Michelle

2014's reading journal. One book at a time..

Reading progress update: I've read 109 out of 320 pages.

Private Memoirs & Confessions Of A Justified Sinner - James Hogg

Gil-Martin is creepy!

And they reap their nightmares...

The Nightmare: A Novel - Lars Kepler

I enjoyed one half of The Nightmare, and got bored with another half.

First, what I like. The concept of Paganini contract and the reaping of one’s nightmares were very interesting. For a moment, I could even fancy a tinge of supernatural element in the plot. Though the killer’s movement was kind of unbelievable, even for a contract killer, like how he can go to various places in such a short times, I liked the whole chasing scene. I was sorry Viola and Stefan had to die through no fault of theirs though.

Saga was a nice addition. I’d like it should she and Joona become partners in crime solving. Saga had her temper while Joona was cool. Penelope also portrayed as a very admirable character. She kept herself and Bjorn alive as best as she could and didn’t give up the fight till the end. I’m glad she survived the ordeal and that she patched things up with her mother.

Now that the positive part is over, I’m going to talk about what I don’t like. The first reason is it’s me, not the book reason. I am never a fan of extremists, left wings groups, and illegal trafficking plot in stories, so since this book has plenty of that, I definitely got bored easily. Again, the fault is totally on my side. However, what I really can’t stomach is the romance scenes between Joona/Disa and Saga/Stefan. I mean, I read this book for the crime solving part, not the romance of characters that has no discernible meaning to the overall plot. Blegh. It would’ve been okay if the romance is minimal but that’s not the case. There’s also something that doesn’t sit right with me since I’ve read the third book. I don’t like that Joona has something with Disa. I don’t understand why he has to do what he did ten years ago if he can freely has a relationship with another woman. It’s screw up to say the least.

Hypnotize me to forget this book...

The Hypnotist: A Novel - Lars Kepler

The Hypnotist started with an interesting, explosive plot. It captured my attention right away. Bestiality murders, mutilated murders, annihilation of a whole family, it was a hallmark of a thrilling read, in my humble opinion. And the, the plot got more chilling as it was revealed the only survivor of the massacres might have well been the very perpetrator! I was immediately hooked.

So…

Why then, did I rate this book one star?

After the initial excitement, the plot made a turn to a whole different direction. The serial killer which had captured my attention got sidetracked by a child’s kidnapping case and a stupid family drama. Oh, in fact, this book consisted *)% of endless, dumb family drama between Erik, his wife—Simone, and sometimes, their son—Benjamin.
I found Erik to be spineless and pathetic. At first, I thought he was someone gentle and just didn’t want any drama, but as the story went on, it became clear what a sorry ass he was. He loved his wife, but didn’t do anything about proving himself to her or even tried to explain her suspicions on him away. He just let it all be, acted oblivious and confused, and relied on his pills. Even remembering it all now, I wanted to kick him in the ass!

Worst of all was Simone. She was…my goodness, the most annoying character I’ve read in a while, besides Erik. (See, this two deserved each other) Simone was selfish, whiny and overall a bitch. She blamed everything on her husband—not that he didn’t deserve some of it—, never trusted him after he had an one night stand ten years ago, AND then proceeded to sleep with an artist she worked with while her son was missing. I supposed we were to see that as her way to cope with the stress but I called that utter BS!

There were lots of gaps in the plot and unnecessary fillers that didn’t have any discernible meaning to the overall story—side-eyeing the pokemon plot. I also disliked the use of flashback in the book. I’m not against flashback, but the author had bad timing. There were some instances when interesting events were about to occur and we were suddenly detoured back in time. Like, WTF!

The only thing that kept me going was the serial killer subplot. It was tragic and I still could not comprehend why it was only a mere subplot.. hmm

Cold Comfort Farm...(review)

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons, Lynne Truss, Roz Chast

The book was only interesting at the beginning. I was wow-ed at the beginning, thinking “this book is witty, quirky, and quite possibly my new favorite book!” It also reminded me a little of Austen’s Emma. What’s with the main character trying to solve everyone else’ problems and thinking she’s smarter than them all.

Flora Poste, the main character, was okay. Her meddlings, though sometimes annoying, did not put me off from reading. She made me giggle throughout with her thoughts and commentary on other characters as well as her surrounding. It certainly didn’t help that the characters were all intangled with each other in a seemingly unsolvable web.

As Cold Comfort Farm was a satire, I understood the author’s need to make everyone seemed silly and represented various stereostypes. Therefore, it was important to not take things as they appeared to be. Nonetheless, the jokes quickly ran out of their steams and it simply got repetitive and boring. Another thing that made this book les enjoyable to me was that I didn’t understand the accent of the country’s folks. When I didn’t understand what they were saying, the whole plot got lost on me so...that’s that.

Nation..(review)

Nation - Terry Pratchett
“Thinking. This book contains some. Whether you try it at home is up to you.”
Mau was on his way back to his tiny island after his coming-of-age trial. He was supposed to be a man once he returned safely to the island. However, once there, he discovered that everyone had been swept away by the huge wave that he also met on the sea. To put the matter short, he met Daphne, who stranded on the island after the boat she was on brought by the tidal to the island, killing everyone else but her. The two began to communicate in their own ways (both didn’t understand the other’s language) and took care of each other.
“They didn't know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be.”
Filled with smart, witty dialogues, Nation was beautiful and cute in its own way. It was the story of two people, from completely different worlds, trying to survive together. This was a fine example of coming-of-age story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the two navigated their ways in the new situation. The characters also questioned things and subsequently, made me questioned them too. Heavy in philosophical, moral and theological aspects, I think it showed that science and religion is one entity.
“Religion is not an exact science. Sometimes, of course, neither is science.”
The ending was bittersweet. I admit I might’ve cried a little. However, should the book had ended in any other way—I would’ve thought less of it. The ending was fitting with Mau and Daphne each found their very own places in the world.
“No more words. We know them all, all the words that should not be said. But you have made my world more perfect.”
3.5 stars!

Misleading title...

Confessions: The Private School Murders  - James Patterson, Maxine Paetro

The title was completely misleading. I think instead of Private School Murders, it should have been Looking for James. The reference to the private school murders only took place in the beginning and the end of the novel. The rest of the time, Tandy spent her time to search for whatever information she could on James’s whereabouts. She didn’t even bother to help her brother until the very end.

Okay, to be honest, Tandy didn’t do much except stumbling on evidences that directly proved who did or didn’t commit the crimes. Her luck even went on as to enable her to solve all the mysteries in one night . That's completely an unbelievable thing, even for an Angel. But as long as good things came out of the coincidences, I was a happy camper.

The best thing that occurred in the book was the introduction of Jacob and Tandy’s grandmother (she’s dead but we get to know her from Jacob). The grandmother was an exceptional woman. She did her own things in her own way which was totally badass, in my humble opinion. Overall, she and Jacob were my favourite characters in this book.

2.5 stars!

Confession of a murder suspect...

Confessions of a Murder Suspect  - Maxine Paetro, James Patterson

Difficult review.

Um.

First, we are introduced to the Angel family, and what a bunch of freaks they proved to be. The father created drugs to be fed to the children so that they can be extraordinary human beings. It’s like they are creating from their very own dystopian society. The children know that they are different than everyone else but they just accept it as some kind of Angel’s family trademark. In short, the family is majorly screw-up. The father even slept with his eldest son’s girlfriend (WTF!)

The main character, Tandy, is the main suspect to her parents’ murder case. It is not easy for the siblings and they even accuse each other of the crime but they still support each other in their own way. I guess, blood is thicker than water. Besides dealing with the investigators who bent on pinning the murders on Tandy or her older brother—Matt, they also have to deal with the effect drug withdrawal (refer to first paragraph). Things are especially hard for Tandy since she also suffers from memory repression and she needs to get those memories back.

This is a good mystery. It is easy to follow and I really enjoy it. Tandy’s voice is fun and I can’t help but liking her although there are times when she can be annoying too. However, I’ve learned to accept the Angel’s kids for who they are. Matt, however, is quite disappointing with his anger and breaks down. As the eldest, I expect he’d do something to take care of his siblings. Anyway, Tandy fixes all but finding the ultimate evidence that proved her family’s innocence. Although it brings good thing for the kids, the ending falls flat and just doesn’t do justice to the overall mystery.

The answer is in the bridge's card.

Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot, #15) - Agatha Christie

Four people who got away with murders, four sleuths, one party.

The story began with Hercule Poirot’s interaction with Mr. Shaitana, with the latter invited him to a special party where four murderers who got away with their crimes were to be present. When Poirot turned up at the party, he met with Mrs. Oliver the famous mystery writer, Colonel Race, and Superintendent Battle. I was happy with the assembled sleuths, although it would be nice to have Miss Marple there too. Moving on to the story, the guests played bridge and at the end of the night, it was discovered that Mr. Shaitana had been murdered!

Poirot and the other three sleuths decided to work together in order to solve the mystery. While the rest probed into the pasts of the four suspects, Poirot spent his time trying to understand the personalities of each of the four through the bridge cards. The book dealt heavily with the psychological aspect and almost no action. However, the hints were all there for readers’ taking. I must admit it took me a while to figure out the murderers. Mrs. Oliver was a fun character and in a way, acted as a comic relief for the otherwise tense situation. Her endless chatters kept me amused.

In a true Christie’s style, there was a romance in the background. I am glad the two people ended up with each other! Apparently they also appeared in another Christie’s book though I won’t mentioned which one ;)

Brave new world indeed!

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

I saw this book EVERYWHERE and in the end, I succumbed and read it. In the end, what a disappointing read it turned out to be. The introduction chapter with the director is long, dull and just plain info-dumping. The dystopian world is definitely not one that I’d want to live in, and to be honest, the plot is a mess. I read without particularly care about what’s going on. There’s simply no joy or laugh to be found here even though it is also a satire novel.

The phrase “everyone belongs to everyone else” is particularly annoying with its endless repeat throughout the book. The writing style fails to capture my interest, the dialogues unengaging, the three main characters unlikable. Lenina is pathetic, Bernard’s insecure, while the Savage is just tragic. There are quite a number of times I just want to abandon this book and never took it up again.

On the bright side, I like the ending; very fitting. I especially like the way the author writes the compass metaphor. Helmholtz and Mustapha Mond are also interesting characters and the reason I read this till the end. Aldous Huxley is a genius to be able to come up with such a outrageous concept of a futuristic/dystopian society.

Creepy zombies...

Donners of the Dead - Karina Halle

My second book from Karina Halle, and it was less creepy than The Devil’s Metal despite the man-eating zombies premise. It was a decent book for the mostly, only a tad unbelievable at some parts, but I’ll excuse that. The romance was not as exciting as I thought it would be though. Given that these things only happened in the span of a few days, I honestly thought Eve rushed thing when she agreed to be with Jake. But maybe it was just me. After one experienced a life or death situation with someone, time span may not matter much…

The main character, Eve, can be frustrating at times, but I liked her nonetheless. Although she was definitely not a tracker, I was hoping for her to show some kind of badassery throughout the story but somehow she was meant to be the damsel in distress and always in need of saving by Jake. The first one or two times were okay, but after that, it gotten old. I was also annoyed at the way Jake’s initial treatment to Eve, and how she just let it be instead of standing up for herself. Even Jake’s backstory failed to make me excuse his earlier behaviours.

The final part when Eve and Jake returned to the farm was the creepiest part. I am glad things out well for the remaining characters. Overall, the plot was okay. It just didn’t blow me away.

 

p/s: the cover is so pretty!

SPOILER ALERT!

Dead Man's Folly (review)

Dead Man's Folly (Hercule Poirot, #31) - Agatha Christie


During a game of Murder Hunt at a fete, the supposedly fake murder victim turns out to really dead! And no one knows who the killer is and why the simple, ordinary girl is murdered. Even Hercule Poirot is defeated by the murderer at first, and he has to give up and return to London. It takes another death to get him to finally put all the clues together and solve the case.

This is such a convoluted tale of murders, mistaken identities and plot twists; I pity the detectives who have to work on this kind of case should it ever happen in real life. Christie is very much in her comfort zone here. In fact, I think I’ve detected some similarity to some of the characters from her previous mysteries. She even gives away a hint of the murderer through a casual remark of said character’s trait by another character.

I only rate this two stars because the half first of the novel is too boring for me with all the nonstop dialogues and chatter between the numerous characters. Even the solution to the mystery feels slightly far-fetched. [Completely ridiculous to think that there’s no one else left who would recognize that George is actually James.]

Nonetheless, all well that ends well. It is fun to follow Poirot as he investigates. This book is also one of the few books in which Poirot is less arrogant and actually admits his defeat (though he does catch the murderer later on). Ariadne Oliver is also a delight to read. Her interactions with Poirot are what make this book, in my opinion.

Norma or Norman...

Psycho - Robert Bloch

Psycho is, in my opinion, one instance where the movie is definitely better than the book. I have seen the movie few years back, and it is one of my all time favourite.

Now onto the book, it is well written and straightforward. This certainly makes it easy, fast read. I particularly like Norman’s point of view. It is epic to see him slowly revealed his true nature to the readers. It showed the complexity of human mind and the length of one to follow what he believed to be the truth. Compare to Norman, Sam and Lila were dull in comparison although their wills to find the truth made them likable characters.

The ending was gold as Mother’s personality took over Norman’s mind. Of course since I have watched the movie, I have spoiled the whole thing for myself! But I can see why this became instant classic back when it was first published.

The three furies...

Fury - Shirley Marr

Fury had been on my to-read shelf for almost three years. It was difficult to get hold of this book and now that I had read it, I must say, it was definitely different. It didn’t disappoint, although it wasn’t as good as I originally expected.

The main character is a spoiled rich girl and her friends, who together committed a crime. Despite their mean girl’s style friendship, the three girls is the reason I like this book so much. They are brilliantly written with distinct personalities. I particularly like the way Eliza makes us see her friends in different lights each time a new angle to her story unfolds. In the end, I can’t help but feel a kind of attachment and fondness for the girls.

As to the crime they committed, I think their actions are justified. Initially, I am so mad at Eliza for being so egotistical and care only for her position as the alpha / leader and ultimately do the wrong thing by destroying all the evidences to the first crime. However, I am glad they get their second chance in the end even though it comes with heavy price.

Delivered with dark, witty, and bitchy narration, this is a cool read. Bonus point for making me accepts the girls for who they are.

Haunted house and its insane inhabitants

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller

The Haunting of Hill House is considered as a classic ghost story, and being a fan of this genre, I decided to give it a try. In short, a scientist invited a group of people who had previously experienced supernatural / paranormal events to stay in Hill House. They are to stay there for a month and help him recorded any indication that will help prove the house is haunted.

I was disappointed by this book. I felt cheated by the hype over it and certainly did not live up to its reputation as one of the scariest horror novels. Since this book dealt more with psychological aspect, everything was presented in an ambiguous way. I usually preferred this kind of story telling, the uncertainty and not knowing definitely added to the creepy factor.

However, the unlikable characters and childish dialogues put me off from rating this book higher. Eleanor had nothing to recommend her. She was pain in the ass and had the ability to present herself where she was unwanted. Theodora was okay at first but then she became intolerable with all her jolly acts, while Luke was good for nothing.
The ending changed my opinion a little. It was a fitting ending. I also believed that the house is haunted and Eleanor is insane.

The missing tale of Vida Winter

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in books they write, they continue to exist. We can rediscover them.”

A sensational book. The setting, the plot, and the characters are a hybrid of Bronte, Austen, Collins and V.C. Andrews. Secrets, twins, murders, incest, abuse, mental illness etc, this book has them all. That being said, I don’t find The Thirteenth Tale is particularly spectacular or amazing. I like it, but that’s about it.

The book starts slow, and this tarnishes my enjoyment of it. However, it gradually pulls me in. I want to know more about the story of Vida; what happen to the inhabitants of Angelfield, and whether she is telling the truth or lie. I have mixed emotions at varying points. Margaret’s angst for her dead sister is boring. Her thoughts that don’t concern Vida also told in unusually long paragraph. I confess I also expect more scary things to happen throughout the story based on the reviews I’ve read, but to my utter disappointment, no such thing happened. The most tragic thing is possibly John’s death but even that is kind told in such brisk manner I have to read twice in order to understand that he’s dead. The ending is weird and too romantic. I sympathized with Vida and on her always being the outsider especially after the deaths of Missus and John. But maybe that’s the reason why she is capable of writing such beautiful stories. Everything has a price is the conclusion I get after finishing this.

I end my review with my favorite quotation:

“I read old novels. The reason is simple: I prefer proper endings. Marriages and deaths, noble sacrifices and miraculous restorations, tragic separations and unhoped-for reunions, greats falls and dreams fulfilled; these, in my view, constitute an ending worth the wait. They should come after adventures, perils, dangers and dilemmas, and wind everything up nice and neatly. Endings like this are to be found more commonly in old novels than new ones, so I read old novels.”

Unwanted...(review)

Unwanted: A Novel - Kristina Ohlsson

Aaah! I’m glad I give Unwanted a chance. It is well written gripping mystery with a set of interesting main characters. As the first book in the series, the author introduced us to not only the main characters, she also includes the pov’s of minor characters, which add to layers to the story. I feel like I know these people in real lives.

The detectives are often sidetracked by their prejudices and rather narrow-minded in their investigation at the beginning of the story. I am glad that Fredericka follows her instinct and does something that helps the team later on. She is kind of like an outsider in the team—they does not believe she is competent as well as view her as too cold— and she knows it. However, Fredericka slowly proves her worth to the rest of team. With all her intelligence and calculating mind, she has her own problems and insecurities, and those traits are what make her endearing.

As for Alex, he is a good leader and I especially like it when he and Fredericka team up to interrogate the victims’ friends and family. The little moments between Alex and his wife are also cute and provide a little relief to the story otherwise gloomy atmosphere. He also gains my sympathy when he recognizes the difference between the lifestyle of the younger generation compare to that of his generation. Peder, on the other hand, is a good detective. But he shows himself to be an insecure, selfish, and immature man. Instead of being an understanding husband to his confined wife, he acts like an ass to her and every other woman close to him.

The atmosphere of the story is gloomy and horrible. It deals with domestic abuse and child’s kidnapping and subsequently, killing. It has such dark theme to it. The final confrontation with the killer is scary. I’m not sure I am satisfied with the way things turn out but maybe it is for the best.

Currently reading

The Bride of Lammermoor (Oxford World's Classics)
Walter Scott, Fiona Robertson
Progress: 24 %