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.

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 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.

Hex in High Heels

By Linda Wisdom

If you think all witches are ugly and green, you’d be wrong. Blair is sexy, powerful, and playful.

But what I love about Hex in High Heels is how Blair and her 12 witche friends are loyal to each other. Their friendships have lasted since the day they refused to tell on the other in 1313. Wow, that’s what I call BFF!

Hex in High Heels by Linda WisdomThe romance between Blair and Jake (a werewolf/dog) is strong not only because of their mutual physical attractions. Both are people with character, both trust and protect each other.

And the “magikal” creatures who live with Blair and her roommate are each interesting in its own ways. With everyone under one roof, it’s just a big family consist of eccentric members.

With the small town setting as the background, I’m very likely to become one of the tourists they welcome to their winter festival!

Linda has a way to make the imagined place and people real. Reading this book has inspired me as I write my first fantasy/romance short.

The Enchantment Emporium

The Enchantment EmporiumI discover this book and Tanya Huff via the recommendation in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine.

Maybe it was because English is my second language and that I am also new to the fantasy genre, the first chapter of The Enchantment Emporium was hard to read, too many people, too many things happening. However, I got the feel of the craziness of a large family getting together, especially when I also came from a similar family.

Then the story moves on without missing a beat. Her style seems choppy and unlike other books I have read. It took me a while to read at my normal speed. But once I got used to it, I had to force myself not to pick up the book until I was done working.

What I like the most of this book is that although there are dragons, wizard, leprechaun, and supernatural forces, everything else is something we have encountered in our own lives.

Finding MagicAfter I finished The Enchantment Emporium, I became curious about her other writings. Among her short stories in Finding Magic, my favorite story is “I knew a guy once.” Her talents and skills allow her to tell stories in many different tones and methods, great examples for a new writer like me.