Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

I heard about this book from Book Whales (click to read her review), and it intrigued me. Happily, the library had a copy ^^

The Murder Complex follows Zephyr James and Meadow Woodson, two very special individuals in a dystopian society run by an organisation (a government? Which is the correct term?) called the Initiative.. Zephyr is a Ward, which (as far as I can tell), means that he's an orphan and does the dirty work like clearing the corpses that build up. However, Zephyr has a secret - he kills people. He doesn't know why, but every now and then, he wakes up with a body lying next to him. Meadow is trying to help her family survive by taking a job with the Initiative. Thankfully, her father's training helped her to pass the test. But when Zephyr and Meadow meet, they discover (apart from the instant attraction on Zephyr's part) that something is going on behind the scenes. And it involves them.

Here's what I liked about the book:

Meadow's character. She's trained to survive (and that includes killing when necessary), and her character is exactly what you'd expect. She doesn't have a "hidden soft-side" or go teary-eyed and sentimental at the drop of a hat. In fact, she's quite hard-hearted when need be, and I thought it was very appropriate for someone with her background. Kudos to the author for not trying to soften her.

Zephyr and Talan's friendship. Talan is a friend of Zephyr, and I really liked seeing how these two people had such a strong bond. No, there wasn't any romance, just friendship. It was really really refreshing.

The mystery. There is a mystery in this book (though it's not a murder mystery), and I like how it unravelled. There were quite a few twists and turns, which made the book very addictive.

But, there were some things that I wasn't so crazy about. Like:

The instalove (Sorry Book Whales, I'm going to disagree with you here). I feel that, at least on Zephyr's side, the instalove was fairly strong. I mean, Zephyr has been dreaming of Meadow even before he met her, and he keeps talking about how perfect she is. Thankfully, Meadow didn't do the same, so I only had to endure this for Zephyr's half of the book.

The treatment of Meadow's mom. Without giving away spoilers, let's just say that I found the treatment of Meadow's mom to be too contradictory. Her character, and her relationship with Meadow seem to flip flop, and since it was part of the action-packed finale, was rather unconvincing.

Overall: I liked the book. I'll even read book 2 is I can get my hands on it (this feels like the start of a series). There might have been some things that I'm not crazy about, they weren't so major as to thoroughly dissuade me from continuing the series, or reading other books by this author.

If you're looking for a different opinion, try the review over at A Page of Heaven

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Germanicus Mosaic by Rosemary Rowe

I'm so excited for today's Teaser Tuesday because it's a teaser of a book that I've been looking for for a long time! I read this Roman mystery once, then forgot the title and author. All I knew was that I really enjoyed it. After much hunting, I think the series is the Libertus series by Rosemary Rowe. And it's only found at one library in Singapore ^^;

So today, I finally got my hands on three of the books! Here's my teaser:

"The question of the murder was settled to his satisfaction, perhaps. I was no so sure."(Page 170)

I'm really enjoying the book so far!

What are your teasers?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Born Reading by Jason Boog

When I read the introduction, I thought this was going to be a stuffy book. I'm not sure why, since it talks about how he used his reading journey with his daughter, but I suppose the style of writing and the repeated use of the term "interactive reading" scared me a little. But, when I actually started reading this book, I was surprised by how easy to read it was.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm reading this book when I'm neither a parent nor expecting (I'm not even married or attached!), it's because:

a. I have a little brother who's 10 years younger than me, and I was hoping I could learn something that I can use while reading with him when I'm back in Singapore and
b. I want to teach more kids English, and I do think that if I prepare myself, the students will come.

Does Born Reading give me any useful information? I think so.

This book basically promotes something called Interactive Reading, which basically, is reading to your child while asking questions. I do this with my bro, so yay!

But for me, the real value of the book lies in its exploration on how to mix traditional print book with ebooks or apps. While a lot of the app recommendations are targetted for babies and toddlers (I only found a few websites my brother can use in the last chapter), there is a compelling story of how to raise up a reader in this technology age.

I really enjoyed reading Jason Boog's story of how he turned an app into a full-on experience (you can do related activities too), and his very thorough recommendations on which apps to use, and for what. He also has something called a Reading Kit that may interest parents.

Overall, I really like this book. There's a lot of sound advice, and I think it manages to tread the middle-line between an electronic-device ban and using an iPad as a babysitter.

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Quiet Vendetta by R.J. Ellory

For a book I picked up on a whim, it was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I definitely wasn't expecting much - a normal thriller/police procedural, but not something that drew me in this much.

This book starts with a murder. But not just any murder, the guy's had his heart cut out and placed back in. Plus, someone drew the sign of Gemini on his back. At the same time, Catherine Ducane, the daughter of Governor Ducane (Governor of Louisiana) disappears. When the kidnapper calls, he makes a strange request: he doesn't want money, he wants to talk to Ray Hartmann to tell him his story. Ray Hartmann is a cop who made a few mistakes and is now trying to get his family back together. The last thing he wants to do is to get involved in this case, but he has no choice.

Personally, I didn't enjoy the starting of the novel. It struck me as oddly detached, and the main character didn't even appear Chapter 4 (page 49). That meant for the first few chapters, I had no idea who the main characters were, since they seemed to keep changing, and no idea what was going on.

But, I persevered with the book and slowly, it turned into a rewarding read. For me, the best part of the book has to be the kidnapper's story. He retells his entire life story, from his birth in New Orleans, to the present, and it's complex. It's dark, it involves the mafia, it involves politics, it involves some of the most sensational murders of all time, it's basically a standalone story.

I'm not even sure why the book went through all the trouble of placing this story into another one. The kidnapping/murder case didn't make much progress because the suspect was right there, taking his own sweet time confessing.

While there is a whole cast of characters, only the kidnapper (Perez) and Ray were truly fleshed-out characters, to me, the rest of the characters didn't stand out at all. The rest were more like props than supporting actors. But that could be because both Perez and Ray were such deeply troubled men that their troubles stole the show and prevented other characters from fully developing (at least, not without expanding the novel by another couple hundred pages).

Overall, this is a worthwhile read. Hidden behind the slow start and what seems like a normal police procedural is an entrancing tale of the underbelly of the world. Sure, it's a work of fiction (and I'm glad it's a work of fiction), but it does a good job of transporting you to another side of life.