Wednesday, May 25, 2016

London's Glory by Christopher Fowler

London's Glory is a collection of Bryant and May short stories, and as someone completely unfamiliar with the characters and the series, I was a little worried as to whether I'd be able to understand everything (the mysteries, I was pretty sure I could understand. It was the number of references to other books in the series I was worried about), but I really didn't have anything to worry about.

The book starts with an introduction on crime novels. Just from the introduction alone, I got two book recommendations: The Notting Hill Mystery and Margery Allingham. But, it seems like the author doesn't really like Agatha Christie, because it's hard to connect with her characters and all that defines Poirot is "some Euro-pomposity, an egg-shaped head, 'ze little grey cells' and a moustache." As someone who's a fan of Agatha Christie, this made me wonder if I was going to get on well with Bryant and May.

But we got into the stories, and I found myself having a good time. Bryant and May are a pair of grumpy and not-so-grumpy elderly detectives (although I'm not quite sure how their defining characteristics differ from Poirot's defining characteristics - they don't seem any realer to me, if that makes sense) investigating all sorts of strange cases. Each case is preceded with a note from the author about that story, which was a nice touch. For the most part, once I started getting into the rhythm of the book, all I wanted was the story and I tended to skip over the author's notes.

 I devoured everything except the last section, which was an introduction to the series. For some reason, it didn't really appeal to me. I did, however, really like the list of books that was used as a reference - if any are available for loan in my library, I might just pick it up.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

Hey everyone! It's another Tuesday, which means it's time for another teaser.

I'm currently reading The End of the World Walking Club, and I think I heard about this book from someone's Teaser Tuesday! So... it came full circle?

And it's a good thing I have something to lose myself into, because I'm currently about to pull my hair out trying to build a bitcoin core for school. Non-tech-y people like me are really not meant for code. But there's really nothing to do but try and fix the error (in the off-chance someone who knows Qt creator sees this, what does "No rule to make target 'bitcoin-qt'. Stop" mean?)

Anyway, my teaser:

"I can only do so much to help. Writing is just a trick after all; you turn images into words that you hope will trigger similar images that already exist in the reader's head." 

And that's my teaser for today. What's yours?
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Jenn of Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

My first Margaret Atwood book, read for the Once Upon a Time reading challenge and... I'm unimpressed.

But I guess I should add a disclaimer first: I'm not what you'd call a 'sophisticated reader'. Perhaps I was in Secondary School/IB when I was actually considering literature as a uni major (never seriously though, since my heart was pretty much set on business) and did my EE on Endo Shusaku. But not now. Now, all I want is a good story well told.

The Penelopiad is a retelling of The Odyessy from Penelope's point of view. And to me, the entire story was very bitter in tone. Everyone in the story is portrayed as a liar or proud or just plain unlikable EXCEPT for Penelope, who's the victim in all this. But she's not that likeable to me, because of the whole bitter thing.

To be sure, the retelling was interesting, but I don't really buy it. I like the original, where Odysseus and Penelope were both equally masterful weavers, both literally and in the plots they wove. This version... Is just strange. The Helen of Troy as Penelope's cousin was definitely interesting though. (And I found Helen more likeable than Penelope, even though I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to be the case)

Oh, and I didn't get the twelve maids as the Greek Chorus thing. Probably because I'm an ignoramus, but it just felt like Margaret Atwood wanted to be smart, and I started skipping them halfway through. I didn't really connect with them or see anything new from the choruses I read. Perhaps there was something in the later half, though the lecture thing and trial thing I skimmed through didn't really have it either.

Overall, this was a disappointing read. It's a pity too, because parts of it were enjoyable. But I didn't understand the Greek Chorus, and the bitterness throughout the whole thing was unpleasant.

Anyone know any mythology retellings that they'd recommend instead?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sushi & Beyond by Michael Booth

After I finished reading this book, I was so, so hungry for good (expensive) Japanese food. And ramen. And soba. And takoyaki. And sushi. And to go see that shoyu factory. In fact, I could probably use this book as a foodie guide book through Japan.

Sushi & Beyond is basically the story of one foodie (and his family's) journey through Japan, eating along the way.

I must admit, I'm actually quite jealous about how much money the author has to have, to be able to fly his family all the way there, travel through Japan (from Hokkaido to Okinawa) and eat so much good food. It's definitely not something that I can afford at the moment.

Oh, and he actually managed to meet Takuya Kimura, but didn't know who he was. I wish I was as lucky as him! I'm going to disagree with the "famous only in Japan" claim because I'm fairly certain SMAP is popular all throughout Asia.

The book may have been published in 2009 (and so, written in perhaps 2007 or 2008?), but apart from the price of Ramen, which can go over 1000 yen now, and perhaps some other things, the rest of the content feels evergreen.

Oh, and judging by the number of times this book was mentions, the author was very clearly more than a little inspired by Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuoka Tsuji. In fact, most of his before-trip knowledge came from there.

While I don't agree with all his pronouncements on food - I remember liking some dish he didn't like, but I can't remember what it is or if I dreamt it, it was really enjoyable to read about them. He definitely packed more culinary experiences in his one trip than I have so far.

Oh, and I'm really happy that he likes Fukuoka! To quote the book:

Of all the places we visited in Japan, this was the one we could most see ourselves returning to live in. Small enough to be manageable, but large enough to be interesting, Fukuoka also has a special atmosphere - relaxed, welcoming, fun loving and unpretentious. Throw in a great climate, excellent shops, museums and music venues and a buzzing nightlife district and you have everything you could ever wish for in a city.

Maybe the Fukuoka tourist board should use this quote. I actually think it's very very accurate, and it explains why a lot of students from Fukuoka don't actually want to leave the place when they're looking for a job.

Overall, I would totally recommend this book if you're looking for a light read on Japanese cuisine. Just don't read it on an empty stomach.