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Heart Of Glass Paperback – 30 Jun 2018
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About the Author
Ivy Ngeow was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A graduate of the Middlesex University Writing MA programme, Ivy won the 2005 Middlesex University Press Literary Prize out of almost 1,500 entrants worldwide. She has written non-fiction for Marie Claire, The Star, the New Straits Times, South London Society of Architects' Newsletter and Wimbledon magazine. Her fiction has appeared twice in Silverfish New Writing anthologies, in The New Writer and on the BBC World Service. Most recently, her story was published by Fixi Novo in an anthology, Hungry in Ipoh. Her first novel, Cry of the Flying Rhino, was the winner of the international 2016 Proverse Prize and was published in November 2017 in Hong Kong. Ivy won first prize in the Commonwealth Essay Writing Competition 1994, first prize in the Barnes and Noble Career Essay Writing competition 1998, and was shortlisted for the David T.K. Wong Fellowship 1998 and the Ian St James Award 1999. Ivy has been a highly accomplished multi-instrumental musician since childhood and won fifth prize (out of 850 entrants) in the 2006 1-MIC (Music Industry Charts) UK Award for her original song, Celebrity, when she formed her own band, Satsuma (2005-07). Her songs are funky, modern and eclectic, with strong urban grooves and lyrics. Satsuma has played headlining gigs at top London venues such as: The Marquee Club, The Troubadour Club, The Water Rats, The Betsey Trotwood, Plan B and Clockwork.
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The books throbs to the sound-track of Blondie and other American tunes of the era, reinforcing Li-an’s musical aspirations. Pace – a hundred miles an hour. Setting – seedy exoticism. Characters – funny, flawed, gutsy, memorable and poignant. Plot – twist and turns. Humour – American wise-cracking.
The settings from seedy night-time Chicago to the glitter and grime of Macau (or Macao if you're a fan of the Bob Mitchum/Jane Russell film- as no doubt Paolo, Madison's not quite sugar daddy is) are extremely convincingly depicted through Madison's somewhat jaundiced eye.
Some won't care for Madison/Li-An's moral standpoint, I feel it's irrelevant. Sometimes naive, at others, deeply cynical, her self-deprecating schtick (as she would almost certainly put it) won me over from very early on.
Thoroughly recommended, more fun that an 80's night in Manchester: so I couldn't put it down. Go read it.
Our protagonist, Li-an, is a compelling and multifaceted character. Despite her morally bankrupt ways of making money in Chicago with her sketchy pal, "Dallas" I still found myself rooting for her. She describes a troubled upbringing as well as the complexities of finding her true identity as an immigrant in eighties America. While she is smart, witty and thick-skinned, there is a vulnerability to her, which is perhaps epitomized when she falls for Ben, a handsome DJ who is clearly a very dodgy bloke!
The novel begins in Chicago before Li-an takes a punt and moves to Macau, which I found particularly interesting having lived in Hong Kong and regularly visited the city. Ivy Ngeow's descriptions of the glitzy casinos and seedy nightspots of Macau's eighties party scene are fantastic and, to use a bit of a cliché, you really feel as though you are on Li-an's adventure with her.
Ivy Ngeow's knowledge and passion for music is prevalent throughout the book (Li-an sings show tunes in a restaurant and dreams of making it big). As a music fan myself, the references to bands, musicians and some of the technical aspects of music performance were really enjoyable to read.
I don't want to give too much of the plot away but there are twists and turns a plenty, romance (and heartache) fascinating characters, intriguing settings, witty one-liners, plenty of partying and even a venomous snake!
This is a fast-paced thriller with a lot of layers to it and I highly recommend Heart of Glass. I will look forward to checking out Ivy Ngeow's first novel, Cry of the Flying Rhino and eagerly anticipate future offerings from this author.
Andrew Carter, author of Bright Lights and White Nights and The Thing Is (Proverse)