Audiobook Review- Rich People Problems

Die old woman, die!

 

Ok, my opening line does seem a bit crass, but over-time the above had become the code word that my wife and I used to refer to the book ‘Rich People Problems’. E.g.

 

“Die old woman, die?” Uttered as a suggestion that we listen to the audiobook together over Sunday morning breakfast (which had become a bit of a tradition for us).

 

Or “Die old woman, die!” uttered when the story-line hit a particularly slow draggy spot- which seemed to be too often, as it took us over 6 months to   finish the book.

 

But while getting through a book over a long period of time may suggest how non-riveting  a novel may be- however in our opinion ‘Rich People Problems’ may actually be the best of the Crazy Rich trilogy!

 

The preface of the 2017 Kevin Kwan novel, the 3rd and last in the series is that the matriarch of the Young family Shang Su Yi is on her death bed. And after 4 years of estrangement after his marriage to Rachel, Nick returns back to Singapore to reconcile with his grandmother before she passes. And when he returns to Tyersall Park,  he finds that all of his extended family are there, some out of familial duty, others out of real affection for Su Yi, while others are just wanting to get into her good books and her will, so they could be “set-up for life”. Hence the novel’s title- Rich People Problems.

 

Previously I had shat all over the second book in the series (China Rich Girlfriend), however the formula which made the first novel ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ a global sensation, that same winning formula was back in RPP. I.e. the spotlight place back on the Young family and the story once again unfolds on the island of Singapore. What we also liked about the book, was that all the previous characters are back again! Including all the characters from the second book- at the time when we were painfully slogging through China Rich Girlfriend and wondering why seemingly inconsequential characters like Kitty Bing-Pong (her friends call her Beer-Pong) and Colette Bing were getting so much air-time. However the reasoning for this, was so that the scene was set and they could play their vital roles in the conclusion of the 3rd story. Gold hey!? And we also liked the fact that all story-lines were tied off in a neat bow by the conclusion of the book, so at the end of the trilogy you can walk away feeling at peace that all was final (while keeping your fingers crossed that there won’t be another sequel to open all the healed wounds again).

 

What we didn’t like about the novel, was the fact that again there wasn’t a family tree included as an appendix to better explain who’s who, and what were their relations to everyone else (considering they had all those footnotes throughout the novel, couldn’t they include a family tree as well?). Which resulted in quite a few conversations between my wife and I throughout the past 6 months, trying to explain to each other  our understanding of who was Alfred Shang and how many daughters did Su Yi actually have. And even after completing the first two books and part way through the third- then and only then did we realise that Astrid had other siblings, not only one nor two, but 3 other brothers!? What the? And the last thing which I didn’t like, was that some parts of the novel were uber cringing. I understand that the novel is satirical in nature, however some story-lines were just flogged a little bit too hard I think. Like Eddie Cheng’s carrying-ons, and the extreme shallowness of Kitty Beer-Pong. “Yeah, we get the idea, can we please move on?”

 

But all in all, Rich People Problems had worked to salvage our perception of the series and Kevin Kwan as a story-teller- so much so that we have already purchased his latest novel ‘Sex & Vanity’. A completely unrelated tale to the crazy rich Asians, but we hope just as fun!

 

To check out ‘Rich People Problems’, click HERE!

 

Audiobook Review- Artemis

Could this be our future in 2080?

Ok, I purely lucked onto this book. I was searching for the audiobook version of Artemis Fowl – prompted by the release of the motion picture of the same name – when I came across another novel with a very similar title. And my interest was piqued by the back sleeve blurb telling of life on the Moon, and the promise of criminality on the lunar settlement – I was sold!

Artemis (the name given to the lunar settlement) is written by American science fiction writer Andy Weir – who is famous for ‘The Martian’, and to follow-up his successes with that book (which was turned into an action blockbuster featuring Matt Damon), Andy has penned ‘Artemis’ which soon will also be turned into a Hollywood motion picture. The protagonist of Artemis is Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara, a porter by day and part-time smuggler when the need arises – filling the demand for contraband on the moon, which has resulted in a life-time of petty acts of criminality. However Jazz is drawn in over her head into a conspiracy with the promise of a pay-day she  simply could not refuse. So a life of petty-criminality is replaced by planning for and pulling off the mother of all crimes, to bring down a mining operation with dire consequences for her, her employer, and all the inhabitants on the Moon, both friend and foe alike!

It’s Han Solo-esque space smuggling meets Oceans 11, as Jazz assembles a rag-tag team to help her pull off the ultimate destructive act in 1/6 of the earth’s gravity, in a vacuum where no-one can hear you scream!

I personally really enjoyed the book because it was a whole new world, while it was still a world which was familiar. Andy Weir leaned on his geeky background – thus the science elements of the book were based on believable fact, not on unbelievable fiction. And it was fast-paced, and seemingly insignificant details in the earlier parts of the book, ultimately played a significant role in the conclusion of the story!

And a big bravo to the production team who put together the audio version of the novel, with special praise to Rosario Dawson the narrator…..or should I call her a voice actor!? As to me it felt more like listening to a feature film, rather than just listening to a plain old audiobook. Her delivery and changes in the tone of her voice to reflect disappointment, fatigue or excitement was wholly believable and immersive. And Andy Weir’s storytelling and Rosario Dawson’s delivery made even the regular appearance of metal welding interesting! Who knew that welding and metallurgy could be so gripping and would play such a vital part in a story-line!? And discussions about “what is the most important item to get your hands on, if there was a global lock-down?” Before listening to this book, my answer was water. Must, must have water, as you can’t survive more than a few days without it. But after listening to Artemis? Ok, you’ve changed my mind. What we can’t live without? It’s oxygen! The good O on the periodic table!

If you want to listen to a tale which is out-of-this-atmosphere? Check out Artemis HERE!

Audiobook recommendation- The Slightly Alarming Tale of the WHispering Wars

…& we’re still searching for a Harry Potter replacement.

13 years on, after the last Harry Potter novel was released, once-were-young adults are still searching for a fantasy novel to fill that void which J. K. Rowling left after she packed up her quill and ink bottles and called it a day. But has Jaclyn Moriarty potentially penned a fantasy series which will keep the next generation of primary school kids and soon to be young adults spell bound?

“Hey? Whatcha reading?” my wife asked a 9 year old daughter of a close friend at a summer’s BBQ party.

“It’s ISBN 9781760297183- The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars” she replies in a no-nonsense 9 year old way, blinking up at my wife.

“Oh cool, is it any good?” asks my wife……….

And returning home, my wife proceeds to tell me of a new book she’d like to listen to on Audible. And here we are, me letting you know what I thought.

Well, we first have to back-track a bit, as The Whispering Wars was the second novel of a loosely connected series; ‘The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone’ was the first book (although the Whispering Wars is actually a prequel). *Cross-eyed*. But let’s keep Bronte Mettlestone to another day and another time, as quietly just between you and me…. It wasn’t all that good. *Whispered from the corner of my mouth*. But if you read it first, it does complete the entire story for the Whispering Wars (although WW can be deemed as a standalone novel).

Well, essentially The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars (hence forth to be referred as TSATotWW) is set in a fantasy world, similar to our own world (including an incurable infectious illness) where there are 2 groups of children living in a fictional harbour town called Spindrift. On one side of the tracks, we have the orphans (a boy called Finley being the main protagonist) and on the leafy, affluent side of the tracks are the boarding school children (of which a girl named Honeybee is the main character). The children first come together in a local track & field competition, and after a disagreement breaks out between the two schools, one of the orphanage kids goes missing, and shortly after, a declaration of war is pronounced by the Whispering folk from the Whispering kingdom……. & the story unfolds from there.

TSATotWW follows a well-thumbed recipe for fantasy books, i.e. there is a fantasy world with fantasy kings and queens (check); there are mystical beings (check); there is the use of magic (check); warring kingdoms (check); and time travel to boot (check). However, where say, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings used well known mystical beings e.g. goblins, dwarves, rangas, and Pegasus, Jacclyn Moriarty has invented her own mystical beings which…. um….. doesn’t always work. However I’m nit-picking now….

But the story was interesting enough, riveting enough, had me turning the pages, and there were plenty of twists and reveals which made it a stand-out read. And Jacclyn Moriarty use of epistolary form, i.e. alternating chapters voiced by a different character (Finley for the orphans and Honeybee for the boarders), drove the story forward through letter entries, each in their distinctive style – requiring different voice actors for the audiobook version. That made it quite an enjoyable listen. But will Bronte Mettlestone be a household name like Harry P? Unfortunately I don’t think so, so the search for an HP replacement goes on!

So if you, or if you’d like to gift your child a new fantasy series to immerse themselves in? Give TSATotWW by Jacclyn Moriarty a go, you can start listening to it HERE!        

Audiobook Review- Mythos: The Greek myths retold by Stephen Fry

What can I say? The book’s title says it all!

My wife and I have been avid fans of Greek mythology for a while now, for me it started when we listened to the entire Percy Jackson series a number of years back, while my wife’s fandom of Greek mythology goes back to her childhood, when she grew up reading her hardcover Greek mythology encyclopaedia. And to top that off, we’ve always enjoyed TV programming featuring Stephen Fry – so we were bound to enjoy his Mythos audio book!

Now when the book’s title states that it’s a retelling of Greek mythology by Stephen Fry – it literally does mean that the book is a literal retelling of the classic Greek tragedies and triumphs by Stephen Fry – but retold in his witty and sardonic style. Don’t be expecting a free-flowing epic tale of gods and monsters! But expect a 15+hour long, back-of-the-book style glossary, listing out countless titans and gods, but retold in short stories, in a style fitting for a 21st century entertainment consumer.

Let’s just say, expect to be more educated, than you’re going to be entertained (although Stephen Fry’s narration and delivery is all together entertaining). But what stood out for me after listening to Mythos, was the realisation of how much of ancient Greece has influenced our modern day English language, and how these stories have seeped into our consciousness knowingly and unknowingly through other famous pieces of art, plays and even in cartoons!

While listening to Mythos, I was reminded of the power of the human imagination; how all these characters, with unique personalities and attributes, each with highly complex relational ties with each other, were all dreamt up and then passed down through the generations to the present day. How centuries and centuries ago, they used tales to explain ‘why the sun rises every day’ or ‘how the bee got its sting’, no doubt these tales were designed to explain to pesky and inquisitive kids who keep asking why? How? Why? How?!

And we have to reemphasize that Stephen Fry has a true gift in literacy, his humorous writing style made every page of this otherwise encyclopaedic-like book amusing, and having him narrate the Audible audio recording was a perfect touch to complete this experience!

If you’re interested to check out Mythos: The Greek myths retold, click HERE!

Audiobook Review- The Lincoln Lawyer

All good things must eventually come to an end.

And isn’t that true with all things? My epic 2.5 month career break has finally come to an end, and in the final month I was binge  listening to the Mickey Haller series a.k.a the Lincoln Lawyer; and after a month I’ve finished the entire 5 book series and here is my brief re-cap of the experience!

After Michael Connelly’s most well-known character (Harry Bosch), Mickey Haller is Connelly’s second most  widely used character, creating 5 standalone novels where Mickey is the main protagonist (while Mickey makes a further 5 cameo appearances in books in the Harry Bosch series). The 5 books which make-up the Mickey Haller series are:

The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)

Here we meet Mickey Haller for the very first time, a well-known Defence Attorney who works out of the back-seat of his Lincoln town car – criss-crossing the court houses of LA to represent his numerous small time clients in front of overworked judges in the busy LA justice system. All the while, Mickey attempts to drum-up further business, trying to secure future clients such as drug addicts, petty thieves, and con-artists. But this day is Mickey’s lucky day, when he scores the big one! Landing the case to defend a wrongly accused Beverly Hills playboy, charged over the attempted rape and assault of a ‘working girl’ set on extorting his client for a big pay-day. However not everything nor everyone is who they seem to be!

The Brass Verdict (2008)

After the death of an associate, Mickey inherits all of the in-flight cases of the slain defence attorney- the good money making cases, and the not so good. Included in this windfall is the lucrative and high profile defence of a multi-millionaire Hollywood producer, accused of killing his wife and her lover in a fit of jealous rage. Mickey and his half-brother LA Detective Harry Bosch, partner up to smoke-out the real killer behind the case! However who responds to the heat, isn’t who they expected it to be!    

The Reversal (2010)

Mickey is enticed to cross the aisle, and for the first time he sits at the Prosecution table acting on behalf of the People to keep a convicted child killer locked-up behind bars. It’s an all family affair, with ex-wife Maggie McPherson as his second chair, and his half-brother Harry Bosch as his Investigator. But now with the once convicted killer out on bail, no one is safe while he remains free in LA!

The Fifth Witness (2011)

The defence of foreclosure victims seemed like a safe enough business model, mundane but profitable enough for the Lincoln Lawyer – until a foreclosure client of Mickey’s is charged with the murder of a high ranking bank employee. Now Mickey finds himself back in the criminal courtroom, defending an accused murderer. Although the times have changed, blackmail, manipulation, greed and murder remain the same in this new world he lives in!

The Gods of Guilt (2013)

And after 8 years, many things loop back around to where it all started in Book One of the 5 book series – a prostitute whom Mickey had saved in the first novel, shows up dead in ‘The Gods of Guilt’. Mickey is hired to defend her accused killer – after he is convinced of the accused’s innocence and the framing of his client by a much higher power. And as Mickey does, he stirs up a hornet’s nest to draw out the shadowy culprits to a confrontation in the safety of the court-room……But this time, has Mickey angered a power stronger than he can withstand?

Each of the 5 books in the Mickey Haller series are nail-biters, thrilling page turners which will have you enthralled right through to the end! And once you’ve finished with one, you’ll be unable to resist starting the very next! Throughout the last 30 days, I was literally returning one title back to the library, and that same afternoon I was already cracking open the next. I powered through them so quickly that they all started to blur into one another. But if I was granted a ‘do-over’, a second chance to pace myself to make the experience last longer? Would I? Never! Given a second chance, I’d binge the series all over again, they were such a great read! Each as unpredictable as the previous instalment!

If you haven’t already read/listened to the Mickey Haller series, I emphatically insist that you do so! To get you started, just click on the link HERE, and it’ll take you to the Audible landing page for all of Michael Connelly’s audio books- including the Mickey Haller series! Enjoy.   

Audiobook Review- Two Kinds of Truth

Just like getting back in touch with an old friend!

It’s been some time since I’ve last read a novel from the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly, and returning back to LA with Detective Bosch has reminded me how much I love this book franchise!

Over the past few years if I’ve returned back to the LAPD to solve another case with Detective Harry Bosch- it had been to listen to old titles which I had skipped over in the past, as I had listened to the books out of order (I’d been listening to whatever the library had on its shelves). So it’s been a very long while since I’ve listened to a Bosch novel which is more up-to-date with the present day.

Two Kinds of Truth is the 20th title in the Harry Bosch series (2017), Harry is now a volunteer detective for the San Fernando police department working cold cases from an old jail cell which is now his office. He and his small department of San Fernando detectives are called to a double homicide of a father and son pharmacy business, in what seems to be a botched robbery. Meanwhile an inmate on death row, whom Harry and his partner had put away back in the 80s, claims that he has been wrongfully imprisoned for the past decades for a crime that he did not commit, and now there was DNA evidence which proves his innocence – that puts into question Bosch’s slam-dunk case and also puts into question his methods and his 30+ year detective reputation.

The novel is a definite page turner, fast-paced as the duel cases unfold in parallel, which keeps driving Bosch forward to uncover the truth – and with Mickey Haller (Bosch’s brother-from-another-mother) weaved into the story-line, the detective and law-room drama makes it a very compelling and satisfying read indeed!

For me I particularly enjoy the Harry Bosch series and the way Michael Connelly embeds his character in the present day, therefore as current affairs, technology and culture evolves in reality, this evolution and passage of time is also reflected in the fictional life and times for Harry. Therefore as we, Michael Connelly’s audience, grow older, so does Harry Bosch and all those around him. Therefore after so many years of separation, picking up this novel has felt like I’ve been reunited with an old friend, catching up on how he’s been and what he’s been up to in the intervening years. It’s a little sad to see that Harry is now a relatively old man in his 60s, but I guess we’re all getting long in the tooth as well.

So if it’s been a while since you’ve picked up a book from the Harry Bosch series, you’d be pleased to know that the novels are only getting better as Michael Connelly pens his 20th book in the series. And at present, Book 21 (Dark Sacred Night) and Book 22 (The Night Fire) are also out and available for your listening pleasure.

And for the past years, I’ve been avoiding Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series, due to the fact that I’m not a big fan of the courtroom drama genre, and frankly the name Mickey Haller didn’t capture my imagination. But after Mickey’s cameo appearance in ‘Two Kinds of Truth’, I’ve actually warmed to his character and after two weeks I’ve already smashed through the 1st (The Lincoln Lawyer) and 2nd novel (The Brass Verdict) in the Haller series.

If you want to check out all of Michael Connelly’s titles to see what the prolific author has been up to recently – please click HERE!