Book review: Library of Souls

I was ecstatic when I found that the final installment of the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” series was out late last year. The previous book left readers off with a cliffhanger as the children were in the midst of a great escape plan, where protagonist Jason Portman just discovered he had a new powerful power.

It was wonderful that the “Library of Souls” dived right in from where it last ended, and managed to live up to my expectations to deliver a solid ending to the trilogy. This is particularly so given that the earlier two books have set a remarkably high bar.

In the third book, I relished in the author’s continued use of actual vintage photographs that he had personally collected throughout the years to enmesh them within the fictional story plot. For me, this is exactly what elevates this series from good to excellent for I love how it breathes new life to these old images that have been repurposed for a new use. This picture in particular stood out for me: Continue reading

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Book reviews: Irene and Camille

Pierre LemaitreAfter an excruciating two-year wait for the Commandant Verhoeven trilogy, I was overjoyed to know that the two remaining books were finally translated from French. They truly did not disappoint and consistently kept me at the edge of my seat that I did not even realize that I had devoured them in one sitting.

When taken as a whole, this three-part series – “Irene, Alex and Camille” in running order – by author Pierre Lemaitre string together as a coherent read. (Read here for my review of the second book “Alex”) Individually, they function equally effective as standalone detective stories.

In “Irene,” the author laid down most of the groundwork to set up his central protagonist Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven. The first case Verhoeven had to deal with was a succession of gruesome murders where the victims were brutally hacked up and methodologically arranged in an almost illogical manner. The pressure ratcheted up when the cases received public attention after the media caught wind of the cases and sensationalized them. Continue reading

Book review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless TsukuruI was thrilled to bits when I received Haruki Murakami’s latest book from a friend since it has been almost three years when he released his 1Q84 and it has been highly anticipated by legions of the Japanese author’s fans, including myself. A huge thank you to you know who you are for gifting me with one of the most thoughtful gifts I have received in a long while.

Murakami’s newest offering is as expected oozing with his typical writing style and themes – a lonely man in his mid-thirties feeling displaced in a big city while harboring a deep sense of solitude.

Before jumping the gun, I would like to rave about the gorgeous design for the hardcover version published by Alfred A. Knopf of “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage”. The dust jacket features five cutout panels, four filled with colors and the last transparent to reveal the complex train lines in Tokyo underneath. When viewed from a distant, the cover forms the shape of a deconstructed left hand, a pictorial description tying in closely with the author’s writing.

“You know in a sense we were a perfect combination, the five of us. Like five fingers,” Ao raised his right hand and spread his thick fingers. “I still think that. The five of us all naturally made up for what was lacking in the others, and totally shared our better qualities.” Continue reading

Book review: Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

This is my first political biography in years since this genre is particularly my cup of tea but I was sold by the following two points:

(1) Insights into Iraq and Afghanistan wars – Having watched both wars from afar and hearing so much from the media, what better than hearing from the ex-secretary of defense himself.
(2) Robert Gates unique position – Not only did he helm two wars but he was also the only secretary of defense who served two consecutive presidents from opposing parties (George W Bush’s last two years and Barack Obama’s first two years).

“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates though was a dense read that took awhile for me to get through, it was overall, an enjoyable and juicy read, almost like going through an exposé that dishes the dirt inside the White House administration and Pentagon.

“I did not enjoy being secretary of defense. As soldiers would put it, I had too many rocks in my rucksack: foreign wars, war with Congress, war with my own department, one crisis after another. Above all, I had to send young men and women in harm’s way.”

In this biography, Gates was astoundingly forthcoming, almost uncomfortably frank that it rankled opinions across the political spectrum. Whether was he ethical in ratting on his ex-bosses will be discussion for another day, yet I cannot deny it was interesting to learn about his experience working with notable political figures.
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Book review: Blood, Bones and Butter

“Blood, Bones and Butter” is a memoir by chef Gabrielle Hamilton, who owns the restaurant Prune in New York’s East Village. As a disclaimer, I have never ate at or been to Prune so I am in no capacity to pass any comments about the establishment or its food.

What really drew me in though was when I learnt that apart from being a cook, Hamilton also holds a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. That combination, undoubtedly, is uncommon and got me intrigued.

My first impression of the book? It is a very frank memoir documenting Hamilton’s personal journey to cooking professionally, and frank might just be an understatement to describe her strong-willed personality, which is plainly reflected in her writing style and also the vision behind her restaurant she wrote passionately about.

“To be picked up and fed, often by strangers, when you are in that state of fear and hunger, became the single most important and convincing food experience I came back to over and over, that sunning afternoon humming around my apartment, wondering how I might translate such an experience into the restaurant I was now sure I was about to open down the block… I knew I had to somehow get that kind of hospitality into this minor little thirty-seater in the as-yet-ungentrified and still heavily graffitied East Village.”

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