Review: The Evening Spider

evening spiderThe Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Each time I pick up a psychological thriller to read, I wonder why I did… I really don’t have the stamina for the suspense with these things. It’s because they make it sound so plausible, most times, that it’s pretty scary that your next door neighbour could possibly be just like these crazy characters. The Evening Spider appeals because it sounded a little like The Asylum by John Harwood which I enjoyed quite a bit plus the ghost story spin with alternate perspectives in time made me think that I could really like this book.

The beginning of the novel was promisingly chilling and mysterious in tone. It began with Frances Barnett, in 1885, who was speaking directly to her brother (though it read more as if she was writing a letter to him) and promising to reveal how or why she was committed to the Northampton Lunatic Hospital; alone, helpless, and friendless. All through the novel, I kept wondering what she’s done to deserve this exile from society and believe me, I’ve imagined the worst! The twist to this mystery, however, was totally unexpected. Even though Frances isn’t a character you’d like (she seems standoffish or maybe just unable to find her place in society), I find her to be more open in her story and more easily understandable than her future counterpart, Abby Bernacki.

If you are mother, you would know that zombie-like period in the early baby stages. Even now, the memory of what those times were like is but a blur in my mind. Reading Abby’s perspective was something similar to that… everything was clear a mud. I guess, the author has achieved this effect brilliantly though it made the reading experience a little frustrating. Without giving too much away, the ending of this perspective was disappointing even with the subtle twist –it’s so subtle that you really have to read between the lines and made up your own mind what’s going on.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed maybe about 75% of the books mostly to do with the historical perspective which I reckon was done really well (character and plot). I’ve enjoyed the investigation part that Abby took on and even when she was willing to open her mind to something supernatural but again I feel the not-so-conclusive ending lets me down. I still think it’s worth the read even just for the historical part.

Thanks William Morrow Paperbacks for eARC via Edelweiss in exchange of honest review

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Review: Night Study

Night Study
Night Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

36 hours since I’ve finished this amazing book! What have been doing since? Daydreaming about what might happen in the next book!!! Yep, it’ll probably not happen the way I thought it but I can’t help my wishful thinking ;)

Night Study picked up right after Shadow Study and I mean, right to the second! Which is what we, faithful readers, would have wanted… if you’ve read Shadow Study then you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t, Why have you NOT? Get onto it, PRONTO! I love how Maria V. Snyder ends her books, they’re not cliff-hangers but always left the readers wanting to know what’s happening next! I still remember daydreaming about what’s going to happen at the beginning of book 2 after finished Shadow Study and the real thing was just as good ;D

I’m finding it really hard to review this book as being book 2 of Soulfinder Trilogy and book 5 of the Study series, I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll limit my review by saying that loyal fans will NOT be disappointed. Maria, as always, has met my expectations and more with her twists to the tale. I’m loving this trilogy as we see a lot more of Valek’s perspective with a few lovely surprises. I am impatient, and at the same time in trepidation of, the upcoming finale! Trepidation only because I don’t particularly want this to end… :(

On another note, I’m looking forward to Maria’s visit to Sydney in April! Oh and, Happy Release Day, Night Study!

Thank you, Harlequin (Australia) for eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: Weighing Shadows

Weighing Shadows
Weighing Shadows by Lisa Goldstein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Weighing Shadows has a very interesting premise: time travel (I love time travel!) and exploring matriarchal societies / ancient civilizations. I usually lean towards Egypt and haven’t read many in ancient Greece settings however time travel! That alone would usually convince me ;)

Ann Decker is a smart woman but she tries to keep herself as ‘invisible’ as she possibly could as her past experiences have taught her it’s better to keep yourself to yourself. She was flattered when she was head-hunted and then, was too curious to keep to her philosophy of life. Even as she was lured by the temptation of time travelling, Ann soon realised that all was not as it seemed. The matriarchal societies she’s seen was peaceful and prosperous but yet her company seems to seek toppling this hierarchy though she was not explicitly told the purposes of her missions. Each time Ann returned to her own time, she found it changed but not for the better… Ann resolved to investigate the company’s true purpose and fix her world to as she knew it to be.

Interesting theme of the world’s wellbeing shrouded in a curious way by time travel, a different perspective of civilisation and secret societies. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting this particular theme at all and I’m not actually quite sure whether to laugh or to be concerned. I do, of course, have an interest in the world’s environment however I do think this was a bit of a strange sort of twist.

Whilst I have enjoyed the time travel factor and the mystery surrounding the company, I was not particularly enamoured of the main character nor of the ending’s resolution. I wished there were more exploration of the ancient civilisations and more in-depth development of those characters there (they sounded to be much more interesting than the MC). Overall, not a favourite time travel novel but I’ve become interested enough in the author to check out her other works. If you know her well, please let me know which one to look out for :)

Thanks Night Shade Books for eARC via Edelweiss in exchange of honest review

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Review: Supernova: Kesatria, Puteri, dan Bintang Jatuh

Supernova: Kesatria, Puteri, dan Bintang Jatuh
Supernova: Kesatria, Puteri, dan Bintang Jatuh by Dewi ‘Dee’ Lestari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This feels weird… writing a review in English when I’ve read the book in Bahasa Indonesia… This book has also been translated to English, Supernova: The Knight, The Princess, and the Falling Star (Supernova #1).

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for nearly 3 years and have to admit that I couldn’t quite remember the premise of the book when I started reading early this week. Noting the ‘top shelves’ on Goodreads included ‘fantasy’ and ‘science-fiction’, I expected something along that line of genre but… it’s not! I guess there is a bit of a fantasy touch to it but it isn’t ‘fantasy’ as we think of the genre. I’d classify this to be closer to magical realism than fantasy.

The opening of the novel was surprising; set 10 years prior where our 2 main protagonists met and in crossing boundaries and prejudices, fell in love. Oh, did I mention that they’re gay? This fact alone, noting minority of minorities in Indonesia, is a surprising choice of the author (as it is also bantered about in the novel). They made a pact that in 10 years’ time, they will collaborate in writing a single masterpiece. Dimas is a writer whilst Rueben is a scientist so their literature masterpiece will be primarily written by Dimas with Rueben’s input in the background.

The novel progressed with alternate chapters which then became alternate perspectives within chapters between the Creators (Dimas & Reuben) and the Created (The Knight, The Princess, and the Falling Star). Therefore, this is a story within a story type of novel where there is a blur in the end of what’s what. Their masterpiece is to be a retelling of a fairy tale (The Knight, The Princess, and the Falling Star) in contemporary setting but with a twist (the fairy tale did not end with HEA) however, the ending also took the Creators by surprise…

I have really enjoyed this alternate perspectives especially getting ‘in’ on the writers’ writing process. I understand each writer will have own ways of expressing / searching for their creative juices but this was still an exciting part of the novel for me. I really liked the banters between the couple who have understood each other very well, are very much in love, and comfortable in their skin in being able to banter about their existence as minority (being homosexual). Their masterpiece as it was, I only really liked because I felt involved in the creation of it; of witnessing the masterpiece being breathed into life.

On the other hand, Reuben’s inputs almost always have something to do with some scientific theories. There are so very many of them (I didn’t count but there were too much for me) and as I’m not of scientific mind (plus my deteriorating Bahasa Indonesia), I found these very very difficult to understand. I may have done slightly better in English but I doubt it.

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Review: The Golden Braid

the golden braidThe Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

After Bitter Greens, I needed a lighter retelling of Rapunzel and this fits the bill so well. Rapunzel is a very capable girl especially noting the medieval setting. She hungered for knowledge though she’s yet to learn to read. She hasn’t had the opportunity so far because she and her mother have moved many times but mostly from village to village. This time, however, they are moving to a large city where Rapunzel hopes there will be a better chance in finding someone to teach her to read.

I don’t usually read Christian fiction and I’m not sure whether I realised this was one when I first requested it off NetGalley but it has been a very interesting experience. Whilst I quite enjoyed the read and am touched by Rapunzel’s simple piety; I was mostly struck by the frequency of prayers. This is probably due to my irregular prayers so really, this proves to be a good encouragement for me to pray more often.

The Golden Braid is a lovely retelling of Rapunzel. She’s definitely not an insipid fool but brave, accomplished, and fairly intelligent. There were moments of frustration where I thought she was blind but truly, her upbringing was very sheltered and it takes time to learn of the world. This is a good wholesome and romantic novel suitable for teens aged 13 and up.

Thanks Thomas Nelson for eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club

lady helenLady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected proof courtesy of publisher

I very much adored The Eon Duology! I still remembered vividly staying up late whilst heavily pregnant with my first because I just could not put down The Two Pearls of Wisdom; absolutely captivating and one of my favourite books ever! Therefore, I’ve kept my eye on Alison Goodman and have heard about this Regency project some years ago… I’ve waited a lifetime for Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club!

This story is told from Lady Helen’s perspective and readers are privileged, as well, to know her private thoughts. The novel opens with Lady Helen’s preparation for her presentation to the Queen. Immediately, we are deliciously teased with a taint on Lady Helen’s reputation or rather her mother’s and therefore, hers. A few pages later, her aunt entered with a scandal involving one of her good friends and the second chapter brought a disappearance of one of the maid. The mysteries continued to be piled on top of one another until there is a knot that demands untangling.

Lady Helen herself turns out to be a very admirable character. Right from the beginning, she evinced her independence of thoughts and ingenuity in problem solving. Nevertheless, even as she finds herself becoming different, her upbringing constrained her and she struggled with this new knowledge of herself and the world. I found this struggle to be very realistic and actually made me like her a lot more than I thought I would. Honestly, I wasn’t sure which outcome I’d like for her though of course, the other one will mean that there will be no series ;p

I think I looked too hard for Eon in these pages… I loved Eon very easily but Helen took some time to understand. The world building was just as incredible and hence, probably the reason it felt quite slow… It’s a whole big old but new world! I expect the next instalment to be at a faster pace and even more amazing; I can’t wait!

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia for copy of Uncorrected proof in exchange of honest review

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Review: Eat First, Talk Later

eat firstEat First, Talk Later by Beth Yahp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

It was the title that got me. It’s such an Asian saying that I couldn’t help but be interested by what Beth Yahp had to say. I seemed to be mistaken a lot in my expectations of books this year and this was one of it… I probably saw the word ‘memoir’ and immediately expected that it would be about the author but if I read the blurb properly, I would read in the last paragraph, “Eat First, Talk Later is a beautifully written, absorbing memoir of a country…”

Oops, I’ve mismanaged my expectation of the work and was therefore, utterly puzzled by it! To begin with, I was so very confused by the structure (not chronological!) and almost gave up for the frustration in trying to keep up with the back and forth and all around in time. About ¾ of the way through this memoir, I finally understood that this work wasn’t really about the author. Whilst she was keen to explore her background and family history, the heft of her work is related to her birth country, Malaysia; the history, the culture, the food (!), and politics.

Because I was more invested in finding out about her story and her family’s story. I found those section a lot more appealing though I had to muddle through the switches between times and was also perplexed by her love lives. Far be it for me to judge but it was something I do not understand so once more, I was driven to confusion. On the other hand, the topics explored on Malaysia was truly enlightening. Whilst I know and loved some Malaysian cuisine, it seems I barely know anything of the country itself. I also grew up in an East-Asian country and cannot deny my Chinese appearance / heritage so I understood quite a few things she underwent and some of the matters expounded.

Eat First, Talk Later is an exploration of Malaysia with snippets of author’s family’s historical links to the country. It was a struggle in making sense of certain timelines but as to the topics discussed, author was eloquent in her views and they were clearly articulated. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I didn’t have to puzzle out the timelines.

Thanks Random House Australia for eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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