Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review: Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans


5 stars for Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans.

December is often a good month to read festive novels to get in the Christmas mood. This year, I decide to kickstart the holiday spirit with a book by one of my favourite authors.

Frankly speaking, I did not like this story at first but if history teaches us anything, it is that anything is possible and the unlikely is likely. And that is exactly what happens for all of a sudden, I find myself liking the story more and more and even loving the absurd idea of it all.

With the exception to the broken promise that makes me detest this story initially, there are just so many things to adore on reading author Evans' books.

The most significant of all is that it improves my knowledge and widens my perspective. The last was about Tics (Tourette's syndrome) when I read The Gift and this time, it is about Celiac Sprue, also known as Celiac disease, and people who suffer from this hard to disgnose disease are actually allergic to gluten.

Taken verbatim from the book,

“When someone with celiac eats something containing gluten, the gluten causes a reaction that damages the intestine and makes the body unable to absorb nutrients, which, of course, can lead to a whole host of nasty problems—weight loss, anemia, malnutrition, seizures, even cancer.”

Symptoms of celiac sprue include gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Other related symptoms include irritability, anemia, upset stomach, joint pain, skin rash, etc. Celiac can cause malabsorption, with such symptoms as weight loss, stunted growth, cramps, fatigue, and weakness.”

There are moments of our lives that come and go and barely leave an imprint, but, for me, reading Promise Me isn't one of them. This is definitely not your run-of-the-mill Christmas story. It is a beautiful life-changing story of loss, of trust, of hope, of love, and of Christmas miracles.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon


5 stars for The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.

This is a story about..

.. the gifts of sight, of magic, of walking between the worlds, of supernatural and conspiracy theories;

.. a place called the Devil's Hand, or rather, different versions of it but with one common trait - it is an evil place and bad luck follows people who go there;

.. Sara Harrison Shea who is famous for how she died and her secret journals titled Visitors from the Other Side that her niece publishes which read like real-life murder mystery

Beneath it all, it is a story that asks this very question: if you have lost someone you love, will you not give almost anything to have the chance to see them and have them back again?

All in all, The Winter People has all the makings of a blockbuster movie - suspense, mystery, thriller and horror. I am certainly creeped out by the developments of the story - the secrets, the choices, the past, the present and how everything is linked up - even as I feel the suffering and heartbreak for those close to the victims. I will definitely give the theatre a go if this book is ever made into a movie.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Review: The Blind by A. F. Brady


Did Not Finish The Blind by A. F. Brady.

This is the third book within a month that I have given up reading on. Oh dear.. what is happening?

By right, I should enjoy reading this debut novel as the storyline is a refreshing change from what my usual reads; the protagonist is a psychologist and works in a mental institution. But then, it turns out to be so not my cup of tea.

I try to like the story. I really do but the more I read on, the more depressing it gets as the protagonist instead of helping the patients, plunges into a downward spiral on her own.

At 35% of the book, the narratives get so ridiculously sad and painful and miserable that I have to stop reading or seek help on my state of mind.

Let's hope the next book will be better.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman


Did Not Finish Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

Too much hype can hurt a story, especially when readers realize that their expectations have not been met.

Well.. Practical Magic certainly fails to live up to my expectations. Either the magic in the story is way too practical for my taste or the practical setting of the story is too far removed from my idea of magic. In any case, the story is not magical nor exciting enough to sustain my interest.

There are a total of four parts to the story, namely Superstition, Premonitions, Clairvoyance and Levitation. I manage to finish Part I only to find myself struggling to move beyond 36% at Part II.

Sometimes we have to decide whether it is worth turning the page or whether it is time to close the book. In this case, I choose the latter by closing the book with a flourish.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: Vacant (Mindspace Investigations #4) by Alex Hughes


4 stars for Vacant (Mindspace Investigations book 4) by Alex Hughes.

What is Mindspace exactly? It is the space in which minds interact with the world, through a medium which no one truly understands.

Here, in Vacant, there are lessons taught on how to be more in charge of your own space, your own head, your own mind; lessons on how to seal up the mental walls, put in siding, add on big doors and windows that are strong enough to let the world in when you want to and then shut it out when you choose to.

Yes, Mindspace is not the safest place in the world; telepaths run the risk of losing their way, or worst still, losing themselves. But as life has a way of unfolding as it is meant to, our Boy Wonder does not get to choose; he has a kid to keep safe and a vision to stop.

Together as one, I have a wonderful time losing myself in Mindspace with Boy Wonder on top of witnesses, politics and everything else.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: Marked (Mindspace Investigations #3) by Alex Hughes


5 stars for Marked (Mindspace Investigations book 3) by Alex Hughes.

It has been three years. Three long years since I see the world through the eyes of a Level Eight telepath. I have almost forgotten how it feels, the pains and the gains, to be able to get into and out of the deepest part of people's minds quickly and without them knowing. However, I do remember with vivid clarity the wonders of Mindspace; it feels as if I have returned home.

Truth is, I have been afraid of reaching the inevitable, the end of Mindspace Investigations series. And so, I procrastinate reading the books, year after year after year, in the hope of seeing more instalments forthcoming. Well, it seems like I am in for a disappointment. But a girl can always hope, right?

In this book 3, our protagonist is caught in a power struggle of epic Guild proportions, for a dangerous cause that he has nothing to do with. To make matters worse, trouble is brewing and no one understands what that madness is or how it transmits: waterborne or airborne or via deep-mind contact. To each his own, all telepaths including our Boy Wonder will have to do whatever it takes to survive.

Well.. since this series is told from Boy Wonder's first person point of view, I know with absolute certainty that he will never die in any of the stories. My only concern is that the series itself die out; if or when it happens, I shall be absolutely devastated. Right now, I am keeping my fingers crossed. Let's hope that the author has plans to continue with more books.

Coming up next in the queue.. Bingo! Book 4 Vacant; the latest book since 2014 that I have known to be published and available.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Killing Sarai (In the Company of Killers #1) by J. A. Redmerski


Did Not Finish Killing Sarai (In the Company of Killers book 1) by J. A. Redmerski.

I have tried. I really did, but..

Killing Sarai starts out fine, not absorbingly amazing but not too bad either.

Unfortunately, I am neither expecting nor looking forward to first person narratives from both the male and female protagonists. So you can imagine how flabbergasted I am when I come to a chapter where the point of view swaps from Sarai to Victor. Gosh! That is uncalled for and totally kills off whatever remains of my interest in the story.

I try to read the book as it is. I really do. But.. at 30% of the story, enough is enough. I may pick the book up to continue where I leave off some day. One day. Perhaps..

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Review: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics


1 star for The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics.

It is never my intention to rate books poorly in a row. But as fate would have it, bad things come in twos, and so this book ends up with a 1-star rating.

The Women in the Walls. The title alone gives me the creeps and sends chills down my spine. After reading the first chapter, I decide to continue with it as the initial horror has captured my full attention. Time ticks away and before I know it, I have covered three-quarters of the book in a single day.

Unfortunately, three-quarters of the book is also where the stars start to wave goodbye one by one and fly away of its own volition. This story will have impressed me all the way from beginning to the end if I am still in my teens and ready for a good scare. As it is, I am not, and the more I read on, the more far-fetched the story becomes. The plot degenerates to such a fluff at one point that I wonder why I am still reading it.

Some people awake to escape their nightmares. I awake into one; the horrors of reading a horror story gone awry. I have never been more glad to reach the end of such a tale. To this end, I shall happily put it all behind me now.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (The Hollows #2) by Kim Harrison


1 star for The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (The Hollows book 2) by Kim Harrison.

While I take pride in writing book reviews, and understand that 1-star ratings are part and parcel of the whole reviewing process, I still cringe each time I decide to do one such write-up. Here goes.

The Good, the Bad and the Undead. The way I see it, there is nothing good at all. It is all bad. Maybe bad is an understatement as the story is so far removed from what I have come to expect that I doubt it can even call up the undead to come into play. Perhaps a more suitable title will have been Nothing's Good, All's Bad and Can the Undead.

Seriously, the downfall of this book is Repetition with a capital R. It comes across much like listening in to a radio station that has gone out of control and keeps looping the same songs over and over again. In fact, the story does not move along much, yet gets old pretty fast what with the repeated deal on Ivy going all vampy on witch Rachel.

At the halfway mark, I have had enough of repeated scenes to last me for the entire book and I find myself skimming the pages. And then, before I know it, I have reached the end of the book and not like it one single bit.

The thing is, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I am unwilling to put the entire series behind me. All because The Hollows is a series of thirteen novels and a completed one at that, I still hold out hope and find myself waiting for the silver lining. But.. this cloud will have to wait as I shall leave the reading for another day.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows #1) by Kim Harrison


3.5 stars for Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows book 1) by Kim Harrison.

It is by no calculated means that I choose to read a witch witchy novel this time round. But as it is officially October which points to one thing: Halloween, Dead Witch Walking kind of fits in really well.

This book is packed full of otherworldly beings. You name it. They have it. Witches. Warlocks. The undead. Living vamps. Trolls. Pixies. Fairies. Weres. Demons. Leprechauns. Elves. Naturally, the protagonist in this book is a witch, and strictly speaking, an earth witch, one who deals solely with amulets, potions, and charms.

The world building is not too bad, plot is okay and the writing agreeable. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the conclusion which leaves a lot to be desired. However, the way I see it, there is much potential in this series for the author to exploit upon with plenty of room for improvement. So, YES! I am definitely going to continue my otherworldly existence as one such Rachel Mariana Morgan.

Published over 10 years ago by Harper Voyager, Dead Witch Walking marks the debut of a series that is destined to grow from cult favorite to a major New York Times bestseller. Yea, I think I can understand the reason for it.

Coming up next.. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review: The Godfather by Mario Puzo


4 stars for The Godfather by Mario Puzo.

I dare say with certainty that I will not have considered nor persisted beyond chapter one of this book if not for the good words put forth by two highly reliable sources. Friends who know me well are aware that I am no big fan of books written in third person narratives. So, I am seriously doing Bro Sly and Buddyson Sean a favor by reading and reviewing this book.

Jokes aside, before I plunge headlong into The Godfather, I actually worry about it being outdated. This book is, after all, first published in 1969, which makes it a what? 48-year old novel! Suffice to say, though it may belong to an era, at heart, the story is timeless.

In my opinion, a good book leaves you with many experiences, slightly exhausted at the end, and you live several lives while reading it. As it is, at halfway mark, already I feel like having lived several lives, that of Don Vito Corleone, his three sons, Sonny, Fred, Mike, his Consigliere, Tom Hagen, and his godson, Johnny Fontane, to name a few.

The beauty of this storytelling is that the characters are rich, not in the literal sense of considerable wealth, but the notion of going beyond skin deep, painted with details so rich that it brings even the worst of the characters to a different level of vibrancy. The author leaves no stone unturned in his research of the mafia families and style. With so many characters running amok, it is equally amazing that there are no loose ends; everyone and everything is accounted for right to the end. And without a doubt, my favourite character is the Godfather, Don Corleone, a man to whom everyone goes to for help and never gets turned down nor disappointed. He certainly lives up to his name.

Having finished the book, I can now understand why it hovers on the New York Times bestseller list for sixty-seven weeks and proceeds to become the number one book all over the world, transforming author Puzo from a penniless writer to an international celebrity.

..And yes! This is the first of a book that I manage to entice my significant other to buddy read with me. His take on the book? Let's just say great minds think alike.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review: Grave Ransom (Alex Craft #5) by Kalayna Price


4 stars for Grave Ransom (Alex Craft book 5) by Kalayna Price.

After having spent weeks and weeks on historical fiction, I realise I miss the urban fantasy settings. Going through my long list of to-be-read, I finally decide to settle on Grave Ransom as this is one of the series that I am rather confident of granting me the fix I need.

Mortal reality. Faerie magic. Planeweaver. Grave essence. Welcome to the world of Alex Craft where shades are just memories animated with magic and where one sees with mind more than with eyes.

Then, there is this Death or Grim Reaper or soul collector; whatever name he goes by does not matter as he just reminds me of sorrow and secrets and duty. So far, I have not yet come across another author who can turn the Grim Reaper into such an alluring character that I look forward to every scene where he makes his appearance. Death certainly melts my heart. Goodness me.. what a paradoxical statement! But in Alex Craft series, it is so real and so true.

Tongues for the dead where the grave holds no secrets, where there is suspense and mystery, horror and humour, fantasy and romance; I certainly look forward to the next instalment.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Death of Kings (The Last Kingdom #6) by Bernard Cornwell


5 stars for Death of Kings (The Last Kingdom book 6) by Bernard Cornwell.

After book 5 The Burning Land, I contemplate giving The Last Kingdom series a break, but the Norns at the foot of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, obviously feel otherwise and thus, propel me ever forward to be a witness to the Death of Kings. And so here I am again at the mercy of Uhtred's sword Serpent-Breath and his dagger Wasp-Sting.

Six books in tow. I have come a long way with Uhtred of Bebbanburg. I have literally watched him grow up, from a pagan childhood to the fight in his first great shield wall, to the mistakes he makes as an arrogant, foolish and headstrong young warrior following his battle with the great Danish leader, Ubba Lothbrokson, to his return from Wessex in the South to Northumbria in the North only to discover chaos, civil war and treachery, to his return from Dunholm in the North back again to Wessex in the South where he becomes a builder, a trader, and a father, to how he leads the Saxon army and defeats the Danes as they launch a final assault on King Alfred's Wessex. And now, Uhtred is an old man of forty-five years.

In Death of Kings, Uhtred continues his story of how men feared him even though he is no great lord in terms of land or wealth or men, of how the death of a king brings uncertainty and in uncertainty lies opportunity for the enemies, and last but not least, of how the warriors scream their war songs as axes fall, spears stab, swords cut and shields block in the winter battle.

Having travelled so far alongside Uhtred, I feel as if I have majored in History all over again, only that it is Britain's history this time; for at the back of Uhtred's tales is the story of how England comes into existence.

In the winter of 898, there is no England. There is Northumbria and East Anglia, Mercia and Wessex, the first two are ruled by the Danes, Wessex is Saxon while Mercia is a mess, part Danish and part Saxon. It is Alfred the Great who lays the foundations on which his son Edward, his daughter Æthelflæd, and Edward’s son, Æthelstan, succeed in taking back the three Northern kingdoms and so, for the first time, unite the Saxon lands into one kingdom called England.

But as with most storytellers, author Cornwell imparts his knowledge to readers by peppering the history lessons with fiction and soaking them in generous doses of humour. These are what give shape to his historical fiction and breathe life into the characters such that they leap out of the pages alive.

And now that the characters have obediently returned to their rightful places inside the book, it is time for me to have a break, have a KitKat. As pointed out by book buddyson Sean who ever so politely puts it that I am reading this Saxon tales at the speed of a freight train, and that I should take a break from this long-running series. So, right now, I shall put aside the Uhtred in me. And open up a whole new world of possibilities.

Wyrd bið ful āræd

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: The Burning Land (The Last Kingdom #5) by Bernard Cornwell


4.5 stars for The Burning Land (The Last Kingdom book 5) by Bernard Cornwell.

It has been a really long while since I read a series in succession, five books in a row. If my memory serves me right, the last was The Walk series by author Richard Paul Evans (book 1 The Walk, book 2 Miles to Go, book 3 The Road to Grace, book 4 A Step of Faith, book 5 Walking on Water), and I remember feeling deeply inspired for starting off the Year 2015 with the Walk series as it has brought along hope, faith and a sense of peace at that time.

Before I rattle off with reviews of old, let me get back to the topic at hand, the gathering of my thoughts and feelings on book 5 of The Last Kingdom series.

More years have passed and Uhtred, the pagan in service to a Christian king, is now in his mid-thirties. He longs to go North, back to his ancestral home besides the Northumbrian sea, to Bebbanburg, a home usurped by his father's brother.

As the title dictates, The Burning Land is mostly about fire and skirmishes. Burn Wessex Burn. Besides the burning, the killing and the plundering, it is interesting to note that the fights and battles are not just about men or food supplies, it is also about the hills and valleys, the rivers and marshes, as well as the places where land and water will help defeat the enemies. To this end, the author has done an impressive job propelling Uhtred to ever-greater heights as a strategist. A scheming man he is not, yet Uhtred has earned the readers' trust to have the best-laid plans.

In a time where a man is judged by his deeds, his reputation, the number of his oath-men, his generosity and his gold, to gain everything a man must risk everything. Dressed in his war-glory, mail and helmet and sword and arm rings, the Uhtred as we have come to know so well so far, is all about hopes, futures and dreams (of freedom).

Once again, the story and adventures of Uhtred, an exile and a warrior who straddles two worlds, the Danish North and the Saxon South, checked all the right boxes.

Treachery checked
Betrayal checked
Inferno checked
Chaos checked
Oath checked
Duty checked
Love checked
Devotion checked
Courage checked
Battle checked
Pride checked
Allegiance checked
Loyalty checked
Honor checked

Notwithstanding the above, I do have one grievance, and that is, I start to see the emergence of a certain pattern to the happenings and it somewhat dries up and slowdown the development of the story by this fifth instalment. Perhaps that is also the reason why I take much longer to finish this book.

Regardless of my grievance, I am still awed by author Cornwell in his choice conclusion of this tale. Indeed, I cannot help but do a double take when I reach the end of this story for the final scene of book 5 The Burning Land and the last act of book 4 Sword Song mirrors each other. How cool is that!

Book 5 The Burning Land

The long oars dipped, the river banks closed on us, and in the west the smoke of Lundene veiled the sky. As I took Æthelflæd home.

Book 4 Sword Song

The long oars dipped, the riverbanks closed on us, and in the west the smoke of Lundene smudged the summer sky. As I took Æthelflaed home.

Uhtred takes Æthelflæd home. The endings are the same but yet they are different. Why? Because the state of Æthelflæd's mind is at odds with each other in both instances. Well.. I'm not going to tell you the details. If you want to know, read this Last Kingdom series to find out for yourself.

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bið ful āræd.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review: Sword Song (The Last Kingdom #4) by Bernard Cornwell


5 stars for Sword Song (The Last Kingdom book 4) by Bernard Cornwell.

... and so I set out to unravel the unknowns that await me in this book 4 Sword Song. Truth be told, before I start out on this perilous journey I have no inkling of what this book encompasses except that it continues to be one of Uhtred's adventures.

The previous Book 3 Lords of the North draws to a close in the Year 880 with a twenty-three-year-old warrior setting off from Dunholm in the North to Wessex in the South. Fast forward five years and this warrior, Uhtred, is now twenty-eight years old. Older and wiser, Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, has become a builder, a trader, and a father. He still serves Alfred, King of Wessex, because he has given Alfred his oath, and not because he wishes to.

Much of Sword Song is set in Lundene (presently known as London) which stands where Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex meet. Lured by the promise of bright gold and shining silver, the Danes, the Norsemen, the Scots and the Britons, have all flocked to this city of merchants, tradesmen, and seafarers. And there, the new Viking leaders plot to hire these men, buy weapons, raise warriors, assemble armies, all with the ultimate goal to invade and conquer Wessex.

A title beautifully chosen, Sword Song is the song of the blade wanting blood. It is a story of bloodshed, of battle, of war cry, of Uhtred, a lord of war, fighting for his land, his family, his home and his country.

Once again, the battle scenes are magnificent with axe hacks, spear throws, swords thrust, shield walls, battle songs, male bonding, breaths of ale for courage (this one is contributed by buddy Sean), brute strength, sheer numbers, and a much needed dash of luck for survival. In addition to the power struggles, the author introduces something new: a disturbing yet powerful sad love story. Author Cornwell knows exactly how to tug at readers' heartstrings for I am overcome by emotions - anger, sadness, pity - so strong that I feel as if my heart is torn asunder in this new heart melting romance.

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bið ful āræd.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom #3) by Bernard Cornwell


5 stars for Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom book 3) by Bernard Cornwell.

Perhaps I am ambitious or maybe just overly enthusiastic, the truth is, I have been looking forward to reading this book way before I am even done with book 2 The Pale Horseman. The reason is simple; this is obviously a tale about the lords of the North. And Uhtred, who sways between his love of the Danes and his loyalty to the Saxons, is from the North, which means that he will very likely be returning from Wessex to Northumbria in this book for that is where Bebbanburg lies. And I am so looking forward to his return.

This third instalment of The Last Kingdom series packs a hefty punch. At twenty-one years of age (Year 878), with the belief that his swords can win him the whole world, Uhtred continues his adventure. There is certainly no lack of excitement in Uhtred's sword-path for there are ups, and there are downs, and they never fail to invoke a maelstrom of feelings that swirled within me as I read along. Courage, fear, anxiety, dread, anger, despair, relief, love, compassion, need, pride and hope all come into play, all in the name of upholding majesty and honorability in the story.

On top of the above, I have come to love the Historical Note that the author provides at the end of each book. And once again, author Cornwell promises that Uhtred's wars are far from over and that he will have need of Serpent-Breath again. So, right now, I am tingling with excitement. I am going to slowly uncover what lies in store for Uhtred in the next book, Sword Song.

Before I end off my review, I will like to give a shout-out to book buddy Sean who recommends this series to me. Speaking of which, have you started on the latest book 10 The Flame Bearer? Enjoy the read. Wyrd bið ful āræd

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom #2) by Bernard Cornwell


5 stars for The Pale Horseman (The Last Kingdom book 2) by Bernard Cornwell.

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bið ful āræd.

The Pale Horseman calls out to me even as I am writing and wrapping up my review of The Last Kingdom. That is when I know I am destined to read this book.

Book 2 The Pale Horseman pretty much picks up from where book 1 The Last Kingdom leaves off, with Uhtred - at the age of twenty - recounting the mistakes he makes as an arrogant, foolish and headstrong young warrior following his battle with the great Danish leader, Ubba Lothbrokson. From then on, it tells of Uhtred's plight and fight where an adversary of today may turn into an ally on the morrow and vice versa. And finally, central to the story, events that lead to the King of Wessex being reduced to the King of a few square miles of swamp and how that is expanded on subsequently.

Taken verbatim from the book "The kingdom of Wessex was now a swamp and, for a few days, it possessed a king, a bishop, four priests, two soldiers, the king’s pregnant wife, two nurses, a whore, two children, one of whom was sick, and Iseult."

The story is phenomenally well written. There are twists and there are turns, and they catch me unaware. The author does a remarkable job in developing Uhtred's character here for there is no lack of action on his part that leads to heart-stopping moments. Yes, I cannot help but worry for Uhtred. Then, there is the ever-present humour, as sharp as ever, perhaps even more so than that of Uhtred's sword, Serpent-Breath, for words have power.

Once again, I have a great time immersing myself in The Saxon Tales, so much so that I stay up the night to finish up the last chapter culminating in the great shield wall battle yet again. As I read, I am ever thankful to buddy Sean who suffers through not one but two seasons of The Last Kingdom - crappy - TV series because he feels the need to refresh his memories and not be a book spoiler for my sake. Buddy, your binge-watch is duly noted and greatly appreciated!

Destiny is everything. I believe at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, the three women spinners are at work again, and now, they are spinning me towards The Lords of the North. I know it because..

Wyrd bið ful āræd. Fate is inexorable.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom #1) by Bernard Cornwell


5 stars for The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom book 1) by Bernard Cornwell.

This series come highly recommended by a colleague without whom I doubt I will ever come across this novel, and needless to say, read it.

At the time of recommendation, I have yet to meet this newfound colleague, but our love to read and appreciation of good writing make me feel as if I have known him for years, not days. Best of all, he understands my unusual quirks on books and reading. Like it or not, everyone has their own reading quirks. They may be cultivated over time or happened overnight, but they will not go away and they are ours to keep. I am very happy indeed to have found another booklover, especially one who shares the same quirky habits as me.

I am not familiar with and have never before read stories related to the Anglo-Saxon period which lasted from 410 to 1066. I am equally clueless that by the ninth century, Anglo-Saxon England was divided into four main kingdoms - Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex. Because of my ignorance, I am not aware that the story in The Last Kingdom is in fact very much based on real events until I read the Historical note at the end of the book. Only then do I realise that the ealdormen in this historical novel whose names begin with Æ (a vanished letter, called the ash) and many of the Danes and their kings all existed at one time.

Two sentences into the prologue and I have a good feeling that I will like this story; Uhtred's story. Born an Englishman of England but brought up a Danish of the Viking way, this is his story where destiny is everything, where men are bound by duty, loyalty, pride, passion, love and land.

"My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred and his father was also called Uhtred."

True to my intuition, I have a whale of a time seeing the world through the eyes of Uhtred, from a pagan childhood right up to the fight in his first great shield wall. The author has certainly done his research well and consequently, a fantastic job feathering English history with fiction and topping it off with small doses of humour every now and then.

Thank you for the recommendation. If you are reading this, you know who you are. No? Don't make me spell it out.. Okay. Yes buddy. Sean, thank you! ..And I agree. Destiny is everything. It brings you to this series and now, it is my turn.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel


3 stars for Sleeping Giants (Themis Files book 1) by Sylvain Neuvel.

This is a story about artifacts left on Earth by an ancient alien civilization.

What fascinates me the most in this book is not the discovery, the search nor the deciphering of the relics, but rather, the development and revelation of the characters through understanding of their interview sessions, personal journal entries, experiment logs and mission reports.

I will say this is one brave author, an author who dares to be different by choosing to execute his debut novel in an almost all dialogue style. A style which readers will either love or hate. Me? I enjoy reading the better part (75%) of the book until the dialogues with a nameless interrogator finally start to grate on my nerves. I am not sure if I will want to subject myself to another book of this writing style again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher


5 stars for Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher.



There is always a first time, for everything. In this case, a story that is not meant to be read but listened to. Right.. it does not feel as if I have finished reading this book, rather, it feels more like I have finished listening to a bunch of audiotapes the moment the last tape reaches the end of its spool.

Seven cassette tapes. Six double sided, one single. Thirteen sides in all. Thirteen sides to every story. Thirteen reasons why.

If I didn't know any better, I will say this book is based on a true story. One that has been converted from voice recordings of a girl to merely words printed on pages, leaving life-changing moments in its wake for whoever the reader.

How many secrets can there be in one school? How is everything related? Do we see people around us as who they truly are? How much of our friends do we really know? This is emotionally exhausting.⏸



I have no answers to the above questions. But one thing for sure, I know why this book has its appeal. Guys will like it. Girls will love it. It certainly resonates with me.

Listen to the cassette tapes and you will understand why.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva


4 stars for The Last One by Alexandra Oliva.

This novel reads like a wilderness survival reality show. Titled In the Dark, it has all the trappings of a reality TV series. All except one. One that has somehow gone wrong. Very wrong.

In the Dark is a race, or rather, a series of small races where the contestants accumulate advantages and disadvantages. No one gets voted off and the game will continue until only one person remains, hence the title The Last One. But, no one - not the creators, not the contestants, not the audience - knows how long the show will last. In short, this race does not have a finish line; the only way to get out of the race is to quit.

The series of races or challenges, be it team or solo, are well-thought-out and skilfully relayed to readers and audience alike by both first and third person narratives. In fact, the game is so well played that I look forward to each and every challenge and tackle them alongside the contestants with relish.

Though this is no horror story, there are much mysterious forces at work that give me the creeps - unique personalities, survival priorities and of course, the Woods itself. I would say that all goes well until the part where the self-denial kicks in and blurs the line between reality TV and reality itself. The story becomes too far-fetched from then on.

One show. Twelve contestants. It is by no means an easy feat to remember all twelve characters, their ensuing dispositions and enjoy the story at the same time. So, I will suggest to jot down notes on a piece of paper the moment you get started on the book. This is exactly what I have done and I find myself turning to my notes ever so often as I read along.

Contestants

Tracker aka Cooper (red)
Zoo aka Mae Woods aka Sam (sky blue)
Air Force aka Ethan (navy blue)
Rancher aka Julio (black & yellow)
Biology aka Sofia (orange)
Engineer aka Albert (maroon & brown)
Black Doctor aka Tyler (mustard yellow)
Exorcist aka Randy (lime green)
Carpenter Chick aka Amy (neon yellow)
Banker aka Elliot (black & white)
Waitress aka Heather (violet)
Cheerleader Boy aka Josh (pink)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown


2.5 stars for Morning Star (Red Rising book 3) by Pierce Brown.

Morning Star is a fair wrap-up of the Red Rising series. It tells of the rage of the Sons of Ares, the strength of Ragnar (Obsidian), the honor of Cassius (Morning Knight), the love of Sevro (Gold), the loyalty of Victra (Gold), and the dream of Eo (Red), and more.

Of all three books, I find book 1 Red Rising to be the most exciting and interesting with its many unexpected twists and turns. Book 2 Golden Son less so but still enjoyable. Book 3 Morning Star.. well, I am somewhat disappointed that the story does not shine as brightly as I have expected it to. I think it is because by this time, the political manoeuvring and cut-throat whatnots kind of go stale and the characters just seems to go on a wild goose chase with no end in sight. At times, it is so tempting to skip large chunks of text or jump right to the last chapter.

Exhilarating conclusion to the Red Rising Trilogy? Sorry to say... definitely not so for me.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Review: Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown


4 stars for Golden Son (Red Rising book 2) by Pierce Brown.

Plots. Revolution. Civil War. Disconcerting killcount. Survive and conquer. Death begets death begets death, and ever more. But ultimately, wisdom is found in the heart, not the head. And that is what makes Golden Son shines so bloodydamn brightly as the follow-up to Red Rising.

Taken verbatim from the author "the magic of man is in words, in tales, in legends lost and in those still yet to come", I look forward to unleashing this magic in my upcoming quest to conquer the final instalment of the trilogy, Morning Star.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown


4.5 stars for Red Rising (Red Rising book 1) by Pierce Brown.

This novel is labelled under the Science Fiction genre, but with the exception that it takes place on Mars, there is hardly any science in this fiction. Nevertheless, I have a great time trapped in the layered society of Colours, the Golds, Silvers, Bronzes, Coppers, Obsidians and Reds to name a few. The initial 15-20% of the story is slow moving but hints of potential and great things to come. Boy, am I glad to have persisted beyond because after that, I willingly hold myself captive between the pages of this book.

Oppression. Lies. Rebellion. Freedom. Every sin, every death, every sacrifice, is for freedom. This story is a study of humanity; of political, psychological and behavioural science, how human beings react to one another, how armies function and how tactics win battles but strategies win wars.

I like the placement of Roman mythology in the story even though it is loosely based upon. Twelve Houses, each named for one of the gods of the Roman pantheon. But somehow I feel the need to voice out that the author fails the Mathematics test. When I finally decide to do a count, I find out that there is one extra House to account for. Shouldn't it be twelve Houses in twelve castles based on twelve great Roman deities? And don't get me started on where the twelve Roman Gods reside in - Mount Olympus. OMG! Mount Olympus is the dwelling of the Olympian Gods according to Greek, not Roman mythology. Well, it seems to me that the author wants the best of both mythologies, Roman and Greek. But please, get them right and don't confuse readers by blending them together.

Jupiter-Juno
Neptune-Minerva
Mars-Venus
Apollo-Diana
Vulcan-Bacchus
Mercury-Ceres
Pluto

Now, here comes the irony. Regardless of all the above grievances, Red Rising, with the adult-centric themes of justice, power and war, is a book worthy of my time.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review: Dark Horse (Class 5 #1) by Michelle Diener


Did Not Finish Dark Horse (Class 5 book 1) by Michelle Diener.

This book is the winner of the SFR Galaxy Award 2016 and the Prism Award 2016 for Best Futuristic.

Unfortunately, science fiction romance with Artificial Intelligence lodged in a crystal key is not my cup of tea. That and the snail-like pace of the story lead to my decision that enough time has been invested - and wasted - at a quarter of the book.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: Tin Star (Casablanca recast #1) by Cecil Castellucci


3.5 stars for Tin Star (Casablanca recast book 1) by Cecil Castellucci.

Tin Star is an interesting read with an unusual story albeit a bit slow moving.

Beaten and left for dead on a space station called Yertina Feray, 14-year old Tula Bane finds the will and the means to survive among the aliens. And everything is so much bigger and more interconnected than it is thought to be.

Docking bay. Space travel. Space station. Planets. Galaxy. Humans. Aliens. Politics.

This book will appeal much to readers who like traditional Science Fiction stories.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: The Master Magician (Paper Magician Trilogy #3) by Charlie N. Holmberg


5 stars for The Master Magician (Paper Magician Trilogy book 3) by Charlie N. Holmberg.

The Master Magician is a captivating follow-up to The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician.

I absolutely love the Paper Magician series, a series which will enchant readers of all ages, and am sad that this is the last book in the Trilogy,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: The Glass Magician (Paper Magician Trilogy #2) by Charlie N. Holmberg


5 stars for The Glass Magician (Paper Magician Trilogy book 2) by Charlie N. Holmberg.

The Glass Magician is an enchanting follow-up story to The Paper Magician. While this trilogy is not exactly a romance story, the feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love is brilliantly interwoven in the magical world of magicians that ultimately lead to heart-warming moments and heart-stopping action.

Thoroughly engaging and irresistible, I read the book in one dreamy sitting and am all smiles by the time I hit the sack in the wee hours.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: The Paper Magician (Paper Magician Trilogy #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg


4.5 stars for The Paper Magician (Paper Magician Trilogy book 1) by Charlie N. Holmberg.

The Paper Magician is a charming Young Adult Fantasy set in a world of magicians who animate man-made materials such as glass, metal, plastic, rubber and yes, paper. It is beautifully written to convey the message that life is worth living and there is hope - and love - yet to be.

I bought this book from Amazon Kindle First on 3 August 2014, yet for one reason or another, I did not read it until 5 days ago. Oh, how I love this story and chide myself for not reading it earlier. On the other hand, perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that I have procrastinated in reading this book which I thought is a standalone at the time of purchase, for three years later, the trilogy is completed and I can have the luxury to read them back-to-back.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki


5 stars for A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

This book comes recommended by someone holding a senior management position in my workplace and is subsequently loaned to me by the same. I will be fibbing without batting an eyelid if I am to say that there is no pressure whatsoever in my quest to read this book with the hope that I will like it somehow. It does not matter that the book is passed to me with the accompanying message that it is perfectly fine if I do not enjoy the story as we all have our preferences, there is just this something at the back of my mind that troubles me. What if?

Well, I am glad to say that my worries prove to be unfounded. Truth is, by the time I am well into the so-called third chapter, any discomfort along with the "what if" have wholly dissipated. The story is... WoW. Totally unexpectedly exceptional. I am captivated by the way the author pens this story that feels more like reading a memoir (her memoir) than fiction. With true events - 11 Mar 2011 earthquake, tsunami and catastrophic meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactors to name a few - weaved among a cast of fictional characters, the author explores what it means to live at the moment in time, now.

Never mind that it is not a message in a bottle but a Hello Kitty lunchbox that is cast out onto the ocean, all the same, the stories contain within transport me across time and space into schoolgirl Nao's world where she lives to tell the tales of her family and especially that of her 104-year old great granny whom she feels is the only person who truly understands time.

Time as the theme in this book is as interesting as it is mystifying. The book title, for instance, carries a double meaning. (1) A Tale for the Time Being. Time being as in the moment in time. A Tale for the Moment in Time (2) A Tale for the Time Being. The Being which is Time. A Tale for Time. Do you feel this way too when you first come across the book title?

Time and again, the author brings me on an emotional roller coaster ride as I alternate between first person Nao and third person Ruth's narratives. Just when I am so utterly absorbed in Nao's world, I am pulled out from that alternate world back into being Ruth the observer again. And this is where the real challenge lies; to sleep or stay up to find out more.

Finally, in case you are wondering, yes, I am aware right from the beginning that third person narrator, Ruth, shares the same name as the author. And that by itself, is a beauty in A Tale For the Time Being.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill



Did Not Finish The Fireman by Joe Hill.

I read this book because it is voted the best horror story in Goodreads Choice Awards 2016. Sadly, in this case, what is voted as best by some do not sit well with me and I decide to throw in the towel at 2% shy of a quarter of the book.

The story starts off well with a sense of mystery and foreboding. However, the plot degenerates soon enough and I feel as if I am reading a meaningless novel about controlling and manipulating fire as a weapon to protect and avenge the wronged.

This book just seems wrong on so many levels; I am not sure why it is a horror story in the first place let alone understand it as the best. One thing I know for sure, at least for me, is that this book will bag the award for the biggest disappointment of 2016 if there ever is one.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


5 stars for Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

Dark Matter is science fiction at its finest.

This is a story about the concepts of quantum mechanics and multiverse, a hypothetical space or realm consisting of possibly an infinite number of parallel universes of which our own universe is only one. Together, these universes comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, and the physical laws and constants that describe them.

I know it sounds complicated but, no, one does not need to be a student of physics, cosmology or astronomy to read and understand this book. I am certainly not one but nevertheless, have enjoyed the story tremendously.

At the core of it all, this novel is obsession - and thus, insanity - with a box. A box that set the wheels in motion to possibilities of eradicating regret and finding the one world where the right choice has been made.

On a deeper level, this story sets me thinking about our world. What is our known universe made up of? Is it crazy to consider the possibility that all of us exist and is a part of a larger and more mysterious reality than we have ever known of? Will we be content to live with our choices and learn? What of paths not taken? To what extent will we go to claim the lives we dream of? And the list of questions goes on.

Intense and gripping, this book is a huge page turner. It is easy to read and even easier to associate oneself with the world building as it hits so close to home in a modern day setting. The pacing of the heart stopping moments is second to none. Just when I thought the dust has settled and I can take a breather, something comes along to stir things up and the whole adrenaline rush starts all over again.

This book is a must-read. Do yourself a favour if you have not already done so. Go get a copy and be prepared to be blown away.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4) by Lisa Shearin


2 stars for The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files book 4) by Lisa Shearin.

I finish reading this book more than five days ago. I know I should have found time to write and post my review before I indulge in the next book. But I choose to procrastinate. One day becomes two. Two becomes three. And before I know it, I am at the last two chapters of the next book and I still have not reviewed The Ghoul Vendetta yet. Truth is, for the life of me, I have no idea what to write. I am at a loss for words!

As you can guess from the above, yes, I do not have an enjoyable time with this book. The first half of the story is still acceptable, but as I read along, I find myself getting restless and flipping the pages faster and faster. There is pretty much nothing new. Nothing exciting. As usual, Agent Makenna Fraser and her partner, Ian, are back in action to tackle the criminal creatures that go bump in the night. So, what's new? Zilch.

On a fair note, the story content is fine and the writing is good. But somehow, the story just comes across as uneventful and I am bored to tears. There you have it. My review. Not a great one but it is the long and short of it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: You Sent Me a Letter by Lucy Dawson


1 star for You Sent Me a Letter by Lucy Dawson.

This is a book that manages to capture my attention for five chapters before I go full blast into speed reading.

I certainly do not enjoy reading a story built on self-denial, half-truths and cover-ups. To make matters worse, this tangled web of lies is messy and confusing; it's awful. That said, my curiosity still gets the better of me and I am keen to know how the story pans out. Hence the speed to reach the end of the story. No surprises there. Yes, expect the unexpected to be expected.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: The Brimstone Deception (SPI Files #3) by Lisa Shearin


2.5 stars for The Brimstone Deception (SPI Files book 3) by Lisa Shearin.

This book takes me long enough to finish reading. While the first half or so of the story is reasonably acceptable, the same cannot be said of the latter half.

Perhaps I am too tired to read pretty much anything by the time I start my nightly reading. Or perhaps the story is just so uneventful that my mind simply shut itself down each time I pick the book up. In any case, I suffer from a serious case of reader's block. Yes, I frequently find myself reading and rereading individual words or sentences mechanically without processing and understanding the meaning of the text in my mind. It gets so bad at one point in time that I decide to skip to the last chapter, read it and move backwards to where I have last stopped. Weird? But it works! So who cares?

Magic exists. Monsters are real. Fighting the forces of evil is a full-time job. Welcome back to the supernatural world where Agent Makenna Fraser and her partner, Ian, continue to fight the forces of evil and minions of darkness.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: Precinct 13 (Precinct 13 #1) by Tate Hallaway


4 stars for Precinct 13 (Precinct 13 book 1) by Tate Hallaway.

I come across this book purely by chance. To tell the truth, even though it is written in first person, I am kind of hesitant to read it in the first place, because the protagonist is a recent college graduate. More often than not, a fresh graduate points to a genre of new adult at best and young adult at worst. Both of which does not appeal to me of late.

Well, I am glad to have read the book after all for it is neither of the genres mentioned above. The urban setting is great, the fantasy refreshing and there is the element of surprise when the reader least expects it.

I am certainly looking forward to the next book in this series.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review: Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan


4.5 stars for Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan.

This Greek mythology is certainly a welcome change from my last book. In fact, I feel so mentally exhausted after my last two trips to the Andes mountain and back that I am not sure if I can finish reading any book within the next thirty days. I do not know about you, but I do find reading non-fiction to be more intense and draining.

How to describe Percy Jackson's Greek Gods? One word. Uplifting. My mood literally soars as I smile and laugh my way through the short stories with each of the Greek Gods. Also, it helps that I have background knowledge of Greek myth in the first place which makes for an even better dry sense of humor.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read


4.5 stars for Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read.

‘I come from a plane that fell in the mountains. I am Uruguayan.…’

This is the story of sixteen survivors; how they have suffered the plane crash, what they have done to remain alive and how their ordeal in the Andes have changed their attitude towards life. And because I have already read the book I Had to Survive, I can appreciate and understand this book in depth.

This book does well to offer the bird's-eye-view of all the goings on. The author provides a chronological order of the event, clearly depicts the occurrence of the plane crash, lays down the horrors of the aftermath and even presents analysis to break down the causes and likely culprits leading to the tragedy. However, due to the third person narration, the story coverage comes across as detached and somewhat lacking in warmth, faith and friendship among the survivors. I am also kind of disappointed that the book does not offer perspectives of the event as seen through the eyes of any or each of the survivors.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Telunas Beach Resort - Day 4

Countdown to goodbye..


Pictures taken from balcony of C10 Komodo


Another one


Rustic charm




Front view from high up on the Jumping Deck


Back view from high up on the Jumping Deck


Diagonal view from high up on the Jumping Deck


Side view from high up on the Jumping Deck


Ophs.. too close for comfort



Telunas Resort Private Island


Let's break fast


Our camera man still hard at work.. snap snap snap.


Our friendly Tenulas hosts


Simply love these bottles.



Finally, a picture of the most important Room within the Room.


.. and window view from the side of the double decker bed.


.. and not forgetting the double decker bed itself of course.


Low tide


World without strangers.


Final walk through


Breakfast is Over!



Too bad (we are leaving). Too mad (we are not staying tonight). Too sad (we. are. sad.)


We will be back some day. One day. Scratch that. Many days. Many many days.