Review: I Do Not Come to You By Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

i-do-notWhen I first heard about this book (several years ago), I was interested to read it in order to understand the minds and the circumstances of those who choose to attempt to cheat total strangers.

I’ve never believed it to be a straightforward issue, i.e. that scammers are all evil bastards who deserve to burn in hell. I think people do things for reasons that only they can fully comprehend. Every single day, we all do a variety of things, make decisions, and react in ways that apply only to us as individuals – because each of us has different experiences and even if the experience is identical, two people will not react to it in exactly the same way. Walk a mile or two in soneone’s shoes before you judge their actions – that’s what I try to do (not always successfully).

I was added by a few scammers on Skype very recently (see this blog post for more on that) and the experience of dealing with them (I responded because I was curious about how they operate), led me to finally read I Do Not Come to You By Chance.Read More »


Review: All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins

all-aloneI finally read Lynne Rae Perkins’s All Alone in the Universe, which I only managed to find this year, at Kinokuniya.

I read Criss Cross several years ago and if it’s possible for a writer to be one of your favourites based on just one book then Lynne Rae Perkins is that author.

I might have known, one-upon-a-time, that All Alone has the same protagonist as Criss Cross, but I’d forgotten. In fact, I’ve forgotten what Criss Cross is about, just that I loved every word of it.

All Alone comes before Criss Cross and it’s a short book that left me wanting more. Indeed, it could be one of Alice Munro’s longer shorties, and as beautifully and evocatively written. Debbie, the main character, is well-realised, and I completely related to her and her struggles.

It may sound crazy that I, at 49, totally gets the feeling of loss, indignation and isolation a 14-year-old feels when she senses her friend drifting away from her, but there you go. Not only do I remember feeling those emotions when I was Debbie’s age; I still feel them now, and then also feel petulant and spoilt when I do.

Books in which ‘not a lot happens’ are my favourite sort, and this story is one of those: not action-driven, but flowing with the meandering currents of Debbie’s state of mind and emotions.

criss-crossCombined with art by Perkins (it was her major as an undergraduate as well as in grad school), the overall impression is both whimsical and contemplative.

All Alone‘s only fault, in my opinion, is that it’s too brief and thus, somewhat lacks a sense of resolution. Of course, this (resolution) is not a must: Life doesn’t always (hardly ever, actually) resolve neatly in a concluding chapter and paragraph, and Debbie is obviously a work-in-progress.

I’ve started reading Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem (continuing my Oct to Dec TBR challenge), but I think I shall make a short detour to Criss Cross.  


Lynne Rae Perkins

Re-Read: The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones


My re-read of Diana Wynne Jones IS continuing, I swear, although it keeps getting interrupted by me being in the mood for other books (currently, Qiu Xialong’s Chief Inspector Chen mysteries). After a hugely satisfying Hexwood re-read, I started on the Unexpected Magic anthology, abandoned that and moved on to The Time of the Ghost.

The Time of the Ghost was my very first DWJ, bought in 1986, in Singapore when I was doing my ‘A ‘levels at National Junior College. I seem to remember a table with books laid out on it, at some kind of market or near a hawker centre. I think it was in Jurong West, where I stayed in a rented room. I still have the book I bought (above), a hardback Macmillan edition, with cover art by Maggie Heslop.Read More »

Book Review: Mahsuri by Ooi Kok Chuen

MahsuriFirst published in The Star on 31st July, 2016

IN Mahsuri: A Legend Reborn, Ooi Kok Chuen expands on the legend of Langkawi’s famous icon who was supposed to have cursed the island during her execution for adultery. My ex-husband, whom I met in Langkawi 20 years ago, says that the curse actually involves anyone who visits Langkawi being doomed to listen to Mahsuri’s story being repeated, ad nauseum, by all and sundry. I have to agree that it really gets milked to death and would benefit from some skilful re-telling.

Preeta Samarasan, the author of Evening is the Whole Day, actually wrote a compelling version of the tale for my collection Malaysian Tales: Retold and Remixed, but I feel the story, like this region’s other fairytales, myths and legends, offers Malaysian writers endless scope for fresh interpretations, and its potential has not been maximised.

Such stories have usually survived generations stripped down to the barest, most basic of plots, their key players little more than cardboard figures just crying out to be fleshed out and reimagined.  Read More »

Over, Again

now that its overI will be reviewing O Thiam Chin’s novel, Now That It’s Over (winner of Epigram Books’s inaugural Fiction Prize), for The Star.

Received the pdf ages ago, but the review will be delayed because converting the document to epub for my Kindle messed up the layout.

The printed book arrived today (thank you, Epigram) and so I can resume reading it.