Monday, August 29, 2011

Beach Holiday

A week long holiday is coming up and the family is heading to the beach for a few days! Hippeedeehip! What joy!

this is where we are going

A holiday without books is not a holiday. I must pack some that I classified as ‘beach novels’. Few days ago, I went through my collection to identify which books to pack. I think I must have changed my mind a thousand times. Initially, I wanted to bring Birthright by Nora Roberts.  Have you read it? Is it good?



Then, I changed my mind and decided to bring these two,

Pretend I'm Not Here by Chris Gavaler is about a weekend for reality show contestant in a beach resort. It promises sun, sand, romance and murder! Goody!

Citizen Girl by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, bestselling authors of The Nanny Dairies.

Two books so that I can read the other if I'm tired of one.  To be very honest, I am still pretty undecided.   You never know. I might change my mind at the very last minute. You would know which book I bring through future reviews!

This is where we'll be staying

If you're off to a holiday as well, happy holiday from me to you :)  I hope you remember to pack a book or two.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Forbidden by Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee


Synopsis :

A terrible truth has been revealed to one man: the entire human race has been drained of every emotion except one-- fear. To bring life back to the world, Rom must embark on a journey that will end either in his own demise or a re-awakening of humanity. But to bring love and passion back into existence will also threaten the powers of the world with the revolution and anarchy that had nearly destroyed them previously.

After happening upon a journal through strange circumstance, Rom's world is shattered. He learns that humanity long ago ceased to "live," that it exists today in a living death of emotions. In a terrible risk, Rom exposes himself to the vial of blood folded into the old leather of the journal. His change is fearful and fraught with mind-bending emotion. A once-pious observer of the Order's passionless statues, he is filled with uncontrollable impulses. He is filled with love.

This is a new book by Ted Dekker and it rocks! Not particularly fond of fantasy but when it comes to Ted Dekker, I make an exception.

Forbidden is the first book of his new trilogy series. Set to publish in Sept 2011, it tells of a world in the far future when human race has no other emotions except fear. With no other emotions, human being might as well be dead and that's what human being are. 

When Rom was entrusted with a vial of blood, his world is turned upside down. His mother is murdered in front of him and desperate impulsive actions led him to consume some of this ancient blood as did three of his other friends. From there the adventure picks up as there are some timeline they have to meet, an old man who’s imprisoned in the dungeon to rescue and a nine year old boy whom they must find and brought into power in order for men to ‘live’ again.  In between all these, they have to battle enemies sent to stop them as well as enemies within themselves.

There’s something about Forbidden that I can’t really put my finger on. I feel there’s more message to the story than what meets the eye but at the same time, since it’s just the first book, I don’t really want to delve too deep into analysing the characters and representation in our world today, be it physical or spiritual. I really enjoy reading Forbidden for what it is to me now, an entertaining, intriguing story by a great storyteller.

The second book is entitled Mortal and I can’t wait for it to be published. Perhaps, then I’ll delve deeper.

I review this for netGalley.com

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Interview with Medad Birungi (author of Tombstones & Banana Trees)


Further to my posts on Tombstones & Banana Trees here and here, you might be interested to know more about Medad through the interview provided by B&B Media.

Q: Can you tell us a little about how you came up with the title Tombstones and Banana Trees?

I was born under a banana tree. Mother had to hide there when she went into labor as my father would not pay for her to go to the hospital. He wanted my birth to be quickly followed by my death as he was full of hatred and anger. Much of my early life was marked by tombstones. I felt like life was over when my father abandoned me, my mother, sisters and brothers. And when my sister was murdered, I became a raging civil war—full of death and thoughts of revenge. But, just like Lazarus, I found out that tombstones are not what they seem. When Jesus arrested me, he challenged me to forgive others—even though they had wounded me so badly that I had wanted to kill them. This type of revolutionary forgiveness has changed not just my life, but the lives of many, many others.

Q: In your book, you share with your readers the story of your childhood. Can you tell us a little about the first six years of your life?

I was very poor. I grew up in southwest Uganda—an area known as the Switzerland of Africa. It is very beautiful there, but for me the beauty was clouded out. My father had many wives and hated my mother—his first wife—with cruelty. He beat us all and eventually we fought back. He left us, but by abandoning us he left us with no food, no money, no possessions and no hope for the future.

Q: As a teenager, you were filled with anger and a desire for revenge, yet God was working in your life. When you chose to accept Christ, why do you think that you needed to forgive your father and others who had abused and mistreated you?

In the East African Revival of the 1930s, public confession of sin was considered essential for any Christian—especially a new one. That tradition was still in effect when I accepted Jesus as my savior, and I am glad that I confessed. Not only did it result in many people getting saved, but it helped to free me from the guilt of all the wrong things I had done. Most of all, we need to forgive because that is what we were commended to do... and for good reason: unforgiveness is a cancer.

Q: Do you think forgiveness for acts of extreme abuse and murder are required by God? Can this type of forgiveness be accomplished without God’s supernatural power?

Forgiveness for acts of extreme abuse and murder are absolutely required by God. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others.” Jesus also prayed on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Stephen also forgave those who were stoning him to death. God forgave David when he killed Uriah and he forgave Paul who killed many Christians. To walk in forgiveness and grace, we must release others through the forgiveness allowed by grace through Christ Jesus. God promises to forgive us unconditionally ALL our sins with confession that is present with absolute repentance. We are to forgive others unconditionally for ALL sins also. Otherwise, Christianity will lose meaning and vengeance, genocide, civil war and more extreme abuse and murder revenging for past sins will be committed.

This type of forgiveness cannot be accomplished without God’s supernatural power. Forgiveness that is genuine and unconditional can ONLY be experienced by the supernatural love of God flowing through the heart by the Holy Spirit. This power comes only by humility and prayer, strength and the unconditional love given to us by God.
 

Q: When you made the choice to forgive, your life was not the only one affected. Can you please share with us how that forgiveness went on to affect your family and the community around you?

Forgiveness is a choice, but you cannot choose the consequences. When I chose to forgive my father, my stepmothers and some of my relatives, I also chose to do restitution and sort things out with them. This was very hard and frightening, but it brought healing to all of us. Forgiveness gave me unconditional love for my relatives and family members. We helped our father when he got sick by taking him to the hospital, caring for him for seven months and footing all the medical bills. He reconciled with my mother after 22 years of separation. He came back home and was reconciled with us. We also reconciled with our relatives and stepmothers/brothers/sisters when he brought his family back for a reconciliation meeting and made me a heir to his household.

There was great repentance, forgiveness and reconciliations in the family and community around. Deep hatred and deep rooted bitterness were removed and we became a loving and reconciled community. My mother received their children and my younger stepsisters had their schooling at our village school. I also started paying school fees for the grandchildren of those who murdered my sister and cared for those who had hurt us when we were abandoned by our father. My sisters forgave those who raped them. Relationships were healed and restored and our home became a center for inner healing and a Christian home cell church. People still meet in my mother’s house today for weekly fellowship. Jesus visited the village.
                      
Q: You have established a charity by the name of World Shine Ministries and a portion of the proceeds from Tombstones and Banana Trees will go to benefit its work. Can you tell us about the ministry of WSM and how our listeners can become involved?

World Shine Ministries is an inter-denominational, non-governmental, Christian organization. It works to spread the knowledge of the Christian gospel, to relieve poverty and suffering and to assist needy children and students with education so that their conditions of life can be improved. We have a school, World Shine Foundation School, in a remote community called Rwentobo where we have 510 disadvantaged children/children at risk (orphans, street children and children from homes of domestic violence) whom we look after. Among the children are 87 Moslems and others with a background of Christianity or African traditional religions.

World Shine Ministries in Uganda is also involved in:
• Evangelism
• Pastor’s conferences
• Christian broadcasting
• Working with women and fighting domestic violence; advocacy for women emancipation
• Sponsoring orphans’ schooling
• Supporting HIV/AIDS widows
• HIV/AIDS education
• Poverty eradication
• Camps and conferences for young people

Listeners can be involved by: sponsoring a child ($20 per month), supporting the school financially, sending a goat to a widow ($50), supporting WSM activities, volunteering, coming as a team to support in building, performing medical or social work, teaching and conducting conferences, children’s camps or evangelism or becoming a short/long term missionary.

If you would like to support World Shine Ministries, please visit www.worldshinefoundation.org for more information.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

Synopsis :

After spending many years in a foreign country, Lucy returns to her family’s rambling lakeside house. There she finds herself haunted by the curious circumstances of her father’s death 10 years ago.

Sleepless one night, and pacing the moonlit hallways of the house, she makes a momentous discovery – locked in a window seat, she finds a collection of what at first appear to be idle curiosities. But each of these objects holds a secret.

As Lucy begins to piece together her family’s true history – from an heirloom tapestry and old political tracts, to a web of allusions depicted in a stained glass – she realises that the story she has always believed were a fiction. And then, adding to her confusion, there is Keegan Fall, a local glass artist who was once her passionate first love, who stirs up old longings and who will lead Lucy to unexpected places.

On the cover, it was stated that in year 2007, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter captivated over 6 million readers worldwide. Unfortunately, I am not among the 6 million readers so I approached The Lake of Dreams with some apprehension but determination and faith. I am duly rewarded as the book managed to captivate my curiosity and attention and I came away enjoying it.

Lucy Jarrette is the main character and the one pushing for the truth to be revealed based on the discovery she made in the family home one day. Not everyone welcomes her investigation as they felt that it was of no relevance but for some reason, Lucy was consumed by it and slowly, the truth about the family history is revealed and its impact on the family was felt by all – her mother – Ann, her brother – Blake, her uncle, cousins, etc but most of all herself.

I love the way the author builds up the tension of the story and I especially loved reading the letters that Lucy found. I can see that Lucy identifies herself with the author of the letters who is one of her ancestors especially the restlessness that they both felt in their individual life.

The Lake of Dreams is published by Penguin. I should think they have a bestsellers in The Lake of Dreams which can be made into a wonderful movie and I would love to see the small town especially the chapel with the stain glass coming alive on screen.

The copy of The Lake of Dreams that I have is an uncorrected proof copy. Thank you Pearson Malaysia (especially CYH) for this copy. I shall now check out The Memory Keepers’ Daughter and be among the 6 million readers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sidney Sheldon’s After The Darkness by Tilly Bagshawe

Synopsis :


Grace Brookstein is young, beautiful and the wife of billionaire Lenny Brookstein when the US stock market goes into a terrifying freefall. Oblivious and seemingly unscathed, Grace continues her charmed life, until the death of her husband in a tragic sailing ‘accident’ forces her to face reality. Was it possible that Lenny had conned thousands of people out of millions of dollars to live like a king, and how much did Grace know?

Untangling a spiralling web of vicious lies and well-planned deceit, Grace soon puts her own life in danger in an attempt to prove her innocence.

Grace Brookstein is your typical Sidney Sheldon’s heroine. Young, gentle and beautiful, her life was turned upside down after her husband’s death. She lost everything from material possessions to those whom she thought were her family and friends. Grace was convicted and imprisoned and life in jail sounded very familiar with another of Sidney Sheldon's heroine, Tracy Whitney from If Tomorrow Comes. I was even able to predict that she will attempt to escape from prison the same way Tracy did. Grace believed that she is framed. Alone and no one to turn to, she discovered that her husband might have been murdered and is determined to find out who did it.  Unknown to her, the worst is yet to come.

I wasn’t very impressed with Tilly Bagshawe after reading Sidney Sheldon’s Mistress of The Game. However, I am happy to change my mind after reading Sidney Sheldon’s After The Darkness. While perhaps I compared too much of Mistress of The Game with Master of The Game, I wasn’t able to do so with After The Darkness. It seems to be a completely fresh new story and I enjoyed it tremendously.

I feel that Tilly managed to capture the essence of Sidney's style of writing novels and did extremely well with this book. However, there are still loopholes and plenty of room for improvement - for example,  Sidney was very good at tidying up loose ends, even for some minor characters which I enjoyed.  Having said that, with After The Darkness, I am duly impressed and feel that she has successfully brought to life, Sidney's legacy to his millions of fans.

Well done, Tilly.

p.s. I borrowed this copy from a friend. Thanks, NS :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tombstones and Banana Trees by Medad Birungi


A Revolution of Forgiveness

Medad Birungi's body is scarred with abuse - poverty, rejection, abandonment. Growing up with a violent father in Uganda in the 1960’s, Medad faced pain that few can imagine. Yet today he speaks of forgiveness that all can experience.

Once a boy who begged to die by the side of the road, once a teenager angry enough to kill, once a man broken and searching, today Medad is a testimony to God’s transforming power. Through his story of healing, Medad calls you to find healing for your own emotional scars. As Medad reminds us, when we forgive others, we are doing something truly radical that changes relationships, communities and countries. We are welcoming God into the corners of the human souls, where revolutions begin.

Reverend Medad Birungi is a Bible teacher, lecturer, pastor, and founder of World Shines Ministries, an organization that evangelises, disciples and intercedes in prayer in Uganda and around the world. Medad and his wife, Connie have five children and live in Uganda.

This is the story of a man’s life. It’s a testimony of how his life is changed after he accepted Jesus into his life. It’s a story of a man who has gone through hell on earth and emerged victorious in Christ. A man so changed by Christ that his level of forgiveness puts me to shame. How do I review such a book?  I am not worthy.

All I can share with you is what I learnt....and I learned a lot.

I learnt that God can overcome any difficult situation in your life. He can turn your mourning into dancing and your sorrow into joy. If you think life is difficult for you, image the life of a young boy who was  abandoned by his father by the roadside with only the clothes on his back. Imagine a little boy who was physically abused and at six years of age, sexually abused by his sister, a boy who climbed up the banana tree to eat the bananas left for the birds because he was too hungry and yet his uncle denied him of it by taking a knife to slash his feet. Imagine a young boy who is dependent on his elder sister for finances to go to school and yet not able to anything when the same beloved sister is murdered by people known to him all because hate.  A boy who wanted to kill himself because life was hopeless and much too painful.

There are 19 people in his list whom he wanted to kill once he enters the army after graduating from school. Yet, he forgave each and every one of these people. He forgave them with a revolutionary forgiveness that comes only from Christ.

He was compared to ducks and pigs and in his culture, these are lowly creatures. To be compared to either really brought his self esteem to rock bottom. He felt so rejected and abandoned and it’s only through Christ that he began to see hope. Even in Ministry, he was rejected by his bishop and bitterness, shame and humiliation returned but yet he knew that God is always with him.

In the last chapter of the book, he says ‘What does it mean to forgive? It means obeying a direct command from God. It means following Jesus’ example. It means being open to the healing and deliverance that follow. It means embracing repentance, reconciliation and brokenness. It means seeing a release of prayer and intercession, an increase in joyfulness and a radical rise in missionary zeal. To forgive is to grow, to live, to love. To give is to leave behind the tomb and to walk out, surrounded by fresh air and new life, toward the open arms of a waiting, loving God’.

Go and buy your copy of Tombstones and Banana Trees. You will learn a lot too.

Part of the proceeds of the sales will go towards World Shine Ministries. Thank you B&B Media for sending me this ARC.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sweet Sanctuary by Sheila Walsh & Cindy Martinusen Coloma

Synopsis :

In tiny Cottage Cover, on the coast of Maine, Wren Evans is raising her gifted son, Charlie. A single mom, she’s fought hard to give Charlie a stable, secure home life. What Wren doesn’t know is that Charlie has been praying for her. And the answer to her son’s prayers will change both of their lives.

Wren’s grandmother, Ruth arrives unannounced, with an outlandish request. Ruth wants her family gathered together one last time, at the summer house where, years before, an accident shattered Wren’s peaceful childhood. In the tumult, Wren finds a friend in handsome, kind-hearted local, Paul Callahan.

When the family gathers in Cottage Cover, old wounds will be healed, now love will blossom, and the innocent prayers of a child will be answered in a most unexpected way.

The story started with Ruth’s arrival in Wren’s house in the first chapter. From there we learned more about Wren and her relationship with her family, focusing primarily on her relationship or lack of it with her sister Barb and brother, Jack. Their dad has died and their mum has remarried and on a trip in Europe.

Wren grew up being blame for something that happened to her brother Jack when she was just eight years old.

You might say, ‘How could anyone blame an 8 year old child? What was asked of her was too heavy a responsibility.’ Yes, it could and it was really unfair but it happens and this story shows how something like that can attached itself to the child (like a curse) and how the child can grow up under the shadow of such blame and never be set free. Wren never got over incident and this blame has affected the way she lives her life and even her relationship with her family and her ex-husband.

From the story, we know that Wren is bitter from how her family treated her. She knows, as an adult now, that she wasn’t to blame. She drew strength from Psalm 27 and was greatly comforted by it and from it, she learns to forgive and with forgiveness, God works miraculous wonders over that weekend while Ruth celebrates her ‘90th’ birthday.

This is one lovely book which I enjoyed tremendously. It wasn’t overly spiritual but I’m grateful at how the authors made Psalm 27 real in Wren’s story. Psalm 27 is my favourite psalm and to see it coming alive in this book is joy and blessing.

Sweet Santuary is published by Thomas Nelson.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My experiences – Book Fair in Kuching

I thought it might not be fair not to share with you my experiences at the recent book fair after telling you about it here. So, here goes....

1st visit

The book fair was held in the foyer of a shopping mall as well at one of the empty units. Books for adults (novels, romances, hardcovers, business, health, etc) are all in the empty unit whereas the foyer housed books for children. There weren’t really a lot of book at the time I went which was the 1st weekend.

The only word I can use to describe my 1st visit was ‘boring’. For some reason, nothing interested me at all. I walked around having a look here and a peep there. The usual gang was there. I said hello to James Patterson, had a bit of chat with Dean Koontz. I didn’t say hi to Danielle Steele since I was not keen on what she has to offer. Some older folks like Lawrence Sanders whom I have not met for a long time was there too.  So was David Baldacci.  I saw John Grisham and Marian Keyes which was a surprised. I met some new folks but for some reasons, non of them appeal to me in such a way that I would want to bring them home with me (that sound a bit wrong).

2nd visit

After that first visit, the 2nd visit took place a few days later. Again it was uneventful. I knew Face of Betrayal by Lis Weihl kinda hope I bring her back with me but I was not motivated. After half an hour of looking around, I left disappointed and empty handed.

3rd visit

I was more determined on the 3rd visit – I told myself that I am not going home without purchasing something. The strategy would be to go through all the novels, one by one, picking out the ones that trigger even the slightest interest in me, drop them in the basket, move on and repeat the process and for the selected books to be sorted out again later. I did just that (what a long process!) and ended up with about 10 books and from there, I shortlisted these. Phew! I didn’t know shopping for books can be such hard work!

1. Part 2 of Lord of The Rings - The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien – I bought Part 3 during the same book fair last year. Perhaps I will buy Part 1 the following year?

2. The Heart of A Woman by Maya Angelou – Oprah’s Book Club. Maya Angelou is Oprah Winfrey’s mentor and a woman of substance. I want to know what her heart says.

3. Dust to Dust by Tami Hoag – never read Tami. She was highly recommended by a friend so giving her a try.

4. One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz – it’s been quite a while since I read a really captivating Dean Koontz. I hope this would be it.

Today is the last day of the sales.  Have you been yet?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ideal Man by Julie Garwood

Synopsis :

Dr. Ellie Sullivan has just completed her residency at a large urban hospital. While jogging in a park nearby, she witnesses the shooting of an FBI agent in pursuit of wanted criminals, a couple identified as the Landrys. The only person to see the shooter's face, Ellie is suddenly at the center of a criminal investigation. Agent Max Daniels takes over the Landry case. A no-nonsense lawman, he's definitely not the ideal man that Ellie has always imagined, yet she's attracted to him in a way she can't explain.

Ellie heads home to Winston Falls, South Carolina, to attend her sister's wedding. Shortly after she arrives, though, she receives a surprise visitor: Max Daniels. The Landrys have been captured, and she'll be called to testify. But they've been captured before, and each time the witnesses are scared into silence-or disappear before they can take the stand. Max vows to be Ellie's shadow until the trial, and it isn't long before sparks fly.

Ideal Man is part romance, part detective, part suspense but not really so. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s an ok read. Nothing that I would ask you go and buy from the bookstore now but if you do get your hands on it, you will be in for a pretty enjoyable read but nothing mind blowing. It’s a book that you can put down and come back to easily enough.

I enjoy most of the characters offered...from the hitman sent to kill Ellie to Ellie's bridezilla sister, Ava was so obnoxious but likeable in a way! While I like the chemistry between Ellie and Max (talk about opposite attraction), I especially like Ellie’s parents. I think they are fun and I especially like the way Ellie’s dad tried to get good deals for most of his purchases instead of buying retail. Remind me of someone I know. The part with the air conditioning are so funny.

I don't like the front cover (not creative to me) but then I don't really lilke the title too but other than that, like Ellie said, '‘It’s all good’. At 300+ pages, it won’t take you long to finish reading Ideal Man.

Ideal Man is published by Penguin Goup (USA) in August 2011. I review this for NetGalley.com.

*p.s. a very happy birthday greetings to my ideal man :) Thank you being my Max <3 LHK.*

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

1st Anniversary?

Tulip farm in Holland. Nothing to do with this post. It's just so pretty, I want to go and see it one of these days.

2nd August 2010 marks a milestone for this blog. It's the date that I re-activate it and since then, a steady streams of book reviews, authors interviews, etc has been continuously posted. 

I am really enjoying this new hobby of mine but I didn't know that maintaining a blog can be stressful but fun and satisfying at the same time.  I am now thinking of ways of how to expand it. 

In months to come, I will attempt to share reviews of public libraries, promote local bookstores, book fairs and exhibitions and other relevant and related stories.

Should this date be the official anniversary date of this blog? 

If so, Happy 1st Anniversary.... :)