February 2010


Author :  M. J. Rose

First Published :  September 1, 2007

This Edition’s Publication Date :  October 1, 2008  (reprint edition)

Publisher :  Mira

ISBN-10: 0778325768

ISBN-13: 978-0778325765

No. of pages : 464

The Story :

Josh Ryder barely survives a terrorist’s bomb and wakes up, changed forever. He begins having flashbacks of being Julius, a pagan running from Christian persecution in ancient Rome and entrusted with a secret treasure with the power to unlock one’s past lives. That and a forbidden love with a Vestal Virgin brings about an ill-fated destiny that begs for correction in his modern life as Joshua.

Confused and determined to know more about his reincarnated condition, Josh turns to the Phoenix Foundation, a facility which studies past life regression in children. He is led to an important archeological find,  discovered by Professor Gabriela Chase.  The dig holds the  entrusted treasure, the Memory Stones, kept hidden for over two thousand years.  Josh and Gabriela must decipher its secret to solve Josh’s reincarnated questions and rescue Gabriela’s child.

The Review :

Despite the alluring title, The Reincarnationist is anything but. The bland writing style doesn’t do justice to its genre (adventure-thriller).  Surprisingly, even with a recommended reading list that seems to project the book as a well-researched material, the novel just doesn’t grab one by their lapels to be properly thrilling. Rather, it generally just plods along in spite of some occasional frissons of excitement in it.

Blah characterization may have to do a lot with the “ho-humness” of it all as well. Readers may not develop enough empathy for Josh’s character nor for the other characters until a really major thing happens to Gabriella Chase that makes her more palpable.  Other than that, you may not really care much for them.

An unsatisfying conclusion may provoke complaints too.  Perhaps The Reincarnationist’s inconclusiveness prepares for the book’s touted sequels, The Memorist (Book 2) and The Hypnotist (Book 3).   But if you were to read their synopses, you wouldn’t really find them as continuations.  (Shrug.)  Having not read the sequels, though, I may be wrong.

However, this book is not an all-out loser. It isn’t that bad; it just does not thrill as much as it should have. To think, reincarnation is a very interesting subject; and yet the book just does not entice the reader enough to delve more into it. You finish it, think ok, then promptly forget about it.

To Read Or Not To Read :

Read if you have nothing else more interesting on hand.  But I wonder if you’ll still want to tackle a rather average read after knowing it is  part of a series.

My Mark : Mediocre




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Author : Hester Browne
Publication Date : September 5, 2006
Publisher : Pocket
ISBN-10: 1416527265
ISBN-13: 978-1416527268
No. of pages : 416

The Story :

Organized, practical and  self-deprecating Melissa Romney-Jones gets sacked when her company goes into a merger.  She runs into a  school acquaintance and learns that her favorite highschool teacher had gone into her own business.  Desperate to pay the bills, she applies for a job.  Little does she know that the business is actually a dolled-up seedy escort service.  In disgust, she quits but gets an a-ha! moment when she thinks of the business along cleaner and respectable lines — that of providing a pretend-girlfriend service to help men get rid of unwanted girlfriends,   have access to confidence-boosting trophy companionship, get advice on wardrobe and hygiene, among other things, without the hanky-panky.

She sets herself up as the woman any man would want on his arm with a significant wardrobe change, a blonde wig, and a syrupy, girlish name of  Honey.  Honey is the more assertive, cosmopolitan, woman-of-the-world version, the complete opposite of frumpy, timid Melissa.  But when she meets the man of her dreams, she just doesn’t know:  does he want the fantasy Honey or the real-life Melissa?

The Review :

Cute, funny, and spirited, this one is a rather enjoyable read.  Although, not quite up to par with those of Sophie Kinsella,  The Little Lady Agency is quite entertaining,  written in true British style and humor.

If you are to like the book because of the lead character, then Melissa will not disappoint.  With a lot of spunk,  she does what she knows best to do and dares to do so unconventionally.    Although she can be naive, occasionally stupidly so,  some readers would love this imperfect girl ,  who like everyone else,  tries to positively face the world and not cry into her cups of tea.  She isn’t the ideal strong woman who can stand up to any situation.  A girl does need help sometimes.  Well, lots of times for most.  But she is one feisty lady with a big heart.

Pleasant and light, this is another amusing beach read…a nice companion to pass the time with.

My Mark :   Good  — Entertaining!

Author :  Linda Newbery

Date of Publication :  Feb. 28, 2007

Publisher :  Transworld Publ. Ltd UK; New Ed edition

ISBN-10: 0099451336

ISBN-13: 978-0099451334

No. of pages :  368


The Story:

Sam Godwin gets the job of his dreams.  As an artist-tutor to two beautiful teenage girls, he is paid comfortably and housed in Four  Winds, a beautiful  and  most artistically  inspired residence  he has ever had the privilege to stay in.  In this idyllic setting, he becomes fond of  the  governess,  Charlotte Agnew, and of his two students,  the quiet, gentle Juliana and the vibrant, mesmerizing Marianne.  He also idealizes Ernest Farrow, his employer not just for his kind treatment but also for his impeccable taste.

Enamored of the house and especially of its sculptures of the North, South and East Winds, Samuel becomes obsessed with meeting the dismissed sculptor,  Gideon Waring, and finding out about the missing West Wind.

But there is more to the house and the family of Four Winds than meets the eye.  There is a darkness to their lives as Marianne is bothered by seeming madness and Juliana, a profound sadness.

When Sam tracks down Gideon the sculptor, he discovers  horrifying and devastating secrets about the family that surprisingly, bear on the circumstances of his employment.

The Review :

I picked up this book as an inclusion to my YA reading this year because the cover boasts its win of The Costa Children’s Book Award in 2006.    I do not know whether The Costa Awards is a reputable awarding body, because as far as awards go, I am simply not familiar with which hold prestige and which don’t.

Prestigious or not, I strongly disagree with the awarding body in its classification of this book.  Three fourths of the way in, I was shocked to discover why this novel should not have been listed in the children’s category.   This is not to say that the book isn’t good enough to be a winner.  It is, but I just don’t agree with its classification.

A children’s book, this is not.  Perhaps, the category “children” should be further defined by age groups so that books meant for those in their late teens wouldn’t be lumped  in with those for early teens, preteens, or even younger.   Set In Stone deals with issues which are quite disturbing,  very adult in nature and require a more experienced mind to deal with these adequately.   I cannot divulge the issues here as these would spoil your reading experience.

I believe this novel’s youngest readers should be at least in their mid teens because for the younger market,  this book is far from wholesome.

Come to think of it though,  I can’t say it is an adult novel either.  The issues in question aren’t explored so much as it would have been in an adult novel.  Nothing is graphic or that detailed.  There is a lot of understatement so probably the reason for its classification as YA.  But then again, it doesn’t read like most YA novels in that the writing is more mature in tone.  So as it is neither this nor that, it stands in a twilight of its own making.

To Read Or Not To Read:

Despite its ambiguity, Set In Stone reads beautifully.  Style-wise, Linda Newbery writes tautly and elegantly.   Although refined, understated, and never graphic, her writing can  evoke vivid imaginations and draw strong reactions from her readers.

The story is told from two perspectives, that of Samuel Godwin, the artist/tutor and Charlotte Agnew, the governess.  As events progress, each of these characters take their turns telling things as they experience it so that the story, always  in the first person perspective, gives the reader a view into each character’s minds as they encounter events.  This way,  readers get to be more intimate with the characters.

This author can also throw a sneaky punch.  Here you are,  three-fourths of the way,  teased through a mildly interesting story,  when suddenly, the jolt comes from nowhere.   She throws out her first big secret and you are up and riveted.  Shocked from your steady ho-hum pace,  you are more than hooked, as you turn the pages fast and well into the night.

Newbery does know her techniques well.   No wonder the award.

In A Nutshell:

Set In Stone is an exceptionally well crafted novel, a very absorbing  but dark-toned read.  Despite the YA classification, parents are best advised to read the story first before handing it over to their preteen or early teener.    With a lot of potentially disturbing surprises, this one packs a wallop!

My Mark :  Outstanding

It’s been more than two weeks since my last post.  I’ve been rather behind on my reading schedule with other distractions occupying most of my time.    What galvanized me to finally finish a post was a site I stumbled upon.  To my surprise and delight, a new site,  Philippine Blog Reviews,  posted a wonderful review on JO’s Bookshelf!   A big thank you to the site’s author/s.   So, I’m guiltily posting this review and hoping to stay on track this month.

Author :  John Le Carre

Date of First Publication :  December 12, 2000

Publisher of 1st Edition (Hardcover): Scribner

This Edition’s Publication Date (Paperback, Reprint Edition) :  November 2001

This Edition’s Publisher : Pocket Books Fiction

ISBN-10: 0743422910

ISBN-13: 978-0743422918

No. of pages :  576

The Story:

A wife of a British diplomat in Kenya is found naked, raped and brutally murdered;  her driver, decapitated.  Their companion, an African doctor, has gone missing.  Investigations by the British High Office, however, fail to satisfy the bereaved husband, Justin Quayle, so he undertakes his own by secreting away Tessa Quayle’s laptop and documents.

Justin discovers that his philanthropic wife, a Good Samaritan to the Africans she loved, had compiled a huge body of evidence against crime of such vile proportions involving developmental medicines, clinical trials,  both British and African governments, and large pharmaceutical companies.  Justin follows her trail only to find himself in the same danger, hunted by Tessa’s killers and by his own government, both determined to keep their secrets.

The Review :

I do like novels that take up a moral stance on real issues.  The Constant Gardener has the temerity to be a bullhorn, waking us to the existence of genuine medical crimes happening in Third World countries, mostly impoverished , vulnerable nations like Africa.  Le Carre seems to be sounding a furious call to all about awareness of apalling drug trials by large, pharmaceutical companies, bribed scientific opinions, cover ups on side effects, and the whole sick trade of getting a new, profitable drug to the First World markets.

It seems Le Carre loves layers and likes to employ this  on his characters and plot, wrapping them up in a tight onion of  surface details, then peeling their layers to reveal more as he goes along.

The novel opens with a shocking tragedy which somehow does not focus immediately on the lead character.  The author sets our attention on a supporting one and he slowly unveils his lead after shifting focus on him well after about a humdred and thirty pages or so.  What this technique does is leave us wondering at the start about the husband’s rather bland reception of his wife’s murder.  As attention increasingly shifts toward the main character, the author slowly peels back layer after layer of his personality so that by the end of the book, Justin is fully fleshed out in a very refined and gradual manner.  And thus you witness a master of characterization at work.

Take his secondary characters as well.  From a seemingly set cast, Le Carre takes us gradually behind their personas to reveal a complex set of people that give the novel an added richness and prove the author’s craft at character building.

To Read Or Not To Read :

His writing is elegant and vivid but one cannot say that he writes simply.  Nor is this novel a fast, easy read as most thrillers go.  So as much as the story is well conceived,  his writing may be a tad labyrinthine.  Just a tad, but still enough to make it difficult for some readers to get into the story.  It may be a chore keeping up with who’s who as some characters mentioned early on are referred to again  much later that the reader would have  quite forgotten him.

I also rather wish that Le Carre immersed his readers more in African life.  He skims over details giving us only tiny glimpses.  It would have made the book far more interesting if he delved on the subject a little more, not to mention the greater impact it would have had if it were able to sear his message into his reader’s minds and get them to really sympathize with the African plight.

The reading pace could be best described as erratic, at times picking up a swift tempo then slowing down to a somnambulant gait only to pick up the  brisk tread again after a while.  In other words, this is not really a page-turner that would keep one up late into the night; but, it is still a great novel that delivers a powerful urgent message and takes a very strong moral stance.

As An Aside:

If you don’t already know, this book was adapted to cinema in 2005.  Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz play Justin and Tessa Quayle, respectively.   I haven’t seen the movie but after this book, I’d like to see how it played out on the big screen.

In A Nutshell:

In spite of  the tendency of the author’s writing style to be a bit complex, The Constant Gardener is a well-written book that rewards constant readers, those who invest a little more concentration in reading this, with well developed characters, insight into global malpractices of the medical world  (if one isn’t  very aware of this yet),  and of course, a darn good story.

My Mark :  Very Good