Ransom Riggs

My 2015 in Books

It’s that time of the year again! Here’s a brief review of all the books I read in 2015:

1. Crazy Rich series by Kevin Kwan
It consists of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Crazy Rich Girlfriend”. It talks about these super duper rich Asian families that compete with each other, who’s richer than who. I don’t know if I should call this a guilty pleasure, because it’s just pleasure, living vicariously through these Richie Riches. The characters are a bit flat, but I don’t mind, because in the end what matters is the extravaganza and the lavish way they spend money. It’s pretty much a mild social commentary on rich Singaporeans and Chinese. The most interesting part is, Kevin Kwan actually visited the expensive places for research. I hope the royalty pays him well.

2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I was looking for a light and simple novel to read, so why not a teen romance? This book was referred a lot in pop sites, it was a natural choice. I guess the story is not bad. How Park and Eleanor came to fall in love with each other is not convincing enough though.

3. Delirium series by Lauren Oliver
It consists of “Delirium”, “Pandemonium”, and “Requiem”. Again, I was missing some good YA action and desperate to read a good one. I’d been seeing this series in a lot of places, so I decided to read it. It has everything a YA story usually has, but the whole fighting-for-love thing falls a bit cheesy for me. It’s not as epic as I hoped it would be.

4. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt
I love this book to bits, not only because I’m a Google fangirl, but it also offers new perspective on how to run a company effectively. Of course, they only could get away with it, because they have a lot of resources in Google, but we still can learn a thing or two from them, especially on breakthrough recruitment method.

5. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Overall, it’s an ok book. It’s sweet, because on the surface it’s about books and bookstores, but not much so. There’s also a touch of technology (ie. Google) on their quest to decipher centuries old codes hidden in books.

6. Koala Kumal (Dirty Koala) by Raditya Dika
I’ve always read his book. I used to think he had interesting insights. But this latest release of his is a disappointing one. It’s loaded with heteronormativity and homophobia, and there’s even one line straight out of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” without any credit or mention. I wonder if his books have always been this way, but I wasn’t critical enough to notice them. Too lazy to reread his old books now.

7. Malay Sketches by Alfian Sa’at
Have I told you that I collect local books from every country I visit? This one is from Singapore. It’s written by a Malay Singaporean, and it’s basically a whole book of social commentary on the sistemic racism experienced by the Malays in Singapore. It’s sharp, but not vulgar. I became an instant fan.

8. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
It took me a long time to finish this book. I don’t get what the story is. I understand the plot, but I can’t comprehend what it’s trying to say.

9. Please Look After Mom by Kyungsook Shin
Another addition in my books-around-the-world collection. This one is from South Korea. It’s about this Korean family whose mother suddenly went missing. They went all over Seoul to look for her. From this book, I got to peek how a child is raised in Korea and what’s expected of them. There’s some similarities to family values in Indonesia.

10. Ayah (Father) by Andrea Hirata
The book I waited for so long. It’s still about residents of Gantong, Belitong. It’s still very much in the style of Hirata’s, but the overall story didn’t touch me the way his previous books did. Is it because it’s not about Ikal? Hirata talked about new characters this time, and what it means to be a father. But somehow, it feels like a Belitong version of Forrest Gump, only it’s more poetic.

11. Pines by Blake Crouch
I watched Wayward Pines because M. Night Shyamalan was producing it. The series itself was draggy, but the concept intrigued me enough to look for the book. It’s definitely a mindboggling one. When you start reading, you’re not sure if it’s a mystery, horror, crime, scifi, or other. It’s definitely a chilling one. At least once or twice it’ll scare you a bit.

12. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This one is a teenage romance with substance. It mainly talks about depression, without the sugarcoating. Niven wrote it like is, that depression is not romantic, it’s an illness, and it needs medication. I guess it’s a depressing story. I had a lot of things to wonder about when I finished the book.

13. Bumi (Earth) series by Tere Liye
It consists of “Bumi (Earth)” and “Bulan (Moon)”. The next sequel is not out yet. I had no idea who Tere Liye was, but a lot of his books were displayed in Gramedia. Bumi got my eye because the cover looked like a proper fantasy novel, and the synopsis was great. The main character is a girl called Raib who can disappear. The witty part is, ‘raib’ means ‘disappear’ in Indonesian. Of course I bought it immediately. I’m always ready to appreciate Indonesian fantasy novels. As it turns out, Tere Liye is not that good of a storyteller. His writing is not bad, good command of Indonesian, but his story has plotholes played by flat characters. It’s obvious he doesn’t read that many good books.

14. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
I read this because it won Best Novel in all prestigious science fiction awards. It was that hard to believe. As soon as I finished it, I no longer questioned why it was Best Novel everywhere. Russell Letson wrote in in Locus that this is not an entry level science fiction. I can’t help but agree with him. I think I only understood what’s going on in the middle of the book. Reading it took quite a concentration, but it paid off.

15. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
It consists of “City of Bones”, “City of Ashes”, “City of Glass”, “City of Fallen Angels”, “City of Lost Souls”, “City of Heavenly Fire”. I became a fan of this series quickly. Quickly. After browsing titles after titles, I finally found a great YA series. It’s pure YA: romance, adventure, epic worldbuilding, and magic. Cassandra Clare did her research extremely well, and it shows in her worldbuilding. Everything is solid. Clary is also a strong and smart female heroine, whose priority is not only about boys. Too bad the movie was bad. But good lord Godfrey Gao is HOT. They’re now making a TV series out of it called “Shadowhunters” and I can’t wait for it. Harry Shum, Jr.’s in it as Magnus!

16. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
This is the prequel to The Mortal Instruments, set in the Victorian era. I’m not a fan of the era. I find it not colorful enough. Needles to say, the book bored me, even though it was filled with familiar characters. I haven’t been interested to read the sequel yet.

17. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. It’s a psychological thriller all right, but in a deeper kind of way, because it’s essentially about marriage.

18. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso
Business books are much better than self-help ones. Amoruso’s journey until she became a billionaire is an inspiring one. She did everything, hands on, neck deep in her own business. Her value is clear. She could see what she wanted and she made sure that her employees see it too.

19. Eve: Memoirs of An International Sex Worker by Annika Cleeve
I thought this memoir would be steamy, but it’s not. It actually talks about sex as a commodity. I found it to be quite humbling. Especially when Cleeve compared herself (a prostitute) with girls who flirt with guys to get free drinks. She called that kind of girls ‘gin & tonic hooker’.

20. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
The last installment of the Peculiar Children series! We got to know more about the universe and why their talents are different. I’m satisfied with the ending, and of course, the collection of vintage pictures. I can’t wait to see Asa Butterfield starring in the film, made by Tim Burton!

21. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Amy, my hero! This memoir of hers is so fun, I wonder why I found Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” not as entertaining. I got to learn a thing or two from Amy’s writing. But the biggest service this book did me was encouraging me to watch Parks & Recreation. Yup, I’ve finished all 7 seasons of the series and I LOVE IT. Ugh some people are just so talented and write really well. ;;

22. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
This memoir pissed me off a bit. She’s only older than me by a few years and I don’t like her telling me what to do, acting like she’s figured it out, when we’re all still in this together. Besides, if you read closely, there aren’t that many experiences in this book. She wrote the same stories over and over again, but from different angles with different names. If you watch Girls, it’s basically the live action of this book. There’s a lot of her in that series. And nope, I really don’t like Hannah Horvath. She’s an ungrateful, spoiled brat.

23. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
I read the first 2 books, “The Eye of the World” and “The Great Hunt”. I finally got to read it! It’s a must read classic in the SFF genre, but I never had the energy to order the book online. Suddenly, I found the first book on sale, and it was only $3! After reading the first book, I found the second book at the same place for the same price! I think I was meant to read this epic adventure. Each book is at least 600 pages long and I finished both in a heartbeat. It’s that good! There’s a lot of magic and worldbuilding here, carried by many, distinct characters. There are 14 books in this series by the way. An endless adventure!

24. Bencana di Planet Poa (Disaster in Planet of Poa) by Djokolelono
It’s the first book in “Penjelajah Antariksa (Space Explorers)” series. I was so excited when I found the books in Gramedia. I didn’t know we have a scifi series here? And it was written in the 80s too! They reprinted the series and the book design is amazing. They put a lot of thought in it, and it shows on each chapter’s title illustration. The story itself has a lot of plotholes though, as many Indonesian books do, but I appreciate the scifi spirit.

The list above does not include all the mangas and graphic novels I read in 2015 though. I read a lot of them, Sandman, Ender’s Game, Master Keaton, etc. I also reread Orson Scott Card’s Shadow series, which I already discussed in last year’s review. And somehow the books did not appear on my Goodreads’ 2015 reading list. Is it because it’s a reread? And finally, time for my personal award!

– Best Book of the Year: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt
– Worst Book of the Year: Bulan by Tere Liye
– Best Fantasy Book of the Year: The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
– Worst Fantasy Book of the Year: Bulan by Tere Liye
– Most Recommended Book: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
– Most Recommended Collection: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
– Most Overrated: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
– Most Underrated: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
– Most Favorite: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

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My 2014 in Books

The list of books I read in 2014! My Goodreads Reading Challengen was set to 12 books, but I read 42 books instead. Here they are, along with a short review.

1. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
Review here.

2. Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer
Review here.

3. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Review here.

4. Why I Left Goldman Sachs by Greg Smith
Review here.

5. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
This is why I have to read outside of my comfort zone. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have read this book! I like how she incorporated her Indian roots in such an American novel. It gives me hope that other writers of color can go global too. Not to mention the story itself is good.

6. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Review here.

7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Review here.

8. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m not a fan of this book. All that I remember is it’s about a smart, virgin girl with an obsession of giving a guy a blowjob.

9. Under the Dome by Stephen King
I read a critic somewhere that King’s best craft is in depicting human nature, but not in resolutions. Under the Dome releases the monsters inside us as we crumble under pressure. A small town is trapped under a mysterious dome and everyone goes bananas. I love getting to know the characters and how they deal with the situation. The ending is not as epic as I’d like it to be, but the story is good, so I don’t really care.

10. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
It’s about a war veteran with PTSD. To be honest, I didn’t really get it. I have to read it again.

11. Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography by Lemony Snicket
Another puzzle in the mysterious life of Lemony Snicket. I love catching glimpses of his whole self in all of his books.

12. School of Fear #1 by Gitty Daneshvari
This book is too young for me. Maybe if I read it in elementary school, I would have liked it.

13. Entertainment Law in A Nutshell by Sherri L. Burr
Best introduction to entertainment law I’ve ever read so far. Very useful for students and entertainers who want to know more about the subject.

14. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Now I know why this book was recommended everywhere in 2013. It’s that good and such a mindblown. I didn’t know that we could write a novel this way.

15. The Circle by Dave Eggers
This book is definitely talking about Google and its good & evil potential in the society. I like it best because it’s not quite a dystopia story. The story tells a period when people is getting to the peak of making the world a better place, but they don’t see that once they reach that peak, they’ll decline into a dystopia.

16. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Nah, not my Gaiman favorite.

17. Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome by John Scalzi
I love it. It’s so interesting reading a history of how a certain disease has changed the face the world. It’s funny too!

18. Airframe by Michael Crichton
Crichton never disappoints. Airframe makes a fun and fresh leisure leading. It’s light but still mindboggling.

19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Nope. Nope. Nope. I honestly don’t understand what the hype is all about other than it captured the hedonism of the roaring 20s.

20. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Scalzi, funny as always. I like the point of view too, sending our senior citizens to war and defend humanity. I rarely see stories like this.

21. Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
EPIC. The resolution of the first Formic Wars. The characters that were indifferent to each other in the first two books set aside their differences to save the world. I love it. ♥

22. Gloriously Bright by Orson Scott Card
It’s practically a rereading of Xenocide. Not bad as its own story.

23. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I LOVE IT. And jealous at the same time. How could a man weave words so beautifully?

24. The Jacatra Secret by Rizky Ridyasmara
Please don’t waste your time reading this book.

25. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Basically the same as the movie, but with more elaboration on the characters’ state of minds leading up to their deaths.

26. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
I like it best for its tribute to great SF/F works that have contributed in making SF/F a more popular genre ♥ and yes, Joe Hill is such a good writer.

27. Rahasia Menulis Kreatif by Raditya Dika
So far, the most useful writing advice book I’ve ever read. Raditya Dika is simple, systematic, and straight to the point. He tells you what you can do and why you should do it.

28. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
I still don’t know what to make of JK Rowling’s detective series. She’s really good with characters, and this book is all about character development. The case itself is not so interesting.

29. World War Z by Max Brooks
For a portion of 2014 I was obsessed with zombies. This book is good. I love the report style it uses to tell the story. It’s not really about zombies either, but it’s how people rally in the face of a common enemy, and I love the book for it.

30. Lock In by John Scalzi
The worldbuilding is interesting and the story is funny. But it’s kind of predictable and the case is not that hard to solve either. I think it’ll make a good series though.

31. Schroder by Amity Gaige
It hit me straight in the chest at some parts, but other times, it’s meh.

32. How to Set Up and Run A Fashion Label by Toby Meadows
The title is self-explanatory. Very useful for beginners.

33. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
I fell in love with Hadfield because of this book. It’s like he’s lending me his eyes to see space and what we can do out there. Of course, I, the astronaut wanna-be, totally fell for it.

34. Gelombang by Dewi Lestari
Review here.

35. The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner (3 books)
Nope. I know that the movie is praised, but the books are typical young adult, and it’s not that epic either. The resolution is so disappointing. In the end, this trilogy talks about nothing.

36. Shouldn’t You Be In School by Lemony Snicket
It’s in this book that I finally appreciated how great a writer Daniel Handler is. He knows his words and what he’s doing with them. I’m jealous.

37. Attack on Titan #13 by Hajime Isayama
I only keep reading cos I want to know the ending. It’s so draggy up to this point.

38. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
The blurbs all say it’s funny, but I’m afraid my Indonesian humor doesn’t really get Semple’s American humor. It’s still a fun reading. I can relate to Bernadette and her anti social tendency.

39. Hidden Agenda by Jacob Julian
Along with The Jacatra Secret above, this book is proof of how poor our publishing is. I’ve seen so many poor Indonesian books, I can’t even blame the writers anymore. It’s because of the poor editing. We should raise our standard and actually demand our writers to be fluent in written Indonesian.

40. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
It raises immigrant issues in the USA, so no, I can’t really relate to it. The protagonist sounds whiny too. I don’t like him that much.

I don’t have a picture of the books I purchased in 2014 cos there are so many of them. But I always post my new purchase on Instagram under the tag #utislibrary. Credit card will be the death of me, you know.

Last but not least, my personal awards for my 2014 reading list.
– Best Book of the Year: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
– Worst Book of the Year: The Jacatra Secret by Rizky Ridyasmara
– Best Fantasy Book of the Year: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
– Worst Fantasy Book of the Year: The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner
– Most Recommended Book: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
– Most Recommended Collection: Lemony Snicket books
– Most Overrated: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
– Most Underrated: Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer
– Most Favorite: Rahasia Menulis Kreatif by Raditya Dika

I set my reading goal to 20 books this year. I’m not going to make a new wishlist cos I still haven’t fulfilled my 2014 one. I should really count how much I spend for books. This will dig a hole in my pocket.

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Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Ransom Riggs is back with the sequel of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children with new pictures, which are still as creepy as ever. In this book, Jacob and the surviving wards of Miss Peregrine’s continue their journey to help Miss Peregrine by finding other ymbrynes and time loops. They row their boat out of Cairn through the storm and get stranded in a seemingly abandoned island. But there they eventually find another time loop with peculiars in the form unlike any other. Animals! There is such thing as peculiar animals!

As I moved further into the book, it occurred to me that I’ve fallen in love with this peculiar universe so effortlessly. The secret crannies and nooks that Riggs threw across the world fascinated me to no end and I couldn’t help thinking how beautiful this universe that he’s created is. And technically, the story always moves forward, it taught me how to use words and sentences effectively. Fast-paced, and that’s how it should be. You know, I’d like to see him try to explain the time continuum he’s applied in the story, cos the time loops can get very confusing. So far, I just take it at face value, though my mind can’t help wandering to the time parallels it must have created.

Jacob himself also developed, not only in character, but also power. He was ignorant of his peculiar talent in the beginning, and he’s learning as he goes. It feels somehow majestic to witness Jacob’s discovery of his own power and how he deals with it. And the other children too. They’ve been children for almost a century, it’s intriguing to see their views of the world they’ve lived in compared the world out there, and how mature they could be dealing with the duality.

As for the packaging though, I have a few complaints. First of all, this book is heavy. Second of all and most importantly, the binding sucks. The spine is glued and it fell apart when I read it. That annoys me very much. I hope they’ll print it better for the third book. Yes, there’ll be another sequel.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

First published in 2011

Uti (a friend, not me talking to myself) made me read this creepy book ;~~~~~;

First time I saw the book on the shelf, I didn’t give it a second glance, because LOOK AT IT. It’s creepy.

But Uti still insisted on my reading the book, she even linked me the book teaser and the behind the scene footage.

And I was still right. It’s still creepy.

But curiosity got the best of me and I bought the book. Sasha went ballistic when she saw my new purchase. She quickly skimmed to the middle page and showed me a picture.

Everything happened so fast afterwards. I screamed. I fumbled for the book, slammed it shut, and threw it to the farthest corner of the drawer. Then I told myself to forget all about it.

However, I could feel the book calling me over and over again from under my bed where I kept it. I took a deep breath and took out the book. As long as I read it under the broad daylight and somewhere crowded, I would be okay. I read it during lunch. Opened the first page.

I hadn’t even started and I already wanted to cry. Thank you so much, Uti. -_-;;

But in the end, I’m glad I read it! For those who haven’t watched the trailer above, the story is about Jacob who started on a journey to figure out the truth of his grandfather’s past. Jacob’s grandfather told him that he used to live in an orphanage, where every child was peculiar. They all had supernatural powers. Jacob was sure both of them were going crazy, until he visited the orphanage and somehow he wasn’t sure that his grandfather was lying.

Oh dear, it’s a classic coming-of-age story that is beautifully written. It has everything you just got to have in a fantasy story: monsters, magical powers, and time travel. But what makes it so special? Ransom Riggs’ style is special. I like how Riggs didn’t dumb the writing down just because the book is for young adults. You can find several swearings in the book. And the children are all peculiar indeed, not only in their super powers, but also in their ancient personalities. But then, I also must mention the literary technique that Riggs used for this book: the old photographs.

The photographs used in this book are all real, fished out from the flea market, safe-kept in appropriate drawers of their collectors. In the new edition of the book, you can find short interviews of Riggs, in which he explained how he created the story out of the pictures and how both medium complete each other. The way Riggs writes has made the story seem real enough for me, the pictures turn everything even more vivid. I suppose the story isn’t actually as scary as I thought, but the pictures still change the whole reading experience.

All the elements you find in the book are nothing new in fantasy stories, but Riggs managed to keep it fresh by making Jacob, the main character, as blunt as possible. But if he didn’t put the pictures in between the pages, I’m afraid the book wouldn’t be that special. No, the book is not creepy, but the pictures are. In the end, I think it’s the reading experience that matters. I mean, how could you create something crazy out of something as conventional as reading books? I think Ransom Riggs is on the right track.

PS. Guess who’s making the movie. Yes. Tim Burton, baby.

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