Monday, October 22, 2018

New Blog!

Hey guys! Just FYI, I've decided to consolidate all my blogposts into one place! I'm still going to leave this blog here, because there are a lot of old posts, but going forward, my new book reviews will be on 

I'll still post the remaining NetGalley reviews here because I requested using this blog, but other than that, everything will be at the new blog. It won't be just book reviews too - it'll be book and tea reviews. For a start, I've copied some of my more recent posts over.

Hope to see you around(:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

This book was a large reason why I finally read Jane Eyre - a serial killer satire of Jane Eyre sounded amazing. The peek that Wendy at Literary Feline gave into the book intrigued me and I decided that I had to read it.

Jane Steele is a big fan of Jane Eyre. However, she and Jane Eyre are vastly different - starting with the fact that she’s a serial murderess. But inspired by the book, Jane Steele decides to pen her memoirs.

This book is basically what happens when you take Jane Eyre and ask “what if I made her a feisty girl?” When faced with danger, this Jane repeatedly chooses the “fight” response, rather than flight or to bear the whole thing.

I found that many of my objections to Jane Eyre were addressed in this book. For example, this Jane is openly affectionate to her ward, Sahjara, who is an enchanting character in her own right. In general, I thought the non-Jane female characters here were a lot more sympathetically written and showed Jane’s generosity of spirit (no matter how evil she thinks herself).

I also found Charles Thornfield, the Mr. Rochester of the book, to be a decent human being. He has his demons, same as Rochester, but he managed to hold on to his sense of decency and never locked anyone (first wife or not) in an attic.

Speaking of the characters in this book, I absolutely loved how they came to life and participated in the story. Jane Eyre was very much about Jane and her experiences and feelings. Jane Steele has Jane become involved in the lives of the people around her, which lead to both mystery and adventure. Needless to say, I found the plot (and characters) of this book to be much more entertaining.

It’s pretty rare that I say this, but I like this satirical look at Jane Eyre much more than the original story. If all the Jane Eyre adaptions are this good, then I definitely will not regret reading the original anymore.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Imagining Shakespeare's Wife by Katherine West Scheil

I've had a slight increase in interest in Shakespeare ever since last year when we visited Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe in London. So when I saw this book on Anne Hathaway, I decided to request a copy.

As with Shakespeare, we know very few details about Anne Hathaway's life, which makes it very easy for historians to reimagine her the way they want. Imagining Shakespeare's Wife first takes us through the known facts of Anne Hathaway and her legacy, and then goes through the ways that she has been represented in great detail.

The sad fact is that Anne has always been used to illuminate aspects of her husband. As his wife, she would have known (and could have said) a lot about his character. And since she was about seven years older than him, speculation about their marriage has been rife. If people want to portray Shakespeare as a libertine man about town, they tend to view Anne and her marriage to Shakespeare very negatively. If people want to view Shakespeare as a great moral character, they tend to view Anne as someone embodying feminine virtues. And in recent years, Anne has been re-interpreted (sometimes drastically in novels) to fit certain feminist messages.

Obviously, this was a fascinating read. I've always felt a certain sympathy for the way Anne has been portrayed because it has been really unflattering at times. To see how people have interpreted her silence is really astounding. And like James Shapiro said in Contested Will, there is very little we know about Shakespeare's personal life, which means that the temptation to read into his marriage through his works is very great.

If you're interested in Shakespeare, I think you'd enjoy this. It's fairly easy to read and contains a lot of great analysis about the ways Anne Hathaway has been interpreted throughout history. It's probably not related to any of Shakespeare's plays (except for the part where people use his plays to pass judgment on her) but if you want to know more about the Bard and his Wife, this is a book to read.

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

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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly

I pretty much knew that I had to read this book when I saw this because... it’s a book about books!

Like the title says, this book introduces you to various lost books that you definitely can’t find in bookstores. The book defines a lost book as:

1. A book that existed at one point in time but is now lost

2. Books that never got written because the author died before he could start/finish them

Since none of these books exist, the chapters are almost mini author biographies, since information about these books are found in the author’s lives and correspondence. Sometimes the biography part overshadows the part about what the book probably was, especially in the middle chapters.

I am not familiar with all the authors here, but from looking at the topics that I do know a little about, it seems like the author can sometimes present a one-sided picture. A nuanced, debatable issue becomes over-simplified. This is probably because each chapter is only a couple of pages long, but it might be useful to use the information here as a starting point for more investigation rather than as the ending conclusion.

Overall, I thought this was a fun book. I don’t know if the world is worse-off because all these books are lost (there is almost one case where it’s better the book remained lost), but there are so many books to read that I probably won’t lose sleep over the books mentioned here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Griffin's Feather by Cornelia Funke

After finishing Dragon Rider, I quite eagerly continued on to The Griffin’s Feather, which takes place a few years later.

In The Griffin’s Feather, Ben is now a happy part of the Greenblooms, living in a sanctuary for marvelous creatures and helping to save those in danger. One day, word arrives that the mare of one of the last pegasi has passed away. Without her, her eggs can’t hatch and the Pegasus fowls will die. Their only chance of survival is with a sun-feather from a Griffin, the mortal enemy of dragons...

Like The Dragon Rider, this was a fun read. We alternate between Ben’s chapters, where he and Barnabas Greenbloom search for a Griffin with Guinevere’s chapters, which emphasises the short deadline that Barnabas has. I enjoyed seeing both Greenbloom children, especially since Guinevere didn’t have as much page-time in The Dragon Rider. It was touching to see how much care they had for others.

And poor Ben, struggling with his feelings! He loves his new family, but he so clearly misses Firedrake. And with Firedrake’s children about to hatch, which means fewer visits from the dragon, Ben has to make a choice about where he wants to live.

Firedrake was great, as usual. A bit wiser than the first book, which is to be expected. Sorrel, on the other hand, seemed a bit meaner (rather than just grumpy) compared to the first book, especially at the start. But that might be due to the narration rather than a change in character.

Speaking of the narrator, it isn’t Brendan Fraser this time. It’s a bit of a pity, because I really enjoyed his narration and the voices he used in The Dragon Rider. But once I got used to everyone’s new voice, I found that I quite enjoyed this version. Plus the background music and effects were very well-done.

Overall, The Griffin’s Feather is a great sequel to The Dragon Rider. There is a much greater sense of “you must care for the earth” in this book, and luckily that message never becomes preachy. I think younger fantasy fans will really enjoy this.

Disclaimer: I received a free audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.