Genre: General

Aunty Lee’s Delights by Ovidia Yu

Posted August 20, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Aunty Lee’s Delights by Ovidia YuAunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu
Published by Harper Collins on September 17th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths, Cultural Heritage, General
Pages: 288
Format: Kindle
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This delectable and witty mystery introduces Rosie "Aunty" Lee, feisty widow, amateur sleuth, and proprietor of Singapore's best-loved home-cooking restaurant
After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady. Instead she is building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean meals are graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's tourist havens and one of her guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two events are likely connected.
The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson, Mark, his social-climbing wife, Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder are Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who quickly discover that Aunty Lee's sharp nose for intrigue can sniff out clues that elude law enforcers.
Wise, witty, and charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and food in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly consequences.

I chose this for my South-East Asian author task for Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge.

It was an enjoyable murder/mystery book which follows the investigations after a body is found off Singapore. Aunty Lee – a mix of Jessica Fletcher and Agatha Raisin – decides to “help” the police with their investigations once the victim is found to have been a customer in her cafe.

The characters in this book are great, with some you love and others you loathe! The book is a gentle, cosy mystery with no guts and gore to it. But its a lovely read and one which I enjoyed.

Once again, this is a book that I probably wouldn’t have discovered it without the Book Riot challenge!

Essays by George Orwell

Posted August 15, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Essays by George OrwellGeorge Orwell: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
Published by Penguin on January 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Non-Fiction, Political, Short Stories (single author), Social History
Pages: 466
Format: Paperback
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This outstanding collection brings together Orwell’s longer, major essays and a fine selection of shorter pieces that includes My Country Right or Left, Decline of the English Murder, Shooting an Elephant and A Hanging.
With great originality and wit Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from the moral enormity of Jonathan Swift’s strange genius and a revaluation of Charles Dickens to the nature of Socialism, a comic yet profound discussion of naughty sea-side picture postcards and a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an almost unrivalled mastery of English plain prose style, Orwell’s essays challenge, move and entertain.

I have always enjoyed Orwell’s writing. Like many people, Nineteen Eighty Four is one of my favourite books. But I had never read any of his essays before now. I chose this book specifically for Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a real mix bag of stories. From the short to the long; from diatribes on Charles Dickens to essays on “Bookshop Memories”; this book has it all. Although many of the essays are now 80 or more years old, they still hold a remarkable amount of relevance.

A lot of the writing is founded upon Orwell’s socialist leanings, and many essays cover uncomfortable topics such as war and death. The writing certainly isn’t what you would call “politically correct” in today’s terms, with numerous references to the N-word, C-word and F-word, among others. These are all in context – especially when viewed against the backdrop of the time – however if you’re likely to be offended by such language, then give this book a miss.

It would be a shame to miss out though, as this is a superb collection of essays, which are incredibly readable and still very relevant today.

No Way Back by MJ Arlidge (3/5)

Posted August 11, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

No Way Back by MJ Arlidge (3/5)No Way Back Published by Penguin UK on August 11th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Crime, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths, General, Suspense
Pages: 40
Format: Kindle
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A treat for fans of DI Helen Grace: an ebook short story from Top Ten Sunday Times bestselling author M. J. Arlidge.
Jodie's arriving at her third children's home. She's only fifteen.Maybe this time will be different. She'll be safe. Looked after.
But the truth is Jodie has no one left to protect her.She must defend herself. She must change.
'Helen Grace is one of the greatest heroes to come along in years' JEFFERY DEAVER'The new Jo Nesbo' JUDY FINNIGAN
'Fast paced and nailbitingly tense ... gripping' SUN
'DI Helen Grace is a genuinely fresh heroine ... MJ Arlidge weaves together a tapestry that chills to the bone'Daily Mail'Chilling stuff' Fabulist
'A chilling read' My Weekly 'A grisly, gripping thriller' Sunday Mirror
'Gruesomely realistic, intriguing and relentless. Arlidge's fledgling army of fans is about to grow' Sunday Sport
'Eeny Meeny debuts one of the best new series detectives, Helen Grace. Determined, tough and damaged, she must unravel a terrifying riddle of a killer kidnapping victims in pairs. Mesmerizing!' Lisa Gardner
'Expertly pulled off. It has a devious premise. DI Helen Grace is fiendishly awesome. It's scary as all hell. And it has a full cast of realistically drawn, interesting characters that make the thing read like a bullet' Will Lavender
'A fast-paced, twisting police procedural and thriller that's sure to become another bestseller' Huffington Post

I’m a huge fan of MJ Arlidge and have read and reviewed all his books released up until now. With the exception of one, I have loved them! I’m also eagerly awaiting the 6th book in the series – Hide and Seek – which is due to be released next month. So when I spotted on Twitter that there was a new short story out, I bought it straight away.

This is a prequel to the Helen Grace series, and as such really needs to be read after the main series of books in order to give the necessary background and context. Without wanting to give away too much about the stories in the series, it covers Helen’s time in a children’s home immediately following the death of her parents.

It’s a very short book – 40 or so pages, which I read in about 20 minutes. But priced at 99p it’s not the biggest financial outlay and it was an entertaining story. I could have done with it being longer – but that’s only because I love Arlidge’s writing so much and wanted to get more into the characters. But even at such a short length, it still packs a punch.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (5/5)

Posted August 8, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (5/5)A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published by Picador on August 13th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General
Pages: 720
Format: Paperback
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When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book in a GoodReads giveaway. This is a book which is not always easy to read, but which is ultimately very rewarding. A friend of mine commented “I’m not yet over this book” – and that’s a very good way of summing up the experience. It stays with you for a long time and demands to be reviewed long after you’ve finished reading it.

The blurb states that it’s about 4 friends from college. In reality it’s about one – Jude St Francis – and his relationship with his 3 close friends from college and other friends. Jude is a seriously damaged young man, who has had a terrible upbringing, The story of his life is revealed through a series of flash-backs and conversations throughout the book.

The book is uncluttered by details. There’s no references to political or newsworthy events (e.g 9/11) and there’s no real placing of time on the story either. Only a sense of place (mainly Boston and New York). I liked this lack of distraction and it helped focus me on the details of the story.

My one criticism would be that sometimes it was hard to tell whose voice was being used for the chapter. The characters are predominantly male, and it was hard to pick up which “he” was being discussed sometimes. But overall this was a brilliant book and I loved it.

It’s definitely a book which I think will benefit from a second reading as well – so this will be staying with me for a little longer.

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (1/5)

Posted July 20, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (1/5)How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Published by Random House on 2012
Genres: Humor, General, Social Science, Ethnic Studies, African American Studies
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
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Selected by Emma Watson for her feminist book club âe~Our Shared Shelfâe(tm)
It's a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven't been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain...
Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you're going to have a baby?
Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin answers the questions that every modern woman is asking.

This book … where to start?!

Well – I’m doing Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and item 19 says “Read a non-fiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes.” … so here I am.

What a load of drivel!!!!!!!!!

I started working in a very (very!) male dominated area in the late 1990’s. I was one of only two women in my intake, and used to have clients who would decide they were only speaking to my (exceedingly junior) male counterpart rather than me because they were men (ug) and men (ug) didn’t speak to women (ug *beat chest*). Funnily enough – I not only had to deal with it ™, I had to “deal” with the fact that I was one of only two women in my intake and I had to “deal” with the fact that all the men wanted to (and did) bugger off to the local strip joint to “talk business” while me and the other “girl” were left out. It happened. I dealt with it. It didn’t stymie my career.

Amazingly – I also managed to do all this without a book TELLING me “How to be a woman” *roll eyes*

I was never going to like this book, but I was fully prepared to dislike it less than I was expecting. I have to say for the first half, Moran pretty much managed the brief. Don’t like getting Brazilians?! Don’t get one!! It’s not exactly earth-shattering, but hey ho, maybe some women need to be told it’s OK to have something “down there”.

But then, in the second half, it started to wander. The chapter on fashion confused me!

I’m not being a proper woman, I think, staring at my wardrobe

(p197) I started to wonder if I’d missed something. Am I *not* a “proper” woman because of how I dress?! Who decides such ludicrous things (and can I have a copy of the “rules”)?? Followed (weakly) by the chapter “Why you should have children” which seemed very apologetic for the mere fact that a woman may want a child. Followed by the equally apologetic chapter on “Why you shouldn’t have children” which was written (from what I could discern) only to balance the previous chapter, but with no sympathy for a woman who was in either position (wanting to have a child and not being able; or having a child they didn’t want).

Then there’s the inexplicable diatribe on Katie Price who she seems to dislike purely because she is a female entrepreneur, making her own way in the world. Albeit in a manner to which Moran disapproves. But after chapter upon chapter of “do what you want to do” messages, it seems that’s only valid when “do what you want to do” meets Moran’s guidance on what is acceptable.

Believe you me, I am no huge fan of Katie Price. But you have to admire someone who can make a multi-million pound living from nothing. If men have a predilection to pay for what she’s offering, and she’s happy to offer it, who’s to say it’s wrong?!!

I was somewhat relived to discover that I DON’T need a book to tell me “How to be a Woman”. I just feel slightly sorry for those who do!

Barrowland: A Glasgow Experience by Nuala Naughton (4/5)

Posted July 19, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Barrowland: A Glasgow Experience by Nuala Naughton (4/5)Barrowland by Nuala Naughton
Published by Random House on September 12th 2013
Genres: History, General, Social History
Pages: 320
Format: Kindle
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Barrowland: A Glasgow Experience charts the amazing resurrection of the legendary rock concert venue from its humble beginnings as a popular Glasgow dance hall through its commercial decline in the 1960s and beyond until it was reinvented in the early ’80s as a concert venue that remains feted by fans and artistes alike.
This book documents many of the gigs to have been held in the Barrowland, complete with reminiscences about backstage shenanigans and fascinating contributions from many of the musicians who have played there, as well as from fans who cherish memories of unforgettable concerts.
Packed with interviews from the stars of popular music past and present, Barrowland: A Glasgow Experience allows readers to take a trip down memory lane and remember their favourite gigs at the world-famous venue in Glasgow’s East End.

This is a fantastic book!

I appreciate that its appeal is probably somewhat limited – aimed mainly at those who have lived in or near Glasgow in their teens and early twenties, and who frequented the Barrowland as a concert venue.

The book contains a lot of information on the history of the dance hall, the roadies and similar. But the real gems are in the real-life stories from bands, old and new, about their own personal experiences at the Barrowland – both behind the scenes and on-stage.

The book is clearly written by a Barrowland fan – and includes such gems as the complete band listings (with support) since the iconic Simple Minds gig of the 1980’s.

I love this venue, and I loved this book. Anyone who has ever been to the Barrowland should pick up a copy of this ASAP!

(For the record the Levellers was my favourite Barrowland concert, with the Almighty a close second!)

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (3/5)

Posted July 13, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (3/5)

Malala is certainly one of the most inspirational people of our time. Shot by the Taliban for being outspoken about women’s rights to an education, she has since left Pakistan and become an ambassador for educational rights. As a person she is undoubtedly one of the most influential of current times, having won the Nobel […]

We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman (3/5)

Posted July 9, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman (3/5)

This was an entertaining read- though not one I would normally have chosen had it not been on offer via Kindle First. The characters were interesting – although somewhat contrived. With the exception of Andy’s mother – who was downright annoying – and the bemusing “Glitter Mafia” which didn’t really add anything to the storyline (to […]

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood (3/5)

Posted July 8, 2016 by Babs in Book Review / 0 Comments
The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood (3/5)

I must admit, this was my second attempt at reading “The Darkest Secret” after previously giving up on it. This time I persevered and I’m kind of glad I did.  It took me a while to realise the timeline was jumping between past and present events, as the present events aren’t dated, but the characters […]