Book Review: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

A slightly shorter version of this review was published in The Star on 1st November, 2017.

la_belle_sauvage_cover.jpgTHE BOOK OF DUST, VOL ONE: LA BELLE SAUVAGE

Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: David Fickling Books, 546 pages

ISBN: 978-0857561084

HIS Dark Materials (HDM) Trilogy is one of my favourite series of all time and so, I was quite nervous about reading Philip Pullman’s latest novel, set in the same world introduced in those books, the first of which, Northern Lights (also known by its US title The Golden Compass) was published 22 years ago.

This new story tells of events that occur ten years before what happens in Northern Lights, serving as an introduction to what we already know. Indeed, part of the worry was if this backstory was worth knowing. If so significant, then why hadn’t not knowing made a difference to how much I enjoyed HDM?Read More »

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Book Review: A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto

a quiet placeWhile away on a business trip, Tsuneo Asai, a section chief in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, learns that his wife, Eiko, has died suddenly back in Tokyo. It transpires that Eiko suffered a fatal heart attack while walking up a hilly street in a part of the city that Asai is certain would have been unfamiliar to her.

Why was Eiko there in the first place? Apart from knowing no one there, Eiko had a weak heart and would have surely avoided walking up the rather steep hill.

When Asai pays a courtesy call to the woman who tried to help Eiko and in whose cosmetics store his wife died in, he notices a love hotel on the street and begins to question what he think he knows about his wife’s life, and what he’s been told about her death.Read More »

Book Review: Yesterday by Felicia Yap

This review was originally published in The Star on 17th October, 2017.

YESTERDAY

By Felicia Yap

Publisher: Wildfire, too many pages

IMAGINE a world in which people’s memories go no further back than two days? Considering that I rarely remember what I’ve had for breakfast let alone what happened two days ago, this is not a scenario that sounds particularly unique to me.

But jokes aside, I approached Felicia Yap’s novel, Yesterday, with great anticipation because of the hoopla surrounding its acquisition: eight agents fought to represent Yap; the bidding war over her manuscript culminated in Headline Publishing Group paying a six-figures sum for it; and, as of December 2016, translation rights to the book had been sold to 11 countries. No wonder Newsweek predicted that Yesterday would be a 2017 “literary event” – naturally, I looked forward to reading it.

Sadly, I found the book disappointing.  Read More »

Review: Water Into Wine by Joyce Chng

WaterintoWine_300WATER INTO WINE

By Joyce Chng

Publisher: Annorlunda Books, ebook

[Some minor spoilers ahead]

Xin inherits a vineyard and decides to embark on a new life (and career), packing up and moving, with her mother and children, to Tertullian VI.

I found the story an easy read, and I was eager to turn its virtual pages as I found Xin an interesting, intriguing character, and I was eager to find out more about her … him?

Sadly, when the book ended I still had lots of questions about the character. Read More »

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

beauty queensThis review was first published in The Star on 31st July, 2011

(I’d forgotten about this YA novel and that I’d reviewed it until the all-female remake of The Lord of the Flies was recently announced.)

BEAUTY QUEENS

By Libba bray

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 396 pages

A PLANE full of teenage beauty queens crashes on a tropical island en route to the 41st Annual Miss Teen Dream Pageant. There are 14 survivors, including Miss Texas, the super-efficient and scarily perky Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins; Miss New Hampshire, razor-tongued Adina Greenberg; Miss California, super-assimilated Shanti Singh; and Miss Nebraska, secret wild-child Mary Lou Novak.

The stress and hardship bring out the worst and the best in the girls. You don’t look the way beauty queens do without being hard as nails (Miss Mississippi is initially gleeful about the lack of food on the island, immediately thinking in terms of weight loss rather than starvation), and one broken nail too many and even the most disciplined beauty bot might blow a fuse.

Still, the girls eventually rise to the occasion, turning their beauty apparatus and pageant-wear into tools to help them survive. And as the girls dig latrines and spear fish together, they learn to trust one other and let their guard down.

The demons each one privately wrestles with range from the usual teen problems with self-esteem and body image to sexuality, gender and race issues. While some of the girls come clean with their new friends, others are not yet ready to be honest with themselves, let alone the other girls.Read More »