Book Reviews: September 2018

It’s a pretty eclectic month of reading, in that none of the books I read have any similarities, but here goes:

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain:

I’ve always been a fan of Anthony Bourdain (RIP), and this book, which details his travels around the world in search of “the perfect meal”, combines two of my interests – food and travel – so of course I love it. His writing is funny (in a biting, belligerent kind of way, very different from Bill Bryson’s self-deprecating humor) and vivid; the travels are fascinating and the food mouth-watering (in most cases. I’m not sure about the sheep testicles.) Sure, there are graphic descriptions of a pig getting slaughtered in Portugal, a sheep getting butchered in Morocco, and a snake getting killed in Vietnam (where else?), but that’s what makes the book come to life. 5/5

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson:

I quite enjoyed Helen Simonson’s first book, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and this one, which revolves around life in the idyllic town of Rye in the summer of 1914 before World War I breaks out, seems right up my alley. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to its predecessor. Like Major Pettigrew, it deals with a close-minded community and how they react when faced with changes, but the characters are not memorable and the conflict is light. The most effective part, ironically, is the last few chapters which deals with the war itself. The “before” part is really boring. 2/5 (and that’s only because I have a superficial liking for passages describing life in a British town, like the kind of clothes people wear and the food they eat.)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson:

I’m a bit embarrassed that it took me so long to read this. I’ve read one other book by Anderson, Winter Girls, and loved it, and I also quite like the movie adaption of this book (starring a young Kristen Stewart), but I never got around to reading it until now. In a way, it’s a standard YA novel about a girl becoming a selective mute after being sexually assaulted, but the main character’s voice is strong and relatable and reflects her struggle really well. My only complaint is that there is no strong event to prompt the main character to “speak” out about her trauma and begin her journey toward recovery, but I know it’s more realistic that way. 4.5/5

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry:

When it comes to non-fiction, I enjoy some true-crime books from time to time, especially if it’s historical crimes (like Erik Larson’s books.) This one, which deals with the disappearance and death of Lucie Blackman, a British young woman, in Japan in 2000, is decidedly more modern than I prefer, but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. The case itself is not that special; what makes the book so gripping is the way it delves into the lives of the victim, her friends and family, as well as her killer. It may contain too many details, but it really shows the dark side of Japanese society and the devastating ripple effect of a tragedy. 4.5/5

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2 Comments on “Book Reviews: September 2018”

  1. Eclectic reading months are always my favourite kind. I love to experience a range of different books.

  2. […] YA: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The Book of Lost Things deserves an honorary mention, though again, I […]


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