Monday, 30 November 2009

I am impressed...

...another intriguing crime and law enforcement story after Archer's

“False Impression” (2005) is much more interesting to read compare to the former (Shall We…), considering that the latter has something to do with 911 (Sep 11) bombing in New York, and I think everybody has still the vivid memory of what happened on that day when America cried!

There are 8 main characters in the story headed by the beautiful, athletic, artist, intelligent, successful, honest and ambitious woman, Dr Anna Petrescu working in a bank (Fenston Finance) located in one of the Twin Towers. Her life is in danger on the final stage of the negotiation/transaction with her new client, Lady Victoria Wentworth, the daughter of the late General Sir Harry Wentworth (Earl of Wentworth) in London. Unfortunately, without the knowledge of Anna, the heiress died before the 911 bombing and she is set to meet her to discuss the final arrangement for the debts and inheritance, including the art collection – one of them is the art of Van Gogh. Another problems strike – Anna was fired by her boss in connection of the transaction, and while she is leaving the office in the North Tower, she encountered the ‘life and death’ episode when an aircraft hit the Twin Towers! Her survival from the tragedy leads her to carry-on the negotiation with the twin sister of the heiress, Lady Arabella Wentworth without the knowledge of her former boss.

On the other hand, her boss a successful New York banker, Bryce Fenston and his sole adviser, Karl Leapman are happy on the things happening which makes the transaction easy for them to continue the unfinished business deal of Anna – the same plan similar to what they have done in their previous clients. It is interesting to know that these guys are hiding something about their illegal businesses in the past. On the other hand, detective and FBI agent, Jack Delaney is assigned to re-open the cases against Anna’s boss, subsequently Anna’s herself after the death of Lady Victoria. The fifth player in the story is Olga Krantz, the former Olympic gymnast being hired by Mr Fenston to do the leg-works of killing those innocent clients! The twin sister of the client, Arabella plays an important role in the later part of the story, especially in the final negotiation of the inheritance, including the Japanese businessman (steel magnate), Mr Nakamura who is interested to acquire the painting of Van Gogh, even it will cost him 50 million dollars. He also convinced Anna to work with his foundation. Moreover, Anna’s officemate and best friend, Tina Forster is also a key player in the story that helped Anna to recover the painting from Mr Fenston.

There is so much to learn from the book which leads to answer questions about the drive or intention of each character in the story. For example, why Anna stole the painting and brought it to her home country and her former boss is desperate to find her despite the fact that she is already in the list of people died in the 911 bombing? As the story progresses, I created several IMPRESSIONS for each character. To some extent, my first impressions about them are FALSE. Thus, I somewhat jumped to conclusion of why things are happening or why these characters are doing this or doing that.
For instance, why Anna is desperate to go back to her country (Romania) carrying the red box containing the painting, or why Tina Forster (honours graduate) is working with a corrupt boss; or even Lady Arabella (twin sister of the heiress) and Mr Nakamura (Japanese businessman) are very friendly with Anna, or what motivates Tina help Anna to carry on with the negotiation despite the danger being the private secretary of Anna’s boss?; why Detective Delaney is very interested to further investigate Anna’s whereabout after the bombing, and also eager to locate an old guest house called Romanian Club that links to a mysterious key of a safety deposit box No.13; or why Lady Arabella was able to close the deal for the painting worth 50 million dollars with the Japanese businessman, even Van Gogh’s masterpiece was destroyed by Krantz?

And most importantly, why the photograph taken during the day of the memorial service in the Twin Towers’ area - showing Mr Fenston (Anna’s boss) having a shake hand with the US President (Bush) as the ultimate sole evidence for the conviction in Lady Victoria’s murder?

Well, even the PAINTING (Portrait de L’Artiste San Barbe, self-portrait) itself has its own mystery that gives a ‘FALSE IMPRESSION’ to the artists and painting collectors… And the intriguing TITLE OF THE BOOK also makes a wrong impression to the readers as well. Mr Archer proves again that he is one of the greatest storytellers in the 21st century. This is a new literary work which somewhat different from his traditional stories.

On the other hand, the story reminds me of my interest in arts and my hobby of collecting big posters (movies, portrait, and landscapes); and jigsaw puzzles, coaster (Im not a drinker) and my paintings as well.

It also reminds me of my personal appreciation to visit museums and galleries to view some magnificent works of prominent artists around the world like the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Picasso, Raphael, Botticelli, etc. To date, I have not even purchase any of these masterpieces, even a ‘CLONE’ (fake) of one of them. But my wish, maybe someday I could own one!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

My fav female writers...

Eighteen years ago, my first read was written by an American female author, Mary Higgins Clark. From then on, I love her style of writing and the characters. Few months ago, I started building up my collection and now Im adding Jodi Picoult in my list of female writers. She writes elaborately with slices of medical and family issues...

Recently, I read Clark's novel entitled, "I heard that song before". The book was a gift from my former boss, Ma'am Teng Suselo during my visit in Bangkok. With a medical issue as the focus, it is a page-turning story and I was wrong with the ending... nevertheless it was a happy one!

With Picoult's stories, I was fascinated with "Second Glance", much more interesting read than "My Sister's Keeper". Her "Perfect Match" is worth grabbing from the book stand - with perfectly a big twist at the end!
Another interesting bits of Jodi's books is that there are added pages to asnwer some basic questions which focus on her motivations to write these stories...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Where life begins...

THIS IS MY SECOND READ from the 2006 Book Club list ( being recommended by Richard & Judy (Channel 4). I chose this book not because of its reviews on-line but it struck me most is the title itself - reminded me of my childhood summer holidays in the central part of the Philippines.

When I was in my teens, spending the summer is the most enjoyable one compared it with Xmas holiday. Sad to say, I don’t really get much of the Christmas gifts/presence, but instead I have to earned it by singing carols in the neighbours. Unlike summer (April to May), I really had a good time collecting live shells and some fish for dinner, and not bothered to wake up late in the morning. I had the opportunity to play ‘bingo’ game with my neighbours while waiting for the ‘low tide’ to appear especially during full moon. Having the opportunity to live near the sea (250 meters away), it is convenient to stay longer along the beach witnessing the sunset and the ebbing tide deserted the shore, exposing the brown seaweeds covering the stones and coral reefs.

Aaahhhh… being a grown-up urban professional, I wish I could have the same experience during summer where I live now! Sorry for this emotional state of mind, but I am just carried away of Miles’ story and I am excited to share it with my readers and other cyber-friends.

Anyway, the book has been in circulation in Britain since last year (2005) and the paperback edition (ISBN 0747579385) is released early this year at 7.99 pounds (available at Tesco for 3.73 pounds) by Bloomsbury Publishing ( using natural and recyclable products from wood in well-managed forests. It is a coincidence that the book contains environmental issues that the publisher is also aware of it through the usage of the paper - produced and recycled using a legally accepted manufacturing processes.

JIM LYNCH is an American writer who lives in Olympia (Washington State) with his wife and daughter, and having awarded of several awards for his literary works. I tried to find available facts about him, but unfortunately no avail, nevertheless, this is his first novel.

One Saturday afternoon in Co Antrim (Northern Ireland), I decided to listen to the story of Miles, personally from him. It took him the whole day to finish his funny, environmentally-summer escapade in his hometown, Olympia. This is his story…

Miles is a 13 year old boy who loves to stay late till early morning in the beach (Skookumchuck Bay) during low tide to collect different kind of shells, starfish oysters, fish, crabs, snails, clams, and other exotic marine creatures. Most of his catch are being sold to a restaurant and a private aquarium dealer. Because of his curiosity and love in reading about marine life (inspired by the books of Rachel Carson), Miles could vividly describe and understand marine specimens behaviours, even the bay itself. Being a regular visitor of the bay, aside from being the look-out (caretaker) of the oyster farm of Judge Stegner, he discovered interesting creatures that made him an overnight TV celebrity. The first discovery of the giant squid changed his daily routine and everybody is interested to talk to him. This is also brings awareness to the people in the town about the bay and marine life. Even his best friend (psychic old lady), Florence predicted that there are surprises to come including the ‘highest tide’ in fifty years. Despite his popularity, Miles is still battling with emotional issues during that summer: He does not want that his parents will divorce and his difficulty to express openly his admiration and care to Angie (Stegner’s daughter).

The story brings how Miles managed to face the lowest and highest tides of his life. The ‘lowest tide’ of Miles somehow illustrates his relationship with Florence - giving him the wisdom to understand the meaning of life; his friendship with Phelps - the value of companionship and sense of humour; his secret admiration to Angie - the importance of patience, inspiration and friendship. His ‘highest tide’ on the other hand includes his struggle to accept the separation of his parents - the importance of a family; and the death of Florence - the lost of a friend that taught him the true meaning of trust and confidence!

Being an Urban and Environmental Planning practitioner, the story of Miles moves me intensely for two reasons: Firstly, the life in the coastal bay areas is fragile. Majority of the people residing along the coasts derive their livelihood from the sea. In particular, fishermen earn a living from these marine creatures and every catch is a treasure to them. Low tide during summer is best time to go fishing since coral reefs and mudflats can offer abundant supply of edible shells; and exotic creatures for sea-water aquarium which is now a popular hobby.
Aside from this, coastal areas also serve as attractions during summer for locals and tourists which a big business to the community itself. Despite these opportunities, there also ‘threats’ making coastal life depressing. A very good example of this is the ‘illegal fishing using dynamite’ which is a very popular method in developing countries like the Philippines. Dynamite fishing destroys coral reefs (serving the breeding ground) and kills young fish, consequently affects the future supply of edible marine creatures.

Secondly, the environmental problems brought by both man-made and natural disasters. Prior to my reading of the book, my first impression of the title is that the author was inspired by the tsunami caused by earthquakes and during the hurricane in the US which brought heavy rains and flooding. I had flashes of the events of the footage shown on TV during these two major disasters that made thousands of people homeless and jobless. The only difference with these events with the ‘highest tide’ in the story is that ‘only one person perished in the tide!’

In reality, these disasters are directly connected to our past and current activities that need much of our attention. Improper disposal of wastes causes the quality of sea water to deteriorates, thus it will affect the living condition of the marine life. Also, some of these wastes also clogged our sewer lines and during rainy days it will cause flooding. Overall, either man-made or natural disasters we have to be more aware of what we are doing particularly those things that might have adverse impacts to the environment.

Jim Lynch’s work is an excellent story which captures the essence of our childhood: being young, sensitive, entrepreneurial, and playful. He tries to awakens the ‘child’ within us and reflects the wonderful happy memories of our lives. Every character in the story brings something special that touches our hearts, something that we could reflect on it especially about purpose of living. Through Miles character, being an intelligent, observant and adventurous young boy, lead us to understand that everything happens because of ‘reason’.

Jim also tackles very relevant environmental issue that our Mother Earth is facing today - degradation of marine resources. One of the major human activities that contribute to marine pollution is the illegal dumping/discharge of domestic and industrial wastes. Untreated wastes from ships, tourism activities and untreated wastewater discharges from domestic and industrial processes put our marine life in danger. Natural disaster such as flooding due to heavy rains and illegal cutting of trees in the forest is also threatens our coastal resources. In addition, illegal fishing through ‘dynamite’ is another issue to be addressed which threatens the future marine stock.

LASTLY, the author tries to remind us that we have to pay attention to every small things around us. The author brings us to a discovery of ourselves being nature-lovers. The book itself is a good basic reference in understanding the life beneath the OCEAN - a place where 97% of water on earth contained by it; 80% of life exists under its surface; and the place where we came from!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Grab a copy.. not to be missed!

I HAVE ALREADY FINISHED READING this latest novel from Dan Brown. It is not exciting and thrilling compared to Angels and Demons, BUT it is worth flipping it! After a long anticipation, Mr. Brown finally shared Robert Langdon's adventure - searching for the lost symbol!

If you watched the film, National Treasure (Nicolas Cage), then this book somehow adds some extra treasures to be discovered...

The Lost Symbol somehow encourages me to read the BIBLE regularly... more things to be discovered hidden in the verses written by the apostles.

Note: I have also posted a journal when I got my copy of the book from National Bookstore (Philippines). CLICK HERE

the crown... to represent the king I shall become;
the star... to represent the heavens which have ordained my destiny;
the sun... to represent the illuminations of my soul;
the lantern... to represent the feeble light of human understanding;
and the key... to represent the missing piece, that which tonight I shall at last possess

Saturday, 10 October 2009

About Thailand's poverty and prostitution

Ive been to Bangkok for several times in the past, aside from my 2-year residency in the Buddhist country but I did not really bother to buy a book authored by a Thai writer or about Thailand! But during my recent visit to Bangkok, I definitely bought 3 books available in Asia Books.

These books include: Bangkok Tattoo (John Burdett), Phra Farang (Phra Peter Pannapadipo) and Bangkok Boy (Chai Pinit). I just finished reading Bangkok Boy and it is about the male prostitution in the country and how the author survived on this flesh slavery!

Unfortunately, I disagree with the statement of the author printed at back cover of the book...

"Bangkok Boy is a heart-rending account of a childhood lost to sexual abuse... Chai was a normal boy until he was molested by a school teacher...."

... this book is not about sexual abuse! It deals with male prostitution and Chai is not molested by his school teacher...he volunteered by "curiousity" to have sex with the man trying to find out what his friends doing to earn extra money to fund their vices (drinking and smoking)!

The story confirmed what Ive seen (for the first time) in the red district called: Patphong 18 years ago... Too long ago but the place is still the same - where you could find bars for sex lives shows/entertainment, including a night market for cheap branded products.

Parents tend to invest the bulk of their hopes and dreams in their firstborn son to help him achieve success... Outperforming's one's parents was considered a great accomplishments...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

My obsession for knowledge!

After four years of residency in Belfast, I realised that I already accummulated quite a number of reading materials, from pocket books to magazines, from photography books to travel magazines, and from music to movies - everything (except porno!).

Well, Im sending these books to the Philippines and dreaming that someday I could be able to set-up my own mini-library in my hometown, Sibuyan Island. A reading centre where everyone, young and old can share these books and be inspired to read more and learn new stories and new places.

books4 books7 books6

Sharing my passion in reading is something that I really wanted
to do and this is the reason why I spend so much money to collect them but I have so much pleasure and excitement reading these books written by my favourite authors.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Gays are talented individuals...

THIS is my first read after a few weeks I arrived Northern Ireland in 2005 written by an Irish-born singer and writer, Brian Kennedy. I borrowed it from a friend having convinced by him that it will give me a glimpse of the Irish culture, its people and the society as a whole.

AMAZINGLY, I got another copy of the book through bookcrossing ( which I released/left the book this month in Chicago O’Hare International Airport during my recent summer trip to the US. Bookcrossing is a free website service for people who want to share their favourite books to others around the world. Using the website, the book can be viewed using its designated BCID number: 042-4096335 released by the original owner last June 2006 in Belfast. I am the first holder of the book after it was released.

THE second released (in paperback) of the publication in 2005 (with 303 pages) has a catchy beautiful lay-out which initially set the location of the story - Belfast. It is released by Hodder Headline Ireland at 6.99 pounds (ISBN 0340 832304). A CIP catalogue record for the title is also available from the British library or visit

About the Author:
BRIAN was born in Belfast and currently one of the most popular artists not only in Ireland but also in the UK and Europe. Being a singer, he had released best-selling and awarded albums. ‘The Arrival of Fergal Flynn’ is his first literary work, and he published its sequel, ‘Roman Song’ in 2005. He also sung ’You raise me up’ during the funeral ceremony of the popular Irish footballer, George Best which was televised region wide.

AND recently, Brian represented Ireland in the annual event, ‘Eurovision’ and finished in the top ten of the singing competition. I found out in a free magazine with limited circulation in Northern Ireland that he openly acknowledged that he is gay and he is not currently in a relationship at the moment. This month (July, 2006), he was conferred with a honorary degree of Doctors of Letters (Dlitt) by the University of Ulster in recognition of his distinction as a popular artist and for his exceptional contributions in the music industry during the graduation ceremony held in Waterfront Hall, Belfast. For his future concerts and events, visit his website at

About the Story:
THIS is the story of Fergal - a 16-yr old fella, borne and raised in Belfast where Catholic and Protestant divides and domestic riots are going on those times. Unluckily he is not the ‘apple of the eye’ of his God-fearing Catholic family, particularly his Da (father) and 3 brothers (twins and a younger brother). There is nothing abnormal (physically) about Fergal, except that he fantasizes ‘boys’ in school and he does not play ’football’. Unlike his popular athletic brothers especially the sport-obsessed twins having acquired the genes from their father (who played ‘hurling’ before his unexpected marriage), Fergal is the exact opposite of the twins, being tall, slim, and a bit gangly. Because of the pressures (physically and emotionally) from a dysfunctional family, Fergal feels tired of doing households with his mother (without any help from his brothers) after she spends all day cooking and cleaning for other people in the town. He thinks everyone in the house that he is not doing anything right.

WHEN his Granny becomes too ill, his Mammy has to look after her as ‘carer’ which brings additional burden to the family. With the new government scheme for caring elderly family member, the carer is provided with an allowance which gives additional income to the Flynn‘s family. With his mother‘s decision, Fergal take the opportunity to look after his Granny and stays with her during his O-level year. He spends most of his time attending her daily needs, including the regular purchase of ‘alcohol’ from the nearby store. This also brings the opportunity to know his ailing grandmother closely, including his late grandfather whom he got his name and lovely eyes. He found from his Granny that his late grandfather also loves to sing.

HIS singing talent was discovered by Fr Mac during his regular walks near their parish church. He harmonises with the sound of siren from the ambulance echoing in the area. Fr. Mac as a town priest befriended with Fergal and encouraged him to hone his talent. They became best of friends and it led to a forbidden relationship. With the persistence request and encouragement from Fr Mac, Fergal was convinced to have a regular rehearsal with him (not in bed) but with accompany of a piano. Consequently, he sings every Sunday mass celebration which somehow brought a significant impact to the church goers. With the help of Fr Mac, Fergal had the opportunity to prove his talent when Sligo Abbey (thru Bro Vincent, a monk) got him as a guest tenor in the recording of their songs. This paved the way for him to meet and to be tutored in Italy by a former Italian opera singer, Alfredo Moretti.

IN preparation for his travel abroad, Fergal faced several obstacles - giving him to doubt that Fr Mac’s hardworks will put in vain. The death of his grandmother, the attacked of his brother for not wearing the jacket (which made him fatherless), the approval of his parents (especially her mom, for signing the passport application form), and raising the money for his airfare (by having his first solo performance in the town) made the arrival of Fergal Flynn to Italy come true. On the other hand, it is also his ultimate battle to continually show his love and affection for Fr Mac while embracing the opportunities around him while in Italy through the generosity of his future mentor, Alfredo.

My Personal Reflection:
IN general, ‘sexuality’ is a sensitive issue that every single family member has to face; unfortunately it is not being discussed openly with members, especially with parents. Being gay, lesbian, homo or queer is ‘taboo’ during the past 20 years which brings this people into emotionally disturbed individuals - having the dilemma of being caught or tagged as faggots. With the massive worldwide campaigns for recognizing this segment of the society as normal individuals, fortunately nowadays homosexuality is being embrace not a ‘disease‘, but rather a way of life - way back in the ancient times that men are having sex with other men. However, we can not argue that gays are in the limelight in the current spread of HIV and AIDS. With the present medical records show that gays are vulnerable for acquiring this virus that affects the immune system of the human body due to unprotected sex practices and drug usage.

THE author has illustrated the two faces of being gay. First, he recognises the difficulty of the person to be accepted by the society especially in a community where the influence of religion is very strong. Brian Kennedy also able to show the struggle and confusion of young children in the society if you are not playing football games or any sport, it shows that you are not a true fella. Somehow, with the association of Fergal to his mother and granny doing household chores (instead of playing with mates) show his femininity than his masculine character, which in general I believe is a contributory/influential factor for children to behave as ‘girls’. Secondly, the author has able to highlight the talents, strengths and potentials of Fergal despite his character. Gays or lesbians are normal people, the only difference with the rest of the populace is that they love to have sexual relationships with same sexes, away from the normal norm of the society that man is to woman and woman is to man. As normal ‘homo sapiens’ they have feelings, emotions, hopes and ambitions in life. They can be competitive academically, socially, politically and physically (like in sports).

I think falling in love with the same number of XY chromosomes is not a crime which hinders (or threatens) the individuals to hope for the betterment of his family and himself. Every individual has different sexual preferences for everyone’s satisfaction, or rather to have a happy, better sex life - away from the rule accepted by the society.

The Book Highlights:
IT is a heart-breaking journey about coming into terms with our ‘sexuality’ and to be accepted by the people whom we loved and cared. It also reminds us of the importance of believing on our own potentials - to be used for opening doors for opportunities around us. Being gay is not a disease - something that people will avoid or scares them or afraid of. It is something the society has to embrace it and deal with it open-mindedly. Believe it or not, most of the people who are popular, successful and rich are (rumored) to be gays! It is a timely novel that could be linked to the recent legal approval of homosexual marriage in the UK which brings controversies with the Roman Catholic Church. And also it brings attention worldwide to the disputes of parish priests and spiritual leaders of the community for their sexual harassments or relationships with kids, especially in schools operated by religious groups.

THE book is a well written literary genre, which vividly describes the place where the story happened - Belfast, Northern Ireland. Through the pages, it builds up the detailed physical description of the city, including the prominent landmarks that you will still find today. Some of the significant accounts of events presented in the book are proofs of what was the real situation/atmosphere during the town’s riots, burnings and bombings in the early 80s in Belfast. The love of Irish people for drinking and football are also introduced in the story, but on the other hand, it also brings facts that the country has beautiful places to offer, not to mention its adorable good-looking men and women!

P.S. The sequel, ‘Roman Song’ gives the continuing discoveries of Fergal, accepting himself for being gay and at the same believing, shaping himself to change his future through his talent in singing. It also brings exciting revelations for Fergal about his mentor, Alfredo and being instrumental to heal the wounds of Alfredo’s past.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

ChickLit...Ladies' writers on the run!

I FOUND AN INTERESTING SITE just created few months ago set-up by one lady (Leah) and being powered by wordpress to share her passion in book reading. Another lady, Chloe (a dooyoo member like me) joined Leah to share her passion as well and this is the reason why I found this site thru Chloe's dooyoo profile.

As the site's name, provides reviews of books mostly written by female writers. The site has a dedicated section for additional information about these authors, including a section for future interviews of these writers.

Unfortunately, I have not read any of the books listed in the site, so maybe it is also time to choose some of them and have a go. Honestly, I seldom read books written by female writers without any descrimination in mind. I dont know, but the appeal of the stories written by them is not strong compared to my favourite writers like Jeffrey Archer, Harlan Coben, James Patterson and Stephen King. I could remember three female writers that Ive read their novels: Mary Higgins Clark (majority of her books), Sarah Waters (Tipping the Velvet) and one of the short stories of Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain.

Clark's style of writing and stories made her in my top list of female American authors. I was influenced by my female boss, 17 years ago to read her novels. From then on, I was hooked with her stories highlighting the personalities of female characters and the supporting role of men in the stories. (Updates: My former boss way back in AIT just created her own blog and worth reading it: Musings of a Retiree). I will also feature thru my blog her passion in making Japanese "Origami" paper dolls and the books she loved!

Anyway, try a look of Leah's reviews as well as Chloe's favourite books. I think the site will be my future source of information for upcoming books of authors like Jodi Picoult and Stephenie Meyer.