Monday, April 30, 2012

Gems from Warren Buffett by Mark Gavagan (ARC)

Hmm... where to begin? Well, for one, I'm a huge fan of Warren Buffett. I don't know why, I guess it's because he seems like a nice person. Well, after reading this book, I'm an even bigger fan! Gems from Warren Buffett: Wit and Wisdom from 34 years of letters to Shareholders is simply of book of quotes from his letters.

The book is quite short but that's ok. The material is very funny. I really wish that my IB textbook was this funny, I would even more gladly look forward to reading it again and again (and again and again for exams). No wait, I take that back, I wish for the shareholder reports to be this interesting instead (I can still enjoy reading my textbook, I haven't learnt how to do that for shareholder's reports.

So, without further ado, here are some of my favourite quotes:

"Purchase -price accounting adjustments are ignored for reasons we have explained at length in previous reports and which, as an act of mercy, we won't repeat. (We'll be glad to send masochists the earlier explanations, however)." (1995 letter)

"You can live a full and rewarding life without every thinging of Goodwill and its amortization. But students of investment and management should understand the nuances of the subject." (1983 letter)

And finally,

"Were I to die tomorrow, ... Berkshire's earnings would increase by $1 million annually, since Charlie would immediately sell our corporate jet, The Indefensible (ignoring my wish that it be buried with me)." (1990 letter)

I should also mention that 20% of sales (not profits, that's an important difference) will go to a charity that Mr Buffett personally supports :D

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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Poirot - The Perfect Murders by Agatha Christie

A few days ago, I shared a teaser from this book. Well, I had some free time (and this book is addictive), so I've finished it earlier than planned. If you haven't heard of this book, it's simply an omnibus of the four most (supposedly) difficult cases ever encountered by Hercule Poirot.

The first book was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It was also, for some reason, the story I took the longest to finish. But to be fair, it's also the longest story. The story is quite "Miss Marple" in setting, a small town (lots of gossip) and murder.

I was very amused to see that they played Mah-Jong, although I cannot recognise the words that they spoke at all.

But with regards to plot... well, the book is rather winding at time. And -spoiler alert- I thought that the plot was very unfair to the reader due to the choice of the narrator. There is maybe one hint (told to us at the end), but the reader doesn't have any chance of figuring out the murderer at all.

The second book was Murder on the Orient Express. I really enjoyed reading this one. The clues, taken individually are so puzzling, but as a coherent whole, it makes a lot of sense. And this book invoked some 'deeper thinking' as it considers the idea of justice. What is justice? Is it the Law? Or something entirely different?

And, I thought the character of M. Bouc was very endearing. I don't think we're given enough of the other characters, so in this book, it is the character of Poirot and M. Bouc that stands out. Even though the doctor accompanies them throughout the story, I found myself forgetting his presence quite frequently.

Murder in the Mews is the third and shortest book of the four; I finished it in one go. But even though it's short, the twists and turns of the story is ingenious. But also because it's short, the characterisation is woefully lacking, unless you count on learning more about characters you already know.

Finally, Hercule Poirot's Christmas. This book, and Murder on the Orient Express, tie for the favourite novel of this omnibus. There is a diverse cast of characters and the book is sufficiently long for the reader to get to know all of them. In fact, I liked all the characters except George and his wife Magdalene. Those two were irritating >.<

I can actually visualise this story as a movie/episode in a series. In fact, I think a show might be better, because of certain visual details that could be included (this is only if the casting is done right though! Or if this was animated, then we won't have to worry about casting choice).

I highly recommend this omnibus. In fact, if you're moving and have to limit the number of books you bring along, buy this book. It counts as one book (physically) but has the content of four. ^^

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Overdressed by Elizabeth E. Cline (ARC)

I remember reading a book like this before. It was about branding and clothes and through this topic, I actually understood a lot more about IP rights and stuff. Sadly, I forgot the title so I can't share it with you. But, what I'm trying to say is that this book is just like that - excellent, amusing and educational.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion takes a deeper look into the implications of cheap fashion like H&M, Target, etc It's actually a very well-down piece of research, seeing how the author actually went to China and other countries to understand how the clothes are produced.

Even though I myself hardly buy clothes (really, why buy clothes when you can buy books?) I thought this book was very interesting. It seems to cross genres, cover personal experiences, the business managements part, the economics behind this industry, etc. There's even some history in it, if you count the fact that she traces how consumer expenditure on clothing has changed throughout the years, and the socio-economic conditions that accompany/cause each change.

I actually agree with the main thrust of the book. Cheap clothes are a vicious cycle. It makes sense that if you pay less, you value the object less (well, unless it's a book). And if you look at things like Economies of Scale and profitability margins, then the quality of the good has to go down since quality is inversely related to price (think of demand and supply).

Honestly, growing up, I always wore hand-me-downs, so I don't really have the "disposable clothes" mentality that she had. I did try shopping at a cheap fashion store once (I think it's bankrupt now), but I really didn't like the clothes ( garish...-shudder-). I tend towards pink(:

If you like the book (and I did), then you should be pleased to know that there is also a blog! It's called The Good Closet and the posts there are thought provoking and interesting (there's a nice mix of both types).

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

Friday, April 27, 2012


Hello, today, I decided to take part in TGIF. Actually, it's just because I really like the question(: Anyway, TGIF is a meme from GReads and well, I hope to take part in it more often (it really depends on the questions...)

So, this week's question is:

Reading Blues: We all get them from time to time. What helps you overcome those reading slumps when nothing seems to grab your attention?

Hmm... I seem to get blogging blues more than reading blues. I just don't feel like writing down my feelings (even though I may have a lot). I deal with that, however, by simply taking a break, because I don't want blogging to turn into a chore. That being said, it's very rare for me to have a reading slump. In fact, I normally have the opposite problem, too many books to read! But when I do get these rare slumps, I normaly re-read an old favourite, like Sarah Dessen or Agatha Christie until I find what I need. Sometimes, I need really weird books, like a business and management textbook :p Once I re-read, I tend to get out of the reading slump and all these new books suddenly look enticing again(:

So, what do you do when you have a reading slump?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Here's Lily by Nancy Rue

I don't know about you, but I grew up reading the Lily series by Nancy Rue when I was a kid. My school had all the books in the school library and I remember really enjoying reading the series. So, when I saw on NetGalley that the first book of the series - Here's Lily was going to be republished, I couldn't wait to read it. Nevermind the fact that I'm probably well above the age of the target market :p

Well, the first book in the Lily series focuses on looks. Lily is a typical 12 year old girl (6th grade means 12 right?) who's insecure about her looks. But when she receives an invitation to join a modeling agency (well, classes that could lead to a job with the agency), she jumps at the chance to be beautiful. Well, that and silence that annoying boy in class who's always teasing her.

The book felt largely the same as I remember it, which is to say, awesome. Except for a few changes, which were things like references to Taylor Swift and iPods. Whether that there were major plot changes, I don't think so, but it has been many years since I read the book so I could be wrong. Personally, I didn't really see the point of adding references that may become dated in a few years time. But if I were much younger, these things would make me feel as though Lily was part of my generation (instead of being my generation).

I love how the book focuses on Godly beauty, even if Lily does get confused. But the confusion is what makes the lesson seem so real. If I remember, the accompanying book (the series used to come with a 'workbook') was about beauty and how to take care of your skin, hair, and such while not becoming obsessed with it. I hope that it's also being reprinted; I think the accompanying book makes the series unique, not to mention turns it from an entertaining read into something a Sunday School Class can use.

Basically, I think all girls should read it (even if you're old!). It may be my bias, but the book is entertaining, even as Lily goes over-the-top. If you have a younger sister/cousin/you happen to teach a Sunday School Class, maybe you should get them to read this book, I think they'll like it. Who knows, if there isn't a book club, this book may make one out of them (you can tell them it's a series).

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - Poirot: The Perfect Murders by Agatha Christie

Right now, one of the books I'm slowly making my way through is Poirot: The Perfect Murders by Agatha Christie. It's actually an omnibus consisting of four novels: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Murder in the Mews and Hercule Poirot's Christmas. So, here's the teaser:

"MacQueen had stood looking from one to the other, not quite following the rapid flow of French.

'Qu'est ce qu'il y a?' he began laboriously." (From page 241 - Murder on the Orient Express)

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. So, what are your teasers? ^_^

Monday, April 23, 2012

Itazura Coin Bank Toy

Hi Everyone!

I just started Kendo (four times a week), so my reading time is drastically cut down ): Between school, study and kendo today, I have maybe half-an-hour to read. I'm hoping to increase this time when I get used to my new routine, but for now, I don't have a review to share.

But, I do have this cute toy that I saw to share. It's called the Itazura Coin Bank Toy for Kids. Here's a video showing how it works:

I found it on Strapya World, but if I see it in a shop, I'll definitely buy it (I might even buy a few, to give as presents if it's not very expensive). After all, it's so kawaii!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Diva by Jillian Larkin (ARC)

When I started reading this book, I realised that it was part of a series (and I was right, I missed the line where it says that it was the last in the series). Despite that, I managed to catch the plot of the story fairly quickly and enjoy reading it.

Diva follows 3 flappers - Gloria, recently released from prison to be an FBI agent, Lorraine who is currently unpopular and Clara who is unhappy due to her split from the love of her life. What starts out as three separate plots (at least to me) using a variety of different narrative points of view quickly converges into a really absorbing plot.

The beginning on the other hand, was a bit confusing. It started with Jerome being prevented from performing and threatened by Gloria's dad and I still had no idea what was going on. It was only later in the book that I figured it out. But really, this is my fault for not reading the first few books.

I'll have to admit, I know nothing about this era. I don't know if it's accurate or not. But to me, I had fun reading this book. It felt as though the emphasis wasn't so much on the flappers but on their lives, which is something I could understand.

Since the book has three plots, the book covers a rather wide range of genres. There is some crime/mystery, some growing-up/self discovery to do and of course, a lot of romance. In fact (spoiler alert!) by the end of the book, all three girls end up with those they love. And out of the three romances, I was rooting for Clara's and Marcus's the most.

It's actually quite clear that with regards to the romance aspect, Gloria and Jerome are clearly the couple that's been through the most, since Jerome is black and Gloria is white. Yet I didn't root for them as much as Clara and Marcus. I'm guessing that because most of their romance happens in the first few books (and they're pretty much secure as a couple here), there wasn't much for these two to endear to me. But Marcus and Clara? Clara's storyline is pretty much all about Marcus (unlike Gloria's), which was why I preferred their love story out of the three (Lorraine's love story was a bit too understated and rushed for me).

All in all, this is a pretty fun book to read. As usual, it's probably a good idea to read the other books in the series first, but I think it's possible to read this as a standalone. However, if you do, it make some time to warm up to the characters (and get used to the constant point of view changes), since the book makes the natural assumption that you already know and understand all the characters.

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

Since I'm now living in Japan, I'm especially interested books about it - fiction, non-fiction, anything can get my interest. So when I saw the blurb of "Spirit's Princess" on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. And I wasn't disappointed at all.

Spirit's Princess is the fictionalised account of the mythological figure Queen Himiko, who was supposed to have ruled over the Yayoi (ancient Japanese). The book (book 1) follows her early years, from growing up to her Shaman training and her struggle to be accepted as the Shaman of her tribe (the Matsu tribe).

Because the book is set in Ancient Japan, it's imbued with Animism. I heard that the book is not very historically accurate, but frankly, I know nothing about that period anyway so I can't say that I have any strong feelings about the other details mentioned in the book. But I'm pretty sure that they practiced Animism. Although there's a short period of time where Himiko feels that all the spirits want from humans is fear, it quickly goes back to the point of view that the spirits are generous and good. To me, the book would not have felt as real if it didn't include this aspect, but some readers might avoid the book because of this. Personally, I don't see any threat to my faith because this was how it was, and to avoid it or put in something that wasn't there would have make the book feel inauthentic to me.

Now, on to the characters. Since this is essentially a fictionalised biography, the characters are really important. And they don't disappoint us. I empathised with Himiko from the beginning, from her wish to be a hunter (When she's expected to be a lady, i.e. marry and give birth). Her mother was understandable, though sometimes annoying in her overprotectiveness. And of course, Lady Yama was the lovable old grouch ( a stereotype that I hardly get annoyed with). There are other characters (like Aki), of course, but I don't need to go into detail about them. I liked all the characters except Himiko's father (what a grouch!) although I could understand why he would think the way he did.

Talking about her father, there's actually a really interesting backstory involving him in the book. It's also one of the sources of Himiko's difficulties in becoming a Shaman. I'm hoping that in the next few books, this story is explored in more detail.

Yup, I'm already looking forward to the next book. I hope I get a chance to review it too(:

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

John Holt

Apparently, he also started a magazine
popular amoung the unschooling set - Growing
Withought Schooling. It's referenced
many times in his books.
Over the past few weeks, I've been reading John Holt's books in between others. It's actually kind of strange because this is a topic that I don't need to know about and his stand is one I actually disagree with.

You see, it all started when I borred some G. A. Henty books from my aunt. They were printed by a homeschooling family (they espouse a particular method), so being bored, I went online and researched a bit about it. Before I knew it, I was reading about it's complete opposite: unschooling. And the founder of unschooling would be John Holt. So, in order of published dates, here are the books that I actually read:

How Children Fail
How Children Learn
Escape From Childhood
Instead of Education
Teach Your Own
Learning All The Time

Interestingly enough, when I trace the way his mind thinks, I can actually see his thoughts become more and more radical. The first two books: How Children Fail and How Children Learn seemed like sensible books to me. He used a lot of examples (especially in How Children Fail) that convinced me he knew what he was talking about. Still, I wondered if what he described was an uniquely American problem. I didn't recall having similar problems with math, but then again, I was taught to use an abacus when young (it's a very useful and fun skill to have).

I consider Escape From Childhood the most 'radical' book of the lot, mostly because it deals with children's rights instead of focusing on education. To me, that's his biggest mistake. He is, first and foremost, a teacher, which is why I respect his opinions on teaching. But for this book, I simply wasn't convinced. And why should I be? What I remember of my childhood isn't like what he describes.

The last three books deal with education and the necessity of schools (he argues otherwise). I'm not sure how the first book (which dealt with how children failed to learn math) led to the notion of unschooling. Frankly speaking, even though there were times that I didn't like school, I'm still glad that I went. If I went entirely by my own interests, I wouldn't have learnt anything. In fact, I may never have graduate from Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl (but to be fair, Roald Dahl's pretty dark, although it may take a while to realise that). School was a place that exposed me to subjects that I didn't think I'd like, but either did or appreciated knowing.

Maybe it's all in the teachers. Up till now, most of my teachers were overwhelmingly supportive. And for the scarce few that weren't good (in my opinion anyway), I was fortunate to actually like the subject, and so find teachers that could teach (my school was fine with students looking for other teachers after classes). As for the subjects that I'm not good at and have little interest, most teachers managed to spark an interest and give me the needed understanding so that when it comes up in relation to another subject, I can understand what it means.

All in all, school has been a positive experience for me. I guess that's why in the end, the whole unschooling movement and the writings of John Holt have left me unconvinced.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stories Behind Women of Extraordinary Faith by Ace Collins

This book was another of my going away presents. In fact, it was a present from Amanda, and it's all the more precious because this was her well-loved copy (although to be honest, she kept it in excellent condition).

Basically, this book is a collection of 20 short autobiographies of women of faith. Some of them, like Catherine Booth, Lottie Moon and Mother Theresa are famous, and some, I'm ashamed to say, I've never heard of (like Sophie School, Daisy Low, etc) But after reading this book, I can say that all these women have garnered my respect.

Even in the lives of those whom I've heard about, the book manages to bring something fresh and unknown in it's writing. I've never heard about Catherine Booth before the Salvation Army, to name an example. And most of the time, even though each autobiography is so short, I feel like I've managed to understand each women's faith.

I also loved how this book doesn't go by the conventional definition of faith. Before I'm misunderstood, let me (try to) explain. Most of the time, the examples I think of are like Catherine Booth, Mother Theresa, etc. Those that have worked in an overtly religious organisation. But the book shows that even in the secular world, it's possible to be a Christian and live a life of faith. For example, Laurie Prange, a Hollywood Actress. There are many more, from Gospel singers to doctors, all inspiring.

Of all the stories, I think the one about the Unknown Woman of Faith was the most inspiring. She might very well be thought of as an ordinary woman, and she certainly isn't well-known. But she's a living example of how even an ordinary person like me can make a difference in someone's life. Even if it's just a difference in one life.

All in all, this is the kind of book you'd want to read when you want to be comforted, when you want to be inspired or when you just want to read something interesting. It's comforting to know that others have also walked the walk of faith, and whatever you're facing can be overcome. It's inspiring to know that other's have done such marvellous things and you can do too. And of course, the lives of such women are naturally interesting.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Essays in Idleness by The Tsurezuregusa of Kenko (Review 2)

I actually didn't know that I already reviewed this book once before here. I guess it makes sense, because I only heard about this book one, two years ago, when this blog was already up. But nevermind, I have new things to say!

Basically, after my first review, I lost the book. I don't know how, I don't know when but it was lost for a period of time. And then I found out I was going to Japan. So before I went, I was at Kinokuniya using up all those vouchers people gave me; and quite naturally, I bought this book.

I can't actually say that reading it in Japan is a different experience because honestly, I read it in my dorm room (does the fact that I was eating edamane at the same time count?). But I can say that this book is timeless. I wasn't bored with it even though it was a re-read.

In fact, I think this book was "made" for re-reads. It's essentially full of seemingly random short chapters, so you really could just flip to a random page and read a chapter (which can be as short as a paragraph really. I learnt that although the arrangement of the chapters seem random, they're actually really skillfully arranged. Sadly, my literature skills aren't at the level to discern and appreciate it without any help, although every now and then, I'd get the "woah, cool arrangement" feeling.

Being written so long ago, it's imbued with many Buddhist thoughts. This was because at that time, the only two religions in Japan were Shintoism and Buddhism. Plus, the Tsurezuregusa of Kenko is a Buddhist priest. But I would think that it's a pity to skip this book merely because of its religious influence. I think it's a really great way to appreciate the culture of that period and once you know that the religious aspect is there (and really, it's very obvious), you can always take a step back whenever you feel uncomfortable. The book isn't wholly spiritual after all. Kenko seems to be attached to the past and the secular world (he doesn't sound like a hermit) so plenty of, in fact the majority of, the passages are related to life in Japan then (or the past) rather than to Buddhism.

And let me reiterate again, that I really like the Donald Keene translation. It would be interesting to read it in Japanese but let's face it, my proficiency is no where near what is necessary and even my sensei has said that it's hard for the Japanese to understand it. I suppose I'll have to wait another year or two (so you might actually see a third review written in Japanese!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge

I've finished the third book of the Tiffany Aching series! This time, it's a re-read of the first Pratchett Book I ever read - Wintersmith, which is why it holds a special place in my reading memories. Basically, the story starts when Tiffany uncharacteristically joins in the Morris dance, temporarily taking over the role of Summer and attracting the (unwelcome) attentions of Winter.

The book was, as usual, engrossing. In fact, I wonder why this is specifically written for kids. It feels like a 'normal' Discworld book (if a normal Discworld book exists, considering the existence of several interrelated but unconnected plots and characters).

But interestingly, I read more about Nanny Ogg in this book. And for some reason, I feel like she was given more character here than in the others (or maybe I've been too long away from books involving her). The interactions between her, Tiffany and Mistress Weatherwax are very amusing.

Oh course, the Nac Mac Feegles are in here and they are as amusing as usual. I love how their greatest fear is reading and the book ends oddly (but rather fittingly) on this note:

"There was a cheer from the assembled Feegles as Rob ran around the book, waving his hands in the air.

'An' this one is a lot harder than Abker, right?" he said, when he'd done the circuit. "That one was easy! An' a very predictable plot. Whoever writted that book didna stretch himself, in ma opinion."

'You mean the ABC?" said Billy Bigchin.

'Aye'. Rob Anybody jumped up and down and punched the air a few times. 'Got anythin' a wee bit tougher?'


'Somethin' I can get ma teeth intae,' Rob added. 'A big book.'

'Well, this one's called Principles of Modern Accountancy,' said Billy doubtfully.

'An' is that a big heroic book to read?' said Rob, running on the spot.


'Ah'm feelin' guid about this readin',' said Rob Anybody. 'Bring it on!'

And he read Principles of Modern Accountancy all morning, but just to make it interesting, he put lots of dragons in it."

Doncha just love the Feegles? I do (from a distance, naturally).

And of course, the subplots were quite interesting. We saw more of Rob and Annagramma and I loved how they were so human (not completely flawed or flawless, and flawed in an understandable way). They're people I can imagine meeting, and I have a feeling that if I think hard enough, I'd find friends that resemble them in some way.

Next month, I shall move on to the final Tiffany Aching book(:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life for Teens by Ciarrochi Joseph (ARC)

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I thought it looked interesting. After all, although I know that there are quite a few books targeted at teens, I haven't really read that many. Well, this book is meant to help teens as they grow up right? And I'm still a teen so I'm the target market. But why do I feel so, so dissatisfied with the book after reading it?

Basically this short book focuses on being what they call a "mindful warrior" which involves the following skills: Breathing Deeply and Slowing Down, Observing, Listening to your Values and Deciding on actions and doing them. It actually sounds like something I was taught before, in golf. (My golf CCA, Co-Curricula Activities if you don't know the term, was very big on LifeSkills).

But somehow, it feels like the book says that you can change your life on your own strength. That's probably the part where I disagree with. I believe that without God, it's impossible to change your life because He is the One who gives me strength. Although I know that those lifeskills are good, and I do use them, I don't think that they would work for a very significant changes.

For me, I would take this book with a very large pinch of salt. The skills they talk about are by themselves good skills, but I don't believe that they can bring about the inner change needed to change your life.

The book itself is a quick and easy read, and within the book itself are a lot of excercises you can do to take stock of your life/practice the skills mentioned. So really, the only thing I disagree with are the contents. If you still want to read the book, then just bear in mind what I wrote, read what the book says and evaluate it yourself(:

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In My Mailbox #1

I don't normally do this meme (well, this is the first time I'm doing it) but I was so excited about the books I bought yesterday that I wanted to share them. To introduce the meme, In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren. For some reason, I had the impression it was on a Wednesday but turns out it's on a Sunday(:

You see, I went to Book Off yesterday and to my surprise, they have a very nice English books collection. It's not very big (it's about 3 shelves), but I found so many books that I wanted to buy. Thankfully, poor students don't have enough cash and so practice restraint (however unwillingly). So, the books I bought, from left to right: 

(nihonjin no shiranai nihongo) - The Japanese the Japanese don't know 2. It's a really cute manga, and one of the few I can more or less understand. Plus, it's also a Japanese lesson in an entertaining package. 

The cheapest book of the lot, it only cost me 105 yen. I've heard good things about it, and it's supposed to be fairly easy to understand. 

Goodreads recommended me this book. I think. I'm not sure, but it's in my to-read list. Unfortunately, the library in Singapore didn't have it (I think it was perpetually on loan), which is why, despite the chorus of "restraint! No money!" I had to buy this book. 

Last but not least, The Princess Bride. I remember that Aunty Florence lent me this a long time ago (was it 3 or 4 years ago?) and I loved it. I can't wait to re-read it.

I still have quite some books that I haven't read/am reading, so reviews of all these books will come much much later.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Living Water by Brother Yun

I must confess, rather shamefully, that I haven't heard of Brother Yun before reading this book. However, after reading this book, I find that I deeply admire Brother Yun. You see, Living Water is a "collection of his teachings that evolved from his life experiences of persecution and revival in China."

The book is divided into three parts - Freedom in Christ, Streams of Living Water and Soldiers for Christ. Each section contains many small chapters; each focusing on one individual topic. In this way, I discovered that this book is best read a chapter at a time, much like a devotional. The contents of this book is like a personal sharing, as Brother Yun uses the Bible and his personal life experiences to share what he has learnt.

What most impressed me from this book was the lack of bitterness. Brother Yun has been in prison and persecuted for Christ, but he accepts this with a gladful heart. In fact, he calls prison a 'school' and confesses that he has gone to prison because he's ministry overtook his relationship with God, and says that prison was a wonderful opportunity for him to draw near to God.

The book is easy to read and is very inspiring. Brother Yun doesn't mince words when he condemns the Western Churches for focusing more on theology than a relationship, for focusing on building churches instead of the Church. He offers a very strong call to revival and shows how God uses persecution to build His Church up.

I heartily recommend this book. It's a simple book with a very powerful message. To end, I want to share a passage from the last chapter that I found inspiring:

"His power and life resides in my heart, here and now! And He resides in the hearts of all who believe in Him.

Time is short and is valuable. Don't waste any more time trying to serve God in your own strength and with your own ideas.

Jesus is alive!

Stop living like He is dead.

Let the living Jesus shine from your life. There is no reason to go around with a sour face! Turn your mourning into dancing and your sorrow into joy."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Click Millionaires by Scott Fox (ARC)

How many times have you heard of a "get-rich-quick-scheme"? It seems that everywhere, people are trying to set up their own blogshop or something similar. But whenever I look at the different sites, I have two main questions running in my mind: "how do they advertise themselves?" and "how do they persuade people to buy things?" This book, Click Millionaires, aims to show you through practical steps how to make money through the Internet.

The book is divided into 7 sections - Identifying your lifestyle goals, The principals behind these lifestyle businesses, Read about the different case studies, Find a profitable niche market, Learn ways to grow market share and make money and finally, Create an action plan. All in all, the book will inspire you (if at least for the moment), to go out there and do something you love. The steps described seem practical and there are many useful links given.

All in all, this book seems like a complement to The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, which (if I remember correctly), also advocates using online businesses to create passive income. And I really liked how it emphasises on doing it yourself (and hiring help when needed) and for some reason, the tiny section on why you should not depend on Facebook completely ^^

Of course, I don't think this book is for everyone. While there are people dissatisfied with their jobs, there are probably lawyers, doctors, translators, etc who are having fun working. For them, they don't really need to read this book, although they should if they're thinking of starting a blog or vlog just to share their experiences (because they love their job so much).

An on another level, this book is thought-provoking. Personally, I wondered "is this suited for me?" I'm not working now (and not allowed to work by the School) so I don't know the answer yet. And on a more 'macro' lever, I wonder what will happen if there's suddenly a mass exodus of people going to set up their own businesses. Will companies learn to become more efficient with fewer workers? Will this compel companies to make work-life balance and job satisfaction for the remaining employees a priority instead of a "good-to-have"? And how will this change consumer spending?

In conclusion, this is an interesting book to read. This is especially so if you're a Internet-entrepreneur to be, because the book provides lots of practical ideas in an entertaining format. (And, it's a real life example of how to market your product without sounding pushy^^)

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge - C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton

I heard about this 'alphebet series' of mystery books, and decided to randomly read one for this challenge(: (Also, I have decided to just post one book a month for the challenge. I may read more mystery books, but they won't count). Anyway, the book I chose was the third in the series - C is for Corpse.

The story is told from the first person narrative of Kinsey, a private detective. While recovering from a gunshot wound, she's hired by a rich young man called Bobby who's convinced someone is trying to kill him; although he can't remember a thing about it due to a car accident. When he dies a week later, she redoubles her efforts to find his killer. And with such a dysfunctional family, there are a lot of avenues to pursue.

At first, I didn't really like the first person narrative of Kinsey. Her "cowboy" attitude and narrative voice jars with my mental image of a female detective. Maybe it's because of all that Agatha Christie I read XD. But by the end of the book, I was comfortable with it, so this is a narrative style you can definitely get used to, if not enjoy.

This is one of those dual-plot books. The first plot (the main one) is the one I wrote about 2 paragraphs ago. The other one involves her landlord and his new (suspicious) paramour. For some reason, I preferred the plot involving the landlord to the murder mystery. Perhaps it's because the build-up to the solution was too slow and the ending too short and confusing (I still don't really understand the motive of the murderer), but the 'community plot' was much more entertaining. I enjoyed reading about how the different people in the community come together about the new lady Lila, how they go about digging up the dirt about her and so on. And of course, the resolution for that plot was much more satisfying to me.

Overall, I think this is a decent book. I like it, but it's a luke-warm kind of like. Unless the plot of the other books sound really compelling, I don't think I'm going to actively seek out the other books in the series (like I do with say, Agatha Christie, Sarah Dessen or Terry Pratchet).

This book was read for the Murder Mystery Reading Challenge and I think this can be counted as Hard-Boild/Noir. It fits the criteria about focusing more on the characters and although there are no explicit scenes (thankfully), it's still pretty bleak and cynical. At least to me that is.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - Living Water by Brother Yun

Right now, I'm slowly going through Living Water by Brother Yun. I say slowly going through because the book is meant to be savoured(: And before I forget to mention, Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. So here's this week's teaser:

"Since leaving China, I have come to see there is a serious misunderstanding among many Christians around the world when it comes to being a worker in God's kingdom. In the West, especially, the gospel has been intellectualized to such an extent that there is almost no mention of true faith and trust in Jesus anymore." (page 59)

Beautiful right?

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Spirituality of Living by Henry J. M. Nouwen

I've actually heard of Henry Nouwen some time ago, from Philip Yancey's Soul Survivors. I was quite intrigued and wanted to find some of his books to read, but it wasn't available (surprisingly, because the NLB normally has everything~). So, when I saw this on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. And because this book is short and sweet (64 pages), I'll try to keep my review short too.

The book is divided into three parts (four if you include the introduction) - Solitude, Community and Ministry (there are a few more chapters but these are the main sections). These all center around the idea of discipline. Here, discipline is defined as "the effort to create some space in which God can act." For that to happen, we need solitude to her God's voice (spending time in prayer), which would lead us to a community and finally, the community engages in ministry.

The flow of the book is smooth and it goes from one idea to another without a sudden jolt. The book was easy to understand and although short, packs quite a lot of meaning into it. Yet it isn't obtuse; it's just deep.

Of course, I love the writing. It is immensely quotable, much like Living Water by Brother Yun (another book I'm reading now). I just want to end by quoting the last two paragraphs (although really, you can just pick a random paragraph and it'll be a beautiful quote):

"Our little lives are small, human lives. But in the eyes of the One who calls us the beloved, we are great - greater than the years we have. We will bear fruit, fruit that you and I will not see on this earth but whose reality we can trust.

Solitude, community, ministry - these disciplines help us to live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete. "

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

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Have you ever had a compulsion to read a book? Well, yesterday, as my eyes fell upon my copy of The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, I had this urge to read it once again (those would-be psychoanalysts are welcome to state what this says about my state-of-mind).

I actually first read this book about 5 or 6 years ago, when one of my classmates lent me her copy. Me being me, ended up falling in love with the book and hunting down (and buying) the exact same copy as the one I first read.

If you haven't heard of the book, The Truth About Forever is a very sweet novel about letting go and starting anew. Macy, the titular character, is still struggling to deal with her father's untimely death. She does this by trying to turn into the perfect daughter - straight As, model behaviour, the whole package. But when she meets Delia and the rest at her mom's event, she's sucked into the world of catering Delia-style, where the chaos so nicely juxtaposes the order of her life.

And of course, there is the romance between Wes and Macy. I find it so sweet that they were first friends before falling in love, unless you believe Kristy, in which case Macy was the only one that didn't see it. But it felt real to have Macy go from barely-able-to-speak-two-sentences when she first met Wes and then to teasing him and playing Truth as she gets to know him better. It seems that a lot of heroines are either "fall-in-love-at-first-site" or "hate-till-love". Either they know how to hold a proper conversation straight away, or they can't until they're actually in the relationship. Isn't it nice to see one heroine that takes the middle road?

This novel is also about relationships. Apart from the friendships and romance aspects, Macy also has to deal with her family. Yup, this is a very well-rounded novel. As Macy's family is torn by grief, they all react in different ways which subtly drives them apart. Well, at the very least, it drives Macy's mom apart from her daughters, since she seems to go into denial and just ends up working harder. But of course, there's a happy ending for this too.

Overall, this is a fantastic book. It's the first Sarah Dessen book I read and definitely my favourite one(:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall (ARC)

Since classes only start on Monday, we've been exploring a little, getting our bank accounts and stuff. After one very long train ride to Akihabara, where I didn't bring anything to read, I learnt my lesson and started my old habit of carrying around 1 book + the iPad. So, I managed to finish another book -cheers-; it's called "Veil of Pearls".

Veil of Pearls actually looks at the topic of slavery and discrimination. The protagonist Adalia/Alethea is one-quarter black, so while she looks white, she is treated like a slave by the man who stole her away - Sir Walter. But she manages to escape and since she looks white, she gets a job as a doctor's assistant while catching the attention of the youngest son of one of the most prominent families in town - Morgan.

While most of the harsh realities of slavery are sheltered (Adalia is a house slave and the whipping is not mentioned in great detail), the book manages to convey the inferiority that discrimination and slavery bring. One instant is when Adalia is out walking with her friend/maid Joy, who is obviously black, and pulls her behind her (they were walking side by side before) when people she knows approaches. This is because she wants to be accepted in their eyes, although she professes not to like the slave-owning elite of society.

The romance plot of the book is actually really sweet and quite complex. Apart from the whole race issue, both Morgan and Adalia struggle with their own personal issues, be it family or fear of slavery. What I enjoyed reading was how in the end, both of them gave up their issues to God, with Adalia re-affirming her love for God and Morgan finally coming to know Him.

The only thing I didn't really understand was the role of the man in white. I'm guessing he functions as some sort of externalised conscience, but for some reason, it took me quite some time to grasp that fact, even though I should know that white symbolises purity.

All in all, this is a really sweet historical romance book that isn't merely about the relationship.

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan

I actually read this on the plane. But I was busy and I haven't had time to review. Until now.

Anyways, Faerie Wars is supposed to be the first in a series. It has two protagonist, the human boy Henry, who finds out that his mom is having an affair with his dad's (female) secretary; and the fairy boy Pyrgus, the Crown Prince who's more interested in saving animals. They meet when someone sabotages a portal and Pyrgus ends up in our world.

I have to say, it's an interesting take on fairies. The explanation is that they don't look tiny with wings, it's just that when they come through the portal, they become like that. This frees up room to imagine them as normal beings and not limited by the "delicate" stereotype that our childhood tales give us.

Plus, the storyline is interesting. It's a sort of dual-plot, but everything converges fairly early on. Henry and Pyrgus feel similar, so you imagine that they'd become good friends. And there's the right amount of skepticism when Pyrgus first appears.

The only characters that were annoying (I'm leaving out the bad guys because they are meant to be disliked) are Henry's mom and sister. Henry's dad is a victim, so that kind of overides whatever annoyance I may feel towards him. Henry's sister, in particular, I wanted to slap. Other than having some sort of irrational spite towards Henry, I don't see why she behaves the way she does.

Other than that... well, I didn't see the need for Henry's mom to become a lesbian but at least it wasn't mentioned very often. Just used as a plot device.

I shall be back~ (Hopefully soon)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Essays in Idleness

Hi everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts (have I apologised before?). Anyway, I won't be posting for the next few days because I've just moved into my new room in a new country (Japan), so I'm adjusting. I will be posting on what's going on at With Love From Japan, Eustacia because that's what's going on. I won't really be reading much.... But anyway, here's this week's Teaser Tuesday, from Essays in Idleness by The Tsurezuregusa of Kenko (translated by Donald Keene):

"The poor man supposes that courtesy involves giving presents; the aged man, that courtesy consists in expending one's energy. True wisdom consists in knowing your own capacity and stopping at once when something is too much for you." (page 110)

There are quite a few translations around, but this is my favourite ^^