Friday, August 29, 2014

Long Summer's Day by R. F. Delderfield

I was approached to review this book because I had read (and loved) Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. Are these two books similar? Well, they're both really long, and they tell a story of a period of a time rather than any one character.

Long Summer's Day follows Paul Craddock, who, after an injury, buys Shallowford and becoems Squire Craddock. The novel follows his life after becoming Squire, and how he impacts the tenants and inhabitants of valley, and how they impact him. While Paul is undeniably the top dog, so to speak, other main characters include Claire, Ikey, Rudd, and ok, there are a lot and I'm not going to list them here. It's through the collective story of these people that you get a sense of England in the early 1900s, and how they were (resisting) change.

My favourite character of this book is probably Claire. Although she did not feature prominently in the first half of the book (apart from the first few chapters), I liked her because of her generous nature. She has a really loving spirit, and is unflinchingly honest.

Curiously, I didn't like Grace, the feminist and women's suffrage campaigner even though, when I think about it, the two of them are quite alike. They both know what they want, although they want different things. Perhaps it's because most of the novel is seen through Paul's eyes, and Grace hurts Paul quite badly emotionally. Or it could because Grace was somehow too unique, and I didn't like her because I didn't understand her.

This is a long, winding read, and it's at its best when the author is just letting the story speak. At certain times, the author tries to give an overview of how all the character feels through a bird flying or something like that, and for that moment, it goes very close to the bother of pretentiousness. But thankfully, such moments are few, and the book is a lovely read because it manages to tell the tale of many people in a straightforward manner.

I would definitely recommend to fans of long reads like Fall of Giants. It's not a fast-paced adventure, but rather, follows the meandering road of a man's life.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

I heard about this book from Book Whales (click to read her review), and it intrigued me. Happily, the library had a copy ^^

The Murder Complex follows Zephyr James and Meadow Woodson, two very special individuals in a dystopian society run by an organisation (a government? Which is the correct term?) called the Initiative.. Zephyr is a Ward, which (as far as I can tell), means that he's an orphan and does the dirty work like clearing the corpses that build up. However, Zephyr has a secret - he kills people. He doesn't know why, but every now and then, he wakes up with a body lying next to him. Meadow is trying to help her family survive by taking a job with the Initiative. Thankfully, her father's training helped her to pass the test. But when Zephyr and Meadow meet, they discover (apart from the instant attraction on Zephyr's part) that something is going on behind the scenes. And it involves them.

Here's what I liked about the book:

Meadow's character. She's trained to survive (and that includes killing when necessary), and her character is exactly what you'd expect. She doesn't have a "hidden soft-side" or go teary-eyed and sentimental at the drop of a hat. In fact, she's quite hard-hearted when need be, and I thought it was very appropriate for someone with her background. Kudos to the author for not trying to soften her.

Zephyr and Talan's friendship. Talan is a friend of Zephyr, and I really liked seeing how these two people had such a strong bond. No, there wasn't any romance, just friendship. It was really really refreshing.

The mystery. There is a mystery in this book (though it's not a murder mystery), and I like how it unravelled. There were quite a few twists and turns, which made the book very addictive.

But, there were some things that I wasn't so crazy about. Like:

The instalove (Sorry Book Whales, I'm going to disagree with you here). I feel that, at least on Zephyr's side, the instalove was fairly strong. I mean, Zephyr has been dreaming of Meadow even before he met her, and he keeps talking about how perfect she is. Thankfully, Meadow didn't do the same, so I only had to endure this for Zephyr's half of the book.

The treatment of Meadow's mom. Without giving away spoilers, let's just say that I found the treatment of Meadow's mom to be too contradictory. Her character, and her relationship with Meadow seem to flip flop, and since it was part of the action-packed finale, was rather unconvincing.

Overall: I liked the book. I'll even read book 2 is I can get my hands on it (this feels like the start of a series). There might have been some things that I'm not crazy about, they weren't so major as to thoroughly dissuade me from continuing the series, or reading other books by this author.

If you're looking for a different opinion, try the review over at A Page of Heaven

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Germanicus Mosaic by Rosemary Rowe

I'm so excited for today's Teaser Tuesday because it's a teaser of a book that I've been looking for for a long time! I read this Roman mystery once, then forgot the title and author. All I knew was that I really enjoyed it. After much hunting, I think the series is the Libertus series by Rosemary Rowe. And it's only found at one library in Singapore ^^;

So today, I finally got my hands on three of the books! Here's my teaser:

"The question of the murder was settled to his satisfaction, perhaps. I was no so sure."(Page 170)

I'm really enjoying the book so far!

What are your teasers?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Born Reading by Jason Boog

When I read the introduction, I thought this was going to be a stuffy book. I'm not sure why, since it talks about how he used his reading journey with his daughter, but I suppose the style of writing and the repeated use of the term "interactive reading" scared me a little. But, when I actually started reading this book, I was surprised by how easy to read it was.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm reading this book when I'm neither a parent nor expecting (I'm not even married or attached!), it's because:

a. I have a little brother who's 10 years younger than me, and I was hoping I could learn something that I can use while reading with him when I'm back in Singapore and
b. I want to teach more kids English, and I do think that if I prepare myself, the students will come.

Does Born Reading give me any useful information? I think so.

This book basically promotes something called Interactive Reading, which basically, is reading to your child while asking questions. I do this with my bro, so yay!

But for me, the real value of the book lies in its exploration on how to mix traditional print book with ebooks or apps. While a lot of the app recommendations are targetted for babies and toddlers (I only found a few websites my brother can use in the last chapter), there is a compelling story of how to raise up a reader in this technology age.

I really enjoyed reading Jason Boog's story of how he turned an app into a full-on experience (you can do related activities too), and his very thorough recommendations on which apps to use, and for what. He also has something called a Reading Kit that may interest parents.

Overall, I really like this book. There's a lot of sound advice, and I think it manages to tread the middle-line between an electronic-device ban and using an iPad as a babysitter.

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Quiet Vendetta by R.J. Ellory

For a book I picked up on a whim, it was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I definitely wasn't expecting much - a normal thriller/police procedural, but not something that drew me in this much.

This book starts with a murder. But not just any murder, the guy's had his heart cut out and placed back in. Plus, someone drew the sign of Gemini on his back. At the same time, Catherine Ducane, the daughter of Governor Ducane (Governor of Louisiana) disappears. When the kidnapper calls, he makes a strange request: he doesn't want money, he wants to talk to Ray Hartmann to tell him his story. Ray Hartmann is a cop who made a few mistakes and is now trying to get his family back together. The last thing he wants to do is to get involved in this case, but he has no choice.

Personally, I didn't enjoy the starting of the novel. It struck me as oddly detached, and the main character didn't even appear Chapter 4 (page 49). That meant for the first few chapters, I had no idea who the main characters were, since they seemed to keep changing, and no idea what was going on.

But, I persevered with the book and slowly, it turned into a rewarding read. For me, the best part of the book has to be the kidnapper's story. He retells his entire life story, from his birth in New Orleans, to the present, and it's complex. It's dark, it involves the mafia, it involves politics, it involves some of the most sensational murders of all time, it's basically a standalone story.

I'm not even sure why the book went through all the trouble of placing this story into another one. The kidnapping/murder case didn't make much progress because the suspect was right there, taking his own sweet time confessing.

While there is a whole cast of characters, only the kidnapper (Perez) and Ray were truly fleshed-out characters, to me, the rest of the characters didn't stand out at all. The rest were more like props than supporting actors. But that could be because both Perez and Ray were such deeply troubled men that their troubles stole the show and prevented other characters from fully developing (at least, not without expanding the novel by another couple hundred pages).

Overall, this is a worthwhile read. Hidden behind the slow start and what seems like a normal police procedural is an entrancing tale of the underbelly of the world. Sure, it's a work of fiction (and I'm glad it's a work of fiction), but it does a good job of transporting you to another side of life.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Darkness Watching by Emma L. Adams

Although this isn't the type of book I normally read, the synopsis the author gave was so intriguing that I accepted the offer of a free book in exchange for a free and honest review (ha! Disclaimer is done(; )

Darkness Watching centers around Ashlyn, or Ash, as it's shortened. She's an English major, and a perfectly ordinary girl. Except that she can see demons. To make it worse, they start appearing around the time of her university applications, which results in her getting accepted to only one university - Blackstone University. She seems to be safe from the demons there, but she soon realises that she isn't normal, and that she needs to find out more about herself.

I really liked the two sides of Ashlyn's life. There's the quiet, bookish girl (she and her roomates have a Disney night! That is definitely needed for me! And a Studio Ghibli night too!), and there's the girl that can shoot fire out of her hands and see demons. Her life is similarly divided, with her "normal" friends (her roommates) and her "Gaming" friends (who are actually a group of outcast wizards. I got the sense that Ash considered both groups equally important, which was something I really appreciated.

The only thing I want more of, is to learn more about the Venantium, the group of sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping the human and demon world divided. From the synopsis, I thought they would play a more significant role, but they were sort of like the bogeyman - talked about a lot, but not interfering that much (the villain turns out to be someone else entirely).

As for the romance, well, I support Ash and Leo! They seem really suitable for each other. As for Ash and David, well nope. Don't see it happening, and I didn't see any sparks. But don't worry, there isn't a love triangle here, even though I just named two guys and one girl. The David/Ash thing happens earlier.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It was an interesting story, and I really liked Ash as a main character.

Disclaimer (again): I received this book free from the author in exchange for a free and honest review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice Adapted by Stacy King

A little while ago, I reviewed the manga version of Les Miserables. And now, I'm reviewing Pride and Prejudice! Since Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books, my expectations for this manga was very high.

Luckily, the book did not disappoint. It's roughly the same length as Les Miserables, which means that compared to Les Miserables, a lot less material was cut out. For that, I'm thankful, because it's the detail in Pride and Prejudice that I love.

At first, I was a bit hesitant about the style of the book (it's very shojo manga-ish) because I had this nagging feeling that these were Japanese characters with wigs on them. I think it's the face. The face looks Japanese to me, but the hair is very foreign. Somehow, I didn't really have this issue with Les Miserables. Actually, compared to Les Miserables, the style of Pride and Prejudice feels much, much girlier.

But, once I got over that, I really enjoyed this book. There are loads of things to love, such as how perfectly Darcy fits the tsundere character. And because I'm very influenced by the movies/tv series, I actually think that Darcy here shows quite a lot of emotion. Or at least, the book itself makes him seem much more emotionless (and he certainly did not blush as much in the movie/tv series).

All in all, I really enjoyed this manga as well. Take a look at the artwork for yourself, and if you like it (and you liked the original book), you should definitely consider getting a copy.

Artwork preview (Click to see the closeups!):

The famous scene

Mrs. Bennet is kira-kira

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Obsidian Dagger by Catherine Webb

It's Tuesday again~ I've been reading a lot recently (yay!) and neglecting my handphone (the laptop I still turn on once a day). It feels relaxing to be a little disconnected from the internet (or rather, my handphone).

Right now, I'm re-reading The Obsidian Dagger by Catherine Webb. I remember really loving the Haratio Lyle series in school, so I'm so excited to be able to re-read it!

My teaser:
"At roughly the same time that Teresa Hatch was practicing good elocution and better manners, Horatio Lyle stood shivering outside a warehouse by the Amber Wharves, where the busy streets were too narrow for even the smallest of carts fo squeeze through. Snow had started to fall, and a cheerful demeanour was not enough to compensate for the grating cold." (Page 140)
What are you teasers this week?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles J. Unger

One of my favourite types of biographies would be those that center around topics, rather than narrating the chronological history of a person. For example, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things did this perfectly (click to read my review). So when I saw Michelangelo, A Life in Six Masterpieces, I had to request it.

This biography of Michelangelo takes six of his masterpieces and uses them as the focus for a particular section of Michelangelo's life. The six pieces in question are: The Pieta, David, The Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgement, the tombs he carved for the Medici and the vaults and dome of St. Peter.

Mixed in with the biography are plenty of analysis of the six pieces, using the historical context as a base for extracting meaning. I liked reading the analysis, but I've always been terrible at analysing art, so I have no idea if they're accurate (or even conventional).

Personally, I liked the first few chapters much better than the last few. The first few chapters felt much more closely tied to the work in question, but the last few chapters felt as though they were trying to cram in as much information about Michelangelo's life as possible.

But, I guess I shouldn't complain about that, because Michelangelo's a fascinating guy. This is the first biography of him that I've read, and I've found out so much about him. I knew he was a perfectionist, but I didn't expect him to be this fussy and temperamental (as well as so enthusiastic about editing his own history).

This book is for fans of Michelangelo, and art history students. I found it to be an interesting book, and I learnt a lot from it.

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Silver Rings by Samuel Valentino

I saw this book from NetGalley and requested/got approved for it. Unfortunately, I didn't think to download it until after it was archived. Sigh.

Good thing I'm in Singapore and managed to get a copy from the library. Now I'm wondering if I should do a disclaimer at the end.

The Silver Rings follows two beautiful twin sisters, Celia and Alice. After their fairy godmother makes them part, the two of them get into different adventures, reliving various classic fairytales, but with a twist. I think I've read a fairy-tale that involves silver rings and siblings, but I can't quite remember its name. Anyhow, apart from that, the book references The Frog Prince, Puss in Boots, All Kinds of Fur, and a host of other fairy tales.

What I liked about this book, apart from the various ways fairytales were worked into one story, would be the unconventional way in which the characters behave. For example, no matter how awful the wicked stepmother is, Alice and Celia remain cheerful. When Prince Randall first sees Alice, he instantly falls in love with her, but Alice does her best not to marry him. In fact, the courtship of Alice and Randall was one of my favourite episodes as it was really amusing to read.

Although the twin sisters are the titular characters, I found that my favourite character was Rant, the fox. He's a talking fox who has a magic hankerchief that can open up and provide whatever food you want (much like that magic table in "Table-Be-Set, Gold-Donkey, and Cudgel-out-of-the-Sack"). His true talent is to spin any story into an outrages one, and his penchant for grandoise tales makes him my favourite character.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable book. Children will like it because it's funny and humorous, and the adults reading it to them will enjoy it when they catch all the different references to traditional fairy-tales.

Disclaimer: I heard about this book from NetGalley. However, the copy I read was from the Singapore National Library. The review here is my honest opinion.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson

Apart from fairy-tale retellings, I really like books that retell, or are based on, Alice in Wonderland (so much material to work with!). When I saw this book in BookBlogging, the pretty cover instantly caught my eye, and the blurb sounded so enticing! And happily, the book lived up to my expectations.

James Riggs is a pushover. His boss bullies him, his fiancee is getting him to give up his favourite activities. So at the start of the book, his boss's plans and his fiance's plans collide, forcing James to just get away from them. He goes to his old friend Melvin, but sadly, Melvin is killed right in front of his eyes, and James is transported to some weird Victorian-style country.

Wonderland. It's not the same Wonderland that Alice went to, it's the Wonderland that Alice changed by virtue of being an Outsider. And the paranoid despot is desperate to catch him. In a stroke of luck, Kara, the daughter of the Mad Hatter and the first person who runs into James has ties to the resistance, and they start off on a wild and crazy adventure, aided occasionally by the White Rabbit.

The conflict in this novel comes from the rebellion and, more importantly, Jame's internal conflict. James has been pushed around for so long that he doesn't want to save Wonderland. All he wants to do is to go home where everything is safe and familiar. Through his journey, James has to find in him, the strength that everyone needs, since for some reason, they're all counting on him.

For me, my favourite character in this book wasn't James, but Torre. Torre is an elite knight from the now-defeated Red Heart Kingdom, and his loyalty to his now dead King was really touching. Plus, his character really develops in the last few chapters, and he becomes more than the touchy, prickly knight that first met James and Kara.

Speaking of James and Kara, I found their romance to be very predictable. Thankfully, it didn't take up much of the book, although I suspect that the next book will talk about it more. But since it's not instalove, I'm looking forward to seeing how the author will handle their romance. I'd also like to know much more about Kara in the next book - there simply isn't enough backstory about her in this book.

All in all, I really like this retelling. I enjoyed this version of Wonderland, and the adventure was fun and easy to read.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Since I'm back in Singapore, I can finally go to the libraries to check out books that I'd like to read, but not necessarily want to buy. There is a long list of books, but I couldn't find all of them. I did end up borrowing 10 books, so I guess I'll be pretty busy reading the next few days. (Finally, proper print books!)

One of these books are The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings.

My teaser:

"If I leave I will die. If I stay I will die."  (Page 170)

Wow, that's a Catch-22 situation.

Anyone who has read this book have an opinion on it?

And of course, what are your teasers this week?

Every Inferno by Johanna Parkhurst

I believe regular readers of this blog know that I love mysteries. So when I heard of this YA mystery, I jumped right in.

JJ is a troubled teen. After his parent's deaths due a fire in a movie theatre(only JJ survived - his sister was left at home at that time), life has just been going downhill for him. His sister got adopted by his mom's best friend and he's not allowed to see her, he has a drinking problem, he's not doing well in school - well, he's got a lot of trouble. But lately, he's been having this recurring dream where he see's the arsonist. Could solving the case of who burned the movie theatre provide the key to putting all his demons behind him?

What I loved about this book - the writing class. I never had a creative writing class that JJ has, which makes me really envious of him! What I wouldn't give to have attended a class where my classmates would "workshop" my work. Although I can understand his reluctance to share what he's written.

Apart from the writing class, from which I will now stop raving about, JJ was the perfect protagonist. He's troubled, he's flawed, but he has many positive traits. Such as his love for his baby sister, and his refusal to "rat out" his cousin, even though it came at the cost of his adoption (and hence the opportunity to live with his sister). I was really rooting for him from the first page.

And while I don't read boy/boy romances, I thought that his relationship was well-handled. It didn't convert me into a fan of the genre, but I wasn't overly bothered by it either.

The only part of the book that disappointed me was how the case was solved. It was too pat, and required too little detective work. It's not like an Agatha Christie, where there's a Poirot deducing and revealing things, it's not a police procedural, with clues being followed and evidence being gathered. There is one attempt at finding the criminal, which sort-of fails, one suspect, then all of a sudden, the criminal is found and everything ends. For such a well-written book, with such a likable protagonist, this flaw was almost too much to stand. Is it too much to ask for a proper mystery as well?

Overall, the book is well-written. If you think of it as a "discovering one's self, improve one's self" sort of book, then it hits the mark. But don't think of it as a mystery, you'll just set yourself up for disappointment.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for a free and honest review.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Les Miserables Manga Adapted by Crystal Silvermoon and Stacey King

A while back, I finally read Les Miserables (link leads to review). And now, I find that there's a manga version! I'm so happy that I was able to get a review copy.

Now, if you remember my review of the original book, you'll recall that I didn't like Cosette and Maurius, and that's because they were shallow characters. Especially in comparison with Valjean, who's practically a saint.

I'm happy to say that I liked the manga, just like how I liked the movie better (although the manga didn't sing). Why? Because most of the parts that were cut out were the parts that involved the "characterisation" of Cosette and Marius, which made it much easier for me to overlook their faults.

But wait, you say, Les Miserables is a brick of a book, didn't they cut out too much? Uh, I can't really argue with you there. I would have liked it to be a two-volume series, because I really wanted more of Fantine's and the bishop's story to be told, as well as Jean Valjean's life as mayor.

As for the art. The art is really shojo manga-ish. I like it, but it's purely a matter of personal preference. Have a look at the review images, which Manga Classics kindly sent over, if you like them, you'll probably like the book since style can make or break a manga.

Recognise these scenes? 

The uber-famous start to Les Miserables!

I feel like Fantine looks a bit like Azmaria from Chrono Crusade.
My overall verdict? I liked it! Sure it was short, but the fact that it's short helped masked the parts of the original book that I didn't like (Cosette and Marius), while keeping the overall story intact. I find it to be a fairly accurate abridged retelling of the story.

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

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rocket Ship by C.O.B

Sick and tired of their lives, two best friends (Lincoln and Gary) decide to run away by building a rocket ship. However, if you read this book expecting a tale of runaways, you may be disappointed, because the rocket ship only launches at the end of the book, and even then, we don't know how it launched.

While this book initially focuses on Lincoln and Gary, it eventually expands to all the dissatisfied children in the class. It becomes a look at childhood, and whether certain types of childhood pain is unbearable, and what makes it worth staying on in your current life. This added dimension was certainly something that I was not expecting.

However, for all the good points of the novel, there are also parts of it I didn't like. One thing that annoyed me was the style of narration. I found the book slow to start (I only started liking it when the other kids came in), and the way of narration made it hard for me to connect with any of the characters. This is probably because the point of view is strictly third person ( "Lincoln and Gary", "they", not "Lincoln and I" or "we").

Speaking of the kids, my favourite characters were probably Gary (for the optimism) and Jacob (the misunderstood bully). On the other hand, I didn't like Lincoln, because he came across as a bully. Sort of like how the bullied become bullies once they get some power or advantage over others. There are also quite a few other kids, but I don't really remember them because there are too many, and the book is too short for them to make an impression (and it doesn't help that the book is in third person, so I never ever hear the individual voice of each kid).

Overall, this book is interesting. While the characters are all fairly young (I believe they're about 12), the style of this book leads me to believe that it's for an older audience. Lastly, this is a personal preference, but I would have preferred a more direct style of narration (first person please!) and less telling (for example, don't tell me they're 'aghast', show it to me). Those two things were what kept the book from completely drawing me in and captivating me.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of Enchanted Book Promotions Blog Tour in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer

Whoop! Tuesday means the worst day of exams are over, and only one more day to go! And then on Friday, I return to Singapore! I can't wait to see my friends and family again :D

This week's teaser tuesday is from Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer. It's the second in the Bloody Jack series (you can read my review of the first book here), and I'm enjoying it immensely.

Here's the teaser:
"As I rush about doing my duty, I'm thinking that Mistress prolly sprung this as a surprise so that the ladies would just spend one day getting ready, instead of a whole week. And keep them on their toes and get them used to preparing on the spur of the moment - never can tell when the President's gonna drop by, don'cha know." 
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To particpate, just share two teasers from a book you're currently reading, along with the title and author.

What are your teasers this week?

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Sandman by Alex Stargazer

This book sounded so good. I mean, an unconventional heroine, a mysterious entity (the Sandman), the two meeting. It had the trappings of a good bildungsroman. But, the book really disappointed me.

Now this book grew out of a an English GCSE paper. Nothing wrong with that, stories have come from stranger places, and I remember enjoying writing stories during my O Levels. But, this story is just too short.

First, is Leila an unconventional person ("everything a girl like her shouldn't be")? All we have as proof is that she doesn't want to marry an odious man in her village. Name me one girl who will gladly marry a man she doesn't like. This shows nothing about her. After all, did she take any concrete steps to get out of the marriage? No. She just followed the sound of a child's voice and got lost. All we have to know that Leila is unconventional is that the author has told us. Even though this story is short, the character building could have been so much better if Leila started her journey by defying her father rather than just getting lost. She does end by resolving to tell her father that "life was for people. Money was for cowards", but resolve is fine and dandy. Many people resolve to do things. Then they break them. We call these New Year Resolutions. Again, it shows nothing.

Second, is the Sandman the symbol of critical thought? All we have to go is by his own self-description and one statement about Adam and Even (that Adam was afraid of Eve because she knew things he didn't). I'm going to leave aside the theology criticism because the Bible (and I suppose the Q'uran as well) doesn't give us a clear motive. If you're interested, you can read this article.

To me, this isn't enough. I can call myself "the modern day Helen of Troy", but that doesn't mean I'm beautiful. Or, I can call myself "the biggest book blogger" and cite one tiny award I win, but that doesn't mean anything. To put it simply, the Sandman suffers from the same problem as Leila - they are not fully explored.

At the end of the book, the author analyses his own paper and tells you "what to take away from this." This, in my view, is a no-no. Books are meant to inspire questions, not have the authors tell you exactly what they mean. As a former Literature student, I'm pretty sure that my interpretation of any text would have been hampered if the author came out and told me "I wrote this book with this message." In my view, the author should have used the extra pages to build on the story, instead of expounding his message. Curious readers can do the interpretation and analysis for themselves, thank you very much.

To sum, the failing of this book is that it over-reaches itself. As a short story, it might work if the characters were given a bit more character, or the issue explored more fully. But, it tries to do both, and that's where the book fails - it doesn't get the chance to explore anything fully. Add that to an unnecessary analysis, and the book goes from a "short story with potential" to "a story that tries to be deep but comes across as pretentious (at least to me)."

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through BookBlogging in exchange for a free and honest review.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

I've been seeing this series around Rainbow Plaza for some time, and I've finally worked up the nerve to borrow it (I hesitate to approach series that seem awesome just in case they don't live up to expectations). Thankfully, this book is as good as I hoped!

Bloody Jack is the story of Mary "Jacky" Faber, an orphan girl who, after the death of the leader of the gang she was in, disguises herself as a boy and gets a position as a ship boy on the HMS Dolphin due to her ability to read. Of course, being the only girl in a ship full of men bring a whole set of problems, not least her growing attraction to one of her friends.

I love Jacky's voice in this book. I thought that the manner of talking would grow tiring after a while, but through a clever trick, the author manages to lessen the amount of slang, leaving enough to make the language interesting, but not so much that it gets tiring to read. I really enjoyed the first-person narration in this book, and I think it's a good example for those who want to tell their story in the voice of their protagonist.

To me, Jacky was a perfect protagonist. She's smart, she's sassy, and I particularly liked the way she told Jaimy, the ship boy she liked, that she was a girl. While there is one romance, her relationships with the rest of the boys are just friends, and I enjoyed reading about their friendship (of course, they think she's a boy, so that kind of negates the "girls can be friends with boys" thing in a way).

This story follows the first two years of Jacky's life on a ship. Yup, she goes two years without being discovered, although the way the story is told, you'll hardly notice the time going by until a character makes a reference to their ages or something like that. The plot involves pirates, ship drama, crazy inventions, and lots more. It's chock-full of things to make sure you'll never get bored. And, I didn't feel that it was too rushed, which is another point in its favour.

My only complaint about the book is that the passage of time isn't clearly marked out. I had the impression that Jacky was a 13 year old for most of the book, and was a little shocked at some of the things she did romance-wise (nothing explicit happens, but they almost go there). It was only later, when I realised she was 15, did the things she do start to sound a little more reasonable (although I do think that she's too young for some of that).

What an awesome first book. I have the second book with me right now, and I look forward to reading it!