Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Leopard Vanguard by T.A. Uner

This book, where do I start? There was a lot that I liked, a little that I was disappointed with, and one issue that irked me. Although on the whole, I liked it and I'll definitely keep reading though (mostly because I want to see what happens).

The Leopard Vanguard takes place in an alternate version of Ancient Rome, where magic happens. I was really excited during the first part of the book, because GRIFFINS. That's a really major reason why I want to read more (and a tiny reason why I was a bit disappointed) - there's not nearly enough magic in this book for me. The beginning promised a lot of magic, but then the book started turning to political intrigue.

In this book, we follow Tullus, a gifted Roman centurion. For the sake of love, he quits his job, but then his lady love dumps him (despite the fact that's unconventional in every other aspect, she refuses to go off with the man she loves). Heartbroken, he's found by a troupe of circus performers and bonds with a Leopardess named Celestra, becoming the Leopard King. When the troupe master is killed, he swears revenge on him.

At the same time, his lady love is being pursued by Tullus's perverted ex-boss, who despite his political inclinations has no qualms about abusing his future wife. The lady love (her name's Eliana), is more concerned with helping the merchants, who are being terrorised by a criminal overlord who is, you might have guessed, in league with the her fiance.

Behind all this is the story of emperor Caligula and his rise to power (as well as the people who want him dead).

Most of the time, I enjoyed the story (apart from the explicit scenes and swearing, but that's my personal preference), but I really don't like how Gansu, the Chinese troupe member was portrayed. The troupe is made up of many people, not all of them Romans, and yet every single character apart from the one Chinese guy talks normally. The way he talks reminds me of the stereotypes people use for Chinese people:
"You westerners, too much hurry. Come back tomorrow; I teach you more"
And yes, he's teaching meditation. What else? And that was not my point. What I want to make is that this speaking style is not only unnecessary it's inaccurate as well.

Let's just use the final point: "I teach you more." In Chinese, I would say "我会教你跟多。“ 我 - I, 会 - will, 教你 - teach you, 跟多 - even more. I was going to pull out my Latin textbook and do another translation, but that would be pointless. This book is written in English anyway, and there's very little Latin. Besides, according to the way you conjugate the verb in Latin, you can probably make it express future-intention (will do something), so basically, you can have the same sentence in English, Chinese and Latin. There's no need to fall on stereotypes, since all the other characters, who presumably did not have Latin as a first language, speak very naturally.

Thankfully, weird English is about the extent of how things are for Gansu. I'm willing to overlook it for this book, but I'm really hoping the second book gets better (or eliminate Gansu's role. Really. I'd rather not see this).

Basically, apart from the Chingrish stuff, which irked me because I am Chinese, and the swearing and explicit scenes because I am a prude, I quite liked the book. It's like Game of Thrones, but set in Ancient Rome. So if you like Game of Thrones, you'll probably enjoy this book.

Disclaimer: I got this book from Enchanted Blog Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I have no idea why I requested this book from NetGalley, but I'm really glad I did. It's an eye-opening book and I think everyone should read it.

Just Mercy is an account of how the justice system in America is broken. It's grounded through the story of Walter McMillian, a man who spent 6 years on the death row for a murder he didn't commit. Interspersed are the different cases that Bryan Stevenson was also taking at that time, from young children locked up in jail with adults to adults with mental disabilities being ignored and untreated.

Since Walter McMillian's case is what anchors the book (I think it's one of the first cases the author undertook), I want to talk about a bit more. In Alabama in the 1980s, a young woman was killed. That's terrible, but what's worse is that the law enforcement officials ignored evidence and pressured people to lie in order to put Walter McMillian in jail. Why? Because they wanted him as a suspect. He already had a bad rap from having an affair with a white woman (Walter McMillian is African American), and he was the easiest target. So instead of doing police work, they framed an innocent guy, then spent a lot of time and money making sure he stayed in jail. If only they spent that much effort on actually finding the murderer.

Adding to the irony is that Alabama was trying to use To Kill a Mockingbird to drum up some tourism money. I think everyone is aware, but To Kill a Mockingbird very specifically address the issue of racial bias. And yet, while they were promoting themselves using the book, no one realised that they were doing as much to keep an innocent guy in jail because they didn't like the fact he had an inter-racial relationship.

The other cases in this book, from a 13 year old who was sentenced to life in prison, to a mother who was convicted of murdering a stillborn child will break your heart as well. In fact, if you don't get angry while reading this book, I'd suspect that something is very wrong with you.

Everyone should read this book. Even if you're not an American, I think it works as a cautionary tale. Look at your own country, is there any group being discriminated in the justice system? Are rehabilitation efforts working? And what can be done.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. I got emotional on my own accord.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Release Day Party: Winter Wolf by R.J. Blain

Friends! Remember when I reviewed Inquisitor by R.J. Blain? And how I gushed about it? Well, I'm participating in her Winter Wolf release day party today, so prepare for more gushing!

Winter Wolf is the second in the Witch and Wolf series (the first book being Inquisitor). It features a whole new set of characters, but it's just as gripping and entertaining as the first.

The protagonist of Winter Wolf is Nicole, who's hiding a secret - she's a wizard. That means she can control electricity, and that if the Inquisition finds out who she is, she'll be executed. As a struggling actress without a voice, she's surprised when one day, she's picked for a major role. At the same time, a young man dies next to her, and several attempts were made on her life. Oh, and did I mention that her family is fenerec (werewolf) and that she wants to help to cure the plague that's killing them slowly? And let's not forget the serial killer!

Woah, that's a lot of stuff in one book. You might think that the pacing would be affected, but everything ties together in one seamless read. One event leads to another, and the consequences carry over.

Oh, and if you're like me, the name Winter Wolf is going to nag at you. Nag at you until you figure out the connection between this book and Inquisitor. So make sure you have both books handy!

I really enjoyed this book. There was a cast of smart characters, a world that's alike ours but with magic, and a great storyline. If you liked Inquisitor, you'd definitely like this book. I want to read more about this world - R.J. Blain has created two wonderful protagonists and supporting casts, and I would love to read a sequel where they meet!

Note: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Enchanted Book Promotion Blog Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Not convinced yet? Read this excerpt:

I slammed my car’s door, spun on a heel, and swore I would have a perfectly normal visit to the mall. All I needed was one little book. Even I could walk into a bookstore, pick up a novel, and leave without causing any trouble.

This time, I wouldn’t blow out the lights. There wouldn’t be a single power surge. I wouldn’t turn on every unplugged device in the electronics store on my way across the mall. In the ten minutes it would take me to get in and out, the only thing anyone would notice about me was the fact that I wore a high-collared sweater in late summer. I had a mission, and I would complete it without fail. The novel my agent insisted I read would be mine.

For a long moment, I considered turning around and getting back into my car. Dominic would forgive me if I didn’t start reading the book until tomorrow. I could call in a favor and ask someone to pick up a copy for me. Then I definitely wouldn’t run any risk of blowing anything up. If I had been smart, I would’ve just ordered the damned thing on the internet, but I had waited too long.

Fishing my cell out of my pocket, I unlocked the screen with a swipe of my finger. The charging icon mocked me. Despite running every battery-draining app I could find, the battery held a full charge. I opened another app, a devilish program capable of killing the battery in ten minutes. It wouldn't, not with me around, but if I was too busy keeping my phone topped up, maybe my mall shopping trip would prove to be mundane.

I shook my head, laughing at my foolishness.

No one would notice my phone. No one would notice me for more than a second. They'd notice my clothes, and then they'd file me away as yet another weirdo wearing something strange to catch attention. L.A. was full of people like that.

I had no reason to worry. Even if I managed to embarrass myself yet again by losing control of my powers, no one would know I was the cause of unplugged electronics turning on or unusual power surges.

Straightening my shoulders, I fixed my eyes on the line of glass doors and marched my way across the parking lot.

In and out. No blown lights. No power surges. No feeding power to unplugged electrical devices. No charging batteries for strangers. I was in control, and I would charge only my phone.

Making my way to the entry, I paused long enough to hold the door for a little old lady who insisted on making her way through the regular doors despite her walker. I couldn’t blame her. If I lived to be her age, I wouldn’t want to rely on automatic doors either.

She thanked me with a pat on the arm. Flashing her my best smile, I slipped inside.

Nothing happened.


I could handle ten minutes in the crowded corridors. Maybe if I told myself that enough times, I’d believe it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Land of Stories by Christ Colfer

Woohoo! It's Tuesday! That means that my relatives are coming tomorrow! So you won't see me until I come back on the 24th with R.J Blain's Winter Wolf Release Day Party!

Right now, I'm reading The Land of Stories. I got this from BookOff a while back but had no time to read it. But since I'm a sucker for fairy-tales retold, I had to buy it. Well, no more procrastinating, I'm reading it now.

My teaser:
"The world will always choose convenience over reality," the Evil Queen said. "It's easier to hate, blame, and fear than it is to understand." (Page 380)
What is your Teaser Tuesday?