Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mary Higgins Clark - You Belong to Me

Mary Higgins Clark may not write the most imaginative of thrillers but she's an accomplished writer in her own right and she never fails to deliver a page-turner that's full of suspense. She's like that dependable friend: she can always be relied on to produce a mystery thriller that is easily digestible and pleasant to read. You Belong to Me doesn't disappoint and is an entertaining read despite its formulaic structure and predictability. While I had picked the killer quite early on, she kept me guessing and doubting myself with the red herrings that were thrown in throughout the narrative. The only minor letdown is that when the killer is finally revealed, apart from being barking mad, the implied motive for the murders seems quite weak - although, who am I to argue that insanity isn't a good enough reason? As described on Amazon, this is vintage Mary Higgins Clark and most readers will enjoy this fast-moving storyline that makes for effortless reading.

Neil Gaiman - The Sandman Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections

Fables and Reflections is another volume in the Sandman series that is a collection of short stories. Once again, Neil Gaiman displays his deft touch with some brilliant story-telling: Ramadan, Orpheus, and The Hunt are my favourites from this volume, although I do like most of the stories in this volume. While they are standalone stories, some do have linkages with previous and future volumes, which make it confusing for me at times because I feel that I'm not getting the full picture. There were also a few stories that didn't do much for me, like Soft Places and Fear of Falling, while August was just plain weird. The best thing in this volume though? Seeing Death and Dream as children - absolutely adorable, something that you'd think would never apply! If there ever were figurines of Lil' Death and Dream, I'd definitely try to get them for myself. Fables and Reflections may not be the most consistent offering as a whole, but it's definitely still worth a read for the ones that don't disappoint.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Neil Gaiman - The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You

This is another solid addition to the Sandman series. This is a sequel (of sorts) to the events in The Doll's House (Volume 2); however, the main thing I remember from that volume is the serial killer convention while I only have a vague memory of the other stories. Nevertheless, it was still a delight to read A Game of You, a tale about exploring one's identity. I'm sure it was much deeper than I could actually comprehend, but I enjoyed it anyway, even with my limited understanding. I probably still prefer Season of Mists to this, only because I find the Endless characters so intriguing and always enjoy the stories that they feature in. I am sure I will benefit from a re-read of this in the future to get a better understanding of the underlying themes and meaning; in the meantime, I'm on to the next one in the series!

Michael Chabon - Summerland

I so wanted to get into this book and enjoy it but I just couldn't. The premise sounded great and right up my alley: magic worlds; supernatural creatures; underdog kid who saves the world. All great things, except for one thing. Baseball. It's not the first time that I've read a book that featured a sport that I'm not particularly into; The Art of Racing in the Rain holds that honour. However, while I could appreciate the racing aspects of that novel even though I couldn't care less about cars going round and round on a track, this was not the same for Summerland. For me, the baseball bits just bogged down the story and I just could not settle into it. After I tried for a few days, I decided to drop it when I reached page 110. I probably would have enjoyed it if I had made it to the end; I just didn't want to push myself anymore. Back to the library this goes!

Stephenie Meyer - The Host

This book was not at all what I expected it to be - a little bit odd, but strangely compelling. When I first read the blurb, I was slightly intrigued but I didn't think it would grab me in a big way. The only reason why I decided to read this book is because I'm a huge fan of the Twilight Saga and I wanted to read this standalone adult novel from Stephenie Meyer. The Host progresses at a steady pace in an unhurried manner, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the new universe that Meyer has created. The names of the various planets and their inhabitants bugged me - Bats of the Singing World; Planet of the Flowers; See Weeds - such silly names, in my opinion. However, once I got past that, I really enjoyed Meyer's storytelling, thanks to the great characters that she created in The Host - from Wanderer/Wanda, the self-sacrificing alien parasite who loathes violence, to her feisty and hot-tempered human host, Melanie, as well as the other remaining human survivors of the alien invasion like Jeb, Jamie, Ian and Jared - I found myself really caring for these characters and increasingly drawn into their world. While I didn't have the same passion for The Host as I did for the Twilight books, I still think it's very well written and I look forward to its sequels. The marketing pitch for this book is "science fiction for people who don't like science fiction" - I am not sure if Stephenie Meyer has achieved that but I will certainly attest to it being a fantastic read and a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

Neil Gaiman - The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

In Season of Mists, the focus is back on Dream after minor appearances in the previous volume. The rest of the Endless family also make an appearance, with the exception of one missing sibling. This story arc is extremely interesting and inventive, where Lucifer decides to quit Hell and hands over his realm to Dream. His action has its ramifications and Dream is left with the mess to clean up and a huge responsibility - who gets Hell? Everyone wants a piece of Hell: angels; demons; various gods and deities. It's amazing to see how Gaiman weaves in the different mythologies and folklore with his Sandman creation. As for the ending? Mind-blowingly awesome, in my opinion. It's really thought-provoking - if horrific things are done in the name of good (Guantanomo Bay comes to mind), does that make them right? Just my own interpretation anyway. "Happily ever after. In Hell." Indeed.

Neil Gaiman - The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country

Well, I've moved from one series to another; although I will not experience the same kind of Twilight mania with the Sandman series. Dream Country is a collection of four standalone stories featuring Dream and Death, two of my favourite Endless characters. I particularly enjoyed "Calliope" - a creepy and slightly disturbing story that provided a glimpse into Dream's past - and "Facade" - a wickedly dark superhero tale about Element Girl. I thought "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" was quite original and rather amusing - although I wouldn't be looking at cats and think that they're trying to take over the world anytime soon. Much has been said about "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; in fact, it has won heaps of awards. However, this was my least favourite story in Dream Country. I think this is partly due to the fact that I'm not really familiar with the Shakespeare classic (I know, the horror!) so I couldn't really fully appreciate the tale. Overall, this was a great volume and I look forward to more Gaiman magic in the rest of the series.