Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei, Jeremy Tiang (Translated by)

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This book can be found here on Goodreads and here on Amazon

This ARC was provided for review from the publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review

This book features the following topics/genres – Fiction / Cyberbullying / Hacking / Suicide

Publisher’s release date: 18 February 2020

“Are you brave enough to die?” – Siu Man’s killer

The premise for this book follows the oldest daughter in a family of two, Nga-Yee, who loses her younger sister to suicide. The problem is Nga-Yee doesn’t believe her sister would do such a thing and as the story progresses, she begins her own investigation into the darkness behind her sister’s death and to the possibility that someone had purposefully targeted her sister. Bigger questions arise, such as why was her sister being targetted and bullied in the first place? Had she done something wrong? Was her sister’s innocence all a facade? Did she really know her sister at all?

The character of Nga-Yee could literally be any older sister doing what’s best for her sibling. The backdrop to the story is the city of Hong Kong in 2015, and at this point in time, the thought of a young person being cyberbullied isn’t all that uncommon. It is the landscape with which most young people are expected to traverse in the digital age. It is something that shouldn’t be a normal occurrence but happens more often than people would like to admit. Nga-Yee is definitely way out of her league with this unfortunate circumstance she now finds herself in, and there’s no way she’s going to be able to uncover the truth without help from outside sources. And that is when the story really starts to fly!

Nga-Yee as a character is mostly well-written. She is a very loyal and dutiful daughter on the surface, but she doesn’t really strike me as the very “sisterly” type. As the story continues, we begin to unravel not only Siu Man’s past but also the skeletons in other people’s closets, including Nga-Yee. The author provides us with a microscopic look at the relationships that Siu Man had, and how each one impacted her life, whether that was for the better or for the worst. This is definitely one of the finer aspects of the book and a credit to the author. I was happy to experience a story that covered all the bases and didn’t leave anything out forcing me to fill in the gaps. It allows you, as the reader, to get a much better understanding of the world in which these characters inhabit and the consequences of their actions both on themselves and each other. It’s very powerful writing.

Which brings me to the character only known as “N”. Right from the beginning, N is a complex character and an important one. He is the only reason why Nga-Yee is able to discover the truth behind her sister’s death. N is the life-line for Nga-Yee, even if she chooses to ignore that fact. Their relationship is very hot and cold, funny and annoying all at once. Nga-Yee’s incessant badgering of N does get a little tiresome (as it happens in almost every interaction between them) and this is the least likeable trait of Nga-Yee’s character.

The identity of Siu Man’s killer is obviously the main driver behind the plot. I liked how the author doesn’t make it easy for you to discover who was responsible for Siu Man’s death. It’s not at all obvious. Putting together the identity of the “bad guy” was like putting together a puzzle, some pieces fit perfectly while others lead nowhere, much like Nga-Yee’s investigation. I found myself asking questions throughout – will the killer be discovered and if so, how? The questions alone are enough to keep your eyes glued to the pages.

The use of technology is also a huge driver behind the story progression. I found this aspect of the book extremely interesting, and it kept me invested right until the very end. Not every book you read can do this, in fact, quite a lot of books don’t. To have something as interesting as this to sink my teeth into helped to make the experience all the better (as I am a huge fan of anything tech-related). The use of mobile phones as a catalyst in this story is great and sets up the “stage” for N to begin doing his thing and slowly unravelling the clues to finding out the killer’s identity. There are a lot of hacking references throughout the book which the author does a fine job of breaking down for you, just in case you’re not a tech-head. Understanding how N is able to obtain the information he acquires is quite a crucial part of understanding the nature of the world that Siu Man lived in and how alienated Nga Yee felt about it all. Once N was able to provide solid leads for Nga-Yee, it soon becomes clear how out of her depth she really was and how much she relied on N to close the gaping wound in her life caused by her sister’s untimely demise.

The information that is eventually uncovered leads back to almost everyone Siu Man was involved with, including friends, acquaintances, teachers and others who didn’t seem to have any connection at all to Siu Man. Or did they? The most interesting aspect of this is just how many people Siu Man connected with. No stone is left unturned. This is the very heart of the story, where everything really does become quite twisted and even more thrilling! If you’re interested in reading about how much of an influence technology can have on our everyday lives mixed up with a twisted, modern-day thriller, this book will not disappoint. Definitely, one of my favourite books to read this year.

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Book Review Requests and a quote from Stephen King

I haven’t been reviewing books for very long but I have reviewed multiple other types of media such as video games, manga, anime, movies and graphic novels. While I wouldn’t say that once you review one thing, you can just do the same with any media you review, it is a skill that I’ve honed over the years and is something that takes practice just like anything else. So, I am quite surprised to be receiving book review requests already considering I haven’t reviewed a lot of books thus far. I started a book blog on Tumblr and I have been approached to review a writer’s book from there, which surprised me.

It does feel nice to be approached to review something but I am very aware of my time constraints and other obligations that I have. I had to advise the author that I would be able to look at it once I get my list of review books completed first. Speaking of that, I had a few days off from pretty much everything because I needed it but I will have my next review of Second Sister up shortly. And then I’m hitting both Lurking and Meeting Boudicca next.

Here’s a neat little quote from Stephen King that I saw on Tumblr that I thought would be nice to leave with you all for contemplation:

No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don’t.

 

How could I not have known about this book?! “Find Me” by Andre Aciman

If you haven’t heard of “Call Me By Your Name” by now, you’re probably living under a rock 🤣

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I did not read the book but the movie moved me so very much that to discover there is a follow-up book is astounding and exciting!

I’ll be adding to this to my ever-growing list of books to read now. While the cover doesn’t have Elio or Oliver on it, I’m still intrigued enough by the synopsis to want to read this book. I need to know what happened to Elio and Oliver and whether or not their love was truly something that could stand the test of time. Don’t you?

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New book to review – “Meeting Boudicca” by C. A. Powell

Now that I’ve received the review copy from the author, I can talk about another book to add to my review list from Book Tasters. I’m taking a little bit of a step away from cybercrime and cybersecurity and throwing myself into historical fiction (which I love!) The book is by author C. A. Powell. It’s called “Meeting Boudicca” about a fictional meeting between two British queens during the Roman invasion of Britain.

Here’s the animated cover I just made for it:

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Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Queen Boudicca is defeated. Her Iceni and other British allies are dead or fleeing from the vengeance of unmerciful Rome. The British rebellion is over. The beaten Iceni Warrior queen has gone into hiding and awaits her poison elixir which will aid her departure from life while the waiting druids wish to bury her in a secret place.
However, before Boudicca can complete her final and drastic act; a messenger arrives with news of a potential alliance. The Brigantes Queen Cartimandua may be able to offer a new pact against Rome. This is confusing because Cartimandua is loyal to Rome and has betrayed other Britons who fought Rome in the past.

Cartimandua is equally perplexed. She has no desire to aid Boudicca and fears the Iceni queen. Could both sovereigns be pawns in another participants’ ploy? To find the culprits of the conspiracy, Cartimandua chooses to indulge the inappropriate consultation of two very different British queens.

I have to say that I’ve been fairly blessed with really good books to review lately and I’m so looking forward to reading them and sharing them all over social media😁 (and here, of course!)

Animated Cover – Second Sister

I make a lot of animated images – and I figured, why not try this with book covers that I like? So today, I decided I would do this for my Instagram account which I just recently started – I’ll be adding it to my blog very soon.

In the meantime, here is the edited and animated book cover for the book I am currently reviewing – and I can tell you it’s fantastic! I can’t wait to write my review

Let me know what you think:

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Book Review Update – December 2019

Hi everyone. Here’s another quick update just to keep any of my followers who care about books and writing in the know. I have added a few books to my “reviewing” list – the first is this book which I am now currently reading:

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IMAGE VIA GOODREADS

GOSSIP, RUMOUR, REVENGE…

Second Sister by author Chan Ho-Kei. I am quite excited to read this because this book deals with a few topics I am very passionate about and interested in – cyberbullying and cybersecurity. The story begins with a young woman named Nga-Yee who has her world turned upside down with the sudden and very unexpected suicide of her younger sister, Siu-Man. Nga-Yee is adamant that her sister would never commit suicide and begins her own investigation into the events that led up to her sister’s untimely death. What she discovers leads her to a hacker she knows only by his first initial, N. And you’ll just have to either read the book yourself or wait for my review for the rest!

I also discovered that this book has another title and different cover art as well. This version of the book is called “In the Net”with a pretty blue and white cover:

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IMAGE VIA AMAZON

 

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IMAGE VIA AMAZON

 

The second book on my review list is “Lurking – How a Person Became a User”by author Joanne McNeil. Here is part of the synopsis from Goodreads:

In Lurking, Joanne McNeil digs deep and identifies the primary (if sometimes contradictory) concerns of people online: searching, safety, privacy, identity, community, anonymity, and visibility. She charts what it is that brought people online and what keeps us here even as the social equations of digital life—what we’re made to trade, knowingly or otherwise, for the benefits of the internet—have shifted radically beneath us. It is a story we are accustomed to hearing as tales of entrepreneurs and visionaries and dynamic and powerful corporations, but there is a more profound, intimate story that hasn’t yet been told.

Doesn’t that sound amazingly interesting? I can’t wait to review/read it and share it here with you all.

Book Review – Under Lying by Janelle Harris

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This book can be found here on Goodreads and here on Amazon

This book covers the following topics and/or genres – Fiction / Thriller / Suspense

Under Lying is a suspense-thriller that focuses on the sudden disappearance of a couple’s little girl. Susan and Paul’s daughter Amelia goes missing during a house-warming party. After Amelia’s disappearance, the relationship between Susan and her husband slowly begins to disintegrate. Paul appears as if he is pointing the finger of blame at Susan and others. There are a lot of moving “parts” at this point in the book, a lot of characters and actions to consider with nothing looking too obvious. Other minor characters are introduced during the party such as Helen, a neighbour that seems friendly and supportive of Susan during the ordeal.

The book is split into two timelines, the past and the present. I wasn’t too keen on the flicking back and forth between the two. I would have preferred that the author didn’t separate the timelines and rather integrated the past into the present without having to define it in separate chapters. I think this segregates the flow of the story way too much and is almost distracting.

In the past timeline, Susan is a student with a twin brother, also a student. Susan’s brother, Adam, goes out to get champagne for their 21st party, and a terrible accident kills him. Susan goes through the various phases of grief, even attending a bereavement group at her old primary school to try and cope with the loss. This is where we meet Jenny, also coping with loss in her life and the two become friends.

I found it hard to feel sympathy for Susan. Early on in the book, I felt nothing but an annoyance for her. I understand this character has endured a lot, but for some reason, she reads like she is just overly-needy and I find that aspect of her difficult to like. Losing a child is a severe topic to tackle, and I commend the writer for choosing this as a foundation for the book. It’s abundantly clear early on in the current timeline that Susan is either very good at acting like she’s grieving for her daughter or entirely truthful about it. I think this aspect of Susan’s personality is both the best and the worst part about her. I also would have thought that after losing a brother as a teenager and a twin at that, Susan would be slightly more experienced in dealing with this level of grief.

Turning to the husband, Paul, he isn’t as engaging as Susan, but there is an air of “what the hell is going on” with him throughout the first half of the book that keeps you wondering about his motivation. Lots of questions arise, which is mirrored in the actions of the detectives assigned to solve the case.

The first major twist in the story comes about half-way through the book, and it’s not very subtle either. I did feel that there was a bit of a “jump” in the plot development, almost like the author was trying to rush through the rest of the story to get to the end. That said, this particular plot twist does what it was intended to do, which is to catch you completely off-guard. It seemed a little “out of nowhere”, but I think the author fully intended for this to happen and for the most part, it works well.

There are several twists throughout this book, but I didn’t feel the others were as impactful as the first. Susan doesn’t escape my original thoughts about her which makes it a lot easier to get behind the person she became as the plot progresses. By the end of the book, I expected to feel a little more relieved than I did, relieved that the story was over and that I didn’t have to continue reading about a character I didn’t enjoy.

I was a tad disappointed at the end as the book had so much promise, which kind of dwindled right after the first twist is revealed. I found myself more invested in the main character than the character deserved. And the ending felt like something was missing or unfinished – perhaps unfinished business or justice unserved.

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