Friday, October 12, 2018

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

I don’t know why this is a classy thriller (or what a classy thriller even is) but this was good!

Black Eyed Susan follows Tessa, the only survivor of a serial killer. Dubbed ‘black eyed susan’ because she was found in a field of those flowers, Tessa does her best to give her and her daughter a normal life. But, she suspects that the man she helped put in prison is actually innocent, and as she helps his defence team, things happen. Things that suggest that maybe, just maybe, the killer is still out there.

The book follows Tessa in the present day and Tessa in 1995, just before the trial. Since it’s the same person, it was pretty easy to follow the narrative.

So Tessa is actually working through a lot of trauma, both then and now, and she’s trying to recover her lost memories. I thought having the chapters alternate between her past and present self was a good way to show how similar but different she has become.

While most of the book got me riveted, I’ve got to admit that the first chapter was confusing. I actually thought that present day Tessa was still very young, despite what it said on the blurb because she referred to herself as a ‘waif’ and that’s normally used for young women.

And while I like most of the story, I wasn’t really a fan of Tessa’s romance. It didn’t feel very necessary but I am not really a fan of most romance subplots so there’s that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. The black eyed Susans were present throughout the story and made it slightly creepy. And while the ending wasn’t as explosive as I thought, it was still satisfying.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

One of my favourite memories from when I was younger would be the smell of the library. While we never haunted it as frequently as the author of this book, going there was always a treat and now, I make it a point to visit the library regularly (although this is more for sanity and cost-saving reasons). And so, with a title like this, how could I resist requesting it from NetGalley? I barely needed to read that it was about the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library before I was hooked.

The Library Book has two stories: the first is the history of the Los Angeles Public Library - how it started and how it grew, and the second is, as mentioned before, on the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Obviously, I found this fascinating. Of the two stories, I thought the story of the Los Angeles library to be more interesting. While I've never been to that particular library, I can definitely see the beauty of it and I love how all the people working there are so passionate about the library. The book definitely brings the library to life.

On the other hand, I thought the story about the 1986 fire was a bit of a let down. Perhaps its because I thought this was a solved mystery (the way the book opens definitely implies that Harry Peak is the culpirt) and so the sudden open end was a bit of a shock. Or maybe it's because the book alternates between the history and workings of the library and the 1986 fire, which means that the case never really has time to build up steam. In any case, I found that I would have much preferred to read about about the library with this case being just a small component of it, rather than half the book.

Overall, I thought that this was a beautiful tribute to libraries, and to the Los Angeles Public Library in particular. While I'm not sure if the libraries in Singapore work the same way, I found it very eye-opening to read about how libraries in America work, how they used to work, and how they are changing for the future.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Chopping Block by John Passarella

Since I quite enjoyed the first Grimm novel, despite some complaints, I decided to read the second book in the series - The Chopping Block. Set between "The Waking Dead" and "Goodnight Sweet Grimm", this book features a secret Wesen society.

It all starts when bones are found. Portland may be weird, but cooked bones are disturbing, even to Nick and Hank. As more cooked bones are found, Nick, Hank, and Monroe find themselves on the trail of a secret, cannibalistic Wesen society.

The subplot has Juliette trying to find out the cause of a dog's sickness. I don't like Juliette and it's got nothing to do with the main plot, but it was pretty cute. She didn't really intefere with the main plot too, which is a bonus.

I found that I enjoyed this more than the first book. This is mostly because Hank was much less annoying. In The Icy Touch, Hank was all about revealing the Wesen world to outsiders, which is obviously something that Should Not Be Done. Here, Hank didn't do anything like that; I suspect it's more to do with his injuries than anything else, but it was refreshing.

Like with The Icy Touch, I really enjoyed how Monroe is such a big part of the book. We get to see a bit more about Monroe's journey to becoming a Wieder Blutbad and how hard it is. It was a pretty good way to know more about the Wesen world, and it worked very well as part of the main plot.

If you liked The Icy Touch, or even if you didn't really like it but still like Grimm, you might want to check this out. I think this is a bit truer to the series than the first book and it was fun to read.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Village Diary by Miss Read

After the extremely enjoyable Village School, I made sure to pick up the second book in the series - Village Diaries - the next time I went to the library. Much like the first book, Village Diaries is another year-round account of Miss Read's life as the headmistress of the school at Fairacre. While much of the year is the same, a reunion with an old friend and a newcomer to the village provide plenty of drama.

Many familiar characters appear in this book, such as Joseph Coggs, Mr Willet, and Mrs Pringle, with a few new characters appearing. Most of the book is told from Miss Read's point of view, as she is the one chronicling everything in her new journal. Luckily for us, someone told her about Jim Waites' trap for Arthur Coggs (Joseph's father) because that account of an unsuccessful theft was hilarious. I did miss hearing from Mrs Coggs, Joseph, and the other characters, though. I thought they added a nice amount of variety, since Miss Read can't possibly be everywhere.

I mentioned in my previous review that the book doesn't shy away from mentions about difficult situations. While this book still remains light, there is considerably more discussion about less happy topics, such as funding issues for rural schools, sexism, and even domestic abuse. In the first few pages, there's even talk about how "civility... was a vital necessity to a wage-earner". Sadly, these things seem to be taken as normal by most people.

Overall, Village Diaries manages to keep the same charming and cozy tone as the first book, while managing to introduce a bit more about the hardships of life in that particular period of time. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this series.