Book Reviews: September 2017

This month’s reading is almost exactly the same as August – another busy month, another double bill by the same author followed by a non-related book – except this month’s books are a bit more mediocre. But it’s actually a good thing. I’ve been so busy that a boring book would be better than a page-turner, because that means I can put it down whenever I want.

Making Money & Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett:

When it comes to my favorite Discworld characters, Moist von Lipwig is pretty far down the line (even though I quite enjoy Richard Coyle in the TV adaptation of Going Postal), but when I saw these at the used bookstore, I decided to get them to take with me on my German trip, because they would be lighter than my Kindle. Unfortunately, they’re the first Discworld books that I did not actually enjoy. They’re not as funny as the usual Discworld book, and Moist’s character arc already seems completed in Going Postal, so his “crook with a heart of gold” shtick feels kind of repetitive here.

To be fair, I did get a chuckle or two out of “Making Money”, especially from the main antagonist who’s obsessed with becoming Vetinari. “Raising Steam”, however, is just plain weird. It doesn’t even read like Terry Pratchett. It’s like a poor imitation of his writing by someone else with no understanding of the characters. For example, there is a scene in which Vetinari bangs his fist on the table in excitement, which I can’t imagine Vetinari ever doing. I understand that the book was written while Terry Pratchett was struggling with his Alzheimer’s and he wrote by dictating to his assistant, but this feels like it was written by the assistant himself.

I think another problem I had with these books is that they feature little of the usual Discworld parody. At least Going Postal has some fun with the world of postal service in the clacks (a Discworld version of telegraphy) and the invention of stamps, whereas “Making Money” (which deals with Moist taking over the world of banking and minting) and “Raising Steam” (steam train/railways) feel too close to the real world. 2.5/5 (3/5 for “Making Money” and 2/5 for “Raising Steam”).

All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka:

This is the Japanese sci-fi novel/manga that got adapted into the Tom Cruise&Emily Blunt-starring sci-fi action flick, Edge of Tomorrow. I can see why it got Hollywood’s attention – the premise is interesting: in the future, when humans are locked in a war against alien invaders called Gitai (Mimics in the movie), a rookie finds himself trapped in a mysterious time loop in which he is forced to relieve his first day of battle (and his death) over and over again. He then meets a female soldier who was once trapped in a time loop of her own, and they team up to defeat the aliens. It’s a very quick read, and despite being quite short, the characters are pretty well crafted. My only complaint is that the relationship between the two characters, which is the emotional core of the whole story, is developed too quickly, so it doesn’t leave much resonance. Still, it’s better than the movie, which completely missed the point of the ending. 3.5/5

So that’s it for this month. Hopefully next month’s books will be more enjoyable. How about you guys? What did you read?

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SIA: Variations In Violet And Grey

Welcome to another SIA challenge! This week, our inspiration is a watercolor by James McNeill Whistler depicting a market place in the French seaside town of Dieppe, with a musically-inspired title that Whistler often used for his works. Despite its neutral colors, it’s a busy, vibrant scene, and that has certainly inspired the SIA participants.

First up is Jen with her cute skirt and fabulous bag:

Next up is Mike – his outfit is more “grey” than “violet”, but I think it’s a good fit as well:

How cute is Erin and her feather-printed skirt?

Erin’s friend and photographer, Annabelle, happens to wear the perfect outfit for SIA as well!

Kezzie is looking adorable as always:

And finally, here’s me and my two outfits:

Another super fun SIA! Thank you for participating, and don’t forget to come back next week for some fresh inspiration!


Variations In Navy And Grey

Here it is. The outfit I planned for SIA. Not as exciting and/or stylish as the one I posted on Monday, is it? I just thought that the polka dot blouse would be a good fit for the gray part of the painting, and the jeans and the brown oxfords are self-explanatory. I was going to wear my “house” necklace as well, because it sort of looks like the houses around the market place in the painting, but what with my lack of interest in jewelry these days, I simply forgot about it. Ah well.

The full round-up will be posted tomorrow, so if you haven’t sent me your outfit photos, there’s still time!


Variations In Navy And Beige

Disclaimer: this isn’t actually my intended SIA outfit.

I had put together a different SIA outfit earlier last week, but when I wore this on Friday, I realized that it was perfect for SIA – the title of the inspiration painting may say “Variations in Violet and Grey“, but it looks more like navy and beige to me (probably because the watercolors had aged). I would’ve worn my beige sandals as well, but one of the buckles broke, so they’re currently at the cobbler’s getting fixed. I’m going to post my “other” outfit tomorrow too, but really, it pales in comparison.

And that means you guys still have until tomorrow to send me your outfits, if you haven’t already. The full round-up will be posted on Wednesday instead!


Quedlinburg: 9 Years Later

During my return trip to Greifswald, I had a couple of days free to travel around Germany. I guess I could have visited Berlin – this is my third time in Germany and the only place I’ve been in Berlin is the airport – but then I figured it would be more fun to revisit a place I really loved rather than trying to see something new. So that is why I decided to return to Quedlinburg. It is as close to a perfect fairy-tale town as I’ve ever seen, and I’m happy to say that after 9 years, it is still the same insanely pretty place that I remembered. If it wasn’t for the cars, you could see exactly what it was like 500 years ago. In fact, this time it’s even better, because my friends in Germany put me in touch with a local lady who gave me a personal tour, so I got to learn a lot more about the town and its history.

The one thing that struck me about Quedlinburg is that it is almost impossible to think that people actually live in those houses, so I’d always wanted to see the inside of one just to feel that it’s real. The town has a festival during which some houses would be open for tourists, but alas, I arrived a week early. However, as luck would have it, the tour guide lady actually lives right in town (her house is in the newer part of town, which means it was built in the 1700s as opposed to 1500-1600s. That in Quedlinburg counts as “new”) and she gave me a home tour! The inside is pretty much like a modern home, except there’s a plaque saying “1702” in the hall, and when you look out the window, you can see a Medieval castle. To her, it’s perfectly normal, but to me, it still feels like fantasy.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a travel post without a photo of the local cat, so I’m going to close out this one with not just a cat photo, but a dog photo as well:


Greifswald: 9 Years Later

It’s been a year of return trips. Earlier this year, I went back to Singapore, and recently, I took a 10-day trip to Germany to make a short documentary about the Vietnamese alumni at the University of Greifswald (the alma mater of my parents, sister, and brother-in-law). It was quite exciting to return to a familiar place and see it virtually unchanged – it was almost like coming home. I was too busy with shooting the documentary to do much sightseeing; luckily I did have a couple of days free at the end of the trip, and Greifswald is a small town, so I still got to visit all of my favorite places like the Marktplatz and the village of Wieck. I also got to try currywurst for the first time (eh, overrated. I’d take a normal bratwurst with mustard over that, thank you very much.)

Market day in Greifswald


Wieck is still as cute as ever

Another exciting thing is that I got a taste of fall weather in Europe, which I’d never experienced before, having only traveled there during the summer. Well, the novelty wore off fast, I can tell you, because it rained virtually every day while I was there. I basically lived in my trench coat, as you can see from the photos. But that’s northern Germany for you.

The beach at Greifswald… appealing, I know


SIA Inspiration: James McNeill Whistler 3.0

It’s again my turn to pick the inspiration for SIA, and I chose a watercolor by James McNeill Whistler, “Variations in Violet and Grey“:

This is the third Whistler we’ve featured in SIA, and the second I picked. As you guys know, I’ve been trying my hands at watercolor painting for a while now, and it struck me that watercolor is such a popular medium, yet I can think of no famous painter that mainly used watercolor (Egon Schiele is the only name that came to mind.) It’s probably because watercolor is not as long-lasting as oil paint, and it’s more suitable for quick sketches. Anyway, I went on the MET collection to see if I could find some watercolor paintings. There are quite a few sketches by Whistler and John Singer Sargent, but I picked this one because, despite being almost all neutral colors, there is still an incredible sense of life and movement in it, and because the scene reminds me of the market place I saw during my trips to Europe.

Send me your outfit photos (flat lays are welcomed too!) by next Monday, September 25th, if you want to participate. I’m looking forward to it!