The Land of Stories Series [A Review]

The Land of Stories Series, by Chris Colfer

The Wishing Spell, The Enchantress Returns, A Grimm Warning, Beyond the Kingdoms, An Author’s Odyssey, Worlds Collide

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[Image courtesy of Hachette Book Group]

 

O.M.G.!

This has to be my biggest, funniest and most enjoyable discovery of the year!

I stumbled across the series because the paperback version of the last and final book was featured on the “New Arrivals” shelf at the local bookstore, and the cover caught my attention. It looks like what an Enid Blyton book looked like thirty years ago, and when I browsed through the other books in the series, the first chapter of the first book even read like one! The child in me decided to give it a shot, never mind that it’s been classified under Young Adult (and sometimes Middle Grade). I’m so glad I did!

Besides looking like a set of classic Enid Blyton children’s fantasy storybooks, the series even contained all the magical elements of  creations like Narnia, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Inkheart and classic Fairy Tales. And last but not least, the characters, the things that come out of their mouths, and the things that happen to them were so hilarious that I often burst out laughing even while reading in commute. 

Colfer definitely has a clever way with words. While some may view the jokes as cheesy at times, I love all of them! It’s been a while since I’d enjoyed so much magic, wonder, imagination and wit in a single series. Plus, the plot was simple yet intricate with sub-plots, and the pace was akin to watching a good animated movie.

The only regret that I have is that I devoured the books in digital format too quickly. I should have bought the hardcover box set and savoured every one of the six books. I can’t wait to share these books with my kid when she’s old enough to read them.

VERDICT: Adult fans of children’s fantasy stories, wait no more. Go read the books and have some fun! Fairy tales will never be the same again, ever.

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Origin [A Review]

Origin, by Dan Brown

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

This has to be my favourite of all the books that Dan Brown has written since The Da Vinci Code. Because this book is such a timely read.

I think part of it has to do with the fact that we’re in an era in which we are questioning our future as much as, if not more than, our origin. Science is progressing at such a blinding speed these days, that it is hard not to think that anything is possible with the kind of technologies that will be available in the next few decades. Yet, when faced with “soul-less” technologies like super-computing, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and what not, one can’t help but wonder where the spiritual well-being of humans is going. We’re connected ubiquitously to one another by technology, but are we also losing the uniquely human connections in our everyday lives?

But I digress. This should be a review of the book, not what I think with regards to the dilemmas in religion and science.

Yes, the book is thought-provoking. While the issues raised in the story are not new, it is precisely because they are the perennial issues faced by mankind (and especially by this generation) that Brown is able to entice readers with its premise. 

In the tradition of Dan Brown books, everything happens and concludes within 24 hours, so you can imagine the breathtaking pace at which the story unfolds. Plus, many of the places, artifacts, quotes and history are real, so I couldn’t help learning at least a couple of new things about Spain and William Blake. And of course, the suspense grows with each chapter, and makes it hard for one to put down the book. Finally, the book has no lack of red herrings, and a conclusion that might just hint at Brown’s own inclinations where synthetic intelligence is concerned.

All in all, the book raises more questions than answers, and cautions against extremity. But then, humankind’s strength has always been our ability to look for and ask the right questions, hasn’t it?

VERDICT: Besides history, religion, codes and symbols, you’ll also get a quick flavor of the latest developments in science. So if you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller but would also like to use the time to learn something in the process, read the book!

Everything Everything [A Review]

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

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   [Image courtesy of Amazon]

This is a love story, YA-style, with a little twist at the end (or maybe not). 

I found this book at a warehouse book sale over the weekend, found the premise interesting, and added it to my basket of cheap buys. Heck, I didn’t even know it was made into a movie that came out earlier this year.

The narration bordered on being touching and corny – I still can’t decide which. But I must say that Nicola Yoon has a pretty dreamy way of writing, and the book definitely reads like a teenager writing, not something that comes out of a mother in her forties. (It’s a compliment.)

Oh, and she writes the darndest quotable sentences. (Read the book to find them for yourself.)

The little twist at the end was a nice surprise, but it also bordered on a typical “happily-ever-after” fairy tale ending.

Oops… did I just give away the ending?

VERDICT: This is for anyone who wants to be transported to a dreamy puppy love feel-good-at-the-end world for a couple of hours.

Sourdough [A Review]

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

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   [Image courtesy of Amazon]

Okay, I have to admit, I don’t know what to make of this book. It’s one of those that make me go “Hmmmm…”.

Is it a story about finding something one can love, someone one can love, or simply the love for handmade food that is untainted by chemicals, lab processes and technology? I mean, between a freshly baked sourdough and a slimy-looking slurry, I’d choose the bread any day, right? So is it a jibe at the big tech boys, and their free-food cafeterias, and people’s all-in-one nutritional drink diets? Well, I think it could be one of these, and it could be all of them. I really don’t know.

But I really did enjoy the first one third where Lois was experimenting with baking. It practically set my fingers tingling, and I ended up doing some baking myself! 

Plus, the book did click with my love for simple, good food.

I think Sloan has just done something for food that is similar to what he did for books in Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore. 

VERDICT: Read it if you’re a foodie, a decent-food-deprived employee in a tech company or even an aspiring foodpreneur. You might just find some food for thought somewhere in there.

 

Yesterday [A Review]

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

What a pity. 

This book had such a promising premise. I mean, questions like “how do you solve a crime if your brain forgets and resets itself at the end of each day?”, “how do you know you can love and trust your spouse if you cannot remember what happened two days ago?” and “is long-term memory really better than short-term memory?” have so much potential.

I want to like it, but I can’t help feeling disappointed. It’s simply a neither-here-nor-there novel, that has an interesting idea but just not executed well enough.

Not quite science fiction, because other than the fact that almost everyone in the story had only one-day or two-day memories, there was little else sci-fi about the book.

Not quite mystery-thriller, because the pace was just not fast enough, and I was able to guess the twists (if you can call them that) somewhere in the middle.

Not quite philosophical, because I thought the attempt to establish the link between love, hatred and memories felt a tad too weak and corny.

Now I don’t know how to categorize my review… Oh I so wish this had been done better!

VERDICT: You might like the different-perspective style Felicia Yap has adopted if you are a Paula Hawkins fan, but don’t expect to be wowed by the story.

Christine [A Review]

Christine by Stephen King

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

This title is one of the very few Stephen King ones that I’ve not read before. I think it’s because I tried it when I was a young teenager, and I didn’t like the first chapter. Yes I know, the story happened to Arnie and Dennis, who were teenagers themselves. But I think I couldn’t understand some of the slang and references to car parts then. With the recent hype about “IT” on the silver screen, I decided to try this again.

Well, I think this is not one of my favourites. It felt like watching a super old horror movie with limited and weak special effects, and it wasn’t scary at all. 

This book probably also reinforces a phrase that I must have read somewhere before: There’s a time for every book. 

Somehow, both my times with “Christine” were not right.

VERDICT: It feels odd to give a verdict for such an old book. I can only say it reads like a conventional Stephen King work, except that it didn’t scare me as much.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore [A Review]

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

Three things struck me as I was reading this book.

One – Bookstores are a safe haven for weirdos. 

Two – Some of the gory parts read almost like something from a  Stephen King book, especially the bits with the “egg-cracking” sounds. Almost.

Three – Marital affairs seem to be the norm here.

Nevertheless, I have to admit I enjoyed the book. Sullivan’s prose flows in a way that makes the book a comfortable read. Other than that, I’m not quite sure what to make of the book, so I’m going to do this review in Q&A format:

Was the pace just right? Yes for a story; no for a mystery/thriller.

Were the characters believable? Yes, mostly, although I thought the descriptions of the emotions that led to the “deeds” were weak and rather lacking.

Was I surprised by who the Hammerman was? Not really.

Did I like the ending? The plot points sort of work, but the ending seemed kind of hastily executed.

VERDICT: I have mixed feelings about this. You might enjoy it more if you go in without any expectations.