Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The One Year Choose Your Own Ending Devotions

The One Year Choose Your Own Ending Devotions is a soft copy interactive and engaging devotional book published by Tyndale with contents developed by Pioneer clubs, a church-sponsored midweek program for children across North America. I felt that it’ ideal for  children age from 6 to 10 years. This book covers devotions for the whole year with one page devoted to one day.

Every devotions start with a short story but without a complete ending. After reading the story, Bible scripture passage, and going through the questions and assignments and the learning outcomes, children and/or parents are encouraged to complete the short story. However, there are suggested endings at the back of the book for comparison or for reference.

I receive a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Tyndale House Publishers for review. I think it’s a great tool for parents to use as devotional materials with their children either individually or in a group. The story is a great start as to capture the children’s attention. Encouraging the children to complete the stories is a great opportunity to encourage creativity and also test their understanding of the learning points.

The only thing I don’t like about this book is that the font size use is too small. I know that the publisher wants to keep each day in a page but there are some empty spaces at the bottom so perhaps a slight increase in font size would be helpful.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The English Harem by Anthony McCarten

Novelist and three times Booker finalist, Timothy Mo, named The English Harem, Novel Of The Year. For me, I don’t know what to make of this book. It can go either way.

First of all, I think anyone who wishes to read this has to be ready for it. You need to have an open mind and a romantic spirit. Otherwise, you might be offended or insulted. First there’s Tracy Pringle, who’s an only child to mum Monica and dad Eric. Tracy lost her job at the starting chapter and found a new job as a waitress in a vegetarian Persian restaurant ran by her Muslim boss, Saaman Sahar or otherwise known as Sam.

Tracy was introduced as being a dreamer intrigued by heroines and romances of the past especially from books and movies (Think Lawrence of Arabia, One Thousand and One Night and you get the drift). My take is that when she walked in on her boyfriend, Rick, bonking another girl, the poor girl probably couldn’t handle real life and takes her imagination up a level or two. Otherwise, I can’t really explain how she would want to be married to Sam knowing very well that he has 2 other wives (and about 4 children).  Sam at one point even acknowledge this fact - that Tracy sees their lives as being very surreal and it appeal to her as a dreamer.

Coming from an Asian environment or otherwise known as the East, I am aware that this practice of having multiply wives (max is 4) is very much alive in the Muslim culture. I am not familiar with Anthony McCarten and his background but I think he is writing this from a very one dimensional perspective and meant for it to be a light read.   Sam married his 2 earlier wives out of duty (1st wife is the widow of his elder brother) and 2nd wife out of guilt?  He could still takes care of his brother's widow without marrying her and likewise for the 2nd wife. 

What amazes me about this book was that the first two wives of Sam were happy with such arrangement and were the mastermind in persuading Sam to marry Tracy. What amazes me even more was that how Tracy bought into this idea and accepts it. Her parents had a difficult time dealing with it and I couldn’t blame them. I had a difficult time dealing with it. I was thinking of ditching it halfway through but for the sake of this review, I ploughed on. The ending is pretty mind blowing too!

Like I said, you need to be open with this one. Read it as you would watch a comedy film (the writting is quite funny at some point) and don’t think too much after that. If I go into the details of what I think of this book, this post would be very lengthy indeed. If you can’t be open with such concept or if thoughts of such practices rile you up, then, for your own good, I suggest you give this a miss.  Otherwise, enjoy!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Collection

When flipping through the newspaper sometime last week, an article on a new series over in HBO caught my attention. It's called the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  Hm....that sounds familiar. It wasn't a few days later that I realised that I have a few books with this title.  A quick check through my 30+ odd unread collection resulted in the discovery these 3 titles that I have under the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series.

I have started with 'Tears of the Giraffe' which is the 2nd book while at the same time I would try my best to get hold of the the other titles provided I like Tears of the Giraffe.

The author is Alexander McCall Smith.  He has a few other series under his belt since writing the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh and is married to a doctor.

Keep on eye on my review of Tears of the Giraffe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Destinations by Sheila O’Flanagan

While on the bus, train, or even on the road, have you ever wondered who’s the pretty lady in front of you, smiling so happily as she chats away on her mobile? What about that old man with a kid that looks like his grandchild? Or that lady that dresses so well but has such a sad look in her eyes. What are their lives like? What makes them happy? What makes them sad? What are their stories?

‘From the moment the Dart system became part of Dublin I dreamed about writing a collection of short stories centred around it. I think this is because I am basically a nosy person and love looking at the backs of people’s houses and wondering what kind of lives they’re living. And whenever passengers get on the train I’m always intrigued as to where they’re going to or coming from and what’s going on in their lives.says Sheila O’Flanagan.

Destinations consist of a collection of 19 such short stories. I like how Sheila started our journey with a story entitled Saturday at 12. It's about a dad taken the train to pick up his little girl for lunch on a Saturday.  To me it was rather a sad story but it’s a good start and sets the tone for the book. Like any journey, just when you least expected it, something has to happen to make it interesting.  Halfway into the book, Sheila suddenly linked Saturday at 12 with one entitled The Martini Girl where you get to know 'the other side of the story' and probably knowing that at this point, you won’t settle for just two stories, she ends them with Connections which is more from a mum's perspective. What a good end to the journey.

Classified at chick lit, the stories are short enough to be read in between stops but still satisfying enough for you to enjoy. Loved it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Agatha Christie - 120th Anniversary

I didn't know today is Agatha Christie's 120th Anniversary.  It's such a pleasant surprise to see that the creative folks at Google did a doodle in honour of her anniversary. 

Agatha Christie is one of my favourite mystery author.  At one time, I attempted to read all of her mystery stories and although I didn't managed to do it, I did read quite a lot of them!

The above is taken from Google page.  I love it.  Most of her detectives and sidekicks are represented here. 

I could be wrong but, from left to right, I think they are :

G - Hercule Poirot
O - Hasting
O - Tuppence Beresford
G - Ms Marple
L -Tommy Beresford
E - Adriadne Oliver

Thank you Agatha Christie for the many wonderful mystery books.

p.s. it is the royal butler who posted the above.  PurpleQueenFairy has nothing to do with it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Second Time Around Books from USA

These are my purchases at a recent book fair held in Kuching. Books sold here are all second hand books, creatively called ‘Second Time Around Book’. I guess second time around sounds much better than second hand. These are books from libraries and private collections from the United States.

There were lots of books for children and novels and non fictions for adults. The royal family went there on the 2nd last day and spent around RM100 (about US$35). For that amount, we bought these 7 novels and a few books for young adults. One of our best buy would be a hardcover copy of the ‘Magic Tree House Series’ – Blizzard of The Blue Moon. I don’t know who’s more excited, PurpleQueenFairy herself or the princess. The copy is practically brand new.

Books there were priced between RM4 (US$1+) to RM10 (US$3+) except for certain titles which might cost slightly more especially hardcover books for children. Other than that, the rest were very affordable and a great incentive for anyone who wishes to stock up on their reads or to build up their home library.

Not to mention with Christmas round the corner, it would be great opportunity to buy some as gifts except some folks might not be keen to receive second hand books as gifts. Would you mind?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Skin Map is both an adventure fantasy story and treasure hunt with a touch of science fiction. It would appeal to those interested in all these elements. I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be since this is my first time reading Stephen Lawhead and fantasy fictions has never been my interest. I am pleased to say that with The Skin Map, I was captivated right from the start. I enjoyed Kit and his interaction with his great-grand father and the quest that he never expected to embark on. The writing is interesting and even the title at the beginning of each chapter was captivating. I am glad I read this and was rewarded with an interesting ending.

I am especially interested in the ley line and ley travel as explained by the author and the theories that inspired this work. This is the first of the Bright Empires Series created by Stephen Lawhead. He is an acclaimed author of mythical history and fantasy fictions. Having read The Skin Map, I am looking forward to exploring his other works.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Precious - Gone with The Wind & Scarlett

Today, I would like to share with you my favourite story of all time. It is none other than Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This book was first published in May 1936. That’s like 74 years ago! I bought mine during a church sales sometime in 1984 paying only RM6 for it. Having owned the book for more than 20+ years, I think I must have read it about 5 times over the years. The last time was about 4 years ago.

And Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler. What a long name and what a character! How does one describe she who is so simple and yet so complex. And Rhett Butler. Every womens' dream man. I couldn’t get enough of Scarlett and Rhett, and was basically quite dissatisfied with how the story ended in Gone With The Wind and always wish for some continuation.

My wish came through in 1991 when the estate of Margaret Mitchell commissioned Alexandra Ripley to write the official sequel entitled Scarlett. I read Scarlett in the mid-1990s (can’t really remember when) when I rent the book from a similar establishment such as this. I always wanted to get a copy of Scarlett for my personal collection but I didn’t want to get a brand new copy since my Gone With The Wind wasn’t exactly brand new and I didn’t want it to suffer any inferiority complex. Haha..  I know, it’s just a book but still!

Such, it was an extremely pleasant surprise when I managed to find a pre-owned copy in Book Castle (in Kuching) last year which I immediately bought for RM9.

While most people felt that Scarlett didn’t measure up to Gone With The Wind, I like and enjoy it. It gave me such satisfaction that she survives and survives well even during the times without Rhett in her life. And sentimental fool that I am, it also gave me such pleasure to read the maturity of their love for each other. Overall, it gave me the continuity that I was looking for after Gone With The Wind.

Can I hope for a third book? Perhaps one that portrays a more elderly Scarlett with a focus on her daughter, Cat and her other children? As for now, I can just start wishing again. Perhaps it might come true again one of these days!