Book Review

Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

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Doubt is the pinprick in the life raft.” She stepped close and we hugged. I could feel her trembling ever so slightly. She wasn’t bulletproof. I knew then that my shaky faith in myself was starting to dig a hole in hers, and Emma’s confidence was what held everything together. It was the life raft.

Library of Souls is the third installment from Ransom Riggs’ widely known book series of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. It was preceded by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City respectively. Published in 2015, it was narrated through the perspective of the main character, Jacob Portman and set in London, Siberia and various locations (fiction and real) through different time and era.

In this third and final book of Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children, Jacob and Emma found themselves in modern England where they must find their peculiar friends abducted by Caul (an evil man who has captured all the ymbrynes including Miss Peregrine) and his league of wights. The story immediately picked up where Hollow City ended and through the help of various characters (mostly peculiars) they met along the way, Jacob and Emma were able to find the rest of their friends and save them. Before they were able to succeed in saving the peculiars, Jacob had to go through Caul’s greedy hands and led him to the Library of Souls where Caul forced him to use his peculiarity in fulfilling Caul’s life-long desire of acquiring the most powerful soul in all of peculiardom.

Bentham, brother to Miss Peregrine and Caul, had concocted a recipe that would collapse the library. This was the key for Miss Peregrine, the ymbrynes and the peculiar children to escape Caul and his greed for power. After escaping the collapsing library and the life-threatening events that Caul has led them all, the peculiars were able to save other peculiars in Caul’s tower and settle in safely at Bentham’s house.

The book ended with Jacob going back to his parents instead of staying in Miss Peregrine’s loop with Emma and all his peculiar friends.

Having read the first two books in the series, I can say that Library of Souls was able to end the series in a satisfying note. The story was able to hold firm to its core theme and I loved how the characters, especially Jacob have matured in a span of few days that he stayed with peculiars and hollows alike. I loved that it showed how characters grew out of their childish fear and learn to fight not only for themselves but for others as well.

I’d rate this 3 out of 5 stars for I thought that Ransom Riggs could have let the peculiars explore greater heights in terms of adventure and fighting not just hollows and wights. I thought that since they were peculiar children, it would have been more engaging if their peculiarity were showcased more in the book.

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Book Review

Book Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions & Disturbances is a collection of short stories by the master storyteller Neil Gaiman published in 2015. The book consisted of 24 short stories and poems of various themes and backgrounds. This is the third collection of short fiction from Gaiman following Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things.

I will try to describe the stories that were remarkable enough to me, in three to five words:

  • “The Thing About Cassandra” – Made-up girlfriend
  • “Orange” – Alien abduction. Family.
  • “A Calendar Of Tales” – Year-round Stories
  • “The Case Of Death And Honey” – Sherlock Holmes’ eastern adventure.
  • “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” – Sad Fan-boy memoir.
  • “Click-Clack The Rattlebag” – Novel/Movie-Worthy.
  • “Nothing O’Clock” – Doctor Who. Bow ties.
  • “Diamonds And Pearls: A Fairy Tale” – Good > Bad. Diamonds > Frogs .
  • “The Sleeper And The Spindle” – Snow White saves the day.
  • “Black Dog” – Shadow Moon. Murder.

This would have to be the first book I’ve read that’s made of short stories instead of a full length novel. I was delighted (as expected!) with this book and each story kept me wanting for more. I was particularly thrilled with the Doctor Who bit entitled “Nothing O’clock” as I used to watch the series a few years back. I also liked “Black Dog” which is an American Gods story with Shadow Moon in it.

On the downside, I wasn’t quite impressed with the poems. It felt weird reading them but what the hell, it’s Neil Gaiman so I can move on from that! I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars rating. This could be because I’d still prefer a novel over short stories collection on any day but I’d recommend it to anyone travelling abroad with long hours of flight ahead for it will surely keep you entertained and can while away the hours.

Book Review

Book Review: The Dark Arena by Mario Puzo

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Sometimes I wanna fight like hell against everything around me, but I don’t know what to fight. It seems like I can’t get out of a straight line to a trap.

The Dark Arena is the first novel by the renowned crime novelist Mario Puzo published in 1955. Set in post World War II Germany, the book is told in the third person narrative and evolves around the life of Walter Mosca, an American G.I. who fell in love with a German girl.

The novel started at the end of the World War II where we find our protagonist, Walter on his way back home to America. Once home, he’s gone restless and thought that he would rather be back in Germany where all the ruins, faces and memories from the now-over war is everywhere. Soon, he decided to go back in Germany and once he reached Bremen, he went and look for Hella, a girl he met during the war and the reason he is back in the land of the enemy.

Together, Hella and Walter tried to live a harmonious life as a couple in a society where a relationship like theirs is considered a taboo. They made each day count, all along waiting for the wedding ban for American-German couple to be lifted. Though the book ended tragically, Walter and Hella’s union gave birth to a wonderful son.

The book speaks with a grim tone, someone who have gone through a war just like Walter could only have. It depicts the distorted view the world had during the war and how people struggle to move on with their lives even after the war is over.

I’ve always been drawn to books/stories related to the World War II because I find the emotions, insights and overall theme to have a deep and profound meaning. With this book, there are varying emotions thrown in but the story lacked in depth. The only thing I liked about it is the fact that Puzo was able to conjure up a character so cruel that you’d think how brave it was for a writer to come up with such an idea – to offer an awfully detestable main character to the readers.

I found it boring as the events in the book didn’t get me going and there’s not much to look forward to. I kept on waiting on every chapter for a cliffhanger, or something that would spice up the story but there were none. I’d give it a poor 2 out of 5 stars for I find the plot quite shallow and a bit meaningless. I love Mario Puzo for the brilliant job he’s done with The Godfather, but this novel was a “meh”.  I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone I know. If you want to experience the real Mario Puzo greatness, go grab a copy of The Godfather.

Book Review

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.

The Martian is a science fiction novel written by American novelist Andy Weir that was published in 2011. The book follows the adventure of a stranded astronaut in Mars in the year 2035 and how he managed to survive 549 sols (Martian day) alone.

Mark Watney is part of NASA’s crewed mission named Ares 3 that sends astronauts to Mars for exploration. Ares 3’s mission failed when on Sol 6, their landing area, Acidalia Planitia was hit by a dust storm which resulted to their evacuation. In this evacuation, only five out of the original six crews of Ares 3 were able to successfully board and launch the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) into space leaving behind one crew member -Mark Watney. This was brought about by Watney’s injury that left him unconscious which then led his crew members to believe him dead.

Watney then woke up to the realization that he is stranded in Mars ALONE and that he is fucked up! He spent the next days -err, sols coming up with various plans on how he will survive life on Mars. Along the way, he came up with solutions such as planting crops (from their mission’s stock) to feed him and fixing communication devices so he can talk to Earth. NASA on the other hand, later on found out that Watney is still alive in Mars and so this started their mission to bring him home alive. Through the combined efforts of the geniuses from NASA and resourcefulness of Watney, he was able to get home after 549 challenging, life-threatening solar days in Mars.

The book was largely written in the form of Watney’s Log or journal entries in Mars and through a third person narrative for Earth-related scenarios. It’s quite a book for geeks as contents of it could get way too “technical” with all the terms the author used to describe how Watney performed certain experiments to stay alive. A good example of this was when he decided to produce water in Mars for his crops. PRODUCE. WATER. IN. MARS!

I liked it for its wit and humor and how it was able to engage me still, in spite of all the technical/scientific phrases used to almost distract me. I like books with a fast-pace storytelling, and though The Martian seemed to stumble over Watney’s experiments here and there, I thought that his story is quite on the fast side in general.  What I didn’t like though, is how it got to a point where the cycle of Watney finding out something’s wrong and fixing it in the end became too repetitive. I also didn’t like how on some parts of it, I felt like I was reading the journal of a nerd, bragging about his latest science project while trying to sound funny.

I’d rate this book 4 out of 5 stars for I felt that it was a very well thought-out book. I like how the story is firm to the plot and no other distracting thoughts or events were strewn to it. I thought it is quite an educational read in some ways for people like me that have forgotten all about their Chemistry and Physics background (if there are any).

Book · Book Review

Book Review: Silence by Shūsaku Endō

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“It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.”

Silence is a historical fiction novel written by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō published in 1966. Set in 17th century Japan, it follows the story of missionaries from Portugal and the suffering they have both experienced and witnessed in the hands of Japanese officials. The first part was written in the form of letter correspondence from the protagonist and later on in the third person narrative.

Christianity was not something openly embraced by Japanese in 1630s. In spite of this adversity, a number of missionaries from Portugal still come to Japan to strengthen the Christian faith among the believers. A Portuguese Jesuit named Fr. Sebastian Rodrigues and his companion Fr. Francisco Garrpe sailed to Japan to fulfill this mission and to confirm the news that their mentor, a Jesuit priest in Japan named Christovao Ferreira has apostatized.

Upon reaching Japan, they have witnessed how discreet Japanese Christians are in their faith and worshiping God. They had to hide any sign that could give them away as practicing Christians to government officials and civilians alike. Rodrigues witnessed  brutality and torture of all sorts done to groups of Christian peasants that were caught practicing the religion. These tortures have all led to their eventual deaths. He himself was starved and imprisoned, while his companion Garrpe died of drowning trying to save Christians that were wrapped in woven mats then thrown in to the ocean to die. In all these hardships, he had often wondered and questioned why is God silent? Why did he remained silent in all of this?

Rodrigues later met his mentor Ferreira who had confirmed he’d apostatized and is now living under a Japanese name. He convinced Rodrigues to apostatized so these peasants’ sufferings will end. It was also implicated by his captors that because of Rodrigues, people are suffering and dying, so he better renounce his faith, else, these sufferings will continue.

This book is a story of one’s faith and how will it endure physical torture and humiliation. When faced with life-threatening situation, how will your faith affect your actions? I liked how it showed stories of sacrifices that were truly inspiring and insights from Rodrigues that speaks to my heart, and more importantly, to me as a Christian. This book gave me a sense of admiration for one’s faith and its ability to endure hardship.

I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars rating for its “straight to the point” storytelling and thorough narrative. In summary, this book was not a “heavy” read for it conveys the message in one go. You won’t find conflicting events in the plot or in the build-up of characters, and so this was an easy read for me.

I liked how at the end of the book, Rodrigues had contemplated his anguish over God’s silence and have made him realized that God was not silent, He suffered with him. He is not alone for God was with him. It’s a message enough to inspire all of us Christians (and non-Christians), that in the midst of all our sufferings, God is always with us.

May we all find the courage we found in Rodrigues, to preach the word of God even if He may have been silent.

Book · Book Review

SG Book Buffet 2017

If you’re a book worm and is staying in Singapore, you’re sure familiar with SG Book Deals and their annual warehouse sale. Every year, they have this promotion they call “Book Box Sale” or ” Book Buffet” – they hand you a carton box, you fill it with books and pay S$50.00. This for me, is a deal I should not miss!

And so, on a gloomy Saturday morning, off I go and head on to their warehouse located in Ang Mo Kio. I wasn’t able to take a lot of photos as I right away plunged in to the sea of books laid before me.

Their warehouse is at the 3rd floor of Pansing Distribution around Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 1. Upon entering the building, I can smell the scent of new books, I followed this addicting scent and these signs and there I found it.

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This was me mid-fight! Haha! My box was almost full by this time and I couldn’t be any happier!

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I was able to fit in 27 books in my box. I could’ve squeeze in a few more but I don’t see any titles I’m genuinely interested to, so I decided to check-out already.

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My SG Book Buffet 2017 consist of:

  • One More Thing by B.J. Novak
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter
  • The Dark Arena by Mario Puzo
  • Redeployment by Phil Klay
  • This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
  • Going La La by Alexandra Potter
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
  • First Comes Love by Emily Griffin
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  • Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
  • Hannibal by Thomas Haris
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
  • Hector and The Search For Happiness by Francois Lelord
  • Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
  • Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira
  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
  • The View From Cheap Seats – Neil Gaiman
  • Mercy by Jodi Picoult

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And since I’m resurrecting my blog starting this month, I vow to religiously read all of these books and write a review, every single one of them. I solemnly swear I will do this, cross my heart! Punch me in the neck if I seemed to slack off. Ktnxbye!

Book · Book Review

Book Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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Normality wasn’t normal. It couldn’t be. If normality were normal, everybody could leave it alone. They could sit back and let normality manifest itself. But people-and especially doctors- had doubts about normality. They weren’t sure normality was up the job. And so they felt inclined to give it a boost.

Middlesex is a coming of age novel written by American novelist Jeffrey Eugenides. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003. Set in Detroit between the years 1960’s-70’s (with a few flashbacks from earlier years) this was written in a first person point of view in the voice of Callie, which will later on be Cal Stephanides.

The book is about Calliope Stephanides and how he’s come to the realization of his gender identity. Cal is the second child of an American family with roots from Greek immigrants. He was born with a genitalia of a girl -physically, she was endowed with the female sexual parts but on a closer look inside, there’s a male part in it. I wouldn’t go about the details of his anatomy but to put it simply, he was born and raised as a girl but is biologically a boy. He and his Mom started having doubts during his puberty when all his friends are getting their periods and started wearing bras. Cal waited but his period didn’t come and his breasts remained non-existent. It was later on when they consulted a Gender Identity Specialist (Sexologist) when they found about his condition. The doctor suggested corrective procedure to make him the girl he was born to be, but Cal felt that he is a boy more than a girl so the “procedure” was not pushed through.

It was mentioned several times in the book that Cal’s story wouldn’t be complete without the story of his grandparents and how they immigrated to America. A great part of this book encompasses the history of Cal’s grandparents, from the early 1920’s when they got their first American jobs up to the 1950’s when Cal’s parents got together up until Cal’s time. All throughout the book, his grandparents are always present.

It’s a story mainly of family and identity. It tells the history of one’s family and their fears and dreams. It tells how gender is not a definition of one’s identity. How we should all accept what we truly feel is real and tell the world about it.

In general, I liked how the book have pictured the life and love of a typical family with all the essential roles played by a loving mother, a reserved father, a bullying brother and an aging grandmother. I loved how Cal embraced his identity with open arms. I didn’t like the fact that the book was supposed to be about the story of Cal but a good 60 percent of the book’s content is about his grandparents’ history from Smyrna to Detroit. I was expecting more from Cal and his many explorations and discoveries within himself. I thought the author could’ve delved more in to that, seeing that the book was about Cal and him, being an intersex.

With this, I will give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I’d recommend this to a patient reader for parts of it could get a bit “elaborate” and though this didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I’d still read another Jeffrey Eugenides book. His writing style suits me, elaborate but engaging.

Footnote: I used the pronoun “his” throughout this entry as I feel that Callie/Cal is essentially a boy.