The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

Vacation book #2. I had read that this book was one of the most interesting Christie novels alongside The Murder of Royger Ackroyd.

I generally like the pacing of Christie’s novels and enjoyed Poirot and Miss Marple in the past. This one only had one Christie regular: Colonel Race. He did seem rather dashing in this novel.

The plot was alright. I do not know how I ended up reading two mystery books related to South Africa in one vacation.

The protagonist Anne Beddingfield is fun though her origin story seems slap dash. Then again, I think that’s consistent with most of Christie’s protagonists. I was surprised how she hated some woman she never met rather than the actual man who tried to kill her more than once. She couldn’t stand a woman who pretended to love a man especially her own man in the past, but the guy who tried to kill her was A-Ok. Not a great lesson that.

There is a rather bucolic ending too. All in all, a nice jaunt in Christie’s universe but nothing spectacular.

Read August 10-12, 2017 on Kindle.

Diamonds are Forever by Ian Flemming

This was one of my vacation books. I am not sure why I didn’t read Live and Let Die first. I guess it was not on Kindle for some reason.

I enjoyed Casino Royale well enough. These books should be decent pulp fiction easy for the holidays. When Bond was going to New York, I too was on a plane.

I didn’t know what to expect, but given this book did not inspire one of the better Connery Bond films, I should have expected the mediocrity. I understand these are older books, but this book had misogyny, racism, and homophobia at various points. Hit the jackpot. Aside from that, the book’s plot and villain are rather weak. Not an awful book, but certainly boring and not the best.

I debated whether to put this in the Classics club. The series as a whole is a classic and I really did like Casino Royale. This book in the series does not hold up well though. In the end, I put it in.

I will still continue to read the Flemming books.

Read August 6-9, 2017 on Kindle.

Prudence & Imprudence by Gail Carriger

This review covers the first two books of The Custard Protocol series.

The first book was a nice start. I had to warm up to Rue (Prudence). There was some fun but not enough of the classic characters. I found the plot moved along, but I did not seem to like it as much. I also am not a big fan of the main romance in this series. It’s not bad, but it does not interest me like the romances in previous books. The two lovers main conflict seems to be their misunderstanding of their commitment. Their chemistry is alright but is not as interesting as Soap/Ria or Maccon/Alexia.

The second book was better. Primarily because there were more characters from the previous books. It ties the knot in a couple of character’s lives. It was further world building. I really looked forward to reading the next book when it finished.

Read June 29-July 2, 2017 and July 2, 2017.

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

I realized the other month that I hadn’t been catching up to the Gail Carriger’s steampunk supernatural series. This is the last book in the Finishing school series.

Carriger’s books are simply fun if you’re into steampunk, Victorian times, and supernatural creatures. The books do not take themselves too seriously. I liked the ending of these books. I liked Ria as a protagonist and want more. I am glad Carriger never drags her series out and actually focuses on other characters in the universe. I’ll start the Custard series next.

Read June 20-25, 2017.

Pretty Iconic Things by Sali Hughes

This is a fun nostalgic our of beauty and skincare products. Each page has one entry on a product that was iconic to the industry and beauty in some way.

I have been following Sali Hughes’ Guardian coloumn for years and always enjoyed her thoughtful and informative writing about beauty, skincare, and fragrances. It helps we have some similar tastes.

Some of these items are unknown to me due to generational and geographic reasons. Hughes emphasizes that this is a personal journey and it is. It’s actually part of the charm of this book. She includes most of these entries because of how they remind of her of growing up and the earlier days of her career.

As a book of products, I noted a few that I have used and liked mostly. I also made a long list of things to try or at least sample in the case of fragrances. One of the fragrances listed in the book is my current winter fragrance and found from Hughes’ coloumn.

If you have any semblance of interest in personal care products, this is a great little book to explore them.

Read June 19-18, 2017.

Jane Steele by Lydnsay Faye

I read this novel over a month ago, and started this review but never completed it.

This an nice and twisty suspense romance inspired by Jane Eyre. When I first started it, I was not sure how romantic it would get.

It started off more like a gothic horror novel with a lot of Dickensian reveals. It didn’t get romantic until the last half and I was surprised how much I liked it. I found the romance built up well and in a similar and less creepy fashion than Jane Eyre.

There is a lot of violence throughout the book and often conducted by the protagonist or even other females. I like the heroine is actually more an anti-herorine vigilante. She is not a typical character even in urban fantasy and steam punk novels.

I’d recommend book to people who like Jane Eyre, gothic horror, and can stand to take some violence.

Read May 6-10, 2017.

Monstress, Vol 1: The Awakening by Marjorie Liu

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog and wrote a book review. I’ve read a couple of very small books since then and they weren’t worth the post. My time has become precious and am trying to read more again with difficulty.

I had to write a review for this graphic novel. I had read reviews about this last year and it sounded intriguing with its dark and Asian inspired themes.

I loved it. I haven’t been so impressed with a graphic novel in years; it can easily be among my favourite graphic novel series ever which include Alan Moore’s Promethea, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and Craig Thompson’s Blankets. I do not read a ton of graphic novels, but I do read a couple every year. For the most part, they are fine and fun, but not memorable or as engaging as the aforementioned novels or Monstress.

I loved the visuals by Sana Takeda. It is very dark, but for some reason, it never felt sensationalist or violent and gory for its darkness sake. Every panel and piece of dialogue seemed to deliver story points or character development. I found it one of the most well crafted stories I’ve read in a long time.

It is a novel which has predominantly female characters. Feminism is not about injecting women in the media or giving them prominence for the sake of representation. It’s about real characters who happen to be women and have problems associated with it, who are nuanced and three dimensional. There are so many wonderfully drawn characters in this and I wish more things in popular culture were like this work. It’s a story by women about women but it’s a story for everyone who enjoys dark fantasy.

There are themes of war, discrimination, genocide, gender, and self-destruction. It is also a story of bravery, friendship, fear, and overcoming it.

This graphic novel is fantastic. I can’t wait to read more from the series.

Read May 3, 2017.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This was my first book in awhile. I was doing so well in January and February, but things went to the wayside I guess. The dragging winter has made me more lethargic.

In any case, I finally read this on a tired Friday evening. It was due soon and I have not read a novel in a little bit. This is Young Adult so I knew it would go quickly.

I have never read Diana Wynne Jones that I can remember. I love the movie from Studio Ghibli and I’ve been rewatching many of the movies the last couple of months. I wanted to read this novel finally in preparation,

This started off well and there was some slowness in the middle I think, but the ending was lovely and showed how much the characters loved each other. It was a more clear cut good vs evil fairy tale than the movie one. There are more characters in the book though.

This is a series, but a friend of mine told me that the other books were more about stories in the same universe. While the book was a nice read and the ending was satisfying, I don’t really feel the need to read more form this universe.

Coincidentally got the movie a day later from the library and love the movie even more in some ways having read the book.

Read March 24, 2017

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

This is my third Gretchen Rubin book. I think I like this one less than her last two on happiness, but it’s still a good book. While Rubin’s nature is more extreme than a lot of people, I actually relate a lot to her in a few ways. We both like research, analysis, introspection, and literature. She is a personal writer too and most of the books have a memoirs and reflective nature similar to journaling. Her writing is quite life affirming as well. I do not buy all the things she advocates, but she is very thorough and reflective.

There were a couple of good tips about habit forming such as starting small, scheduling leisure activities (been trying to do more of this lately), pairing activities/habits, and not giving rewards but giving treats. I have found that when I make a goal, I think the goal itself should be the reward rather than getting myself anything. Rubin’s books often stir my own constant self-awareness and introspection. I like it reflected back to me when I read a book.

This book also introduced the Four Tendencies. I am a Questioner which doesn’t surprise me. I’m probably a more in depth questioner than most. Rubin will have a new book out exploring these tendencies later in the fall.

Alright and easy read for me. I do like the use of quotations.

Read February 14-23, 2017.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

This book about the dangers of Big Data and algorithms primarily in the US. It is a book discussing ethics in Big Data and the lack thereof.

For most of the time I was reading this book, I was a bit dejected by work so reading this book made it even more depressing and despairing. Every chapter focused on how Big Data and algorithms are used for profit and as a result, hurts individuals. The premise of the book started with teachers and there is a significant focus on the effects of Big Data algorithms in an already flawed American education system.

The conclusion chapter is the only one with hope. However it is not enough. I wish the book had given more ideas on how the audience could be aware of new issues in Big Data so that we wouldn’t have to suffer from it. I think the book is an interesting primer for those who know very little about Big Data. However, it also feels like it’s written in some ways for people who know enough of it.

The book has a lot of data and studies and there are end notes. I am going to recommending the book to my Data Scientist colleague.

Read January 31 – Feburary 10, 2017.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

I think I got this book from some of the recommended new and critically acclaimed lists I get. I like children’s and YA literature even after all these years. The cover art looked interesting so did the premise about the relationship between a fox and his boy owner.

I am not sure if I was expecting too much from this novel, but it did not impress me as much as I wanted to. I have been reading a lot of nonfiction lately and hoped this novel would break it up. It did not quite do that. The book has a heavy anti-war theme which felt a bit overdone. Maybe it’s because it’s been awhile since I read a YA book with such an overt theme. Every chapter basically said how humans are stupid when it comes to war. The ending was anticlimactic in a way. Heartfelt but less than one would think in a story about a boy and his fox.

Having said that, it is by no means a bad read. The main characters are interesting and all develop pretty well. I really liked Vola who is a supporting character and mentor in the book. I also enjoyed the illustrations by Jon Klasen. There weren’t enough of them!

I’d recommend this to children. It’s not a classic for me, but nice enough to read for younger readers.

Read January 24-25, 2017.

The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin by Charlotte Cho

As I have taken on skincare more seriously as a hobby the last few months, I decided to read this book.

I have always had an interest in skincare so wearing SPF, moisturizing, and keeping out of the sun have been habits I have employed since I was a teenager. As I am Asian, a lot of the little quirks and beauty care in East Asia does not surprise or shock me.

What is nice about this book is that if you truly unfamiliar with Asian skin care and beauty, this is a good initial primer on it. I knew most of the information in the book from other sources on the internet, but it is collected here in an easy to read and cutely illustrated book.

There is a very cute section about travelling to Seoul as well. I really liked the book, but I would not necessarily follow the product recommendations. Charlotte Cho does own a curated beauty store so there are incentives for her to sell products she and her company import from Asia. Still, I recommend this book if you have an interest in skincare.

Read January 19-20, 2017.