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.

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Magpie Murders [A Review]

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

This is brilliant! Story within a story, two mysteries in one book.

I used to devour Agatha Christie books, and I’ve always liked a good modern whodunit. This book combines both, though I think Horowitz did a better job with the Agatha-Christie-like mystery in it. The puzzles, anagrams and red herrings were clever, and the pace of the story was just right.

Horowitz also used different font types to differentiate not just the two stories, but also different writings by different characters in the book. I think he (or the publisher/editor) did a great job using the right font types to influence the reader’s perception of good and bad writing, old and modern writing.

I really enjoyed the book, and now I’m on a roll to a crime/mystery binge! Oh, and I’m going to get my hands on his latest book.

VERDICT: If you are an Agatha Christie fan and wish that she were still alive to write a new mystery, read this book!

 

Into the Water [A Review]

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

It took me a while to decide to give Hawkins a second try, because I didn’t really like her first book The Girl on the Train, despite its popularity when it came out. I simply found it too dark, and at times I felt like the protagonist – miserable. This probably meant that Hawkins has a real talent for bringing out human emotions and instincts, and succeeded in drawing me into the character’s world, but it was just not my cup of tea.

For this book, however, Hawkins seemed to have pulled back slightly on the dark emotions, and the effect was just right. I have to say I enjoyed it, although the ending was not unpredictable. It’s probably not the best of mysteries, but her superior and intimate writing style just drew me in. Reading has always been about broadening perspectives for me, and the way Hawkins has provided so many angles to the story, while maintaining the pace and plot, is something that I appreciate.

VERDICT: If you read this, read it for the interesting way Hawkins brings out each character. Do not expect to be surprised by the ending.

Release [A Review]

Release, by Patrick Ness

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

Patrick Ness is a master of metaphors.

Like A Monster Calls, this book is beautifully written, in a way that’s intimate yet subtle, and fleshes out the characters and plot through powerful dialogues. It’s a short story, but it took me a while to appreciate the emotions and messages that Ness tries to convey through it. And I think it will take me a few re-reads to get it more deeply, because I don’t think I got all of it, especially the link between the Queen, the girl who was murdered and Adam.

I shall not say too much about the book, because I don’t wish to spoil it for anyone who intends to give it a try. And it’s important for one to feel this tale for herself/himself.

VERDICT: This is only for readers who are comfortable with indirect references to the soul of what the writer is trying to express.

The Circle [A Review]

The Circle by Dave Eggers

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   [Image courtesy of Penguin Random House]

 

I’m disappointed! 

The premise is an interesting one, and the fact that it got made into a movie, it must at least have something in there right?

But all I got were a predictable plot, two-dimensional characters, staccato narration, and an abrupt ending. Even the use of the scene where the shark devoured the octopus and seahorses as an analogy of what The Circle was doing was weak.

Now I wonder how bad the movie was, although the leads are among my favourites!

VERDICT: This is definitely not for science fiction/tech thriller fans, because it’s hardly that.

 

Homo Deus [A Review]

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

 

I think I prefer the first book (see my review for Sapiens).

For this second book, I actually like the little nuggets of fact and theory more than the book in its entirety. The first third of it read like a rehash of the first book, the second third was too philosophical for my liking, and the final  third depressed me. 

What surprised me was that the last chapter ended with two three-point summaries, where the author argues that the three most important processes in the world right now are (and I quote):

  1. Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing.
  2. Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
  3. Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves.

According to Yuval Noah Harari, these three processes raise three key questions (and here I quote again):

  1. Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
  2. What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness?
  3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

I suppose it’s good to have a summary at the end, but I thought the book ended rather abruptly, and I’d have preferred a more optimistic projection of the future. There are already too many dystopian views of technology and the future, and while Homo Deus does not exactly offer a pessimistic projection of what can possibly lie ahead, the arguments in it do point towards a possible future in which “free will” will cease to exist and Sapiens will be overwhelmed by data and algorithms. 

And so, if the author is correct, does it mean Sapiens will eventually cause our own extinction?

VERDICT: Read this book either for its nuggets (on historical developments, scientific developments and philosophical theories) or the detailed arguments behind the summary at the end of the book if you’re curious about them. Otherwise, I would suggest you find something that will give you a more optimistic view of our future.

Ash and Quill, The Great Library series #3 [A Review]

Ash and Quill (Book 3)

The Great Library series by Rachel Caine

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  [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

There is a fourth book?!?! 

I started the book thinking that it will be the third and last one in the series, and I was actually excited about it, because the first two were pretty decent and entertaining (see my review of the first two books). 

Well, this third book is also pretty entertaining, especially in the last quarter of it, when I was just turning the pages to get to whatever terrible thing Jess was planning to do in order to save everyone. Unfortunately, I knew I wasn’t going to get an answer in this book when there were only twenty pages left and Caine wasn’t any closer to revealing Jess’s plan. I almost groaned out loud when the story ended on a cliffhanger, with one line at the bottom of the page that said “to be continued in Book 4”.

I guess I just have to kick myself for not finding out more before diving into this series. Now I wonder when the next book will be out, and whether I will still remember the plot and characters by then. Oh well, at least the first three books were page-turners.

VERDICT: Yes, this is one of those ongoing and incomplete series as of today, and I suggest you wait till Caine has penned and published the last book before picking up Book 1.