THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER by Mark Twain

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPERprince-pauper-mark-twain-paperback-cover-art
by Mark Twain

Source: Online
Paperback: 55 pages
Publisher: Smashwords (November 2012)

Adelaine Pek’s ratings: ♥ ♥ / 5 hearts

This treasured historical satire, played out in two very different socioeconomic worlds of 16th-century England, centers around the lives of two boys born in London on the same day: Edward, Prince of Wales and Tom Canty, a street beggar. During a chance encounter, the two realize they are identical and, as a lark, decide to exchange clothes and roles — a situation that briefly, but drastically, alters the lives of both youngsters. The Prince, dressed in rags, wanders about the city’s boisterous neighborhoods among the lower classes and endures a series of hardships; meanwhile, poor Tom, now living with the royals, is constantly filled with the dread of being discovered for who and what he really is.

Wow, that is a lot of classic for me in one year. For this challenge, I have decided to pick up something that I should have read when I was younger but did not.

The story of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER is familiar to me — then again, who is not familiar with this famous tale? — but this is the first time I am reading the book. There is a stark difference in hearing the story from someone else and reading its complex language by yourself. This is the first book I have ever read by Mark Twain and unfortunately, I did not enjoyed as much as I thought I would. Not that this book is bad, I have to admit that it was well-written and rather enjoyable; this book is just not my cup of tea.

It was pure coincidence that Edward, Prince of England and heir to the throne, met Tom Canty, beggar boy of London. Edward, having pity on the poor, dirty, abused Tom, takes him into the palace for some food and rest. While there, the boys discover that they both long for a taste of the other’s life, and decide to switch clothes to achieve that, if only for a little while. Events move so fast that Edward finds himself living the rough, dirty, miserable life of a London beggar, and Tom finds himself living the comfy, luxurious, pampered life of the Crown Prince of England.

The story was solid enough, but the book was tough to get into due to the English phrases and descriptions. By the time I reached Chapter 6, I had enough of reading the ‘thou’s and ‘thy’s, I was tempted to chuck the book aside. But as the events started unfolding the story became very enjoyable. I do have to admit that I was still very tempted to skip certain parts, though.

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER may appear in the guise of a feeble children’s story, a tale of rags and riches set in Tudor England. Yet, the author has cleverly woven some deep personal and sociological messages for the readers to contemplate. The ‘poles apart’ worlds of Edward Tudor and Tom Canty transit before our eyes, allowing us to see the other side. It was really fascinating to learn about the Tudor court through the eyes of Tom and it was really heartbreaking to read about the gloomy, poor side of the city through the eyes of Edward.

I loved watching Edward learn and grow, while at the same time maintaining a sense of innocence and ignorance that is both charming and amusing. I felt Tom did not grow in terms of character throughout the story — well, as compared to Edward who was living on the tough streets of England, it was no surprise there is nothing for Tom to learn in the court — and eventually I got a little tired listening to him talk about the ladies and the wealth of the court. It felt a little weird favoring Edward over Tom when the story started with Tom and he was supposed to be the main character.

This book is a fascinating historical novel and an enchanting masterpiece but it is too bad that I struggled with the language and did not enjoyed it as much as I hoped to. A little sad to end 2015 this way (but hey, I managed to complete my reading challenge, hurrah!) but to end it with a classic, something that I do not read the year before, I guess it is good enough. I would recommend you to check this one out but for myself, it is time to put a stop on reading classics … for the time being, that is.

Signing off,
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THE DUFF: DESIGNATED UGLY FAT FRIEND by Kody Keplinger

8987161THE DUFF: DESIGNATED UGLY FAT FRIEND
by Kody Keplinger

Source: Online
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Little Brown (January 2010)

Adelaine Pek’s ratings: ♥ ♥ / 5 hearts

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Honestly, if it was not for this reading challenge, I would have most likely ditched this book. I usually can tolerate loopholes in the plot, slow-moving story, clichéd endings — as long as I liked the hero/heroine. Unfortunately, there are so many problems with the characters that ruined my experience with the story.

Main character Bianca Piper is the sort of protagonist who makes me want to not finish a book (and I never not finish a book). To be honest, I really disliked Bianca. This character is bitter, sharp-tongued, and cynical towards love. But you know what is ironic? She is outspoken and opinionated, but she chose to just shake her head at her father’s alcoholic problem and let him spiral out of control. To make matters worse, Bianca has a sore habit of ditching her friends in favor of getting laid. It is fine to put the dick before the chicks (I admit I have been guilty of that) but she does not seem to understand why her best friend is pissed when she blows her off. Instead of feeling guilty or apologetic, Bianca turns around and calls her friend a bitch and a snotty cheerleader. Ugh, can you see me pulling my hair at this point? While I usually have no problems with characters like these, Bianca could not grow on me — despite calling herself a hypocrite several times in the book, it did not help her to gain brownie points with me one bit. 

Oh, and I cannot stand the supposedly ‘love-hate’ relationship between Bianca and Wesley Rush. While I have no objection of using sex as an escapism, I just fail to understand why / how she was able to repeatedly hop into bed with a guy who makes her skin crawl, especially considering how cheap and dirty Bianca claims to feel afterward. I liked that the characters admit it is lust — finally a Young Adult (YA) book that spelt it as it is — but come on, the guy is an asshole who is trying to use you to get into your friends pants, all while telling you that you are a statistically ugly fat chick, and so you decide to make out with him? A few chapters later, Bianca’s friends think that he would be great in bed (I personally think that just ’cause you whored around, does not necessarily make you good in bed but how would I know right? I have not slept with the entire school’s female population), but Bianca thinks that anyone that sleeps with him is liable to get an STD shortly thereafter. I would have pat her at her back for that sarcasm except it was only around 30 or so pages later that Bianca sleeps with him, herself! What the fudge? I get it that you just want someone to distract you from your problems but come on, there are plenty of hot guys who at the very least, do not call you an ugly fat chick to your face! No wonder this dude has zero respect for our main character. This kind of plot would have made my heart race when I was thirteen but now that I have long passed that age, I cannot help but cringe reading it.

My point is, I just could not relate to the story. I just do not get it how such an intelligent character can be so dumb and clueless. Obviously, this review is to be taken with a grain of salt. I was really looking forward to reading THE DUFF because of the premise (two individuals who hate each other but ended up loving each other — yeah, it is a guilty pleasure thing but I fear I may have outgrown it) but it is too bad the story did not work for me. I was really disappointed at the outcome. I think this is one of those books you either hate or love and unfortunately, I fell at the side of the nope. The main character annoyed me, and I did not feel the chemistry between Bianca and Wesley. I guess if you can sympathize with Bianca, this could turn out to be a great read for you.

I would not recommend this book but do give it a try and see for yourself if this book is your cup of tea. As for me, I shall go and get myself a cup tea — Lord knows I need one after reading this very nerve-racking book.

Signing off,
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INSANITY (MAD IN WONDERLAND) (INSANITY #1) by Cameron Jace

18910286INSANITY (MAD IN WONDERLAND) (INSANITY #1)
by Cameron Jace

Source: Online
Paperback: 457 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 2013)

Adelaine Pek’s ratings: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ / 5 hearts

After accidentally killing everyone in her class, Alice Wonder is now a patient in the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum. No one doubts her insanity. Only a hookah-smoking professor believes otherwise; that he can prove her sanity by decoding Lewis Carroll’s paintings, photographs, and find Wonderland’s real whereabouts. Professor Caterpillar persuades the asylum that Alice can save lives and catch the wonderland monsters now reincarnated in modern day criminals. In order to do so, Alice leads a double life: an Oxford university student by day, a mad girl in an asylum by night. The line between sanity and insanity thins when she meets Jack Diamond, an arrogant college student who believes that nonsense is an actual science.

I am a sucker for any retellings of fairy tales so it was no surprise I could not hold off my excitement and dived straight into this one the moment I got my hands on it. I recommend listening to Melanie Martinez’s ‘Mad Hatter’ while you read this book (because that was what I did and boy, it was so much madness).

I have to admit Cameron Jace’s idea, despite being very interesting, has been rehashed many times — there is a game called Alice: Madness Returns with almost similar setting (the main character lives in an asylum too) — but I loved reading this version and I love how the author made good use of his imagination and put his own twist to the original story’s characters. I also love how the book goes about debunking Lewis Carroll’s myths, without ruining my childhood.

When main character Alice Pleasance Wonder failed to escape the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum — a place where she has no memories of how she ended up there — she was recruited by fellow patient Professor Carter Pillar, or more infamously known as Pillar the Killer, to help track the Cheshire Cat, a serial killer who has been wreaking havoc on the world of the sane and prevent him from unleashing The Wonderland Monsters into Alice’s world. Equipped only with the Pillar’s assistance and a Certificate of Insanity, Alice begins to encounter other Wonderland beings who have integrated themselves in the world, unearths secrets hidden by Carroll himself, and journeys to historically significant locations on her mission to stop the Cheshire.

But Adelaine, where exactly is the place you want to visit in this book, you may ask. Not Wonderland (though I do want to visit there someday — then again, who are to say we are not living in it already?) but the University of Oxford in England instead. I have always been fascinated with the institution’s structure and the heritage. If only I was smart enough and rich enough to land myself a spot in their classes. Oh well, I will just have to satisfy myself with the author’s detailed description of the University through Alice’s eyes.

Now, let us talk about the characters. Personally, if I have to arrange the characters by favoritism, this is how it will go: Cheshire Cat, Pillar the Killer and Alice. The reason why Cheshire Cat and Pillar the Killer topped Alice in terms of favoritism is because of their dark side — I cannot help it that I have a thing for the dark and twisted. I felt the Cheshire Cat made a very good villain and I liked his past, the reason that drove him to do what he did in the story. Pillar the Killer follows next after the feline, for his whimsical attitude and psychopath tendencies. Alice, despite being the star of the book, did not shine as bright as the rest of the cast. I liked her character but she was just average when compared to the supporting characters who are different shades of madness. There was a hint of romance but it was still very vague at this stage.

The cover is so gorgeous and at the same time, kind of creepy. It was a perfect reflection of the book because it was such a whimsical and weird read. I suppose one must be mad to truly enjoy this book as much as I did. Heck, I think I did feel a little mad when the book ended. It always seems to keep you wondering what is real and what is an illusion in the world of the insane and sane alike. I, for one, cannot wait to find out how this story will unfold. No doubt there that I will be diving into the rest of the books in the series once I get my hands on them. This book was rated as one of the best Alice in Wonderland retellings and I highly recommend you to check this one out, especially if you are a fan of Lewis Carroll’s version — or if you are just as mad as the Mad Hatter.

“Take it from me: sane is mundane, insanity is the new black.”

Signing off,
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I HUNT KILLERS (JASPER DENT #1) by Barry Lyga

13114289I HUNT KILLERS (JASPER DENT #1)
by Barry Lyga

Source: Online
Paperback: 359 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (April 2012)

Adelaine Pek’s ratings: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ / 5 hearts

What if the world’s worst serial killer … was your dad?

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could — from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret — could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

Took me long enough to get to this book! There was just too many delicious books waiting for me to devour that this one had to take a step back despite having been on my to-be-read list for quite some time now. I cannot begin to even describe my love for this book. All I can say is, I am so glad to have finally picked it up.

I believe the main reason why I enjoyed this book so much was because of the serial killer aspect of it — and how it gave me the DEXTER feeling. I admit having a fascination towards serial killers (I binge watch DEXTER and have a crush on him, for goodness sake) and do not deny that you are not curious about the way they think, how they analyze and see the world too. Those individuals, especially the ones with high IQs, make highly interesting study subject. In I HUNT KILLERS, we get to understand all these sociopaths / psychopaths through the eyes of the most notorious serial killer’s son.

I loved the main character, Jasper ‘Jazz’ Dent — a major crush indeed! Jazz is a very complex and captivating protagonist. He is deeply disturbed by what his father has done; not just the killings, but on how he has was raised to be his father’s protégé. He wonders all the time if violent offenders are the product of nature or nurture, and if he will grow up to be just like his father. It does not help that his father reminds him all the time that the apple does not fall far from the tree. I loved reading about Jazz’s internal struggle. He wants to help track down the killer, to prove that he is not like his father, but at the same time, he has to push himself to think like his father, which is the last thing he wants to do. There are times in the book when Jazz sounds like a psychopath and it is truly blood-curdling. But that is the extra reason why I liked this book — it does not shy away from that darker side of Jazz’s mind. I liked that we can see a development of character (for the better) in Jazz throughout the whole book.

To be honest, Jazz’s father, Billy, scares the crap out of me. He was a true psychopath / sociopath (I admit that I have no way of telling them apart). Scenes involving him was often dark and disturbing. They are often associated with murder, gore, and cruelty. Billy’s mother, Jazz’s grandmother, who was a little very senile in her head due to old age, gave me a mix feelings of fear and irritation (which Jazz shares). Like Jazz, there is no way of telling when her temper will flare and things might come hurling your way.

Howie, Jazz’s best friend, who bruises easily due to a health condition (Jazz fear all the time about accidentally killing him) was the comedy in the book. He was the ying to Jazz’s yang, Dr Watson to Sherlock Holmes. I actually really liked Howie, despite him being very simple-minded. Unconsciously, he functioned as the walking moral compass for Jazz, keeping him ‘human’ as Jazz called it. The both of them actually make a really good and humorous pair.

I loved the added humor in this novel. I have to credit the author’s ability to suddenly flip the switch between light-hearted teen humor and really dark descriptions of murder and psychopathic tendencies. I really loved this aspect of the book because it made the book felt more like an Adult genre than a Young Adult (YA) book.

The only problem I had with this book is the police force in the story. It was a little unrealistic that a police department allows a teenager, infamous serial killer’s son or not, as much freedom with butting in on their case. It was very unlikely that they will just let Jazz go when he broke into the morgue to do his own investigation or when he was caught snooping around the scene of the crime. Why was the police force in this book not made out of stricter stuff, I have no idea.

I HUNT KILLERS was really, really good. It had an awesome premise and it was unlike a lot of other YA books I have read. It was intense and suspenseful. It was too bad that I kinda had the killer’s identity figured out halfway through the book. A good thing it did not interfere with the suspense of the story. To conclude, I highly recommend fans of thriller and gore to check this book out. You will not be disappointed, trust me.

How do i know that what I see as blue and what you see as blue are the same thing?
Answer: We don’t. We take it on faith.

Signing off,
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A MOST PECULIAR MALAYSIAN MURDER (INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES #1) by Shamini Flint

7984752A MOST PECULIAR MALAYSIAN MURDER (INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES #1)
by Shamini Flint

Source: Online
Paperback: 295 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur (July 2010)

Adelaine Pek’s ratings: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ / 5 hearts

Inspector Singh is in a bad mood. He’s been sent from his home in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to solve a murder that has him stumped. Chelsea Liew — the famous Singaporean model — is on death row for the murder of her ex-husband. She swears she didn’t do it, he thinks she didn’t do it, but no matter how hard he tries to get to the bottom of things, he still arrives back at the same place — that Chelsea’s husband was shot at point blank range, and that Chelsea had the best motivation to pull the trigger: he was taking her kids away from her. Now Inspector Singh must pull out all the stops to crack a crime that could potentially free a beautiful and innocent woman and reunite a mother with her children. There’s just one problem — the Malaysian police refuse to play ball …

I was looking high and low for a book that is centered around Kuala Lumpur or KL as it is more fondly known, to complete this reading challenge. I know there are a lot of books out there featuring this famous city of Malaysia but I was nitpicking them; I did not want to go for biographies nor do I want to read horror stories (somehow Malaysian authors have a thing for publishing horror stories — cannot blame them when this country has strong superstitious roots). Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon this book by Shamini Flint, an author originally born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but now living in Singapore with her husband and two children.

I kinda guessed she was from KL from the way her main character, Inspector Singh, described the city. Even though I grew up in KL — well, Subang, more accurately — it was nice reading about the city through this character’s perspective. I loved the way the author described every bit and parts of the city the character stood at, from the type of tiles used on the terraced houses to the drainage systems at the bottom of the high-rise buildings in the city; it allows readers to fully visualize the location and I enjoyed every minute reading them.

A MOST PECULIAR MALAYSIAN MURDER tells the tale about Inspector Singh, who was sent up to KL to be part of the investigation into a case of a man who was murdered before the end of his custody battle with his wife. It was a rather peculiar case as the murderer’s motive was not as simple as it seemed. The longer Inspector Singh stayed in KL to unravel who the real killer was, the list of suspects grows and so did their motives for murdering a very rich and influential timber tycoon.

Sadly, Inspector Singh was not really my favorite character. Oh, I liked him alright; his sharp instincts, his intellect, and his strong-willed, bordering on stubborn, personality. I also liked that his physique was different from the usual detectives in books like these; Inspector Singh was not very tall and rather unfit with a pot belly, not an uncommon sight among Malaysia and Singapore’s police force (you got to admit that is the truth — blame the food of our culture heh). But Inspector Singh’s character is just missing that specific spark for me to love him.

Chelsea Liew, on the other hand, was a favorite of mine. I loved her determination to win the custody of her children, her strong persona in the face of being charged for the murder of her abusive and womanizer of a husband, and her compassion towards her brother-in-law. Personally, I felt Chelsea, despite being just a supporting character (albeit her role in this book was rather huge), overshadowed Inspector Singh’s character. I do not think this is a really positive thing in the author’s part as this book is supposed to be about Inspector Singh solving the case — this is a series about him, after all — and lesser of Chelsea surviving her court case. But then again, I cannot say for sure what the author’s motives truly are.

I liked the way the whole story unfolds, told through the perspective of several characters; Inspector Singh (which is expected), Chelsea, Chelsea’s brother-in-laws — Jasper and Kian Min, Sergeant Shukor who was the companion of Inspector Singh like how Dr Watson was to Sherlock Holmes, and a few other minor characters. It was really interesting to view the court case through the different point of views (POV) and listening to their voices on how they come to gain from this high-profile court case. The whole book was written in third-person so there was no confusion when we jumped POVs.

In my opinion, the only flaw this book had was the pacing. I felt the story could have progressed faster. I liked the mention of Malaysia’s social issues (no qualms there), the plot was interesting, the progression of the court case stayed very true to a real court case, and the ending / revealing of the culprit surprised me — all in all, I finished this book feeling rather satisfied. I highly recommend this if you are a fan of detective novels and have a taste for both of the nation’s social issues. This book has been a very enjoyable read; no doubt there that I will be checking out the rest of the author’s books in this series.

Signing off,
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