Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

I have nothing good to say about this book. I do not understand how it can possibly be a bestseller.

I’m not the only one who feels like it’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Here’s an excerpt from a PW review of Wintersong that encapsulates my objections succinctly:

“The plot meanders, the stakes are ill-defined, and the characters lack depth and verisimilitude.”

If you think I’m cherry picking and only this one snooty publishing gatekeeper disliked it, yes, I am cherry picking—but here are some notes from an editor and book blogger who was similarly underwhelmed.

If you want to know more about why I didn’t like Wintersong, dive in to the rant below.

Continue reading Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

When and Why I Read Wintersong

I am reading this for the Middle Grade / Young Adult Fiction Book Club. It is marketed as a retelling of the 1986 movie Labyrinth.

Genre: young adult fantasy / romance
Date started / date finished: 13-Jun-19 to 17-Jun-19
Length: 448 pages
ISBN: ASIN B01C2TAATC
Originally published in: 2017
Amazon link: Wintersong

Mulla Nasreddin Folktales

This book of folktales was a gift brought back for me from Uzbekistan with a couple of other items:

Dried apricots, spice tea, a detailed handcrafted magnet, and a booklet of folktales.

The booklet is not a top-quality production, and has some flaws and errors. By far the worst error is that one of the stories was accidentally split into two parts, the second part printed on an earlier page and the first part printed on a later one! Still, the translation is accessible, the introduction is informative, and the folktales are entertaining.

The stories are a mix of humor, wisdom, and foolishness. The central character, Mulla Nasreddin or Nasrudin, is known by a variety of names with a variety of spellings. He is sometimes clever and sometimes obtuse.

See below for some examples of his shenanigans.

Continue reading Mulla Nasreddin Folktales

When and Why I Read Mulla Nasreddin Folktales

This small booklet was purchased for me recently in Uzbekistan.

Genre: folktales
Date started / date finished: 12-Jun-19 to 13-Jun-19
Length: 46 pages
ISBN: 9789943398826
Originally published in: 2018

Dubliners by James Joyce

I am, still, not a fan of James Joyce.

I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a high school student. When I re-read it again recently for the Hungry Hundred Book Club I asked myself, more than once, why I’d even bothered, not having liked it the least little bit the first time around.

Enough was enough, I told myself. Lesson learned. I was never going to read more Joyce. Life’s too short to spend time trying to like stuff I don’t actually like, regardless of how ‘important’ the stuff purports to be. But then, I read more Joyce anyway! Why did I do that?!

Continue reading Dubliners by James Joyce

When and Why I Read Dubliners

The Irish Embassy in Singapore invited local readers to participate in Bloomsday by reading James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners and coming for a discussion on 14 June 2019. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue the question of whether Joyce is really the founder of ALL modern fiction, as has been asserted.

Genre: literary fiction (short stories)
Date started / date finished: 30-May-19 to 05-Jun-19
Length: 150 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 2814
Originally published in: 1914
Gutenberg link: Dubliners

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The full title of the work is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come. The work tells the story of a man named Christian who reads the Bible and thus comes to fear his doom and to feel that he is carrying a burden. He desires to be saved. Luckily, he subsequently encounters a man named Evangelist who advises him to travel to the Celestial City by a certain path. Christian tries to follow his instructions, with varying degrees of success, and (massive spoiler alert) ultimately reaches his goal.

Is it worth reading this venerable Christian text nowadays?

Continue reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

When and Why I Read The Pilgrim's Progress

The characters of Little Women refer to the book and its setting, characters, and plot.

Genre: fiction (religious allegory)
Date started / date finished: 16-May-19 to 20-May-19
Length: 145 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 131
Originally published in: 1678
Gutenberg link: The Pilgrim's Progress

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, a popular and influential nineteenth-century American novel about the coming of age of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, is familiar, charming, and—for those with a compatible upbringing—only a little bit too didactic.

It’s easy to admire Jo, the fiercely independent heroine of Little Women, a tomboy who cuts all her hair off, looks forward to spinsterhood, and aims to support herself by writing. I wonder if she’s a Mary Sue; others (doubtless more fruitfully) debate whether or not the book is feminist.

Continue reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

We Love Chinatown, We Love Geylang Serai, and We Love Serangoon Gardens by Urban Sketchers Singapore

Want to see inside? There are links to PDF samples on the publisher’s pages for We Love Chinatown, We Love Geylang Serai, and We Love Serangoon Gardens.

Our Neighbourhoods

Thus far, Urban Sketchers Singapore and Epigram Books have produced books of sketches of:

  1. Toa Payoh (November 2012)
  2. Tiong Bahru (February 2013)
  3. Bedok (April 2013)
  4. Queenstown (September 2013)
  5. Katong (April 2014)
  6. Little India (September 2014)
  7. Chinatown (May 2015)
  8. Geylang Serai (January 2016)
  9. Serangoon Gardens (January 2017)

Toa Payoh, Tiong Bahru, and Katong are sold out at the publisher.

When and Why I Read We Love Chinatown, We Love Geylang Serai, and We Love Serangoon Gardens

These are attractive locally-produced books.

Genre: non-fiction (art)
Date started / date finished:  07-Jan-19 to 07-Jan-19
Length: 96 pages
ISBN: 9789810778231, 9789814615181, 9789811700569 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2015, 2016 and 2017

We Love Queenstown, We Love Katong, and We Love Little India by Urban Sketchers Singapore

Want to see inside? There are links to PDF samples on the publisher’s pages for We Love Queenstown, We Love Katong, and We Love Little India.

Our Neighbourhoods

Thus far, Urban Sketchers Singapore and Epigram Books have produced books of sketches of:

  1. Toa Payoh (November 2012)
  2. Tiong Bahru (February 2013)
  3. Bedok (April 2013)
  4. Queenstown (September 2013)
  5. Katong (April 2014)
  6. Little India (September 2014)
  7. Chinatown (May 2015)
  8. Geylang Serai (January 2016)
  9. Serangoon Gardens (January 2017)

Toa Payoh, Tiong Bahru, and Katong are sold out at the publisher.

When and Why I Read We Love Queenstown, We Love Katong, and We Love Little India

These are attractive locally-produced books.

Genre: non-fiction (art)
Date started / date finished:  08-Dec-18 to 08-Dec-18
Length: 96 pages
ISBN: 9789810766016, 9789810766078, 9789810778217 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2013 and 2014

Sofia and the Utopia Machine by Judith Huang

I struggled to get through this debut novel. I’m kinda glad it exists, though. Singapore censorship apparently does not extend to suppressing the following kinds of sentiments in fiction:

“You think Singaporeans care about human rights? they just care about filling their stomachs and about peace and quiet, that’s all.”

More about the novel here, here and here.

When and Why I Read Sofia and the Utopia Machine

I went to an Epigram Books event involving the author and bought a signed copy there.

Genre: fiction (young-adult, political speculative fiction)
Date started / date finished:  03-Dec-18 to 08-Dec-18
Length: 261 pages
ISBN: ASIN B07KDTHQCT
Originally published in: 2018
Amazon link: Sofia and the Utopia Machine

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

I do not plan to continue reading the books in the series. The writing is not nearly as tight, polished, and thoughtful as Veronica Roth’s writing in the Divergent series.

When and why I read The Darkest Minds

I am reading this because I saw the 2018 movie.

Genre: fiction (young-adult fantasy/dystopia)
Date started / date finished:  30-Nov-18 to 03-Dec-18
Length: 518
ISBN: 9781786540249
Originally published in: 2012
Amazon link: The Darkest Minds

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was not very fast-paced for a thriller. For many pages, the journalist character conversed with his ageing employer or sat in a cabin reading documents about an old, unsolved case. The girl is an interesting character. I don’t really want to read any of the other books about her, though. This one had too much sex, violence, and violent sex for my taste. I mean, I like George Martin’s Ice and Fire series, but his characters live in a separate, fictional world, whereas I’m fairly convinced, never having been there, that Sweden is a real place.

When and why I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I have finished my book club reading for the year so now I can read stuff that’s just sitting on the shelf…

Genre: fiction (thriller)
Date started / date finished:  26-Nov-18 to 30-Nov-18
Length: 554
ISBN: 9781847246929
Originally published in: 2005/2008
Amazon link: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo