Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm not Scared

by Niccolo Ammaniti
translated by Jonathan Hunt
20/12/2011 app 6-7 hours read

This book was a really good read. It kinda reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of my favourite book.

The book was told from a first person view of a boy, whose name is Michele. He lives in a very small town in Italy, named Acqua traverse. It all started on a hot summer day, where Michele and his friends were playing around when they found an abandoned house. Michele went through the house as a punishment for losing a race and behind the house he found a body of a boy lying in a hole on the ground. He kept it a secret but the secret was bigger than he thought.

There is not much to say about the plot without giving it away. The storyline is very smooth, although it may not seem so to other people, because the story usually describes certain feelings comparatively to an event. An example to that is when Michele told out the secret, he related an occasion where he ate too much peach and felt sick, before puking it all out, which he compared to spilling out the secret. I like this kind of storytelling a lot but I know some people who don’t like it. The story however doesn’t go off the tangent so I don’t imagine it being annoying.

Meanwhile the character acts illogically sometimes especially the children but come to think of it, children are like that most of the time. The writer managed to write and capture the feeling of a child, when the world was new. I even felt an ache when SPOILER STARTS one of the character, his best friend, Salvatore, trade him out just so that he could have a try at driving the local bully’s car.I mean, what kind of friend, does that? Just for a ride? And to add to that, Salvatore was my favourite character up to that part. SPOILER ENDS.

Words used are easy.  Pleasant reading. Quite surprised this was a translation.
Recommended for teens and above. There's a naked scene where michele's mom was fighting and tore her clothes, but nothing raunchy.

Anyway, I recommend this book.

Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel

by Gail Carriger 17-20/12/2011  app. 11 hours reading

A disclaimer up front, I am never a fan of twilight or in other words, I hated the book. I read the first book under ‘recommendation’ (more like harassment) of a friend. She said it was good and I must read it, which I did and didn’t like. After that I am always wary of any books that have a vampire theme in it. Therefore it was quite a surprise to me to found this book, The Soulless lying around among my unread books. It seems that I have bought this book during one of those late-nights on Amazon(the website) where my mind wasn’t so clear. I remember liking the preview/snippet of the book when I bought it but let’s just say, you can’t judge a book by just one chapter.

The Synopsis
The book started with the protagonist, a woman who has come upon a vampire while slipping away from a ball/dance. Acting on self defense, she(Alexia Tarabotti) managed to kill the vampire with the help of her neutralizing ability which can turn supernatural such as vampire and werewolf back into human when touched by her. Later a biro that regulates the supernatural, led by a Lord Maccon who is a werewolf, came to the scene and proceeded to determine why the vampire had attack the woman, which is a crime. As in all book, there’s something sinister working behind the scene, which unfolds later on.

Story base
Premise wise I think the book has a very unique background, where it is in portrayed in the height of the commonwealth, which during the time hackney coach and corset was still in style. The twist to this is that supernatural (listed in the book as vampires, werewolves and ghosts) has integrated into the society where they are also regulated by law and held under the Queen’s administration. This is not to say that everyone liked the supernatural but the society has come to tolerate them, up to the point that some are given high position in the government such as the dewan(werewolf) and protante(vampire) who act as advisors to the Queen in military and domestic affairs respectively. It is a beautiful concept actually and feels plausible, something that hasn’t been done before.  The concept was beautiful but the book, the book has some styles that annoyed me.

Writings' style
Firstly, the book started with the scene where the main character (accidentally) killed a vampire. The book tried to put humor in it, such as when the vampire died and fell upon a treacle pudding, which the character says was a lost since she really liked treacle pudding and had loved to eat it. This was funny the few early paragraphs but after a while the humor gets tiring. It doesn’t also help that the society in the stories are in the Victorian era where the morals and etiquette are annoying and has long been outdated. Such examples are how woman above certain age who didn’t get married becomes a spinster, woman cannot study or exert themselves but should have frolic around instead , and how the lords are above the working class and such. Halfway through the book I have come to terms and accept that this is simply what the era was, dancing around in words, much like in Jane Austen’s. The writer did say Jane Austen had influenced her writing. Anyway, another thing that  I don’t quite like about the book is that the writers tend to use too many big words and synonyms, that it’s hard to follow sometimes.

The plot wasn’t really new but unfolded in its time. The love story inside it was typical and I had to encourage myself to read further, convincing that there’ll be a twist or something to compensate for the mushy stuff. Sadly, I was wrong. The book went sappy till the end, what with the gossiping and buying gloves and hats peppered throughout the book.

As stated earlier, the words in the books are not that easy to understand. They are not as hard as a Jane Austen’s but big words tend to crop up too often, unnecessarily. You can guess most of the meaning but it does disrupt the flow of reading.

Reading age/recommendation
WARNING: this book has suggestive scenes and I would not recommend it to young reader. If you have read a Mills&Boons, this book is slightly ‘milder’ than that.

I’ve realized the review is a bit harsh on the book but truthfully the book is quite okay and is a very light read. Nothing too serious. I am just disappointed that the unique concept (to me at least, as I’ve never read something like this) was not written in a style that I think is more appropriate to it. Something like Jonathan Strange, maybe?
If you like twilight AND Victorian Era, you’ll probably like this. As for me, although the concept of the book intrigued me, I doubt I’ll buy the sequel.

Ps. Plus, I am wary of writer who wears white gloves while drinking tea.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

 by Stieg Larsson 
 translated by Reg Keeland

 read within:
 The Girl Who Played with Fire                   19/10/2011 - 2/11/2011
 The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest       2/11/2011 - 8/11/2011
 probably 35 hours straight reading, or less.


If I were to described the books in three words, those would be them. These two books are full of action all the way and have a faster pace in comparison to the first book. However the style of writing is still the same, where I wrote in the first review, that it's similar to Mario Puzo's.

The book continues  approximately a year after the first book and recaps what happened to the main character, Mikael Bloomkvist and Lisbeth Salander as they follow their separate ways. The action began when the Millennium, the company Bloomkvist worked in, was approached by a journalist with a story on prostitution and sex trafficking in Sweden. It was a sensational piece, which Millennium decides to publish. As they work to finalise the story and was about to finish it, the journalist and her wife were killed. Salander's character came into play when the police found her prints on the crime scene, hence the chase began. What happened afterwards was a multitude of event that risk to uncover a 30 year old secret and Salander's background.

Sounds cliché? Well yes, I felt the same after rereading my synopsis and I must apologise as I don't do the book justice. Anyway the book might have a similar outline to other thriller/investigations but what I like about it that it has a few different view/narration such as the journalist, the police and the genius hacker who is the victim. The story also unfolds very fast and rarely have slow moments, yet the investigations seem detail enough to be logical. I could hardly find events or circumstances in the book where they appear incredulous, you know when the author feels lazy and introduces some miracle, though the book does have improbable moments but not impossible ones. In short, the books seem believable.

The language of the book is intermediate with a few new vocabs but they are unobtrusive. Again, the translations was very good that I feel as if I was reading an original book.
As for the young readers, the books contain adult scene and reference which are not explicit. There are gore but the writer only tells as they are needed and didn't dwell on them, a note for the weak-hearted readers. Other than that, I think the books will appeal to any readers.

The books were fast and I had read them back-to-back, which helps since the third book follows seconds after the second book, hence I lumping the review of both books into one. In my opinion, the writer would have also bundled them together, other than the fact the second would then become double the size of the first book. Plus, a trilogy seems much cooler, I think.

Buy the books.
Get them in three, much cheaper.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Ambassador's Mission

  by Trudi Canavan. Book one of The Traitor Spy Trilogy

  28/9-29/9/2011. Approximately 18 hours continuous reading.

This book is from a sequel trilogy of The Black Magician Trilogy: So it would be a bonus for a reader to read the previous trilogy first before reading this book. However if you directly 'jumped' into this book, the author does explain the premise of the whole story at the beginning of the book. Much like what Rowling does with Harry Potter in every book and likewise, this book drags a bit at the beginning since it has to set up all the characters and plots.

The story continues 20 years after its predecessor, with its previous main character, Sonea, taking a less focused role, while the story gives more spotlight on her son. Turns out his son became a magician and her mother retain the title of The Black Magician. Another prominent character is Sonea's old friend, Cery, an infamous Thief. Yes, with a big 'T' since he is a leader of thieves, one of the big bosses in the city. Apparently the city became worse since the last book, as the people are somehow becoming addicted to a drug caller Roet. Meanwhile a rogue magician is rumored to be roaming the city and killing other Thief. Later in the book, Sonea's son, Lorkin, decided to became an ambassador to Sachakan, the land full of black magic and where his father's murderer came from.

The book seems to take much longer than the previous ones, albeit I noticed that this is not much thicker in comparison. I attribute this to the beginning of the book where the story keeps changing from one plot the another, before finally joining them in the middle where the pace begins to pick up. This annoys me a bit and I know some people might be put off by this. Another thing about the plot is that there are quite a lot monologues  in the book. I can't remember if the previous trilogy had the same fault but this book seems to be so. Sometimes those monologues felt to me to be excessive since they highlights things that can already be read in between the lines.

The language in the book is very simple, quite too simple I may say. Still, I found out that I like it since my mind doesn't have to work that much. However I must say that the book lingers around (homo)sexuality that I wouldn't recommend it to my nieces or nephews.

All in all this book is a bit slow -understandable since it's the first- with simple story line that is suitable for a quick read. The aspect of fantasy in the book is not so interesting, less than the previous book, and the fighting scene are scarce and short. Much of the book tells about journey and background of the Sachakan country.

However, I would still probably buy its sequel in order to see how the story proceeds. And of course, write a review for the whole trilogy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson

Read in 5 days. Probably 15-20 hours straight reading.

Its storytelling is almost as good as the Godfather. For those who haven’t read the Godfather, let me elaborate later.
The story in its core is mainly an investigating story, a thriller, as described on its blurb. I haven’t read a lot of thriller and certainly not a fan of one and if it wasn’t for the fact book-turned-into-movie, I doubt I’ll read this book. Anyway I’ve read it and I have a high opinion of it.

The language of the book is concise and has a quite large vocabulary, which seems like a surprise to me because translated book normally have long sentences and a bit boring. The book was translated from Swedish and although the book retains some foreign word, it never disturbs the reading nor does the translation feel unfinished. Kudos to the translator, Reg Keeland.

Although the book is not explicit but it does have adult scenes and without giving out the story, let me say the book deals with crime so you should expect some violence. This is not a warning, only a reminder to the faint-hearted. Altogether combined with the slightly challenging language of the book, I would probably not recommend this to young teens, though the story and knowledge that could be gain would be very useful.

Anyway the story involves three totally different main characters, Bloomkvist, Vanger  and Salander. Vanger is a millionaire obsessed with the lost of her grand-niece and decided to hire Bloomkvist to look into the 30 years old mystery. Through various circumstances, Salander were pulled to help Bloomkvist solve the mystery, which like all thrillers/mysteries, unravels in the end. However unlike normal crime/mystery books, the story is told with a slight different where they are told with less drama and seems more plausible, almost how it would happen in real life. What I like about it is the realism. I do however find the story could have ‘spiced’ up some parts where the characters discovers something but that would then be less realistic. I guess it depends on how you want to look at it.
The story is told in 3rd person view yet the characters are deep that I could sometimes think their dialogue before even reading them. That may be an exaggeration but the characters do develop. What I said earlier about similarities with the Godfather is the way the characters are introduced.
I give you a made up example;
 Ahmad looks at the  clock near his bed. He pulls the chair he is sitting on towards the desk, puts the newly brewed cup of tea on the armchair and swivels himself towards the screen. He pushed the power button on the monitor and the machine began to whir into life. The monitor blinks before he pushes the buttons on the keyboard, when the login screen disappears as he can finally read his email.
The above is an example I wrote up, where the character just wanted to read his e-mail but the descriptions that leads to it are so elaborate that they make the character sounds real that it entrenches into the story. This is the quality that I'm referring to in this book and the Godfather. Of course my example is merely an example and nothing to be compared to them. Personally I think the Godfather is better in this aspect than this book but I have to read the other two books of the Millenium first to really judge it.

Yes, this book is a trilogy, which is a positive I think. If you like the first one, you’ll probably like the rest of the series. No hassles for you to find new interesting writers. On the other case that you don’t like them, you’ll have two more books out of the gazillion in the world to be crossed out of your reading list, just like what I did with the twilight series. Thus I encourage you to read this book, better before the films comes out.
“Why read when you can watch the film?” someone would ask.
Why do you go and eat at mamak, when you can tapau and eat in the car?

Haha, nonsenses aside, this is a good read.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon

by Jonathan Stroud

took 3 days, approximately 8 hours continuous reading.

This is kind of a prequel to the trilogy Bartimaeus. Don't worry if you haven't heard of it, it hasn't been turn to a movie, yet. As all the books from the series, the stories are related to a djinni named Bartimaeus as it toils to its bidding when summoned by a human. The stories are mostly told through Bartimaeus' perspective, full with sarcasm and boasts, which lends the series its characteristic. The Ring of Solomon took place centuries ago in Jerusalem, which is a bit dull compared to the trilogy which took place in London. As the title suggest, this book follows all the predecessor in which there is powerful artifact in the centre of the point, which is in this case, the ring.

The ring contains power and with it, comes problem. Queen Balkis who refused to marry Solomon (in the story), sent one of her guards to kill Solomon and steal the ring in order to avoid destruction to her country. The story then follows the guard, as she carries her mission. Yes, a she who can somersault and throw a dagger with accuracy up to 40 yards. Her path and Bartimaeus eventually crosses each other.

This book follows the predecessor in almost every aspect but the problem is the time taken for their path to cross each other is too long. I was a bit bored waiting for the pace to speed up. Compared to the trilogy, where the protagonist meets Bartimaeus almost in the first chapter, the Ring of Solomon has a much too long intro in my opinion. Other than that, the book is charming with its jokes in almost every pages, mostly in the footnotes where Bartimaeus adds something to his narration. If you have ever read Terry Pratchet, you'll like understand what I mean. Though I must say the jokes are not that hard to understand.

Language wise is quiet simple, with only a few bombastic vocabs in the beginning as adjectives opening. That said, I had recommended the Bartimaeus trilogy before this to a few people but they somehow found it not to their likening. I guess it must be due to the style of writing which may seem to some people as 'jumpy', with its footnote and two different point of views, a third person and a first person view(Bartimaeus).
Therefore I suggest people who wish to read The Solomon Ring, to read the trilogy first. You won't miss a lot if you skip to this but let say Dumbledore says its better that way.

A good read for teenagers, clean of graphics description and raunchy scenes. Most probably will appeal to Harry Potter's fan