutic to curl up with an actual book than with a machine but then, who am I to argue with technology advancement?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sleepy Head by Mark Billingham

A review from Birmingham Post, taken from the author’s web, read :

After reading only the first few pages of
Sleepyhead I had my first nightmare in years. I woke up in the early hours shaking and sweating..."

No, the book didn’t have such effect on me. It was quite a disturbing book but it didn’t have the nightmare effect but I can vaguely know where that statement was coming from.
Sleepy Head is the first in a series of novels written by Mark Billingham which features Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. It was published in the UK in August 2001 and is the first out of a total of 10 titles.

Classified as a crime novel, the story has the detective inspector investigating a series of murders which involved young women. The latest victim, Alison Willetts survived the murder which made the police thinking that the killer made a mistaken. What they didn’t realise is that Alison was the killer’s success.

To quote from the synopsis, ‘Unless Thorne can enter the mind of a brilliant madman – a frighteningly elusive fiend who enjoys toying with the police as much as he savours his sick obsession – Alison Willetts will not be the last victim consigned forever to a hideous waking hell.

For you see, even as Alison survives, she is in a stage of what is known as ‘locked-in syndrome’. She can hear, see and feel everything around her but she can’t move a muscle or talk or even scream and that’s how the killer intended for her to be.

That. Is. So. Creepy! That’s all I would say about this book. It’s quite a memorable book as I don’t think I have come across such plot before but I don’t think I wouldn’t want to read it again. Once is enough. However, I quite like the detective inspector, he’s a skeptic but also very persistent in his thoughts and actions. So, if crime and murder stories are your cup of tea, do check out Sleepy Head.

The next book is called ‘Scaredy Cat’. Unfortunately I can’t find it in the local book store. You know what, I am actually not sure where I got this particular book. Was it given to me? Or did I buy it? I have a collection of about 30 novels that I have yet to read, some of which I bought and some of which were given to me, so I’m not sure where this comes from.

About the author : a rather good looking guy, Mark Billingham is currently writing the next Tom Thorne thriller. He lives in London with his wife and two kids. Do you think he would send me his other titles if I ask him nicely? :)