Mini reviews (September 2013)

tunnelsmouth

Tales of terror from the tunnel’s mouth – Chris Priestley
It’s the third part of a trilogy, but it can easily be read on its own (I’ve read the first book, Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, but couldn’t find the second book, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship, at least not in the library’s e-book catalogue – have since requested the physical book from the library). Young Robert travels by train to school and encounters a woman in white who has a way with scary stories:

“It was a curious thing, but I realised that listening to these stories was different to listening to any stories I had heard before. I felt myself actually there, as if I were a witness to the events being described. It felt as though, instead of listening to the words the Woman in White was saying, I was actually seeing images, hearing voices; it was like a dream, but at the same time more real than any dream.”

ripviii

A fun RIP read with great illustrations.

 

9736930

Before I go to sleep – S. J. Watson

Generally you have no consistent memory of anything that happened since your early childhood, but you seem to process new memories in a way I have never come across before. If I left this room now and returned in two minutes, most people with anterograde amnesia would not remember having met me at all, certainly not today. But you seem to remember whole chunks of time—up to twenty-four hours—which you then lose. That’s not typical. To be honest, it doesn’t make any sense, considering the way we believe that memory works. It suggests you are able to transfer things from short-term to long-term storage perfectly well. I don’t understand why you can’t retain them.

Such a promising premise! A woman wakes up every morning and doesn’t know who she is, where she is. She essentially has several different kinds of amnesia and has to figure things out from scratch every single day. So far so interesting, right? Yeah but then it gets a bit repetitive as the narration moves into the form of a (very detailed – too detailed?) journal. And then as we head towards the ending, I am trying my hardest not to roll my eyes at how it just spirals into this rather predictable conclusion that seems perfect for the big screen. Interesting idea, not very good execution, terrible ending – this book was not for me, although I seem to be in the minority as it’s gotten plenty of good reviews on Goodreads!

relish

Relish: My life in the kitchen – Lucy Knisley

I wasn’t such a fan of her first graphic novel, French Milk. But I quite adored Relish – and even bought my sister a copy as a belated birthday present. Fun ‘recipes’, including ways to jazz up a shepherd’s pie – avocado! Such a cute read.

wisemanfear

The wise man’s fear (Kingkiller Chronicle #2) – Patrick Rothfuss

I hesitate to write about this book. It – and the first book, The Name of the Wind – probably deserves a whole post to itself. But I don’t quite know how to talk about it, to write about it. I feel like I need to reread it, reread them. And of course wait for the next book (next year?). The Name of the Wind was such a gorgeous gorgeous loonnnngggg book. The Wise Man’s Fear is just as long (maybe longer – I was reading an ebook version so I can’t really tell), still telling a great story, but a little infuriatingly so, because other parts of the story are not moving along at as fast a pace as I would’ve liked it (saving the exciting parts for the third book, are we?). Instead we have long bits about other things (I’m trying not to reveal any spoilers here) that are still interesting to read, but perhaps a bit too drawn out. I think I would still read pretty much anything Patrick Rothfuss puts out there.

TLC Book Tours: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

I have to be honest, I was all ready to settle down for an, erm, unsettling mystery with this book. Instead I found myself immersed in an intriguing story with such depth and history that it took me a while to emerge from this. And even longer to figure out how to write about it.

cuttingseason

“Still, she took it as a sign.

A reminder, really, that Belle Vie, its beauty, was not to be trusted.

That beneath its loamy topsoil, the manicured grounds and gardens, two centuries of breathtaking wealth and spectacle, lay a hand both black and bitter, soft to the touch, but pressing in its power. She should have known that one day it would spit out what it no longer had use for, the secrets it would no longer keep.”

Caren Grey is the general manager of Louisiana plantation-turned-tourist attraction Belle Vie. They host weddings and dinners, school tours and your usual tourists, enticing with some lovely 18-acres of views, a 157-year-old building, hearty food (“grits, rolled with smoked Gouda, spinach, and bacon; chard out of the garden, with garlic and lemon; and potatoes creamed with butter and drippings”), and a play by the Belle Vie Players about the plantation’s history.

Caren’s job is to make sure things run smoothly. With an almost-degree (she never quite finished) from Tulane Law School, some might say she’s overqualified for the job, but with a young daughter, it’s the best she can do at the moment. Plus she has ties to the place. Her mother used to cook for the family who lived there, but Caren’s roots go even deeper than that – she is the great-great-granddaughter of slaves who worked the plantation.

Her usual morning rounds come to an abrupt halt when a body is discovered on the property. A female migrant worker, her throat cut, her body buried in a shallow grave on the edge of the property, near the sugarcane fields owned by a burgeoning corporation.

The sheriff’s department thinks they have their man. But Caren thinks otherwise. And sets about trying to put things right. She has her own reasons though – her daughter Morgan, just 9, is keeping something from her, and that something involves a blood stain on the sleeve of one of her school shirts. And more importantly, Caren and Morgan reside on the property, and it is disconcerting to know that there is a killer out there somewhere. As if the plantation weren’t already eerie enough, with its leaden grey fog and rumours of being haunted.

“It was the stillness that spooked her. Not the kind of emptiness that comes with actual vacancy, but rather a strained quiet that was trying too hard, the tightness that comes when someone somewhere is trying very hard to be still, to restrain every twitch and wayward breath.”

Locke effectively uses the murder mystery to frame some bigger issues – race relations, politics, modern-day slavery, corporations etc. It was interesting to see how the Belle Vie Players, caught up in telling their tale of slavery on the plantation years ago, fail to see the similar situation that the migrant workers face working the sugarcane fields next door.

And Locke has given us a character whose roots are firmly in reality. Her emotions are raw, her actions flawed, but Caren is a tough character to like. Given her background as a former law student, some of her actions were questionable, but as a mother intending the best for her child, understandable.

The Cutting Season is an absorbing, well-written, atmospheric read, right from its opening when a snake as long as a Cadillac falls out of a tree and onto a woman’s lap to the way Locke ends it, staying away from conclusions that are too perfect and too neat but thoroughly satisfying.

I can’t wait to read more by Locke – I’ve just requested Black Water Rising from my library.

tlc logoI received this book for review from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins

Check out the other tour stops:

Tuesday, September 17th: red headed book child

Wednesday, September 18th: Time 2 Read

Thursday, September 19th: Book-alicious Mama

Monday, September 23rd: BoundbyWords

Tuesday, September 24th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, September 25th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, September 26th: Lectus

Monday, September 30th: Booksie’s Blog

Tuesday, October 1st: Olduvai Reads

Monday, October 7th: M. Denise C. 

Attica LockeAttica Locke is the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Black Water Rising, which was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was short-listed for the UK’s Orange Prize. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Find out more about Attica at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (September 30 2013)


itsmonday“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

 

Hooray! The Internet seems to be working again! The past week has been horrible – it would work for a few minutes and then slow down so drastically or stop completely. I have no idea why. So it’s such a relief to have it going again.

And wait, what? It’s October tomorrow? How did that happen???

 

Currently(-ish…)

Reading:

accursed

The Accursed – Joyce Carol Oates

Set in Princeton at the time of Woodrow Wilson. And there are ghosts and hints of other-worldliness.

earthmankind

This Earth of Mankind –  Pramoedya Ananta Toer

 

saveyourself

Save Yourself – Kelly Braffet

Interesting so far…. I’m just not sure where it is going.

eleanorandpark

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

I’ve been slowly savouring this book over the weekend. It’s so tempting to read it all at once! Especially at that point where I am now!! But I know once I’ve read it, it’s all over!

 

haunted

Haunted – Kelley Armstrong

Watching:
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Joss Whedon is back! Whee!

Eating:
Erm a glazed chocolate doughnut.

Drinking:

Black tea with milk

Last week

I read: 

mrsqueen

Mrs Queen takes the train – William Kuhn

For an upcoming book tour

tunnelsmouth

Tales of terror from the tunnel’s mouth – Chris Priestley

beforeigotosleep

Before I go to sleep – S.J. Watson

 

I posted:

Library Loot 

 

What are you reading this week?

Library Loot (September 25 2013)

 Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Wow it’s been ages since I’ve done a Library Loot post! We’ve been going to the library, really! It’s just somehow I keep forgetting to post!

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

Yay! I finally get my hands on the book!! I just hope that all that waiting doesn’t mean my expectations are sky high.

eleanorandpark

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

The just bento cookbook: everyday lunches to go – Makiko Itoh ; photographs by Makiko Doi

Now that I have to pack lunches three times a week for Wee Reader, I’m scouring the Internet and cookbooks for ideas.

justbento

Bento fever has recently swept across the West, fueled not just by an interest in cute, decorative food, but by the desire for an economical, healthy approach to eating in these times of recession. A leading light in the popularization of bento has been Makiko Itoh, whose blog, Just Bento, boasts hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Now, for the first time, Itoh’s expertise has been packaged in book form. The Just Bento Cookbook contains 25 attractive menus and more than 150 recipes, all of which have been specially created for this book and are divided into two main sections, Japanese and Not-so-Japanese.

And some library e-books, all for RIP:

Haunted (Women of the Otherworld #5) – Kelley Armstrong

Ugh, that cover.

haunted

Former supernatural superpower Eve Levine has broken all the rules. But she’s never broken a promise—not even during the three year’s she’s spent in the afterworld. So, when the Fates call in a debt she gave her word she’d pay, she has no choice but to comply.

For centuries one of the ghost world’s wickedest creatures has been loosed on humanity, thwarting every attempt to retrieve her. Now it has fall to Eve to capture this demi-demon known as the Nix, who inhabits the bodies of would-be killers, compelling them to complete their deadly acts. It’s a mission that becomes all too personal when the Nix targets those Eve loves most — including Savannah, the daughter she left on earth. But can a renegade witch succeed where a host of angels have failed?

Save Yourself – Kelly Braffet

 

saveyourself

Patrick Cusimano is in a bad way. His father is in jail, he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store, and his brother’s girlfriend, Caro, has taken their friendship to an uncomfortable new level. On top of all that, he can’t quite shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn’t understand and doesn’t fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing him to his breaking point.

Meanwhile, Layla’s little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school. She’s become a prime target for her cruel classmates, not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents: Layla’s bad-girl rep proves to be too huge a shadow for Verna, so she falls in with her sister’s circle of outcasts and misfits whose world is far darker than she ever imagined.

Kelly Braffet’s characters, indelibly portrayed and richly varied, are all on their own twisted paths to finding peace. The result is a novel of unnerving power-darkly compelling, addictively written, and shockingly honest

The Accursed – Joyce Carol Oates

accursed

This eerie tale of psychological horror sees the real inhabitants of turn-of-the-century Princeton fall under the influence of a supernatural power. New Jersey, 1905: soon-to-be commander-in-chief Woodrow Wilson is president of Princeton University. On a nearby farm, Socialist author Upton Sinclair, enjoying the success of his novel ‘The Jungle’, has taken up residence with his family. This is a quiet, bookish community – elite, intellectual and indisputably privileged. But when a savage lynching in a nearby town is hushed up, a horrifying chain of events is initiated – until it becomes apparent that the families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse. The Devil has come to this little town and not a soul will be spared. ‘The Accursed’ marks new territory for the masterful Joyce Carol Oates – narrated with her unmistakable psychological insight, it combines beautifully transporting historical detail with chilling fantastical elements to stunning effect.

Wee Reader’s loot:
Just keep swimming – Melissa Lagonegro ; illustrated by Atelier Philippe Harchy
oldmacdonaldtractor
Old MacDonald drives a tractor – Don Carter
racecarroaring
Race Car is roaring – Mandy Archer ; illustrated by Martha Lightfoot
planesfly
Planes fly! – George Ella Lyon ; illustrations by Mick Wiggins
higherhigher
Higher! Higher! – Leslie Patricelli
tractorsavestheday
Tractor saves the day – Mandy Archer ; illustrated by Martha Lightfoot

And in a bid to move away from all those books about vehicles, I requested some books that somewhat reflect our Asian culture. Luckily he seems to enjoy them!
peek
Peek! : a Thai hide-and-seek – Minfong Ho ; illustrated by Holly Meade
oneisadrummer
One is a drummer : a book of numbers – Roseanne Thong ; illustrated by Grace Lin
dimsumeveryone
Dim sum for everyone! – Grace Lin

 

What did you get from the library this week?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (September 23 2013)


itsmonday“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

I was putting the baby to sleep last night and was just musing about how I wish he would stay a baby forever. How different it was with Wee Reader, whom I couldn’t wait to grow and meet all those exciting developments like rolling over, crawling, walking, talking! Now he’s 2.5 and is this fully functioning, walking, talking, thinking  little boy, who sometimes says the funniest things and is obsessed with most things with wheels (“tomorrow go buy new car, ok?” was the last thing he said to me as I turned out the lights last night). The baby turns five months tomorrow. Five months! It feels like just last week when we brought him home from the hospital and he was this tiny thing who wouldn’t open his eyes. Now he giggles at everything and loves to smile at everyone.

Alright, enough! And on to the books!

Currently(-ish…)

Reading:

9736930

Before I go to sleep – S.J. Watson

A woman wakes up each morning not knowing who she is – each night her memory wipes itself clean. Quite fascinating so far.

 

sovietcooking

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing – Anya Von Bremzen

 

mrsqueen

Mrs Queen takes the train – William Kuhn

For an upcoming book tour

Eating:

20130922-212935.jpg

A Baked brownie. So sinful. So rich. I only had a third of this slice. But it’s so good!

Drinking:

Green tea. To cleanse some of that richness!

Looking forward to:

Well, NOT looking forward to the husband’s being away from tomorrow to Friday night for work!

Last week

I read:

tunnelsmouth

Tales of terror from the tunnel’s mouth – Chris Priestley

Review to come – hopefully!

wisemanfear

The wise man’s fear (Kingkiller Chronicle #2) – Patrick Rothfuss

Oh. Oh. Oh…

Rothfuss wrote such an excellent book with The Name of the Wind, so I think part of me was a little disappointed with this one. I was hoping things would move a little more. But no, we have long walks by the beach and staring into the abyss. Ok not really but I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you haven’t read it yet. Because I’m still recommending reading Rothfuss! He writes such a good story, even if it meanders a bit too much in this one. And he creates such unforgettable characters. I’m just waiting for the third book – hopefully next year?

 

rogerackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) – Agatha Christie

Oh! I did not really see this one coming… ! It’s supposed to be one of her best books. I can see why.

I posted:

Heart-shaped box – Joe Hill

Aunty Lee’s Delights: A Singaporean Mystery – Ovidia Yu

 

What are you reading this week?

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Ugh.

I hate watching horror movies. It has been a long time since I’ve seen one. The last one might have been Ringu, that terrifying Japanese movie that scared the hell out of me and made me stay away from the TV for quite a long time. Yup, it was that long ago (I think I was in university – let’s just say many years ago).

Yet I don’t mind reading horror novels (horror books?).

And I’ve been wondering why. Because the imagination runs wild and conjures up thoughts in my head. Yet it’s still not as horrifying as watching a horror movie.

Perhaps because it lacks an eerie soundtrack?

Is a scary movie still scary if you watch it on mute?

Back to the scary book though.

heartshapedbox

At the heart (ok couldn’t resist that one) of Joe Hill’s debut is Judas Coyne, an ageing heavy-metal great now somewhat retired and living in Hudson Valley with Georgia, one of the many girls who have rotated through his life, and whom he names by their home state.

“It had been years since he dated anyone with a tan. When you were a Goth, it was important to at least imply the possibility you might burst into flames in direct sunlight.”

Coyne is a collector of things macabre. Like sketches of the Seven Dwarfs drawn by John Wayne Gacy; a skull of a peasant who had been trepanned in the sixteenth century; the 300-year-old confession of a witch.
S
So when his assistant Danny points him to an online auction of a ghost, he jumps on it without much of a thought.

“‘I will “sell” my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder. Of course a soul cannot really be sold, but I believe he will come to your home and abide with you if you put out the welcome mat. As I said, when he died, he was with us temporarily and had no place to call his own, so I am sure he would go to where he was wanted. Do not think this is a stunt or a practical joke and that I will take your money and send you nothing. The winning bidder will have something solid to show for their investment. I will send you his Sunday suit . I believe if his spirit is attached to anything, it has to be that.“‘

Who in their right mind would read that and say, yes, let’s put a bid on it? Well, that’s Judas Coyne for you.

“Maybe he expected an explanation, but Jude wasn’t sure he could’ve explained, even to himself, why it seemed reasonable to pay a thousand dollars for an old suit that probably wasn’t worth a fifth of that. Later he thought it might be good publicity: Judas Coyne buys a poltergeist. The fans ate up stories like that. But that was later. Right then, in the moment, he just knew he wanted to be the one who bought the ghost.”

But it turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life. Because there is indeed a ghost. An old man who at first lurks around the house, scaring the dogs, causing sleepless nights with his presence and his scribbled-out eyes. Ugh. I can’t even write that without feeling a little chill down my neck!

But then people start dying, and Judas and Georgia go off in search of the woman who sold him the suit – the sister of one of Judas’ ex-girlfriends.

heartshaped

 

And here I have to admit that Hill is very adept at drumming up the chills. He sets a very creepy beginning to the story. The kind that requires reading in bright light. And I mean bright sunlight. Not the bright light of a reading lamp where shadows still lurk beyond.

But later as the book turns into more of a revenge plot, the scare factor disappears and turns into more of a violent, physical terror. That is, it becomes less about the uneasiness of the unknown (and that creepy spine-chilling feeling it brings) and more about the mundanities of staying alive. Sure, we get to know Judas – and Georgia – better, and we learn their childhoods were of abuse and sadness, drawing them perhaps to this sort of music? But unfortunately, they are not really very likable characters. And so it occasionally makes me put down this book and reconsider reading further.

Hill does manage to salvage things by making the revenge plot a bit less straightforward than it initially seems. I’m not going to spoil it further so let’s just leave it at that.

So all in, a pretty decent RIP read.

I like when Hill talks about music:

“A lot of his songs, when they started out, sounded like old music. They arrived on his doorstep, wandering orphans, the lost children of large and venerable musical families. They came to him in the form of Tin Pan Alley sing-alongs, honky-tonk blues, Dust Bowl plaints, lost Chuck Berry riffs. Jude dressed them in black and taught them to scream.”

“All the world is made of music. We are all strings on a lyre. We resonate. We sing together.”

Joseph Hillstrom King, better known by the pen name Joe Hill, is an American author and comic book writer. He has published three novels—Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2—and a collection of short stories titled 20th Century Ghosts. He is also the author of the comic book series Locke & Key. Hill’s parents are authors Stephen and Tabitha King.

ripviii

This is my second read for RIP VIII

TLC Book Tours: Aunty Lee’s Delights: A Singaporean Mystery by Ovidia Yu

Aunty-Lees-Delights

Salim took a tentative bite of the fried batter puff. If it was good enough for Commissioner Raja, it was good enough for him. Then he forgot all about the commissioner as the hot savoury mix of chili, onion, sardine, and – was it lime? – burst out of its crisp casing in his mouth. This was possibly the most sensational epok-epok he had tasted since his late grandmother’s death. Unlike the usual Chinese version, the pastry was thick and rich, and the savoury mix of seasoned fish, potato, and hard-boiled egg inside almost made him swoon. He looked across at Aunty Lee with something like devotion in his eyes.

Aunty Lee’s Delights in Binjai Park is known for its sweet and savoury kueh and fried tidbits. And her bottles of “Aunty Lee’s Shiok Sambal and Aunty Lee’s Amazing Achar and Krunchy Kropok”. But on this night it is the venue for a wine dinner, hosted by her stepson Mark, who fancies himself a bit of a wine connoisseur, pairing wines with local foods, more specifically Peranakan food.

Let’s meet the dinner guests, shall we?

The Cunninghams, Frank and Lucy, an old Australian couple, who “looked like retirees who were travelling to see the world and had chosen SIngapore as their first stop because of its clean, safe, English-speaking reputation”. But Aunty Lee’s nose sniffs out a secret that they are reluctant to share.

Harry Sullivan, a repeat diner, also an Australian, who loves being a white man in Singapore (he claims to be a hit with local women, for instance). He’s quite full of himself.

Mark Lee and his wife Selina (or Silly-nah as Aunty Lee likes to call her), the organisers of the event. Rather at odds with each other. Mark, the son of an old money family, had “grown up with that comfortable nonchalance toward money that a financially privileged childhood confers”. Selina, though, was an aspiring Tai-tai, or a wealthy woman who doesn’t have to work, and is thus resentful that her late father-in-law left all the money to his second wife, Aunty Lee. She’s bossy, he’s henpecked.

Rosie Lee, owner and chef at Aunty Lee’s Delights. Like her outfit of turquoise kebaya top, matching flared pants and sneakers with bright yellow laces, she is a mix of traditional and modern, experimenting and reverse engineering dishes of all sorts. She has two passions: food and news. She is best at being kaypoh (busybody). [I should add that “Aunty” or “Auntie” is often used in Singapore as a polite way of calling an older female, who might not necessarily be related to you. For instance, if I were to meet a friend and her mother, I would call her “Auntie”. Likewise for the term “Uncle”.]

Nina Balignasay is Aunty Lee’s domestic helper and sous chef in an unofficial capacity (as a maid, she isn’t supposed to be working outside of the home). She’s Aunty Lee’s eyes and ears and extra pair of hands.

Cherril Lim-Peters, a former flight attendant now the wife of a high-flying wealthy lawyer, is probably the only one there really interested in wining and dining. She is there without her husband Mycroft this time, and is quite delighted. Her sister-in-law Marianne was also expected but didn’t turn up either.

Laura Kwee who is supposed to help organize the dinner is conspicuously absent.

And Aunty Lee has the feeling that this has something to do with the dead body washed up on a beach.

As we – and police Senior Staff Sergeant Salim – soon find out, Aunty Lee’s nosy nose and connections everywhere (some are really Nina’s domestic helper connections) means that she is often the first to piece together the clues, all while cooking up a storm.

Aunty Lee is quite the character. She reminds me of Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but with a greater focus on food. Of course she has her handy sidekick Nina to help with the snooping and cooking.

And oh, the food! Bubor cha cha (a hot coconut-y dessert soup with sweet potatoes, yam and more). Nasi Lemak (coconut rice served with fried fish, sambal chili). Epok-epok (spicy sardine puffs). All the good stuff that made me salivate a little, and think of home, while reading this book. So despite its not very exciting mystery, Aunty Lee’s Delights was quite a, er, delightful little read for me, full of the tastes and flavours of Singapore.

tlc logo

I received this book for review from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins

Check out the other tour stops:

Tuesday, September 17th: Olduvai Reads

Wednesday, September 18th: Lavish Bookshelf

Thursday, September 19th: Wordsmithonia

Monday, September 23rd: Helen’s Book Blog

Tuesday, September 24th: guiltless reading

Wednesday, September 25th: Bibliophilia, Please!

Thursday, September 26th: Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, October 1st: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, October 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Ovidia YuOvidia Yu is one of Singapore’s best-known and most acclaimed writers. She has had more than thirty plays produced and is also the author of a number of mysteries that have been published in Singapore and India.

Connect with Ovidia on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (September 16 2013)

itsmonday“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

I’ve had enough of nose-blowing last week. Here’s to a healthier, tissue paper-free week!

 

Currently(-ish…)

Reading:

wisemanfear

The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

sovietcooking
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing – Anya Von Bremzen

Eating:

20130915-170312.jpg
Beef and potato pasties and other delights (well not all of it – I’m cutting and sharing) from the Niles Pie Company

Drinking:
Water

Watching:

Playing for Keeps – why? I don’t know. It’s a pretty bad show! It has a pretty stellar cast: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Dennis Quaid. Yet it is incredibly insipid and half-hearted.

Looking forward to:
My mum’s arrival on Wednesday!

Last week:

I read:

The Cutting Season – Attica Locke

Review to come

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

In the middle of writing a review – honest!

 

I posted:

A Grave Talent (Kate Martinelli #1) by Laurie R King

What are you reading this week?

A Grave Talent (Kate Martinelli #1) by Laurie R King

gravetalent

Three children have been murdered and Inspector Kate Martinelli is on the case. Unfortunately, not for reasons she’d like:

“…it was not amusing to think that she had been assigned to this specific case because she was relatively photogenic and a team player known for not making waves, that she was a political statement from the SFPD to critics from women’s groups, and, worst of all, that her assignment reflected the incredibly outdated, absurd notion that women, even those without their own, were somehow “better with children.””

And she gets Inspector Alonzo Hawkin as her partner, a recent LA transplant, the new guy thrown on this sticky case to save the necks of the higher-ups. He’s not exactly pleased to be assigned this young and inexperienced Martinelli but he has his own baggage.

So the bodies have been found in a close-knit, remote community owned by John Tyler. No electrical lines, no phones, cars allowed up only twice a week. And yet more than seventy people live there. Eccentrics, beatniks and what not, lots of families and kids, no one who really looks the murderer type.

Then again, there’s that reclusive artist, who, as it turns out, was convicted of killing a child many years ago. But Vaun is concealing an even bigger secret, for she is actually a world-renowned artist who channels the “pain and beauty of life” into her work. Naturally, she is a suspect, but when she nearly dies, Martinelli and Hawkins wonder if it is a suicide attempt or if she is being set up.

“Oh, come on, Al, that’s…”

“Farfetched? Yes. The work of a madman? That too.”

Kate began to shiver. “But why? Why would someone hate her so much? Why not just bang her over the head on one of her walks and make it look like an accident?”

 

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There are many different threads running around this story but it all works thanks to the interesting back stories King weaves together, as well as the great characters she has crafted in Vaun, Kate and Al. And even a strangely charismatic murderer:

“He was very attractive, sexy, dark and dangerous, aloof . He exuded an aura of secret power. And he was an outsider, but by choice, rather than being left out. That was a feeling I craved, that self-assurance. Together we could look down on everyone else. I felt chosen, powerful, unafraid— even pretty, for those few months.”

And one of my favourite things about this book was the way San Francisco and the Bay Area glimmered throughout.

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From lovely descriptions of its gorgeous – and famous – views:

“Of all views of the bridge that dominated this side of the city, it was this one she loved the best— still dark, but with the early commute beginning to thicken the occasional headlights that passed at what seemed like arm’s reach. The Bay Bridge was a more workmanlike structure than the more famous Golden Gate Bridge, but the more beautiful for it. Alcatraz, which lay full ahead of the house, could be seen from this side by leaning a bit.”

To the little details about life in the Bay Area, such as the occasional blackouts and its microclimates:

“In San Jose a huge area of the grid went abruptly black, and a thousand newcomers to Silicon Valley cursed and cracked their shins on the furniture as they searched blindly for flashlights and the stubs of Christmas candles. Old-timers just went to bed and told each other that it would be all over in the morning.”

“The rain began again an hour later, with that slow steadiness and determination that makes the natives of the Pacific coast check their supplies of candles and firewood.”

“It was a glorious day, San Francisco at her spring finest. The smattering of off-season tourists along Fisherman’s Wharf looked stunned at their fortune, having expected fog or rain, but the rains were nearly over for the year, and fog is a summer resident. The sky was intensely blue and clear, with an occasional crisp white cloud to cast a shadow across water and buildings for contrast. A fresh breeze raised whitecaps, but the sun warmed the bones even on the top deck. Berkeley looked about ten feet away, Mt. Tamalpais was at her most maternal, and a sprinkling of triangular sails studded the blue waters where Northern California’s more successful computer wizards and drug importers took a day at play.”

King, after all, is a third-generation Bay Area resident born and bred, having been born in Oakland and now residing in the Santa Cruz region. So she knows her stuff.

And this book solidly places King in my Read-Everything mental list. I love her Mary Russell (aka Mrs Holmes) series, and enjoyed her most recent release, Bones of Paris, and with the Kate Martinelli series, she has created another appealing female lead (and gruff but charming male sidekick – ok so they are partners but it really is Martinelli’s story) and King’s affection for the Bay Area is just contagious. If you have never read anything by King before, please give her a go! Her books are quite something.

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This is my first read for RIP VIII

lauriekingLaurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of ten Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, and the acclaimed novels A Darker Place, Folly, Keeping Watch, andTouchstone. She lives in Northern California where she is currently at work on her next novel.

Bibliography
Kate Martinelli mysteries
A Grave Talent (1993)
To Play the Fool (1995)
With Child (1996)
Night Work (2000)
The Art of Detection (2006)

Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes mysteries
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994)
A Monstrous Regiment of Women (1995)
A Letter of Mary (1997)
The Moor (1998)
O Jerusalem (1999)
Justice Hall (2002)
The Game (2004)
Locked Rooms (2005)
The Language of Bees (2009)
The God of the Hive (2010)
Beekeeping for Beginners (an ebook novella) (2011)
Pirate King (2011)
Garment of Shadows (2012)

Stuyvesant and Grey series
(Historical novels of suspense, featuring FBI agent Harris Stuyvesant and injured British soldier Bennett Grey)
Touchstone (2007)
The Bones of Paris (2013)

Non-series books
A Darker Place [UK title: The Birth of a New Moon] (1999)
Folly (2001)
Keeping Watch (2003)
Califia’s Daughters (as Leigh Richards) (2004)

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m on the couch

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m on the couch.

I have a very lovely, very comfortable couch and I don’t really get to sit on it very often these days, except when nursing the baby downstairs.

But I haven’t left it much today as I managed to get Wee Reader’s cold. It’s very disappointing as I’ve always been the one who doesn’t get sick! Grumble grumble and what not.

Anyway it’s Tuesday morning, I’m on the couch, the baby is napping upstairs and Wee Reader is in preschool until 1230. And so I am trying to do some reading. Joe Hill’s Heart shaped box because it’s sunny and bright outside and I can only read this book when it’s sunny and bright cos I’m chicken like that. Today’s high is 26C or 78F but I’ve got socks and a jacket one and a mug of piping hot green tea next to me.

I keep thinking that instead of writing this post I should be writing some actual reviews but ah I’ll do it another day.

Hope your Tuesday is better than mine!

Ok whining over.