Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Synopsis :

Elfrida Phipps, once on the London stage and retired at 62, never anticipates going off with a man. But after a devastating tragedy, church organist Oscar Blundell asks for her companionship. 

So with her brown and white dog in tow, Elfrida begins her journey, not knowing that joining her and Oscar at a rundown Victorian house in Scotland will be a young woman nursing a broken heart, a teenager escaping an unhappy home, and a stranger arriving during a snowstorm  Now these five very different people form an unexpected circle of friends that will forever change their lives.

I am sure you have heard of the saying 'do not judge a book by it's cover'.  Well, that's exactly what I did when I saw Winter Solstice.  With it's flower theme cover, I kinda judged it as a romance book. However, having read the synopsis on the back over, it doesn't seems to be the case.  So, with much apprehension, I decided to give it a try.

Winter Solstice is a story of five people who have to spent the Christmas together due to many circumstances at a place where they would normally not spent their holiday given their stature and way of lives and geographical location.  Yet, in a old but huge house in a small village in Scotland and for a few days, you can say they became a family.

First we have Elfrida who is 62 and Oscar who is 67 years of age respectively.  You can say they are like the grandparents in the story.  Then there's Carrie who at 30 years old is nursing a broken heart and just left her job in Austria and returned to London to discover that her niece of 14 years old has no one to care for her over the Christmas holidays.  Last but not least, we have Sam who is around 36 or 38 years old and who was given the option to purchase the Victorian house by one of the owners and who is nursing his own wounds.

Winter Solstice is the story of the five of them. How they came together and be with each other and through the support of one another, hurts were healed and tragedy overcame.

I can imagine how this would be a wonderful read during Christmas and I can imagine how this can be made into a family oriented holiday movies and with the beauty of winter wonderland of rural Scotland.

So, if you like the above elements, then you will like Winter Solstice.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Les Miserables (Part 1 - A Just Man) by Victor Hugo

Bishop Myriel - image from wikipedia

I started reading Les Miserables early this year.  I'm actually reading an electronic version from my tablet and I must confess that I am progressing extremely slowly.  First, could be due to the fact that I don't really like reading from the ipad and also because the book has not being very exciting thus far.

I completed Part 1 - A Just Man a while ago and currently reading through Part 2 - The Fall.   If you must know, there's altogether 48 parts to the book and over 1800 pages.  I really do not know when I'll finish it!

Part 1 - A Just Man consists of 14 chapters and covers over 80 pages.  A Just Man is all about the bishop. M Charles-Francios-Bienveu Myriel or just known as Bishop Myriel.  If you have watched the movie and seen the musical, you would remember the bishop is an important character in the change that took place in Jean Valjean. It is through the forgiving kindness of the bishop that Jean Valjean realises the err of his way (note : Valjean's Soliloquy).

It's actually the turning point in Jean Valjean's life and to really drive across the message, Victor Hugo wanted readers to really know who this bishop is.  Just so that you are clear, the bishop has not met Valjean yet in A Just Man. It is an account and a background to the life of the bishop and how highly regarded he was by the people.  There was a chapter on how he went to visit some congregations in the mountains and he was advised by others from making the trip as there are robbers in the mountains but yet, he still went and the robbers presented him with much gold and money instead of robbing him which he in return, put to good use not for himself but for the poor people.

He gave up his home to be converted as a hospital and he converted the hospital as his home instead and although he was born rich, he gave up his wealth for his ministry and only kept the very minimum for himself and his sister and housekeeper who stayed with him.

The only luxury he allows himself are some silverware and among them 2 silver candlesticks.  That is all he has and again, if you are familiar with the musical, you would know the significant of the sliver candlesticks.

Part 2 - The Fall is about Valjean and I guess would be more interesting.  Keep an eye for my review of The Fall.

Till then, let me leave you with this encounter between Bishop Myriel and Valjean from the movie starring Hugh Jackman as Valjean and Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton

Synopsis :

Lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side in Victorian London—and Edward Pierce easily navigates both worlds. Rich, handsome, and ingenious, he charms the city's most prominent citizens even as he plots the crime of his century, the daring theft of a fortune in gold. But even Pierce could not predict the consequences of an extraordinary robbery that targets the pride of England's industrial era: the mighty steam locomotive. 

Based on remarkable fact, and alive with the gripping suspense, surprise, and authenticity that are his trademarks, Michael Crichton's classic adventure is a breathtaking thrill-ride that races along tracks of steel at breakneck speed.

The Great Train Robbery is a rather great book and exceeded my expectation.  I actually thought that it would be rather dry and factual but it turned out to be pretty interesting and captivating.

The novel is actually based on an actual train robbery of gold that occurred in 1855.  The protagonists in the actual robbery were William Pierce and Edward Agar; in the novel their names were changed to Edward Pierce and Robert Agar.

One word of advise for those intending to read this - if you can, do not read the Introduction chapter until you have completed the whole book. The Indroduction Chapter is a bit dry and might give you a false impression about the book.  You would appreciate the intro better after devouring the whole book.

Other than that, enjoy the book :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In The Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith

Synopsis :

Precious Ramotswe, the owner of No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency finds herself overly beset by problems. She is already busier than usual at the detective agency when added to her concerns are a strange intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and the baffling appearance of a pumpkin. And then there is Mma Makutsi, who decides to treat herself to dance lessons, only to be partnered with a man who seems to have two left feet. 

Things are also not running quite as smoothly as they usually do at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mma Ramotswe’s husband, the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is overburdened with work even before one of his apprentices runs off with a wealthy woman. But what finally rattles Mma Ramotswe’s normally unshakable composure is a visitor who forces her to confront a secret from her past. . . .

Delightful and charming would be two words I use to describe this book.  It is one of those books that makes you feel relax and comfortable after reading it.

Life is slow and steady in Precious Ramotswe's world. She finds time to appreciate a cup of bush tea and cakes too and takes time off if she felt that she has done enough for the day.  She rewards her staff immediately if an exception piece of work has been delivered.  She doesn't believe that one needs more than 1 pair of shoes at any one time and she loves her old white van to death.  She is wise and funny but gossipy at the same time but you can't help but to like her.

I always enjoy my encounters with Precious Ramotswe and this is not different. Since the first book I read till now, the culture and traditional value of respect and being kind to others really wowed me. On the frivolous side, I discover that Mma Makutsi has a thing for shoes and although I doubt her taste for shoe, I know that she loves shoes!  Hahah...I guess that doesn't change wherever you are in the world.

This is the sixth book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series.  You can search from my "Index' page for review of the other books.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Split Second by David Baldacci

Synopsis :

Michelle Maxwell has just blown her future with the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she led a presidential candidate out of her sight to comfort a grieving widow. Then, behind closed doors, the politician whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air.

Living a new life on a quiet lake in central Virginia, Sean King knows how the younger agent feels. He's been there before. In an out-of-the-way hotel eight years earlier, the hard-charging Secret Service man allowed his attention to be diverted for a split second. And the presidential candidate Sean was protecting was gunned down before his eyes.

Now Michelle and Sean are about to see their destinies converge. She has become obsessed with Sean's case. And he needs a friend—especially since a series of macabre killings has brought him under suspicion and prompted the reappearance of a seductive woman he's tried hard to forget.

As the two discredited agents enter a maze of lies, secrets, and deadly coincidences, they uncover a violence that shattered their lives were really a long time in the making - and are a long way from over.

Hi....are you a fan of David Baldacci?  If you are, are you a fan of the duel, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell?   I am neither so I wasn't aware that this is the book that units and introduces these two characters of David's.  David must have liked them a lot as he went on to write another four more books which features Sean and Michelle.

This is the second book by David Baldacci that I read.  The first was Saving Faith which I read two years ago.  I will not call myself a fan of David Baldacci but I don't mind reading his book once in a while since I quite like Split Second.

Split Second is a thriller and a rather straight forward thriller.   There wasn't much bother with character development or plot development but a simple exciting story of what happened and why the events happened and what made them happened.  The story progressed on a rather nice and easy pace.  It's not a page turner but you do want to get back to the story so it is captivating in its own way.

Not highly but still recommended if you enjoys thriller.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Good bye Tom Clancy

From Wikipedia :

Thomas Leo "Tom" Clancy, Jr. (April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013) was an American author best known for his technically detailed espionage and military science story lines that are set during and in the aftermath of the Cold War, along with video games which bear his name for licensing and promotional purposes. Seventeen of his novels were best-sellers, with over 100 million copies in print. His name was also a brand for similar movie scripts written by ghost writers and many series of non-fiction books on military subjects and merged biographies of key leaders. 

I read a lot of Tom Clancy's novels years ago.

I started with Patriot Games and then I went back to The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising.  From there it's The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, Without Remorse, Debt of Honor and I stopped at Executive Orders which is my favourite as that's when Jack Ryan became President of the United States.

I really do not know where those books are now and I have stopped reading Tom Clancy's book for many years now.

However, I do have two of his books with me which I bought quite a while ago with the intention of reading them but I never started.   The Bear and The Dragon is over one thousand pages long so I wasn't that keen to start it. Splinter Cell which is written with David Michaels is only three hundred pages long so I will either be reading it or putting it up for sale.  I have not decided yet on what I'm going to do.

In the meantime, good bye Mr Tom Clancy. Thank you for your wonderful legacy to the world.  Rest in peace.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Seeds Of Time by Sharmini Flint (Preview)

I received from the post, a complimentary copy of The Seeds of Time by Sharmini Flint.

The Seeds of Time is a story for young adults on the environmental challenges from climate change to species loss facing our planets.  The book started with a foreward written by Dr Isabelle Louis, Director, Asia Pacific Region for WWF.  This is what she wrote :

There is an urgent need for humankind to respond to the rapid changes that are having a negative impact on our environment and our very future as well as the future of our children and grandchildren.

The Seeds of Time captures the spirit needed by all of us, adults and children alike, to respond across the world collectively.  It is a call for global action across all nations, all professions and all ages.  We can all be Animal Talkers and change makers!  The Seeds of Time, delightfully and wth a spirit of bold aventure, inspires us to believe that, whether young or old, we can save our beautiful planet Earth.

The Seeds of Time is available for purchase from

 I must find time to read my copy Review coming right up! :)