Reviews Reviews en Book reviews: Nightmares! The Lost Lullaby
After all his adventures in the previous books, Charlie has surely earned the right to have sweet dreams when he sleeps, but it is not to be.

These days, when he is asleep, he finds himself in a Netherworld field surrounded by a flock of creepy black sheep.

However, it is not Charlie's nightmare. He's trapped in someone else's bad dream and somehow he feels that his old nemesises are back.

Ick and Ink, the terrible twins, must be responsible and seeming to prove him right, Ink shows up in Cypress Creek Elementary and Charlie is convinced that she is up to no good.

The last time he tangled with the twins, Ick was trapped in the Netherworld while Ink disappeared in the real world.

Charlie and his cohorts guard the portal that connects the two realms and they are determined that Ink does not get Ick out.

His brother Jack, however, believes Ink to be good and is equally determined to prove her innocence.
In the meantime, it will be some time before anyone's dreams are sweet again.

This book has all the elements to make it a success. There are nightmare figures, mad scientist and witches, action, and even romance.

What more could you ask for to keep the young ones occupied?]]>
Reviews Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:22:27 +0000 K.K. Wong 484476 at
Book review: SCREAM: The Mummy’s Revenge
Throw in the fact that the top secret investigators in the squad are a crippled young girl (Charlotte 'Charlie' Steel) and a young lad (Billy Flint), and that their secret headquarters is in a crypt beneath Westminster Abbey, then all logic seems to fly out the window.
But give this children's book half a chance and it might just be worth your while.

This dark Victorian adventure is the first in a new series – Scream – by Beasley, a schoolteacher who is trying his hand at being an author.

A 3,000-year-old mummy coming back from the dead and going on a rampage to steal precious jewels for his evil master is just the case for Scream, and Charlie and Billy spring immediately into action.

Arriving at Sir Gordon Balfour's mansion in Edinburgh, the two meet a household in disarray.

Servants are handing in their notice and a strange atmosphere hangs over the place.

But with the help of Sir Gordon's loyal servant Doggie McCrimmon and a very special Scottish terrier named Wellington, Charlie and Billy bravely battle the unknown, undead and whatever else in their way to 'unwrap' the case and solve the crime.

There's plenty of action, and together with the author's powerful power of description, Scream The Mummy's Revenge is an excellent tool to keep the young readers occupied.]]>
Reviews Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:26:32 +0000 K.K Wong 484478 at
Book review : Teller of twisted tales
It was around 4am in New York where Chainani was, but he did not mind the early hour.

"We have been shooting the video campaign for this series and I have been up at four since the last two days," he said good naturedly.

Chainani (far right), who also makes short films, is co-writing the screenplay for his first novel, The School for Good and Evil, for a film by Universal Pictures.

The book is based on the trilogy of the same name which has been translated into 24 languages across six continents. The other two books in the series are A World Without Princes and The Last Ever After.

The School for Good and Evil tells the story of how, every four years, two children are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon by an unknown force and end up as characters in various sets of mysterious books that appear in the local bookstore.

Some of the children (called the Evers in the books) are found in the School for Good while others (the Nevers) are located in the School for Evil.

Best friends Sophie and Agatha find themselves kidnapped. Sophie who is always considered an Ever is now a Never while the opposite happens to Agatha. They each try to switch schools and try to escape, but fail every time.

Sophie becomes smitten by an Ever boy named Tedros, but Tedros falls for Agatha instead. The rest of the story is about them trying to find a way home and discovering more about themselves.

On his latest book, Quests for Glory, Chainani explained that the first three books were school-based narratives.

"They were set in this school and everything was pretty much limited to this one environment. Moving forward, I thought it would be awesome to see what happens once these kids graduate."

Essentially, Quests for Glory is about the children confronting the world and maybe even get their fairytale ending.

Chainani added: "We are moving from something like Harry Potter to more like Game of Thrones.

"There is a lot more history in love and it is a much bigger world. As the characters grow up, so do their environment. It sets a new tone to the series."

Chainani said that he was inspired by fairy tales to pen The School for Good and Evil.

He explained that he grew up in a household that did not have cable but had a lot of Disney movie DVDs.

"My family was obsessed with Disney. That's my childhood, watching and re-watching Disney movies."

Growing up, Chainani never noticed the flaws to these Disney tales until he realised that real fairy tales are very different.

"There were gaps to the stories, the things that made them real were all left out.

"I wanted to bring back fairy tales as they were meant to be for the kids." These included the darkness amidst the light and the comedy.

When Chainani was studying for his English and American Literature degree at Harvard University, he wrote a thesis on Why Evil Women Make Such Great Villains.

"I never understood why Disney never used them more. Female villains are only featured in about eight movies which is very silly because they are the iconic ones," Soman said.

He pointed out that while male villains tend to rely on brute strength, iconic villainesses such as The Maleficent, Cruella De Vil and the evil queen in Snow White find other ways such as manipulation.

Chainani initially wrote The School for Good and Evil as a screenplay but then turned it into a book series when he was told it was too big for a movie.

Now that the books are such a hit, Universal Pictures is turning the first book into a film which is expected to be released in 2019.

Chainani has no idea who will be directing the movie but he admits he likes having control over his work and that is why he controls every aspect of his books right down to the marketing.

As writer, he has a general sense of where his books are heading but ends up surprised where the story sometimes takes him.

Though he interacts with fans via social media, Chainani says it's very rare that his stories reflect their vision of where the story is heading. However, sometimes he boosts up fan favourites plotwise.

As to how many books he thinks he can write for this series, Soman said: "In my head, I wanted three trilogies. The first would be in school, second one will be out there in the world, and the third would be the new class which are the kids of the original characters.

"Ideally, there will be nine but right now, I am concentrating on six. After six, I might do something else and come back to book seven, eight and nine after the movie.

"I am super excited about book four. That is the best in the series. It is the richest and has more layers than the previous novels.

"Every chapter is narrated by a different character.

"It feels (like) I got to reinvent my series and, at the same time, it has all my familiar characters."]]>
Reviews Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:19:26 +0000 S. Indra Sathiabalan 484474 at
Movie review: American Assassin
We are introduced to Mitch (O'Brien), a young man enjoying the happiest day of his life on a beach in Ibiza together with his girlfriend Katrina (Charlotte Vega), who just said yes to his marriage proposal.
Moments later, a group of ­gunmen arrive and start shooting. Mitch is badly injured, and watches helplessly as Katrina is killed.

About two years later, we see an overzealous Mitch turning himself into a killing machine by taking up martial arts, and learning to shoot a gun with deadly precision.

He also tries to make contact with the leader of the terrorist group behind Katrina's murder, which brings him to the attention of the CIA's counter-terrorism chief Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan).

Mitch succeeds in making ­contact, but the terrorists are ­suspicious of him.

While he is being questioned, the CIA swoops in and kills the terrorists, leaving an angry Mitch stabbing at a corpse.

Back in the US, Irene offers Mitch an opportunity to put his skills and anger to good use, by sending him to train under CIA trainer Stan Hurley (Keaton), a gruff ex-Navy Seal who doesn't think Mitch is suitable to be an agent.

While Stan is determined to send the new recruit packing, ­circumstances force him to take Mitch, along with another trainee, to meet up with Turkish agent ­Annika (Shiva Negar) to locate the person building a nuclear bomb.

In a news footage, Stan spots someone nicknamed Ghost (Kitsch), who makes off with items needed to make a nuclear bomb, and who is willing to kill anyone who stands in his way. And Ghost always seems to know their next move.

On paper, this may seem like a run-off-the-mill spy thriller, but it is the subtle details in how Mitch handles a dangerous situation, and Stan's pragmatic (and somewhat cold) approach to their job, that makes this story stand out.

Overall, a good film if you like action thrillers.]]>
Reviews Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:12:08 +0000 S. Indra Sathiabalan 484469 at
Book review: By your side
Even the presence of a would-be boyfriend is no ­surprise. Yet, somehow, given half a chance, this book is ­actually quite enjoyable.

Autumn Collins was supposed to be going off with her friends for the weekend after studying at the library but ­accidentally gets locked in.

No problem. Jeff, her soon-to-be ­boyfriend, will soon realise that she was left behind and return for her. Only he doesn't come. Nobody does.

Then, she realises that she is not alone. Dax Miller from school is also locked in – only he seems to be have prepared for it, complete with sleeping bag and stuff.

It soon becomes clear that Autumn would have to spend the weekend living off ­whatever food she finds, and dealing with Dax.

The problem is, Dax has a bad reputation. Rumoured to have been in juvenile ­detention, he's a loner, and not the easiest person to get along with. Adding to that is the fact that Autumn has anxiety issues.

How they gradually open up to each other is interesting, and the sidebar of the reactions from Jeff and Autumn's friends is kept lively and amusing.

Not a bad specimen of teenage romance at its cheesiest.]]>
Reviews Wed, 13 Sep 2017 09:38:43 +0000 K.K. Wong 481742 at
Book review: Thick as thieves
Kamet is a slave held in high regard by his master, Nahuseresh, the emperor's nephew.

Although not a f­reeman, Kamet is educated and ambitious. He has ­authority over other slaves and ­servants, and is being groomed by his master to be presented as a gift to the future emperor.

He is content with his fate, as this will make him one of the richest and most powerful figures in the ­empire.

One day, Kamet meets an Attolian soldier who offers the slave a chance at freedom, which inadvertently leads him away from his ­perceived future.

The book follows the ­journey and the ­interactions of these two ­different individuals – one a literate slave, and the other a loyal soldier.

The two form an unlikely friendship, ­complementing each other's strengths and weaknesses on their travel to "backward" ­Attolia.

We later find out that ­Eugenides, the King of Attolia, wants to steal Kamet from Nahuseresh out of spite.

Turner weaves seemingly ­insignificant ­details throughout the book, that all cleverly fall into place as Kamet and the ­Attolian near the end of their journey.

She certainly does not ­disappoint with Thick as Thieves, leaving more ­breadcrumbs at the end to make you eager for the next instalment.]]>
Reviews Wed, 13 Sep 2017 09:40:59 +0000 Marion ­Fernando 481744 at
Book review: Yesterday
This condition makes the people avid users of electronic diaries where they store all their daily activities and observations.

The story centres around Mark (a Duo) and his wife Claire (a Mono), who are seen as a prime example of a successful mixed marriage. However, when a woman is found dead near their home and Mark is linked to her, their happy marriage starts to crumble.

The officer assigned to the case is Hans Richardson, a man with his own secrets, who now has to race against the clock to solve the murder of the woman who was not mentally stable to begin with.

The story takes some getting used to initially, but as it progresses, you begin to realise that people adapt to change in their own way, and remember only what they want to remember.

Yap throws in an interesting plot twist and essentially reminds us that the truth is not always how one remembers it.]]>
Reviews Wed, 30 Aug 2017 04:43:46 +0000 S. Indra Sathiabalan 476438 at
Movie review : Birth of the Dragon
I did get that story, but not in the way I expected.
Set in 1960s San Fransisco, years before Lee made his iconic appearance in Enter the Dragon, it tells the story of Lee, a man full of ­confidence to bring kung fu to the West.

He teaches it to all who walk through the doors of his school. However, his brand of Wing Chun is crass, and lacks elements of ­spirituality.

Then enters Shaolin master Wong. After giving in to his pride and almost killing a tai chi master during a sparring ­presentation in Hong Kong, he travels to the US to repent for his sins and remind himself of ­humility by working as a dishwasher.

Wong represents the old way that gives weight to inner spirituality and peace, while Lee is the embodiment of brash ­arrogance open to the world.

Because of their different ideals, Lee ­convinces himself that Wong has come to confront him for ­teaching kung fu to non-Chinese.

If only Lee and Wong had remained the focus of this movie, then we could have an entertaining story.

Instead, it adds in the plot of how a guy named Steve McKee (Magnussen) wants to get it on with Xiulan Quan (Qu Jingjing).

McKee is one of Lee's ­students and is your typical all-­American guy. After a chance encounter with Xiulan, he becomes infatuated with the girl, who knows ­Chinese medicine, has taught herself English, and who aspires to learn western medicine but gets tricked into becoming a servant for the triads instead.

When Lee refuses to help ­McKee, the boy goes to Wong and becomes his student ­instead.

Almost every motivation in the movie, from how the two martial arts masters meet, to why they agree to fight and the fall of the triads, has a direct connection to McKee's ­obsession with Xiulan – which is pretty ridiculous.

Cut out McKee and Xiulan, and you'll have a great movie with decent action, a captivating story, and, to my surprise, good acting.

I give points to Ng for providing a convincing performance, and being able to transition from being a jerk to a good friend and ­philosopher.

Points also go to Yu who played the cool monk whose subtle ­expressions conveyed his shift of emotions between pride, anger, realisation, and peace.

It's a pity Birth of The Dragon misses its mark completely.]]>
Reviews Tue, 29 Aug 2017 05:33:21 +0000 Azizul Rahman Ismail 476058 at
Book Review : Born to Dance
It's a sweet story about friendship and sacrifices, and author Ure keeps things light and interesting while giving a life lesson to ponder upon.

Maddy is from a family of ballet dancers. Her father is a famous choreographer, and her mother a lead dancer who has since opened her own ballet school. Her brother is a star, and even her sister, who is married and heavily pregnant, was a dancer of ­significance in her heyday.

Maddy herself is on her way to the top but for now, she has to practise and get through school. So it is not ­surprising that she recognises talent when she sees it.
Caitlyn is an extremely shy new girl, but the way she carries herself is a dead giveaway and Maddy can't be happier to have a kindred spirit.

However, Caitlyn denies that she is a dancer, but when Maddy discovers her secretly practising ­ballet, she realises there is more to Caitlyn's story than meets the eye.

When she finally finds out the truth, Maddy is determined to step in before the ballet world loses a potential star.

All very predictable fare and yet, highly entertaining. This is simplicity at its best.]]>
Reviews Thu, 24 Aug 2017 04:54:32 +0000 K.K. Wong 474425 at
Book Review: 16th Seduction
Then her marriage is sent into a tailspin when she suspected her husband Joe was involved in four ­murders after he went missing.

She is separated from Joe now, but has agreed to go to dinner with him on their wedding ­anniversary. The two are enjoying their meal on one of the many piers in the city when there is an explosion at a neighbouring pier.

When Lindsay and Joe rush to investigate, Lindsay finds a man standing watching the ­destruction. She goes over to him, and he ­confesses to the bombing.

After a night in jail, the suspect wakes up the next morning and ­recants his ­confession. He also denies it's ever ­happened.

Both Lindsay and Joe have witnessed his confession the night before but neither one of them recorded it.
As Lindsay heads the ­investigation to find evidence to convict the suspect, he demands a speedy trial instead.

Again, Patterson takes the readers on a journey of deadly conspiracy, offering them ­another compelling read.

As for the other women in Patterson's Women's Murder Club, Claire finds a dead body she thinks fits the pattern of a serial killer that has been flying under the radar, while Yuki ­returns to the DA's office in order to try the bombing case.

Although Cindy only gets a small space in ­beginning of the book, she does get more towards the end.

The friendships of these women ­remain intact, and what little conflict these friends have is eventually resolved in an adult manner.

The 16th Seduction, by all accounts, is another compelling read from the master of intrigue.]]>
Reviews Thu, 24 Aug 2017 04:40:36 +0000 M.L.M. 474421 at