Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 Dream Street by Lisa Jewell

Would you like to have this for your home address?

Synopsis :

Leah and Toby have lived across the street from one another for years without meeting...and in that time Leah has been itching to peek behind the front door of Toby’s eccentric house, always packed to the rafters with weird and wonderful tenants. When fate finally lets her in, Leah find that Toby needs her as much as she is surprised to realise that she might need him. Sometimes life needs a helping hand – with a sprinkle of romance and their own special magic, Toby and Leah’s dreams show the glimmer of a chance of coming true.

With that, we are invited into the home and lives of Toby and his assorted tenants. We have wild girl Ruby, mysterious Joanne who has much to hide, dreamer boy Connor who has a dream and a plan and his mother, Melissa who is full of guilt. Not forgetting, Leah, the girl from across the street who is basically sweet and charming . We get to know their stories, why they are where they are now and eventually when they ended up in. Toby is generally a nice guy and I’m glad that there are people like him around in this world. He really deserves what he got at the end. Leah is a wonderful person and I’m so glad she didn’t sell herself short.

With its dreamy pastel coloured cover, 31 Dream Street is a feel good book full of humour yet retains its humanity. I don’t want to share too much but I generally glad I picked up this one from a warehouse sales. The review from Cosmopolitan says that this is ‘A great one to read on a Sunday morning while you’re curled up in your duvet’. I quite agree. Go and get your copy today!

Lisa Jewell lives with her husband and daughter in the UK and has a few titles under her name. As her website says ‘After fifteen years of distractions and diversion, Lisa rediscovered her first love and her only talent – writing. The rest is history.’

Monday, October 25, 2010

Maximum Ride – Saving The World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson

My first introduction to a kid named Max with special abilities like having wings and being able to fly went back to the days of When The Wind Blows, first published in 1998 and subsequently Lake House, published in 2003. Along the years, I knew that James Patterson started a series with these characters under Young Adults Category. However, I never came across any of the books under this series until now....

When I pick this particular one up, I knew what I was getting myself into – a fast thrilling ride but what I didn’t expect was the difference between this series and the early days of When The Wind Blows. I guess I should have expected it seeing that they were written for different category of readers. James Patterson also claimed that the Max and her gang in these series are not the same Max that I mentioned from the above 2 books and follows a different but similar storyline. Hmm.... I hope you got that and how do I not think of them as the same Max. I think that’s rather difficult for someone who had read When The Wind Blows and Lake House not to identify this Max with the other Max.

Anyway, back to the differences, other than a different Max altogether, what’s the other differences, you ask? Well, for once, the writing is different. This is less descriptive, short sentences with matter-of-fact statements. Lots of cynical remarks, very technologically updated with references to blogs, emails, etc. I am sure it’s very appealing to targeted Young Adults. Very little on romance, just a hint of it here and there. Certainly very different from the Twilight Series.

Maximum Ride – Saving the World is actually the 3rd book into the series. The 1st two are The Angel Experiment and School’s Out Forever. The subsequent titles are The Final Warning, Max and Fang.

You can read this book just as it is without the earlier titles but it would be quite difficult to fully appreciate the storyline and who these group of ‘birdkids’are. The writing is fast paced and the chapters ere short and just over 2 -3 pages per chapter. However, I find the characters quite one dimensional. There’s no in-depth development there and I can’t understand how they can joke at times when their lives ere in danger. I find it pretty lame but perhaps that’s how young readers like it to be....

I finish reading it in just 2 days. It was published by Little Brown in hardcover and would have cost me RM48.50 (US14 or £8) but since I pick this up from the local library, no damage there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Overheard In A Dream by Torey Hayden

I am so glad that I always seem to be ended up with good books from the library. This was no different. It was rather a wild card as I was not familiar with the author and never heard of the title. I just took a risk as I thought the synopsis was rather promising although rather heavy with child autism as the main subject but the front cover of the little boy peeping from behind the wall looks rather endearing.

Torey Hayden is a child psychiatrist and a special education teacher turned full time writer. Most of her other books are actually non fictions based on the cases of children that she worked with over the years. Perhaps that’s why it shouldn’t surprise me that Overheard In A Dream is so mind-boggling! I actually found it hard to start this book and was thinking of returning it to the library to exchange it with another title. Am I glad I didn’t make that mistake. Once I actually got started, I realised that I can’t put it down! It was that good.


Conor, aged nine, arrives in the play therapy room of child psychiatrist James Innes with the diagnosis "autistic". His mother Laura, an aloof, enigmatic novelist, can't handle him. His rancher father, embroiled in divorcing Laura, does not feel there is anything wrong with Conor. His six year old sister Morgana insists he really does see ghosts. As James becomes convinced Conor is not autistic, he is drawn first into Conor's strange world of "things the cat knows" and then into Morgana's stories of her friend the "Lion King". James is pulled most deeply, however, into Laura's world; at first that of a lonely, rather difficult woman and then, eventually, into the world of her imagination, an enthralling world that seems almost real - and that hides a terrible secret.

While the writing is straight forward, the story is not. It is a rather interesting exploration of the human mind and what it’s capable of. I can’t share much without spoiling the story for those who have not read it. This book is all about family drama, psychotic thriller and even science fiction if you believe that ‘The Forest’ is real. That’s all I can say. The ending actually stunned me! I didn't expect it at all, although I should have probably made the connection earlier from the many clues found throughout the book. I find myself keep thinking of the story even though I completed it quite sometimes back.
I don't think I've ever had such a reaction quite like this one to a novel before. This is one of the few non fictions written by the author. If you happen to pick up a copy and undecided if you should read it, let me decide for you - Yes, Read It!

While I have no impression of Torey Hayden when I first read this, you can probably tell that I am in awe of her now!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

Synopsis :

For Kate Klein, the unsolved murder of a fellow mother is the most interesting thing to happen since the neighbours cracked their septic tank. Up until then life in suburbia has been distinctly underwhelming. So, on days when her kids are in nursery school, Kate launches a murder investigation of her own. With the help of her best friend, Janie, and former flame, Evan, she is drawn deep into the dead woman’s double life. Suddenly suburbia is not so ordinary after all.

I must admit that I was drawn to Goodnight Nobody first by the title and second by the author. The author also wrote In Her Shoes which was made into a movie which stars Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MaClaine which I enjoyed.

Recognising Goodnight Nobody as a chic read, I want to give it a chance, hoping to discover on words, the magic she created with In Her Shoes. Unfortunately, this was not so. The book lacks creativity and humour. It lacks everything.

The story was rather flat and Kate Klein was rather annoying. Married with 3 young children, she is a bored housewife except she takes offence at being called a housewife. In her boredom she decides to take it upon herself to investigate the murder of her neighbour just because she found the body. In the process, she puts her kids and herself and everyone around her in danger. With the reappearance of an ex-love, she is putting her married in danger. All I can say is that she’s pretty idiotic. It’s very much like Desperate Housewife meets Nancy Drew.

The only reason, I read on was to test my mystery solving skills in finding out who the murderer is. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at it...haha.... , and that’s the only applause I can give Jennifer Weiner. I hope this is the last time I come across Kate Klein – I can’t stand her!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Place Of Hiding by Elizabeth George

A Place Of Hiding is a thriller that I bought during a warehouse sales. The front cover of a misty graveyard  in this particular publication intrigued me. Here, see for yourself.

Browsing through, I noticed that the author had penned quite a number of thriller. Ok, that gives me some form of assurance to check out this book and see if I have a new gem of an author on hand. (Note : warehouse sales are good for trying out new authors as you don’t burn your pocket much over it. That’s where I found authors such as Marian Keys and Mark Gimenez.)

Here’s the synopsis :

The sudden death of Guy Brouard, a generous patron and benefactor of Guernsey Island after his morning swim shocks the residents of the island. When a young American woman is charged with his murder, her brother seeks help from an old friend, Deborah St James. Deborah persuades her husband, Simon to accompany her to Guernsey to investigate. What they find on that beautiful island is a tangled web of deceit and betrayal. Deborah and Simon must rely on their long-standing friendship with Inspector Thomas Lynley in solving the crime.

There, not a very exciting synopsis, isn’t it. Likewise, Elizabeth George, while being not bad, wasn’t really the diamond that I was looking for. The thriller was good but wasn’t really that thrilling, the plot was interesting and quite original but the presentation wasn’t really that captivating. The suspense just was not there.

There were too many characters and suspects, too many motives and possibilities and while you might say that makes a good thriller, but, it gets too complicated and drags on and fails to captivate my full attention. However, having said that Elizabeth is a consistent storyteller and the consistency of the story and it’s originality pulls through and I ended the book with some form of satisfaction.

I would recommend this book if you are interested in war history as well as trying to guess who the murderer is. This title was published in 2003. Elizabeth George’s latest thriller featuring Inspector Thomas Lynley is entitled This Body of Death, published in April 2010. I won’t mind checking it out if I have a chance.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Leader’s Heart – 365 Day Devotional Journal

Synopsis :

Applauded as one of the world's most popular leadership experts, John Maxwell brings many of his winning concepts and scriptural meditations into a daily devotional/journal format, designed specifically for leaders. Each devotional is delivered with John’s trademark style of confidence and clarity, followed by space for writing personal reflection. Included are a host of relevant topics including success, stewardship, teamwork, and mentoring—all topics that ring true to every leader’s heart.

This is a year-long devotional leadership lesson per day. 365 days....365 lessons. Each devotions has a leadership topic, bible verses, some pointers taken from John Maxwell’s previous publications and some sections at the bottom for you to pen down your thoughts and reflections.

The topics covered are very extensive and are issues that will be faced by any leaders or issues that leaders need to know for problem solving and in dealing with others.

The book is in hard cover and is rather thick and I don’t think it’s something that you would want to carry around. I wonder if there’s an e-book version. Having said that, the journal is very grand looking with its hardcover and traditional looking jacket cover. It would certainly makes a great gift for those in leadership positions whether in church or in the corporate world. It is also a great gift to motivate someone to take up leadership positions whether in church context or otherwise.

However, it’s rather expensive at US$18.99 but the good news is that the lessons can be used for small group teaching and group discussions other than just as a devotional journal. They are not time sensitive so can be referred to or used over and over again.

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Max Lucado brought the characters from Acts into the modern world using words that are very easy to understand. Who are the characters from the book of Acts? They are the simple fishermen, tax collectors and the general you and me in today’s world. What’s so great about them then? Nothing other than they choose to make a difference with the things they do and it’s not being nuclear scientists or anything impressive but simple acts of love and grace and compassion that make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others whom they encounter. It opens our eyes to see Jesus in every other person around us.

I enjoyed this book so much and is so blessed by it. The teaching is very subdue but extremely impactful. It’s so easy to read and it won’t be long before you complete all 200+ pages of it. I really recommend this to you and you and you! Put it in your Christmas list, buy it for your church leaders or buy it for yourself for Christmas. It will be a worthwhile investment.

Let me end by quoting from Max ‘None of us can help everyone. But all of us can help someone. And when we help them, we serve Jesus. Who would want to miss a chance to do that?

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Divide by Nicholas Evans

Two words I would use to describe The Divide as I reach the last page would be happy and sad, all at the same time. I feel sad for the Coopers – Ben, Sarah, Josh and Abby. For what they went through and what could have been and for all that they lost. Happy for them too because they found some form of peace within themselves and with each other at the end.

Before I go further, a quick recap - the story started with body of a young woman found embedded in the ice of a remote mountain creek. It wasn’t long before the authorities identify her – Abby Cooper, wanted for murder and acts of eco-terrorism and her picture is on every police computers all across America. The question is how did she die? What was she doing up on the mountain? What trail of events led her, a beloved child of a loving family to stray so tragically?

This is one book that is full of ‘What ifs’ and ‘if only’ and such. What if the family didn’t holiday at The Divide that particular summer? What if Ben never met Eve? If only Eve never called Sarah when they are back in New York. What if the marriage of the parents never collapse? What if Abby turn back when she can and not wait another day? If only Josh didn’t answer that particular phone call.

While literally, ‘The Divide’ is the name of the range where the Coopers family had their vacation the past few summers before their lives were changed forever. It’s also the place where everything begins and ends. I would also like to think that figurative , it also mean a family divided and perhaps even oneself divided - divided thoughts we go through and divided decisions we have to make in our lives –the what ifs and if only, and not just for the Coopers but lives in general.

Nicholas Evans is also the author of The Horse Whisperer, a novel that that was made into an award winning movie by Robert Redford. If you have watch or read The Horse Whisperer, then this book might evokes similar feelings within you – happy and sad..both at the same time.

I bought this from a book fair for only RM10 (US3.50) and it’s a new copy. Worth every dollar.

Highly recommended.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Forgiven (Firstborn Series) by Karen Kingsbury

Forgiven is the second book in the Firstborn Series with Fame being the first. It continues from where Fame left off and the focus is once again on Dayne Matthews, the Hollywood superstars and Katy Hart, a director with the Christian Kids Theatre (CKT) in the small town of Bloomington.

From the title, forgiveness is the theme for this second book. A lot of the characters in the story have to learn about forgiving and act of forgiveness.

For the kids at the CKT, a devastating tragedy leads to a lot of unforgiveness and thoughts of revenge among the kids. They have to learn to trust God and forgive the one who ‘trespass against them’.

For Dayne, he has to forgive his late adoptive parents whom he felt ‘choose God over him’ when they left him in boarding schools while growing up while they do their missionary work in the jungle and he himself needs forgiveness from God. By the way, Karen gives readers a brief insight on a new age cult that initially had a hold on Dayne.

For the Baxter, the secret that John and Elizabeth guarded so dearly all these years was finally revealed to one of the children when she found a letter that Elizabeth wrote. At least I am glad for John that he doesn’t have to bear this burden on his own now.

I didn’t really like both Dayne and Katy when they were first introduced in Fame but I am beginning to like them and root for them. I especially love how the book ended. It really magnifies and portrays how Great God is.

Forgiven, like Fame is again rather slow moving which allows readers to reflect on this theme. It can get rather boring but if you get past that, you would enjoy it. It took me months to read it as I only read a few pages at a time so I am learning to enjoy and appreciate the ‘slowness’ of the story.

I certainly enjoyed it better than Fame. The third books is entitled Found. I can’t wait to get started on it!

p.s. For some reason, this worship song by Chris Tomlin kept coming back to me even when I'm done with this post.  So, here it is....may it be a blessing to you.