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BOOK (Fiction) – Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl

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Title: Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator
Author: Roald Dahl
Publisher: Puffin Books
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0-141-32269-8
Book Type: Fiction
Category: Children’s Book
Pages: 208
Format: Paperpack
Cover Price: £6.99
Publish Date: September 6, 2007
Rating: 3/5
Link: Puffin Books; Wikipedia
Synopsis: Charlie Bucket has won Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and is on his way to take possession of it. In a great glass elevator! But when the elevator makes a fearful whooshing noise, Charlie and his family find themselves in splendid orbit around the Earth. A daring adventure has begun, with the one and only Mr. Willy Wonka leading the way.

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I knew of Roald Dahl when I first read Matilda a long time ago. I’ve loved him since. Then I watched the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie and I don’t like it. The wickedness has gone too far in that story I think. Later I read The Best of Roald Dahl and then The Witch and was determined to read his books as many as I could. So when I caught Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator and Boys and Going Solo at my local bookstore (for a bargain price) I didn’t hesitate to get both.

You get the same Roald Dahl flavors here: the characteristic vocabulary, the educational meaning, a bit of madness and cruelty. But, for some reasons, I didn’t enjoy this one. The story telling remind me too much of the dreadful experience I had with Alex Shearer’s (read The Hunted): I knew what was going to happen next, yet he was still dancing around and not moved forward. Also I don’t like either Willy Wonka or Charlie Bucket so I was impatient with both.

It was  still a decent Roald Dahl’s read, but not one of his strongest. If you like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I think you’ll like this one. If not, maybe just skip it.

Written by LA

June 20, 2011 at 10:36 PM

BOOK (Fiction) – Hour Game by David Baldacci

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Title: Hour Game
Author: David Baldacci
Publisher: Pan Books
Language: English
ISBN-13:978-0-330-41173-8
Book Type: Fiction
Category: Mystery & Thriller
Pages: 736
Format: Paperback
Cover Price: £6.99
Publish Date: June 03, 2005
Rating: 4/5
Link: Amazon.co.ukPan Books
Synopsis: Following their collaboration in Split Second, ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have gone into partnership and are investigating the robbery of some secret documents at the residence of the incredibly wealthy Battle family. It seems like a straightforward case of domestic burglary, but soon they begin to suspect links to larger, more terrifying events now shaking the prosperous town of Writghtsburg…

The unidentified corpse of an attractive young woman turns up in the woods; two high school kids, one shot in the back, the other in the face, are found dead in their car; a successful lawyer is discovered stabbed to death in her own home. A serial killer is on the loose. The murderer kills in the manner of famous killers of the past but takes care to leave a stopped watch at the scene of each crime – corresponding to the victim’s position on his hit list.

As the killing spree escalates it seems that the fractured Battle family are somehow involved and Maxwell and King suddenly find themselves racing to solve an intricate puzzle, one that is full of tantalizing clues but barren of solid evidence, and one that is leaving even the FBI confounded. And all the while, the body count is rising…

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Firstly I must admit that it’s been more than a year since I finished Hour Game so my opinions have kind of faded and less detailed than usual.

Hour Game is the second book in the Sean King and Michelle Maxwell series, preceded by Split Second, which I haven’t had the chance to read yet.

Together with The Architect, this one is my favorite for being a very well-crafted mystery thriller. The book is notably thicker than most I’ve read, but not necessarily hard to read at all. It was a joyful ride. The whole 736 pages are packed with details for a crime that had clues leading to everywhere and nowhere but in the end everything tied together neat and well without a single loose thread. Both Sean King and Michelle Maxwell proved to be likable characters. There were balance in the couples, being one man and one woman, being former professionals but now retired into private investigators, being level-head but at the same time sentimental. All of that made their journey to the truth plausible and believable.

I think writing a good mystery thriller is difficult. You’ll need the details, the knots, the revelations, the twists, the ending and most importantly the pacing to make things work. Tie the knots too soon and it becomes rushed. Reveal too late and no one cares anymore. Hour Game managed to stay neat and strong and well-paced, despite its length. Highly recommended.

Written by LA

June 20, 2011 at 12:16 PM

BOOK (Fiction) – The Stolen by Alex Shearer

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Title: The Stolen
Author: Alex Shearer
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Language: English
ISBN-13:978-0-330-39892-3
Book Type: Fiction
Category: Children’s Book
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Cover Price: £5.99
Publish Date: April 04, 2003
Rating: 2/5
Link: Amazon.co.uk; Panmacmillan
Synopsis: Meredith is a new girl at school. An orphan, living with her elderly granny. She must be lonely – or so Carly thinks, trying to be nice.

But sometimes nice doesn’t work. Sometimes people are worse than you could ever imagine. And Meredith has a secret – a story Carly can hardly begin to believe. About a girl with no future and someone else’s past. A vicious old lady who refuses to die. A young life stolen. For Meredith is not Meredith at all…

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If Tins had somewhat recovered my faith for Alex Shearer, The Stolen threw a straight punch into my face and pulled me back to the reality that I just can’t get Shearer’s writing.

The story, as always, is very good. It’s even better than Tins or The Hunted, considering the morality in it. It makes you think, and questions yourself. I believe it can give the kids (and me) a good lesson about treating elderly people nicely.

What I don’t like, again, is the unnecessarily dragging narrative. You can say that the book was narrated in first person by a little girl, so her way of talking is that of a kid and kids say whatever they have in their mind at the moment. But it’s just plain annoying, especially at the beginning where the story hadn’t picked up yet. Context-wise, I even find the part where Grace told Carly about her situation is handled poorly. I can’t understand why a person who is in a hurry to tell a secret while she doesn’t have much time can overly describe the situation in its trivial details. It totally broke the flow in my opinion because Carla, as well as the reader, is listening to a BIG SECRET yet the teller keeps telling things I’m not interested in. If she needs me to hear her secret fast, she ought to do it fast. Or maybe because I’m just to impatient.

Honestly, I didn’t really read the book, I skimed through it. It was totally my defeat as I couldn’t keep reading the details that I already guessed of and not interested in. No more Alex Shearer for me, although it’s a pity because the stories themself are very good.

Written by LA

October 17, 2009 at 12:36 AM

BOOK (Fiction) – Tins by Alex Shearer

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Title: Tins
Author: Alex Shearer
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Language: English
ISBN-13:978-0-330-43191-0
Book Type: Fiction
Category: Children’s Book
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Cover Price: £5.99
Publish Date: March 03, 2006
Rating: 3/5
Link: Amazon.co.uk; Panmacmillan
Synopsis: Fergal collects tins. He likes the bargain ones without labels: the contents are always a nice – or nasty – surprise. Then Fergal finds a finger inside one tin and the world HELP inside another… And what was just a screwball hobby becomes a deadly can of worms.

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Okay, so my second attempt for another Alex Shearer’s book was actually not bad. In fact, I think I did enjoy it to some extent. Compared to The Hunted, the writting is less dragging and the details is less repeative. Book presentation is also more pleasurable, with a better font of choice and different typeset for different parts. I like that.

The story overall is appealing, and I think kids will love it. I myself of course found it a bit too fairy-tale-ish (dark fary tale actually) but don’t take that as a complaint (more like a comment really). Generally I can put up with the writing style. Nothing fancy, not many big words, a bit dull here and there but far more tolerable than The Hunted (wow, it seems that I hold quite a serious grudge against that title).

You can read this, to appreciate a little wicked story. At least, my time wasn’t a waste for reading this book. And somehow I wouldn’t mind more of this but I will be sure to check any Alex’s Shearer’s title more carefully in the future. Something like Tins – yes. Something like The Stolen – no, big NO.

Written by LA

September 19, 2009 at 11:05 PM

BOOK (Fiction) – The Hunted by Alex Shearer

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Title: The Hunted
Author: Alex Shearer
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Language: English
ISBN-13:978-0-330-43190-0
Book Type: Fiction
Category: Children’s Book
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Cover Price: £4.99
Publish Date: July 01, 2005
Rating: 2.5/5
Link: Amazon.co.uk; Panmacmillan
Synopsis: Tarrin is born into a world where both the dreams and nightmares of medical science have come true. People look younger and live for longer. But real children are rare. They are bought and sold, won and lost, and live in fear of being stolen – or worse.

So Tarrin knows what it is to have a price on his head. As one of the few natural-born children around, he’s something that science can’t make and money can’t buy. Every day he’s stalked by the terror of being taken. He’s one of the hunted.

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Let me get this straight out:

1. This is a children’s book

2. I’m no longer a child

3. It was a tiresome read.

If it hadn’t been for the fact that I was sorry for my money, I would have thrown the book away after ten pages. I bought three books of Alex Shearer, intrigued by all of the awesome summaries. Truth to be told, the idea behind is quite good, the summary dose it just (or not), but the execution feels horribly wrong (or not).

To put it bluntly, the writing is just like my writing: scattered, slap-in-the-face facts, repeating chunks of issue. I read through half of the first chapter and couldn’t see where I was going. I read through half of the book and only vaguely see where I was going. But basically the narrative is just so confusing. Supposedly there are A-B-C-D-E-F-G points in a chapter (each chapter is long, which obviously isn’t help in me being tired of it at all), the author would go like this: A-B-C-E-D-A-F-G-C-B-B-A. So generally we are going around without a clear point of where the destination is. As an admirer of clarity myself, I was greatly annoyed.

The 1/3 last book wasn’t bad, actually. It provided a pace fast enough to keep moving, mainly because a certain annoying character wasn’t there with his blabbing conversation anymore. It might be a way to portray the character, but the strong impression of characterization just wore out after the same type of conversation was repeated too many times.

The book also has a decent ending, not quite out of place as some certain books’, which certainly help making the whole story one piece in general. I’d say the the last one third of the book is decent, above average, while the first two third is just a pain. BIG PAIN. Overall writing is plain and it can’t convey the right invisible perception as well. It’s that image you project in your head when you read the text. But what I imagined wasn’t what I was supposed to see. The story took place some times in the future where technology was so advanced that people can halt their aging. Yet all I can ever saw was 18th – 19th century’s scenery and environment. Call me unimaginative if you might, but sorry, but magic just didn’t work for me.

The last small complaint is that the text font is very ugly and it did hinder my enjoyment (as a graphic designer, I just couldn’t ignore it).

It terrifies me to think that I still have two other books of Alex Shearer to finish. While The Hunted overall wasn’t too bad that you should completely stay away from it, the terrible boring and confusing slow start can just kill off any expectation you might have. You’re warned then.

Written by LA

September 12, 2009 at 11:24 PM

BOOK (Fiction) – The Architect by Keith Ablow

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Title: The Artchitect
Author: Keith Ablow
Publisher: Pan Books
Language: English
ISBN-13:978-0-330-44140-7
Book Type: Fiction
Category: Mystery & Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Cover Price: N/A
Publish Date: June 06, 2007
Rating: 4/5
Link: Amazon.co.uk
Synopsis: An extraordinarily talented architect whose clients are America’s wealthiest families. A sociopath whose search for perfection leaves a trail of murders he considers work of art. A story of obsession that opens doors to secret corridors of power – and into the private quarters of the White House itself.

West Crosse, educated at Yale, member of the ultra-elite Order of Skull and Bones, is a stunningly brilliant, strikingly handsome architect with a love of ideal beauty and commitment to achieving it at any cost. But underneath that facade lies a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to create the perfect dwelling and the perfect lives for his high-bred clientele – even if that means deadly rehab … As Crosse is about to embark on the master work of this creative life, the FBI puts forensic psychiatrist Dr Frank Clevenger on the case, and the ultimate cat-and-mouse game begins.

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As of today, The Architect is Keith Ablow’s latest novel about Frank Clevenger, a forensic psychiatrist working for the FBI.  A review on amazon says that it’s in one way or another is a series and therefore should be read in order. So what I review is what I see about the book without prior reading of the previous ones.

So far, of all the “impulsively bought” novels (ones that I bought without really knowing who the author was or what the story was about), this is my most favourite. This is a good read, hooked from the beginning, but the tension isn’t built strong. It doesn’t have much of the “thrill” factor but it’s attractive enough to keep on reading and it becomes attractive quite early, so you don’t have to read through pages of boring stuffs until the story finally gets better.

There’s not much of mystery either. Who’s the murderer is clearly indicated. It’s about the killer’s psychology that we get to know. Being a book with a main character being a psychiatrist written by a psychiatrist himself, The Architect provides some psychological reading of people’s reaction and behavior. I really enjoy scenes where Frank Clevenger questions the victim’s relative and adds his own thought on the hidden meaning behind each answers.

Like I said, the excitement isn’t built gradually. Basically after 2 or 3 chapters, you get into the story, and the attraction stablizes and it keeps like that thorought the book. It does go up and down occasionally, a little bit up towards the end but really no climax. Not really a complaint although it does make me feel something is missing.

The ending makes sense (much more so than The Devil’s Labyrinth by John Saul), in some ways, but quite anti-climax. I was waiting for a showdown but it just ends up without any big encounter at all.

I enjoyed this book. Not immensely but I certainly enjoyed my time. The emotions are quite balanced. Not too thrill so you can stop when you want to stop, without having the urge to continue reading when your eyes and your general body’s functions are going against you. Yet it’s attractive enough for you not to forget about it and keep continuing whenever you have free time. For someone like me who couldn’t afford finishing a book in one go or go through more than 3 chapters a day (in my previous free time before bed), this isn’t bad at all.

I don’t know how reading the previous books will affect my reading of this book, but I plan on hunting down other novels in the Frank Clevengers series. I like this book so maybe you should try out as well.

Written by LA

September 11, 2009 at 10:36 PM

BOOK (Fiction) – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Publisher: Sterling
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1-4027-1459-7
Book Type: Fiction
Category: Classic
Pages: 248
Format: Hardcover
Cover Price: $9.95
Publish Date: October 01, 2004
Rating: 4.5/5
Link: Amazon.com; Sterling; Wikipedia
Synopsis: Born in India, the unattractive and willful Mary Lennox has remained in the care of servants for as long as she can remember. But the girl’s life changes when her mother and father die and she travels to Yorkshire to live with her uncle. Dark, dreary Misselthwaite Manor seems full of mysteries, including a very special garden, locked tight for 10 years. With the help of Dickon, a local boy, Mary intends to uncover its secrets.

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This is my first try on reading all the oh-so-well-known famous classic novels (especially with Sterling’s releases of hard-cover editions with beautiful book cover and a cheap price). One thing I don’t like about reading classics is that the vocabularies and grammars are so strange (I’m avoiding the word “difficult” here), which certainly hinders the enjoyment when you can’t understand fully the story. On the other hand, the great thing about classics is that the story is very well told, with all details. Characters portrayal is especially crafted beautifully. I don’t say the story itself is particularly great or anything (depending on what kind of story you like) but I can certainly say the narrative stays over the top.

That’s enough for the ranting, now to the book itself. Since it’s been some days since I finished the book, I kinda lost my feelings now so I’ll keep this short.

If I have to sum up everything in one word, it would be “lovely”. Truth to be told, even though I myself am not a person who’s fond of kids (especially the disagreeable one – like Mary at the beginning), as the story progressed, as I saw Mary slowly transformed, I started to think maybe kids are not that horrible. I really like the childish conversation between Dickon, Mary and Colin, their actions, their way of thinking, etc. They are really children, and lovely ones.

Lots of dialogue are written in Yorshire dialect, which I can feel but not understand well. The people who speak Yorkshire are kind-hearted, open-minded, generous and very loving.

The book has a soothing effect that can make you feel light-hearted. Life is not that bad and everybody can changes for better. And deep down inside, everybody longs for love and affection, whether they really realize that or not. Highly recommend. Yorkshire may be an obstacle for readers whose English is not their mother-touge (like me) but eventhough you might not understand well, I’m certain that you can feel well. Feel the generousity in people who spoke Yorkshire, feel their kind-heartness, feel their broad personality, and feel the transformation of a little girl.

Written by LA

July 20, 2009 at 12:39 PM

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