Friday, September 29, 2017

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler

I can't remember why this particular title in the Bryant and May series was in my TBR list, but it sounded like something I was in the mood for so I decided to pick it up. And guess what? A strange mystery involving our odd detectives was what I wanted to read.

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart starts with what appears to be a zombie rising from the grave. Obviously this freaks out the poor boy and the girl he was trying to impress. But then said boy is murdered and Bryant is convinced that there is a link. The only thing is that the department has a new boss and she only speaks organisational jargon (and I really laughed when I read her first lines).

Like the previous book I read, this story takes a meandering course as Bryant goes after not only a murderer but also the person who stole the ravens at the Tower of London. It very much mimics his thought pattern and made for and interesting read. I did wonder if I would find the ending a bit too unbelievable but I realised that every conclusion Bryant reached made sense (even if he didn't follow proper investigation protocols).

I'm also started to get a better sense of the supporting characters. Bryant and May I liked from the start, but now I can picture Raymond Land (the reluctant boss without authority), Janice Longbright and Renfield (although I found Renfield's daughter to have a stronger personality), and Meera. There's still one or two that didn't leave much of an impression, but I'm sure that this will rectify itself if I continue reading about the Peculiar Crimes Unit.

If you're interested in an off-beat mystery with a cast of odd and mostly lovable characters, you'll want to pick up this book (and I suppose the whole series). I found this to be an easy and interesting read and I will definitely be reading more of this series, although I doubt I'd be reading it in order. (That might mess up some character subplots but I think the books should be able to work as standalones too)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Notes from an Even Smaller Island by Neil Humphreys

Decided to take a trip down memory lane and reread this! I remember it being side-splittingly funny and luckily my memory isn't as bad as I feared. If you haven't heard of the book before, Notes from an Even Smaller Island is basically a collection of essays by Neil Humphrey, an ang moh who moved to Singapore from Britain.

I remember the book being funny the first time round, but I didn't remember it making such good points. The book actually tackles issues like depending on filial piety to support the elderly, education in Singapore and even the kampung spirit (of course, there are many chapters on the funny people that Neil knows so this is by no means a serious book). I found that I agreed with a lot of his points and I like that he made them with humour.

On thing that I particularly liked was when he was talking about our (and expats) tendency to congregate together. In Singapore, expats tend to have their own enclaves. Overseas, Asians tend to stick together. This isn't a bad thing, but I do agree with Neil that it's a bit of a waste if you do overseas and end up replicating the life and social circle that you had back home.

Also, I did not realise that as recently as 2001 (ok that isn't so recent) there were Singaporeans who would go on tour to America and have Chinese food for almost every meal! That is seriously inconceivable to me (and I think many people now) and I'm glad that we've outgrown that (I hope).

The book does feel a little dated because he's describing a snapshot of Singapore, but there is so much warmth and humour here that I found myself enjoying this reread as much as I did the first time. In fact, I may have enjoyed it more this time round.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

I'm so glad that I started this NetGalley book on my off day, when I decided not to go out because this book was un-putdownable!

Emma in the Night starts when Cass comes back after having disappeared three years ago. But right from the start, one can tell that Cass is an unreliable narrator, because she talks about how she has to make people believe that Emma is alive.

The other narrator is Dr. Abigail Winter, a forensic psychologist working for the FBI. Cass and her sister Emma's disappearance has always haunted her because she recognises that Cass and Emma's mother is a narcissist, like hers. So when Cass reappears and claims that her sister is still being held captive, she knows that she has to get to the bottom of the case.

The book alternates between Cass and Dr. Winters and this leads to constant tension. Cass reveals a bit of the past, Dr. Abigail shows where the investigation is going, and bit by bit, the truth starts to come out.

Where this book excels is in its depiction of Cass and Emma's family and how dysfunctional they are. Cass is not the perfect character, but as I read on, I really felt for her. In most cases, I would probably dislike her because come on, her first action is her lying to her family and that is not a save the car moment, but because I saw how damaged she was, I ended up rooting for her even through her worst actions.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed this book, I'm finding it hard to write to put this into words. It's quite hard to write details about the plot or characters without giving spoilers away, so I'm just going to end by encouraging everyone who loves thrillers to give it a go.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Alice in Wonderland Tea

It's a rare Sunday post from me! Well, I finally have something book-related that is not a review that I wanted to share. I suppose I could share this any day of the week but I have this "weekdays are for reviews" mentality. Anyway, I bought these today: 

Alice in Wonderland tea!! Even though I really shouldn't be buying more (because I already have way too much to drink), I just couldn't resist these!

I really love the details on the packaging, from the top of the box

To the little message on the lid.

I decided to open up one packet of Alice Grey Tea (which is basically Earl Grey Tea) and I really love the design on the packet too. Is it bad that I want to save everything?

I thought the tag at the end was cute as well.

The tea was delicious too. It was very fragrant (I could smell the oil once I opened the box), but it didn't taste too overpowering and I really enjoyed my mug of tea. Yes, I use a mug because a cup simply isn't enough. I can't wait to try the breakfast tea too(:

By the way, each box cost me about 200 yen, which I find really cheap. If you're in Japan, you can check out the nearest Kaldi - that's where I found these. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

I can't remember how I heard of this book but it was on hold and the words "Stoker and Holmes" meant that I was definitely going to give it a shot. Oh, and it's not the Stoker and Holmes that you're thinking about.

The Clockwork Scarab stars Mina Holmes (Sherlock Holmes' niece) and Evaline Stoker (Bram Stoker's sister) who are forced to work together to find out who is behind a series of murders.

And I do mean forced. The two girls have completely different personalities and they clearly don't like each other. Most of the investigation also proceeded independently, though I do like how there was a slight thawing of their frosty relationship at the end (not quite a friendship because that would be unbelievable).

So about these murders: someone is murdering well-bred young ladies and leaving a strange Egyptian scarab near their bodies. Irene Adler (yes, the Woman) is tasked by the Crown to solve the case and she, in turn, recruits the two protagonists.

The story is told through both Mina and Evaline's point of view, which I quite enjoyed. Both their voices are very distinct and being able to get into both their heads meant that I liked both of them. I probably prefer Evaline a little bit more, as Mina has a much clearer superiority complex, but I liked both girls and I look forward to seeing how they, and their friendship, develop.

The only character I didn't quite get and basically thought was useless was Dylan. He was so obviously from the future (guess it the minute I saw him) and didn't really have a presence in the story. He did provide a key piece of information but I thought the other two male characters were more entertaining.

Since I mentioned 'the future' and that the girls are related to Holmes and Stoker, I guess it's pretty obvious this book is set in Victorian England. This society runs on steam, not electricity, and I really enjoyed the little details about how it worked. There isn't any info-dumping, but I had a pretty good sense of what it was like by the end of the book.

All in all, I enjoyed this. It's the first book in a series and I would definitely pick up the second (when I remember), because I'm curious to know how these two girls will change over time. If you like mystery, steampunk and you're a fan of Holmes and/or Stoker, you'll probably enjoy this book.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Planted by the Waters by Leslie Quahe

This book was given to me by one of my friends!  It's a collection of stories from Leslie Quah's life. The title is a reference to Psalms 1:1-3, which says:

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates Day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields it's fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."

But to be honest the title reminds me more of the song:

"I'm gonna be like a tree, planted by the waters, trusting in the Father to keep me strong"

Which is based on the Psalm so all's good, I guess?

Like I mentioned at the start, this is a collection of Leslie Quah's experience and how the Lord has always been taking care of him. Each story is short, so you can use it as a quick method of reminding yourself about the goodness of the Lord.

The only thing I wish was different was in how the stories were connected. I think the stories are told in chronological order, but they are not connected so it's like *boom* Harley Davidson, *boom* pro golfer, and I'm like "when did you learn to ride a motorbike or play golf?"

Apart from that minor quibble, I thought this was a really good book! It's an encouraging read and Leslie's faith is something that we all can learn from.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Truthers by Geoffrey Girard

"The vastness of the internet allows people - no matter what their views - to crawl into the world's smallest teapot of those exact same views. Visiting only the websites and people that agree completely with your take, everyone spouting the same stuff."
I really don't know what to make of this book. I picked it up because the premise was interesting, but halfway through it felt like it was pro-conspiracy theorist. Then the second half had logic and it felt like the conspiracy-part was going to be proven wrong but the ending was (spoiler alert!) sort of conspiracy theory-ish, although the conspiracy was (SPOILER ALERT) not about 911.

Let me start from the beginning. Katie's father is taken away after he made threats about Dick Cheney. When she goes to visit him in a mental hospital, he reveals the 'truth' that she is actually the lone survivor of 9/11, and that 9/11 was perpetuated by the American government so it could go to war. In order to prove that her father is sane (because apparently if she can prove that sane people can be truthers it means her father is sane), Katie starts to investigate his claims. And probably because it would make the book very short to just investigate and dismiss the claims, the reader is immediately informed that there is, in fact, a shadowy group of people following her, which lends credence to her father's claims. 

I suppose that the good thing about the book is that it really goes into the conspiracy theorist culture. Katie falls for it (despite what she says by the time that the book hits the halfway mark, it's clear that she either believes it or she's very close to believing in it) and it shows that the internet age hasn't reduced information. If anything, it's spread it. 

That said, it felt like the book was pro-conspiracy theorist/truther for most of the book. In fact, I deeply considered stopping the book because it didn't feel unbiased (I know that the author tried to be objective but at that point I just wasn't feeling it). If Max (the guy that helps Katie out - obviously you know where this is going) didn't start speaking up and countering all her 'facts' with logic, I probably would have just stopped reading. 

Max, by the way, is my favourite character. He and Katie are the only two that felt real to me (I know she has friends but they didn't make much of an impression) and his level-headedness was what saved the book for me. It's a pity that his relationship with Katie was extremely predictable, although on the bright side, it wasn't insta-love.

On a completely random note, Max also speaks one line of really awkward Chinese. Luckily, they never claimed that he was fluent but just seeing it made me pause for a second. 

As for the ending, I found it a little confusing. I think I've gotten it, but I was really confused at first. Which, come to think of it, probably mirrors what Katie felt. All in all, this is a confusing book to rate. I obviously liked it enough that I finished it (and I find that I'm giving up on books more easily nowadays - perhaps I'm finally becoming more ruthless/protective of my reading time?) but it did give me a lot of sighing and 'why on earth are you buying into that' moments while I was reading it. 

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lost Classics edited by Michael Ondaatje, Michael Redhill, Esta Spalding, Linda Spalding

This book sounded interesting and I figured that I was either going to give up within 50 pages, or I'd love it so the most I'd waste is a little bit of time. Books about books tend to be polarising like that. Luckily for me, this book was under "love it" for me.

Lost Classics contains 74 recommendations from various authors (I've heard of two of them, have read maybe one). All the books recommended here are somehow lost, and some of them are just books that the authors met and was unable to read on their reading journey.

What I enjoyed about this book was the sheer variety of books that were recommended. Not every book appealed to me but plenty of them did and now I have a list of books that I'd want to read but probably won't get the chance to. And just so I've written them down somewhere, the books are:

- Too Late to Turn Back by Barbara Greene

- Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafoni

- Glimpses of World History by Jawaharla Nehru

- Classics Revisited by Kenneth Rexroth

- The Five Nations by Rudyard Kipling

- Bernadette, French Girl's Annual

- Beyond the Pawpaw Trees by Palmer Brown

- Address Unknown by Kressmann Taylor (sounds like a really powerful short story set in Nazi Germany)

- The Gate of Horn by G. R. Levy

- The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban (it sounds like a lost fairytale which is amazing)

- The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale

- The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout (apparently this book is set in Indonesia)

- Jigsaw by Sybille Bedford (sounds like a great autobiography)

The problem with having all these books on my TBR list is that they're lost. I hope that with the advent of the ebook, most of these books will once again be available to the general public. After all, one of the advantages of ebooks is that you don't have to print hundreds of books at a time, which means that you can have books available for the proverbial "long tail."

Fingers crossed.

P.s. Anyone have their own lost book? I have quite a couple but I'm working on getting a copy of them. It's a good thing that the internet exists because I doubt I'd find the books in Singapore or Japan (and anyway I need the internet to find their titles).

Some of my "lost classics"

- The Girl With the Green Ear by Margaret Mahy: It took me forever to find this book (which was really lovely and I reviewed it here), but it was totally worth it. It makes me want to go and find more of my personal "lost classics".

- The Year of Miss Agnes: I do not remember much about the book, except that it was about a wonderful teacher and I read it while on vacation or just before a vacation (to Genting - anyone used to go there all the time too?) and I don't know, it just stuck with me. Can't even describe why. And I remember the smell of fish.

- True Blue: Read with The Year of Miss Agnes and I went back to MG and snuck into the library to search for this.

- The Search for the Lost Keystone: Actually found this in Singapore, so yay! But I loved the description of the house in this book and that stuck with me for a long time. I also forgot the title but remembered it had the word "stone" in it and eventually found it. Rereading it was pure joy.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Girl with the Green Ear by Margaret Mahy

I was intending to ration these stories and read them slowly, but I read the first one, realised that I remembered it, read the second one, awoke another memory, and then ended up finishing the book in one sitting. And you know what? This was a fantastic trip down memory lane that scratched a book itch that I've been having for years.

The Girl with the Green Ear was one of the books that I somehow had and then lost when we moved houses. But one of the stories (Thunderstorms and Rainbows) stayed with me and I so badly wanted to read it again. I couldn't remember the title for a few years and would intermittently be seized with the urge to google for it. Eventually, I found the book.

To be honest, I was afraid that I remembered the wrong book. But luckily I didn't. Thunderstorms and Rainbows is about the town of Trickle, where it always rains. As you can imagine, this is not good for the tourism industry and the townspeople got so sick of all the complaining that they made it illegal to say "Goodness, it does rain here, doesn't it?"

One day, a rare visitor comes and says the forbidden words. So obviously Policewoman Geraldine has to arrest him. But then she finds out that this visitor likes the rain.

Thunderstorms and Rainbows is a charming little story that very clearly illustrates how changing your perspective on something can bring about huge changes.

Other stories, which are all equally delightful, include:

- the titular The Girl with the Green Ear, about a musician's daughter who leaves home to find a very special calling

- Don't Cut the Lawn, a tale about how it's ok to let lawns grow wild

- The Good Wizard of the Forest, a story about a wicked but lonely wizard with amazing baking skills (this was really poignant and I was a bit surprised at how much I felt for the wizard)

And a few more. About half the stories were like old friends while I realised I'd completely forgotten about the other half, but I enjoyed reading them all.

If you know a child who likes nature and/or reading, you might want to get this for them (if you can get your hands on a copy). Or perhaps get this for yourself, because you're never too old for a good story.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Man From the Train by Bill James

I requested this from NetGalley because I find true crime fascinating and I read that the author is a baseball statistician so I was hoping that this is a book that uses data to solve the crime. Unfortunately, while the cases are extremely tragic and told in a fascinating way, the book suffers from a lack of focus.

So from around 1900 to 1912, a series of murders started to take place near railway lines. All of them were senseless, cruel murders which had a few points in common - such as an axe being a weapon, no robbery, no warning, and a few more. The authors are convinced that this is the work of one man, something that the press only seemed to realise a few years after the murders start (and by then a few people had been convicted for the murders).

While I do agree that the there was probably a serial on the loose, I'm not really satisfied with the arguments made. There are sentences like "No source says so, but the Meadows family had to have hunting dogs; I just can't see a family like this not having hunting dogs" (used when hypothesising how the crime might have taken place) which are quite scary because I would not want anyone to assume things that cannot be proven as fact.

Plus I was expecting a more mathematical look at the crime and the closest that the book came to maths was to ask how many murders would one expect there to be with the characteristics of the crime and say "the mathematical answer is 0."

I don't know if I'm remembering my stats wrong but while the answer may by very close to zero, I wouldn't have expected an answer like this. I did expect the author to calculate the probability of such a case happening and then derive the number of murders so a flat out "answer is 0" with no working made me disappointed.

Narrative-wise, the book basically goes through all related crimes and only discusses the probable murder at the end. This is probably a personal preference but I wish only the relevant cases were discussed. There are a lot of murders as it is, and to read something horrific and then see something along the lines of "but we don't think this was part of the serial killing" feels like there wasn't much thought into what should have ended up in the book.

As for the murderer, he seems to have been identified with a gut feeling because all I saw was an account of his 'first case' which was like all the others. Not much else was presented to show how he was linked to the murders, although the authors did theorise that he's behind a gruesome killing in Kaifeck a few years later.

This book also has one of the strongest authorial voices that I've read and I suppose it's so that we end up believing what the author believes. I suppose whether you like or dislike the book will also depend a lot on whether you like the authorial voice and how heavy it was. Personally, I'm not a fan of the puns and the digressions but it didn't make me want to stop reading the book.

Basically, this book introduced me to this horrific crime that I never knew existed. I do agree with the authors that this was the work of a serial killer, but I'm not a fan of how the case was made and I'm not entirely convinced that the man that they fingered is the real culprit (although he did commit a terrible murder too). It's too bad that the book didn't use much maths to make a case - that would have been interesting.

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I got sent this book as part of a book exchange and I'm so glad I got it because it was an excellent and thought provoking read.

Being Mortal is a look at aging and death from the perspective of a doctor. Atul Gawande weaves studies and facts in between the stories of his patients and at the end, the story of his father. There are several topics but I think they can be grouped into two categories:

1. How should we, as a society, handle the problem of aging?

Nursing homes tend not to make their residents happy, because of the lack of autonomy and independence. But the people who chose the nursing homes tend to be the kids, who consider the question "do I feel okay leaving my parent here?" more than the question "will my parent feel happy here?"

The book looks at nursing homes today and explores several alternatives, also while talking about the effects of aging.

2. How far should doctors go when trying to save a life?

Medicine tends to focus on the promise of time (even if it's just a little more time), which may come at the expense of quality of life. But how do doctors know what balance to strike?

This requires talking to the patient and understanding their needs and wants. Ask them things like "how much pain/how far will you accept a deteriorating quality of life in order to get some extra time?"

And the answer will differ from person to person.

One guy said "as long as I can eat chocolate ice-cream and watch sports on TV."

Atul Gawande's father needed more, and so his ideal treatment plan would be very different from the previous guy. The idea is that by understanding what the patient means by "good life", the doctors and the family making medical decisions know how far they can go.

This is, obviously, a difficult conversation to have with anyone. But it is a necessary conversation to have because the patient's point of view and their family's will differ. One study mentioned showed that perspective matters - if you feel the end is near, you focus more on your immediate relationships and environment. On the other hand, if you feel you've got time, you'll be more willing to delay gratification for a payoff in the future.

Being Mortal deals with a very uncomfortable subject, but it is a book that everyone should read. Even if we assume that old age is far away, an accident or illness may strike at any time, because death makes no distinction between the old and the young.

If you like podcasts, you may want to listen to Atul Gawande's Reith Lectures, and Episode 101 (Title: Minka) of Reply All, which deals with the topic of nursing homes.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Teaser Tuesday - The Man from the Train by Bill James

I'm back with a Teaser Tuesday after what feels like forever! I've been finishing books before Tuesday/not reading a book on Tuesday and didn't really feel the urge to share. But I'm in the middle of a book now and thought I'd just share a teaser!

The book is The Man from the Train and basically tries to unravel/prove that one man was behind a string of gruesome axe-murders. It's really interesting, but I do with that the book is more focused.

"John Zoos, a Polish immigrant, worked in a plumbago mine, got home about dusk, found his family murdered. (The world plumbago is now only used for a flowering plant. A hundred years ago, however, it was primarily used for graphite)."
The teaser sort of shows one of the problems I have with the book - there are all these inserts that I don't really think are necessary.

What about you? What are you reading this week?

How to participate in Teaser Tuesday:  
•Grab your current read 
• Open to a random page 
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

I first heard about this book from someone on Dayre and I immediately wanted to read it because of:

1. The cover (quite rare for me), and

2. The rhyme, which I'm gonna quote so it can get into all of your heads.

Three dark queens
Are born in a glen
Sweet little triplets
Will never be friends

Three dark sisters
All fair to be seen
Two to devour
And one to be Queen

I was actually a bit scared to read this book because I saw that this book was really polarising and I've been giving up on books really easily lately. But as it turns out, I really loved this!

So basically the country in Three Dark Crowns believes that every queen is given triples by the goddess, and the three will grow up and one will kill the other two to become queen (until she gives birth).

In this generation, we have Katherine, the poisoner who has almost no ability to withstand poison; Arsinoe, who despite being a naturalist can't control nature; and Mirabella, who is the strongest of three and can actually control the elements she's meant to.

While it seems like Mirabella is definitely going to become Queen, each faction conspires to make their queen the Queen. For example, the poisoners have been ruling for the past few generations and they are determined that Katherine should become queen to solidify their rule. And as you can imagine, with all these secret agendas, each sister only hears misinformation about the other two.

While I normally root for the character I see first (which would be Katherine), I actually like Mirabella the best! She's the only one of the three who still cared for her sisters after all these years. The other two totally bought into the brainwashing, even if they weren't sure they could become queen. Plus she had the clearest growth arc of the three.

On the other hand, my least favourite character was Arsinoe, because she struck me as a bit whiny, didn't seem to have a lot of character growth and was way too dependent on her best friend, Jules. But I quite liked her by the end of the book so it was not like she permanently irritated me.

Quite a few of the reviews I saw mentioned that there were too many characters to remember, but I didn't have a problem with that. Everyone was pretty distinctive to me. Then again, I used to watch Ai (and all those ah ma shows which cover several generations) so maybe I'm just used to stuff like that.f

Overall, I really loved the book. It's basically the first book in a series so you should expect to see alliances formed and plots being set. (I suspect the next book will step up the pacing, though I have no problems with how it is here). I would have preferred for everything to be in one book, but that would have made it insanely long. So I'd just eagerly wait for the second book and hope the NLB gets it soon!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Only Dead on the Inside by James Breakwell

If you don't follow James Breakwell on Twitter, you should go do so. He's hilarious and I really love reading his tweets - I don't go on twitter often so I kinda "binge read" when I'm there which is often. So when I saw that he had a book on NetGalley I immediately requested it and put it on the front of my TBR list.

And luckily, it lived up to expectations!

I mean, a book is a lot longer than 140 characters. I wouldn't have been surprised if it ran out of steam halfway. But Breakwell did an excellent job of pacing the jokes and I laughed during every chapter.

Written in a pseudo-serious tone, Only Dead on the Inside is a handbook to help parents survive a zombie attack while keeping their kids alive. Illustrated with very crudely drawn Microsoft Paint-style comics (the comics were probably the weakest point of the book but I laughed at quite a few of them so it's not like they are complete failures), topics include:

- How to convince your kids to hide

- Food during a zombie apocalypse

- Why minivans are awesome (and what else you can use as a weapon against zombies)

- Why a zombie apocalypse means you never have to clean your house

- And what to do if you need to amputate your arm.

I would definitely recommend this to everyone and I would pick up a copy if I ever found it in a bookshop. It's funny and I really enjoyed reading it. If you've had experiences with kids (and everyone has, since you either were one or know one), you'll probably enjoy this. And his Twitter account. You should definitely check that out!

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Library of Souls by Ramsom Riggs

I finished the third book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series and now I'm a little sad that I don't have any more to read. Obviously, this review is going to contain spoilers for the second (and by extension, the first) book so don't read further if you don't want spoilers!

The second book ended with Jacob realising that not only can he see the Hollowgasts, he can control them by speaking their language. The problem is that he has no idea how he's doing it so it's not like he's mastered this skill. But the Wights and Hollowgasts are still after them, and with most of his friends captured, Jacob and Emma (plus the Peculiar dog Addison) must find a way to save them.

I mentioned in the previous review that I was looking forward to seeing more of the Peculiar Children and I'm a little disappointed that this didn't happen. They were basically kidnapped for most of the book so it's just Jacob, Emma and Addison. I really liked Addison though - he was a fairly small character in Book 2 but he's so adorable and endearing that I'm glad he got a bigger role here!

There were a few new characters too. I particularly liked Sharon, the boatman whose name reminds me of Charon, the ferryman for Hades. Given where he ferries the trio, it seems like an apt homage. Plus he was an ambiguous character until the end and I quite enjoyed having to guess which side he was on.

Speaking of ambiguous characters - there is one more character who's motives are questionable (I still can't decide if he's good but prone to evil or just super manipulative) but if I say his name I might as well spoil the ending so have fun guessing if you haven't read Book 3!

I also mentioned that I was looking forward to how Jacob and Emma's relationship problems would be resolved in the previous review. Well, I'm kinda disappointed that they never really address/resolve the issue that Emma was in love with Jacob's grandfather for a majority of his life. Perhaps because there really isn't a way to solve this. But the ending of the book did make it so that it wasn't quite so weird for them to like each other so I will have to settle for that.

Most of the book was on developing Jacob's ability to control the Hollowgasts and building up to "HOW WILL THEY DEFEAT THE ULTIMATE EVIL" so there's definitely a satisfactory plot ending (though there are a few loose ends - perhaps more books are in the making? Or is that just wishful thinking?). If that's what you're looking for you won't be disappointed.

Oh and now I really, really want to read Tales of the Peculiar! It sounds like a really good book and the references to it made me really curious to read the actual story. I wonder if the version published is the one the kids carried or one that contains stories from after the series ended.

All in all, I'm very happy I decided to buy and finish this series. It's a great read and I loved the way the photos and the narrative intermingled. It's not perfect, but definitely worthy of 5 stars!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hollow City by Ramson Riggs

I started on Hollow City as soon as I finished Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children because I could not wait to find out what happened. Luckily the book proved that it was worth the money because it's an excellent sequel and the tension was kept high throughout. Warning: this review is going to have spoilers for the first novel (obviously).

So the first novel ended with the children running away from Hollogasts and their Wrights. They somehow managed to rescue Miss Peregrine, though she's stuck in her bird form. Desperate to find another ymbryne who can help, the children leave their island. But the Second World War is happening around them, and there are more monsters walking in this world than they know.

What I really loved about this book was that it managed to balance the world building (I learnt so much more about the Peculiars, plus Tales of the Peculiar had a fairly major role so I wanna read it now!) with the whole "monsters chasing us" plot and kept the tension high throughout. It was really danger after danger, and when there was a respite, a bit more about the world was revealed. I thought the balance was well-done and the plot did not lag.

I also really liked that each of the children had their turn to shine. The first book was dominated by Jacob, and thought the second book is also narrated by him, the children had a significantly larger role and saved the day several times. I hope that this trend continues in the third book.

The only part of the book that I was dissatisfied with was Jacob's relationship with Emma. For most of the book their relationship wasn't really questioned. While there is some development towards the end, I thought that it wasn't paced really well. Then again, the plot + most character development was really well done (Jacob grew a lot, just not in his relationship with Emma), so I guess this was just a bit too much to handle.

All in all, I thought this was an excellent sequel. Most aspects of the book were well-handled, and though the development of Jacob's relationship with Emma disappointed me, there's still the third book for them to resolve everything. I'm more excited than ever to start on Library of Souls (and the title now makes sense to me)