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.


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.