The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon is becoming one of my favorite authors in recent times. The First Girl is a story loosely based on Norse mythology. In the fictional kingdom called Saylok spins a story of salvation and love. It is a fresh take on a completely unique legend whereby the clans are the descendants of eagle, bear, wolf, horse, boar, and lion. Each clan takes turn to be the next King of Saylok. A curse has fallen onto the people of Saylok. No girl child shall be born. Yet one girl is born. Will she become the salvation of Saylok? Will Saylok survive the conflict within and beyond?

I would strongly recommend The First Girl Child. It is a magical journey, an easy read, and a page-turner.

Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper – A Murder Story by Donald Henderson

This is one very unusual book. Originally written in the 1940s, this book has gone out of print for more than 60 years. It took me a while to get used to the old English. The really good thing about this book is that I could never guess what would happen next. To me, this book isn’t a pageturner but it isn’t a bad thing. There are quite a number of characters introduced and each has an associated story. At one point, I wasn’t reading a novel but was seeing characters coming alive! I agreed with Raymond Chandler (an American-British novelist and screenwriter who had been actively promoting this book as his favorite). Reading this book once is not enough. Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper deserves to be read multiple times. I can’t possibly understand Mr. Bowling right from the beginning. Now that I have finished reading the book, I understand where he comes from. The loneliness. The lack of love. Not necessarily depressive (as he found the act of suicide lacked the humor). Just another guy in the world who has to go through hell in order to find the meaning of life. Or rather, the reason to live.

PS. This is not really a typic detective novel. This is simply a murder story.

Sophie Kinsella’s I Owe You One – Her Best of Late

After my return from the UK, I have picked up Sophie Kinsella’s new standalone novel I Owe You One from a local library in Singapore. The book is almost perfect. Except for the color of the book – um pink? – which even with my metrosexually thickskin personality, I do find it a little bit uncomfortable reading a pink covered supersized book in public. I read it in public nonetheless.

Sophie Kinsella is famous for the Shopaholic series, which kind of lost me lately. She is also very good at standalone novels like this one. She wrote under the pen name of Madeleine Wickham in the past as well. Yes, I am a fan. I don’t particularly think I dig the chick-lit genre per se. But I have read almost all her books.

Most of her books start with a flawed female character. And through character development, readers get to fall in love and relate to the main character. Her books come with tons of humor. I Owe You One is funny. Yet, I don’t think the main character Fixie is flawed, which is refreshing. She just loves to fix things. Compulsively so.

A pageturner. There are bits that moved me deeply and there are bits that make me laugh. A high recommendation from me.

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmons – A Brief Book Review

As a sci-fi fan, I love anything to do with time travel. There are not many authors that tackle the topic of time travel. And for those who do, not many tackle it well. The paradox of time travel makes it a difficult topic. It is so easy to screw it up badly as readers are smart to spot any loopholes. Amy Harmons’s What the Wind Knows is a joyful read despite areas that I wish could have been better.

The location is Ireland. The story may well serve as a historical novel. A modern Irish woman who lives in America returned to Ireland upon the death of her grandfather found herself time traveled back in time when she becomes the mother of her grandfather. There are lots of tight references in the present date and in the old date that makes the plot believable.

Has history been altered? Perhaps just a little bit. I wish the main character could have made more impact and to have more of that heroic moments as someone who is gifted to have seen the future. That perhaps is my own feedback on the story, which otherwise is a very good time travel novel.

Murakami’s Killing Commendatore – A Brief Book Review

I am a huge fan of Haruki Murakami . When I spotted his latest book in our local book store BooksActually – actually it was my wife who first spotted it – I bought it in a heartbeat. I don’t collect books these days as my wife prefers a ‘minimalist’ home. But when it comes to Murakami, my wife knows that it is a sacred space of mine that needs to be left alone. For as long as Murakami keeps on writing, I shall keep on buying. At times, I collect both the English translated version as well as the Chinese translated version.

If you are new to Murakami, I would imagine how daunting it may be to pick a book to start. His classic books tend to have that rawness that can have more impact in terms of plot twists and emotion but the journey could be more irregular. That is to say, some parts could drag on and the plot could become pretty bizarre. His recent books tend to be more refined, more believable, and with a more predictable pace. Killing Commendatore belongs to the latter category.

It is a story of a male artist whose marriage is falling apart and he paints portraits to pay the bills but it is not necessarily something he is passionate about doing. Killing Commendatore is a journey of this artist rediscovering his passion and in the midst of it, rediscovers himself. Through this journey, this artist encounters different characters – real and surreal – including one that spawns from a painting. There are different threads of stories running in parallel interacting with one and other – which is typical of Murakami’s writing style.

Killing Commendatore is a fascinating read. I would recommend this book to readers who are new to Murakami as well as to those who are familiar with him.