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?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Consolation of Economics by Gerard Lyons

Randomly picked this book up at the National Library because *ECONOMICS*. I really wonder what people think of my borrowing history, it's like 9 comics (me and my bro), then one "Consolation of Economics".

Anyway, this book is supposed to be a "lucid and accessible expert's attempt to look objectively at the changing global economy." So my review will focus on how "accessible" and "lucid" it is, not on how sound the economics is (I shall leave that to the experts, because I can't find any obvious problems here).

I must say, the book is surprisingly readable. I would think that as long as you've taken an introductory economics course, you will be able to understand what the author is talking about. Terms like "nominal" and "inflation" do appear, hence the "introductory knowledge needed" thing I just said. The author does a good job of explaining new terms too, like when he talks about soft power (he uses a slightly different definition than the norm).

As for how international the book is - well, it's complicated. The book clearly looks at the global economy - China and India (particularly China) are discussed in depth, and Japan is talked about many times as well. Even Singapore made its fair share of appearances (way more than I was expecting). But, since this book is orientated towards readers in the Western economies (it is about how the shift of power to the East isn't necessarily detrimental to the West after all), there is slightly more focus on the UK, EU and the US.

The book itself is divided into 9 parts, and includes: a brief history of economics, China's economy, the 2008 Financial crisis, the Ukraine crisis, the G7 and the G20, and lots more. You'd notice that the book is very very current, since it was published this year. I dare say that in a year or two, when some of the current crisis have played out, the book might not be as relevant, but for now, this is one of the most accessible books on modern economics that I've read.

My favourite part of the book was, surprisingly, the last chapter, which looks at the future of economics. It references something that I learnt last semester, that younger economics prefer Game Theory, but older economists look at things like unemployment, fiscal policy, etc. So to read about Mr. Lyons' opinion was really interesting to me.

All in all, this is an excellent and accessible book. Read it now (in 2014), because it contains information about current events. A year or two down the line, and a new edition might be in order, so get your hands on it quick.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mademoiselle by Rhonda K. Garelick

Even though I don't own any Chanel, and barely understand fashion, for some reason, I'm always fascinated by Chanel. I suppose that's how far the Chanel mystique extends.

This book aims to be a fair and comprehensive biography of Chanel, no small feat since Chanel had no qualms about lying (and changing her lies) about where she came from. What impressed me was that the book acknowledged Chanel's mystique right from the start. It's as though it says "I'm trying my best to be impartial, but Chanel is really charming, so remember that."

I can't quite remember what the other Chanel biographies I read contained (and I left the book in Singapore/lent it to my teacher), but I'm pretty sure that I learnt a few things that I didn't know before. For example, Chanel's connection to the Nazi's and her very strong anti-Semitic views are unflinchingly described, and there is no attempt made to excuse her for what she said. The author notes the mode of thinking of the set Chanel mingled with, but that doesn't become a convenient excuse for why Chanel held those views. After all, Chanel was an intelligent and savvy businesswoman.

Another thing that I liked was the amount of detail in the book. For every lover or close friend of Chanel, there is a short biography. It might seem like a digression or too much to some people, but I enjoyed reading about it as it helped me build up a more complete picture of the times Chanel lived in.

Finally, the book ends with a short description of Chanel's legacy and her impact on fashion. And in my ebook ARC from Netgalley, there's about 100 pages of footnotes, so those wanting to go deeper into the story will have a lot of sources they can start chasing.

I won't turn into a Chanel convert just because of a well-written biography, but my fascination with her still continues.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An Alphabetical Life by Wendy Harris

I picked this book up at the library because, let's face it, it's about books. About a life working with books. Sadly, I didn't like the narrator of the book, which meant that I didn't like the book much.

An Alphabetical Life is Wendy Werris's memoir of how she started a career in books, first in a bookshop, then as a publisher's representative. I'm pretty sure this is also supposed to be about how it's like working in a male-dominated profession, and how she works to overcome various obstacles. Unfortunately, I never really connected with her, or felt that there was a larger story than whatever anecdote she was currently relating.

Even after reading the book, I'm not how being a woman publishing rep between then and now has changed. I don't see any clear changes, and it might as well be as chauvinistic as when Ms Werris first started out. And yes, her surviving that long is a really great thing, but it's really because she decided to conform, not because she made waves and changed the industry or something. So lesson here: if you're in a male-dominated world, act like what they expect, and they'll let you survive.

Plus, Ms Werris comes across as very self-centered. She has siblings, but I didn't see any evidence of her living a life with them until she mentions things like having to borrow money from one of them. Well, actually, this is pretty admirable, if the siblings don't want to be in a book. But then again, she does blame her parents for her screwed up family dynamics (of which, she appears to play a central role), so it doesn't particularly seem as though she's censoring for the sake of her family. In fact, what made me think she was self-centered isn't the lack of family in her book, but the way she treats others and her job. She got fired quite a few times, and each time, I couldn't help but think that she deserved to get fired for acting like a child. And of course, she wanted to get fired at that time. Not very responsible, in my opinion.

The book wasn't all bad though. I have a feeling that if I had the same character as Ms. Werris, I would have enjoyed it very much. She's not a bad writer, because her account of her rape was well-written, and I really felt for her then. I thought she was very brave in the way she handled it.

So overall, the one part of the book that made me feel for the author wasn't related to books. I would say that as an account of a life with books, it doesn't work out.