Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Found (Firstborn Series) by Karen Kingsbury

Found is the third book in the Firstborn Series by Karen Kingsbury. First book is Fame and second book is Forgiven. You are advised to read the series chronologically to fully understand and appreciate the storyline. However, if you have just one book with you (any which one), you can still read it as by itself, the book is equally inspiring and the theme might just touch your heart and your soul.

I was excited to read Found after having enjoyed Forgiven extensively. Found focused very much on Dayne Matthews and on the Baxter family especially John Baxter and not so much on Katy Hart. It started with Dyne finding out some bad news from his Hollywood girlfriend, Kelly which jeopardizes his relationship with Katy. A tornado that swapped across Bloomington caused some tensed moment for the Baxter family as they are all gathered at John’s house for a reunion and the book ended with Dayne meeting John for the first time and with Dayne knowing what he really wants out of life and with the assurance of Christ in his life, he went back to Hollywood a different man.

It is a book demonstrating the miracle of an awesome God from the street evangelism in Mexico to the events after the tornado but the greatest miracle would be in God's grace for us.  A card that Dayne sent to Katy says it all ‘I once was lost but now am found’.

For Dayne, he found the lies that Hollywood bring with it and how destructive it can be but at the same time he found God and accepted Christ in his life and found the much sought after peace in the process. He found his birth father and he found his way home.

For John, he found the firstborn that he and Elizabeth has been looking for all their lives, he found the peace in knowing that God answered Elizabeth’s final prayer and she did meet up with her firstborn just a day before she died.

It was again a very slow read for me and I think that’s the way for me to approach Karen’s book. It’s more than just reading the story of these characters but the book is chocked full of lessons and teachings and even ways of reaching out to the lost and bringing people to Christ.

The next book is Family and it saddens me that I don’t have this book. My attempt to search for it online seems futile. At one point, I found it in Amazon but for some reason, Amazon said they don’t deliver to where I am! Anyway, will keep on trying. Now, I am undecided if I should just go ahead and read final book, Forever or should I wait.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella

Synopsis :

Becky’s life is blooming. She’s working at London’s newest fashion store, The Look, house-hunting with husband Luke and she’s pregnant! She couldn’t be more overjoyed especially since discovering that shopping cures morning sickness .

Everything has got to be perfect for her baby – from the designer nursery, to the latest, coolest pram...to the celebrity, must-have obstetrician. But when the celebrity obstetrician turns out to be her husband Luke’s glamorous, intellectual ex-girlfriend, Becky’s perfect world starts to crumble.

Welcome to Becky’s world where everything can be solved through shopping. Becky’s really well known now that she’s got her first movie which starts Isla Fisher. Will there be more? I’m not sure.

In Shopaholic and Baby, things get slightly out of control for Rebecca Bloomwood nee Brandon or otherwise known as Becky. Blame it on the hormones or blame it on Becky herself but she would blame it on Luke’s ex-girlfriend, the celebrity obstetrician whom Becky initially fought hard to be a client of. Can’t say it does her any good since the ex-girlfriend still has it for Luke and it wasn’t difficult for her to make Becky looks like the fool that she sometimes could be. Don’t get me wrong, I love Becky and there's a bit of Becky in me but sometimes she drives me up the wall. But, despite all of Becky’s weaknesses, she’s all heart and whatever common sense that she might lack, she certainly made it up through her kindness, her optimism and simplicity of her thought process (I’m not doing a good job making her sound good here, am I?)  Having said all that, I do feel for her when she thought that Luke was having an affair with his ex-girlfriend.  But being Becky, she bounces back quick and with much drama.

Shopaholic and Baby is the 5th book under the Shopaholic Series. The latest would be Mini Shopaholic featuring shopping adventure of Becky and her 2 year old baby girl. I haven’t read it yet as I’m not sure if I want to. For you see, I am rather tired of Becky already and there are some review which says that Sophie should have stop at Baby. I am sure Sophie would want to but I am sure she can’t just yet as Becky is still pretty much a cash cow for her.

Yes, go read if you’re a fan or if you wish to be a fan of Shopaholic or you just wish for some entertainment.

Seriously, I really like the Shopaholic series even thought I seems to imply otherwise here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Echoes by Danielle Steel

Summarised Synopsis by Purple Queen Fairy :

Beata Wittgenstein, the quiet Jewish beauty met the love of her life in the summer of 1915. Unfortunately he’s French and a Catholic and her parents are unable to accept him. Beata followed her heart and left the only home she keow and the two of them build a new life together amidst the 1st world war. They had a daughter soon after marriage and they named her Amadea who had her own adventure when the 2nd world war starts. From the Carmelite convent to Nazi death camps and then to the heart of the French Resistance, Amadea will feel her mother’s loving strength as the voices of lost loved ones echo powerfully in her life.

From the elegant rituals of Europe’s pre-war aristocracy to the brutal desperation of Germany’s death camps, Danielle Steel draws us into a vanished world, weaving an intricate tapestry of a mother’s love, a daughter’s courage and the unwavering faith that sustained them – even in history’s darkest hour.

This is my first time reading Danielle Steel after a lapsed of 8 years. The cover of the book was rather nostalgic..a train with 3 children on the platform. It could be the Kindertransport that brought children from Germany to England during WW2 and save many lives. Or, it could also be Nazi trains that brought millions of Jews to death camps. Unfortunately, neither was prominently featured in the story. So, I’m not sure why this graphic. Most probably the person who choose the cover never read the book! I would think a beautiful Swiss landscape would be more appropriate as that’s where Beata spends her life after she left home to be with the man of her dream and where Amadea was born.

Echoes follow the lives of Beata and subsequently Amadea. While it was an enjoyable re-acquaintance with Danielle, it missed a lot of spots. There were many loose ends that I wish Danielle would tie up. Like, when Beata and her second daughter Daphne were taken away by the Nazi, that was the last time we heard of them. What actually happens to them? Most likely scenario would be they died in camp. And the ring that her mother gave to her, it just ended there. It would be nice if the ring made itself back to Amadea . And Daphne, she’s seems totally unimportant even though she was the long awaited 2nd child.

I would also love it if Beata’s brother, Ulm could be someone that sympathise with her when she left her family. This is one character that has great potential in Beata’s life and perhaps in the life of Amadea, given the opportunity. I am surprised that after the introduction of Ulm, and what a solid personality he is, he just faded away.

While I admire Amadea and how Danielle turned her from a nun into a French Resistance heroine, I didn’t really understand how someone who wants to study philosophy and psychology and literature would suddenly want to enter a convent and be totally submissive. It’s ok to having a desire to enter the convent but why introduce her as having the ambition and passion or something like philosophy and psychology. Might as well don’t mention it.

I felt Danielle tried to pack too many stuff into a 400+ paperback. The story has lots of potentials. Perhpas, she tried to cover both generations and in the event, things felt quite rushed and a lot of plots that could have developed further and followed up with was not done so successfully.

I still enjoyed the book. Perhaps not as much as 20 years ago when I am less critical of what I read.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Featured Author - Danielle Steel

Which among you ladies (and men) have not heard of Danielle Steel? She’s one of the best known author in the world for the past 30 or more years and has more than 70 bestsellers under her belt. Even if you have not read any of her titles, a few of her books have been adapted into television series and you might have seen it one time or another. I started reading Danielle Steel in my late teens and until now I still do enjoy her books once in a while. Not too often but once in a while. I’ll explain why.

I have always preferred her over other authors who churned out romances like a factory. Danielle is so talented to spin such a tale that you felt you are on a journey with the character, across time and space. To me it’s always an experience to read her tales based on historical theme. My all time favourites are Zoya, the tale of a Russian princess and The Ring about a ring that belongs to a Jewish family during the holocaust. Crossings, Jewels all set around WW2, Message from Nam, set during the Vietnam war are fondly remembered. However, I didn’t like it so much when it comes to tales based on modern world. For some reason, I just don’t dig them. I still remember book such as 5 Days in Paris and also The Klone & I which I didn’t like at all. But I do like The Ghost. I remember bringing it with me to my honeymoon! I still have it and might re-read it again one of these days.

I stopped reading Danielle Steel about 8 years ago. There are just so many new authors to discover and I do need a break from her. While I love her writing, there’s a certain formula to her style. The heroine is always beautiful and desirable and also rich or they will be rich then along the story became poor and then rich again or they started off poor and then become mega rich and successful. I’ll stop right here but I’m sure you do get the picture. There’s an element of ‘woman power’. Then, the men...they would always be either real rich or stinky poor but will always the handsome and dashing and the perfect gentleman and extremely honourable and such and we all know that such men only exist among the pages of her tales. Slightly like what M&B has to offer but Danielle offers nothing sleezy and she describes a roll-in-bed like the perfect lady that she is. Also, her heroine’s characters are better developed and more refined. Danielle does bring to life what she spins.

After the break of so many years, I bought 2 of her books recent from here. I thought I might rediscover Danielle once again and see if what she has to offer once again, appeal to me. I bought Echoes and Irresistible Forces. I’ll share my thoughts on Echoes at the next post so do stay tuned!

A mother of 9 kids, Danielle lost one of her son, Nick who committed suicide and died when he was 19. Danielle wrote a memoir about him in His Bright Light. For more information on this talented author, you may visit her at http://www.randomhouse.com/features/steel/. She blogs too at http://daniellesteel.net/blog/.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tales of Beedle The Bard by J.K. Rowling

Tales of Beedle The Bard is important in the final book of the Harry Potter seriesHarry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. With the movie adaptation of the Deathly Hollows releasing in soon, interest in Tales of Beedle The Bard would escalate. TBTB is important in HPDH as Hermione Granger was presented a copy under the last will of Professor Albus Dumbledore. A story in TBTB was instrumental in Harry’s quest in finding the Deathly Hollows.

Tales of Beedle The Bard is a collection of 5 short tales, each with its own magical character and uniqueness. In the world of Harry Potter, they are popular bedtime stories for young wizards and witches. It is the equivalent of stories of such as Sleeping Beauty, Ugly Duckling, etc. to the non magical students.

Fans of Harry Potter would have surely gotten a copy when it was release in year 2008. Non fans will not bother at all. The stories are very un-Harry Potter like and not necessary the ‘living happily after type of stories’ as favoured by us all. The uniqueness in the book would be a short note or observation made by Professor Dumboledore at the end of each stories. There’s also footnotes and such and generally, quite delightful.

I will certainly hold on to my copy but it’s no bedtime stories that I would like to tell my young ones!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holiday Read

I'm going on a holiday :) and these are what I'm bringing with me :)

The Wives of Bath and Pastures Nouveaux, both by Wendy Holden.  Don't they look cheerful :)  I loved the cover colours...pastel green and prawny pink.  Just the right colour for a relaxing holiday.

I'll let you know what I think of them when I'm back.

Monday, November 8, 2010

False Impression by Jeffery Archer

You can see how torn and tattered the book is. That’s how it looked when I bought it in a 2nd hand shop a few years back. Cost me only RM8 (about US$2.30). I know I can get better looking 2nd hand book for this price or cheaper but it’s the story inside that matters and not so much the cover. Since then, I have read False Impression twice.

Set against the NY Sept 11 backdrop, we have heroine Anna Petrescu who survived the attack just as he was being sacked by her boss, Bryce Fenston, a banker with questionable banking ethics. The author gave us a quick insight to those in North Tower during the attack and Anna’s one of those who made her way down just in time before the tower collapsed. The attack is not significant at all to the story but probably just the author’s way of immortalising the incident for future readers/generations

A self portrait with a bandaged ear by grandmaster Van Gough is the main character in this story. Through a set of incidents, he travelled pretty much around the world as the story brought us to these places by those who meant him well and those who wishes to possess him. Of course, however, tacky it would be, there would be the expected romance which otherwise, we might say it’s a horrible book! In this we have senior FBI agent , Jack Delaney, to thank for.

This reminds me of Sydney Sheldon‘s book like Master of the Game, etc, it’s a engrossing read - fast moving and full of suspense, hint of romance, bit of humour,etc. Jeffery Archer is a great storyteller and managed to spin a tale that keeps you wanting to turn to the next page and the next and the next..... and before you know it, you have been on an incredible ride with him. However, do be mindful that’s one of those that I considered a ‘fun brainless read’ so don’t expect any Nobel Prize material. Just enjoy the ride and be entertained. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes


Everybody remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married. But for four women in particular, the big news about the charismatic politician is especially momentous. Lola has every reason to be interested in who Paddy’s marrying – she’s his girlfriend but she definitely isn’t the bride-to-be. Grace, the journalist wants the inside story on the engagement. Grace’s sister, Marnie, might have the answer but like Grace, she has issues with the past. And Alicia, the soon-to-be Mrs de Courcy thinks she knows the real Paddy de Courcy but does she? Four very different women. One awfully charming man. And the dark secret that binds them all …

I have wanted to talk about this book for ages and I just can’t wait anymore. First, Marian Keyes is one of my most favourite authors of chick lite. I discovered her years ago with ‘Last Chance Saloon’. Marian is a fantastic author. She deals with common but important life issues women faced. For example in Rachel’s Holiday, it was alcoholism, mid-life crisis in Angels and Anybody Out There? deals with coping after death of spouse. But the way she writes them, you can feel the connection with the characters. You laugh with them and at them but you also ache and cry with them as you felt their pain and sorrow. I cried a lot when I was reading Anybody Out There? Will share that with you one of these days. :)

With This Charming Man, things seem to be a bit different. The message is much more serious and sombre and you felt a sense of seriousness throughout the book. The main issue highlighted here is domestic abuse and how each of those women being abused deals with it differently. Some went into denial, some blames themselves, some turns to alcoholic but some champion the issue... It is also about how it can happen to anyone whether you are a housewife or a career woman in the corporate or political world. For that reason alone, I find it a very different read altogether compared with the other titles. The seriousness of the message came through. Even Marian’s style of writing is slightly different here. 

But you know what, with more than 670+ pages, you should just read it. Published by Penguin, I bought mine in trade paperback from the Penguin warehouse sales last year. According to reliable source, this title is no longer available in my country for reasons that I am not very sure of. Anyway, I am happy to add this to my collection of Marian’s titles that I have in my library.