The Agency (Mary Quinn Mystery)

By Y S Lee

Mary, a fugitive with ambiguous heritage and past, she escaped her death and found a normal life in an all girl school. She enjoyed a stable life but at 17, she wanted more. Being a teacher wasn’t enough. So, she became a spy.

The Agency 1: A Spy in the House by Y S LeeMary Russell (Mrs. Holmes, The Beekeepers Apprentice) had recommended The Agency in her tweet. One look at the description, I knew I had to read them. And I was almost out of commission until I was done with book 1 and 2.

Ying’s writing spirited me away to a Victorian England I didn’t know. I didn’t know the Chinese were treated as badly as they were in the States, I didn’t even know there were Chinese living in England then.

The story intrigued me because of Ying’s idea for The Agency itself. Women were still viewed as property at the time, rich or poor. And the working class females made perfect spies since people ignore them as if they were invisible.

The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower By Y S LeeAlthough we have seen similar ideas before (when you really want to know the truth, ask the servants) but none was depicted from an active point of view.

The story moved me because I, too, know how it feels to be Chinese and non-Chinese in the western society. I was much luckier that I didn’t suffer discrimination but the internal struggles of fitting myself into a specific race is the same.

If you haven’t been in our shoes, you might never understand this. It’s very strange but I feel more Chinese when I am with Americans and I feel like an American when I am with Chinese.

Life is easier for me than for Mary, since I am free to think that it’s OK to be both at the same time. All I need to do was to be OK with it myself. After that, it doesn’t matter what other people think.

How many books have you read that taught you history, transported your mind, and echoed with your essence?

The Manual of Detection

By Jedediah Berry

“The four second hands on the four faces of the clock trembled between numbers. The insides of Unwin’s ever-wound wrist-watch seized.”

“…the clocks remembered themselves…”

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah BerryWho writes like that?
Someone I should learn from!

In a few sentences, I knew this wasn’t your typical gumshoe, Dick Tracy, Guy Noir style detective story.

The main character, by the book, I’m not a detective, Charles Unwin, was a clerk given a promotion he didn’t want. And in pursuit of his old job, he broke many rules, solved many cases at once, rekindled old feud, and ran away with the circus and still got to be a clerk.

Why is this a good story? It wasn’t just the way Jedediah titled each chapter like it is an actual chapter in The Manual of Detection; it wasn’t the way he embedded the clues so I couldn’t skip a word (not that I ever had the urge to do so), it was the way he made me worry about Unwin when I wasn’t reading the book.

As I had to go along in tasks that provide me shelter and provisions, my heart was wandering in the rainy city, hoping Unwin’s umbrella would keep him safe and dry while I raced through my work so I could rejoin him on his journey.

Being a writer in progress, I must remember, perhaps file a report as a clerk, to never become arrogant when I write, to always be considerate of the readers, and no matter how complicated the story is, leave no details unanswered.

Transformation

By Ainslie MacLeod

Transformation by Ainslie MacLeod
I read Ainslie’s first book “Instructions” a few years back, knew that I can’t meditate well enough to hear from my Spiritual Guides. So, before I read “Transformation” I took this online test to figure out what my pass life fears might be. As it turned out, I was most effected by the pass-life fear of powerlessness and failure.

The fear of failure explains my boundless curiosity and my drive to learn. And the fact that I prefer doing to playing might be caused by dying before I could accomplished my life plans.

The fear of powerlessness explain my need to preserve my freedom. When I was younger, I always resented people who gave me unsolicited advice then get angry with me when I didn’t comply. The other symptom is the need for control. In my other life as a designer, I used to argue with my clients because I didn’t the changes they requested. It took me a few years but now I just try them out, changed it back when those didn’t work out. Life is so much better this way.

In “Transformation,” Ainslie supplied ways to over come your past-life fear. He also brought us a positive message from his Spirit Guides.

They said that the Transformation (to a more spiritual and harmonious world) is happening no matter what. And I for one and glad that I seem to be on the path with this big change.

To the old and young souls out there, I wish the best for us all and may the Transformation be completed soon!

What If Mary Russell Met Flavia de Luce?

I had just finished reading “The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag” by Alan Bradley, and started on “The Moor” by Laurie R. King.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan BradlyFor some reason, I thought, what if Flavia de Luce bumped into Mary Russell on a hill like how Mary met Holmes? Would Flavia find Mary an old and strange person?

Since no one else in Flavia’s life seemed to be interested in her “elemental explorations” and otherwise, Mary’s presence would be a great comfort to her, like Holmes was to Mary.

I believe Mary can see through Flavia’s innocent act and perhaps stop Flavia from all her attempts to poison her sisters. And may be Flavia would come to see Mary as a mother/grand mother and a teacher.

the moor by Laurie R. KingAnd because of their brilliant minds and adventurous spirit, they will get a long well. Flavia won’t think Mary is stupid and Mary won’t get frustrated waiting for Flavia to catch on. And although they both are strong-willed, with a 40-year age difference, Mary would have the wisdom to tame Flavia’s rebellious nature.

I hope they will meet someday, with Flavia on her bike and Mary on her walk, on a green hill somewhere outside of London, some time in the past.

When You Reach me

By Rebecca Stead

when you reach me by Rebecca SteadA few chapter into this book, the main character, Miranda, talked about her favorite book “A Wrinkle in Time.” And by divine intervention or serendipity, I had just read it. Should’ve known it was a hint about what was happening to Miranda early in the book though.

Though the mysterious notes held the biggest surprise in the story, I like the way Rebecca brought in many aspects of a 6 grader’s life. Her friendships with new and old people, her relationship with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend.

And the way she showed what Miranda think of herself brought out something that I am still struggling with sometimes, things like I am not smart enough, not pretty enough.

Although “When You Reach Me” was written for children, I think adults will be intrigue by it as well.

A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

It’s incredible how A Wrinkle in Time, a sci-fi/fantasy published in 1962, is still fresh and relevant.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleThe first time “IT” was mentioned in the book, I read it as “I”, “T”, like the department you call when your network or computer died at work.

Near the end of the story, we found it IT is a powerful brain, a tyrant, that imposes logical yet unreasonable rule in the name of equality. And the reason IT is so is because no one loves IT. What I got from the book is that having a brain without a heart will lead to darkness.

As Information Technology develops, people seems to be more distant. You often see a group of people sitting together but they are all on the computer or their cell. Granted you can connect with people far away but if you are not more aware, you might become disconnected to yourself.

The other thing I liked was how Mag Murry (the heroine) realizes that she expects other people to do what she thinks is needed because she avoids fixing it herself. And when it didn’t work out, she blames people and complains that nothing is being done.

Luckily, I have learned a few years ago that if you want things/people to change, you have to change yourself first. And the funny thing is, once you change yourself, it didn’t matter if those things/people changed or not.

Madeleine L’Engle wrote with a brain and a heart. As I go on and write my own stories, I am inspired to carry the same sensibility between my words.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A Flavia de Luce Mystery
by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce is a 11-year-old year who knows her poisons. Her love of chemistry and her unstoppable curiosity brought me back to my childhood.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce MysteryShe is a typical girl who hates her older sisters but she is unique because she applies what she knows to all the problems she encounters. In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, her quest for answers helped her understand her father as a human and solve two murder cases at once.

Although I admire her spunkiness and intelligence, I find it a little difficult to like her since there is darkness in her personality. She reminds me of Dr. Temperance Brennan from the TV series, Bones. And to see the same traits in a young girl reminds me to consider each child as a individual.

I enjoyed going on the detective adventure with Flavia and hope she will grow into a well-rounded lady who chooses to use her power for good.

The City & The City

by China Mieville

The City & The City by China MievilleI found this book hard to read, mostly because I don’t know if the words I don’t understand are made up or not. (Brought back painful memories of reading The Lord of The Rings before my English was good enough for it.)

The concept of two cities occupying the same location where people from one city has to UNSEE the people from the other was interesting but if I didn’t remember Nancy Pearl’s intro to the book, I’d think I need to retake all of my English classes.

Other things that bothered me about this concept is that drivers have to avoid cars from the other city and unsee them at the same time. Perhaps I missed the explanation/description somewhere…

The story itself was slow at first but once it brought in the BREACH (power that is higher than both cities) it flowed better. However, since I have to guess about how the cities work and how the murder happened at the same time, it took me a long time to finish the book.

The overall idea is original and intriguing just wish I was able to catch up with the language. For fantasy/sci-fi readers, this is a good one to try.