Friday, May 29, 2015

In The House of Leviathan by B.D. Bruns

"Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride." (Job 41: 33-34, KJV)
Those two verses are the end of a chapter dedicated to describing the Leviathan, a humongous sea-monster described in the Bible. If you're a fan of Disney, you might remember it from Atlantis: The Lost Empire. My bro might know it from Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu. What it actually is, is debated, but for a very long time, it's been seen as a demon.

In The House of Leviathan, as you can guess, is about evil and demons. It follows Giuseppe, after he sees the devil appear at his family's paper mill one night. After that, people start dying, and strange signs come from the sea. In order to protect his sister, Giuseppe is going to have to overcome a lot of challenges.

Frankly speaking, this book pulled me in. I started reading it on the train, and when I looked up, I finished about half the book (don't worry, I got off at the right stop). Considering that I was in a reading slump that ended the day before I started the book, I was pretty amazed. I haven't been drawn into a story for a few weeks, and I've missed that.

The descriptions in the book were fantastic, and made me feel like I was actually in 19th century Italy. The village of Amalfi came to life for me, along with its characters. Speaking of characters, the main characters would be (as I see it), Giuseppe, his sister Carmelina and Lucio, the guy that loves her. Supporting characters were Marie, Lucio's sister, Grapaldi, the old man who has worked for them since forever, and Milani, the old priest. And a few others. I can say that I liked almost all of them (except for one, and if you know who, you'd know why), and thought they were all well-written characters. If it weren't for the fact that this book is basically dark and gothic, I'd want to spend some time at Amalfi (maybe before all this started?)

I may have gotten this book as part of a blog tour, but I am not lying when I say I loved it. It has beautifully written descriptions, a haunting story and wonderful characters. It was an awesome book to read coming out of my reading slump.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for a free and honest review.

About the Author

Adventurer B.D. Bruns has traveled to over 50 countries to gather material for his bestselling books. He’s won 19 national and international book awards, including three national Book of the Year awards. Bruns’ first fiction book, The Gothic Shift (2014) won the International Book Awards Best Short Story Collection. He also contributes to Yahoo Travel, BBC, CNN, The Daily Beast, and The Travel Channel.

Bruns’ travel adventures span from entering the Pyramids of Giza and swimming in the Panama Canal to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and touring Torture Museums in Estonia. He has attended ceremonies from the descendants of cannibals in the South Pacific and has been consulted by a ghost tour in Malta. After residing in Dracula’s hometown for several years, Bruns moved to Las Vegas with his Romanian wife, where they live with two cats, Julius and Caesar.

For more information, please visit or connect with Bruns on:


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

How can you mix Robin Hood and Swan Lake together? Well, have your protagonist be named Odette, and when the sun falls, she transforms from a demure, wealthy maiden into an experienced archer who tries to do as Robin Hood did. That, in essence, is The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.

And since Swan Lake is a romance, there's one in the book too. Only the "prince" in this case isn't really a prince, but the forester of the Margrave, who is tasked with catching the poacher - who happens to be Odette. Meanwhile, the rich handsome guy pursuing Odette is obnoxious, and in a surprise twist for me, turned out to have a bigger role in the story than I expected.

I thought the dilemma in the story was interesting. We know that poaching is wrong. And since there's a blackmarket selling the poached meat (which Odette doesn't know about, the Jorgen, the forester, does), it's obviously not going to the poor. But, the 'Robin Hood' figure, Odette thinks it is, so let's pretend it is going to the poor, and wonder. So, is she wrong, or is she right? Is it ok to break human laws if it fulfils God's command to feed the widow and the orphan? Who is the one in the right, Jorgen, who's trying to do his job and catch the poacher, or Odette, who's trying to feed the hungry that no one seems to care for?

So far, interesting and well-written stuff. This book would have been perfect if not for one thing. Possible spoilers here, though I shall try to be as vague as possible. Throughout most of the book, Odette is the high class one, and Jorgen is lower class. But by the end of the book, their positions are reversed, and Jorgen becomes her "knight in shining armour", so to speak. Considering that Odette is a strong, capable protagonist, I'm a bit disappointed that she had to be rescued instead of being the one doing the rescuing.

Overall, I liked the book. While I would have preferred a different ending, it was a happily ever after ending, and that's not too bad. I liked the characters and how the two stories blended in together, although perhaps a bit more of the Robin Hood element would have been more exciting.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - How to be Normal by Guy Browning

Hey everyone! So, I've got a bunch of books to read for my class, but I'm guessing no one wants to see a Japanese teaser about the third industrial revolution.

So instead, I'm sharing a book that I found on Scribd and read a few pages of in the train. It's the latest book by Guy Browning, and considering that I loved his previous two books (I love his sense of humour!), I'm super excited about the fact that he's writing more of this!

So, from How to Be Normal:
"One of the reasons Americans can seem overly jolly is because they all have good teeth and don't mind displaying them. British teeth have been rotten for centuries and, as a smile was often like lifting a drain cover, we developed a stiff upper lip instead." 

I don't know about you, but I chuckled at this teaser (The column is called "How to Smile")

What is your teaser?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • 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, May 25, 2015

The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr

So lately, I've been in a bit of reading slump. One of my seminars has monthly book reports (multiple books), and reading three Japanese books in three days basically killed all my drive I had to read. Really. All I was reading, for a time, were comics (thankfully, there's Scribd). It wasn't until I picked up this book that the reading slump was broken, and I managed to finish the book (in about two days, so I'm closer to form).

This book has two components: One follows the case of Joseph Vacher, a serial killer akin to Jack the Ripper (I believe he's called the French Ripper). The other follows Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne and his colleagues, detailing how the created the field known as forensic science. The two characters don't actually meet until near the end of the book, but their stories are told simultaneously. So you have alternating chapters, one about a criminal, and one about a crime-fighter. It could have been jarring, but I didn't really mind. In fact, the author managed to link the two stories by showing how the new methods were or were not used.

Towards the end of the book, it moves away from the story of forensics into the story of the insanity plea. Vacher tried to convince the court that he was insane at the time of the murders, and Dr. Lacassagne tried to do the opposite. Personally, I don't believe Vacher was insane. I think he was a person who, after being jilted and without a job, gave in to the voice of evil and started killing. I don't think he was insane in the sense that he did not know he was committing a crime and thus not legally responsible.

Another aspect of the book I thought interesting was when it explored the lives of those who were falsely accused of being killers. We might think that the internet age is the age that never forgets, but that's not true. Many of the people falsely accused had their reputations ruined for good, and they had to move away for face mob justice. Even the sentencing of Vacher didn't change things, and the families of some victims insisted that this other guy was the real killer.

This is contradictory, but I thought the book was both morbid and hopeful. It's morbid because, hey, it's a story about a serial killer who struck at random and killed many innocents. How much sunshine and rainbows can you put into a story like that? But, it's hopeful because it showed the birth of forensic science, and that there are people in this world who will fight against the monsters.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Once Upon A Time by Marina Warner

This is one of those missed-on-Netgalley-because-it-got-archived books. Thankfully, the Singapore library had it.

Once Upon A Time is subtitled "a short history of the fairy tale". It's not a chronological history, per se, but looks at different areas. For example, the feminist interpretation of the fairy tale, the people who collected and translated the fairy tales, whether the stories are rooted in reality, illustrations and so on and so forth. In a way, it's a brief analysis of different aspects of the fairy-tale. 

Unlike The Irresistible Fairy-Tale by Jack Zipes,  I had no problems with boredom during this book. This could be, however, due to the fact that I read a print copy of Once Upon A Time, while The Irresistible Fairy-Tale was in ebook. I like ebooks, but I find that for certain topics, my attention seems to wander away (and those topics tend to be "denser" ones). 

While this book is short, it seems to require a wide knowledge of the fairy-tale genre. Authors like Angela Carter and Jack Zipes are referred to quite often (among the host of other authors referred to), as well as a wide array of fairy-tales. However, these tales don't come with a summary (if they did, the book would probably be four times in size), and so, if you don't actually know the fairy-tale, you may get lost. I certainly did, a few times, and it made me want to read more fairytales (I hesitate to admit this, but I've not read Andrew Lang). 

In addition, the book focuses mainly on Western fairy-tales. One Thousand and One Nights is mentioned a few times (as an influence), and I'm pretty sure I saw a mention of the Chinese version of Cinderella (maybe?), but other than that, it's rooted firmly in the west. Anyone know a good book that talks about Asian fairy-tales? 

I think this book is a summary of the study of fairy-tales. It may be good as a starting or ending point (to find out what to read, or to connect all the dots), but it is certainly not a comprehensive look at fairytales. In fact, I think you should have read at the very least Grimms Fairy-Tales as well as Mother Goose and a few others first, or you may get lost halfway through. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr

So it's Tuesday again. Lately, I've been in kind of a reading slump - I have so many Japanese books to read, I end up not wanting to read at all, not in English or Japanese. Anyway, I'm hoping this week's book can break the slump.

The Killer of Little Shepherds is a non-fiction story about the French version of Jack the Ripper and how forensic science came about (like what the subtitle says). I like Bones and CSI, so I'm hoping this gets me all the way through the end, and I can go back to reading at my usual pace instead of spending my commute playing games on the phone.

"Friar Brûlé straightened the clothing to restore the girl's modesty and cover her ghastly wounds. Someone, apparently, had stolen her shoes." 

What is your teaser this week?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • 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, May 18, 2015

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

I can't remember where or when I heard about this book (I think it's in several books), but I heard good things about it, and I wanted to read it for myself. Under the Banner of Heaven is supposed to be the Lafferty murders, but it's actually a look at mormon fundamentalism and the history of mormonism.

The Lafferty murders refer to the deaths of Brenda and Erica Lafferty, mother and daughter pair. The murderers were Brenda's brother-in-laws, Ron and Dan, who admit to killing, but not to being guilty. Why? Because they believe the murders were divinely ordained. This idea stems from one section of mormon doctrine known as "blood atonement", or as the book says "certain grievous acts committed against Mormons, as Brigham explained it, could be rectified only if the "sinners have their blood spilt upon the ground." ". And what was the grievous sin of Brenda and Erica? Brenda stood up for herself and refused to adopt the policies of fundamental mormonism, which include polygamy. She also stood up for her abused sister-in-law (Ron's ex-wife), encouraging her to divorce her abusive husband, and very dangerously for her, she was smart and could beat the brothers in their own arguments for fundamentalism. Erica's sin was that Brenda was her mom.

What I consider the most disturbing part of the case is that it could have been prevented. Brenda's husband knew about his brother's plans, but kept mum. Others of their circle knew, and one even wrote an affidavit, but no one stepped in. Essentially, Brenda and Erica were like sheep to slaughter, because they were kept in the dark.

Along with an analysis of this case, the author goes into great detail about mormon history, from its roots and how it diverged from Christianity, to the establishment of the current Salt Lake city, and how the fundamentalist mormons appeared. At first, I didn't understand why the author was going into such great detail, but after reading the book, I think I understand. If you don't know anything about the background of Ron and Dan Lafferty, there is no hope of understanding why they did what they did. It's not about justifying their actions or finding sympathy for them, it's about illuminating their reasons.

All in all, this was an absorbing and horrifying book. I've no doubt most mormons are peaceful people (even if I strong disagree with their theology), but fundamentalist mormonism scares me to the core.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

I wish I read this book earlier. It's apparently a huge influence on the fantasy genre, and it's beautiful. Simply beautiful.

The King of Elfland's Daughter is, like the title says, about the princess of Elfland. She falls in love and marries Alveric, the Lord of Earl, they get married and have a son, and then when she reads a rune by her father, she's spirited back to Elfland. Alveric goes looking for her, and the son grows up.

The second story is about searching for magic. The reason why Alveric and the princess meet is because the parliament of Earl want a magic lord, in order to get the country in the history books. As they start to get exactly what they wish for, they realise that it's not the good thing that they want.

What I love about this book, apart from the language, is how dreamlike it is. It combines the fantasy and the mundane. Things seem, like how C.S. Lewis describes the Real Narnia, to be realer than real. It reminds me of Chesterton, who talks about seeing the extraordinary in the mundane. And yes, the fairies and the trolls rejoice in the mundane things of earth - the fact that there's a dawn, the flowers, the joy of running at full speed. It is amazing.

If the book has a flaw, it's that the characters aren't very developed. Because everything is like a dream, the characters are never quite real. I don't understand them, and I won't be dreaming of them.

But overall? This short book is wonderful. I adore the language and will happily read it over and over again. I need to go find a copy to buy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

Heya! It's Tuesday again, and this time, I'm sharing a spoiler from The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. It's a retelling of two fairytales - Swan Lake and Robin Hood. Sounds interesting right?

Also, I don't normally say this, but I love the cover! Especially the ornate (ribbon? pattern?) thing at the bottom.

My teaser:
"She thought a moment. "I am loyal, but I hope I am only loyal to people and causes that are worthy."

What about you? What are your teasers?
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • 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, May 11, 2015

Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson

I first heard about this book on one of the blogs I follow (but I forgot to take down the blog name >< Let me know if it's you!). I thought it sounded awesome, because fairy-tales, and managed to grab a library copy once I got back to Singapore!

Basically, Pennyroyal Academy follows Evie (a nickname for Cadet Eleven), as she trains to become a princess. In this world, the natural enemy of the witch is the princess, and there's pretty tough training for those who wish to be a princess. As a (presumed) commoner and without her memory, Evie is different from the rest of the princess cadets. She hasn't heard of any of the famous princesses, like Cinderella, and she doesn't even know why she wants to be in that school.

To be honest, the first part was a little draggy for me. I didn't really understand the no-name thing - I thought Evie had lost her memory, which in a way she had, but she did have several year's worth of memories with the family she considered hers (obviously, they weren't her real family). The training also seemed rather strange - how does physical activities train someone in love and compassion and all those other qualities? Or is it just a first year thing?

For me, the story started to pick up about halfway through, when she meets her other "sister" again. That twist was one I didn't expect, and it reignited my interest in the story. I more-or-less sped through the end, and found the later half to be enjoyable.

I enjoyed reading about the Princess vs Witch dynamic, and the general background of the world. In fact, the last few pages, when the Warrior Princess vs the Princess-Witch (it's not a spoiler if you don't get the reference, right?) were particularly interesting, and was probably what I liked the best about the book.

There are also a few interesting supporting characters, both students and teachers, and it's a pity that I don't see more of them. The book is Evie-centric, with a large dose of Remington, the boy that saves her in chapter one (or rather, she helps him escape a witch and he brings her to the academy). That romance, I found rather predictable, and didn't really care much for it.

While the book doesn't end on a cliffhanger, I can see that it's probably going to be a series. If I remember about it, I'll probably look for Book 2 when it's out. Overall, this is one of those books that should be read in one sitting; immerse yourself in the world, and the little things that bug you will disappear. At least, that's my experience.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

WriteOn: (Almost) 2 Months Out of Beta

I've previously blogged about WriteOn, and even did a comparison with Figment and Wattpad. I also mentioned that this was really a recommendation of the site while it was in Beta, but as of March 11, the site has gone public. Now that almost 2 months have gone by, I thought it's time to provide an update.

Actually, I wanted to do this a month ago, but then school started and boom. All my time was gone.

Anyway, before I even start, here's a relevant post on Feedback. It's a relevant post because it affects how strongly I recommend WriteOn, but that's something that I'll be talking about later.

First off, let's talk about the obvious changes:

The site has undergone a revamp, and it's much, much brighter now. The notifications also disappear after you check them (unlike the past, where you were permanently "notified"), and they have numbers too. Author reads of their own story are no longer counted (this was a cause of much joy), and comment statistics are also included, so that uh, you can see how many comments other people have written, I guess.

A lot of new members have also come in, and they have really awesome stories with them. I'm really enjoying reading them.

But, and this is a big but, the tone of the site seems to be going downhill slowly. I talked about it on the Feedback post, but it's getting "risky" to give constructive criticism. Authors with thin-skin will call you a hater and/or naive/ignorant/stupid, and dog-piling has occurred.

I also don't think this is related, but I know at least one member who gave awesome, detailed feedback who left the site. She wasn't bullied, but she wasn't getting feedback back. There's another member who has stopped giving feedback because she was dog-piled on. That means that the quality of feedback is lower compared to the early-beta days.

The forum too, has gotten meaner, and that's thanks to one member. She speaks as though she won the Nobel Prize for Literature and Man Booker Prize and what have you, referencing her work constantly instead of, I don't know, Shakespeare or Austen or Twain. If you dare to disagree with her, you're an idiot. Oddly enough, she likes to rail against the Western Education she received, but somehow I'm the dumb one. A real puzzle, that one. But then again, I'm dumb.

My forum participation has basically gone down to threads where I "know" the posters and am pretty sure that divisive personalities won't be participating in.

The mods have stepped in once or twice (pretty much after the storm), but not enough to make me feel like this is an actively moderated community.

Does that mean WriteOn is doomed? Nah.

While I'm not going going to be recommending the site as wholeheartedly as I did before, it's still my writing site of choice because I've made the most friends there. I've found a small group of users whose opinions I trust and that's where most of my activity takes place. I will give feedback if asked, and I do reach out now and then, but for the most part, I'm just in my tiny little circle that I'm trying to slowly expand.

Just to be clear, there are a lot of awesome people on WriteOn. It's not the next Wattpad (yet), but tt's still a good community if you want feedback. I'm still hopeful that the small group bringing it down will either eventually get tired and quit, or that we'll be able to "block" users.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Silk by Chris Karlsen

I was offered the chance to read Silk, and I took it mainly because of the blurb. I love a good mystery, especially if it involves Jack the Ripper. Unfortunately, I found that most of the book didn't actually concern Jack the Ripper. On the bright side, we are introduced to another, extremely interesting, serial killer.

Silk is basically told through two points of view: Metropolitan Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone (the hero) and the villain, from where the title comes from. I can't exactly explain why without giving away spoilers though. Anyway, to try to sum the book in a non-spoiler-y way, a series of murders have happened, and Inspector Ruddy (I'm not typing his full name and job description twice) has to solve it, while dealing with the press, which has somehow found an inside source. At the same time, we are shown the villain, from how he first murdered, to how he met his tragic end.

For me, the engaging part of the book was undoubtedly the murderer's point of view. It sounds morbid, but morbid is interesting (even if I never, ever, want to meet someone like him in real life). Although Inspector Ruddy has his own issues and love interest in this story, he's essentially the good guy. It was easy to get a feel of how the thought. The murderer on the other hand, well, he was clearly evil, but he didn't see himself so. The self-justification and narcissism meant that I was going to keep a very close eye on his chapters, if only to see where he slips up.

I enjoyed this book until the ending. I was looking forward to a battle of wits, but instead, I felt that everything ended rather anti-climatically. The villain isn't caught because the Inspector is dogged and smart, instead, the case is practically handed to Inspector Ruddy on a silver platter. And even though the case was solved, the book seemed to drag on for a while. I just checked Goodreads (for the image), and it turns out maybe this is part of a series, so the ending could be setting up for book two. I'm not sure, because once the mystery was "solved", I skimmed the rest of the book.

Apart from the ending, I enjoyed this book. Some of the scenes were extremely vivid and aren't suitable for younger readers, but it does emphasise how twisted the murderer is. On the whole, it's an engrossing book, and a good read.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for a free and honest review.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew Edited By Shashi Jayakumar and Rahul Sagar

I was under the impression that I've reviewed Men in White and Hard Truths, but I can't really find them on the blog. Oh well, I know I read them, so when I go back to Singapore next year, perhaps I'll re-read them. Anyway, for those of us that don't have the patience or time to go through all the books about Lee Kuan Yew, there's always The Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew.

I picked this book up on the way back to Japan. It seemed interesting, and well, after a week of non-stop narration about his life (incredibly educational, by the way. If I had it during O'Levels, I would have probably brought my combined Humanities score up), I wanted something that was a bit shorter and a bit more about his policies. Hence, this book.

The Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew is divided into 5 parts of 2 opinion pieces per part. The first part are the personal reminiscences, but the next four cover "Law and Politics", "Governance", "Society and Economics" and "Foreign Affairs".

My favourite pieces were "Bilingualism: A Never-ending Journey" and the two in "Foreign Affairs", namely "Small State Survival" and "Playing Chess". All were interesting and informative, but these three stood out for a couple of reasons.

The first (and quite possibly largest reason) is purely personal. I like learning languages, and I've went through the bilingual policy by virtue of having grown up in Singapore. When I read the piece, I learnt things I didn't know, like the fact that Mr. Lee was the Minister for Education in 1975 (for four months, which means that he had hands-on experience with the MOE (Ministry of Education). As for the foreign affairs pieces, it's because I used to be in MUN, and so have slightly more interest in things like these.

My favourite story about Mr. Lee and international politics isn't the one by Dr. Kissinger, or any of those in the two foreign chapters (even though the anecdotes about how he worked to help US-China relations was interesting), but the one about his first official visit to China in 1976. In that visit, he was given a pro-China book about the Sino-Indian War of 1962. When told that "this is the correct version of the India-China war", Mr. Lee handed the book back to the then Chinese premier and said, "Mr. Prime Minister, this is your version of the war. There is another version, the Indian version. And in any case, I am from Southeast Asia - it's nothing to do with us." I think he had a lot of guts to do this on his first official meeting.

This book is by no means comprehensive, but if you want a distilled primer of Lee Kuan Yew's policies, I think this is a good book to get.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

I finally read another "classic". I've probably heard about this ten thousand times in school and on the internet and all that, but I never picked it up. Until now, when I was on my last library trip, and decided that it was time to read the book.

The Neverending Story is about Bastian, a shy, awkward and overweight bookworm who isn't happy. His dad has been distant since his mom died, and his classmates bully him. One day, he finds a book called The Neverending Story, gives in to the impulse to steal it, and starts reading. What he first thought was a great book staring Atreyu, a character Bastian wishes he could be slowly starts to mention another little boy - him. As he reads on, Bastian eventually becomes a character in The Neverending Story; and an important one at that. But, the more he wishes for things in the story, the more of himself that he loses.

First things first. This book reminds me of the anime/manga Fushigi Yuugi, where the heroine Miaka and her friend Yui end up in an old book that they're reading, and go through a bunch of adventures. The starting concept is the same, but everything else is different. Fushigi Yuugi is set in an ancient, clearly oriental world, but The Neverending Story is set in a fantasy world. The trials the two main characters go through are very different as well, in terms of plot. (Although if we're looking at theme, they're both pretty much a bildunsroman to me)

While I loved the story and the language, I found Bastian to get steadily more irritating as the book went on. I could partially understand it, because the un-cool kid is finally a hero and has the adoration of people, but as the story went on, he actually became even worse. And the loss-of-memory thing makes it hard for me to figure out if he really changed, or if he just forgot to be an awful little boy. I will say this though, if you read the ending, then go back and re-read the beginning, he is better, so clearly, losing his memory before regaining it had a positive effect, even if during the process of losing his memory, he got worse.

Apart from Bastian, the other main character in the book are Atreyu, the character that Bastian admires, and Falkor, the luck dragon. There's also the Childlike Empress, but she mainly appears in the beginning of the story. Atreyu and Falkor were basically what got me through the "Bastian is being irritating" section, and I really admire their friendship towards Bastian.

I saved so many quotes from this book (they might appear on the right, in the Goodreads quote widget!). The prose is lovely, and the story is interesting. I wasn't too happy about Bastian during the middle section of the book, but he was more mature by the end, and anyway, there was always Atreyu and Falkor's friendship with Bastian, even when he didn't appreciate them, that kept me going to the end.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - The King in the Window by Adam Gopnik

It's another Tuesday, and this week is so different from the last. I've got a bit of breathing room, so yay! Plus, even more good news, the first second-hand book that I bought from Amazon arrived. It's from Powells, which is vaguely familiar to me. I wonder if it's famous?

Anyway, I bought The King in the Window, which I read once in secondary school and I've been wanting to re-read it ever since. But in Singapore, shipping from Amazon is crazily high so that was out (second hand book-shops didn't have it either). In Japan, on the other hand, shipping was pretty cheap, so book was ordered, and it came! Obviously, I've already started reading it.

"When terrible things happen to us in life, on either side of the mirrors, our first thoughts are to get our balance back by thinking of something so trivial that is just to one side of the real tragedy. And so Oliver, seeing his father in this procession of the Soulless, thought first of the mirrors." (Page 219)

What about you? What are your teasers?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • 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, May 4, 2015

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham

I managed to borrow and read the last Fiona Griffiths book before I went back to Japan (Although the review is only going up a month after I get back). And to be honest, the third book has left me satisfied for quite some time - I'd be interested in reading the fourth book, but I can wait for it.

You see, The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths takes quite a different tack from the previous two books. Instead of Fiona investigating murders directly, she takes on a new identity and goes undercover as Fiona Grey. That means a lot of the supporting characters, like Buzz and her family, have to fade into the background.

The case in this book involves payroll fraud, which does not sound glamorous until you realise the amount of money involved and the fact that two people were murdered in the course of the book for it. For Fiona, her 'death', would be how her new identity starts to take over her, and the fragile grip she has on Planet Normal starts to fade. That means that she's really good at her job, but it's also not good for her, because of her existing mental state.

For me, the ending of the book was more satisfying than the previous one. That's because while it isn't a perfect "all bad guys are in jail" ending, at least some of the bad guys were caught. Plus, I find that I quite like the idea of this team coming back to hunt down Fiona Grey - They might get quite a big surprise when they meet Fiona Griffiths.

Oh, and a non-police related note about the ending: I didn't really like the note Fiona's personal life ended on, although I do understand why she did it. I just find it a pity, because I was really hoping that it didn't happen.

Personally, I'd like to see more of Fiona's family, and some other characters from the previous book. But, there are new characters introduced, and with luck, they'll reappear in the next few as well.

All in all, I like this third book. I'm looking at the back of the book as I type this review, and I just saw THE TIMES call Fiona "ditsy, funny, stubborn and sharp". Fiona is stubborn and sharp, but I don't think she's ditsy (just strange in her own way), and funny (sometimes. Unintentionally). A weird note to end the review on, but hey, Fiona's weird too, so there's something in common.