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Perfect Strangers
Tasmina Perry
The Happiest Refugee: A Memoir
Anh Do
The Captain's Daughter
Leah Fleming
The Trader of Saigon
Lucy Cruickshanks
Someone: A Novel
Alice McDermott
The Wolves of Midwinter
Anne Rice
A Killing of Angels
Kate Rhodes
Gravity of Birds Pb
The Return
Michael Gruber
The Twenty-Seventh City
Jonathan Franzen

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler I liked it as it wasn't all 'sweetness and sorrow' like all sibling-relationship type novel (enough with the missing brother/sister plotline) and there was an edge to the tale between the protagonist and her "sister", Fern and in a way, it questions how 'human' and 'humane' we truly are.

Thoughtful novel.

Original Skin (An Aector McAvoy Novel)

Original Skin - David John Mark I feel dirty, but in a good way after reading this - David Mark is punching above his weight with his second novel and his authorial voice is very interesting - do spend some time to listen to him.

Ian Rankin might have to watch out.

Some Day I'll Find You

Some Day I'll Find You - Richard Madeley It's not bad. It's just not very good too. I couldn't give it 1 1/2 stars, but I would be doing it a disservice claiming it was a 2 star book. It sounds like it has been written with at least a TV script treatment in mind and the characters are flat as cardboard. Everything is 'told' and not shown, so one can 'read' it visually but there are no real insights to the characters.

The ending was not ludicrous but it just didn't feel as if the resolution was well thought through. Changes in the direction of the plot and things coming to a head in the last 50 odd pages makes you wonder if the author has run out of things to elaborate. The pacing was all wrong.

The Green Rose

The Green Rose - Sharmila Mukherjee It's not a bad read but the problem with it is that the narrator 'tells' instead of 'shows' and everything is told literally in the narration and there is no space for the reader's imagination.

It almost reads like a diary and every character is sketched out and doesn't have any room for growth.

It feels like something for the middle grade even though the protagonist in the novel is supposedly older. Messages are preached and there is no other way for the reader to read it, other than the way the author wants it to be read.

The Wrong Hostage

The Wrong Hostage - Elizabeth Lowell A good read - why didn't I know her books before I read JP's rubbish?
She is a much better author than JP will ever be and her plot actually flows (in short chapters too)
Curse of the marketing monsters?

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One - Jason Erik Lundberg, Ann Ang, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, Felix Cheong, Dave Chua, Justin Ker, Koh Choon Hwee, Karen Kwek, Wei Fen Lee, Amanda Lee Koe, Vinita Ramani Mohan, Eleanor Neo, Ng Yi-Sheng, O. Thiam Chin, Alvin Pang, Phan Ming Yen, Alfian Sa'at, Verena Tay, Jeremy Tian It is unfortunate when the editor for a major book design/publishing company compiles an anthology of short stories - he is forced to choose the usual suspects from the tiny pool (4-5) book publishing companies of which he also has a hand in, as an editor/writer AND it doesn't help either that three of his short stories are included in this collection, on the insistence of his publisher boss (he has explained that in the preface to the collection with disclaimers)

Epigram is obviously in for the long haul since this collection has been labelled as "Epigram Books Collection" (staking name rights/claims) and numbering this collection as "Volume One"

But there seems to be a problem with the Opening titles - "Best New" - Can the best be new and the new be the best? That is the problem with trying to form a canon of literary work from new works. They haven't stood the test of time and in all honesty the collection in this "Best New" collection is marginally good at best.

There are common threads running through the backgrounds of most of the writers chosen for this collection in that most of them are anointed by the University of Iowa Writing Workshop. Which oddly enough, gives a sameness to all their short stories.

The Sound of Things Falling: A Novel

The Sound of Things Falling - Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Anne McLean From the chance encounter with a fellow billiard player to the possession of a tape (remember that, kids?) which turns out to be the recording of a black box, Juan Gabriel Vasquez weaves a tale of 60s innocence and the loss of it. I haven't been so affected by a novel in a long long while and I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to be surprised again by the power of story-telling.

Aunty Lee's Delights: A Singaporean Mystery

Aunty Lee's Delights: A Singaporean Mystery - Ovidia Yu I feel almost evil commenting on Ovidia Yu - THE Ovidia Yu who wrote all those wonderful plays but I promised her I was going to be honest with her writing effort.

Aunty Lee does follow the stereotype of all those nosy ladies who solve crimes while having other things to do in life (it's call work/life balance, guys) and she feels comfortably Singaporean (I have a sneaky suspicion Ovidia took her inspiration from a certain dining/antique shop along Katong)

The language is not flowery (which does make it a breeze to read) and what is a good mystery without being peppered with an assortment of multiracial characters (and the young malay inspector who knows silat)?

Interestingly enough, she doesn't write PC dialogue so there are comments/set pieces/dialogues that would feel out of place in our more enlightened times (I can hear Aunty Lee chortling) and it does reflect the darker side of how people view/judge each other in their own privacy, which is really rare.

The plot does take a strange turn half way into the book and if 1/2 a star need to be taken off the rating, it would be the heady rush in which the plot unfolds itself like a deep fried onion from Outback steakhouse, revealing many secrets at a go.

I would have preferred it to be a more gently fried keropok instead. A piece unfurling at a time.

Nevertheless, I look forward to book 2 (I am sure we will hear more from Nina, the foreign domestic help with a mind of her own, like all good side kick)

Tighter plot lines please.

Princess Play

Princess Play - Barbara Ismail The main characters makes a mockery of all the female sleuths out there in crime fiction (provincial or otherwise).

She doesn't actually solve any crime at all since the crime resolves itself around her by the end of the book through other means. Instead she sticks her nose into other people's affair, and seems to have endless time to 'investigate' and honestly is just a source of irritant. I almost clapped my hands with glee when she was whacked on the head cos there is how irritating I found her to be. Unfortunately she lived.

In the end it's the other characters who outshines her in terms of characterisation and it is also unfortunate there will be five more books with her as the main character, because in all honesty, the books function just as well without her 'insights' and 'deductions'

Night Film

Night Film - Marisha Pessl Duh: Fell for the House Of Leaves Redux.


Pure - Timothy Mo This is such an inventive, word-play, kinetic book which seems to bounce from idea to idea, from paragraph to paragraph. It almost reads like a book on drugs. It will not be a book for those used to well-mannered chick lit with parasols and martha's vineyard or whatever US coastline is trendy at the moment.

This is very much in your face, grab you by your shoulders and shake shake shake till you drop all those senseless sequel novels with multiple authors (you know who) and then show you what a true author does with words.

Adult themes/mature contents.

Gun Games: A Decker/Lazarus Novel (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus)

Gun Games: A Decker/Lazarus Novel - Faye Kellerman I thought it was fine as a novel but I do question the sensibility of having a 14 year old falling in love with a 15 year old (call me a prude) and then interweaving that with gun crimes/suicide and other questionable happenings and the ending was just too abrupt (although I did see it coming - there was just NO way the guy was going to get away with it)

The Good, the Bad and the PSLE: Trials of an Almost Kiasu Mother

The Good, the Bad and the PSLE: Trials of an Almost Kiasu Mother - Monica Lim Yup. This looks like a grant sponsored exercise in semi-vanity publishing and a thinly disguised series of blog postings which are loosely tied together to form a book, which doesn't work as fiction (since it has no focus) and a case of bait-and-switch (since it barely covered the actual theme of PSLE)

In the end it just promotes gender inequality since the poor older daughter doesn't make it (PSLE) and the son, Noah gets away with being, well, the son and boy (pats on the head - mommy loves you)

Definitely to be avoided.

Sherlock Sam and the Alien Encounter on Pulau Ubin (Sherlock Sam, #4)

Sherlock Sam and the Alien Encounter on Pulau Ubin (Sherlock Sam, #4) - A.J. Low,  Adan Jimenez,  Felicia Low-Jimenez Local writers (especially children writers) should be encouraged but 4 books in quick succession before the year is up has certainly degraded if not diluted the potential of this children series.

Characterisation in this 4th book seems to be lacking and the name-dropping of certain food/location and now with quotes from scientist just loses the plot for me. And is starting to grate on my nerves. A serious case of over-reaching and chewing more than one can swallow.

Who is Sherlock Sam? He seems to be a construct for the authors to project whatever ideas they have and a signpost to whatever location in Singapore they can place him in - Queenstown? Punggol? Wild boars in Jurong next?

This series started on a promising note (stable family with robot) but with every ever-increasing index page and every multi-cultural character thrown in it to widen its international market appeal the plotting/content is starting to sound preachy and touristy.

Quality control is needed to bring back Sherlock Sam before he gets wiped out on the Wave House on Sentosa (oh yes, I am sure there's a book in that geographically)

Sherlock Sam is starting to sound like a avatar for the Singapore Tourism Board for children.

The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty I was expecting a little more gravitas given the nature of the secret...but nah, it's all fine at the end of the day.

The Cure

The Cure - Douglas E. Richards I was trying my best to give it a fighting chance but when the twist came mid-plot, my heart sank. It just didn't make any sense to me at all.

It just got more and more weird and in the end I just gave up on the book.