2006 – 2010


While rummaging through a sale bin, this particular book caught my eye.  Not many books talk about household help so I picked it out as something different.  The story revolves around an au pair which, in Philippine society, is equivalent to an all-around nanny that helps in chores.  Maidservants are  an integral part and most often a necessity for middle to upper crust lifestyles.  We have nursemaids for our children, the requisite cook, washerwoman, and house cleaners.  Depending on the size and finances of a household, the quantity of househelp ranges from one, who has to do almost everything, to a battalion with specific work assignments in a huge house.

The book  is very British, however, and has nothing to do with the Philippine way of life.  But knowing that a lot of us can’t live without our helpers, I was intrigued by this book’s premise on how dependent we can get on our maids  or nannies and to what lengths some of us as employers would go to keep them.

Author :  Fay Weldon

Date of Publication :  April 10, 2007

Publisher :  Grove Press

ISBN-10: 0802143016

ISBN-13: 978-0802143013

No. of pages :  288

The Story :

As a young modern couple, Hattie and Martin have outre views about a bevy of things, including deciding that the state of singleness but togetherness is the way to go.  But both are unprepared when baby Kitty is born.  Hattie, the career woman, suddenly finds herself bored with the drudgery of domestic chores and child rearing that she longs for her old job back.  Martin, equally disappointed with tasteless home dinners, reluctantly agrees to Hattie’s decision to hire an au pair.

Agnieszka arrives to seamlessly take over the domestic chores and child-rearing burdens,  leaving Hattie suddenly free to pursue her career and Martin, happy about dinner time and his laundry.  Everything is wonderful and Martin and Hattie intend to keep it that way by making sure that the au pair is happy so she can live with them forever.  Never mind the little stories that don’t seem to connect nor the blatant belly demo, the couple are prepared to go to the extremes just to keep their au pair with them.

The Review :

Hattie’s  grandmother, Frances, relates the couple’s help hiring adventure in her cynical, offhand style with undercurrents of dark , dry humor.

Although the telling is most amusing, it may not appeal to readers who like straightforward plots.  True to the narrator’s granny character, the story goes off tangent several times when she starts reminiscing about her own life.  While this is where most of the author’s wit glimmers,  it does take a bit of concentration to be unfazed by the interrupting deviations in the narration.

In truth, a straightforward telling will perhaps make for a a much thinner book;  the whimsical meanderings of the narrator just plump it up.  It depends on one’s taste now to deem the book humorously satisfying or simply convoluted.  Personally, I found it rather engaging and didn’t mind the flip-flops here and there.

Speaking from a more conservative Asian point of view,  I know I would never warm to the characters, Hattie or Martin,  had they been real. I am rather put off  by their cavalier attitude toward baby Kitty and most everything else. Their grandmother’s nonchalance bothers me as well.  For instance, the revelation  about her husband being an imprisoned dope dealer struck me as more akin to a yawn than the serious predicament that it realistically is.  However, as fictional characters, they do have loads of entertainment value so that the finish, although absurd,  is a jaw dropping surprise twist that left me flabbergasted.

My Mark :   Good!

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Pressed for reading time?  Grab a young adult book.  YA is always my answer to a need for  light, easy- to- read but fun book.  Vampirates just fits the bill…

Author :  Justin Somper

Publication Date :  October 4, 2006  (Hardcover)

Publisher :  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

ISBN-10: 0316013730

ISBN-13: 978-0316013734

No. of pages :  336

The Story :

Fourteen-year-old twins Grace and Connor are left orphaned and penniless in a gossipy old village and so both flee the clutches of their would-be guardians.  They take a dinghy out to sea only to be cursed by a storm and separated from each other.  Connor is rescued by a pirate ship while Grace is saved by a dreaded Vampirate, the terror their father had warned about in a catchy but strangely  comforting shanty.

Despite being oceans apart, both siblings never give up hope that the other is alive and focus their energies into finding each other.  Meanwhile, Connor carves a new life as a pirate while Grace faces dangers from the Vampirate crew who have yet to know of her existence on board.

The Review :

“Yo Ho Ho and a pint of blood!…”

What better way to curdle your RBCs but merge two devils into one — pirates and vampires!  Hence, vampirates!  Quite an original concept and a rather great way to grab the reading attention of very young readers, from nine to fourteen years old.  Well, it caught my attention and I’m no spring chicken (Hey, I’m no geriatric either, LOL! ; but, I’m way over my teen years.  How old? Let’s just say I’m supposedly too old for YA.  Tee hee!).

Since the book was written with this reading market in mind, I must review from this viewpoint and pretend to be twelve.  If I were twelve, I would love this book and cajole mom to buy me the series.

It starts out strong with a good ditty and two engaging twin characters.   The vampires are interesting creatures and quite different from the usual.   There are normal pirates in the book as well; and well, they are  the usual jolly, swashbuckling lot,  quite appealing to young boys.  An innocent, budding romance is also in the air for girls just discovering the world of crushes.

Somper’s writing is just right for the age bracket but his style and the plot may be a little too juvenile for adult tastes.  Still as an “oldie”, I was entertained and finished the book in a day.

One thing I am puzzled about, though, is the fact that the story is set well into the future, specifically the year 2505.  However, with the mention of swords and galleons and the utter lack of modernity in the story,  the whole thing really feels a lot more sixteenth century”ish”.  In fact, you would forget the story’s futuristic date.   Maybe this question is answered in the sequels?

To Read Or Not To Read :

This is a series book, as most YA books are.  To date, there are five, the latest being Empire of the Night, which according to Amazon, will be out in August 2010.  Definitely read if you’re a kid or when you’re just too bored being an adult.  Just remember that this series isn’t over yet with the fifth.

My Mark  :  Very Good!


Still having barely enough reading time this June, I reached for an easy to read book,  more like an airport read…

Author :  Brad Meltzer

Date of First Publication :   September 5, 2006 (Hardcover)

Publisher of First Edition : Grand Central Publishing

This Edition’s Publication Date :  May 1, 2007  (Paperback)

This Edition’s Publisher :  Warner Vision

ISBN-10: 044661212X

ISBN-13: 978-0446612128

No. of pages :  622

The Story :

A crazed assassin attacks the U.S. Presidential entourage at a NASCAR race and changes Wes Holloway’s life forever.  Wes, the President’s aide,  survives with disfiguring facial while the President’s best friend, Ron Boyle, is shot and killed.  But after eight years, Wes spots Boyle, very much alive.  The CIA and the FBI are after him for information and the assassin is on the loose once more.  Now Wes must figure out the mystery of Boyle buried in old crossword puzzles, Freemason history and Jefferson’s two-hundred-year-old codes, before the Book of Fate catches up to him.

The Review :

One of the factors influencing my decision in purchasing a book is the one-liner reviews from respected magazines, newspapers and authors, just like  these  encouraging comments for the book:

“Move over, Da Vinci; take your code and shove it!…a page-turner.” —- Liz Smith, New York Post

“Meltzer’s tale of intrigue and pathos  in politics engrosses.”  —–  Entertainment Weekly

“A teasing code and a tireless pursuit….the jolts just keep coming.”  —- New York Daily News

Most of the time  I can rely on these little snippets.  But this is one time these people have completely missed the mark.  How they can describe this book in glowing terms make me suspect these may be paid opinions.

As a thriller, it isn’t so thrilling.  Meltzer has given us a bland plot sprinkled with mysterious symbols, both of which seem to make the book trail sadly after Dan Brown’s  wake.  With puzzles,  symbols and the references to the Freemasons (for perhaps more mystery), it looks like Meltzer is simply trying to cash in on the tidal wave from Dan Brown’s popular theme of weaving symbolism  into his thrillers.

Alright, he says he meticulously researched  everything.  I am not disputing that.  It’s just why try to style yourself, no matter how much less, after another author?

One other thing, it feels as if Meltzer is trying too hard.   Why the FreeMasons are so crucial to the plot, I haven’t a clue.  Even the schizoid character, Nico, seems simply thrown in to up  the ante albeit being an unnecessary angle.  Moreover , the whole story simply does not focus on its title, The Book of Fate, which from beginning to end appears to be  some sort of vague Bible.  There is not much reference to it nor does the plot give it any importance. I believe the novel was probably titled so because it just sounds great and  intriguing.  After all, it must sell, sell, sell!

To Read Or Not To Read :

Reading this book is like grabbing something so one has something to do.  After all I’ve said though, it isn’t very bad when you get down to reading it but it isn’t great either.  Rather mediocre.  A read, toss, and forget-about-it novel of which its mediocrity is its merit of getting you adequately by when you’re just killing time.

In A Nutshell :

In the end, you come out not clear about what the novel’s  Book of Fate really is.  Oh and the whole conspiracy theory  is really not much of an attention grabber, either.    Again, bland and boring.

The Book of Fate is definitely an airport read, if you don’t mind the watered down Dan Brown wanna-be.   It’s  engaging in the first dozen or so pages then the gripping interest peters out and the action stays on an even keel throughout the middle.  Not an engrossing piece; but guaranteed you won’t miss your plane with this one.

My Mark :  Mediocre  — A not so thrilling thriller

I’ve not been a very active blogger this month.  With a myriad things that came my way plus being in the midst of preparing for a life presentation for my grandmother who turned 100 years old  yesterday,  my hands were just too full for posting reviews.

But here’s one for a book I just couldn’t resist plucking off the store’s shelf.  I’m a fan of Michael Crichton for his story-telling versatility.   As an author who never seemed to have written about the same thing in his entire career,  his fiction would careen from  corporate politics to dinosaurs, from global warming to aircraft investigations.  After his death, I sadly thought I had read the last of his stories.

But surprise, surprise!  Someone discovered a full manuscript in his hard drive ; hence this new book.  Of course, I just had to have it….

Author :  Michael Crichton

Publication Date :  January 1, 2009  (Hardcover)

Publisher :  Harper Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN-10: 0061929379

ISBN-13: 978-0061929373



The Story :

It’s the mid-seventeenth century, a time of profitable privateering in which a man could make his fortune if he were daring enough to do so.   At the English colony of Port Royal in Jamaica, Captain Jack Hunter sets his sights on the impregnable Spanish dominated  island of Matanceros where a galleon sits at anchor, heavily laden with treasure.

Never mind if the island is infamous  for its unconquerable reputation with a fearsome protector, Callas,  its terrifying canons and 300 men at arms.  Assembling a crew with special skills, Hunter attempts to take the island and its treasure by the very route which has remained impassable to all.  Up unassailable walls, through fetid jungles, and in terror-filled waters, these pirates fight to steal treasure and glory, enough to satisfy all who love excitement in tall tales.

The Review :

This latest written creation,  discovered  among the late author’s  memoirs, is a jolly romp in the high seas for those who get a kick out of shallow entertainment.  The plot is complete with everything a  tall tale of a  pirate story should have :  treasure, kraken, damsel in distress, and risks Indiana Jones would have envied.    If you’re looking for realism, this wouldn’t be up your alley.  Plus, don’t expect any depth or multi-facets in any of the characters either.  There aren’t any.

The story reads like it were Crichton’s first attempt at novel-writing — amateurish, bumbling.   I guess there must have been a good reason why this book remained in the author’s  hard drive.  I don’t think he meant to publish it yet or it wasn’t ready for publishing.  Perhaps, this book is still in its drafting stage because although it has a compete enough outline for a story, it just didn’t feel finished.   It  definitely isn’t up  to the standards of a Crichton novel,  given that his plots are always so much better  thought out than this.

In other words, this book is a big COULD HAVE BEEN , and it’s sad that this is all it can remain to be — a potential.

But a thought just occurred — the book may not be too bad as a YA novel.  Its very shallowness and swashbuckling appeal  would just be grade-A with action-inclined youngsters.  In hindsight, it’s quite good if I had approached it with that genre in mind.  But, I was expecting the same style for the usual Crichton target readers.

Despite what I’ve said though, I admit Pirate Latitudes was still rather mildly entertaining and a breezy read.  I just wish the author were still around to refine  it to  a  marvelous adventure-thriller.

In A Nutshell :

This may be great with teeners.    Read if you must;  you might enjoy it for the moment.   Just don’t purchase a hardbound.

My Mark :  Mediocre — Ok

I’m well on my way toward completing my two challenges way ahead of schedule :  Spring Reading Thing 2010 and Once Upon A Time IV.    Anansi Boys is my fourth book in a list of five.

Author :  Neil Gaiman

First Edition’s Publication Date : January 1, 2005

First Edition’s Publisher :  Harper Collins

This Edition’s Publication Date :  January 22, 2008 (Paperback)

This Edition’s Publisher :  Harper Perennial

ISBN-10: 0061342394

ISBN-13: 978-0061342394

No. of pages :  368

The Story :

Fat Charlie’s (who really isn’t fat) humdrum, safe, comfortable life goes out of whack the moment he learns of his embarrassing father turning up his toes  on a karaoke stage.  Charlie Nancy had no idea his father was a god; neither the fact that he had a twin.  Now brother Spider, the hip, dashing, cool side of the family has turned up to say hello and is determined to stay.  Problem is, Spider has Charlie’s fiance all starry eyed with him and his boss, seething with murderous revenge.

Charlie just wants Spider to go away.  So he dabbles in some magic which backfires on them both.  Now, Spider and Charlie have to face the consequences and dredge their strengths from within.

The Review :

I have never read a Neil  Gaiman novel before… I mean one where he is the sole writer.  Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch was from a Gaiman-Pratchett tandem so I couldn’t tell where Gaiman was or Pratchett began as I’ve never read a Terry Pratchett either.  Now, I understand all the hype about Neil Gaiman.  He is an original, if not a very good mish-mash of perhaps a lot of  influences, who had morphed into a writer altogether of his own kind.  He has a unique way of writing which marries well with his peculiar imagination.

With Anansi Boys, Gaiman  takes the Caribbean folk god, Anansi and weaves his own creative legend around Anansi’s two sons.  The premise is simple, that of a man coming to terms with his lineage.  But Gaiman is a writer who is anything but simple.  So the fundamental premise is layered with lots of other threads: sibling rivalry, filial love, forgiveness, dualism, and self-actualization.

Gaiman here is not given to being serious, though.  His writing imposes a lot of humor, levity, charm, quirkiness and  of course that bit of surrealism that,  I think, marks his style.  Part of his forte here is his characters who he fashions into people we can like or at least pay sustained attention to.  You may not identify with them but somehow  he can make them interesting in their own way.  Take his lead, Fat Charlie, who is something like a push-over, rather passive and calm, painted as boring and yet you get to like him for what he is and how he is developed.  Even the cantankerous mom-in-law-to-be is an amusing figure who will, strangely, get on your good side as well.

To Read Or Not To Read :

Anansi Boys is strange and funny at the same time, but I suspect, with  the author’s piles of accolades, this is isn’t the best of his work.   Perhaps I should get hold of more of  his novels to experience him at his best.  But as an introduction to him, Anansi Boys doesn’t fail him, although it may not effectively goad some new readers to shell out for another one of his novels, unless they can tell from the book that the author has a lot more to offer.

Although this seems like a YA novel, the youngest readers who would probably appreciate this book fully would be in their late teens.  The more mature, the better of course because of a bit of complexity in Gaiman’s concepts and writing style.

On the whole, Anansi Boys is a rather enjoyable book.  Just be in the mood for some eccentricity and you’ll have a nice solo time with this one.

My Mark :  Very Good



From a serious book on ancient warrioresses to a quirky one on a dissatisfied wife with a magic potion…. I figured I needed a light, no-brainer for another sleepless night.  Plus, it is in my challenge lists from  Once Upon A Time IV and Spring Reading Thing 2010.

Author :  Jane Heller

Publication Date :  December 2, 2008

Publisher :  IUniverse

ISBN-10: 059553550X

ISBN-13: 978-0595535507

No. of pages :  336

The Story :

Have you been married for so long you can’t even remember why?  Meet Elizabeth Baskin, a successful high-end hotel rater and a neat freak who feels her husband had become a one-star rater with a paunch,  a bald spot, and heavens! a penchant for sprinkling crumbs on newly dust-busted counters.  She decides that the only way to save her marriage is to make him over and return him to that dashing, funny guy who rescued her from an overheated car on the freeway.

Taking  a tip from her sister, she bluffs her way as a Goldie Hawn referral into the exclusive clinic of Doctor Farkus, the new celebrity-favored “life enhancement” specialist known to have  purportedly amazing potions with secret ingredients from some exotic forest.   At her visit, she runs into Clover, a housewife with the same need:  an enhanced husband.  The two strike up a friendship and agree to keep in each other updated with the results.

After Elizabeth describes her spousal makeover need, Doctor Farkus prescribes his  potion with strict instructions on its dosage.  Elizabeth guiltily but determinedly pours the  potion into her Roger’s orange juice every morning and waits for that magic transformation.  But Elizabeth gets antsy after a few days of seeing no immediate changes and decides to up the ante by dumping the entire two packets into Roger’s morning juice.

By day’s end,  Elizabeth’s wish of a totally enhanced, romantic husband comes true.  But too good to be true?  Indeed, as her Mr. Wonderful soon turns much too marvelous for her to handle.   With Clover corroborating the fact that their super enhanced husbands are just too “hot” for them to keep up,  both friends decide that their old husbands were a much better deal.   So what to do but ask for an antidote?  Only Dr. Farkus is nowhere to be found!

So begins the chase for the antidote that drives these two Beverly Hills wives into all sorts of hilarious escapades in their desperate attempt to save their marriages.

The Review :

Intended to be a light read, The Secret Ingredient will treat you to some chuckles.  It’s really laid-back fiction, the sort you pick up on a lark when you’re tired of serious or “meaty” stuff.  This isn’t the kind of reading for you if you want a novel with more depth.  Rather, you must be in a light and easy mood to be entertained by something like this—where you don’t care how silly and  ridiculous the characters or the plot at times get to be.

With this book,  you just go with the flow to enjoy it.  After all, that’s  what you do when you settle for a fairy tale.

My Mark :    Good — Quirky but Charming!

I had to leave off my current book, Last Of The Amazons, which needs a bit more concentration, in favor of a lighter read for a whole night’s vigilance in the I.C.U.    As I have volunteered for night duty in attendance to my ailing father, I figured an easy but interesting YA book would be just the thing to keep me wholly alert ’til the morn. 

Among my choices for the Once Upon A Time IV and Spring Reading Thing 2010 challenge lists, Hush, Hush just fit the bill.

Author :  Becca Fitzpatrick

Publication Date :  October 13, 2009  (Hardcover)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

ISBN-10: 1416989412

ISBN-13: 978-1416989417

No. of Pages :  400

The Story :

When God made man and Earth, some angels have looked on these creations with a consummate desire for dominion. A league of angels conspired to tempt Eve to eat of the Tree of Life, so God stripped them of their wings and cast them to Earth.  These fallen ones were denied  human perception of  the world  with all  its sensual clarity.   To experience the world through vivid sensations the way humans do — this what a fallen angel covets.

After the fall, a race emerged known as the Nephilim, immortals born of a union of angel and mortal. Only through the possession of the Nephilim can a fallen one experience the world as humans can.

For a Biology project, Nora is partnered with cocky, mysterious, and uncooperative Patch. She must get to know him enough to complete her project or risk failing the subject. While she knows almost next to nothing about him, he, disconcertingly, knows so much about her.

Forced to get to know him, she discovers dark and dangerous layers. For Patch is no ordinary boy. In fact, he isn’t even human. However, Nora can’t seem to shake off her dangerous attraction. Suddenly, her normal life doesn’t seem so normal after all. Someone is dangerously after her.  Who and why, Nora must find out to save herself.

The Review:

I can understand the allure this book has. The stunning cover hints of an irresistibly dark but sexy fantasy, which may not disappoint for some. This is primarily a romance with the supernatural as a very attractive component. As a deviation from the ubiquitous dark creatures like vampires, this time it is fallen angels, character concepts not often used and therefore a novelty for many young readers.

The protagonists are in their teens so this must contribute to the book’s categorization as young adult literature. But in my book,  the qualification for YA stops here.   As I have reiterated before, books in the YA category may have very adult concepts and jargon inappropriate for the preteeners and possibly, for those in their early teens. This book exemplifies this. Although there are no explicit sexual scenes, a lot of sexual innuendo exists. Moreover, there are hints of what some people may even consider as sexual harassment in the dialogues. The relationship between Nora and Patch may also be viewed as abusive at most or disrespectful at the least.

Although there is always something irresistible about the “bad boy” which ups those delicious romantic shivers in any romance, this particular characterization simply isn’t what one would want kids to admire in a romantic lead. To make it even more objectionable as YA,  the disrespectful ways of Patch toward Nora and Nora’s increasing attraction in spite of (or because of ?) it, feelings which I suspect may border more on lust than love, aren’t what I would rate as good fodder for teen and pre-teen minds.

However, despite my adult reservations, I feel this book is one of those  which young girls would gravitate to (the cover is simply irresistible).  The premise of fallen angels  and the dark romance are certain come-ons.   Writing is mundane, the characters not imbued with much depth; but these aren’t objectionable in a book designed to be  a 400-page breezy read.  They just makes reading effortless and fast.

Regardless of my misgivings on its classification, I  enjoyed Hush, Hush. I’m not saying it is a real page-turner but true to its bestseller status, it did keep me up and awake.  It was interesting enough in spite of its flaws.  Perhaps to like it, just suspend disbelief and go with the flow.

If you are a teen, chances are big that you will love it as it is.  As an adult in your thirties or beyond,  you probably will tend to be more judgmental of this book.

I won’t be surprised if this book morphs into a movie.  It just has that mass appeal to it.

As An Aside :

Becca Fitzpatrick is coming out with the sequel, Crescendo, this year.   For Hush Hush fans,  something to keep you on tenterhooks.  smiley

My Mark :  Good  —  Entertaining!

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