Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chinese New Year 2014

 Happy Chinese New Year to all

Friday, January 24, 2014

Secrets in the House of Delgado by Gloria D. Miklowitz

In 1492 thousands of people of the Jewish faith were leaving Spain.Inquisitors sought out anyone who might not be Catholic. Those accused could be tortured and burned at the stake.

In this time of uncertainty and terror, fourteen-year-old Maria finds herself alone and homeless. The Church offers Maria the opportunity to work for a wealthy Converso family. But the church also asks something of her in return.Secrets in the House of Delgado confronts issues of faith and bigotry, loyalty and betrayal, and the secrets that may lie in every human heart.

Initially, I wasn't taken by this novel and it sat in my shelf for a couple of months.  The only reason I read it was because it was thin enough to bring with me during a work trip recently.  Surprisingly, it was rather engrossing.

The story focuses on Maria and her life in the home of the Delgado after the death of her family.  The church assigned her to work for the family and kinda of asked her to spy on the family as well.  Maria enjoyed her life in the Delgado family as they treated her very well.  For a while, Maria was walking the fine line between being a helper and being family and in this vague circumstances, she might have say something she should not to the wrong person.

From there, things escalated to situation rather beyond anyone's control.  Although Secrets in the House of Delgado was written for young people, I find it rather suitable for adults too, especially adults.

Having Maria as company certainly allowed time to pass faster and the work trip wasn't so a drag after all.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

Synopsis :

"I wonder this : If you take a woman and push her to the edge, how would she behave?" The question is posed by Jean, a photographer, who in 1995 arrives on Smuttynose Island, off the coast of maine, to research a century-old crime.  As she immerses herself in the details of the case - an outburst of passion that resulted in the deaths of two women - Jean herself enters precarious emotional territory.

The suspicion that her husband is having an affair burgeons into jealousy and distrust, and ultimately propels Jean to the verge of actions she has not known herself capable of - actions with horrific consequences.

Everywhere hailed for its beauty and power, The Weight of Water takes us on an unforgettable journey through the farthest extremes of emotion.

This is my first introduction to Anita Shreve.  I have seen a few of her titles in the market but I never picked them up.  Although this book was bought in the pre-read book sales, it wasn't bought by me.  I inherited it from a friend who has since migrated back to her home country.

The Weight of Water contains two story that's intertwined.  The story started with Jean who visited Smuttynose Island with her family for a holiday in present days. From there she enters the story of a woman who was the sole survivor of a crime that took place in Smuttynose Island about a hundred years ago.

It wasn't a very good read especially the story of Jean but the story of Maren, the survivor of the murder was quite intriguing in it's own way.  We get to know how Maren first came to this country from Europe and from their we get to know how her family viewed her and subsequently about the murder concerned and the truth was revealed to readers (although I have guessed it much earlier on :)

The ending wasn't what I expected especially the ending to Jean's story. I thought it was rather tragic and expound on the title of the book and as I turned the last page and close my eyes, I can feel the weight of water and how it can drag you down if you let your guard down, even for just a tiniest moment.

If you need a book that helps you reflect on life, you can give this book a try.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

Synopsis :

Trenton, New Jersey-based bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is the all-American girl stuck in an uncomfortable job, succeeding on luck and tenacity. On her current most wanted list : Martin Munch, a man whose body hasn't had make it out of the boys' department at Macy's but whose larger-than-life brain is the means to his business partner's murderous ends. Usually Stephanie gets her man. This time, she gets Diesel, a bounty hunter whose special sills include tracking en and pleasing women. Now it's up to Stephanie and Diesel to hunt down Munch through the Pine Barrens and face the legendary Jersey Devil - prowling above the treetops in the dark of night - and find a way to survive cranberry bogs, sand in their underwear, too many monkeys to count...and of course, each other.

Plum Spooky is the 4th and last of the holiday novella in the Stephanie Plum Series. Trust me to start off the novella reading by reading the last one first.  In terms of sequence, it is between book fourteen (Fearless Fourteen) and book fifteen (Finger-licking Fifteen).

I should have started with the first novella, Visions of Sugar Plum as I have the book with me but I really don't now why I didn't do so.  However, it doesn't really matter which you read first or even not at all.

Stephanie Plum is Stephanie Plum.   The only difference in this book is the arrival of Diesel, another bounty hunter who also seems to have a 'thing' for Stephanie.  Joe is conveniently tied up with his brother Anthony who is staying over at his house due to an injury.  Ranger also seems to be quite tied up with other stuff which leaves Diesel to monopolise Stephanie's time, home and everything else.

And then, there's Carl. Carl is a monkey who loves to eat, watch television and gives you the fingers.  Carl is a better addition to Stephanie's world.

I take it that the title is in reference to Holloween but there wasn't much anything spooky about the book.  The Jersey Devil remains a legend in the book  and I really don't know why the synopsis at the back of the book made reference to it.

I can always trust Stephanie for some light entertainment in reading and this didn't fail as well.

Happy being spooked! :)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith

Synopsis :

Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname given to a genteel, crumbling mansion block in London's vibrant Pimlico neighborhood and the home turf of a captivating collection of quirky and altogether McCall-Smithian characters. There's the middle-aged wine merchant William, who is trying to convince his reluctant twenty-four-year-old son, Eddie, to leave the nest; and Marcia, the boutique caterer who has her sights set on William. There's also the (justifiably) much-loathed Member of Parliament Oedipus Snark; his mother, Berthea, who's writing his biography and hating every minute of it; and his long-suffering girlfriend, Barbara, a literary agent who would like to be his wife (but, then, she'd like to be almost anyone's wife). There's the vitamin evangelist, the psychoanalyst, the art student with a puzzling boyfriend and Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier who insists on wearing a seat belt and is almost certainly the only avowed vegetarian canine in London.

Filled with the ins and outs of neighborliness in all its unexpected variations, Corduroy Mansions showcases the life, laughter and humanity that have become the hallmarks of Alexander McCall Smith's work.

From the charming country of Rowanda, Alexander McCall Smith brought readers to the hip bustling London city in particularly to a neighbourhood of Corduroy Mansions where a group of interesting characters called home.

This being the first book is very much a 'get to know you' kinda book and 'got to know them' the readers did in many ways and across the dimensions.  William seems to be the anchor character and throughout the book William tried to get his son to move out and even resort to getting a dog and getting a flatmate.  However, much as he wants his son to move out, blood is thicker than water, he still worries on how his son would re-act upon finding out his father's intention.

The rest of the characters are equally interesting and how they fare in subsequent books would be interesting to discover.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Snow Angels by James Thompson

Synopsis :

When a beautiful and high profile Somali immigrant is found dead - her body gruesomely mutilated - small town detective Kari Vaara fears that exposure to the media will send shockwaves through Finland, an insular nation afraid to face its demons.

Haunted by his past, the investigation begins to take its toil on Veera and his American wife, Kate. Pregnant with their first child, she is struggling with the Finnish culture of silence and isolation.

Things get too close for comfort when the chief suspect turns out to be someone Vaara would rather forget.  But nothing is as it seems and Vaara knows that the unrelenting darkness and extreme cold above the Arctic Circle could drive anyone just a little insane - perhaps enough to kill.
I don't think I will ever find this book in the local bookstore as I feel European literature is not well represented in the mainstream bookstore in my country. 

I enjoyed Snow Angels for the differences that it brought me.  Coming from a country that's bathed in sunlight the whole year from morning to evening (current weather situation exempted!), it's quite difficult to understand and to relate to the feelings and emotions of the characters in the book where sunlight made it's grand entry only once in a while and for short period of time and the rest of the time are subzero cold.

Detective Vaara is different but yet the same as any detective anywhere else in other books.  His wife Kate was quite secondary in the whole scheme of plot and everything and his dysfunctional relationship with his father is something that makes him very human.  The introduction to some of the culture and social culture in Finland makes the experience of reading this book different from others.

Overall, the book is quite engrossing and the ending was quite unexpected. It's quite a good read if you have time to kill :)