Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Four Blind Mice by James Patterson

Synopsis :


On the verge of resigning from the D.C. police force, Detective Alex Cross knows he can’t refuse this case. His partner John Sampson has a friend who has been framed for murder and is facing the gas chamber. His accusers? The United States Army.

As a new woman in Cross’s life brings him hope in the face of a devastating loss at home, Cross and Sampson go up against codes of honour and silence and three ruthless killers. But a bigger threat lies in wait : their controller, a lethal genius who will introduce Cross to new depths of terror...the last of the FOUR BLIND MICE.

It always gives me the quiver to share my opinion on books by such mega author. It gives me extra quivers if I don’t like the book. James Patterson has more books under his belt than most authors. He’s practically a brand rather than a person. Four Blind Mice is part of the Alex Cross series and it was first published 9 years ago.

What can I say, it’s as expected as can be from an Alex Cross thriller. Fast paced with short chapters. The urgency is there as they raced against the clock to solve the murder. But the murder is just the top of the iceberg. The real terror dates back to the time of the Vietnam War and the horror that comes with it. The past cannot be changed but can Alex change the future? If he does it, will he ever be the same again?

I dind't really like it but fans of Alex Cross and James Patterson would certainly be happy with Four Blind Mice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

The following review was done last year but got lost in the draft folder (the irony of it!). I’m posting it as I wrote it last year. The book belongs to an ex-colleague. I have since, returned the book to the owner. Thank you, dear friend for lending it to me. :)



Sypnosis 

In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked into Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burnt all the cash in his wallet and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a hunter….

With anticipation from such an intriguing synopsis, I ‘delved’ Into the Wild about 6 months ago. 6 months later, I am still In the wild and it looks like I might not make it out. The book is only 200 pages, so no, it wasn’t the thickness, the prints were small but it wasn’t un-readable. So, what happened?

It’s a story of a man who seems to have lost his mind, give up life in society and civilization and decided that it would be a better choice to live in the wild and especially in the Alaska wild. What was he thinking? Did he seriously think that he’ll survive the unfriendly terrain? What about his family? I can’t imagine that he doesn’t think of the pain that he is causing his family?

I never finished reading the book. Maybe another time, another season but for now I don’t think I want to. It's too depressing.

A few days ago, I caught the tail end of the movie which was also based on this book and also entitled Into The Wild. The movie ended with a shot of school bus where Chris was found and then penned across the vastness of the wilderness. I can’t help but be in awe of the majestic abandon wilderness of Alaska, the freedom it represents and for a moment there…I caught his vision, for a moment I saw what attracted Chris to do what he did. But only for a moment. And then it’s gone.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bookfest @ Singapore 2011


Do you remember my wish in this post?

Well, talk about being at the right place at the right time :).  While in Singapore over the weekend, I made it a point to drop by Bookfest @ Singapore 2011 which is currently being held in Suntec Convention. It opens daily from 10 am onwards.  Admission is free.

Entrance to the hall

I reached there around 11 am on a Sunday.  It wasn't very packed.  The event felt more like a huge bookstore rather than book festival. It is very well sectioned and systematic with English language books on one side of the hall and Chinese books on the other end. The whole set up reminded me of Popular Warehouse Sales that I have attended but without the discounted books.


There’s a huge range of books and stationeries available but unfortunately, the books were not very cheap and the most discount given was around 20% only. For example, I bought a Geromino Stilton book (for YA) at 20% discount but the same book is being retailed at 15% cheaper in Singapore Intenational Airport and purchases of 2 books will get a further 20% discount. This wasn’t even in the departure lounge. Just at the check in area which is assessable by the public.



There were talks scheduled throughout the days on various topics but I wasn't paying any attention to them. 

Good selection of Chinese books

Anyway, it was a good experience and although I didn’t buy any books for myself, I bought a few YA books and some tools for craft works.
The event is conveniently located in Hall 601 – 603 of Suntec Convention Centre. The nearest MRT Station is via Esplanade Station, Exit A. 

Their official web is at : http://www.bookfestsingapore.com/about.htm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hope Underground - The 34 Chilean Miners - A Story of Faith & Miracles by Carlos Parra Diaz


Synopsis :

It was the longest underground entrapment in history. For 10 weeks the faith and endurance of a group of Chilean miners, their families and rescue workers were severely tested as the miners reminded trapped 700 meters below the Atacama Desert. Many feared the rescue effort would be merely a body-recovery process.

Yet instead of abandoning hope, the miners’ families chose to place themselves at the mercy of the elements and camp around the mind – in what later became known as Camp Hope – uniting in their prayers for a miracle.

The Chilean Government and the rescue team, despite several major setbacks, never gave up. On the contrary, President Pinera reaffirmed his country’s commitment to saving the miners while at the same time acknowledging that only God could help them succeed in this impossible mission.

For their part, the trapped miners clung to the belief that this was not to be their end, and with faith and hope fought against almost certain death.

And God didn’t disappoint. Ultimately all the miners were found alive and their rescue was watched live by a billion viewers.

Hope Underground is the personal account of Pr. Carlos Parra Diaz about his work as chaplain of Camp Hope. Pastor Parra is perfectly placed to share with us exclusive details of his daily interaction with the miners and their families, as well as how God manifested His presence in this truly amazing story. Hope Underground is a most-read for anyone who seeks a deeper spiritual insight into this trilling and unique real-life drama.

Can you remember where you were on 5 August 2010 and what you were doing? What about 13 October 2010?

While these might be pretty insignificant dates to you as you go about your day to day stuff, these are very important dates for 33 miners and their friends and families. For 69 days from 5th August to 13th October, the miners were trapped about 2,000 feet underground and with the 1st 17 days without any contact with the outside world and without any knowledge if they would ever get out of their nightmare.

Hope Underground is the story of these miners and their families, how they cope with this disaster and their unshaken faith in God. Told from the perspective of Pastor Carlos, it’s very captivating and encouraging to read about the strong faith these miners and their families have.  Readers will get to know their stories through Pastor Carlos interaction with their families and the notes that they sent up to him after they have been discovered.  It's so touching to read that as people gathered to pray for their safety, they themselves also gathered and prayed everyday at 12 noon.

I read the rescue itself with 'frogs in my throat' and eyes glued to every words. It's really a victory for the heavenly realm as they emerged safety and with greater faith in God having gone through such challenging experience.  In the midst of  the world's tragedies, Parso Carlos has a few questions - why does the story of San Jose Mine stand out in such contrast? Why did God permit this disaster to happen?  Why focus the eyes of the world on this single incident.  In the end, the answers came to him is both simple and profound (his own words).  It is for God to show the world that He exist and that He hears the prayers of His people whom He created.  It is the unambiguous message of God's love and for the entire world who needed to hear God's voice and see His caring hand on Human lives and that Our God is a God of love. And He allowed all this to happen to get our attention. To call humanity back to Him.

Hope Underground is available Winter 2011.  You may pre-order the book at http://www.hopeunderground.com/. Thank you B&B Media for sending me this book.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Synopsis :


Ride the rollercoaster of Shiloh Jacobs’s life as her dreams derail, sending her on a downward spiral from the heights of an AP job in Tokyo to penniless in rural Virginia.

Trapped in a world so foreign to her sensibilities and surrounded by a quirky group of friends, will she break through her hardened prejudices before she loses those who want to help her? Can she find the key to what changed her estranged mother’s life so powerfully before her death that she became a different woman—and can it help Shiloh too?

Shiloh Jacobs thought she's on top of the world with her dream job as an award winning journalist with Associated Press in Tokyo, Japan and a dream man in her Argentinean boyfriend, Carlos. Unfortunately, those dream turned into nightmare shortly after she arrives in the states to attend her estranged mother’s funeral. She lost her job (due to her own mistakes) and broke up with her cheating boyfriend and things are just not looking up for Shiloh and her mountain of debts.

However, nightmare is not allowed to last long in a small town in Virginia. A group of locals seems to have taken her under their wings and begin to shower her with Southern charm that Shiloh (who loves everything Japan) is not used to. This book is about Shiloh’s transformation as she learns from the very people whom she quite detests, not for any reason, but for their steadfast trust in God for everything. How can these people still praise God while facing trials and tribulations is something that Shiloh couldn’t comprehend?

If you feel like Shiloh, then this book would be for you. While it’s a fiction story, the message behind the story is very strong. The book is written to evangelise about God’s love and forgiveness and acceptance. If you are facing issues if your life and you have questions, you might find the answers in this book.

Southern Fried Sushi is published by Barbour Publishing in October 2011. I review this for Netgalley.com.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Valley of Silence (The Circle Trilogy) by Nora Roberts

Synopsis

In the kingdom of Geall, the scholarly Moira has taken up the sword of her people. Now, as queen, she must prepare her subjects for the greatest battle they will ever fight – against an enemy more vicious than any they have seen. For Lilith, the most powerful vampire in the world, has followed the circle of six through time to Gaell.

Moira also has a personal score to settle. Vampires killed her mother – and now, she is ready to exact her revenge. But there is one vampire to whom she would trust her soul…

Cain was changed by Lilith centuries ago. But now, he stands with the circle. Without hesitation, he will kill others of his kind – and has earned the respect of sorcerer witch, warrior and shape-shifter. But he wants more than respect from Miora – even though his desire for her makes him vulnerable. For how can a man with an eternity to live love a woman whose life is sure to end – if not by Lilith’s hand, then by the curse of time?

Valley of Silence is the third and last book in The Circle Trilogy and like all final book, it tidies up the story, any loose ends will be as neatly packaged as possible to allow closure.

Not much else can be said here. I was expecting a real ‘omph’ to the end, especially the battle in the Valley of Silence but the battle wasn't really that exciting. I have to read certain parts twice as I actually forgot what happened to the battle between Lilith and Miora (vampire queen and the human queen) as both have much score to settle with one another. 

I have to keep reminding myself that Nora Roberts isn't an action author so we should not expect too much of exciting battle narration. What was expected was the development in the relationship between Miora and Cain since the others were paired up in book 1 and 2 but what wasn’t expected was how the relationship ends seeing that one is a human and the other's a vampire.  They are not my favourite couple in the trilogy but there is something likable about Miora and you can’t help but admire her gentle quiet strength and Cain is just an unusual vampire, not just because he fights other vamps but he is just likable to me in his own way.

I have enjoyed the Circle Trilogy from Morigan’s Cross to Dance of the Gods and now this but it’s now time to move on to other trilogies under this author for there are quite a number of them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dance of the Gods (The Circle Trilogy) by Nora Roberts

Synopsis :

Blair Murphy has always worked alone. Destined to be a demon hunter in a world that doesn’t believe in such things, she lives for the kill. But now, she finds herself the warrior in a circle of six, chosen by the goddess Morrigan to defeat the vampire Lilith and her army.

Learning to trust the others has been hard, for Blair has never allowed herself such luxury. But she finds herself drawn to Larkin, a man of many shapes. As a horse, he is proud and graceful, as a dragon, beautifully fierce, and as a man...well, Blair has seen her share of hunks, but none quite so ruggedly handsome and playfully charming as this nobleman from the past.

In two months’ time, the circle of six will face Lilith and her army in Geall. To complete preparations and round up forces to fight, the circle travels through time to Larkin’s world, where Blair must choose between battling her overwhelming attraction to him – or risking everything for a love that can never be...

Dance of the Gods is the second book of The Circle Trilogy. It continues from Morrigan’s Cross.

While the 1st book focused on getting the six together, the 2nd book is more of their preparation in the forthcoming battle. It’s set partially in Ireland and partially in the land of Geall. While the 1st book focused on the characters of Hoyt and Glenna, this focused on Blair and Larkin whom have gotten together. Like I said earlier, this is a thriller written by a woman for women, and how can Nora Roberts justify that without some form of romances.

Blair and Larkin are as different as day and night. One is from 21st century and the other is from a medieval land in another realm. Blair would be unlike any woman Larkin would have met. She came from a line of demon hunters (think Dean and Sam of the TV series, Supernatural). She fights and fights well too. Sir Larkin is of noble birth. His father, is the queen’s brother and acting King of Geall while awaiting the rightful queen, Miora to take to the throne. But they are attracted to each other and both are great warriors. Their characters are greatly developed in this book.

Readers are also given a glimpse into the world of Lilith, the vampire queen and her lover, Lara and their ‘son’ Davey. My heart was in my throat when Larkin stole into their caves to rescue some of the captives and was bitten by Davey.

While reading, I tried to assemble my fantasy cast of Hollywood actors would portray the characters in this book if the trilogy are to be made into movies (ps. you never know) and these are my final selection for the various key roles :

Larkin – Jack Gyllenhaal (Prince of Persia)
Blair – Milla Jovonvich (Alice of Resident Evil)
Hoyt/Cian – Hugh Jackman (X-Man)
Glenna – Rose MacGowan (Paige Matthews from tv series Charmed )
Miora – Scarlett Johansson
Lilith – Vanessa Williams

I am greatly influenced by their past roles to cast them as such. What do you think? Perhaps you have your own fantasy line up. ;)

The next and final book in this series is Valley of Silence.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunrise On The Battery by Beth Webb Hart

Synopsis :

She wanted her husband to attend the town's society-driven church.  God answered her prayer in a radical way.

After achieving what few believed possible, Mary Lynn Scoville felt empty, an emptiness that no shopping trips, European vacation or social calender can fill. Married to a handsome real estate developer and mother to three accomplished daughters, she is one Debutante Society invitation away from fruly having it all.

When a surprise encounter leads her to newfound faith, Mary Lynn longs to share it with her husband but Jackson wrote God off long ago.  Mary Lynn prays for him on Christmas Eve and her husband undergoes a life-altering Damascus Road experience.  As Jackson begins to take the implications of the Gospel literally, Mary Lynn feels increasingly isolated from her husband and betrayed by God.  She wonders if there really is a more abundant life that Jackson has discovered, richer than any she's every dreamt of.

Sunrise On The Battery was pretty difficult to read as I read it quite fast to get this review up.   This is the type of book that requires slow reading, reflecting on message as you move along.  However, eventhough it was read in haste, I still enjoyed it. 

The story is told from the perspective of 3 members of the family, Mary Lynn, husband Jackson and eldest daughter Catherine.  Each of them have their own issues in life that they need to make right.  It all started with a simple prayer by Mary Lynn while in church on Christmas Eve, I want my husband to know God' and God honours her request.  While on a long haul fight to London, Jackson, an avid reader, left the books that he brought along to read in another plane.  Mary Lynn passed him her Bible and he read them during the 5 hours journey and he started to have questions and Jackson is the go-getter type that with his questions, he wants answers and he made appointments with a church pastor upon their return from London to seek answers to his questions.  

From there readers get a glimpse how why Jackson is the way he is today.  Why he leads his life like a task master and pushes his daughters to be the high achievers he never was and he wanted the dreams and achievement for his daughters that he was deprived of when young but with each such action, sometimes the consequences are just too much for our human self to take and we need divine intervention.

While it's Mary Lynn's desire for change, she is not ready for the radical change in her life.  Part of her still craves the things of the world, the social statues and the acceptance that eluded her in her growing up years. It wasn't long before Jackson's overzealousness caused the family to be socially persecuted.  Mary Lynn began to question herself and to question God and to nearly give in to temptation. But God is faithful and there would be no turning back for the Scoville family.

Sunrise On The Battery is published by Thomas Nelson.  I review this for B&B Media Group.  Thank you, Audra (and not Andrea nor Audrey) for sending this copy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Morrigan's Cross (The Circle Trilogy) by Nora Roberts

Synopsis :

In the last days of high summer, with lightning striking blue in a black sky, the sorcerer stood on a high cliff overlooking the raging sea...

Belting out his grief into the storm, Hoyt Mac Cionaoith rails against the evil that has torn his twin brother from the family’s embrace. Her name is Lilith. Existing for over a thousand years, she has lured countless men to an immortal doom with her soul-stealing kiss. But now, this woman known as vampire will stop at nothing until she rules this world – and those beyond it...

Hoyt is no match for the dark siren. But his powers come from the goddess Morrigan, and it is through her that he will get his chance at vengeance. At Morrigan’s charge, he must gather five others to form a ring of power strong enough to overcome Lilith. A circle of six : himself, the witch, the warrior, the scholar, the one of many forms and the own he’s lost. And it is in this circle, hundreds of years in the future, where Hoyt will earn how strong his spirit – and his heart – have become...

Morrigan’s Cross is the 1st book of The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts. Because it’s the first book of three, it sets the basis of how the trilogy would be like. It also introduces all the characters of the circle and how they all come together.

Hoyt is actually a sorcerer from the past together with his brother, Cian. After Morrigan protected his family and their descendents from Lilith with cross pendents, Morrigan, through a place called the Dance of the Gods, transported Hoyt to modern day New York where his brother Cian, now goes by another name, has a host of businesses that he built up over the thousands of years since he became a vampire. Cian was not keen to battle Lilith, his sire, but his loyalty to his brother is so strong that he agrees to join force with him in this battle.

Glenna is a modern day witch, also from New York who went to Hoyt’s rescue even in her dream when Hoyt was injured by Lilith during an initial battle. Glenna would also be part of the circle and is Hoyt’s love interest and they ended up getting married in this book even when they are preparing for battle and their union made their magic much stronger.

Blair the warrior in the circle, is actually a descendent of Hoyt and Cian. She is a direct descendent of their sister, Nola and her family has been demon hunters all these years. Hoyt recognised her through the cross that she wore, one of the very same cross that Morrigan crafted to protect his family thousand of years ago.

Moira, the scholar and Larkin, the shape shifter actually came through the dance of the gods from the land of Geall as commanded by Morrigan.  Geall is a land from beyond (from another realm or universe) and not of this world.  The land is still medieval in many ways and lack modern day convenience. Miora, who's mother was killed by Lilith's minion, is the future queen of Geall and Sir Larkin is her faithful and supportive cousin.

Morrigan’s Cross brought all of them together and focus on their training to fight against Lilith and her army and in the second book, Dance of the Gods, we will see them travel to the land of Geall where the final battle would take place.

I started on the second book the minute I finished the first! It is very captivating.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts

The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts consists of  :

Book 1 – Morrigan’s Cross, published in September 2006
Book 2 – Dance of the Gods, published in October 2006
Book 3 – Valley of Silence, published in November 2006

I find this a pretty clever move to publish the books almost at the same time. Readers are able to follow the trilogy rather quickly, one after another, a month after the previous book(s) rather than wait for a longer time frame like most series.

Dance of the Gods and Valley of Silence have been in my collection these few years. However, I never have Morrigan’s Cross and for quite some times, I have been thinking if I should just read Dance of The Gods and Valley of Silence without Morrigan’s Cross. Because it wasn’t an urgent decision, I didn’t make any. However, the intention was always there and I always would be on a look out for Morrigan's Cross whenever I did any book shopping or when I’m at the library.

Such, it was a moment of joy when I saw Morrigan’s Cross on the shelf of my local library a couple of months ago. With that, I started on my Circle Trilogy right from book 1 to book 3 and having completed them, I can tell you that I really enjoyed them.

The Circle Trilogy traced the mission of 6 people who have been commissioned by the celtic god of war, Morrigan to go into battle with Lilith, a thousand year old powerful vampire. The six are Hoyt, a sorcerer Glenna the witch, Cian the vampire, Hoyt’s brother who was sired by Lilith, Blair, the demon hunter (warrior), Moira, the scholar or the ruler and Larkin, Moira’s cousin who is the shape shifter.

All three books started with an old man telling a group of children these stories and ended with that too. It was only in book 3 that we know who the old man was but a guess along the way would be of no harm :)

I just want to say that The Circle Trilogy is not a fantasy gene. It is a thriller for woman with romances injected in and set against a background of vampires and celtic gods, time travel and inter-ream travel.  Because it is not a hardcore fantasy tale, it might not appeal to the hard core fantasy fans.  I, on the other hand, loved it!

Review of Morrigan’s Cross coming up next!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My visit to Logos Hope in Pending Port, Kuching


Logos Hope is finally in Kuching. It was a rather warm afternoon when we decided to visit the ship after a rather scrumptious lunch in Puzzle Cafe. Part of me was rather apprehensive as there might be a crowd and I’m not too fond of crowds.

Anyway, someone announced that most of her friends have been onboard already so kiasu-ism kicked in and off we went to Pending Port. As you can see from the pictures, it was a wrong move as the crowd really built up and we have to queue for at least half an hour to get on board.

crowd started at the parking area

There were some people that tried to jump queue right in front of me as I was taking photos. Do you think I allow that to happen? Some of the crew members were interacting with the crowd as they help with crowd control so that was rather nice.

Still a long way to go.

Anyway, as we entered the ship, we have to sit through a 2 mins presentation on Logos Hope which I totally forgot the minute the presentation ended. Sorry, with the crowd and the heat, my mind wasn’t on the presentation at all. I thought they might make that optional as part of crowd control.

Next is the book exhibition area. It was packed as it’s rather small place and it was rather difficult to slowing browse through the books due to the crowd. However, I did see titles that I like and especially some of the books to complete my Sunrise Series. However, I forgot to check if they stocked book 4 (Family) of Firstborn Series by Karen Kingsbury. I need that to complete my set although I have already read the series. That would be my excuse for going back for subsequent visit. :)
I recognised these title :)

Books for teens are rather limited too. There were lots of Hannah Montana and High School Musical series but that’s about it. I also felt that titles are not very current. Perhaps I didn't have time to properly looked through.  Another reason for me to visit again :)

Due to the crowd, we have to queue to pay for what we bought and even to queue to purchase some refreshments from the International Cafe. Juices (orange and lemon) cost RM2.00 per cup. Ice cream is RM4 each and is rather delicious, cake is RM6 per piece, salted popcorn is RM2.00 per pack. I loved the salted popcorn. It’s been a while I had salted popcorn.

Queue to buy food & drink

After the cafe, we proceed to the theatre where visitors can take photos with the crew in their exotic and fun outfits as well as learn about cultures from all over the world.
this is the exhibition on Holland


So, did I buy any books? That's for another post. :)