Black Dove, White Raven — Elizabeth Wein

Hi there,

In this historical novel, Emilia and Teo find themselves travelling from the USA to Ethiopia to start a new life after Teo’s mother dies. However, as they grow up into teenagers in Ethiopia, war with Italy looms just over the horizon. This story chronicles what happens to these kids and their families, blood relatives or not.

(I apologise if I didn’t summarise the story very well. This is one of very few historical fiction novels I have ever read.)

I found the first quarter of the book quite dry and slow-moving. Nothing seemed to be happening and I was having trouble following the dual-perspective format of the book. I also found the format of the book confusing. it was only at the 3/4 mark of the book did I fully understand it. (Though this is just me because the very first part of the book already tells the reader what he is reading.)

I found the end of the book a little unsatisfactory. It felt completely unfinished. But the author’s note at the end explains that this was done because this story is just a snapshot of Em and Teo’s lives. I was quite fascinated by the fact that the book is based around actual historical events. It was interesting to read about a very different time and a unique landscape and culture.

It was an interesting experience overall, though I don’t know if I’m completely won over by historical fiction just yet. I think I’d much rather read about a person’s real-life experience. It just doesn’t feel the same to read a historical fiction novel.

Perhaps you guys have a different opinion. 😀

 

Happy reading

 

 

 

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36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You — Vicki Grant

 

Hi there,

Of course I have heard of the 36 questions that can make strangers fall in love. What an interesting idea! It’s clearly very popular, as evidenced by numerous Youtube videos conducting these experiments. I was in the mood for some romance so I figured why not give this a shot?

The book had a disappointing start. I didn’t like the way the story was panning out. The characters seemed cliché: Hildy was a bumbling nerd and Paul was a brooding figure with a mysterious past. I also didn’t like the way Hildy spoke. Her rambling was intentional but it made for painful reading. As the first two or so chapters were in pure dialogue, it was also hard to differentiate between the two characters.

Thankfully, after the second chapter, it transformed from dialogue to narration. The rest of the story was pretty typical and unmemorable. Looking back on it a week later, I can’t remember the middle part of this book very well. I only bumped up my rating for this book because I found the ending sufficiently satisfying. Too often, I’d been left wondering at the end whether they’d forgotten to tie up everything. But for this book, the ending was cliché but good.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book. Maybe this would appeal to younger readers. 12-16 years old might be a good age. I might just be too old for this kind of romance.

 

Happy reading

Birding Without Borders — Noah Stryker

 

Hi there,

In January of this year, I started a temp job after my ‘A’ levels at the National Parks Board. It’s a statutory board that oversees the greenery and biodiversity in Singapore. I had the privilege of working with people who were passionate about nature, biodiversity and conservation. One of the small projects that I got to help out with was a citizen science Heron Watch survey. This activity recruits locals to survey for Herons along our waterways and in our parks. As part of the preparation, my new colleagues and I got to go out to recce these sites. Along the way, we were guided by a relatively experienced birder. With the help of another new temp staffer who was also fairly familiar with local birds, I learnt so much about the local bird life that I had never noticed before.

Since then, I have been looking out for birds on my normal walks outside with family and friends. I am now able to identify our common species and am interested to find out more. I became a novice birder!

So of course I had to get my hands on this book! What a dream, to travel the world, look for birds and meet passionate locals.

The book had a slow start. The first couple of chapters were routine and pretty boring. I knew it was boring because it was real life, I can’t expect there to be hiccups at every turn for my entertainment. It didn’t help that there were very few photos. Whenever I wanted to see the bird being described, I had to look it up myself. That was pretty demanding of me though, how could they fit photos of half of the world’s species in a small book?

I also didn’t like the way some of the chapters were written at first. I found it hard to follow when Noah would talk about events but not in chronological order. The names of people and places came hard and fast so jumping around the timeline made it difficult to keep track of where in the world Noah was.

Around the 5th or 6th chapter though, the story started to pick up. The rest of the book was amazing! I really loved the subsequent stories and the way the chapters were written. They were all more or less laid out in chronological order but with a theme to each chapter. The chapters were pensive, which I really liked. I liked the reflection that went into crafting each story. It must’ve been difficult to choose what to include from a year’s worth of memories.

I think if I were to reread the book, I would be able to appreciate the thought that went into the first few chapters. At the end of the book, I felt like I too had travelled the world, seen birds, met amazing people and changed my life forever. I would recommend this to all birders and maybe nature lovers too. If you are neither, I still think the book is worth a read for the depictions of foreign cultures that I rarely read about in other novel-like books. At the very least, read it for it’s transportive quality. Maybe you’ll be enticed to find out more about the birds in your community!

 

Happy reading

 

P.S. I might consider checking out his other books which are also about birds!

 

The Thing with Feathers — http://noahstrycker.com/books/the-thing-with-feathers/

Among Penguins — http://noahstrycker.com/books/among-penguins-2/

 

Noah Strycker’s website: http://noahstrycker.com/

 

 

 

Wrinkles — Paco Roca

wrinkles_cover

 

Hi there,

This short graphic novel tells the story of Emilio, a retired bank manager, who is placed into a nursing home. There, he meets other seniors and struggles to retain his bearings as he ages.

The story was interesting but also sad. It made me think about what really matters in life and whether happiness is reserved only for the young.

I found it a little too short, though I suppose if it was any longer, it would’ve felt draggy. Design-wise, I liked the consistency of the colour palette and graphics.

Happy reading

 

 

Travels with my Sketchbook — Chris Riddell

Hi there,

I picked up this book because I love reading travelogues and I enjoy consuming art and reading about artists. However, I didn’t love this because I found the daily entries repetitive and tedious. It didn’t help that I wasn’t acquainted with any of Riddell’s other works. I found myself skipping over a lot of it, even though I could see the effort he had put into every sketch in the book.

I enjoyed his political cartoons, pastel sketches of daily life and completed illustrations. They just weren’t enough to make me invested in the book. While I appreciate the importance of the work Riddell does to champion for increased literacy, this book just didn’t work for me. I would recommend this to people who enjoy his other work because there are references to it (E.g. The Edge Chronicles) and some peeks into the developmental sketches and ideation processes.

Happy reading

Something New — Lucy Knisley

 

Hi there,

Here’s another book by my favourite author-illustrator Lucy Knisley! This whopping 300-page full-colour graphic novel chronicles the story of her wedding, from proposal to honeymoon.

I liked this volume so much more than An Age of License. Even though my problem with An Age of License was the unrelatable content, Something New managed to present this unrelatable life experience in a relatable way. As someone who hasn’t even entered university, the thought of marriage has only barely crossed my mind. Thus, I am happy I can still enjoy the novel just as much as any other person.

I appreciate the honesty with which Knisley shares her stories. I am also grateful that the people around her are open with sharing their lives in her graphic novel. This openness made the book that much more sincere. I felt more engaged with the events that happened in the book because of it.

The drawings were in her signature style though I understand that this time, the line art and colouring were done at least partially in digital. The colour wasn’t the watercolour that I loved in Displacement, but the colouring throughout the book were still well done. The anecdotal stories were touching and humorous. I thoroughly enjoyed following Knisley on her journey from single to engaged to married.

My only happy problem was that the book was so huge, I had to split my reading into parts so I didn’t get overwhelmed. I’m still happy that the book is so thick as it allowed for the incorporation of the minutiae of her wedding preparation.

I would highly highly recommend any of the books by Lucy Knisley. You can be sure I will be picking up more of her books when I can!

Happy reading

 

Lucy Knisley’s website: http://www.lucyknisley.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lucyknisley/?hl=en

An Age of License — Lucy Knisley

 

Hi there,

I’m a huge fan of Knisley’s books so obviously I had to read this. This is actually my second time reading this book and it is still one of my least favourite of hers.

I didn’t like this book because I couldn’t relate to her experiences at all. She was having a quarter-life crisis which is still some years away for me. It was too “adult” for me I guess. I think I might better appreciate this when I’m slightly older.

I still loved the art style. The lines were clean, deliberate and detailed. I liked the layout of all the pages but there were very few coloured pages. To be fair, those coloured pages were beautiful.

I think the title of the book is also meaningful and thoughtful. Fans (or non-fans) who are in their mid-20s and above may enjoy this book. Perhaps I’ll get back to it in future.

Happy reading

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1 — Reeder et al.

 

 

Hi there,

I picked up this debut volume beacuse I had heard that the main character Lunella “Moon Girl” could potentially be the smartest character in the whole of the Marvel Universe so far. Smarter than Reed Richards, Tony Stark, or Bruce Banner.

The first volume ended on such a cliffhanger that I got mildly irritated that I wouldn’t be able to find out what happens next. However, I didn’t really care about Moon Girl or Devil Dinosaur, so I’m not really compelled to pick up the second volume.

Moon Girl is incredibly smart for her age. So smart that I don’t really understand what’s going on in the story. There is a big bad cloud, big bad baddies and big bad bullies? Oh well. Devil Dinosaur is really cute, he acts pretty much like a loyal puppy.

My opinion is likely biased but I’m more intereted in getting to know Lunella’s story and her inventions. I want a “Phineas and Ferb” show but with Lunella as a main character. Overall, I probably won’t be continuing on with the series. It’s just not my thing.

Happy reading

Radio Silence — Alice Oseman

Hi there,

I was at the library browsing through the books on display on a table when I noticed this cover. It looked familiar and I remembered that trusty Booktube had introduced me to this book a while back. It had an interesting premise and I wanted to read something that incorporated some pop culture.

However, the book didn’t quite live up to its blurb. The story went in a bit of a different direction than I had anticipated. The blurb suggested that the story would be focused on the growth of the central character Frances, while the story instead focuses more on the mystery and intrigue. To be honest, the central character seems to show growth only at the end, while the mystery seems forced.

I liked that the characters were really smart. I also liked how the book acknowledges that their strength in academics is not something that comes naturally to everyone. It asserts that other characters struggle with school and address the consequences of that, if only briefly. In a similar vein, the characters were very “diverse”, if that is a criteria that you require be fulfilled for your next read.

I think Oseman was particularly accurate in her portrayal of teenagers and how they interact with each other and with respect to the world around them. I enjoyed the evolving relationships between the different characters and I found that the characters were probably the strongest point of the whole book.

I was intrigued by the “podcast” element of the book as I mentioned at the start. But within the book, I couldn’t really understand the podcast. Fine by me. This echoes my experience with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I wouldn’t buy a compiled transcript of the Universe City episodes, just as I wouldn’t read the “spin-off” of Fangirl, Carry On. If this is an element that you enjoy in your books, I think you would like Radio Silence. Even if you do not, the relationships between the characters should be enough to tide you through.

Overall, I flew through the book and I am interested in trying out Oseman’s other books.

Her website is actually pretty interesting: https://www.aliceoseman.com/

If you’re a fan of her books, you can actually take a character quiz to find out which of her characters you are! She also does some illustration work. Enjoy!

Happy reading

 


!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

(Look away if you haven’t read the book)

 

Some scattered thoughts I have about the story and characters:

  • The evil character didn’t feel very fleshed out. I feel like the mother was really evil. But then also perhaps had some kind of issues of her own. It wasn’t addressed and it couldn’t possibly have been addressed and handled well anyway. I don’t know but I feel like the tone of the book is inconsistent. The scenes with Aled’s mother had the tone of a mystery/thriller novel. But the rest of the book felt more like a YA contemporary/coming-of-age story.
  • I couldn’t really predict the mystery of Carys Last. But the answer was actually quite anti-climatic.
  • The scenes of Cambridge and the problems of these characters who do well academically resonate with me somewhat. I come from a school where almost everyone has the same relatively high academic standard and expectations as the main characters in the book. So that was something I appreciated and is rare in YA.
  • Frances’s mother was super cool. I quite like reading about their interactions.

In Shock — Rana Awdish

 

Hi there,

I picked up this book as an alternative to When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I had been having my eye on that book for so long but it is forever loaned out at the library. This book seemed to have a similar premise. A physician suddenly becomes a patient and events follow.

I can’t compare the two books because I’ve only read this one, but I dare say they are probably very individual stories and are very different from each other. In fact, after reading this, I am even more interested to read up on other doctor experiences, and maybe some in the context of my own country.

The story centers on Awdish and starts with her at the beginning of her journey as a patient and follows her through her years of healing. The story is written much like a novel and was compulsively readable. Despite the occasional medical jargon, I didn’t think that it impeded my understanding of the book much. I didn’t have to look up anything while I was reading to understand the gravity of prognoses which is the important part of the story.

I think this book provides both sides of the story, with insights that only someone who is both a physician and a patient would be able to provide. I empathised with both sides throughout the book. It was never a criticism about individual doctors or patients but one about the way medicine works as a practice and how the system was designed. The book attempts to provide a glimpse into ways that medicine can continue to be improved.

Overall, the book was incredibly hopeful. While I wouldn’t recommend this book to a hypochondriac, I think the reader leaves with hope that the profession of medicine will only get better and better with time. Changes are already being made with regards to  improving communication with patients and practicing empathy. It is becoming recognised as just as important a skill as diagnosing and treating illnesses.

I would highly suggest you read the book. Even if your views don’t line up with Awdish’s, I think it’s interesting to hear both sides of the story in a civil way. For those who aren’t too keen on the commentary of the medical system, you can also approach the book as the biographical telling of a miracle. Awdish’s telling of her recovery and tenacity were an impactful enough story on their own.

Here’s her website if you’d like to find out more: https://www.ranaawdishmd.com/ 

Happy reading