Sudden Traveler by Sarah Hall

 

 

“We are, all of us, sudden travelers in the world, blind, passing each other, reaching out, missing, sometimes taking hold.”

Reviewing a collection of short stories isn’t an easy task. With a few exceptions, short story collections tend to feel like they need to be read over a longer time than it takes to read a book. For example, read one story, take a break and go read something else. Then come back to another story after that breather.

And in a collection such as this slim volume by Sarah Hall, a lot of breaks are needed, as the stories take on such varied settings, some weird and otherworldly and a bit experimental, some more rooted in the every day. Is that why the title is such? That as we read the stories, we are, too, “sudden travelers”, having to switch our perspectives completely?

For these stories are set in Turkish forests, Cumbrian villages, some that seem more like dreamscapes with weird transformations.

There is no doubt that Hall is a great writer. The stories are full of beautiful writing. For myself, as I am not much of a reader of more experimental turns, I was more drawn to her more ‘real’ stories like Orton and, especially the penultimate story, Sudden Traveler. And her writing pulled me in deep to those stories, tears falling, even, for one of them.

So while I stumbled during a couple of stories, unsure of where these pieces were leading me, the end result was worth it.

 

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and

publisher Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book.

Check out the rest of the tour stops here

Grab a copy of this book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Find out more about Sarah Hall: Website and Facebook

 

 

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks #tlcbooktours

I love chocolate.

And perhaps that may be the only reason I joined this book tour.

I hadn’t heard of Karen Brooks before, although she is an author of quite a few other books. But the title had “chocolate” in it and here I am.

This chocolate of 17th century London though isn’t exactly the chocolate we are used to today.

It is a drinking chocolate and before our main character Rosamund gets involved, it doesn’t exactly sound very palatable. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…

Rosamund’s story is a bit of a fairy tale one. She works in a small inn in a small village and is abused by her stepfather and stepbrothers. And one day when she is fleeing her stepbrothers, she quite literally falls in the path of the wealthy Sir Everard Blithman who happens to be traveling through the area. Sir Everard is so taken with her, mostly because she resembles his late daughter, and pretty much buys her hand in marriage. Sir Everard is going to open a chocolate house and Rosamund becomes an important part of the business and it is booming. However, this is a family full of secrets, which Rosamund, to her horror, gradually uncovers.

I loved all the history that is brought into the book – the plague, the great fire of London, as well as the beginnings of the chocolate that we love today. Brooks brings in all the sights, sounds and smells of 17th century London, and it is rank and vile for most of it. But luckily, there is the chocolate house and its spices and flavours.

Rosamund was, for me, a bit too perfect and sweet. And as I prefer to take my main characters with a pinch of saltiness and flaws, it was hard for me to fall for her unlike all the rest of the characters in the book who are so taken with her.

But it was an enjoyable read, best with a stash of chocolate nearby to dip into whenever the craving hits.

 

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and

publisher Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book.

  
 
Grab a copy of the book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Find out more about Karen Brooks: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter.

The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney #TLCBookTours

 

 

 

 

 

Think Grumpy Old Men. In a nursing home.

Well, at least one of the old men is grumpy.

And that is Joel Monroe, who is in his 70s and held ‘prisoner’ at Hilltop Nursing Home. His roommate Miller, who has been in a coma, dies, and Joel, still grieving for his wife, whose bed Miller had taken over, is overcome with grief.

It doesn’t help that the nursing home has stuck him with Frank de Selby, a former soap opera actor who is full of questions, rather flamboyant and optimistic. Joel is determined not to like this new roommate but once he gets to know the real de Selby (real name Frank Adams), he realises that while they are very different people, he quite likes Frank.

Frank shares that his family has left him alone after learning that he’s gay. Joel reveals that he has been thinking of killing himself.

Sharing secrets and escaping the nursing home to get a pint in a bar and these two roommates become great friends, the kind that seem as if they’ve known each other forever.

I loved how different the two men were from each other. And how they learnt from each other and grew, in their own way.

The Great Unexpected is a charming and amusing read, a poignant tale of friendship and ageing.

 

For more information about Dan Mooney and the book, check our his author website, like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, look at the book’s Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour.

 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

 

 

Thanks to  TLC Book Tours and publisher Park Row Books for sending me a copy of this book.

Moon Rush: The new Space Race by Leonard David #TLCBookTours

 

I’ve read many works of fiction that are set in space, watched many movies and TV shows set in space, but I’ve never really read much nonfiction about space.

And you can rest assured that you are in good hands here with journalist Leonard David, who has been reporting on space-related news for over 50 years.

The race to the moon began in the 1960s, between the Soviet Union and the US. But today it is a very different landscape – in January, the Chinese landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon; a spacecraft from an Israeli nonprofit crash-landed on the moon in April; India’s moon-lander is scheduled to take off later this year; or how about Japan, which plans its own lunar rover to land next year? The race to space is definitely back on and this book is published just at the right time to tell us all about the history behind it all, as well as what’s upcoming developments that we can expect in lunar exploration.

 

Some fascinating tidbits of information were gathered from my reading of this book.

Such as:

“Three sealed samples, one each from Apollo 15, 16, and 17, remain unopened, intentionally saved until technology and instrumentation has advanced to the point that investigators can maximize the scientific return on these unique specimens.”

I couldn’t help wondering when exactly that would be. How, for instance, could anyone decide, oh we should open this year, when who knows what kind of scientific advancement could happen next year? It’s not like science and technology is going to stop improving (or at least I hope not) so who makes that decision and how do they make such a decision?

Reading this book made me wonder, would I go to space if that were an option in the future? Would I want to go to the moon? I don’t know if I would. I don’t think I like the idea of hurtling up in a spacecraft powered by rockets (that’s probably why the first astronauts were pilots). How about you? Would you want to be a space tourist?

 

I received this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

 

Pick up a copy of the book: National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

National Geographic’s 100 Dives of a Lifetime – Review

 

 

 

I have to admit that scuba diving scares me. I had many chances to learn – I’m from Singapore and lots of people in Singapore scuba dive and there are so many lovely spots in the region to scuba dive at. But I never did. There’s something about the open water that puts a tremble in my hands. I love to swim – and I’m quite a good swimmer – but I like to swim in a swimming pool, where I can see the bottom and the walls and know where things start and stop. The open sea is not for me.

But I do love the sea and beaches and got to live for a year right across the beach in Brighton, England, and that is still one of the best years of my life.

My kids also have a fascination for things underwater. And my 5-year-old and I sat down and went through the book together, he marveling at all the wrecks sharks and rays, me mesmerized by all the corals and the manta rays. And who knows, maybe one day my kids will learn to scuba dive and go and explore some of these amazing and beautiful places.

So you don’t have to be a diver to appreciate a book like this. The beautiful photos are impressive but the book also opened my eyes to many places I’ve never heard of, like Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia which looks like a gorgeous beach resort (and which I’ve bookmarked as a possible future travel destination!). I was intrigued by the various shipwrecks that I would never have heard of if not for this book, like the S.S. Thistlegorm, a WWII steamship on the bottom of the Red Sea. There’s the remote, relatively untouched Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, where Charles Darwin once stopped at. And even a missile silo in Royal City, Washington, where divers can “indulge your inner James Bond”.

This was a great book to pore over and dream up travel plans with.

 

 

 

I received this book from its publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review.

Check out the rest of the tour stops here

Pick up your copy from: National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

TLC Book Tours: The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

 

 

I would like to know – is there anything that Neil Gaiman cannot write?

From fantasy to fairytale retellings to children’s to bestselling novels and comics. He seems to have done it all. Even Dr Who episodes. And he’s got the awards to prove it!

He has written one of my all-time favourite comic series, Sandman, but I believe the very first book of his that I read was Stardust.

And here he is with a collection of non-fiction writing, from introductions to speeches to tributes. Some are insightful, such as his  “All Books Have Genders,” others are just simply inspiring, like “Telling Lies for a Living… And Why We Do It: The Newberry Medal Speech 2009”. Others are very specific, such as his thoughts on Doctor Who or G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown – and may require some previous knowledge on said topics.

The best of his pieces are the more personal ones, like when he talks about how libraries were his second home when he was a kid. Or when he writes about his dear friend Terry Pratchett, whom he interviewed in 1985 – Pratchett’s first ever interview. Or those words he wrote for Tori Amos’ tour book:

“Tori is wise and witchy and wickedly innocent. What you see is what you get: a little delirium, a lot of delight. There’s fairy blood inside her, and a sense of humor that shimmers and illuminates and turns the world upside down.”

And that rather awesome piece for Time Out (‘Six to Six’) where he just wanders the streets of London late at night, writing about whatever happened (hint: not very much – but because it is Neil Gaiman I will still read it). This is the guy after all, whom people will pay money (specifically, donate to a good cause) to hear read the Cheesecake Factory menu out loud. His piece on attending the Oscars is another fun one.

I love reading all those bits and pieces about his life, and especially the way libraries and librarians were such a big part of his world.

The thing with a smorgasbord like this is it’s not meant to be read in one gulp. It is a book that takes time – and with 502 pages (not counting the index), a good amount of time. It’s a good palate cleanser – for those days when you’ve finished an intense (or agonizing or just plain unforgettable) book that you cannot let go of, and you are in a book hangover and feel unable to pick up anything new. Read one of Gaiman’s essays, especially one of those that talks about writing or a writer or reading or libraries, and I think it would inspire you to read again. 

Neil Gaiman – curing book hangovers one essay at a time. 

 


 

I received this book from its publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour here. 

You can purchase this book via HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on FacebooktumblrTwitterInstagram, and his blog.

TLC Book Tours: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

“What a burden it is to be born a woman.”


What Zeba is:

  • a loving mother
  • a loyal wife
  • in prison

Her husband Kamal has been found murdered, with a hatchet, in their courtyard.

And Zeba – covered with blood.

She is sent to Chil Mahtab, the women’s prison in Kabul, while the judge tries to figure out what to do with her.

Her brother has hired her a young lawyer, Yusuf, a recent returnee from the US where he has lived for many years and where he went to law school. He’s a little naive but his colleague soon sets him straight about how things work in Afghanistan:

“the justice system, if you can even call it that, is as twisted as a mullah’s turban. There are ways to work with what we have, but it takes creativity and patience.”

Unfortunately he has a difficult task ahead of him as Zeba herself refuses to help in her own defense. Her refusal makes him wonder, what is she hiding? Whose secrets are she keeping?

It was especially interesting (and painful) to learn about Zeba’s fellow inmates.

“Because of their various improprieties, many had been convicted of the broad crime of zina, sex outside of marriage. Some were convicted of attempted zina or imprisoned for assisting another woman to commit zina.”

Sadly, for many of them, prison is a safer place than their own homes. Isn’t that just heart-breaking?

This book was a difficult read, a difficult topic but one that hopefully raises more awareness about women’s rights around the world.

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I received this book for review from its publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the tour. 

Pick up this book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Connect with the author: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter

 

I’m using this for “Central Asian MC” for #AsianLitBingo