Combined book review (January 2016)

As I’ve decided to reach a goal of 50 books read by the end of the year, I also decided to change up how often I do these book review posts. Instead of doing them every 5 books, I’ve decided to do them every month. So this month I will be showing you and reviewing the four books I read in the past month. And the selection ranges from a make up book, a detective, a YA fantasy book to literary fiction, so quite diverse I must say. If you want a quicker update on what I am reading and what I have read in the past, you can follow me on Goodreads if you’d like. All I do on there is rate books with a number of stars. I am saving this space for writing up short synopses and reviews. So here goes the first batch of 2016.

The first four books of 2016 have been read!
I am still on track for reaching my 2016 reading goal of 50 books.

Lisa Eldridge – Face Paint

Telling the story of makeup through a number of themes, this book by the amazingly talented Lisa Eldridge has received so much buzz in the makeup community. And I was very curious to see what it was about. Taking you first through the three main colors of the ancient color palette (red, white and black) Lisa starts off by investigating why we wear makeup and its role in society throughout the ages. She tracks the evolution of wearing makeup in the past 100 years or so and lines it up with the development of women’s rights and independence. Later chapters deal with looking into the commercialization of makeup and the rivalry of three of the major pioneers in developing makeup for the masses. In the mean time Lisa highlights her makeup muses: women whose iconic looks have influenced the use of makeup in their time and sometimes even now.

So this is not your typical makeup book which teaches you how to use products and recreate looks. I thought this was a very informative book and you can tell that Lisa knows her stuff. However, I do feel that it barely skims the surface of what this could have been. The information given remains pretty superficial. There are references to sources, but sometimes claims are simply made without backing them up or giving ample examples. I feel this book, be it interesting and a great read if you love makeup, could have been a lot more in-depth and thorough in the way the topics were explained. What makes this book a must have for makeup lovers would be the stunning photography of the most iconic makeup looks from history as well as a peek into Lisa Eldridge’s vintage makeup collection.

Sarah J. Maas – Throne of Glass

The first book in the Throne of Glass series tells the tale of how Celeana Sardothien, Ardalan’s most feared assassin, is taken out of her enslavement in the salt mines of Endovier to battle 15 other candidates for the title to become the King’s Champion. The person responsible for this action? Crown Prince Dorian of Adarlan. Watched at all times by her mentor and trainer Chaol, Captain of the Guard, Celeana spends her time at the Glass Castle of Rifthold, getting something more from the experience than her strength back and the promise of freedom. And what is going on with all the other champions that are being killed off slowly one by one?

I had hear so much about this book through Booktube that I decided to pick up this first book when I was in the States last summer. It is a young adult fantasy book, which is a genre that I sometimes like and sometimes I don’t like it at all. Fantasy in general is a genre that I can find difficult to get into. But that was not the case for this. The world building is well-executed, the characters are interesting and have enough complexity to remain so for the length of this first installment and the plot, through fairly predictable, is enjoyable. The only drawback with this book I found are the passages where there are descriptions of how Celeana would and could kill a man within the blink of an eye, but it never actually happens. There is the promise of action, like a tease, but then when it finally happens it falls a bit flat. However, this is a book that simply hooks you into the story and you have no other choice but to keep reading and reading and reading until you’re done. I now regret not having bought the rest of the series yet!

Matthew Pearl – The Poe Shadow

Quentin Clark is a lawyer associate in 19th century Baltimore with his best friend since childhood Peter. His life is pretty much carved out: he proposed to his childhood love Hattie and his parents’ (though passed away) trust fund will ensure a comfortable life. But then he witnesses the burial of his favorite author Edgar Allan Poe. As Quentin finds out the mysterious circumstances amongst which Poe came to perish, Quentin becomes engrossed and decides to solve the mystery himself. His search leads him to Paris where he meets his biggest adversary, finds camaraderie and gets his life saved by a sexy assassin and thief. Upon his return to Baltimore, the plot thickens and Quentin finds that in his search for the truth, he might just lose everything he holds most dear.

Sounds like a cheesy synopsis? Well it is. This book kicks in every open door plotwise it possibly could. Scenes that are supposed to be thrilling are not as the writing uses every cheesy, overdone line ever found in a detective story. In addition, the plot twists and turns just so it can keep going. As I was reading this book, I sometimes thought “ok, where is this going?” “Does this matter for the story?”. To top things off, Quentin as a character is an obnoxious fanatic who has no good reason for chasing the ghost of Poe other than a letter or two and the promise of investing in Poe’s newest magazine. I felt that this story could have been told in half the amount of pages, with fewer frustrating characters. This was a meh book for me.

Jane Gardham – Old Filth

Meet Old Filth, aka Eddie, aka Teddy, aka Fevvers. Raj Orphan and lawyer extraordinaire in Hong Kong who has long since retired and now lives with his wife Betty in The Donheads. His life is simple now, but once chronicled the vast stretch of the British Empire. Switching between his life as an 80-something retiree in the quiet countryside and the start of his life which is a grand ping pong match from Malay to Wales, to England, almost to Singapore, only to return to England violently sick and everyone he meets and leaves behind and who leaves him behind in between. And in the mean time, you get this nagging sense that not all is as it seems.

This is one of those books that I had sitting on a shelf for years. A friend of mine gifted it on my birthday after having just read it himself and loving it. So I had high expectations going into the story. I loved every minute of this book, but not for the reasons I thought I would when I first picked it up. I thought this would be a story of how Old Filth got his nickname, but that aspect of Filth’s life is skipped over quite brilliantly. Instead, the story is a great investigation of how a childhood, much often controlled by the adults surrounding a child, can leave its mark right until one’s ripe old age. Endearing, heart-wrenching and funny at the same time, Old Filth is as much a character study as one of the human mind.

What books have you read this month?

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