Thursday, December 29, 2011

Irreparable Harm by Melissa F. Miller

I've finally finished another ebook. Since I prefer the literally written word, my ebook reading always goes down when I have actual paper books to read. But Irreparable Harm (a legal thriller) was so good that I finished it relatively fast (a few days vs a few weeks).

Now, from what I experienced interning at a Law Firm at the JC Law Programme last year, being a lawyer doesn't mean being in court or doing dramatic things like yelling "Objection" everyday. In fact, games like Ace Attorney and now, books like Irreparable Harm are probably very remote from the life of the average lawyer. But strangely, the book also feels realistic in the sense that I can imagine the cut-throat (not the literal parts!) competition and the hierarchy of lawyers described in the begining of the book.

One really big plus for the book is its relatively short chapters. I get bored easily on the iPad, so knowing that the chapters are short make me read more (ironically). Let me explain my twisted reasoning. If every chapter is let's say 20 pages, then after one or two chapters I'll be something like "what can I watch on Youtube?". But if every chapter is less than 10 pages (some 5!), and the story is gripping, I'll be something like "ok, 1 more chapter than I stop" for oh, let's see, around 10 chapters. Of course, this only works if you have a very tightly written and thrilling plot. If not, I won't keep reading because I won't care about finding out what happened next.

Sasha, the protagonist, is a promising lawyer at Prescott & Talbott and she, for some reason, also has a heart (defying the characterisation of many lawyers in many novels I read). She's also, incredibly, a very likeable character despite veering very close to becoming a Mary-Sue. I mean, she can fight (Krav Maga), is pretty (presumably) and incredible intelligent (duh). And yet, she remains down-to-earth, and real, unlike those artificial characters that are all-rounders with one tiny flaw that they inevitably overcome.

So yes, Irreparable Harm is an excellent book which I really do think you should read. But here's the disclaimer: I got this ebook from the librarything member giveaway. I was asked to write a review, but it didn't have to be positive. Plus, all opinions here are my own.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

The impossible has happened. I managed to make enough of an impact that I won the Versatile Blogger award. Thanks so much Pragya! I'm going to be adding her to the Fellow Bibliophiles page by tomorrow (I'm so sorry for being this slow), but in the meantime, you can check out her beautiful blog here

So here are the 5 simple rules:
1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post .
2. Share 7 things about yourself .
3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Let's move on to the 7 things (reminds me of the Miley Cyrus song - Note: if you're bored, any music, even Miley Cyrus, will not put you to sleep. Rather, the song will get stuck in your head, making you want to scream even though you're a crowded plane. You should do better things like read)

1. Even though I'm Chinese, I'm more proficient at English.
2. I love reading and writing. But I can't write well (I hope to improve though)
3. I'll be going to Japan for university next year. For 5 years. (Yes, it's extremely long)
4. Thankfully, I'll be going there on a scholarship.
5. I play golf. Even though I've stopped since the begining of IB, it still counts k?
6. I'm hopelessly behind time in everything except possibly current affairs. The only time I know about new book releases is from other bloggers and the newspapers.
7. I have awesome friends (yes, you know who you are)

Alright, for the more interesting part, on to the 1510 recently discovered bloggers (although some of them have been around for some time) -drumroll-

P.s. Not all are book bloggers :D

1. Musings of a Bookish Kitty
3. Tais Toi
5. Figures/TicTackToe
6. Tofugu
7. Twntysmthg
8. One Upon a Wanderer
9. The Inkberry Diaries

I'm sorry, I can only think of 10. While I follow (and love) many different bloggers I can only think of 10 who fit the criteria at the moment.

The Only Way is Up by Carole Matthews

Sorry for the recent dearth in posts, but I was at camp. Now that I'm back (with no less than two injuries ^^), I want to share this book that was shared with me - The Only Way is Up by Carole Matthews.

This could very nearly be classified as Chic-Lit, but I think it's in the realm of the "about-life" novels such as those written by Kristin Hannah, Eva Ibbotson, Lisa Genova and others. It's about a very dramatic fall for the Lamont-Jones family from riches to poverty, and looks at the topic of whether money is needed for happiness.

What this book has (and has been, I must admit, been noted by just about every other reviewer), is an extremely well-written bunch of secondary characters. Those like Tracey, Len, and Skull, no matter how lengthy or brief their appearances, are really very engaging and well, they feel life-like.

And before you dismiss the plot as straightforward, well, it's not. Well, not really. While the happy ending seems guaranteed right from the blurb, there are a few twists and turns. Shall I give spoilers? Ok, I think I shall, so if you don't want to know, skip the rest of this paragraph. Lily (the main protagonist), somehow has a wealthy jeweller chasing after her, even though she's married and has two kids. If I were to quote Phua Chu Kang (one of Singapore's most famous TV characters), it would be "She's been married for XXX (forgot!) years, has two kids, you still want her?). And somehow, Carole Matthews manages to paint such a sympathetic portrait of Lily that I can almost forgive her for this lapse in judgement (and by the end of the book, I do).

This has me thinking of my EE (Extended Essay). I wrote an essay using the Christian Literary Theory, which postulates that every book has the fall, sacrifice and redemption motif/metanarrative inside. I suppose that if I wanted to fit it (you can twist almost anything to fit, some more plausibly than others), you could see it as their fall from riches, their sacrifices they have to make and their "redemption" in becoming a closer family. Or maybe this is just stretching it, but it's a thought.

Right now, I can understand Aunty Florence's reaction. She told me that when she read one Carole Matthews novel, she went out and got as many of her other novels as she could get her hands on. After reading this, I feel like doing the same.

Friday, December 23, 2011

An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson

Merry Christmas in advance everybody! I'm swamped with carolling and other things, so...

But anyway, I managed to finish An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson yesterday, and while her Christmas books are (to me) not as good as some of her "series" books, they're a pretty decent and light Christmas read.

An Irish Christmas is told from the point of view of two characters: the mum Colleen and the son Jamie. There's a bunch of secrets involving back stories (and hence, the need for two point of views) that being a happy Christmas tale, is all happily resolved by the end of the story.

And that's about all you need to know about the plot. If I were to say anymore, I'd probably give major spoilers away.

The only thing I didn't like much in the story is Jamie. While both his mom and him are hiding some pretty major secrets, I don't know why but felt that Colleen's secret was somehow more understandable than his, which is pretty much me trying to draw lines in shades of grey. I suppose that this is somehow related to the fact that we tend to dislike in others the faults we have, because they remind us of the unpleasant sights of us. Jamie's secret comes about mainly from his over-rationalisation, which leads to misjudgements and more mis-steps (I love alliterations). That is something I can totally relate to and can see happening to me. If you over think like me, it's very plausible that you'll make a wrong mistake. While these mistakes have largely been confined to answers on my exam papers (this is the main reason why I hardly every change my exam answers once they're written down), it's gonna happen in real life sooner or later if I don't change.

I do wonder though, if this comes partly from my love of reading and literature. Literature is mainly trying to guess the hidden meanings in the text and reading can instill paranoia (think about it, when faced with a situation, you not only conjure up your vivid imagination but the imaginations of all authors who have written similar situations). But I guess that it's a small price to pay to love books.

Basically, an Irish Christmas is a lovely little tale that most people will probably enjoy. And the personal lesson for me is that my negative reactions to a character may be because I am subconsciously expressing my dislike for the negative traits that I possess (and share with said character). Not a bad lesson to take home from this relatively short novel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson

Since Christmas is coming, my next few posts before Christmas (as much as I am in Singapore), will be more-or-less Christmas-y, to get everyone into the holiday spirit. So first up, a book that I finished very recently - The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson.

Even though the title is similar to another I reread (A Dog named Christmas), it's actually quite different. Here, in The Christmas Dog, the dog is the catalyst, not the main character/focus of the story. The real focus of the story is actually on loving your neighbour.

For some reason, the first line really grabbed my attention. It goes "As Betty Kowalski drove home from church on Sunday, she realised she was guilty of two sins. First of all, she felt envious, perhaps even lustful - of Marsha Deerwood's new leather jacket." Apart from the fact that Kowalski is the name of one of the penguins from the show Penguins of Madagascar (I watch it with my brother), the begining brings to mine some of the seven deadly sins - lust and envy, and manages to remind me of the sinful human nature even while I read this warm fuzzy Christmas tale.

The plot is actually quite simple. It's a story about "killing" people with kindness and how we can sometimes struggle to actually carry it out. Even though the story felt relatively short, the characters (enough characters for me), seem real, with their human follibles and what not. The dog, unfortunately, doesn't get much writing space, since here, it is clear that humans are the alpha dogs (yes, the lame pun was fully intentional).

I would suppose that if you're looking for a quick Christmas read, this would be a very good alternative. And since Christmas is a specific period of the year, the book has a short "shelf-life" as for when it's appropraite. Which is why, my next review (and I will do it before Christmas, maybe by tomorrow), will be An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge

I'm feeling really ambitious for next year, so I've decided to enter another reading challenge- The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge. I actually first saw the challenge on The Written World, and since I really love Terry Pratchett and his books, I couldn't resist joining (I will resist joining more though, since I want most of my reading to be spontaneous).

The challenge is, and I quote:

"Any format, any book, so long as it’s Pratchett. Re-reads are also perfectly acceptable! Books need to be started and finished between January 1st 2012 and December 31st 2012. You can set your own goals, whether you want to read 5 books or go for the whole Discworld series, that is entirely up to you. Be realistic or go crazy, there are no penalties if you don’t meet your goal, in fact the only real goal is to read some Pratchett. All you need to do is sign up below and steal the button. Stick it in a post, in your sidebar, on a separate page, wherever you like. I’ve made the button pretty big so please do feel free to resize it as fits."
Which if you ask me, is a perfectly reasonable challenge (I love doing fun stuff!)
I think for this challenge, I'll aim for at least one Terry Pratchett book a month, and to read more paraphernalia of his. I have a friend (another Discworld fan), who only reads the novels, but I'm the type of girl who likes to look at the whole universe/canon, so I'll really want to read more, like the myths (I saw a book about that in the library) and maybe look at some maps and others. Yes, this is the obsessive fan-girl in me speaking.

So in sum: at least one a month, and to read something about the Discworld universe but is not strictly a Discworld novel.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sushi for One? by Camy Tang

When I was helping Aunty Florence return her books (yes, she connects me to a lot of books), I came across this book called "Sushi For One"? Since I like basically anything Asian (fine, anything Japanese), I figured it couldn't hurt to buy this book. As a bonus, my sister was looking for some clean romances, which I think as a Christian rom-com, this book is perfect for her.

After a lot of dilly-dallying, I picked up the book and finished it amazingly quickly. This book has quite an interesting premise: Lex, our protagonist, is being forced by her grandmother to find a boyfriend within a month, or funding for the girl's volleyball club that she coaches will be cut off.

The closeness of the Japanese-Chinese American community was one aspect of the book that pleasantly surprised me. Here, it seems that no matter what, the Chinese (at least my family, or the older generation), harbours some bad blood due to World War II. Perfectly legitimate, although the snide remarks about me somehow being a traitor gets to me sometimes. After all that, it's quite adorable to see a closely-knit Chinese-Japanese American community.

And because most of the main characters are Asian-Americans, there are quite some interesting family dynamics at play. What wouldn't be out-of-place in a Hong Kong/Taiwan/Singaporean drama serial appears here, such as the domineering matriarch, the calling-in-favours thing (Lex lost a potential sponsor because her grandma has more influence than here), all sound familiar. I guess some things never change.

Besides all the Asian aspects of the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I think the God-aspect was also brought out pretty well. Lex isn't a perfect Christian and Aidan (the other main character) isn't even Christian to begin with. But their struggles seem very real, and Aidan's slow progression to Christianity, didn't seem very forced, although I would have liked to see more definite turning points in his spiritual journey.

I also admired the way she painted the Christian and non-Christian communities, warts and all. One really interesting episode happens when Lex is at a Church trying to get funding for her Volleyball team. One guy refuses to donate unless it's overtly evangelical, and the other will only donate to overseas missions - to which, Lex mentions how she wants the rest of her family (who are mostly Buddhist) to come to Christ and they live in America, not some far-away country. I think this is a really good lesson for us. When I was reading it, it painfully brought back the foibles of us, even (or should I say especially) here in Singapore. We really should take note and try to change it.

This is one of the few books in the recent time period that I completely praise. It's rare, since although I like/love most books, my reviews (for some reason or another) tend to focus on the -sometimes minuscule- flaws present. It's a nice change I think.

Friday, December 16, 2011

And in other news....

I started knitting. Which is why my reading speed has slowed down considerably (I figured that if I can gain 23 stitches in one row while concentrating only on knitting, the results of me trying to do something else while knitting will be simply disastrous).

But I couldn't resist posting about my first Christmas present, and it's from Aunty Florence. I got two new books (and why do I have the feeling I won't get many books this Christmas?) - Death Comes to Pemberly, which I've been metaphorically dying (pardon the pun) to read, and Candles on the Sand by Katie Stephens, which seems like a really good book. Aunty Florence really knows my taste in books.

And a side-effect (side-effect: an unwanted or undesirable effect produced with the one intended - oh IB Chem SL Option D, why do I remember you so well?) of knitting is that my dad has told/asked me to re-pack the family library which admittedly, is over-flowing now. He reasons that if I have the time to start knitting a baby afghan (why can't we just say blanket?), I have time to repack (and since I'm repacking, catalog) the library.

In addition, I'll be trying to catch up on all the librarything member giveaway ebooks that I have, and with such a notoriously slow ebook reading speed...

In short: Knitting + Library + Miscellaneous items = less time to read and blog, so do forgive me if there is an occasional lapse in posting frequency (although I'm aiming for one post every one or two days, since I'm not in school now)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go by Naomi Dathan (ARC)

This book is supposed to be an ARC, but by the looks of it, it's already available for sale. So, for all those who can't wait, yay! There is a catch though, this book (well, the ebook version anyway), seems to be available only on the Christian eBook app Vyrso.UPDATE: According to Kirkdale Press Publicist, the book is also available on the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Google Books and iBooks. It seems that I (happily) stand corrected. And now, I lost all the other books on that app.....

Ok, now about the book. If the title seems familiar to you, it's because it's from the book of Ruth, where Ruth tells her mother-in-law Naomi that she'll follow her anywhere. It's cool and all, but a bit strange to be used in a book where the plot was about a wife submitting to her husband.

Jem (or Jemina) is supposed to be this spoilt brat, whose husband Seth takes to the frontier and causes her to learn not to be spoilt and yadda yadda yadda, a fairly typical plot. I enjoyed reading this book, especially since it's set in the 1880s which is a time-period I don't know much of, but the main 'problems' were, I felt, mostly characterisation problems rather than plot. (The plot is simple but really good).

Jem was a very lovable character. You might say too lovable. As the narrator, it's necessary that she isn't so unappealing that no one wants to continue reading, but it was really hard for me to think of her as spoilt at all. The dirt and grime in the West that she originally complained about seem to me like valid concerns. Maybe it's because I'm hypersensitive about dirt (which is why, after I read a historical novel, the first question is "What about the toilets?!?!"), so to me, her initial concerns are perfectly reasonable. Yet, she does experience character growth in a marked way, and gains fortitude through the trials.

Seth on the other hand, was unlikeable. He is, I think, supposed to be superior in terms of character than Jemina, but his actions seem selfish. Perhaps the opening was too short to understand him fully, but his temper tantrums and the lack of any narrative from his point of view made it really hard for me to sympathise with him.

Overall, it seems that the main problem with the book is that it is a little too short. While you can't really lengthen the story too much without being boring (although the ending is definitely for a sequel), more could be done to establish Jem's character as a lovable but spoilt-brat and Seth as a good man, as well as fix other things, such as Jem's father, whose nasty character was revealed too late in the book (he was called that by Seth, but I didn't, and still don't, fully trust what Seth says). But still, I enjoyed reading the book, and I look forward to any sequels.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012

Literary Feline over at Musings of a Bookish Kitty has come up with what sounds like a really fun reading challenge - the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012. I'm not actually sure how much mystery stories I read, but I do love Agatha Christie and that has got to be a good start right?

Basically, the challenge is one two levels, one of which is two read two or more books from each crime fiction sub-genre, or read at least one book from all genres. The sub-genres and their descriptions are shamelessly copied from Literary Feline:

The Whodunit: The classic crime puzzle. The story generally revolves around determine who committed the crime, and potentially apprehending them. Some Whodunits, called "fair play mysteries", will include all of the clues available in the text so that a careful reader can solve the crime on his or her own.

Locked Room Mystery: Like the Whodunit, there is a puzzle (crime) to solve. However in this instance, the crime has taken place under impossible circumstances, such as in a locked room or on an island with no way to exit or enter.

Cozy: The nice person's mystery. Often the crime, particularly if it's violent, occurs off scene. Sex and language are on the cleaner side. Humor is a common feature of the cozy.

Hard-Boiled/Noir: Often cynical, bleak or realistic, hard-boiled and noir stories often focus more on the characters involved instead of the crime. Violence and sex are not downplayed.

The Inverted Detective Story: In this style of story, the person perpetrating the crime is known up front. The point of the story is to see how (or if) the detective goes about solving the crime and how the perpetrator reacts to the investigation.

The Historical Whodunnit: Simply put, this is a mystery set in a historical setting. Often the mystery has some historical significance and features detection methods that are appropriate for that era.

The Police Procedural: Instead of featuring a independent detective, the police are investigating the crime in these stories. They often focus on the actual methods that police officers use to solve crimes.

The Professional Thriller: This kind of mystery involves a professional who is not involved directly in law enforcement, such a lawyer or doctor, who nonetheless finds themselves investigating a crime.

The Spy Novel: Related to the other professional mysteries, spy novels focus on intelligence operatives as they work to prevent or avenge some criminal plot. Spy novels can feature either in fantastic or realistic settings.

Caper Stories: While other crime and mystery stories look at the aftermath of crimes, caper stories feature criminals as the lead characters. The story usually details the planning and commission of a crime.

The Psychological Suspense: In these stories, the detective story takes on a psychological component.

Spoofs and Parodies: Spoofs and parodies make light of crime fiction, often with the goal of commenting on the conventions of the genre. Many feature famous characters, e.g. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Philip Marlowe, or pastiches of those characters
 Honestly, I think I might be able to complete the Shamus who has seen it all challenge, because well, I'll like to challenge myself to read more mysteries. But then again, I do tend to read certain genres.... But I think I'll compete in the Down-On-Her-Luck Gumshoe, since:

a. I like Ace Attorney (Gumshoe's hilarious)
b. I like Ace Attorney. (To go on and on would be to engage in a circular arguement).

I think I'll create a page for reading challenges, since I want to start participating in more of them from next year, plus, it'll be easier to keep track of what I have/have not read from a single source. I wonder if Dective Conan counts as a Graphic Novel, then it'll be considered. I guess I'll consider it a graphic novel (it's over 800 chapters, I think it should get credit), in which case, the 2012 challenge can begin now!

With a keen eye for detail - One Truth Prevails! (From Detective Conan)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - The Dragon Keeper

This meme is actually quite fun. Today, I'm taking it from The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb, another one of the books I got from the MG Carnival.

" 'Company and conversation' he repeated, and an odd note crept into his voice. 'I would think you'd prefer your husband for that.' " (page 248)

And on a related note, does anyone want my copy of The Dragon Keeper (I guess this is like a giveaway). I've read a bit, but it's not to my taste and I don't even feel like finishing it. If it makes any difference, the book is a hardcopy. And no worry, it's in good condition.

Since I'm currently broke (no job, and no school = no pocket money), this 'giveaway' is limited to residents of Singapore.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Euphemia!

My lovely sister turns 17 today! So, here are two quotes for you:

"If you'd never been born, well what would you be? 
You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes!
Or worse than all that... why, you might be a 
A wasn't has no fun at all. No, he doesn't.
A wasn't just isn't. He just isn't present.
But you.... you ARE YOU! And now, isn't that pleaseant!"

And don't forget:

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."

Both quotes are from Happy Birthday to You! by Dr Seuss

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Healing the Faith by Michele Richard (ARC)

For some reason, I missed all the signs of Healing the Faith (the second book in the Mocked by Faith series), and so, I had to take quite a lot of time to catch up. So for those who have not heard of the first book, this is what I understand: Justin and Alexia had a bad, traumatic past experience. Now, they're married but must be temporarily separated as Justin hunts the man who created said past experience. Now, let's compare it to the blurb for the first Mocked by Faith book:

"For Alexia Cross and Justin McNear, things are not what they seem. Both were born and raised in hidden, gated communities. A place where time virtually stands still and marriages are arranged by parents before a child’s 18th birthday.

Alexia is destined to be her community’s first spinster.  In a last ditch effort, a husband is found.  The only complication?  He has no idea he has been betrothed. Will his history of dating outsiders help or hinder his relationship with his future wife?

Justin McNear searched outside his church for the woman of his dreams. Returning home after failing, he knows he needs to rectify his life and his faith. Can a woman he’s never met make him whole again?

Will this couple end up mocked by their own faith?  Follow Alexia and Justin through the trials and tribulations of finding, falling, and surviving each other's love. It’s never easy saying “I do” to someone you don’t know."

Well, this is certainly different from what I just said. Probably because I talked about the spoiler, so there were a lot of plot details left unsaid. Now that I've finished talking about the first book, on to the second (which I actually read):

The plot is actually a fairly standard hunt-and-chase type of plot, with a twist at the end that made it really interesting. I think for me, what carried the book more was the characters - Justin and Alexia McNear.

I have to say though, I like Justin as a character much more than Alexia. Although he's obviously deeply damaged, with anger issues and what not, including a major meltdown more than once. But he's still quite endearing, especially looking at how much he loves Alexia, as seen by how he frets about her and basically tries to do whatever she wants (to make her happy).

Alexia on the other hand, was annoying for most of the book. She sees herself as the victim, and constantly annoyed me with her dramatic antics. Even though I didn't understand much about their community, I could see that her actions were fairly out-of-line and could damage Justin. It wasn't until *spoiler alert* her friends finally yelled at her and made her see sense before I could like her as a character.

Since I'm a Christian, let me look at this "obscure faith" of theirs. It seems that they worship angels, specifically those in the Bible. Yet references to books of the Bible imply that they have knowledge and possible have the Bible as one of the books of their faith. What I don't understand is: if they have knowledge of the Bible, why worship something that is not the most powerful or most important i.e. God? But since they're meant to be a gated community, I suppose that I have to accept it as a plot device, although I think theologically it's wrong.

This book is quite sound in terms of plot and character. But personal reasons lead me to be unable to recommend this book without hesitation.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finding Fiona by Emily Ward

Finding Fiona is one of the books I won from the member's giveaway. But with actual books that are unread with me, it's really hard to finish an ebook. But still, I figured I had to make an effort with the ever-growing backlist, and so, I managed to finish Finding Fiona by Emily Ward.

Fiona is an amnesiac. She was found injured by Hannah and has been looked after by her. But soon, it's revealed that she may or may not be a replica and she has to find out the truth, while hiding from the Alarias (the bad guys in the novel).

Replication, is apparently different from cloning. Replication is when you replicate an entire organism at that point in time while cloning involves birth and the growth process. That is about all that I understood. Mostly because there was a considerable time lag between when I got the book and when I read it, I spent the first one third of the novella or around there, trying to figure out what was going on.

But apart from a greater sense of narrative in the story, the novella is actually quite good (If you're wondering, I'm using the word novella because according to, it's a novella). I quite liked Fiona, the protagonist, and although the book felt really stationary (in the sense that nothing much was happening), I liked the resolution and what not.

The only complaint I have is that it has perhaps too many characters. I remember Fiona, Hannah, Troy and James. And I'm not even sure if James is integral to the plot. In fact, there was another character that I thought was important that wasn't given enough attention. As well as some miscellaneous characters that I didn't really see the point of. While it's ok to have many characters in a long long novel (like Lord of The Rings), I think it's hard to fit so many characters into a short novel. They end up (to me anyway), feeling like ghosts, insubstantial.

But since this book is relatively short. You could always recommend it to someone looking for a short sci-fi read.

On an unrelated note: my sister has finally finished her first ebook on the iPad. It's Pretty Little Liars.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is one of those books that I've heard of but usually have no intention of reading whatsoever. But at the MG carnival some time back, I saw a hardcover going for two dollars (worth of coupons, not even real money), I figured that I could afford to risk at least that much.

And wow, the language is the best part of the whole novel. Most of the characters, I realised when I started reflecting on the book, are downright unlikeable. But the power of the language was such that I didn't really notice it until I put the book down. And I took a (fairly) long time to read this, but this was because I didn't want the pleasure of this to end.

Here's an example of what I feel is the language at its best:

"Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know."

Of all the five viewpoints in the book, the only two characters that I quite liked were Orleanna and Ruth May. I felt that Orleanna was quite pitiful in the way she suffered and Ruth May was just so innocent and cute (maybe not so much cute but more precocious) that I really enjoyed reading about her.

But I really think that my enjoyment of the novel suffered by the fact that I'm not American or Congolese. The book is in such a specific time period that it's fairly hard to understand or empathise with the characters. For one thing, I really hated the depiction of Christianity, since the bigoted, culturally intolerant picture of Christianity isn't true. All characters refer to Christianity as a white man's product, but really, Israel is in the Middle East (as is almost all the places mentioned in the Bible) and is probably closer to Africa than America.

The other two interesting characters were Rachel (the oldest) and Leah. Adah was ... I don't know, she feels like an observer (I'm sorry, I'm adding to her victim mentality). But Rachel and Leah are particularly interesting since their a study in opposites. Rachel is seen as the typical brash westerner, insensitive and whatnot. Leah is the one who tries to fit in, the culturally sensitive. But I think there's another reading we can get, particularly from the last part of the book.

Rachel at one point says: "You can't just shashay into the jungle aiming to change it all over to the Christian style, without expecting the jungle to change you back." In a way, she's right. In cultures really radically different from ours, it's impossible for us to expect to be expected as a native. Leah, on the other hand, just wants to hide her whiteness from others and be accepted as a native Congolese, something which sounds like a fairytale to me.

Maybe it's just because I know for sure I'm going to Japan next year, but I'm in a reflective state of mind about nationality. The Japanese are famous for being insular and even though I'm not white, I don't expected to be accepted or treated as a native because I'm not Japanese. I'm excited about going there, but I don't want to harbour unrealistic expectations.

But we're all one family aren't we? So should cultural differences be a factor? Within the family of God, I don't think so. But to be realistic and honest, I'm going to be mixing with people outside the Church (in school and what not), so I should be realistic and expect at least two sets of treatment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bright Purple by Melody Carlson

Ok, this is probably one of the hardest postings I have to make, since the topic in question is oh-so controversial.
I’ve always been a big fan of Melody Carlson, especially the first series I read – the True Color series. Now, Bright Purple, which I just bought for my sis and I, deals with the topic of homosexuality. For some reason, this book seemed to attract quite some negative reviews on (there weren’t enough ratings on for me, small sample sizes are not very accurate).
But anyway, concerning the book: I loved it. Sure, Ramie starts of as more-than-slightly homophobic, but that’s because she needs to make the character transition. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a plot. Apart from that, her over-the-top reaction to her best friend coming out of the closet is to let others (presumably) understand how she feels.
The other issue that seems to come up is how homosexuals are unfairly demonized as militaristic and pushing an agenda. Now, speaking as someone outside the US, I think I can say with all fairness that that is probably true. It is true that they do have an agenda. The net is a fairly terrible filter, so I end up reading all points of view and can form my own judgments. As far as I can see, they are not a purely victimized group.
The ending feels realistic too. It’s fairly unresolved except for one point – that no matter what, she needs to continue loving Jessica unconditionally while she encourages her to follow God’s will and pray for God to rescue her.
Now, on to the whole born-vs-choice issue. It’s been bugging me about whether people are really born this way so I did a bit of research. From what I read, it can all be summed up by what Byne’s says that  ‘what evidence exists thus far of innate biological traits underlying homosexuality is flawed’[1]. In fact, social and physiological factors seem to play a larger role than any biological factors.
In short, you’re not born that way.
But needless to say, I think Bright Purple by Melody Carslon should be read by everyone. To my friends who are gay, well, I’m praying for you. You know what I think and you know that I have never judged you intentionally. But still, that doesn’t mean that I won’t tell you the truth, even though it may hurt.

[1] Byne, W., 1994. The biological evidence challenged. Scientific American 270(5):26-31 , p. 26.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays - The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I'm Baaack! And the happy tone in my voice and smile on my face (that can't be seen or heard) is because I won my scholarship to go to Japan for university!! Praise God! ^_^

Anyway, today's Teaser Tuesday is from The Poisonwood Bible. I think it's another one of those books I'm supposed to have read but haven't. But since I found it for $2, I figured it couldn't hurt to try reading it. So far, the language is awesome. Characters are annoying, but I suspect intentionally so.

"By then, I was lodged in the heart of darkness, so thoroughly bent to the shape of marriage I could hardly see any other way to stand. Like Methuselah I cowered beside my cage and though my soul hankered after the mountain, I found, like Methuselah, I had no wings."

I'm glad of this teaser now. The book is so thick I might have missed the Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness allusion. Intertextuality is wonderful!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nintendo DS - 100 Classic Books

I've always wished that I could read on my DS, because strangely, it's my favourite device (sorry Apple). So when I heard of the 100 Classic Books catridge, I was floored. I mean, I need to save money and find this catridge fast. Ok, maybe not so fast because I bought 2 new books today and so, the cycle of saving must start (again).

Me being me, I think 100 books is plenty. Even if it's all classics. But apparently, there are other catridges, such as those by FLIPS, which is an interactive book game thing that has more recent books like Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, Enid Blyton. I'm actually most tempted to just get the Enid Blyton, since that was basically what I read growing up.

I'm a bit hestitant though, as to whether it's physically feasible to read on the small DS screen. But I won't know until I try it(:

The Dress by Sophie Nicholls

When I got this ebook from Ms Sophie (Librarything Giveaway), I was told that "there's a little surprise waiting for you in the pages of The Dress." Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. In Chapter 10, a character Lady Eustacia Beddowes is introduced! How psyched was I? Very! My name is rare enough that it's hard to find it mentioned in a book. Plus, I become a "Lady".

But I'm sure no one is going to rush out and get it just because my name is there, so here's my hones opinion: even if my name didn't appear (sorry, very excited about this), I'd still love the book and recommend it to everyone.

The Dress has been compared to Chocolat, and there are similarities. But The Dress focuses on vintage clothing and has a slight feeling of magical realism to it, especially with the names like "Old Country" and sewing words into the clothes and of course, The Signals. It reminds me of a fairytale.

But if this is like a fairytale, it's more like their original versions rather than the cleaned-up, Disney ones: it's dark at times. The book isn't all sweetness and light, with not only Fabbia's secret but also with Jean Cushworth and her maliciousness. She reminds me of the evil queen, although I'm happy to see that Katrina, her daughter, has a happy ending.

The dual plots in this book: Ella and her bildunsroman journey with Fabbia (Ella's mom) and her secret (plus her blossoming romance with the Doctor) joins together very well. After all, they are one family unit. And at the right moments, short stories, such as that of the soulskin and La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) add to the sense of atmosphere in the book.

Although I'm really not into clothes, the descriptions of vintage clothing are really marvellous (though I know better than to try them on).

Bottom line: Read this book. And I'm not saying this because I got a free copy and found my name in it.

Disclaimer: If you managed to miss the first two times I mentioned I got a free copy of the book, there's a good chance you didn't read my review at all. But just so you know, I wasn't asked to write a positive review, it just turned out this way.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Matantei Loki

I took my JLPT N4 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) today and quite naturally, as soon as I got home, I went to read. Manga. To be even more specific, I finished the series Matantei Loki (Mythical Detective Loki).

Matantei Loki is basically about the Norse gods, with Loki the trickster god finding himself human and having to vanquish evil spirits. Along the way, other gods appear, some (unwillingly) to help and some to kill him. And ever present are the Norns, who know the past, present and future.

Despite my rather boring and insufficient description, you really have to read this manga. It's funny, exciting and best of all, all the girl characters are likeable. If you have heard me rant in person, you'll know that I can't stand a lot of girl characters in manga (like all those in Prince of Tennis), because their characterisation is terrible. Here, there is no such thing. This alone should convince you to read it.

Just a small warning. The first few mysteries are particularly gruesome. Like Detective Conan, Matantei Loki is deceptively cute, with the graphics masking the rather bloody (and I mean it literally) mysteries. If this was a live-action, it would definitely be at least NC-16, if only for the body count.

Other than the blood, it's actually a really tame manga, without most of the perverted things that occur in most other stories.

And if you can't find it in a bookshop or library, never fear, sites like have the series for you to view online.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens

I, rather shamefully, admittedly have not read The Help, mostly because I tend to shy away from the bestseller lists. Instead, I went and read One Pair of Hands, the only similarity being that they are about domestic help (I think).

The premise of One Pair of Hands is interesting, to say the least. It's like a reverse-Cinderella story, only this time, Cinderella chooses to go and slave away. Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens and a debutante, chooses to work as a domestic, simply because she is bored. Through the course of this memoir, she is mainly a cook-general, that is, she does everything + cook.

The writing is witty, and it's entertaining to see how she progresses from a thoroughly incompetent domestic help to a more competent domestic help. Through the course of the novel, she works for many houses (and she freely admits that she seems to attract the worst employers maybe because of her ineptness), and each distinctive house presents its own set of challenges.

The ending, which I will try not to give away, is satisfying, although I would wish for a slightly more disney-esque ending. But that would veer into fiction.

But it is interesting, how she managed to bear all the strains of being a domestic helper, and still continued in that job willingly (looking for other families). In Singapore today, most Singaporeans (including me) are spoilt and expect a maid (to be polite, I will say domestic help). Once the domain of the rich, now the every-man feels entitled for an indentured servant. And people wonder why I'm so cynical about our society.

But back to topic. Living with Josie Jie Jie and Emma Jie Jie (Josie Jie Jie having worked for my family far longer than I have lived) is basically a lesson in how to treat those who work for you. For one thing, she used to be able to discipline me. And another, now that it's not such a viable tool, talking to me works just as well. And basically, this is what I learnt:

THEY ARE HUMAN TOO. Get this into your head. Just because they live under your roof and eat your food doesn't mean you can be unfair. They are the ones who are slaving away, far from their families for your ungrateful brats (trust me, I've been there, done that, and I'm ashamed of it. And I'm definitely not the worse). While there are some truly evil/lazy maids around, I think the majority are good, if you treat them right. Of course, because this is live-in, things are complicated so much more, so clear boundaries/schedules are always welcome.

Before this becomes a discourse on how to treat your employee (which I am unsuited for), let me just end by recommending you a book from my Church library. It's called I Am a Filipino Maid by Geok Loo Bee and it's the best way (best book anyway) to walk a mile in their shoes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reading in Hong Kong

If anyone has read my previous post, then yes, I did buy more books in Hong Kong. And read a decent number in that time, considering the fact that I did spend most of my time doing vacation-related activities (in my family, reading books does not count as a vacation-related activity). And to make things easier (for me to write and you to read), I'm limiting myself to actualy books I read, not ebooks.

Before I even got on the plane, my family had a one or two hours to kill at the airport (midnight flight you see). So basically, my 'reading count' was at 2 even before I set off. Has anyone heard of the Arcane Society? Well, you should. Aunty Florence introduced me/lent me two books set in that society: The Perfect Poison (Book 6) and Burning Lamp (an Arcane society novel and also, rather confusingly, Book 2 in the Dreamlight Triology), both by Amanda Quick.

The Arcane Society deals with psychical gifts. Something like the gift of Hunting/Strategy/Blending into Shadows, etc. I don't fully understand what it's about, but I take it that they're talking about 'powers' of a form, and I just don't bother pretending it's real. It's a good narrative vehical, and makes for an interesting alternate reality, but still, definitely can't happen.

That being said, both books seem to revolve around romance. While I tend not to like 'adult' romances, since I have no interest in reading about two people and uh, how physical they can get, I managed to stomach the minute amount of scenes. Admitedly, the romance thing is integrated nicely into the plot, and I managed to skip the worst. Basically, this is a caution not to let little kiddies read this book, unless you feel they're ready. But really, there are worse books (in terms of this sort of content).

Plot-wise, the books are fantastic. The Perfect Poison deals with poisonous plants, and Lucinda, the protagonist is wonderfully crafted. In fact, I liked this book better because there there was more plot, Burning Lamp seeming to consist more of action scenes. And like the Discworld novels (yes, it's coming up), the way the novels interact is really enjoyable. Oh, and Burning Lamp is more psyschical, which may be why I don't like it as much. 

Skipping over the first few days, which is mostly yam cha (basically, dim sum) and some insane amounts of shopping (my feet died). And oh yeah, Hong Kong Disneyland (I need to brush up on my photography skills). To those considering going there, don't expect much thrill rides, but there is a really adorable ride: The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, that takes you through a book. Amazingly, both my sisters considered buying books, and one of them, Eugenia, actually followed up on it. I think my influence is growing ^^

I only start to properly read when we stay at my grandmother's place. She lives in the countryside (yes, Hong Kong does have a countryside), in a village, so I managed to walk to the nearby farm and such. There, I read The Diary of Amos Lee: I'm Twelve I'm Tough, I Tweet (Eugenia's purchase) and The Apprentice Smurf comics (Eusebius's purchase).

The Diary of Amos Lee: I'm Twelve I'm Tough, I Tweet by Adeline Foo is a made-in-Singapore product, and if you ask my, way better than the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. While unrealistic (I don't think it represents the Singapore Student well, although I could be just an anomaly), it's quite fun and Amos Lee reminds me of Paddy Clarke (good with words). In this installment, Amos juggles his new magazine 'Poop Fiction' while trying to run for his school's Tween Idol contest, dealing with bullies in the process. Reading such books, I think that Singapore is starting to produce better quality books (sorry Catherine Lim, I don't like your books much).

The Smurf Apprentice is a comic my brother saw and fell in love with. Being a smurf comic, I don't need to say much, but that if you are hesitating: IT'S IN COLOUR!

On one of the last days (second last day), we went to an outlet mall. In a typical manner, the only things I bought was from the bookstore (yes, and Outlet Bookstore!). I managed to buy my sister's Birthday Present: The Sister's Book (Which I can't read until after her birthday), and a photography guide specifically for my camera (I really need the help).

Lastly (I hear sights of relief), as per the newly minted tradition that started when I went to US, I bought a Terry Pratchet book at Hong Kong International Airport's Page One bookshop. And one other book called The Practical Napper.

The Practical Napper has no coherent content, but is a fun book of quotes/facts/tips about napping. Needless to say, I laughed out loud when reading this. My favourite quote? "Nap Long and Prosper". After this, I should go take a nap (well, I would if taking naps was a habit).

Making Money by Terry Pratchet is a Moist von Lipwig novel. He has apparently starred in Going Postal (sadly, I haven't read it yet), but here, he is tasked (ok, coerced) into taking over the Royal Mint. What happens is a humourous saga that pokes fun at how banks are run. The plot is good, with an unexpected twist and blah blah blah the usual praise for Pratchet.

What I really wanted to see though, was more footnotes (that's why I can't really read his books in ebook format). The footnotes are what makes the Discworld novels not only more comphrehensible (it is a world, like yet unlike ours after all), but also more humourous. Sadly, this book had very few footnotes. If there was an ode to footnotes, I would paste it here, but fortunately for you, I don't know any.

The only other (hey, assonance!) comment I have is how for some reason, I don't really like Adora Belle Dearheart. This is beyond strange since I have loved/liked every other character so far, and as far as I can objectively see, she is a well-written and likeable character. I guess there's no accounting for human tastes, although I did like her much more by the end of the novel.