To preface, this is a little bit of a deviance from my usual book review posts, only because interspersed within are 'leftover' pictures- shots that I've captured randomly and have nowhere to go. So, within this fresh reads series they will belong.
Here are some of the books I've been reading despite being caught up in a mountain of studies. More accurately put the books which I've been focusing my attention on while studiously ignoring my mountain of studies.
1. Mr Mercedes, Stephen King
King delivered again nicely for this book. I read this a long while back, so the details are a bit hazy, but I liked that it was kind of an open book horror, whatever the style is called. It's open book so to speak because we know who the killer is (Mr. Mercedes, the sexually repressed psychopath who kills people including babies in his car out of sheer pleasure), but the suspense is not knowing when he will strike again. The book centers on an old retired policeman who finds out who he is and has to get him before he attacks the next victims. It's a pretty warped, sick book, as you might imagine, as all serial killers are generally quite deranged. If you can't handle inter-family murder and a bit of sexual abuse, avoid this. But an overall not too heavy horror thriller.
2. The French Girl, Lexie Elliott
Ah, I seem to be stuck on murder books these days. I picked this up on whim because it looked interesting. The plot is decent, about average I'd say, about a group of friends who go holidaying abroad and a french girl- who's one of the friend's cousins- dies while they're staying together. Years later, they're all adults with jobs, and the murder mystery is opened again.
It's written in the first person perspective, from one of the group. She starts seeing hallucinations of Severine, the dead girl, everywhere, but isn't clinically insane or anything. I felt this part quite forced, and a bit pointless, because the apparitions don't do much but simply remind us that the BOOK IS ABOUT HER. DON'T FORGET ME. Otherwise, seeing how the friends begin to point the blame at each other and get worried about their own lives is a neat development.
Overall, I felt it didn't go deep enough into the potentials of a gripping murder mystery.
3. The Accidental Universe, Alan Lightman
A slight departure from my usual choice. It's a book that deals quickly and lightly on the origins of the physical world, its present, and possible future. I thought it was a very interesting read, because I hardly view my environment as following series of laws and principles that are universally followed. In another life, I think I would have liked physics and studied it. For a brief period I was actually fascinated by quantum physics (admittedly, after watching Interstellar) before I realized I would probably never be able to grasp its concepts within this lifetime, and this brain.
It's great for exposing some of the simple wonders of your world which you may not have had any idea about before. Including this earth as well as the galaxy. The sun is going to expand and burn out one day. Did you know, almost every element on Earth was made from a star?
4. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
Saved the best for last. It's a whopping brick of a book, the only one I can think of to trump this is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Because there's just too many characters I can't explain fully what happens, nonetheless I think it's well worth to stick it out and just press on through the first few chapters to witness how the story is fleshed out slowly.
At its very core it's a crime mystery. It involves gold, opium, murder, yes, and a certain charming prostitute. I also love how it honestly weaves in themes like racism, romance, and a certain poor-rich divide. A great point about this book is the way the plot is told, literally, through the stories of each of the people involved. It's like parts of a puzzle coming together. And the picture it forms is intricate and pretty magical.
Hello beautiful people, this edition of fresh reads is definitely one of my favourites so far- it's called the miracle batch because I loved every single read, they were all so good. So let's go!
1. The Coronation, Boris Akunin
Set in olden history where Russia still has Tsars, this book is an adventurous and quaint story of a Duke's butler and an oh-so-slick handsome sidekick who have to rescue the Duke's child, who gets kidnapped. It involves a devious criminal (who chops off the kid's finger at one point), a lot of very expensive ransom jewelry, and a big twist at the end when you realize you've been feeding off red herrings the entire time. Hint: it has to do with a man not actually being a man.
It's a little bit hard to read, because of all the long names those Russians have, but it was worth it pursuing the plot doggedly, and it wasn't long before I fell in love with Afanasii Stepanovich (whose point-of-view the story is written in), his matter of fact and sure way of viewing things, which he has been doing for years and years as a highly professional butler. Quite entertaining, and I got sucked into it memorably on one Bailamos prac when Yunsun was doing some part of J2 that none of the contemp girls were involved in, I think.
2. Empress of the Splendid Season, Oscar Hijuelos
This one tells the life a Cuban woman who comes to America, New York City, as a young lady after being kicked out of her home by her rich father for losing her virginity to an older man. And if that isn't saucy enough, guess what her name is. LYDIA! To be honest, that partly egged me on to borrow this book, even though my bag was heavy enough.
Name besides, this book is a joy to read from front to end. I got so sucked into the other Lydia's world, when I finished it was like waking up from a dream.
I learned about this fictional lady's entire life, it feels like. The narration of the present is interspersed with Lydia's thoughts and remniscing of the past, where she was a rich man's daughter in Havana, Cuba, a place that even now is like another plane of existence to me. I think Rozz did a travel vlog there once. I adore how honest and refreshing the depiction of her character is, not squirming past the down and dirty (sex), and making sure to include heartfelt moments when she turns towards her children with inexpressible love despite the cultural distance between them, or when she's loyal to her husband Raul after all those years- all the way to the end.
As it turns out, being a cleaning lady (in this day and age a housekeeper is a more accurate term) can be wondrously interesting. As is the general innerworkings of a mother who struggles to keep her family afloat, and elegantly, even when things are always tough.
3. The Devotion of Suspect X, Keigo Higashino
Let me just preface, on the second and third times of reading this book I still got internal chills at how brilliantly planned it is. The review on the front says 'the Japanese Stieg Larsson', and I quite agree, there's almost as much suspense and thrill packed into this book as there is in all 3 of Larsson's the Girl series. I don't think the author writes like Larsson, to be honest, given that that's translated from Swedish and this is translated from Japanese, and those two have their own unique style; but I can see the similarity content wise: it's a mystery novel that packs a real punch right at the end.
It's about a Japanese single mother, Yasuko, who kills her husband in a highly morally ambiguous situation. You can't really call it manslaughter, which would sort of absolve her of her crime, but then again is it murder when her husband is abusive, manipulative, and a leech to top it all off? (Think about it, ladies.) Jokes aside, she's saved- somewhat- by the coming of her quietly genius maths teacher neighbour, Mr. Ishigami, who covers up everything for her. And I mean EVERYTHING.
I absolutely loved reading this and finished it in one feverish night, and I got so scared I couldn't stay in my room by myself anymore.
On a more lighthearted note, we'll end off with two editions of a magazine that I've been perusing on and off for the past few years.
4. Kinfolk, Volume 25 and 26
In these 2 issues I finally realized why one of these cost nearly $40 a pop. Shipping and packaging costs aside, Kinfolk is really professionally done up. It can't be further along than one of your tabloid glossies (which are still enjoyable but in a more guilty and trashy way); like Frankie, it's meant to be bought and kept, preferably on a sophisticated yet minimalist glass coffeetable where it sits beside a cup of steaming hot coffee and flaky croissant.
For one, I really like that there's a running theme for each issue. I think that's quite unique for a magazine, because there surely are alot of questions arising this kind of categorization: what if they run out of topics? And isn't life constantly updating? But I hope they have it all sorted, because it makes for a very nice almost organized reading, and my little OCD soul sighs with satisfaction.
As for the content itself, they have purely photographic spreads along with lengthier interviews with various sorts in the creative industries, factual pieces mixed in with opinion articles. In volume 26, there was a long spread on African American photographer Gordon Parks, and how he documented the racial discrimination in the US while having a great illustrious career. That was lovely to read.
On the whole, Kinfolk's pretty much an adult magazine in the way Frankie isn't, which is what I appreciate about it.
Well, that's all for today, folks. Until next time,
Finally! You must be saying. A post that's not another ramble on about my life. Well, you're right. School isn't kind to reading habits as we all know, but here's a couple of titles I've been able to squeeze in somehow and quite thoroughly enjoyed.
1. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami
This isn't actually the first time I'm coming across this book. I was first introduced to Murakami by Cait in Sec school, when she lent me this book to read. But that was a long time ago, and I thought it would be nice to go back to where it all began in this crazy Murakami journey. It wasn't as exhilarating as the first time, but I could read it more leisurely, and kind of appreciate the little plot details more as an older person.
Basically, the book is about this man who is still coming to terms with his depression over being suddenly dumped by a bunch of really close mates from high school. It's been a good few years but he doesn't know why they did it, and he ends up seeking these friends out one by one, discovering things along the way. There's a sweet little romance side-plot action too.
Definitely one of Murakami's easier reads, I'd say, and a good read.
2. Hum If You Don't Know the Words, Bianca Marais
Ever since reading that Norwegian book last year, I've been more interested in pursuing ethnically-inclined (is that even a word?) books because they seem to be more immersed in foreign culture which is exciting, cool and different- like you want a break after reading Crazy Rich Asians because of all the tiresome Singlish / Singaporean references. And if you want a healthy dose of Chinese (specifically Chinese immigrant) culture, read Amy Tan.
This one is set in apartheid South Africa, told by two alternate perspectives: one, a white girl (Robin) whose family had moved to Africa for business; two, a black woman (Beauty) whose daughter goes missing in a school rally she organized. Somehow, the two stories weave into one, and magic happens.
I liked this because the narratives from both females were captivating, each really sounding like they came from the mouths of who they're supposed to be. Robin faces reverse racism- jeez, I'm really at it with the weird phrasing today- being a white person in black land and whose parents have definitely mistreated the locals. And Beauty struggles to place her daughter while escaping the people who pursue her. Amongst all this you can find the main theme that's love.
3. Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami
In the same vein of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman; this is a book of short stories by Murakami, but focused specifically on relationships between men and women. Obviously.
The thing about Murakami is I never really know what I'm reading it for- there seems to be no point, no moral lesson or underlying reason as to why the story is told: it's open to interpretation, so you take as much away from the stories as you want to. Mostly, I just like to simply enjoy the characters and their journey without thinking too much about why or how it applies to me.
That being said, it's a collection of some exotic and sometimes fantastical stories, undercut with Japanese-type contemporary mythology. (That's the best way I can describe it.) Oh, and there's a lot of sex involved. Personally, I prefer something like Norweigan Wood for a more in-depth kind of Murakami take on relationships, but this is recommended if you don't want to dive right in and prefer to have breaks in between reading sessions.
4. Precious and Grace, Alexander McCall Smith
I highly doubt people would pick up this book if you aren't already somehow acquainted with the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. In any case this book review won't be fair because...I didn't read it. Oops. I have literally no recollection of what happened inside. But if it's like all the other books in the series, they'll get into some kind of conundrum, and Mma Ramotswe will save the day. Some titles are more moving than others. Try the first book, Kalahari Typing School for Men, or Morality for Beautiful Girls.
For now, this will just get a generic rating.
Another month, another couple of books to delve into. I was a little inspired by the Halloween season this October despite not actually doing anything festive to celebrate- nope, no Halloween Horror Nights, no trick or treating, not a shred of decorations for me. Instead I retreated into the horror of these novels and plunged into some delicious spine-chilling plots.
1. Carrie by Stephen King
This book gets first place in honor of it being one of the best horror / sci-fi horror? novels I've ever read, which is admittedly not many. Still, I loved almost everything about it. Carrie tells of a girl, Carietta White, who has been brought up all her life by her fundamentalist Christian mother. Read: absolutely batshit crazy religious nut, and that's one heck of a noun phrase. Margaret White thinks what's in the bible is literally true, like you literally have to cleanse your sins with blood, so you see at one point she DIGS a knife into her skin. And that's not even half of it- Carrie's a sweet girl, but all the circumstances in her life lead her to being the unpopular nerd in high school, AKA a death sentence. And later on all the kids in school get their death sentence as a result.
One of the best things about Carrie is its style of writing. I've never seen a book written this way before, with interjections from Carrie herself interspersed naturally between plot lines. It was as if I could see into her head, and this made the text wonderfully alive. In other writing techniques, Stephen King shows, not tells: a significant part of the plot is made up of newspaper articles, 'scholarly' excerpts, interviews and so forth, so that we kind of glean our own impressions and interpretations of what went on. So it was like outside view, Carrie's view, outside view, etc.
Carrie is hot in pop culture, so you can see the story being replicated in movies and musicals. It's a really chilling tale the more you look- from fanatical abusive Margaret, the mother, strangling her baby child; to the crystal clear prejudices of Ewen's elite which uncomfortably echo your own; to Carrie's ultimate and dreadful finale. But it's a tale definitely worth your time. And it'll haunt you in your dreams (or nightmares) after.
(o mommy im sorry)
Rate: 5/5 plus brownie points for it being an all-round favourite
2. The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
This was also a decently good read. I thought that the introduction was nicely done, but I was a bit confused when he started bringing in more characters. It took me a while to realize there's actually TWO boys in the book, not just one main boy character.
TBWDW is basically about a small boy, Jack, who has Asperger's- or some kind of high functioning Autism- and has been left traumatized after a beach fight with this best friend, Nick. Both boys' parents are friends and they've known each other all their lives. Then things start to get weird up in their quiet seaside town when strange monsters appear, of course at nighttime and during icy cold blizzards, both child and parent trapped or alone and scared.
The story's told from a 3rd person narrative so you get to see it unfold from all corners. However, what's most noteworthy is the plot twist right at the end. It turns out Jack actually has the powers to make whatever he draws come alive, become real. So after the beach fight where Nick in reality died, Jack simply drew him back again so Nick still appeared, and was alive to the world. The monsters are his attempt at driving away the artificial Nick after he regrets this decision. But this culmination is at least a year AFTER the incident took place- so he's drawn 365 pages, one for each day Nick has been dead...
And that's one of my favourite scenes from the book. I do love a good storyline, and this was very reminiscent of Goodnight Mommy, a movie which I never had the balls to watch but extensively read up on and watched trailers. The boy in it had Capgras Syndrome, kind of similar to believing someone who's dead isn't. Coincidence that Goodnight Mommy's also about two boys and a parent. Or is it a coincidence?
3. Wild and Free by Wendy Holden
Wild and Free isn't part of the horror category. I chose this because I needed a chick flick to dilute any PTSD that may have arisen from reading the previous 2. Well, it did work out I suppose.
I've read Wendy Holden's Beautiful People and Gallery Girl before and loved both of them. She has a very standard system actually. They always go like this: several characters who go to the same place and inevitably wind up in each others' business. Most of the women end up finding their one true love and happiness ever after. It sounds boring when you just see the skeleton, but it's fun with the meat.
However, not so fun that I would read it again. W&F was a more boring than its counterparts and I really wanted to skim over some parts whilst perusing this. If you're looking for chick lit, see the titles mentioned above. Those are more respective of what Holden is able to do.
Rate: 2.5 /5
Until next time, stay spooky.
A long overdue review of some books I read (or more accurately, didn't) over the holidays.
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish
This book started out really promising. The little description on the cover and the book's blurbs sounded intriguing, and I was looking at it it reminded me of another disappearance-themed book I'd read ages ago, about this girl who had vanished on the beach with her mom and the mom goes half mad trying to figure out where she was / had died / been kidnapped to. Now that was a pretty good mystery thriller. This one, however, was not.
The author actually writes very well. I liked the way she described stuff, and mapped out the character development. So it was an enjoyable read until about halfway through. That's when it became a bit repetitive, like eating a delicious cake one too many times. It was basically just how the main character keeps questioning her neighbors and finding things out at like, 1 clue per 50 pages.
The worst part was the ending. It was actually so stupid, I was angry reading it. I won't spoil it, but it was just a run of the mill ending. No big AH-HA. No gasps of shock or revelation. No plot twist. NOTHING. She led it all up to a nicely tied up conclusion and that was it.
I was so dissatisfied. Reading all those pages? Not worth it.
Rate: 0.5 / 5 (for the good writing)
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter
God, this was worse. I Googled about it and it is a literary classic, apparently. But it is a pain to read. I tried plowing through the first few pages and it was like walking through mud. All that oldish language and too many characters bombarding me at the same time. I mean, you would probably have been enlightened if you made it to the end. Thank goodness I didn't.
Rate: 0/5 (my own standards)
I've actually been pursuing a number of books since the holidays, but only got the chance to sit down and talk about them now, so it's not just the titles in the pic I managed to snap yesterday (just before dropping them off at the library!).
A BED OF SCORPIONS, JUDITH FLANDERS
Picked this up because it looked like an interesting murder mystery-art mix, but the art bit turned out to be its falling grace. For me anyway. I really liked the narrator of the story, Sam Clair, who's an editor at this book publishing company. The story is told from her perspective and that's what made it quite enjoyable because she had a sarcastic witty take on everything. But maybe I'm just stupid, I couldn't quite understand what was going on with the art crime bit of the book (and the main crux of the murder). There's a fair few technical jargon about the art world with some publishing industry terms thrown in and even worse, financial words. Overall, it's a good lighthearted mystery.
WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY, LESLEY NNEKA ARIMAH
I wasn't looking for a short story book, but this was a pleasant surprise, because each story was like a little treasure box...or Pandora's box, considering its contents. Each story has some kind of a take on human relationships, be it between parents and children, a make-believe baby and a desperate woman, or a teenager and her teenage-mom cousin. It's all very very strange, fantastical at some points, but this is woven in between the fabric of realism. You won't be able to tell the point of these stories straight away, but if there is even any, it would probably be: be compassionate to people. Be kind. Life in its most insufferable moments will thank you for it.
Rate: 3.5/5. Considering checking out Amanda Lee Koe's Ministry of Moral Panic for a Singaporean version with a slightly darker twist.
STONE MATTRESS: NINTALES, MARGARET ATWOOD
This is another short story book by a significantly more famous authoress. Similarly, this book has some mythical fairytale elements to it, but the telltale difference is the characters in the stories are all related to each other in some way. In each story there's the main person, but a someone who interacts with her/him will come out in the next story, etc. So you see this cool intertwining of people in vastly different lives. The book tackles ageing in a really creative way. I thought Stone Mattress was a little colder, though, as its eponymous story was a chilling murder taking place in- what else? The Arctic.
THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10, RUTH WARE
Readers beware, you won't be able to put this down. I was scared silly by the mystery so much that I could not sit alone in a room to read it. Ask Dorcas if you want proof. The magic in The Woman lies in its genius way of narrating- Ruth doesn't tell so much as show, and her creation of atmosphere / heightened tension became almost real in the 12am darkness. I wish the plot had been a little more complicated, but plus points is that it's quite easy to understand, even if its lacking in that oomph. It was a thrilling experience though.
More fresh reads coming soon! I promise.
Whoop! These are the books that have brought me through the awkward last stage of the holidays, as well as this current rainy spat that we are coursing through.
Firstly, The Girl's Guide by Melissa Kirsch makes it to my adored top 5 self help favourites list. Ok, I've only read 3 self help titles in total. However I'm sure this will remain a steady spot even with more self help books to come. The Girl's Guide is a comprehensive (but not exhaustive) compilation of everything you need to know for becoming an adult, specifically, a lady in your twenties.
The book separates into different, broad sections: 1) health & wellbeing, 2) work, 3) finance, 4) spirituality, 5) etiquette and 6) fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through most of the sections bar spirituality (having already found mine) and snidely skipping finance. Ah the privileges of a 16 year old who is yet to pay taxes and other shitty adulting activities. Melissa writes with a smooth, casual flair, and more than once- in fact close to 10 times- I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts of the book. And for context, I rarely find things in books funny enough to laugh at. Most likely a smile will suffice, or even an inner smile.
What then about the content? A large proportion of it is 'common sense', as in things we would probably have come up with given time and some thought, but not often does it come in such a presentable and palatable way; neatly arranged, thoughtfully edited. It didn't hurt me to read through things I already knew along with things I would never have known if not for the book, for example, the tactic of following up after job interviews with a personal letter or email.
This is a book I would like to receive on my 18th birthday, just as a friendly yet wise girl guide to that phenomenon called Growing Up.
Rate: 5/5. Yes, really!
Alice and The Fly by James Rice was slightly disappointing, however. This novel has been on my to-read list ever since the Straits Times reviewed it some months back. I think it's more due to my lack of literary prowess, but I didn't quite understand some parts of the story, because it was told in the first person account of a mentally ill boy. Hence the narrative was sometimes very convoluted, to accurately portray the boy's train of thought. It just made me confused.
Spoiler alert; this is the main gist of it: boy is possibly paranoid schizophrenic with a apathetic family. Boy likes girl on his school bus. They meet. Boy ends up accidentally killing girl, which I think in law jargon is called manslaughter.
It gives insight onto the workings of paranoid / mentally isolated / mentally ill people to us neurotypicals, but if anyone is looking for an enjoyable crime thriller they should not look here.
Ah, now this is a lighter read. Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter caught my eye with its suggestive front cover (I am hugely, TERRIFICALLY guilty of judging a book by its cover. It might be the only way a book finds itself into my shelves.) and proceeded to steal my heart by way of Cleopatra Selene, the protagonist princess.
Cleopatra's Moon came with a useful character list and roles right from the beginning which I used to refer throughout the book.
Set in ancient Egyptian times, it's about greed for power and the wars which spurn it, remaining strong in times of persecution, and in the end, finding love, choosing your destiny. The Egyptian theme was refreshingly exotic- when Cleopatra prays to Lady Isis, her patron god- and heavy use of Greek mythology with references to Zeus, Hades, Persephone, etc.
My favorite thing about the book is that it is actually based off history: Shecter took the bone chronological facts (you will see things in the plot that happened in real life!) and beefed it up to create a spellbinding story, and a thought-provoking one at that too.
For a better well-articulated review, see here.
I was delighted to chance upon The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan while prowling Orchard Library's shelves. What memories I have of her works is getting lost in The Joy Luck Club on a heady summer's day. So I'm acquainted with her style; it has not changed.
It's pretty amazing how she manages to weave what is essentially a monologue biography into a detailed, bewitching tale of a woman living through war-torn in China. But the simple sentence cannot really encapsulate what went on in the book. You will wander through the pages and feel as if you are there with Winnie. Personally, it was a lot about the oppression of women, and more than that, the empowerment of women in a culture where women are a lower class by virtue of their sex- to overcome this, and come out stronger.
It really depends on which part of the book hits you most.
L / 18 / SG / ACJC
see here to find out more.
If you get everything you want the minute you want it, what's the point of living?
last updated: 5 september