Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- July 2018

photography of a smiling woman

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs
So I’m not that much of a YA reader and I don’t tend to read urban fantasy at all but I picked up this book to do structural analysis for a writing course. I also consider this book as one of my Broadening Horizon reads this year. That aside, it’s not as horrible as I thought it could be but neither am I charmed. The pace is quick and the plot contains some twists but other than that, I’m not really taken with it. The heroine is okay but I can develop no bonds to her. I did note that the author suggested that the books be read in order and perhaps my problem of bonding is an artifact of me just picking up a Mercy book so late in the ordering of the series. However, I also think that the problem of this book lies in that Mercy the protagonist hasn’t grown one bit by the end of this book and in a way that made me feel like there is no point in me having read this book.

X by Sue Grafton
So I was really fond of Kinsey up till R maybe? And then it felt like Kinsey had fallen flat. But halfway through this book, I was like “Kinsey old girl, you finally came back!” And that’s what really excited me about this book.

I know the ending to this book is controversial (as a writer myself, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to write such an ending for technical reasons). All I can say that it worked for me and that’s solely because I am very fond of Kinsey.

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
I think this is the most complex story of the Alphabet series so far (which is ending in the next book!), with three parallel plots. To be honest, during a particular point, I thought one of the plot lines occurring in the past was redundant and felt bored but my perception was completely overturned only a few chapters later. So kudos to Grafton for embarking on this ambitious project and for it turning out so well.

1st to Die by James Patterson
So I came to this from the Women’s Murder Club hidden object games (which I liked) and Alex Cross. I like the concept of a women’s murder club before I even venture into this series but this story’s written in a sub-par way in my books. So we just get the page-turning, fast-pace that is Patterson’s wont for the case itself but the problem is that this story is much more complex that that and when all the other elements are in a hit-and-miss state, I seriously cannot say that this story is written solidly.

Mostly, the other 3 women besides Lindsay feel flat and I even have trouble bonding with Lindsay given that one key action she did just felt like a dumb move to me. Some of the chapters that aren’t about the case but about character and relationships are complete window dressing and leave me feeling awkward about their sub-parness. I’m also underwhelmed by the fact that the prologue of the book started off with a hook and then the concluding chapters and the epilogue acted like a major anti-climax to the hook in the prologue. In fact, I just feel like the last few chapters and the epilogue is basically all needless theatrics that Patterson was forced to put in to justify the hook he put into the prologue for lack of a better approach. I think I’m going to stick with the Alex Cross series instead of this.

Now, what have you all been reading? Let me know in the comments.

Moonlake’s Broadening Horizon Reads

sunset ship boat sea
This is a new commitment that I came up with this year, in hopes of advancing my writer’s craft. Specifically, it involves reserving 2 of my annual 20 reading slots for: 1) a book completely outside my usual genres of fantasy, mystery, historical fiction and any possible combos of the 3; 2) a book within my usual genres but with elements outside my usual taste.

As of writing, I’ve already done both this year but I will save them for July and Oct Book Discoveries. In this post, I want to showcase my tentative list for my Broadening Horizon Reads (BHRs) for the next 4 years:

Outside usual genre:

  • Literary fiction: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell/Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien
  • Military fiction: Operation: Jaguar by Lyman Rate
  • Sci-fi: Leviathan wakes by James S. A. Corey
  • Horror: Stephen King’s Carrie/The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Within usual genre but outside usual taste:

  • Religious thriller: Desecration by J.F. Penn (religious thriller) [I downloaded this as a permafree a while ago from visiting her Creative Penn website with lots of helpful resources for writers and I got curious about her fiction but I have an aversion to ebook reading so it’s been sitting on my PC collecting dust. Now, I finally have a valid reason to bring it back up to see sunlight]
  • Psychological thriller: Tana French [A friend recommended her as his favourite author, I will just randomly pick a title since I never read mysteries in order. Never harmed my understanding since they are mostly standalones]
  • YA translated work: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón [I assumed this is fantasy but after googling it, I’m not sure but the same friend who recommended Tana French recommended this. I tend to not enjoy YA relative to adult even though I do read Tamora Pierce. I have a feeling I’m almost done with her, though, except for her Beka Cooper series which I’ve read book 2. I liked it so I think I will go back and read the whole series. But my local library doesn’t have a physical copy, only epubs, so it’s been pushed back way down on my reading list]
  • Fantasy/adventure/classic starring animal protagonists: Watership Down by Richard Adams [ditto above on how I came by it]

Keep throwing me suggestions if you like and come back next week for my July Book Discoveries.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- April 2018 (2)

fashion woman girl women

Other than the 2 books in the first half of this post, it was really another Christie splurge…

Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
So apparently I had read it before and then picked it up again from my local library and I think it’s okay, I didn’t particularly like it but there’s nothing to majorly hate about it either. Reading over others’ reviews, it seems like the ending was the issue for most, For me personally, I did find the ending somewhat jarring but in retrospect I think it’s still a proper ending to this story meant to end it on a hopeful note. So I’m giving it a solid 3 stars.

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
The premise of this book- that death could occur via supernatural means- drew me right in. Of course, I knew that the real modus operandi wouldn’t be supernatural means but all the way till the very end, I was (again) fooled by Christie and as always, I’m very pleased to be fooled by Christie.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
I think this book wins hands-down as the book by Christie with a most relatable beginning. Previously I had noticed sometimes descriptions from Christie’s times that are no longer relevant nowadays but the beginning of this book makes me experience the complete reversal- the continual relevance of one’s fear in the dentist’s chair. That amuses me.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
This book has the requisite Christie twist right at the end but I’m not particularly drawn to it- I think it’s because I don’t think that twist that clever nor do I bond to any of the characters. It’s still a decent Christie piece though. And oh, it works as a nice counterpoint to Christmas in its title.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- April 2018 (1)

business coffee cup data

I clearly had enough of just light reading so I changed it up a little by branching out to a new sub-genre: historical fantasy. This coincided with my decision to join a historical fantasy book club on FB.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
This wasn’t that engaging a read in that there’s no urge for me to binge read it (in fact I haven’t been reading it in one go on a day-to-day basis but the pacing certainly picks up towards the end) but I’m intrigued by the characters enough to stick to the end (which I didn’t get 100% not that it bothered me that much). I think the author has written a solid story overall (despite the fact that the actual genre isn’t really to my taste- it’s really more straight historical fiction rather than historical fantasy as I was led to believe it is and it’s really very literary fic in nature) but I’ve certainly read worse debut novels than this. Not that keen to follow the sequel to this though.

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden
In essence, what the author has done was taking Tolkien’s orcs as inspiration, adopting them for his own while retaining that lore-rich feel of Tolkien’s so while I have no fascination with Orcs in general, I’m sucked in by glimpses of the Old Way that we saw throughout this book. This is an anti-hero story, a story of vengeance (which I have to say doesn’t appear on my usual diet) so I don’t expect to root for Grimnir and I don’t, not really. However, I prefer him vastly to Etain at the start (who annoyed me cos she had established this blindfold for herself due to her faith and wouldn’t acknowledge the Old Ways that she saw right in front of her eyes but luckily that changed with the character development) and certainly by the end of the book, I’ve grown comfortable with Grimnir.

To be honest, this book has a chance at 5 stars from me except that the underlying premise of this book is about the start of the downfall of the Old Ways and that’s what I love about fantasy so I wasn’t as immersed in this book as I could have been if I was to read a book before such a downfall (but that would have been another story, I know). For this same reason, I’m a bit apprehensive of picking up book 2 of the Grimnir series since I expect that the downfall of the Old Ways will happen in earnest there. I’ve since been reassured by the author that book 2 is actually about the rally of the Old Ways and so I’m eagerly awaiting its release which is very soon- it’s on pre-orders when I last looked at it. My current plan is to read the whole trilogy and then decide if I want to acquire it for my personal collection which is reserved for books that I would at least award a Goodreads 4 stars to.

Anyway, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book despite the fact that I don’t have a personal fondness for orcs and that I’m really just a fantasy reader and I have no personal knowledge to appreciate the historical element in this book (but from what I heard from the historical fantasy book club, the history elements are great too).

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- January 2018 (2)

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

This is one of the so-so books in my opinion from Christie. I don’t think it’s badly written per se but there’s just nothing to make it memorable for me.

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

This book has all the necessary suspense attached to a case with a limited number of suspects (only the passengers within a specific compartment) and I’ve enjoyed its delivery. But I wasn’t particularly engaged with the woman who Poirot recruited as his ‘side-kick’ so overall, I didn’t think this made it into my ‘preferred read’ from Christie.

Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie

As I was reading this book, I kept getting the deja vu and then I realised that I had actually read it before. This is one of the books that I really enjoyed upon the first read and I still like it upon the second reading.

Private Royals by James Patterson

I finished it but reading this put me off further book shots by JP. It’s just all page-turner without any characterisation and since I haven’t read any of the full novels from the series, all the characters are just cardboard cut-outs to me.

Reapers of Souls and Magic – A Rohrlands Saga by R.E. Fisher

I reviewed this for an ARC and my full review is here.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Prachett

I picked up this series thinking that it would be similar to Robert Aspirin’s MYTH series- light reading, full of humour. Unfortunately, this first book in the series is not actually a full novel but rather a collection of two short stories. As someone who most definitely prefers novel reading as opposed to short story, this really threw me. In addition, while I liked the idea that the whole universe is carried on the back of a giant turtle, I just didn’t really think the inept wizard that’s the protagonist all that humorous and all in all I don’t think I will be reading more of the series.

And that’s it for January. Next week will be April discoveries so stay tuned.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- January 2018 (1)

Bad girl me had left this series by the way-side for too long! But, to be honest, I haven’t been reading as much so I possibly could in the past, since reading does compete with my writing time. And I’ve also been doing more of what I consider light reading too. But that’s enough preamble, I will leave you to the meat.

Taken by the Wind by Ellen Hart
Not quite the mystery that I’m used to, more like a drama that concentrates on relationships as opposed to a fast-paced detective story that I thought it is from the back-cover blurb.I finished it but I can’t say that I really like it and I’m not adding this author to my comfort author list.

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
For me, this book delivers the typical Christie- a plot twist right at the end that satisfies my needs. Other than that, though, it doesn’t have anything over other works of her.

Death Masks by Ed Greenwood
This book is my revisit of the Forgotten Realms after substantial absence so I like it okay in reconnecting me with some of the characters I’m familiar and fond with. At the same time, I also feel that the new developments going on in the Realm- weakening of magic and all that, is going to take away my continual interest in this setting since I definitely prefer high magic fantasy to low.

Death on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
I loved the ending to this book and I saw the movie last year though I prefer the book much better (I always tend to do that but the movie was just too slow, making me want to fall asleep constantly except that I bought a cold cola to drink). Anyway, back to the book. I loved the ending specifically because I felt like it gave an additional layer of depth to Poirot that made him human. In the other books, Poirot’s basically just a detective trope with few character quirks but we never really got into touch with the ‘human side’ of him. Well, no longer so after I read this book.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
I think this is one of my preferred books from Christie. I like the heroine (I don’t love her but at least I appreciate her adventurous spirit) so I enjoyed reading about the set of events centring around in this book. I also think the opening is fairly enticing.

Advanced Reading Review- Reapers of Soul and Magic

I’m doing something new, which is signing up to be an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) reader for a debut novel which has already gone live at Amazon . Here’s a picture of the front and back covers.
reaperscover
Below is my actual review which is already up on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m not big on stars since I don’t think they capture the entirety of opinion on a book and neither Amazon nor Goodreads have a star system that accounts for 0.5 increments that I’m used to assessing things on when dealing with a 5 point scale. So I’m just going to omit them entirely on my blog. If you really want a summary of my opinion on this book, here it is below in bold which is also the title/subject line of my review on Amazon
A complex book with fresh concepts but some issues with characterisation and pacing, an overall like
Note: I was given a free copy of this book by Between the Lines Publishing in exchange for a honest review.
Overall Impression and Distinguishing Features
This debut novel sets up a good person (Tetra as alluded to on the back cover) and a bad person (Lavalor) together as they work to achieve their goals. I think this is a relatively fresh concept in fantasy. Similarly, while the central plot involves a prophesy, this novel shows most of the key actors in this prophesy taking actions out of self interest as opposed to fulfilling some kind of preordained destiny according to the prophesy. Somewhat to my surprise, it also sprinkles in elements of alternate history (although it’s speculation on future Earth history rather than looking to our past) and soft science fiction. I’m not a fan of either but I rather like the speculative history parts of this book for throwing perspective on society systems in a non-intrusive way.
What I like:
The fresh concept of a good ‘guy’ and bad guy working ‘together’ to achieve separate goals is the main attraction of this novel to me. In addition, I appreciate good dialogue, humour and reflections of morals and values that are elements that I’ve always loved in fantasy and have enjoyed in this novel.
What I dislike:
This novel goes off to a relatively slow start, which may partly be due to the descriptive details sometimes getting a tad too much. I also have an issue of bonding with any specific character among a main cast of 5 separated via 3, sometimes 4 parallel plot streams.
Other comments and Final words:
This is a complex novel. While I think aspects to do with character interactions between Tetra and Lavalor, our main good ‘guy’ and bad guy respectively, can be improved upon (currently it feels a tad rushed), I recognise that the author has handled most of the complexity in switching between different perspective and plotlines and other aspects well. I wish the author the best in his future endeavours and hope to see him grow continually.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- September 2016

I didn’t read much between the last Book Discovery post and this one because first I was engaged with the epub and now I am contemplating a slow transition towards being a FT writer on my own. So fiction has been pushed out of the way as you can see below.

Third Girl by Agatha Christie
As per usual, I was tricked and I must say I’m one of the ones who like being tricked by a mystery and that’s part of the reason why I personally think Christie mysteries are purer than contemporary mystery. While they tend to be more character driven than Christie’s, I at least feel that the flatness in some of the plots I’ve encountered goes directly counter to what I really enjoy about a mystery. Then again, that’s just me.

The Courage to Be Creative: How to Believe in Yourself, Your Dreams and Ideas, and Your Creative Career Path by Doreen Virtue
Absolutely what I need if my doubts ever kick in about being a writer, highly inspirational despite the fact that I don’t have any spiritual beliefs and have a need to translate all the author’s references to divineness into something else but that doesn’t harm the value I took out from this book. I gave this 5 stars on Amazon ultimately because this book made me realise that I actually have far more courage than I gave myself credit for.

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
I’m yet to test all the advice contained here but they speak of common sense to me and I think the overall book has good utility value. I didn’t get this book entertaining notions that it would contain ground breaking advice so I wasn’t disillusioned as one review I read on Amazon seemed to indicate the reader was. Also, I think I share with Rachel a tendency towards planning as opposed to winging it (but I do some winging in my writing, it’s just that I never actually start writing one word on MS word without some planning first no matter how rudimentary) so some of her approach are already part of my own modus operandi but I did pick up procedures that seem more safe-proof against dead corners.

Write The Fight Right by Alan Baxter
This is actually a reference given to me by my friend Darcy Conroy when I was going insane with the revision of the fight scene in Thread part 2 that was published in issue 2 of Excursions. I flipped through it quickly and I think it’s actually more useful for empty-handed combat which wasn’t what I needed but I still took away some useful things about writing fight scenes from this book. Plus, it’s a quick read, contains a list of important points aka cheat sheets at the end and contains an example written by the author.

Angels Astrology 101: Discover the Angles connected with your Birth Chart by Doreen Virtue
I flipped through this and took down descriptions for myself, family and friends on an idle night. It seems pretty interesting to compare what this books says about particular people and my own perception of them. I bought this from Amazon Kindle thinking that it could potentially be useful for characterisation and I think it will be when I’m stuck which I often am for making up characters.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- June 2016

Due to my involvement with the ePub, I had mainly been reading short stories or Agatha Christie mysteries.

Short story collections

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia McKillip

I like her prose which belongs to the flowing school, what others potentially call verbose. I’m generally a fan of such a style and that’s the main reason I’m such a die-hard fan of Tolkien. Btw, to me, Tolkien is not verbose, it could be lengthy, yes, but the words are well spent because they convey very evocative images of the atmosphere. But then again, that’s just my personal opinion.

A couple of the stories contain elements of female-centred romance at their core which I’m not such a fan of despite my own gender. I love fantasy because of the opportunities they provide me to get immersed in awesome lore and otherworldly culture. In particular, epic fantasy is my one true love because I have a bit of a philosophical bending and I love to read about human truisms reflected in the action of characters in an epic fantasy. But overall I still the writing style of the author. It’s a pity, though, that I won’t be able to read more of her work since my local library doesn’t stock any of her standalone novels or series.

 

Prickle Moon by Juliet Marilllier

Not that I can pinpoint exactly why but the writing style of the author doesn’t really captivate me in a general sense. There are a few stories among the 14 here that I like but mostly I’m quite indifferent to most in this collection.

 

Hall of the Lost Footsteps by Sara Douglas

What makes an impact on me from this short story collection isn’t any story included in it but rather a piece include from this deceased author’s blog entry titled “The Silence of the Dying”. I would highly recommend that people look it up just to get a very relevant perspective on how our society is get shaped into.

 

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

I like this translated work mainly cos it stars the separate adventures of a single protagonist and thereby I get to read up on a bunch of related stories. This is probably more my idiosyncrasy as a reader cos I tend to enjoy longer works that allows me greater immersion into one setting.

 

Elric of Melnibone and Other Short stories by Michael Moorcock

At first, I feel a little weird about this book because in one of the short standalone story early on, the author keep putting in all these side-line notes to his illustrator or whoever that he gets from his background as a comic writer that continuously pull me out of the moment. But I really like the novella in here. In particular, I like the setting very much. The main character Elric I’m okay with it in the sense that I think he has interesting dynamics but I’m not crazy about him.

 

Crossroads and other Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey

A little surprisingly, I find that overall I enjoy this short story collection which I originally felt was leaning too much on the YA side and plus I previously read another of Mercedes’ work in a short story collection containing three pieces by three different authors and I don’t particularly enjoy her writing style nor despise it. But I find that the pieces actually included aren’t too childish for my taste at all and as is my wont, I really like inter-related stories whether through the same characters or the same setting. I won’t say any particular story is spectacularly written but there are a few that I think are solid pieces of work.

 

Novels

It’s been an Agatha Christie period for me since I want to do light reading only. And I realised after I got back into her work that really I think I wronged her a little when previously I wrote about her in Moonlake’s Reading Tastes and that’s because back then, I haven’t read her for a while and really forgotten about how she’s like as an author. But really, I think she deserves to be known as the Queen of Crime because her books are plot-centric and I personally feel that plot-centric mysteries are the ‘pure type of mysteries’ that I really enjoy as opposed to work by newer authors that are character driven. That’s my own reader taste but there it is.

 

I read the following books by her (or based upon her work):

Poirot Investigates

This is a collection of a bunch of cases starring Poirot. Pretty good light reading.

 

Unexpected Guest

This is a novelisation of her theatrical play so technically it’s not by her. But the author didn’t do a bad work in my opinion. I didn’t like the end as being too melodramatic and suddenly turning in the direction of a love drama but I can see that it would potentially have great impact in the theatre. After all, that’s what the story was originally written for.

 

Death on the Nile

Her classic big surprise at the end got me and I’m the type of reader who is glad of such a thing. Not one of her work that I really admire but not bad. Plus it taught me a little trick of how to bring in pitch into dialogue.

 

They came to Baghdad

I rather like her description of Baghdad and I actually got a good picture in my head of how it was like in her era though that is partly attributable to the fact that I’m Chinese. Plot-wise, had a few pleasant surprises for me but it’s another one of hers that I sorta liked but don’t really love.

 

Incomplete Reading

Warriors edited by George R. R. Martin

A short story collection based on the theme of warriors but spanning across genres. I tend to like the stories contained in this volume a fair bit compared to all the others I had actually finished above. I actually find two female authors that I would rather like to follow, Robin Hobb being one. I didn’t finish it but I will re-borrow from my local library at a later point in time.

 

The Inheritance by Megan Lindholm & Robin Hobb

I only got to the Megan stories and didn’t really enjoy them. They are still solid pieces of work but still don’t speak to me as a reader. Didn’t get to the Hobb stories and so another tagged for re-borrowing.

 

The Mistborn #1 by Brandon Sanderson

I got high recommendation for this series from multiple sources but apparently I don’t really like Brandon’s writing style. Or actually, I should say I don’t really like his writing style for the main text, I rather enjoyed the snippets he put before the start of his Chapter to do with world lore. I only got to Chapter 8 or thereabouts and really, I felt like I was reading a new form of spy thriller/fantasy. Then again, I’ve been addicted to Mainland Chinese TV drama of spy thrillers and maybe I was just seeing everything from a spy thriller lens.

Overall, not sure whether I will re-read this but might if I become desperate of having a fantasy series to read.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- December 2015

I think this post is actually due last Sunday but because I was so excited to share the news about short story writing, it gets pushed back. But I’m sure we’re all used to my whims now if you’ve been following me and isn’t a casual passer-by. If you are, this is a series I run recurring every 3 months which isn’t book reviews, just quick and dirty summaries on what I think about the books that I’ve read recently.

 

So let’s get down to the substance by recapping all the books that will be reviewed. Books will be grouped by category since I picked up few short story collections and gaming books. They include:

 

Standalone novels and series

  • Moby Dick
  • Shadows Trilogy by Jon Sprunk
  • A Dead man’s Ransom by Ellis Peters
  • Hope to Die by James Patterson
  • Days of the Deer by Lilliana Bodoc
  • Shadows and Stronghold by Elizabeth Chadwick

 

Short story collections

  • A Dreadful Murder & other criminally compulsive tales by Minette Walters
  • Harvest Moon by Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara and Cameron Haley
  • Tortall and other lands: a collection of tales by Tamora Pierce

 

Gaming/plot-your-own books

  • Destiny quest: The Legion of Shadow by Micahel Ward
  • A Million Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton
  • Being Elizabeth Benett: create your own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster
  • Cavern of the Snow Witch by Ian Livingstone

 

Here’s what I thought about each of them:

Standalones:

  • Moby Dick: I only got to the second chapter and I did not get motivation to pick it up again. I knew it was a classic but didn’t realise it was so classic as to remind me a little of Charles Dickens. I felt like it doesn’t chime with me in vocab or in the ‘worldview’ that underlies the story.
  • Shadow’s Trilogy: I thought it was a two-book series when I picked up (Shadow’s son and Shadow’s Lure). But later I found out it’s actually a trilogy. Anyway, I decided to stop reading a little into book 2. How shall I describe it? Well, I was okay with it enough that I continued into book 2 but I think the main issue I have with this series is that I don’t like the writing style of the author nor the basic setup of the story. Essentially, the main character is an assassin with morals and he ends up helping the daughter of his would-be victim that he didn’t kill. While reading book 1, in the back of my mind I keep getting the feel that I’m reading a trope from video games (Assassin’s Creed, never played but see ads on buses a few times). In fact, the book feels a bit like a video game transposed into a book- having fast-paceish action, a worn plot and no prose or maybe no prose that I like.
  • A Dead man’s Ransom: Pretty good as I remembered it. And then it’s hard not to compare it against the Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne. All I want to say is that I like both. I can personally empathise with Sister Fidelma more but Brother Cadfael is like a fatherly figure and I like a fair bit too. And some of Ellis Peters’ prose regarding what Brother Cadfael’s ‘psychological profile’ of other characters are just sublime
  • Hope to Die: JP’s certainly got a unique style of his own, what with the switching between first person perspective for his protagonist and third person for all other characters in different chapters. The other thing of him that’s different to most other novels that I’m used to is that he writes really short snappy chapters. In a thriller/mystery, I think that’s an overall plus since it ensures a fast pace. I think I will add him to my list of comfort writers from now on.
  • Days of the Deer: it’s a translated work from Spanish. I might be biased against translated works in general (ever since I read Pride of Prejudice in high/secondary school in Australia and finally has a basis of comparison against the kid’s version of a translated-into-Chinese version of P&P) or it might be that I read this directly after James Patterson above. The first chapter didn’t really draw me and since I’ve got a long queue of books from my local library during this time, I’ve decided to skip this.
  • Shadows and Strongholds: It’s a bit of historical fiction/romance but it’s not whimpering/head-over-heals romance that I have an abhorrence against. In fact, when I first picked up, I didn’t realise it was a romance since the backcover blurb advertised it as a coming-of-age story. Well, it wasn’t far off since foremost it is about the protagonist, a boy with a self-confidence issue coming to age and growing into a man. The plot of him finding the ‘perfect match’ for him, a childhood play-mate who’s a spirited lass and sometimes too prone to jumping to conclusions, is secondary to his own growing up plot but at the same time, it’s really the two of them together I think that really draws one into the story. Another author added to my comfort reading list- I think she does good work with characters that I’m trying to improve on for my own work.

 

Short story collections

  • A Dreadful Murder…: 3 short stories, 2 of which are based on true murders. The author said in the foreword that each of the three are written in different styles and that’s the ‘selling point’ of this book. I like the first the best, followed by the last, but I don’t like the second one at all.
  • Harvest Moon: again, a collection of 3 stories. The first unpacks a lot of character within the length of a short story because it’s mainly based on Greek mythology. There are some bits that I like about it and some bits that I don’t. Overall, it’s an okay story. Second I like the best, a story about how a thief(?) from the poor quarter gets recruited into the fantasy equivalent of a police force and grows into her new role in the midst of a serial children murder case. Third is really an urban fantasy about a gangster evading a death curse with the Angel of Death to implement the curse and I like it the least. Probable reason being that I don’t really like urban fantasy all that much in general.
  • Tortall…: Since I’m pretty read up on Tamora Pierce, this is the favourite of the three short story collections that I read in this period for the pure reason that I’m fairly familiar with her Tortall setting. I also like how she’s included two related stories within this single volume (starring same two characters and adventures one after the other).

 

Gaming books

In case anyone’s wondering, these are books where you play as a given character like a RPG. You can’t read them in a linear way. Passages are numbered with random length ranging from a couple lines to a few pages. You start from whichever passage denoted by a number Foreword or Intro tells you to flip to and go from there. At the end of each passage, there are a few alternative instructions telling you where to flip to next. And, you usually need a dice to roll which can affect what ending you can get.

  • Shadow of the Legions: the way it proceeds with a quest system feels quite PC gamish, especially calling to mind the Diablo series, but it provides a fairly good fantasy adventure
  • A Million Little Mistakes: The basic setup is that you’ve just won a million dollars worth of lottery and what would happen to your life from that point on. I don’t really like the way that sometimes the character are forced into doing things that just aren’t me and in this book, you can a very short plot arc most of the time. But the author did tell you at the start to mark the page you were on last so that you can always return to it and make an alternative choice. But what really makes this book unique is that the author tells me that in this book “If you aim to do good it might not always give you a good ending and the same is true vice versa, just like real life.” Something to that effect. At first, I was thrown by the very short plot arcs and this thing of the character doing things just not me. But there’s something about this book that keeps on compelling me to continue searching for an alternative ending that I like. And I did eventually. It’s an ending where the character is well contended and I’m well contended. Most importantly, I think this book is trying to send a message that “go with your heart, that’s the sure thing to give you a good ending.”
  • Lizzy Bennett: I don’t like this book at all. The setup tells to keep track of all these stuff (which a normal gaming book does- equipment listing and character sheet are the 2 musts) but they don’t really come in play in terms of affecting your ending. Okay, the only thing that affects your ending is Lizzy’s intelligence score but even the author says you can fib it since the ending just goes two ways based on a threshold. But what really gets me is that the author’s asking us to play as Lizzy and she doesn’t like Lizzy herself, it seems. She’s downright patronizing towards Lizzy, therefore towards the reader.
  • Cavern of the Snow Witch: The author is one of the two who wrote a whole bunch of these books and I think his name (along with another guy he usually co-authors with) is a brand name in this genre. It’s an okay storyline but probably is, I think there’s only one positive ending out of this and there’s only the single path to get to that positive ending. So that makes the whole book a little linear. It’s a long time since I’ve read him and his co-authors though and I can’t remember whether that has always been their trademark.

 

Okay, that’s it for December’s Book Discoveries. Stay tuned for the April re-run of this series.