Author Topic: What books have you read/bought recently?  (Read 71107 times)

Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #270 on: August 26, 2019, 21:36 »


This is my first Lars Kepler novel. It is actually written by a husband-wife team of Alexandra and Alexandra Ahndoril who hail from Scandinavia. Gosh... Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo, Lars Kepler... Scandinavian noir is a like a genre itself. Bleak, nightmarish and bloody wraiths hang in every page of The Sandman.

The novel opens with a malnourished young man struggling to walk on a railroad bridge near Stockholm one snowy night. Mikael Kohler-Frost had been missing for 13 years and declared legally dead, just like his younger sister, Felicia. They are the children of popular author Reidar Frost and 13 years later he and his son are finally reunited. It is a race against time for detective superintendent Joona Linna as he must elicit from sadistic serial killer Jurek Walter where Felicia is held and everything will come at a huge price.

Kepler is very efficient as a writer because the chapters are short. The characters are neatly drawn and the pace is brisk. All these aspects make for a breezy read, although I am not sure if it's a crime to say it's "breezy" because victims do die gruesome deaths. The protagonist, Linna, is a morose and sullen dude with a moral compass that points to the true north without any degree of wavering. While, the antagonist, Jurek Walter, is a Hannibal Lecter-type. The allusion to the devilish gentleman-killer who loves to eat human liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti is clear, but I wouldn't categorically say Jurek is Hannibal's equal. I know who my money will be on if they ever go mano a mano. That said, Jurek is a fascinating villain.

There is another character that I find fascinating - Saga Bauer, who is one brave cop. She is given the task of going undercover at a mental institute for hardened criminals to find out what Jurek knows. If this is going to be made as a movie, her role will no doubt be highly coveted. Remember Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame?

The Sandman is actually the fourth book in the Joona Linna series, but it can be read as a standalone. I did enjoy it while it last - it has a crazy story, a whole lot of plot and interesting characters pulled out of the brain of someone dreaming of serial killers every night, but the writing lacks a flair that I craved for. Perhaps it's the translation, or maybe not, but the pages are littered with "telling" sentences, so I doubt I will dive into another Lars Kepler novel any time soon.


***1/2 / 5
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Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #271 on: September 02, 2019, 16:01 »


I got wind of this novel through Stephen King’s Facebook feed. He wrote: “That book-blurb saying “I couldn’t put it down” is usually bullshit, right? For me it was true of Anna Pitoniak’s NECESSARY PEOPLE. I literally couldn’t stop reading. Murder, ambition, toxic friendship. What’s not to like?” In my book, if Mr King says it’s good, it is going to be bloody good, and he was right.

I finished the last 40 pages yesterday in Geylang East Library and when I hit the final paragraph I almost wanted to read it ever so slowly because I knew the sublime experience is going to be over soon. When I did finally finish it, I turned to my wifey next to me (she was reading Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel) and let out a cry of satisfaction laden with a couple of much deserved expletives. This is one of my favourites this year.

Stella and Violet are best friends, and from the moment they met in college, they knew their roles. Beautiful, privileged, and reckless Stella lives in the spotlight. Hardworking, laser-focused Violet stays behind the scenes, always ready to clean up the mess that Stella inevitably leaves in her wake.

After graduation, Violet moves to New York and lands a job in cable news, where she works her way up from intern to assistant to producer, and to a life where she’s finally free from Stella’s shadow. In this fast-paced world, Violet thrives, and her ambitions grow — but everything is jeopardized when Stella, envious of Violet’s new life, uses her connections, beauty, and charisma to get hired at the same network. Stella soon moves in front of the camera, becoming the public face of the stories that Violet has worked tirelessly to produce — and taking all the credit.


The first half felt awfully familiar, like some toxic teenage female friendship that happens a dime in a dozen on TV land, but Pitoniak’s evocative flair makes the whole thing smell like a bed of roses. I love how she skewers the rich in some of the scenarios that sickened me to the stomach, like treating Violet as a hybrid slave. On the surface it feels like normal behaviour, but underneath it reeks of the stink of elitist behaviour. Their Patek Philippes and Cartier diamonds are the apotheosis of the material world, and their behaviour will turn your insides out.

A couple of evenings ago, we caught Ready or Not at the cinema. It is a clever variation on “the last girl” trope in the survival genre. We had a blast laughing at the absurdity of the rich, but the movie couldn’t quite embed the “rich versus poor” subtext well, but Anna Pitoniak’s Necessary People has this aspect in spades and she nails it all – the larger-than-life personalities, the high drama and the fierce competition, everything hits the mark.

I enjoyed reading the stressful atmosphere of the newsroom so much so that I suggested to my wifey to check out HBO’s The Newsroom, once we are done with Mindhunter.

The centre of it all is the toxic relationship between Stella and Violet. It is a symbiotic relationship based on a push-pull dynamic. It works until it doesn’t, and when it takes a crazy turn, everything goes to hell. I will admit there were some times I wanted to scream at Violet for making the wrong choices, and I have to say they aren’t illogical. Thankfully, Violet isn’t portrayed as a saint, born on this world to serve Stella; she is her own woman. I want to say more, but this is the point I need to shut my trap.

If this gets optioned to be made as a film, I am sure every up-and-coming young actress will be eyeing the role of Violet Trapp. It is a career-defining role and I think real will clash with reel life because they will have to fight tooth and nail to get it. The role should go to the one who is ambitious enough to be selfish and cruel. That’s who should get it.


**** / 5
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Offline AndrewC

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #272 on: September 14, 2019, 14:31 »
So looking forward to my copy :)



Quote
Snowden has no new bombshells in his book. But he offers a very readable memoir about growing up with the Internet, a detailed rationale for his actions, and a look at how government surveillance has evolved since his disclosures.

The second half of “Permanent Record” reads like a literary thriller, as Snowden breaks down how he ended up in a Hong Kong hotel room in the summer of 2013, turning over a trove of classified documents to Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian, Barton Gellman of The Washington Post and the filmmaker Laura Poitras.


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Offline KepinganSalji

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #273 on: September 26, 2019, 12:41 »
So looking forward to my copy :)

Buku ini sangat baik untuk anda khususnya bro.


Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #274 on: September 26, 2019, 20:13 »


Way back in 2012, my wifey and I finished watching 7 seasons of Prime Suspect in 10 days. This is a brilliant TV crime thriller/drama. It’s not just the writing and acting that are stellar, but also its attention to details. Through all 7 seasons, you can really see not just the improvement in the filming techniques, but also observe the changes in the police department and social climate. This is a series that never shy away from controversial topics like mass foreign workers invasion and raping of teenage girls. It is also quite amazing to see the constant growth of Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison. Her portrayal is so awesome that I can’t even see anybody else in the role. She is the pillar. The final season sees her fighting her inner demons is a brilliant send off for one of the most amazing female characters in television history.

Jump forward to 2019 and I finally decided to read the novel featuring the Jane Tennison and I begin with Tennison, a prequel to the Prime Suspect series.

The year is 1973 and 22 year-old Jane Tennison is a probationary WPC at Hackney, London where criminality thrives. At first she struggles to deal with the shocking situations she faces, receiving no help or sympathy from her superiors. Jane feels out of her depth in this male-dominated, chauvinistic environment. Then she is given her first murder case…

This is my first time reading something by the much lauded writer Lynda LaPlante and it may be a long time later would I consider picking up another one by her. I find the writing clunky and chunks of it can be wheedled out with no disastrous impact to the story. Case in point being the bridesmaid subplot. For a police procedural, clues conveniently fall on her lap, which don’t demonstrate her intelligence at all. Case in point being the opening scene where she gets “invited” into the crime family that will feature big time later. The sense of predictability permeates the entire story. When I read crime stories, predictability is something that should not happen.

That said, there is still much joy to be had. LaPlante nails the 70s scene – the social climate, the male-dominated office, the veiled sexual harassment and the music references. The dialogue is laden with slangs and lingos, lending lots of immediacy to the proceedings. Lastly, it is an incredible feeling to revisit the character in its infancy. The trials and tribulations learned here make her the woman detective that she is later.


***1/2 / 5

PS – I might give the TV series a shot. The trailer looks good.
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/RqAFUy72sp0&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/RqAFUy72sp0&fs=1</a>
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Offline AndrewC

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #275 on: September 27, 2019, 07:35 »
...

Kuniang’s ego bruised so badly, totally buay tahan wanna whack me with more clone accounts. Kekekeke...

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Offline AndrewC

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #276 on: September 27, 2019, 07:37 »
...
 The only nit-pick I have is the overwhelming virtual world that almost eclipses the real world.
...

Give it 5 years (maybe 10)... we'll be there :P

...

Here we go, looks like it only took 3 years instead of 5 ;)

Facebook’s version of OASIS… Facebook Horizon;

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Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #277 on: October 04, 2019, 18:11 »


One of the blurbs in the novel says this is a garden maze of a novel; that’s beautifully put and I couldn’t have said it better. The story does a deep dive into Malaysia in the 1930s; those are the days of dancehall girls, dreams that speak volumes, mysterious railway station in the Afterlife, severed fingers, a roaming tiger killing young girls (or is it a were-tiger?), young romance and local food delicacies. It is a wonderfully evocative read, more so for me because I know all the Malay food and cultural practices.

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother Shin to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined.


I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but The Night Tiger works for me because it is steeped in Asian culture that is still very much familiar to me. The story reads like a bewitching fairytale with a cast of colourful characters and a shape-shifting were-tiger.

Choo’s prose has an evocative quality and she deftly alternates chapters using the first and third person points of view. I was never thrown out of the story. In fact, I was so engrossed with wanting to find out how both story threads will merge. Another aspect she excels in is how she skillfully does a Downton Abbey with the upstairs and downstairs people of a colonial household.

The story is strangely transporting and for the duration of it I was living the simplest of lives in 1930 Malaya and danger lurks in the rubber plantation in the form of a weretiger.


**** / 5
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Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #278 on: October 21, 2019, 19:54 »


To read and enjoy Hiromi Kawakami, I dare say you have to be somewhat of a romantic. I love her novels – they are easy reads, but they always have a wistful quality to them and her stories are always laced with a light melancholy, usually depicting the ephemeral quality of love. They may be easy to tear through, but they have a certain elusive depth if you care to ponder about them. In fact, I sincerely believe that her novels are a good test to find out if you have a whimsically romantic side.

The Ten Loves of Nishino is a gem. I didn’t get that notion immediately after I was done with it, but a few days later when I realised I was still thinking of Nishino, the accidental lothario.

As the title suggests, this novel is divided into ten chapters, each told from the perspective of a woman, ranging from ages thirteen to thirty and older. The chapters do not tell the story of Nishino chronologically. In fact, in the first story we see Nishino as a ghost, which totally subverted my expectations.

Through all ten stories, we don’t get to hear the voice of Nishino. Instead, we get to enter the heads of ten women as they try to understand the man. We know through the women that Nishino is handsome and charming (how else can he bed ten women), and he quickly becomes the focus of attention, the topic of intrigue and the man of mystery. Each story is one woman’s story of love and sex, but trust me, they aren’t sleazy.

Even after ten chapters, Nishino is hard to pin down. The man is a wisp of smoke…

A strange air drifted about Nishino. An air that none of the other kids in class had. I had the impression that, if I were to try to push that air around, there would be no end to it. The more I tried to push it, the deeper I would get caught up in it. And no matter how hard I pushed, I still would never reach Nishino on the other side. Nevertheless, there was something gentle and warm and pleasant about that air. And, imperceptibly, it seemed to create the illusion that the air itself was Nishino, instead of the person.

Even though the ten stories are from the perspectives of ten women, they are all their own person. None of the stories feels repetitive. There is a distinctive quality with each woman as she struggles with loving Nishino. When the end does come, it is mutual and every one is kind of better from the experience, and it will be an experience that will shape their lives from then on. Kawakami is also remarkably clever with the stories because other than Nishino being the running thread, there are some interesting crossovers with the ladies.

The Ten Loves of Nishino is an entertaining and enlivening read. Through ten well-crafted short stories, Kawakami has deftly drawn the elusive and allusive aspects of love, life and of knowing an unknowable man.


**** / 5

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Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #279 on: October 24, 2019, 16:54 »


Just three pages in and I knew I was going to fall in love with the book. This one has such an amazing hook… let’s see if it entices you.

Barcelona, 1945. Daniel, a boy on the brink of becoming eleven, is woken up by a nightmare. His father reassures him and asks him to get dressed because he wants to take him to a place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Once there, the father says:

“Welcome to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel. This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of a person who wrote it and those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you’ll be able to keep such a secret?”

There, according to tradition, Daniel must choose a book, adopt it and make sure that it will never disappear and the story will always stay alive. Daniel picks The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Soon Daniel finds out he may have the last copy of the book in existence because someone is systematically destroying every book written by Carax.

I was a goner by page three. What a hook that was and the icing on the cake was realising Daniel picked the book that was in my hand. Well… that’s not exactly correct, but it was such a clever little trick Carlos Ruiz Zafón pulled on me.

The Shadow of the Wind feels like an epic 3.5-hour film in prose and what an amazing and lyrical style Zafón has. So many times, I stopped in mid-page, savouring the eloquence, admiring the words that I know I could never write in a hundred years…

“A story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”

“I realized how easily you can lose all animosity toward someone you’ve deemed your enemy as soon as that person stops behaving as such.”

“Destiny is usually just around the corner. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it.”

“Hope is cruel, and has no conscience.”

“The art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”


The book has everything – extramarital affairs, forbidden love, murder, revenge, lascivious scumbags, people with big hearts and all of it is wrapped up in a potent concoction of an soul-shattering mystery. The plot is labyrinthine, expansive and rich, spanning two histories of Barcelona. It has narrative drive, heart and characters that lift off the page. Above all, it is an ode to great literature, intended for readers who crave for great storytelling like its young hero.

It is one of those rare books that I felt was almost too good to be true. For slightly over two weeks, it let me enter a gothic world, watch a sprawling magic show and ogle at an intricate mosaic art piece. If I have only one minor itsy bitsy quibble it would be about how a 30-page letter works as the deus ex machina. The story was building up so powerfully and I felt a little cheated that all the revelations come by way of a letter, “little” being the operative word, not “cheated”, because the letter was so beautifully written and what it conveyed brought tears to my eyes. That doesn’t happen very often when I read a book. All was forgiven.

That’s it… that is the end of my review.

At this point, I am rereading what I have written and I am utterly disappointed that I couldn’t capture an ounce of the wondrous experience I had while reading the book. However, I count my lucky stars I can still appreciate great literature and recognise what’s great about it. If I were ridiculously wealthy, I would buy this book by the truckloads and give one to everyone I know on their birthday because sometimes a good book can make one see the world in a whole different light, and sometimes a good book can save a life. This is one story that has that immense power.


***** / 5
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Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #280 on: November 08, 2019, 18:48 »



This is my second least favourite Hiromi Kawakami novel. Manazuru is a close second to Record of a Night Too Brief, which is indecipherable. It is not that Manazuru is a boring read; in fact, it does have an interesting premise and Kawakami’s prose is elegaic, but its plotless nature and opaque semblance make it a tough read.

This is the story about a woman named Kei and it has been twelve years since her husband, Rei, disappeared without a trace. She now lives with her three-year-old daughter, Momo, and her mother. Kei is also having an affair with a married man, Seiji. Perhaps the affair is to fill a void, but Kei continues to feel haunted by Rei’s disappearance and she makes frequent trips to the seaside town of Manazuru, a place that jogs her memory of times passed. She exists as if to find something, which remains elusive to her.

I like to tell you what that something is, but I can’t, because the story isn’t interested in solving dilemmas. So when I turned the last page, I am just as confused as Kei.

If there’s joy to be had it is with Kawakami’s poetic prose that conjures cinematic frames.

We pressed our lips together for some time. Then, slowly, neither of us taking the lead, we parted. The places that have separated begin to dry the soonest. It is like lifting a scab before it is ready. At first, it oozes, glistening, and then, before you know it, it is half dry.

Kawakami has the uncanny ability to slow everything down to a painterly crawl, finding meaning in the periphery. However, the lack of a satisfying story makes it a difficult read for me and I could only get into it 15-20 pages at a time. Perhaps it’s just me and the novel is looking for a particular type of reader who isn’t me.


*** / 5
Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

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Offline westendboy

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Re: What books have you read/bought recently?
« Reply #281 on: November 19, 2019, 10:04 »


My earliest memories of attending a Taoist funeral was my grandfather’s. I was probably 8 or 9 years old then. Rather than feeling sad, I was more fascinated by all the unusual funereal customs – the chanting, the burning of a paper mansion, paper servant effigies and even an actual sized car made of paper (these days there are even paper iPads and iPhones). I remember the heat was so unbearable that I had to step back and shield my face, but yet I couldn’t stop looking. Someone, I can’t remember who, told me the stuff that were burnt would “reach” my grandfather in the Afterlife.

Growing up, I was dying to ask one question – if we burn a paper car here, will it be an actual car over in the Afterlife or would it be still made of paper? Yangsze Choo’s debut The Ghost Bride (2013) answers that question and she builds a fascinating hinterland that has its own rules, logic and physics, peopled by ghosts, spirits and half-lives. It is a helluva entertaining read.

The story of The Ghost Bride has two settings – one is the real-world setting of Malacca, Malaysia in 1893 and the second is the Afterlife and the Plains of the Dead. Choo’s world-building is on point here and she constructs a wondrous world that is at once convincing and also curiously horrifying; imagine seeing beings made of paper going about their business all around you.

Malaya, 1893 Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt Chinese family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives a proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, ghost marriages are often meant to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a comfortable home for the rest of her days, but at what cost?

As she reluctantly considers the offer, Li Lan is unwillingly drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities and vengeful spirits. There Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.


The story works tremendously well for me because I am no stranger to these Chinese folklore, the Malay speak and Malacca, which I am actually visiting again soon. Choo doesn’t leave Western readers floundering in the dark; her vivid descriptions allow any reader to feel he or she is there, either lingering in the ornate corridors of a Peranakan mansion or hiding from Ox guardians in the Plains of the Dead.

Choo’s drawing of characters is what made me fall in love with the novel. I feel for Li Lan a lot and her journey is empathetic. You can feel her growth through the arduous journey in the Afterlife and back. The life-changing decision she has to make with regards to two men is difficult, but at last it is a choice that makes perfect sense even if it has wide-ranging repercussions to her and everyone associated with her.

Netflix just acquired the rights to the book and they are making a mini-series. I hope it’s good; as good as the novel.


****1/2 / 5
Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

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