Monday, December 31, 2012

Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal

What better way is there than to end the year with a book review? I don't have any new year themed books, but if we're talking literature, we can't forget The Bard. So today, let's appreciate a book about Shakespeare(:

Now don't get me wrong, I love The Bard, but sometimes, his plays are hard to understand. In fact, without all those explanatory footnotes, I might never understand them (although once you know what he's talking about, you'll love it).

Shakespeare on Toast attempts to demystify The Bard's work without dumbing it down. This means no simpliflying the language (yes!) or talking down.

What this book does do, however, is to first introduce the reader to the Shakespearean time. After you learn about how Shakespear's plays were first experienced, a lot of things make sense. No wonder my favourite play is King Lear, it's the only Shakespearean play I've been able to watch acted out. So if reading the books confuse you, go and watch it! I bet there are videos on youtube of people acting them out.

After that, he teaches you how to appreciate the play. One particularly useful section was the "False Friend", where certain well-known words had different meanings. It's something you should definitely keep in mind, because if you think of the word with it's modern meaning, you risk mis-understanding the whole play.

Of course, he does mention the "Thou" vs "You" thing. Did you know that in Shakespeare's time, "thou" was used as an intimate term? Makes it different when you realise that a lot of people talked to God with the word "thou". In contrast, "you" was a lot more formal. So just by taking note of these two words, you can infer a lot about the relationships between the characters.

Finally, after we go through rythmn (which was actually really useful. He managed to demystify the iambic meter enough that I understood what he was saying), we have an "example" where one scene in Macbeth is analysed. It's awesome. I need to go and watch MacBeth.

The language of the book is generally friendly and accessible. The book itself ends on a very encouraging note:

"No matter how complicated, no matter how ostensibly random, how annoying, boring or just plain bad a scene or a line seems to be, there is always a reason for it being there. 
You just have to find out what it is. 
And I promise: the search is always worth it."

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Happy New Year! I'll see all of you in 2013 :D 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tea & Books Reading Challenge 2013

This is probably the only reading challenge for this year. If you ask why, it's because I moved, and so, I can't promise anything about the kind of books I get to read. But with this, well, I finally have an excuse/reason to read Les Miserables/The Grapes of Wrath/Other long classic and re-read favourites like War and Peace.

Ok, so, details of this competition:

Here goes ...  
You may pick both fiction and non fiction books!  
Contrary to last year short story collections, anthologies or collected works in one volume are now allowed! Re-reads will now also be ok (though preferably you should read one of those unread tomes that have been collecting dust on your shelves)!  
Last year you had to read 700+ pages but I reduced this to 650+ for 2013 (and no, this is not further negotiable)! And as a little incentive - books with more than 1.200 pages will count for two books (so theoretically you can read four such super-chunksters to reach the Sencha Connoisseur level)!  
 Last but not least - no large print editions of a book, please!
And if you want to know what I'm aiming for, I'm aiming for Sencha Connoisseur (8 or more books)! Why you may ask? Well, that's because Sencha is a Japanese tea. And uh, and uh

-goes to find a reason-

Oh yes, and because I think 8 books in 12 months is doable. *coughitwasbecauseofsenchacough*

Does anyone have any suggestions what books I should tackle?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Siri and Me by David Milgrim

When the iPhone 4s came out, there was immediately a lot of jokes about Siri. From the fact that it resembles the word "butt" in Japanese, to the various paraody advertisements. Like this Kirsten Stewart one:

So no matter what people say, Siri is now a phenoneman. And with siri being "the most amazing/smartest iphone yet", it was only a matter of time before someone fell in love with Siri.

This little book follows Dave as he develops a one-sided relationship with Siri (she repeatedly tries to get him to date a real girl). It's part short story, part comic book. It alternates between blog posts and comics.

Basically, this is a hilarious look at how we may be too over-reliant on techonology. It's not just Siri, it's every other device as well.

Read this, and wonder if you're too attached to whatever your pretty toy is

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Today turned out to be a good day. I managed to drag myself out of my room around noon and make it to Church, which meant I wasn't alone.

Also, I have a Christmas present for you guys - The January issue of An Excuse for Company!

You can download the free magazine here. This is the largest issue yet, and I hope it'll keep growing in 2013! The next few days will be used for reading challenges and such, so reviews will be (regretfully) scant.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Victorian Christmas by Catherin Palmer

Rounding out my Christmas book reviews is this collection of stories set in, you've guessed it, the Victorian era. There are four novellas in total, so here are my thoughts, story by story. Happy reading, and Merry Christmas everyone!

Angel in the Attic - This was, strange. It basically stars two people - Lena and Hyatt, who don't want to get married. But after they meet under odd circumstances (neither knows the other is the person they're running away), they fall in love. It would be a sweet story, except that I don't understand how Lena fell in love. Hyatt's reasons were crystal clear, but for Lena to fall in love, I'm going to need more than someone telling me that he is smart, witty, listens to her, etc. But the proposal scene was cool.

Lone Star - A Texas gal meets a British Viscount. Unfortuately, she's due to marry his younger brother. His younger brother Rupert, by the way, is thoroughly unlikable. Who on earth cheats before his marriage? (Don't tell me, I don't want to know). He didn't deserve his happy ending. Star and the viscount Grey though, deserved theirs, they're a really cute couple.

Under His Wings - Clearly a re-telling of Ruth, only this time, the "Ruth: character is really really reluctant. And from Wales. Yes there's an earl involved (so far all three stories involve nobility don't they?) and she changes him for the better. The whole "social impropriety" thing did add another layer to the story though, I thought it made it a bit more realistic. The ending was predictable (you can't stray too far from the book of Ruth after all), but I did wish some of the villians got more or a comupttence.

Behold The Lamb - Yes, nobility makes an appearance, but here, the ordinary people of the Victorian era appear! Sadly, there's very little description about this, it's really mostly a nobility thing. It does, however, have a really sweet redemption story, and a message on how we're all sinners, and that there's no such thing as a "worse sin". The couple here - Rosalind and Nick, are probably the sweetest couple, because I love the  echoes of Elizabeth and Darcy type of interaction.

At the end of each story, there is a recipe of one of the foods mention. It's a sweet touch, and if you like this sort of thing, rejoice! If you don't, just skip it.

Note: This is where I normally say something like "I'm going to have a break! See you Next Year" or something like that, but this year, I don't know. It's the first time I'm spending Christmas alone after all. So, depending on what level of depressed I am, I may or may not post tomorrow. If I'm at the normal depressed level of a sane person, I'll be at Church the whole day (all lonely people are invited to hang out together). If I'm in a pity-party, I'll spend the whole day sleeping and reading and sleeping and reading, and will probably post in the night. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

All I Have to Give by Melody Carlson

This is a little strange, but for once, I wasn't very impressed with a Melody Carlson book. To me, this book felt way too rushed, as though it was written in a hurry with little thought for characters.

All I Have to Give is a re-telling of the short story "The Gift of the Magi". But in this case, Anna is prompted to make a sacrifice for her gift (and generally make it the 'best Christmas ever') by a cancer scare. There was a legitimate reason, but I thought that if she was afraid, the first thing she should have done was to check with the doctor. I could actually see the ending by Chapter 5.

In addition, the characters weren't very well thought-out. There was quite a few characters, each with their own issues. For example. Anna's sister Meredith has her own problems. But since this book is so short (just over a hundred pages), there isn't enough time to flesh out the characters. And so, they never really came to life for me. Unlike Christmas at Harringtons, the characters weren't endearing enough. It was basically a "give give give" fest, without enough motivation on the why.

That being said, the book does have potential. If the book was longer, and delved into the characters lives, it would have been a whole lot better. I don't really care that the plot was predictable, but what I really wanted were characters I could identify with.

Unfortunately, I didn't find it here. That meant this was merely a "so-so" read, rather than a fantastic one.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finding Christmas: Stories of Startling Joy and Perfect Peace

Rather than a feel-good Christmas story, Find Christmas is a collection of short stories, without much of a happy ending. There might be some hope, some glimpse of the light, but there isn't much in the way of the traditional happy ending we've come to expect.

The book has seven chapters and one preface, all of them short, unrelated stories. And like the book says in the foreword "most of the stories in this book end at beginings". If you're the sort that likes everything wrapped up neatly by the end, this might fustrate you a little. But think about it this way, you've been given the chance to dream of the ending yourself.

In all of these stories, you can see characters that are real. They might be annoying, with how flawed they are, but after a while, you realise your annoyance is because they're relatable. I've definitely felt like some of the characters some time or the other.

And with each of their stories, you see them just as they get a glimpse of the true meaning of Christmas. Most of the time, this glimpse is limited to them, others remained unchanged. But that's how changes come about. They start with one person. And the characters all learn a different lesson, so put the pieces together, and you might start too see a greater glimpse.

My favourite passage comes from the last story"The Snow Fall".

"He came for those who need him, not because they are poor or slovenly or unable to care for themselves. He came for all those who need him, even some like me, the elitists, self-satisfied with the arrogance that insists they really need nothing at all. He came for me because I too - in my annoyance and pride - am very much amoung the needy."

This is a fairly short book, but there's not way you can call it shallow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cover Reveal: Clara Snow by Alexandra Lanc

Today, I'm really excited to do a cover reveal for my Google+ friend Alexandra Lanc! So without further ado, here's the cover, and some information on this interesting book~ If you're on Google+, I recommend circling her(:
Tada~ I present the cover!

Clara Snow Synopsis:

Nearly a year has passed since that fateful Christmas in which Clara became the Snow Queen, and everything is about to change...

Jack and Clara arrive at the North Pole to find it under attack by mysterious forces, and in the fray, the unthinkable happens when Jack is kidnapped by none other than Rosaline, the former Snow Queen. Rosaline has somehow regained her powers, and challenges Clara to a duel to win back her title. In order to prove herself worthy, and attempt to rescue Jack, Clara travels to Rosaline’s castle in the South Pole with uncertainty in her heart.

But, Rosaline isn’t the only villain on the rise. The chaotic Immortal Eclipse has returned, with plans that no one can decipher -- plans that include Clara, and the destruction of everything that she, and the Winter Council, hold dear. Aided by her new friends -- Gertrude, a flying pink reindeer, and South, North’s eccentric brother -- can Clara hope to overcome the impossible by defeating Rosaline, and truly become not only the Snow Queen, but also herself?

The second book in the Snowflake Triplet, Clara Snow is a tale of wonder, hope, and of discovering the truth of who you are.

A Note From The Author:

What is it like to write a Christmas story? Well, I can definitely say that writing this series, beginning first with Clara Claus, has been a journey for me.
You never quite know how something is going to pan out until you start it, and usually when you start something – whether it’s writing or not – it never turns out like you thought it would. That has definitely been the case with this series, though how it’s turning out, and reception that I’ve gotten from it, is much more amazing than I could have ever hoped for.
I love Christmas, and that’s why when I sat down to write the first book Clara Claus, I was terribly excited to be writing about my favorite time of year. It’s one thing to watch Christmas movies, or see a parade, but writing has always held a special place in my heart.
Writing this new, upcoming book, Clara Snow, was no different, though it also was. It’s amazing to see how your characters grow from one book to another, and with Clara Snow, the second (technically) book in the series, a lot of growing takes place for the characters, just like it would in real life. And not only that, but there are some new characters that we will be introduced to, and some craziness that is going to happen! All in all, I think that this next book will be an experience for fans and newcomers alike, and that it makes a great addition to the series.
But, for those of you who are newcomers, let me tell you a little bit about the Snowflake Triplet series…
Growing up, my favorite “Winter and/or Christmas” character was Jack Frost, but he’s sadly not a character that you see a lot of, so one year around Christmas I decided that I wanted to write a Christmas story – and about my favorite character. Through much planning and debating on what the story would be about, I finally settled on a novel centering around Jack Frost and Santa’s Claus’ granddaughter, Clara. That novel became Clara Claus, the story of how Jack hates Christmas, and is about to be banished from his “job” due to it, and how Clara changes his mind about the Holiday with her view of things; but really more than that, it’s a story about Hope, and how that’s what Christmas is really all about. Clara Claus was followed by the novella Sugar Plum Dreams, which tells the story of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and next year will see rise to Clara Claus, the continuation of Clara and Jack’s story. 
Jack and Clara will be going through some trials in Clara Snow, but I think that readers will be happy to see how they overcome them – I know that I was! Be prepared for new faces, new places, new enemies, and the biggest surprise that fits into a tiny box.
Best Christmas Wishes,
Alexandra Lanc, December 2012

Links and Author Information:

Alexandra grew up writing. Since she could pick up a pen, she has scribbled in notebooks and binders, written on the computer. She draws inspiration from everything she sees, but her dreams are her main source of literary endeavors.
When not writing, Alexandra can be found reading, creating artwork, listening to music, and spending time with her family and friends.
Alexandra lives in the U.S.A. (Florida) with her family and calico cat, Sanura.

Twitter: @AuthorLanc
Goodreads: Alexandra Lanc

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson

I'm back from my mini-vacation with my family! (They came over, I had a vacation). I wish they didn't go back, but while I'm nursing my tears, enjoy this review.

What Christmas series of books would be complete without Melody Carlson? This time, I managed to get my hands on one of her Christmas novella's.

Christmas at Harrington's has an interesting premise. Lena, the protagonist, is a recently ex-convict. Deciding not to go back to her hometown, she travels to the town of New Haven, where she hopes to make a fresh start. And somehow, she manages to get a job at Harrington's as Mrs Santa, make friends, and melt down her barriers a little. But, someone from New Haven knows her secret and outs her.

But while Lena may feel ostracised, she finds out who her true friends are, and some new friends in unexpected places.

The book is sweet. I liked the whole cast of characters, and I thought for such a short book, it had a decent back-story and plot. There is definitely a message of forgiveness, and letting go of bitterness, but I didn't find the book preachy at all.

And one thing I liked was how there was no romance until the last chapter, and then, only the promise of it. If a romantic relationship was added, the book would have to be a lot longer, and there is always the risk of side-lining the real plot. So I'm glad that this didn't happen.

A slightly deeper theme in the novel is about how there is also corruption in the Church. I can't say much without giving out the plot, but you should know that the reason Lena was in jail was her husband's fault, and he was the Church's pastor. So Lena's issues are a little different from most. I suppose this is something that could have been explored further, but it might have made the tone of the book a little more serious. However, if this wasn't Christmas themed, I'd love to read a full length novel to chew on this topic.

This short novella is perfect to read if you want to get into the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Touching Wonder by John Blake

Note: I'm going to meet my family today, which means I'll be away for my computer for a few days. Have a good break everyone!

This short read (I finished it in one sitting), is perfect to get into the spirit of Christmas.

This book is divided into twelve parts, with one interlude. Each part starts with a passage from Luke, taken from The Message translation (if you haven't heard of The Message, it's a translation that aims to convey the essence/Spirit of the Bible rather than a literal translation). After which, it's followed by a narration from the point of view of one of the characters concerned. Finally, it ends with a pray/reflection by the author.

I thought the mingling of The Message with the author's version was very well done. The Message naturally has a story-like feel, so rather than being reading a passage and something fiction, it felt more like reading a continuous story. Each chapter felt fresh, and made the Birth of Christ feel very vivid.

One of my favourite passages was from the Angel Gabriel's point of view. But the passage that made the deepest impact is simply from "an Angel". I would like to share the first paragraph

"To say that His Birth was opposed is to touch the limits of mortal language. The Mighty One has been hated since the pride of the bright one led many away. Your word war comes close, but even then, believe me, you have no idea."

The prayers were really reflections, but since they were handwritten (they look like a note), I found it a little hard to read at times. But they are quite short, so it wasn't that hard to decipher.


"The Life-Light will blaze in the darkness,
no more night.
Peace on earth, Peace for us all."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Song For Jordan by Mya Kay

Yes, I'm back with another book tour! This time, I'm really excited to be reviewing A Song For Jordan.

A Song For Jordan stars the eponymous character as a music-loving bi-racial teen searching for her dad. Personally, it was the music part that attracted me. And this book doesn't disappoint. I couldn't put it down, and finished it in record time.

Jordan is a very privileged and talented girl. She wears all sorts of branded goods and is so insanely talented (Piano and Voice) that she easily wows Chris Jordan (a famous artists she respects) and gets into his internship program easily. So then, what could go wrong?

Well, she has lousy friends. Her two "best friends" are racists and enjoy putting her down. Just listening to their insults made me so angry. If I was Jordan, I would have snapped a long time ago. I think it's because her friends aren't as rich as her (they always want to borrow her clothes), so they treat her as a lackey and get angry when she doesn't do as she wishes. With friends like this, you don't need enemies.

But she gets another one. There's Nelson, this guy she meets during the internship. Unfortunately, he soon becomes abusive. But Jordan thinks she loves him, so how can she leave him? That's another struggle she has to face.

In addition, there's also the whole searching-for-her-father aspect. While the reader knows who her father is early on (thanks to an omnipresent third person narrator), Jordan doesn't. And waiting for her to find out also upped the tension level.

So it seems like this lucky girl doesn't have it so good after all. With so much tension, how can you put the book down?

And now, I feel like adding a video/music. There are two songs that would work - The Lucky One by Taylor Swift, and Lucky by Britney Spears. Both talk about musical girls who, while appearing very lucky and talented, aren't as happy as they should be. Granted, the music is about Hollywood, but it'll do. Since I don't know if there's a The Lucky One MV, enjoy Lucky (plus, I really do love this video)

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book thanks to Enchanted Book Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Quote: Silence by Endo Shusaku!

So yesterday, I managed to get my hands on the Japanese version of Silence by Endo Shusaku (read it. It's awesome!) If you don't know, this was my EE book, so I'm really psyched to be able to read it in its original language.

This is how the book looks like:

And I realised, I actually have a similar photo, taken from my room window. So, without further ado, here's my favourite quote from the whole book, in both English and Japanese:

Click for a bigger view. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

After so long, I've finally finished the Hobbit.

Why oh why didn't I pick this book up sooner?

Being the topsy-turvy girl I am, I actually read a few commentaries/discussions on this before actually picking up the book (something I did with the Game of Thrones series. Thankfully, I care more for language than plot spoilers).

The Hobbit is the prequel to The Lord of The Rings series, and despite being a children's book, will probably appeal to everyone of every age. It follows Bilbo Baggins, who makes a small appearance in the first book, as he leaves his comfortable life to help Thorin and his twelve friends reclaim their treasure from Smaug the dragon.

This book is definitely lighter in tone than the Lord of The Rings series. It's mostly a journey of Bilbo moving out of his comfort zone, and becoming a more advenrous hobbit. And like the many books have said, there are definitely lessons to be learnt from here.

What I loved most about this book was the narration. Tolkien as a narrator had a very strong presence. It's kind of like Charles Dickens, or Thackery's Vanity Fair (check author) or Jane Austen. I don't really care about the narrator, but when they're this likeable, just listening to them narrate is enjoyable. There may not be quick plot progression, but who cares when it's so fun.

The ending though, felt a bit rushed. I don't quite understand why some characters seemed to have changed so suddenly. In fact, I felt like I was made to feel another way about another character. I hardly say this, but I think the confrontation scene between Smaug and the town should have been much much longer. Long enough for more characterisation.

All in all, a really fun read!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Facebook Diet by Gemini Adams

I've never been very attached to Facebook. I first got it because I wanted photos of my ROCs 3 trip. But now, it's mostly how my family knows I'm alive (because I'm posting photos), and how I wish people Happy Birthday.

I do admit though, that there was a time, just after I got my smart phone, when I checked facebook many times a day. Not all the time, but whenever I was bored.

And I imagine that if you take that me, and multiply it by a hundred, you'll have the target audience of The Facebook Diet. Simply put, this roughly hundred page book is a list (with one picture per 'sympton') of Facebook addiction.

I shared the book with a friend (we were sitting together, I had my iPad, you know how these things start), and she, using facebook way more than me, agreed with the symptoms. Not that we/she does them. But uh, identifying with them is possible. And yes, the book is funny.

Some of the humour and images are a little crude though, so I wouldn't recommend it to younger teens and kids. It seems to be targeted more at the adults who have found themselves addicted to Facebook.

To me, the funniest symton was "You don't know what Google+ and Circles are". Speaking as someone who now spends more time on Google+ than Facebook, well, I laughed out loud. -insert mock serious tone- hopefully, this will raise the awareness of Google+.

A funny book for those that use facebook.

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge: Wyrd Sisters

This post is dedicated to my sister Euphemia, who, unfortunately, doesn't turn 12 today. She turns 12+6 years old instead.

I love Shakespeare. I also love Terry Pratchett. So when Terry Pratchett borrows from The Bard, you know the book has to be awesome.

Loosely based/Inspired by Hamlet (trees make an appearance!), King Verence of Lancre is killed by the Duke, who takes over. Unfortunately, the little baby Prince managed to escape, and thanks to Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax and Margrat, is now in the safe hands of an acting group. Um, what an unusual childhood it'll be.

But in the meantime, the Duke is driving the three witches mad. He's even managed to make Granny Weatherwax angry, with some scary results. In fact, in a first for me, I saw Granny Weatherwax (temporarily) beaten.

But if you think this is just a story about kings, well, it's not. There's a good bit directed at acting (lots of Shakespeare references!), and ok, fine, it's about kings and royalty. I loved reading about the kind of monarchy that people like.

Oh, and Ankh Morpork makes an appearance too~ Kind of like a comparison between countries.

So yeah, I've told you the basic elements, which means that if you read a lot of Discworld, you can more or less guess the kind of humour that's going to happen.

Personally, I love the interaction between Magrat, Granny and Nanny. Magrat is so different from the two older witches, what with her being idealistic and having ideas that conform to what people think witches do in this world. But for Granny, it's all headology.

I wonder if I should continue fangirling? I'm currently in the mode where all I can do is say "READ IT READ IT READ IT" and then try to force the book down people's throats. Maybe I'll just share a quote instead. This quote comes from when Magrat brings Granny and Nanny to the theatre for the first time:

" 'I reckon', she said slowly, 'I reckon it's all just pretendin'. Look, he's still breathing.'

The rest of the audience, who by now had decided that this commentary was all part of the play, stared as one man at the corpse. It blushed.

'And look at his boots too.' Nanny said critically. 'A real King'd be ashamed of boots like that.'

The corpse tried to shuffle its feet behind a cardboard bush."

P.s. for those interested in things like this, the Driot de Seigneur is an important part of the plot. Of course, it's misunderstood by almost all the characters. If you're one of those that like to expand your knowledge, you may want to google the term. If you do, I'm sorry for turning you into someone from my HL3 class (full of knowledge you can't say out loud in polite company).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge Wrap-Up~

Has been been a year? Time certainly flew by! Today, I'm here to do my wrap-up (I'm resisting the urge to use the Japanese word matome on you guys) for the Literary Feline's Merely Mystery Reading Challenge. If you need a recap, here's my introduction, and a link to all the related posts on this challenge.

I signed up for the "Down-on-her-luck-Gumshoe", and I'm happy to say that I've met the challenge! Well, actually, I continued it further. Unfortunately, I ending up reading more cozy's than anything (I read three for the challenge!) so I didn't actually meet the higher level "Shamus" Challenge.

This was really fun. I've always liked mysteries, and it was a good incentive for me to read more. I think, it would have been easier if I stayed in Singapore, but I suppose being in Japan just added to the challenge. Now, as I decide which challenges I'm going to tackle next year, I'm going to have to consider my budget and the Project Gutenberg/Manybooks websites.

I have no regrets participating in this challenge. I don't think I'll do it again next year, but I'll probably revisit it sometime in the distant future.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Poison by Bridget Zinn (ARC)

Would you kill your best friend if you found out she will destroy the kingdom one day? That's the dilemma that Kyra faces, when she see's her best friend Ariana destroying the country in a vision. So, she tries to kill her - but misses. Now, she's a wanted criminal on the run.

The story really starts with a bang. We start off with Kyra already on the run, and the back-story is given to us in bits and pieces. On the way, Kyra picks up a pig called Rosie and meets a guy called Fred. Ok, if I say anything more, I will blurt out one of the many plot twists.

Um, ok, the distract myself, let's talk about the characters. Personally, I loved Kyra. And no, it's not because she likes food (although that really makes me want to find her and become friends). Kyra was a well-written character and someone you can readily identify with. Plus, she's a master potioner, which means she has access to a whole bunch of stuff. Although having another talent may be overkill though.

And there's Arriana, who's totally not the normal girly princess. Or the warrior princess. She's just a normal tomboy princess. When we're finally introduced to her, I find her completely lovable. She and Kyra make a good team.

Rounding up the trio, there's Fred. Who's secretly  whoops! Almost gave away a spoiler there! He's the nice-guy, although he may too nice at times. But he's genuinely likable, and down-to-earth. Despite his big secret.

The world-building was decent. It felt like a normal fairy-tale world (witches and stuff), so there wasn't anything very original. But it wasn't sketchy either, sufficient details were given to make the world Kyra was in feel realistic. I'm quite curious as to see if the later books would give the world more character, as in Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern series (I was very surprised to find out that The Goose Girl had sequels).

Definitely a title to check out!

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

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Long Reads #16

This time, I've been reading mainly book-ish articles.

Don't Support Your Local Bookstore by Farhad Manjoo - It makes a very interesting case of why you should not shop at an Independent Bookstore. Personally, I like the limited selection, because it's a very good way to browse and find something completely new. Something that rarely happens on Amazon (I may find something different from what I intended, but it all starts with a search term)

Amazon's Jungle Logic by Richard Russo - This is actually the article that sparked Don't Support Your Local Bookstore as a response. So you can tell, it's a defense of the bookstore. Or rather, the defense of the reputation of the bookstore, as more than merely a place for buying books.

They Cracked This 250 Year-Old Code, And Found a Secret Society Inside by Noah Schatman - It's a really interesting article on how computers can be useful. And of course, teamwork too. It's also a really indirect case for inter-disciplinary coorperation - there's no one expert who has the definitive word.

Don't Look for e-Literature in Novels by Dan Holloway - I will be the first to admit, I don't understand most modern Literature. Or Modern Art. Personally, I prefer the times when (to quote Clarice) "pictures showed people or even things" (approximate quote). The same goes for novels, I like the narrative to be understandable. I still haven't mastered Ulesyss by James Joyce. It took me very long to read Mrs Dalloway, and I still don't understand it. In fact, one of my favourite authors to study is Shakespeare. But if you like the new styles of writing, give this article a go.

The Story Behind a Non-Fiction Novel  by George Plimpton - Can Nonfiction be Literature? Well, I studied The Art of Travel for Literature so I'm guessing yes. And if you think about it, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, is an awesome autobiography that utilises fiction techniques. So the answer is definitely yes. The article gave me another book to look up: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

My 6,1288 Favourite Books by Joe Queenan - If you remembered, I reviewed One For The Books by the same author some time back. And after I posted it, Yvonne from Fiction Books posted a comment alerting me to this article. If you haven't read One For The Books (and you should), go look up this article. You can treat it as a teaser for the book.

What articles have you been reading?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Judge by R.J Larson

In the very recent past, I managed to read Prophet , the first in this series. And suddenly, I saw Judge, it's sequel on NetGalley. Well, I couldn't click the request button fast enough. Plus, I requested it from Bethany House just to be on the safe side(;

The book was as good as I expected. I couldn't put it down.

Judge revolves more around Kien, although Ela plays a significant role. Kien is getting to know the will of the Infinite, and is sent a bunch of different places whose names I can't remember. Meanwhile, Ela is sent to give judgement on Parne - her hometown.

I must say, this book has a lot more Biblical parallels than Prophet. Kien undergoes a experience that's way similar to Jonah. And the destruction of Parne is an awful lot like the destruction of Jerusalem. But it's not a rehash of the Bible, R. J Larson takes the familiar histories and turns it into something new. If you don't read the Bible much (in this case, start a daily plan now!), you might not even recognise the parallels.

But you will take back the messages of justice, mercy and repentence. Why does God destroy a city but spares another? Why destroy anything at all? Well, God hurts, He grieves at what his children are doing. And He is Justice, so he must destroy evil. But He is also Mercy, and he will forgive those who repent.

Of course, our favourite characters are back - Ela and Kien. They have much less interaction in this book, mostly because they're in different places, but they develop a lot more. And Jon and Bekah, characters that we met at the end of Prophet, are developed more fully. But, there is one sad piece of news. I won't say what, but it involves a character and bad things.

If you liked/loved Prophet, you'll love Judge.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from Bethany House via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Adventures of Austin Girl by Carrie Crain

Yes, I'm back with another blog tour! Recently (I can't remember when or how), I heard about Buy the Book Tours, which sounded really fun. So of course, I signed up, and now, here's my first blog tour from them, The Adventures of Austin Girl by Carrie Crain. It's a "Page Turner Bonanza", so be prepared for lots of information.

Let's start with the review first

The book begins with the warning "I listen to disco". Personally, I think it's a fair warning, because the book is very, um, loud, and uh, basically, it's how I imagine Disco is.

First off, if you're used to spare prose (like Hemmingway, I hear his prose is very sparse), then reading The Adventures of Austin Girl might give you a shock. The prose is loud and chaotic and if you like this sort of thing, very fun. I can totally imagine a kid with a tiny attention span reading the whole book because of all the details thrown at you. You might get confused, but you won't get bored.

Second, there are the characters. I'm still trying to decide if Austin Girl is a Mary-Sue, but I don't think she is. There are some Mary Sue moments though. But the rest of the characters, especially Diablo, are just wacky. This is so obviously made-up, so suspend your dis-belief and hang on.

But, I would say that the Geisha was quite annoying. She didn't seem wise or Japanese in any way. I did wonder if she was there for the token wise Asian character, but since the book seems to be making fun of everyone, from the main character to the villian, I can still ignore this.

At the back of the book, there's also a useful character list (I wish I saw it earlier), and some interesting facts about the book (like how the word "eyeballs" appeared only once).

In order to enjoy this book, you have to be able to handle large-amounts of "O.O" and accept everything as it goes.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from Buy the Book Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

So, here's the Media Page

Author Information:
Carrie Crain received her bachelor of arts in Sociology from the University of Oklahoma and studied graduate-level screenwriting and creative writing in fiction at UCLA. She is a housewife and writer who is challenged by bipolar, anticipatory stress, and generalized anxiety.

 Her debut tween novel, The Adventures of Austin Girl and the Legend of Diablo will be published by Two Crain Teen, an imprint of Two Crain Publishing, LLC in October 2012 and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony Reader Store, and iTunes for ebook readers, Kindle, iPad, and Nook. Also available as a paperback online and at select indie bookstores. 

If you’re on Goodreads, follow her there, now. She plans on doing some kind of #LegendofDiabloBookClub.

 Crain wrapped up her first independent short she wrote and produced called Sould, which was filmed in Oklahoma last summer and included local talent as well as a Hollywood comedian and LA director. The story is about a zany film director desperate to enter a film competition and reluctantly picks a screenplay about a woman who sells her soul. The short will be entered in film competitions both in the States as well as abroad. For more information about her short, visit the Facebook Fan Page at and follow along on Twitter @SouldShort.

 Crain is currently penning her memoir, a collection of humorous essays, Sould: Memoir of Bipolar to be published in 2014, and is the story of a middle-aged housewife’s adventures with bipolar as she struggles to write the next Great American Novel.

 She has been a freelance writer for Austin Monthly Magazine and was a contributing writer at Crazytownblog. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three dogs. For speaking engagements or book inquiries, please e-mail: or tweet her @CarrieCrain. Creative Influences: Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Tim Burton, and Wes Anderson

You can buy The Adventures of Austin Girl at the following places:
Amazon (Ebook, Paperback)
Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers

I'm not sure where I heard about Dorothy L. Sayers, but I think she was a "guilty indulgence" of a famous writer (does anyone know who?). But I figured, if it's a mystery, why not give it a go? I believe The Nine Tailors is one of her famous novels.

Well, The Nine Tailors follows a strange murder. And lots of bell ringing. Personally, I thought the explanation of bell ringing was too boring. Although admittedly, I have no interest in this subject. But it was written in an easy to understand way (except for the directions about how to ring the bells). But still, sometimes the raptures about the bells made me go O.o. After all, I've never heard proper bells - I suppose that means I should go seek out some.

Mystery-wise, it was, average. I couldn't guess the murderer, but the whole plot moved along very very slowly. So very slowly. I actually lost track once, and that scared me, because the book is 441 pages on my iPad (if you hold it up portrait style) and I didn't want to have to restart (because of the lack of time, not because it was that boring). Thankfully, I managed to get back on track.

But, the language was really good. The book is obviously very well-written, and some passages were really quite moving.

For me, the greatest attraction were the characters. They were all really moving, and I thought Peter Wimsey was a good choice for a main character. They really were what kept me reading throughout the whole book.

In conclusion, this is a little like an Agatha Christie book, only that the mysteries are slightly softer. It appeals with it's characters and its language.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

As part of my efforts to be a well-rounded/well-read person, as well as my ongoing fascination with different homeschooling methods, I came across this manifesto/ebook by Seth Godin.

It is, on the iPad, about 107 pages of why the American education system is wrong and what could be done. It's actually quite interesting, and I think I'll be done soon. So today, I'll be picking a teaser from what I've highlighted so far.

So, this week, it's a three sentence teaser:

"By their nature, dreams are evanescent. They flicker long before they shine brightly. And when they're flickering, it's not particularly difficult for a parent or a teacher or a gang of peers to snuff them out." 

I've never read Seth Godin's blog, but if this book continues to impress me, I may just start.

What is your teaser this week?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lily's Plight by Sally Laity and Dianna Crawford (ARC)

I used to read books like this. Books about the American frontier (why though, is something I haven't figured out yet). So in a way, reading this historical romance felt a bit like returning to my childhood (I will never get over how old that makes me sound).

But unlike when I was a kid, now when I read, I keep thinking, "really?" I spent a good bit of the book wondering if the portrayal of the Native Americans as blood-thirsty savages were accurate. I don't know much (I've been Googling, but I still don't understand most of it), but I do think this is a fairly one-sided portrayal. Of course, there is the normal "we must pray for them", but there isn't any concrete outreaches to the Native Americans. (I did read on Google though, that there were missionaries).

The storyline itself is kind of strange. The conflict is that Lily is in love with her master (she's in indentured servant), who's beloved wife dies in the first few chapters. But the book is dragged out because John (the guy she's in love with) is away fighting and there are those 'injuns' attacking them while she stubbornly stays at the home ground.

Of course, I did wonder what parents would let their 12 year old son use a gun. I suppose it was a much different time then.

But it was interesting, and I like how there was some theological conflict, when they doubted about the use of prayer. It might come across as too preachy for some people, but I quite liked it. It managed to become part of the narrative quite smoothly.

I think, from what I glimpsed of her sisters lives, I would have enjoyed the other books a whole lot more. Particularly the one about her sister working for the rich, but blind boss. That sounded interesting.

All in all, not bad.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Friday, November 30, 2012

In The Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett

Like one of the characters says in this book, everyone's written something about Anne Boleyn. But this book is sympathetic towards her. This makes it rather strange for me, because my first introduction to her was through The Other Boleyn Girl, which was not a very flattering portrait.

In The Shadow of Lions has a very interesting narrative style. It jumps between the 'author' of the book an the actual story. Personally, I found this style distracting, I didn't care about the author (there wasn't enough details and she was forever justifying herself) and would have preferred to just read the 'historical' section alone.

In the historical part of the book, there is Rose (a, um, stained woman who received a second chance) and Anne Boleyn. What I don't understand, is how Anne Boleyn can be a 'good Christian' and believe in things like fairies. Likewise, other characters believe in things like Unicorns and such. I suppose though, that this was a heresy of the time.

Anne and Rose as characters.... well, I like Rose (although I didn't care much for the household she was in), and while I was initially prejudiced against Anne, she won me over by the end.

What I was really interested in though, was 'The Hutchins Book', in other words, The Holy Bible translated into English for the first time. That was really the part of the story that kept me reading. I felt that there wasn't enough in the court-section or the house-hold section to capture my attention or my heart. But the whole heretics and faith thing? Gripping.

Personally, the strongest point of the book was how it showed that by making Latin the "tongue of angels" and thus inaccessible to normal people, faith can be distorted. I really wasn't that interested in the plot, although since Rose and Anne are tied up in the book, they managed to grab my interest.

And out of curiosity  does anyone know why it's Latin that's the chosen language? I'm pretty sure the Bible was written in Aramic, Hebrew and Greek.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I interrupt your regular book review for some important news:

Today, I officially won NaNoWriMo!

I'm so happy especially since this is my first year. It makes up for being sick right now.

Please excuse me while I jump around my room like a crazy person


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

If the Folio Society (my current bookish obsession) ever does a print of A Voice In The Wind, I will join their membership straight away and get it. I first read this book when I picked it up by chance in the library, and I love it so much. It's a wonderful story that I couldn't put down. Literally, I was walking everywhere with my iPad (more than usual, I mean).

A Voice in the Wind follows Haddassah, a Jewish-Christian who becomes a slave in a Roman household.

One thing I noticed upon this re-reading is that the Roman world resembles ours a lot. It's uncanny. For example, the acceptance of homosexuals. And Cabalah's arguements for abortion (like how it's a symbol for life, not life) sound like what a lot of people say. But if it's right to do, why is it "natural" for women to feel guilty and depressed after an abortion? You don't feel guilty about things that are right.

Which makes this book very encouraging, showing me that it is possible to be different from the world without outwardly rebelling. Haddassah affects everyone through the way she serves, and that is the best possible testimony she could give. She's is, basically, the perfect slave. One character puts it really well, "[another character] obeys", but "Haddassah serves".

And isn't that what we're called to be? To be servants of Christ. This is definitely not a textbook, but it's definitely a model as to what it means to be a true servant. Haddassah serves a pretty spoilt/evil mistress, but she does make a positive influence.

Haddassah's not even the Christian version of a Mary Sue. She struggles with her faith (and her seeming lack of it) and her emotions. It reminds me of Mother Theresa, whom, if I remember correctly, also struggled with her faith. Yet, both ladies (real and imagined) are some of the greatest servants ever.

A must-read for anyone who's a fan of Christian fiction. In fact, it's a must read for anyone who loves a good story.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. I've always been a fan of Francine Rivers, so the fangirl reaction is to be expected.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Excuse For Company Volume 2

Last month, I debuted the An Excuse For Company magazine. Earlier this month, I asked for submissions. And now, I'm very proud to say that I haven't given up and in fact, have published the second volume!

It's a Christmas Volume (since it's for December after all) and I'm so happy that there's actually a present! It's not a free book, but it's a discount on a really interesting book. Plus, you can sleep happy knowing that your profits don't go to the author, they go to a really worthwhile charity.

Of course, there are plenty of book reviews inside, and even two author posts! I hope you guys enjoy them!

You can download your free copy at Smashwords

Monday, November 26, 2012

Renegade by J. A. Souders

I first heard of this book while browsing through Zite. The opening chapter caught my eye, and I started looking for this book. Thankfully, it was still on NetGalley and I got an advance copy!

And yes, this book is fantastic! It's a dystopia, but (I feel), very unique.

The book follows Evelyn, a "Daughter of the People" in her utopia Elysium (it took me a iTunes uni lecture to realise that Elysium is a reference to the Greek(?) paradise for heroes). She feels like something is wrong, but it can't be, after all, her own mind tells her that everything is perfect. That is, until she finds a Surface Dweller and inexplicable decides to help him.

I think the genius of this book was in making Evelyn brainwashed (they call in "conditioned"). Basically, the first few chapters started with the same few paragraphs, because she was being conditioned to think a certain way. She doesn't realise it, but we the readers do. Such a smart idea!

Apart from that, I think Elysium was very interesting. I can sort-of undestand Mother's reasons for building it, but she went off the deep-end a long time ago. And it's nice to see that the Surface to which they escape isn't perfect. It's kind of like this world actually. Of course, the characters were well-thought out. The Enforcers, the Guards, the different Sectors, were all well done.

There are many twists and turns in the plot, but they were well done, and really, the Conditioning more or less excuses everything plot twist.

One caveat though, this book does touch on sexual themes (nothing explicit thankfully), so I would recommend this only to older teens and up.

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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Long Reads #15

It's not just because it's NaNo now, but I've been saving articles on reading. Because reading about reading is awesome~ (Admit it, that sentence made you smile). So this week, I read:

Reading in a Whole New Way by Kevin Kelly- A look at how the rise in e-readers change our reading habits. Personally, I prefer paper, but when you can't get the books that way, you'll change to a screen. I do think, however, that it has affected my reading habits. I'm actually reading more than one book at a time now (it did take a year or so to happen though, so it helps).

Your E-Book is Reading You by Alexandra Alter - It's kind of scary, how companies will take your data and analyse it. Part of the fun for me, is finding a book you didn't think you'd like. I doubt an algorithm could do that. It almost makes me reconsider getting a kindle. Almost. I'm waiting till it starts selling to see the reviews, so I have quite some time to think about it.

Bound for Posterity by Joseph Connolly - Ok, the Folio Society is my latest craze. I'm really a sucker for pretty books. Pretty physical books. I just wish I have the money to buy it. And a way to buy it. This article though, kind of satisfies my curiosity of the Society by giving a really interesting look at it, from the kind of members to the employees.

How Not To Write a Novel: A Step by Step Guide to Failure by Anita Sethi- This is not an essay, but it's a very hilarious list of things you shouldn't do if you want to finish writing a novel. Highly recommended, especially since NaNo is ending.

The Library of Utopia by Nicholas Carr- Is it possible to have the ultimate library online? This article sums up the controversy and provides what I think is a balanced look at both sides - Google and those against Google.

What have you been reading?

Friday, November 23, 2012

By Invitation Only by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson

I wonder if you've heard of Gilt Groupe? The first time I heard of it was because it was a pre-installed app on my phone (and I can't get rid of it). But I am always interested in the stories of how businesses succeed. And this book is way more than just a story.

Apart from being just a story, By Invitation Only aims to put "forth our story with the goal of offering concrete suggestions on how to handle some of the challenges that lie ahead". And yes, the book does fulfill that promise.

First, the story aspect. The story of Gilt Groupe is really exciting. I'm not a fashion-girl, so these ideas would never agree to me. But the friendship of the A's and the whole start-up team made me support this company (alas, I don't have the money to financially support it). It also presents a candid look at how a start-up works, and how it changes as it gets bigger and starts earning money. The prose was very readable and the story was compelling.

Next, the advise part. One very useful thing is that after milestones, the book provides Checklists that help solidify the lessons learnt. I know some people will be able to gather these lessons just by reading the stories, but for the slightly obtuse like me, the checklists are very helpful. And of course, woven into the narrative itself are bits and pieces of good advice. It didn't interrupt the flow of the re-count at all.

I really do wish that my textbooks were all like this. It's way more interesting to learn from a story (that also explicitly tells you what you're supposed to know) than to keep reading the same dry theories. Although admittedly, my Business and Management textbook is pretty interesting.

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge - Feet of Clay

I'm baaack~ And yes, this one is in Ankh Morpork (I love that country!). It's an interesting book, because it has a mystery (but no one dies. I don't think anyone can actually kill Lord Vetinari).

But um yeah, I just told you the plot. But besides the mystery, there's also speciesim, a bit of romance, nobility and Vimes. The more books I read that star Sir Vimes, the more I like him as a character. He's the grumpy-guy with a soft heart deep deep deep down.

There is a lot I can say about this book, but for now, I'll just talk about Gender Equality and Nobility.

About the Gender Equality thing, well you see, Dwarfs don't officially acknowledge the female gender. It exists, but it's kept secret. Instead, the girls look exactly like guys and do the same work like guys. I suppose it was how Terry Pratchett decided to portray a society/class/group of people without any gender differences. Yet Cheery/Cheri Littlebottom, and many female dwarfs like her, want to be more girly. I'm still trying to figure out what this means, but I think it's going to be significant.

The second thing is about mankind's inexplicable fasicnation with nobbility. Vime's ancestor is unpopular because he lopped of the head of a King who was a tyrant. In fact, people will want to dress up as the king, but no one wants to be a good guy. And when Nobby, who has to prove he's human, is 'found' to be an Earl, he's suddenly loved by the upper crust of society. We're talking about Nobby. (And I saw the note that proved he was human).

It really just shows that people can get blinded by a title, and use that to judge. I'm really not sure whether I'm very susceptible to this, but it's something for everyone to think about. Why do we think people who have the words "Lord", "Lady", "Datuk", "Datina" or the same sort of titles to be somehow superior to normal people?

Interestingly, in feudal Japan, the people with the least money (not including the nobility), were the highest class Samurai. The lowest class Merchants were, ironically, the richest.

Read. This. Book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

When I was still in MG (which is about four years ago), I remember reading one of the Dark is Rising book, only that I forgot the title. So when Christal/okaasan (it's a long story involving my phone) offered to lend me the book (I saw it at her place), I eagerly took the chance.

And the series is fantastic! I really do love English fantasy. I'll be reviewing all five books at a go, so while I'll try to avoid the spoilers, well, I'm only human.

So let's start with the first book Over Sea, Under Stone. I'm very sure this wasn't the book I read. For one thing, I don't remember Simon, Jane and Barney. I didn't like them much either. I think it was because they were too ordinary, which meant the plot seemed to be a series of coincidences. Plus, Simon was quite annoying. Barney and Jane weren't too bad, but my favourite character here was Merriman.

The second book was The Dark Is Rising. This is possibly the book I read, because Will was really familiar, but I don't think so. Will is really my favourite character in the series though. He's still a kid, but since he's an Old One, he's got the right to say deep deep things. It fits in with the whole fantasy idea, which is needed because this is set in modern England.

And of course, Will and Jane, Simon and Barney meet in the third book, Greenwitch. And the three siblings just annoyed me. They were too self-important, which made them condescending towards Will. I understand they feel special and all, but you really should be nice to others no matter what. But of course, everything is resolved in the end, although the three still know very little (but they know Will is part of the Light). Apart from Will and Merriman, Jane is the next most likable character.

The fourth books has Will again! I really thing this is the one that I read. In The Grey King, Will meets a mysterious boy (ok, his past and nature is mysterious, the boy himself is normal) called Bran while he's sent to Wales to recover. I love the use of the Welsh words, even though I couldn't understand it or pronounce it. It's probably the strongest book of the series, and I can see why it won the Newberry Medal.

In the finale, Silver on the Tree, Will, Bran and the three siblings are brought together in Wales. Simon managed to sound like an ignorant but proud child the first time he meets Will in the book. But there's a rather clear division, that Will and Bran have a role to play (and they know their role) while the three must flounder around without knowing much. I really don't see their role, except they make up the numbers. But it's great to see the friendship between Will and Bran in The Grey King develop further. To me, the book ended at The Challenge (over Bran), because I couldn't understand what happened after that.

If you love fantasy, you have to pick up this book. It's published quite some time ago (about 50 years ago), but it's far superior to many books I've read.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Part 2)

Like I guessed last week, I'm still reading The Hobbit (I'm savouring every single page). So, I don't know if it's "cheating" but my teaser this week is going to be from The Hobbit too! So, my teaser is:

"Then he asked his second:
Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters, 
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters." 
(page 88)

I suppose all you Tolkien fans will remember the answer. Personally, the first time I saw this was in a Literature textbook in Secondary School. Back then, I just loved the riddle, but I didn't know where it came from. Tolkien FTW!

Teaser Tuesdays is a meme brought to you by MizB of ShouldBeReading. Just share your two-sentence teaser and the name of the book you're reading(:

So, what's your teaser?

Monday, November 19, 2012

One for the Books by Joe Queenan

Reading a book on someone's reading experience is always risky. You either feel like an ignorant person, or you'll disagree with their reading choices. At least One for the Books doesn't make you feel either of those emotions.

The author, Joe Queenan, is funny. He's realistic that not everyone sees the same book the same way, he's sometimes dismissful of what is considered classic books, and he acknowledges the overhype. So basically, he just gave me free reign to think "hmm... so he says this, but I don't care if I think that".

That is probably a reason why I try not to give bad reviews. I know that I'm not an expert at all topics, and I know not everyone thinks the same way as me. But I do value the opinions of those that I've found have similar views as me (some people's reviews are read because they are entertaining. And because they tell me enough about the book that I don't need to read it).

Of course, this is why I hardly read books that are very popular. I think I already know the story, so unless I'm convinced the writing is excellent, I have no need to read it.

A good portion of the book is dedicated to considering the limited time a bibliophile has to read and what books he should read. Maybe it's because I don't have um, as many years on me as he does, so I don't feel the urgency. But I'm sure it'll come in time. Check back in 20 years, if people still use blogs that is.

Bibliophiles (with a thick skin and don't mind if some of their favourite books is insulted), should definitely read the book. But if you think the world should be loving and hating the same books, stay clear (I do, however, think that Twilight was overhyped even though I've never read the book).

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

I think in history class, the World War Two narratives were pretty straightforward  the Nazi's were all bad (although there was Sophie, who spoke out against them and was killed for it) and the Japanese were all bad. We don't really hear about people like Sophie or Sugihara, who did some truly commendable things. Likewise, we don't hear about things like how the Americans used Japanese body parts to make, ugh, objects (I refuse to list). Or about the concentration-camp-like places that loyal Japanese-Americans were sent to just because of their origin.

Apart from Weedflower by Cyntha Kadohata, this is one of those rare books that deal with the Japanese-American experience during World War II. Using a dual-narrative structure, it tells the tale of life just before, during and a little after the concentration camps (of Lucy and her mother), and the murder of a former worker of said camp (dealing with Lucy and her daughter Patty).

The camp was horrible. Keeping in mind that these are patriotic Americans, the way they were treated was just terrible. Apart from terrible living conditions, they had to deal with sexual harrassment and obvious prejudice from the White people. I know this is a novel, but I'm pretty sure it's based on real life.

Really, this is a haunting story. The story of Lucy and her mother is obviously the main tale, and it's very well-told. The book flowed and I really couldn't put it down. In fact, what broke the flow was, ironically, the secondary plot.

The secondary plot is a sort of murder mystery, that is supposed to wrap up the events that happened so long ago. The only problem is that there were leaps that I couldn't follow, which got me confused. Plus, when compared to the power of the camp-narrative, it just lost a lot of attraction.

Character-wise, I felt a connection with Lucy much more than Patty. Lucy loved much and lost much, but Patty is just cruising in life. Yes, she does a lot to defend her mother, but she doesn't change that much during the book. She doesn't find out the true circumstances of her birth, and I expected her to come to a conclusion about her fiance in the book. I don't think she loved him (it didn't show), but she still got married to him. I guess they are a happy couple from the start, but it's not very obvious, and without any events, I can't see anything (what I thought was a conflict turned out to be a non-event).

But, this is an excellent book. It's a really good look at the infamous war, from a very different perspective.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This book was recommended to me by Raychely. And by that, I mean she lent it to me (she also lent me The Hunger Games so I trust her taste in books). I've finally finished reading it and ... I can't decide if the book really is deep or is merely pretending to be deep.

At first, I didn't understand what sort of this story this book could be. After all, what could you write about a boy and a Tiger on a life-raft? (And by the way, even after reading the book, I still don't see how it can be a movie). But Yann Martel has managed to weave together a gripping story, even if I didn't understand the purpose of Part 1.

The main part of the book is definitely the story. I thought that the characterization of Pi was really strong, and his interaction with Richard Parker (the Tiger) very interesting. It's definitely a good look at what it means to survive, and whether you can (or should), give up certain practices just to survive.

But at the end of the book, it kind of unraveled a bit. I think the second, parallel story was kind of cool, but it  lessened the impact of the main narrative. I think that unless both stories were woven together from the start, it's a bit strange. And Pi came across as pretentious in the last part, which kind of ruined the whole character-reader connection for me. I may be the sort of person that loves using big words to argue with people, but in Pi's case, it wasn't believable. And he had the tinge of "rude" that I can't stand.

Lastly, the depiction of religion in the book. Pi somehow manages to sustain belief in three religions - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. I don't know if the author was trying to say something about the plurality of religions, but it's impossible to be a real believer in all three. For one thing, two of the three (at least) religions demand belief only in them. To ignore that is to ignore the basic tenets and so, not be a true believer. And the arguments? Very unconvincing to anyone who knows even the slightest bit of theology (and no, I don't believe that just by believing "all religions are true" you can overcome all their differences).

Overall, an interesting book. I don't see the hype about it (this is one of the books you hear about before you read), but the middle section is good. It would be even better if Part 1 and Part 3 were re-written and the whole religion theme reconsidered (basically, I liked only the bit where he was lost at sea).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kiku's Prayer by Endo Shusaku

One danger of reading a translated text is to misinterpret something. You see, I thought that the title, Kiku's Prayer could mean something like Japan's Prayer (Kiku = Chrysanthemum = One of the national flowers of Japan). But then, I found out that the title of the book is actually 女の一生 in Japanese, which means something like The Life of a Woman. (Although according to my teacher, Kiku's cousin Mitsu is an anagram of tsumi or "sin" in Japanese)

But enough about my failed attempt to analyse the title. I've mentioned before how much I love Endo Shusaku, and now that they've translated another book of his, you've got to read it!

Kiku's Prayer follows Kiku, a girl living on the cusp of a modernising Japan. She falls in love with Seikichi, whom she discovers is a kuros (a kakure kirishita - hidden Christian), a practitioner of the banned faith. Despite the international pressure, Seikichi and the other kuros are arrested and brought away to be tortured (in order that they apostasize).

Because of her love of Seikichi, Kiku does, well, in the end, she sacrifices her life. She uses her body to earn money that will help Seikichi (although the money is used for the officer's own pleasure instead) and ultimately dies of consumption.

In fact, this book has a very bleak conclusion. While Christianity is eventually allowed and the Kuros released, the non-Christians are the one who appear to come up on top. But you know, it really reminds me of the Christian Literary Theory, in that Endo presents a very accurate picture of the fallen world.

And in fact, the ending is not without hope. We see that Kiku has lived a life of Love, and with the brighter looking future of the Kuros, well ^^. I suppose you could say that this book is a lot like Endo's classic Silence, because both books end on what seems like a bleak future but carry a faint ring of hope. In addition, both books emphasise the idea of love, a key theme in Endo Shusaku's writings.

This is definitely a book you have to read. For anyone even remotely interested in Japanese Literature or Christian literature, this is a gem that you can't miss. It's actually an inspiring force for me to improve my Japanese so that I can read the books in the original language.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.