Thursday, September 29, 2011

Logos Hope - Kuching : October 2011

Logos Hope

The floating book-ship, Logos Hope will make Kuching it’s next port of call from 27th October to 15th November 2011. MV Logos Hope is operated by the German charitable organisation GBA Ships e.V is currently in Port Klang Malaysia until 24th October 2011. Prior to that, it was in Penang.

I am super excited as the last floating book-ship to come by Kuching was the MV Doulos in year 2008 (if i'm not mistaken). I bought a few books then and I am looking forward to more purchases especially books that I won’t be able to find in the local bookstores.

My best purchases then were the Redemption Series and Firstborn Series by Karen Kingsbury. It was quite a ‘purchase of faith’ (i.e. leap of faith) as I have not heard of Karen Kingsbury at that time. Now that I know who she is and how wonderful her books are, I hope Logos Hope stocks up on what she has to offer. I am look to complete my Sunrise Series and perhaps the series on Bailey’s new adventure in New York.

The ship’s schedule (taken from their official web) until March 2012 is as follow :

* Port Klang, Malaysia         September 28th, 2011 October 24th, 2011

* Kuching, Malaysia             October 27th, 2011 November 15th, 2011

* Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia   November 17th, 2011 December 13th, 2011

* Singapore, Singapore        December 16th, 2011 December 28th, 2011

* Cebu, Philippines              January 13th, 2012 February 14th, 2012

* Manila, Philippines            February 16th, 2012 March 14th, 2012

Just one more month to go......

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ten Plagues by Mary Nealy

Synopsis :

A detective with a gift for discerning spirits.
A pastor whose sinful past is awakened by a murderer.
A killer possessed by demon with a sadistic taste for destruction.

And the plague of murders that has them on a collision course. When a serial killer wreaks havoc on the city of Chicago with the fury of an Old Testament plague, detective Keren Collins is assigned to the case. Armed with her God-given gift of discerning spirits, she sets out in a race against time to stop a madman before he strikes again.

Pastor Paul Morris, a retired cop who once tried to ruin Keren’s career, is the focus of the murderer’s obsession. . .but unaware of the link between himself and the killer that marks him as the ultimate victim. As the two race to end the killing spree, Paul struggles to not let his old self rule him. And Keren can’t decide whether she is glad to see Paul suffer or if she is falling in love with him. Will they win in this battle of good over evil?

The ten plagues here refers to the plagues of Egypt and the killer releases them one by one as he kills one women after another. The suspense builds up as readers will try to guess who the killer is but that’s not the critical aspect in the novel.

While the focus is on racing around the clock to catch the killer, I felt that the essence of the book is on struggles we have within ourselves. As the taunting by the killer increases, Pastor Paul felt struggle to be either cop or pastor. He has problem controlling his anger and felt that his anger is a sin which is being awaken through this horrible event and he doesn’t like what he is becoming which is less of a pastor and more of his old self. Is the author trying to bring to light the struggles of believers in the marketplace? It is sometimes very difficult to act in a Christian manner while in the face of trials and tribulations and we struggle against ourselves in this worldly world.

Sometimes believers hide from the rest of the world in order not to feel worldly. They kept themselves busy with church and ministries and within their circle of safety zone that they lost sight of the great commission which is to ‘go into the world...

I don’t know why some reviewed Ten Plagues negatively. I think it has a brilliant plot. While it does started off a bit bearishly (borrowing a term from the stock market), it gets more exciting as it moves along and does end rather bullishly!

I am also in awe of Keren's gift of descerning spirits and especially when she prayed and the demon left that man and because that man refused to accept Jesus into his life, another more powerful demon take over the 'vacated' man before you can even count 'one'.  This was mentioned in the bible but the speed of it really shocked me.

I certainly recommend this book for those interested in suspense with a touch of romance and more than hint of the Christian faith.

Mary Nealy is the suspense genre pen name for bestselling and award-winning author Mary Connealy, who is best known for her humorous Old West romances. She makes her home with her husband on a farm in Nebraska near her four grown daughters.

Ten Plagues will be released by Barbour Publishing on 1st October 2011. I review this for

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown


In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world’s most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling – a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets and unseen truths...all under the watchful eye of Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels and temples of Washington DC, The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.

That was from the novel’s jacket which has a lot of claims, among which :

TLS will demonstrate that Dan Brown is the world’s most popular thriller writer.
TLS has the most terrifying villain to date.
TLS accelerates towards an unthinkable finale.

Unfortunately, out of the above, I am of the opinion that only the last claim can truly describes The Lost Symbol. While Dan Brown writes a great thriller, I don’t think he’s the world’s most popular. I think his fame is due to Da Vinci Code receiving very mixed and controversial reviews. If he had not written the Da Vinci Code , I don’t think he would be that popular. I also disagree that Lost Symbol has the most terrifying villain to date. I still think the villain in Angels and Demons is most terrifying so far.

However, I do agree that the Lost Symbol has an unexpected but rather lame ending, IMHO. It started quite interestingly with Prof Robert Langdon receiving a call to be a speaker at an event which he accepted as a favour to his friend although it’s last minute. However, upon arriving at the venue, he discovered that there’s no such event and the purpose of him being there is totally different.

The whole book covers less than 10 hours of event from start to end. Yet, there’s a total of 133 chapters (hey, 33...that’s a rather significant number in the storyline, clever old Dan) as each chapter is about 2 -5 pages long. As usual, Langdon spent a lot of time explaining/lecturing about the symbols and history behind a building, a location, a symbols, etc.

In terms of entertainment value, this book is quite entertaining and enjoyable and fans of Dan Brown would not be disappointed. New readers to Dan Brown might however, wonder what the fuss was all about.

I borrowed this copy from the local library.  No lost to me as I didn't waste any of my moolah.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Synopsis :

That morning, my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch....

One night, 15 year old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and set away. They are being deported to Siberia.

An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or her friends again but she refuses to give up hope. Lina hopes for her family, for her country, for her future and for love – first love with a boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose..Will hope keep Lina alive?

Between Shades of Gray is a tragic and heartbreaking and extremely beautifully written story. Written through the eyes of 15 year old Lina, you will follow her as she and her family (mother and brother) travel thousands of miles to places unknown to them and for reasons beyond their comprehension. The only thing keeping them alive and from insanity is the thought of reuniting with their father and going home one of these days.

Lina can drawn extremely well. The things that kept her going are the drawings that she did while being detained. She tried to send some of her drawings to where she thought her father might be imprisoned. Others, she kept as records. The book covers over 2 years of her life as she and her family journeyed from her home to labour camps in Siberia and to the Arctic Circle.

Between Shades of Gray is more than just a story about Lina and her family. It shares with the world the Baltic people’s genocide in the 1940s. Many people from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were deported and imprisoned in camps and farms such as potatoe and beets farms in Siberia.  The author's father, who is the son of a Lithunian military officer, managed to escape with his parents through Germany into refugee camps while others in his families were deported and imprisoned. This is their story.

While the book is about sadness, despair, oppression, it’s also about human compassion, hope, survival and love. It ended with this beautiful statement that gives Lina much hope while she was still at camp  – ‘That’s when I saw it. A tiny silver of gold appeared between shades of gray on the horizon. I stared at the amber band of sunlight, smiling. The sun had returned.’

I thought that was so beautiful. Silver of gold between shades of gray – a tiny glimpse of hope, tiny, but yet enough to keep her alive.

Between Shades of Gray was published in April 2011 by Penguin Group. Thanks to CYH of Penguin Malaysia for the review copy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Birthright by Nora Roberts

Synopsis :

When 5,000-year-old human bones are found at a construction site in the small town of Woodsboro, the news draws archaeologist Callie Dunbrook out of her sabbatical and into a whirlwind of adventure, danger and romance.

While overseeing the dig, she must try to make sense of a cloud of death and misfortune that hangs over the project – fueling rumours that the site is cursed. She must also cope with the presence of her irritating – but irresistible – ex-husband, Jake. And when a stranger claims to know a secret about her privileged Boston childhood, she must question her own past as well.

If you are familiar with Nora Roberts works such as Montana Sky, Carolina Moon, Angels Fall, then you would have an idea the type of story she turns out. They made good hallmark movies out of these books. Nora Roberts also wrote as JD Robb but that’s another story.

Birthright follows similar pattern. Callie is the heroine and the story revolves around her with murders, arson, etc. (Spoiler alert ahead!) What happened was that Callie also known as Jessica at birth was kidnapped at 3 months old and sold to another couple who brought her up as their daughter. Her parents were not aware that she was taken from another family. Her birth mother, Suzanne who happens to live in Woodsboro, recognises her as her daughter when Callie appeared on television due to the archaeology project and from there the story evolves as Callie tries to find out how it happened and who kidnapped and sold her.  At the same time, she has to deal with the emotional aspects of having 2 families of a sudden.

A well written suspense by Nora Roberts. Jake as the ex-husband injected much excitement in Callie’s current muddled life.  The other of her birth brother, Doug and Callie’s new lawyer, Lana was quite cute too. I like Lana. She is a single mum whose husband was killed during a convenient store robbery. The part when she puts away her wedding ring (which she still wears even though her husband’s dead) was quite touching when she felt that her husband would approve.

I enjoy this book. I am sure you will too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Blessings by John Trent, PHD & Gary Smalley

The best-selling classic that helps children thrive today and experience a special future tomorrow. Now revised, updated and enhanced for a new generation!

Synopsis :

Children of every ago long for the gift of ‘the blessing’ – the unconditional love and approval that come from a healthy relationship with their parents. This life-changing gift, essential for installing a deep sense of self-worth and unshakable emotional well-being contains five essential elements :

• Meaningful touch
• A spoken message
• Attaching high value
• Picturing a special future
• An active commitment

Offering solid practical advice and a fresh perspective on making this gift a bigger part of our families, The Blessing powerfully communicates these biblically based elements as necessary to prepare children for positive future relationships, including their relationship with a loving God.

Review :

I was blown away by some of the contents of this book. Right from the first chapter, The Blessings has so much to offer. As I read, some the stories used to illustrate the points are really heart wrenching and some are quite funny and I ended up having tears coming down my cheek at one emotional story and a smile at another wonderful story. At the end of certain sections, there are opportunities and guided notes for readers to reflect on the points mentioned for that section.

Parents – in my opinion, this is THE parenting book to read. You can forgo all others and just concentrate on the 5 points mentioned above and you will be amazed by what you learned and what you have been missing out.

But then, reading about a book won’t be of much use if you don’t make it real and active. The authors talked about ‘The Blessing Challenge’ and being a ‘Blessing Champion’. However, you don’t have to take up such initiative but just impart the blessing message to your family and your friends and church and this world would benefit greatly from it.

If I have a ‘must read’ category to recommend readers, this would be on top of the list.

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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rosie Dunne (aka Where Rainbows End) aka by Cecelia Ahern

Synopsis :

Rosie and Alex are destined for each other, and everyone seems to know it but them. Best friends since childhood, by the age of seventeen the two are just starting to see each other in a romantic light when Alex’s family relocates from Dublin to Boston. Rosie and Alex plan to reunite in the US, but a twist of fate changes Rosie’s future plans forever.

Like two ships always passing in the night, Rosie and Alex stay friends and though years pass, and weddings, funerals and baptisms take place, the two remain firmly attached via emails and letters. Heartbroken, they learn to live without each other. But destiny is a funny thing, and in this novel of several missed opportunities, Rosie and Alex learn that fate isn’t done with them quite yet.

This is one of my favourite book and the first book by Cecelia Ahern that I read way back in year 2006. I wasn’t sure I would like it but you can say I immediately fell in love with Rosie, Alex, Katie, Ruby, Ms Casey and the other characters that are so important in Rosie’s life and impacted her so much.

Missed opportunities’ is the key theme in this novel. Rosie and Alex could be together but due to many missed opportunities throughout their lives, they ended up with other people and only remain friends, very good friends.

The writing is typical Cecelia’s style with lots of humour thrown in, sadness injected in between, anger and wrath making appearances here and there. You laugh with Rosie and Alex as they exchanged notes in class as 7 year old, you felt Rosie’s disappointment when Alex let her down, you felt her happiness in her letters and emails to Alex and her family and friends and as the years go by and through it all, you felt the love Alex and Rosie have for each other, a love that is there but never mentioned (in seriousness) in any of their communications.

The entire novel (except for the last chapter) is written in epistolary structure in the form of letters, emails, instant messages, chat messages, notes, etc. If this is written a couple of years later, the author would have to incorporate Facebook, twitters and other social media in the structure. That would be neat!

Rosie Dunne was subsequently published as Where Rainbows End. I read this book for the second time for this review and I’ll probably read it again one of these days. It’s a keeper.  You should get a copy too.

Update : November 2014...a film adaption from this book entitled Love, Rosie was released in October 2014. I can't wait to watch it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Step On A Crack by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Synopsis :

The nation has fallen into mourning after the death of a beloved former first lady. The most powerful people in the world gather in NY for her funeral – then the inconceivable occurs. Billionaires, politicians and superstars of every kind are suddenly trapped within one man’s brilliant and cold-blooded scenario.

Detective Michael Bennett, father of ten, is pulled into the fray. As the danger escalates, Michael experiences a devastating loss : after fighting it for many years, his wife has succumbed to a terrible disease. As NY descends into chaos, he faces raising his ten heartbroken children alone – and rescuing 34 hostages.

As the entire world watches and the tension builds to a searing heat, Bennett has to find a way out – or face responsibility for a deadly debacle.

There is a certain expectation that you can come to expect from James Patterson – suspense, thrilling read. You can also expect the softer and emotional side from James Patterson and Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas is the best of such book that he has ever delivered. In Step On A Crack, it’s a crossroad between the two.

Although the villains weren’t really to my expectation (cannot be compared to the Wolf and Weasel from Alex Cross series and I even managed to guess who the Neat Man was), the suspense comes from the hostage situation involving many rich and well known people was suspenseful enough. Readers are kept wanting to know what will happen next and James Patterson helped by keeping the chapters short – 3 to 5 pages that you can’t help but said ‘just another chapter then I’ll take a break’. The break will never come as you will be tempted to go from one chapter to the next and the next....He’s that good!

The emotional bit involves the family of Detective Bennett – his wife, 10 children and his grandfather. The story revolves around the death bed of Detective Bennett’s wife, Maeve. I can’t help but feel his pain, hurt and hopelessness. Here is one great man who can negotiate with terrorists and kidnappers for the lives of many but he cannot do the same for the life of his beloved wife.

This book gest a plus from me and what I would loved to read more about is how Detective Bennett and Maeve adopted their 10 kids. It was mentioned but in passing but I think there could be a story there and Maeve really captured my heart. Perhaps James Patterson can so a prequel and I’ll be the first to buy that book.

In the meantime, enjoy Step On A Crack.

p.s. thank you NS for lending this book to me.  *wave to her* :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Guardian by Robbie Cheuvront & Erik Reed

Synopsis :

The Guardian invites you to plunge into a world of see and unseen forces. Follow Anna Riley in her mission to crack the code and unlock the secrets of a two-thousand year old scroll and find out if she can succeed in her mission.

Anna has just gained possession of an ancient scroll that God gave to John the Disciple where she must then guard, protect, and unlock the secrets of the scroll. She is believed to be the destined Guardian of the scroll and struggles with the path that was set for her by god. As she unlocks the mysterious secrets that the scroll holds, she is carried through a journey of faith to open up her heart to god. Jason Lang, her protector, faces many hurdles and challenges as he is responsible to keep his attraction to Anna at bay. Together, they begin their journey around the world as they face corruption, challenge, and dodge bullets.

Will they succeed together? Or will they fail? Will Jason defend the women that he’s vowed to protect? Will Anna be able to rely and trust other people to keep herself alive and fulfill the challenge that she has accepted?

In The Guardian, Authors Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed created the perfect combination. With elements of history, faith in god, action, and suspense, readers will be turning page after page to follow Anna and Jason in their quest.

I really enjoyed this book. It is 400+ pages long and I read it over one weekend. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t this. While I know this is a work of fiction, the infusion of biblical facts make it very interesting. The book is written creatively and in a fast pace that doesn’t bore the readers. Readers will get a glimpse of the supernatural and spiritual battle going on around us, a sharing of the interpretation of the bible and a lesson on faith and believing.

The Guardian started with John, the Disciple of Jesus being given a scroll by an angel of God. Then the story moved to modern time and how Anna was visited by an angel who told her that her grandfather whom she thought was dead needed her and that she is now the new Guardian of the scroll. After her protector, Father Vincent was killed, Jason Lang took his place to protect her as evil is out to get her in the form of a professional assassin. 

In this ultimate battle of good over evil, the evil here is Lucifer himself who sends his earthly servant to do his dirty work in return for promises of worldly rewards. Good is God, the perfect one who is without sin and Archangel Michael and other archangel made appearances throughout the story. I guarantee you.  When you start reading, you won't be able to stop.

Parables have been used to communicate spiritual truth since biblical and authors Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed who are both pastors felt that the Truth can be communicate to the world using fictions and this is how The Guardian come about. I think they did it successfully.

The Guardian was published on 1st Sept 2011. I review this for

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mirror Ball by Matt Redman

Synopsis :
Passion is more than a song or a feeling. It’s a story of guts and glory, pain and purpose.  For anyone who follows Jesus, passion is a way of life. But how do we life out this grand calling?
In Mirror Ball, worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman reminds us that even when we feel insufficient to reflect God’s glory,  God can show through us as light radiates through a prism.  Living in this truth will transform how we view our words, our relationships, our daily lives.
You – and your world – will never be the same.
Review starts from here :
Our life is a worship unto God.  It should be exciting and it should reflect Christ to the world like a mirror ball effect.  If you have seen a disco ball and hot it reflect lights on its surrounding area, you would know how it looks and felt like when you are in the presence of a disco ball with bright light bouncing off it.  It’s brightness can be glaring bright, nothing can hide from it and it cast no shadows.  Likewise our lives should be like that …’living boldly and shining brightly for the Glory of God’ quote from the book.
 While I understood and appreciate his intention, I find it very difficult to read this book although it’s only 160 pages thick. There are only 8 chapters and they are :
1.      Passion of the Christian
2.      Love will Give Its All
3.      Big God, Big Life
4.      Drops in the Ocean
5.      Who Do you Say that I Am?
6.      Ten Thousand Reasons
7.      The rule of First Things
8.      Endless Hallelujah
…and a whole lot of discussion notes and the end which I found were much more better if they appeared at the end of each chapter.  I didn’t know about the discussion notes so I didn’t flip forward but having read through the book and when I encounter the discussions note, I found that I would have understood what he was trying to say better if I had just go through the notes right after a particular chapter.
So if you are going to read Mirror Ball, read a chapter and quickly go to the discussion notes before you start the next chapter.  I think you would fare much better than me if you do that.
My advance reading copy (ARC) was provided by B&B Media Group for review.  There were typo errors in the contents page and I hope these will be ractified once the final copies hit the stands.

Matt Redman is a worship leader, songwriter, singer who lives in the UK with his wife and children.  One of his more famous worsip song is 'The Heart of Worship'.