Steve Berry: The Venetian Betrayal

This is the third book I have read authored by Steve Berry, the first being “The Third Secret” and the second being “The Templar Legacy”. This time, this book is about a fictitious organization called The Venetian League.

Like the previous two books, they have a bit of history in them. The Third Secret is about visions of the Virgin Mary and the Vatican and The Templar Legacy, is as it’s names suggests, something to do with the Knight Templars. This book though, has something to do with Alexander The Great, who conquered many countries, a bulk of it is under Asia.

Basically, it’s about a conspiracy between the current leader of the Venetian League, and the Supreme Minister of the Central Asia Federation (fictitious too). The Supreme Minister is this power obsessed lady who has been inventing biological weapons, and intends to follow in Alexander The Great’s footsteps in conquering certain countries near her Central Asia Federation. The leader of the Venetian League however, is more obsessed with making money and discovered a natural source of water filled with bacteria that instantly kills the HIV virus.

The book takes you through the same characters as The Templar’s Legacy, and you follow the exciting quest of going through many mysteries and getting near to Alexander’s grave and the place where the mystical water, also known as the draught, exists.

People get killed, people go missing and people are found. Elements like Greek fire are also inside and it’s a pretty interesting read. Like the previous two books, there are factual elements regarding the history behind the book and it’s all very interesting to me.

You can borrow it from the library!

William Bernhardt’s Strip Search

Before anybody thinks that the word Strip is something suggesting and not safe for work, let me clarify that this book has nothing to do with Stripping. Strip just refers to a general area in the book, or where the plot is located in.

I borrowed this book from the library and this is the first William Bernhardt’s book that I have read. I must say that he is a good author and I will definitely be finding books that he has authored.

Strip Search is actually of the “Thriller” genre. Basically it’s a detective book, where you have detectives running around trying to solve this mass murder that is happening all over town. The main protagonists are the criminal psychologist (in charge of getting the criminal profiling done), as well as the Chief of Police’s son, who isn’t nomal. If I remember correctly, he is autistic and is super brilliant at mathematics.

The criminal or criminals have been going around killing one person at a time, and every time one part of the body is left at the murder location, like an arm or the head or the skin of the skull or the heart. Everytime when the body is found, it is discovered that the body is branded. Which means the victim was forced to endure hot iron on their bodies which gave them a scar in the form of a letter in the alphabets.

The weird thing is, at every location, there is a particular mathematical formulae written down, which makes the detectives even more puzzled. In the end, the psychologist and the autistic son finds out many things that allow them to know when will a person be murdered, and who will get murdered. A spoiler, the victims are murdered on days where the date is a prime number. Everything is linked to mathematics, and it is a good book to read.

If you have time, just go down to your local library and borrow it.

How Starbucks Saved My Life By Michael Gates Gill

“How Starbucks Saved My Life” is a real story of Michael Gates Gill written by himself, in short, something like an autobiography in the form of a story. It’s about how Michael has gone from a huge salary in a successful advertising firm to nothing at all. At the same time, he had an affair and got divorced, and his life just seem totally screwed.

He got a way out of the whole mess when an African American came up to him when he was drinking his coffee at Starbucks, and asked him, “Would you like a job?”. Although he is a white man, Michael said “Yes” and an interview took place.

The story is about how he started off from nothing, and then becoming Starbuck’s partners (which is the better name of workers) in one of Starbucks many stores. From being a wonderful cleaner at Starbucks to challenging his fear of the cashier counter, from calling out the drinks in correct order to making the drinks himself, Michael learnt many life lessons and became a happier person, even though he isn’t earning as much compared to when he was at the advertising firm.

He learnt to overcome his fear of counting money and went from 5 dollars loss at the end of the day to a few cents of loss. He learnt some customer relations, that you never deny anyone the toilet, whether he or she is a Starbucks customer or not, or chase anyone away during closing time. Through his chats with customers when he is at the cashier counter, he made many new friends and enjoyed the daily chats as he sees them everyday and knows what coffee they want, decaf or not.

It’s a story of how he picked his life up together, and even managed to get his children to forgive him and come to see him at the store. Eventually he became a Coffee Master and he gets to brew coffee once every week and give free samples of brewed coffee to anyone walking by any Starbucks store. Coffee Masters have to be trained and they have to be able to be really good with the different versions of coffee, the taste, their histories, etc.

In short, this books tell us how Starbucks key principles and treatment to partners and customers alike are lessons we should all learn in life. I guess that is the reason why there are so many Starbucks books written about its management and policies.

This is a great book to read. Trust me. 🙂

More Links:
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Book: The Templar Legacy by Steve Barry

This is another book I read recently by Steve Barry, the other one being "The Third Secret" which I reviewed earlier last week. I must say I enjoyed "The Third Secret" more, but this is an exciting book too.

In a nutshell, this is a story about The Knight Templar’s treasures. The Knight Templars were Knights, basically, who patrols the roads for pilgrims and keep them save from bandits and bad people. The Knight Templars became very powerful in the end, and can rival any state, if I remember correctly. However in the 1300s, the French King imprisoned The Knight Templars and convicted them of many crimes which the Knight Templar’s confessed after torture. The master of the Knight Templars moved the treasures away and the location of the treasures were long gone. Hence the story is about the quest to find the treasure of the Knight Templars. (This doesn’t seem to be in a nutshell. Hmm)

Anyway, the story has the protagonist, and the antagonist. The antagonist is the Marshall of the Knight Templars who became the Master after the previous Master died. This new master wants to reclaim the glory of the Templars and make the Templars as powerful as the good old days, bearing in mind its 700 years ago. However this Master is evil because he sacrifices many of his brothers to achieve his aim.

On the other side, the protagonist side has Cotton and Stephanie. Stephanie’s husband is a fanatic in the sense that he followed the clues and actually found the location of the Knight Templar’s treasure, except that he told no one and he committed suicide. Stephanie, who got interested in the entire saga when her husband’s journal was sent to her, gets embroiled in all the action. The whole story is a cat and mouse game to see who finds the treasure first. However the Master’s way to find the treasure is to wait for Cotton and gang to find it first.

Things get complicated when Stephanie’s long lost son is actually not dead, but was formerly the second in command of the Knight Templars. With her help, Mark (the son) found the treasure, defeated the evil Master (actually he killed him in a "duel"), and became the next Master.

I don’t really enjoy this book as much because it’s pretty confusing to read as compared to "The Third Secret". And perhaps I enjoy reading Vatican stuff more than The Knight Templars. No matter what, I think The Knight Templar is a exciting subject to read more on. Read this book if you’re bored during the holidays. 🙂

The Third Secret By Steve Berry

I borrowed this from the library a week or two ago. I wasn’t looking at that particular section of the shelf, but when my eyes scanned past I thought I saw a “Da Vinci” or so, and I just picked the book up. The front page of this book has a quote from The Roanoke Times saying “Da Vinci Code fans will flock to this story…. An excellent, tightly plotted thriller.”

I was curious and in need of a nice read, so I borrowed it. All I can say is that I was then bound to the book and only able to stop reading to go for my daily online activities.

This book is primarily set in the Vatican, and the story include Popes, Papal Secretaries and people trying to be pope. It’s a fascinating read. It’s about the current pope being obsessed with this sheet of paper containing the third secret from a seer. Apparently, Virgin Mary came to her and two other people and spoke to them. Of which the first two secrets were revealed but the last was not.

It’s about how the Pope sent his Papal Secretary to investigate certain elements, and how the third secret will change the church forever. Also present in this book is the hidden scheme of an evil cardinal who plots to become Pope when the current one dies (he committed suicide).

The author also ended off with an author’s note, and he specificially mentioned which parts were fiction, and it is interesting to note that the “secrets” were real, as in people did see the mother of God and passed on the message etc. It is also interesting to know that older customs require the Carmenlengo needing to knock three times on the dead Pope’s head with a silver hammer and asking if the Pope has died.

I feel that this is an interesting read, particularly when the Da Vinci Code has spurred an interest in reading anything to do with the Vatican. Perhaps I should do more readings on the Vatican and understand the church better. I always wonder why the official church is a Catholic Church, but there are so many branches of teachings like Protestants (is that spelled correctly?) blabla. And why does it matter with the means of communicating through to God, via Jesus or Virgin Mary? I don’t know, I should read more. Or anyone can explain?

Overall it’s a pretty neat book to read. I will definitely go and borrow other Steve Barry’s books. I am looking forward to reading “The Templar Legacy”. 🙂

National Library Board – Hunting books in the library

Well guys, if you ever wanted to check if a book is available in the library, you can use their catalogue. Yes, this is the one that’s in all the library computers.

I had a really fun time hunting down books today in the Jurong Regional Library (at the Jurong East MRT Station). The reason is because the codes are all confusing.

1. R is for reference, whether they write it or not.
When you search for books, sometimes they will put the words REFERENCE on the screen so you know. However, sometimes they only put the letter R under the location. R means reference by the way. The most stupid thing is, they did not put any explanation on what the location codes mean at most of the level 2 search terminals. I went to the level 3 terminals to look at the codes.

2. Y is for young adult
Where will it be? I thought it would be at the fiction section or near it. However its not. Its at level 4 where its called Vergingallteens. I do not know why they like to stick the words together because at first glance I thought its vergingal teens. What is vergingal I do not know.

Its getting difficult to search for books there. I guess I have to memorize all the location codes..Haha..

However, the library is still a good place to be in because I saved plenty of money lending books instead of buying them.

Does buying from Amazon give you huge savings?


Many books that you buy tell you that Amazon is the worlds number 1 online bookstore, and that it is able to give you substantial savings as compared to your local bookstore? But is that true? I will now take the journey to calculate the costs for all readers:

The costs are based on two different books. The first one is “Smart Start-Ups: How to make a fortune from starting online communities” by David Silver. The second book is “Multiple Streams of Internet Income” by Robert G. Allen.

Now the cost of the 1st book in Amazon.com is US$16.47.You save about 34% buying from Amazon.com.

The cost of the 2nd book in Amazon.com is US$16.47. You also save 34% buying from Amazon.com.

The total cost of these 2 books is: US$32.94

International Shipping Charges (>source):
1 shipment: US$6.99
2 books: US$9.98

The total cost of getting these 2 books is: US$49.91
In Singapore dollars (using current exchange rate of US$1 = S$1.51411): S$75.57

Now I will be checking the price from Kinokuniya Book Web:

1st book (Kinokuniya offers paper back whist Amazon’s is hard cover):S$33.44

2nd book: S$45.94

Total cost buying from Kinokuniya: S$79.38
You save: S$3.81

Is that substantial? I doubt it. It takes about 4 weeks for Amazon to ship that item to you, of which I believe we would rather buy from Kinokuniya then wait.

However, Singapore has its own VPost USA service where you make Amazon ship to the VPost outlet in the US, and then VPOST will ship your items back for you. Here is the shipping charges for VPost.

The 2 books are eligible for Free Supersaver shipping in the United States. (They fulfill the minimum order of US$25 for the supersaver shipping). Thus lets assume that shipping costs are zero. (I think it should be zero since its called free) Then the cost of shipping the 2 books to the location in the US (inclusive of book cost) is US$32.94 = S$49.87

Using the shipping rates at mentioned in the VPost link:
1 shipping : S$12.22
2 books: $8.14 (If you use their shipping calculator it will be twice as much, but I believe its a mistake because the website states clearly that calculation is $8.14 * round up of (number of books divided by 2)

The total cost for everything is now S$70.23. However, GST charges apply.

Total cost of product:S$49.87 = A
Total shipping charges: S$20.36 = B
Cost, Insurance and Freight: A + (A+B)* 0.02 = S$51.27
Since the total CIF is not above 400 dollars, we need not pay GST.

Thus the total cost is still S$70.23. You save S$9.15.

Is that huge savings? Well you get the book about a week later, so I guess 10 dollars savings is very important. However Amazon.com doesn’t seem to be very clear if there is going to be tax on the shipping within US. I doubt so actually.

The conclusion is: You can get a bit of savings here and there and the more you buy, the more you will save. However, do take note that there is free supersaver shipping that is why there is no charges on shipment within US. Perhaps if you buy the books from other merchants in Amazon that sells used and new books, you can get a much cheaper price.