Monday, 27 May 2019

"A Good Month for Murder" is More Than Just a Good Read


Title: A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad
Author: Del Quentin Wilber
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Twelve homicides, three police-involved shootings and the furious hunt for an especially brutal killer - February 2013 was a good month for murder in suburban Washington D.C. 

After gaining unparalleled access to the homicide unit in Prince George's County, which borders the nation's capital, Del Quentin Wilber begins shadowing the talented, often quirky detectives who get the call when a body falls. After a quiet couple of months, all hell breaks loose: suddenly every detective in the squad is scrambling to solve one shooting and stabbing after another. Meanwhile, the entire unit is obsessed with a stone-cold "red ball", a high-profile case involving a seventeen-year-old honor student attacked by a gunman who kicked down the door to her house and shot her in her bed.



Review


I was expecting A Good Month for Murder to read almost like mainstream crime shows - fast-paced, gruesome and nail biting. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the way Del Quinton Wilber narrated the different cases. 

My favourite part about AGMM is that it didn’t need to dramatise or sensationalise each case to grab my attention. Wilber kept his narration at an objective level, detailing each case as it happened. The murders and care real life, there’s no doubting these killings happen, but he also includes the context behind them. The deaths occur in low-socio economic areas, mostly by minority groups, but instead of fixating on the usual discourse of minority youths or groups having “deviant” natures and drawn to crime, Wilber’s narrative outlines the background of the individuals and the circumstances that could have led them to committing the crime or becoming a victim. It conveys further issues that lack addressing in most Western societies, such as drug abuse, lack of job opportunities and lack of support or resources available for residents in disadvantage areas. 

I also liked that the voices of the detectives were included. Wilber showcased each detective involved not only to relay the hard work each officer contributed but to also make them personable and relatable. It’s hard, especially in a US context, to really like police officers following news reports of police abuse and miscarriage of justice. The media coverage on police shootings have negatively impacted the image of police squads and their ability to deliver justice and safety. However, police officers in this recount, though not always perfect, attempt to treat each case with respect and the impact it has on them at a professional and personal level. Homicide cases are not easily solvable, as crime dramas seem to portray, as so I found AGMM to be realistic in that sense as well.

The book is structured so that the recounts are not chronological. I’m moving in and out of the 12 cases, which keeps me engaged but also wanting to know more. I flew through AGMM, reading it in a day and a half. Not once was I ever confused about which case I was reading, and despite finishing this at the end of 2018, I can still recollect details of some of the cases. Wilber was thorough in his description and never fluffed about. It was easy to visualise and recall the events of each case. 

If you want to get into true crime or are already a fan, definitely give this a go!


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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

25 Books I Want To Read This Year


My aim this year was to read 25 books, a feat that seems small but something I’ve been struggling with for close to 4 years now. I’ve stopped trying to pressure myself to read just for the sake of reading, but it’s now become something I’ve started to neglect and I don’t like that one bit. Instead, I’ve curated a reading list for 2019 that I want to refer to in case I end up straying away from the reading path. Again.

My two friends and I have also attempted to establish a book club. Essentially we have a number of books we want to read together, which has helped with knowing what I want to read this year. Some of them will be part of this list a well!

25 Books I Want To Read This Year


The following 5 books are all non-fiction, and a genre that I'm trying really hard to get into and read more of - especially motivational/self-help and true crime and history
2. Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford
3. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

I'm playing catch up with these series, except for A Face Like Glass. I am so behind with YA series, especially with ones that I've loved and were really anticipating but never ended up picking up the continuation.
6. Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff'
10. A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge **


11.  The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I'm really keen to read this due to the political climate that this revolved around, but also because I haven't seen the movie adaptation and want to read it first
12. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
13. Call Me Evie by J.P Pomare
14. Maus (Complete Collection) by Art Spiegelman
15. Harry Potter by J.K Rowling**
I'm not 100% sure I'm going to read the entire series again or just pick my favourite one and read, but definitely for the month of July!

I've had most of these books (17-19) on my TBR list for forever! They're all really well-known and much loved so I do have high expectations for these reads.
16. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley **
17. 1984 by George Orwell
18. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
19. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
20. Where the Captain Goes by Sean Carney 
Local Melbournian, Sean Carney writes horror themed stories, and I'm kind of very excited to dabble in his works starting with this one!

I do like Adult Fiction and think it's a good break from YA, which I tend to read more. I'm also disappointed that I haven't picked up Kate Morton's new novel yet, considering she's one of my favourite authors.
21. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
22. The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
23. Atonement by Ian McEwan**
Jane Eyre is kidnapped from her novel in this alternative universe and Thursday Next, renowned literary detective, must dive into Bronte's world to save her character. If you read that and didn't immediately want to read it then I'm sorry but I'm shaking my head at you right now.

What Are You Reading This Year?



** indicates re-read
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Sunday, 19 May 2019

Review: Heart of Mist (The Oremere Chronicles) by Helen Scheurer

Title: Heart of Mist
Series: The Oremere Chronicles
Author: Helen Scheurer
Publication Date: August 31st, 2017
Add to Goodreads
In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.  Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerous self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King's Army, and summoned to the capital. But the King isn't the only one interested in Bleak's powers.

The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.




Review


I received an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

When I was approached by Helen to see if I was interested in delving into her high fantasy series, I took a quick squizz on Goodreads to see if Heart of Mist would tickle my fancy. I was intrigued and readily agreed, hoping that I would be pulled back into the world of fantasy and a new world with new characters. 

What I liked about Heart of Mist is that it dives straight into the plot, instead of plodding through the character's background and the world's history in the first half. I loved that I got to learn about the characters whilst the world expanded as they traveled through the kingdom. It made the plot flow well and I wanted to keep on reading to know more about the characters and the world they were in. 

Bleak is the main character in Heart of Mist, but as interesting as her mysterious upbringing was, I found that I was more attached to the side characters. I couldn't tell if it's because Bleak was written as sullen and unlikable, or that I personally found her to be not as enthralling. Instead, my favourites were Fiore, a soldier in the king's army and Dash, the son of the king's servant. I haven't learnt much about Fiore, but Dash was intriguing and exciting to read through. I think it's his recklessness and wanting to prove himself, but also the fact that by the end of the book, Helen reveals something really important about him that has made me want to keep reading the series to follow his character arc! Even Swinton, Bren and Henri were really enjoyable to read through and about. The fact that I remember most of the characters as well, means that Helen was able to make them memorable and with a voice of their own. 

I am really excited to continue with the series, as the last third of Heart of Mist picked up and I was a lot more engaged emotionally. I want to know what happens to the characters, the world they're in and the overall outcome. There's potential for me to eventually like Bleak - I'm anticipating it actually. Helen was able to build a strong world and impressionable characters. The lead up to the next book also left me on edge and I'm honestly thankful that Heart of Mist has nudged me out of my very long slump and I'm ready to dive right back into reading again.


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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once In Your Life

Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once In Your Life


In 2017, I found myself alone in two different countries (Japan and Korea) for 17 days. That was not what I had planned, but it paved the way for my love for solo travel. So much that I booked a 5 week trip to Europe last year, travelling through 9 different countries, and loving every incredible moment of it. 

When people say you should travel alone once in your life, they’re not wrong. It’s a cliche, (at least I think it’s a cliche expression right?), but it’s so true. It’s absolutely daunting and no one ever chooses to really be alone when they have the option of experiencing different cultures with others, but what you gain from travelling solo makes everything worthwhile. Here are the reasons why I love solo travel and why you should embark on a journey alone once in your life:

Meeting New People 


I’m fairly sure this would make the top of the list for a lot of people who have travelled alone. You are guaranteed to meet some exciting people who are either travelling alone or with some friends, or locals in the area. The friends I’ve gained from both trips and my travel abroad semester has brought me so many memories and utter joy. In fact, I can safely say some of the people I met will surely be life long friends, friends I can catch up with on the other side of the world and still have a laugh and reminisce on our old times whilst creating new memories. One of my favourite people I met in Europe last year and he holds a special place in my heart. It’s also a great excuse to jet off on a holiday once in a while and I love that I get to experience the different countries through a local’s perspective - Berlin was a great example with my friend Lan who hosted me and took me around the city!


Being Alone


This is kind of a weird point, but for me, travelling alone is great because I’m alone. I get to do things at my own pace, decide where I want to go, what I want to eat and when it’ll all happen. Planning a trip for yourself means you know you will make decisions that will make you happy and excited because it’s what YOU want to do. Seriously, experience it once in your life. It may sound selfish but you also need to put yourself first. Sometimes it is hard to say no to a friend or to prioritise someone else’s needs before yours, so let yourself enjoy a trip that you perfectly catered for yourself.


Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone


Travelling alone isn’t easy. Meeting new people and enjoying your company requires you to really step out of your comfort zone and it’s this challenge that makes me fully appreciate being alone in a different country. You’re forced to make conversation first, extend an invite to join you for a night our or lunch during the day. I find that my confidence has greatly increased since finding that I enjoy travelling alone. So often we’re use to someone approaching us or walking straight past someone, even if they could potentially be a great friend in the future. Moreover, the activities you get up to could well be things you never thought you could accomplish or even enjoy alone. I loved that I was able to hike the tallest mountain in Seoul, go on a pub crawl through Paris and attend a 4 day, 12 hour night festival in Barcelona. It also forces you to be okay with being alone. You’re not always going to be surrounded by people, I found that there were days where I would just be by myself and my thoughts. Honestly, it made me appreciate my “me” time whilst also being able to reflect on my surroundings and myself. I did learn a lot about myself, as cliche as that sounds.


Have You Ever Travelled Alone Before? Do You Plan On Travelling Alone?


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Sunday, 5 May 2019

"Monsters of Verity" is Another Tick to V.E Schwab's Name


Series: Monsters of Verity
Author: Victoria/V.E Schwab
There's no such thing as safe in a city war, a city overrun with monsters ...

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city - city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent - but he's one of the monsters. one who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who's just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August's secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Review


I’m surprised but I also don’t know why I’m surprised as to why I thoroughly enjoyed Monsters of Verity when V.E Schwab hasn’t disappointed me so far. In her other series, Shades of Magic, I wrote that I was smitten in my review and I can now pinpoint that what I’m really smitten about is her writing. Schwab writes in such a compelling manner, that I find it hard not to love the characters, the plot and the world. 
The world is developed in such a strong way, with rich history behind each city to make it realistic. When Schwab decided to expand the world, I liked that she didn’t invest too much time trying to explain how relevant the new city is only because it’s a minor stopover and not necessarily something readers need to fixate on. I find that some fantasy novels take it a little too far and I do get confused trying to keep up on the different places with different names. 

Plot wise, I did notice that the first half of both books were slightly too slow for me. When I started This Savage Song I had to keep pushing myself but once it reached the halfway point it picked up and became addictive and engrossing. The intensity peaked and I flew through the last half pretty quickly. The continuation in Our Dark Duet wasn’t as slow, but I found that getting back into rhythm didn’t happen until after the first quarter of the book. What I did love about the plot was how realistic it was. Not from the fantasy perspective but from the implications of war and the consequences of bad actions. There is an array of emotions that are exhibited and I felt it all - from the happiness to sadness, grief and loss to pain and healing, it made me really appreciate the storyline only because Schwab wasn’t trying to please every reader by making everything sweet and dandy. 

The strongest element in Monsters of Verity though, are Schwab’s characters. Kate and August are written with so much depth, they become memorable and convincingly relatable. It’s hard not to fight for them and believe in them. I just wanted the best for them and to be happy all the time, which meant I was really invested in the characters and for that Schwab has succeeded in delivering a fantastic series. I’m not a fan of reading novels that make me feel detached but through the characters I was captivated. 

I’m excited to see what else V.E Schwab has to deliver, especially after experiencing this series and how emotional I was after reading it!

Individual Ratings

This Savage Song: 4/5
Our Dark Duet: 4/5

Overall Series Rating


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