Wednesday, October 31, 2012

30 Days To A New You by Steve Cioccolanti

I normally don't read self-improvement books, much less carry them out, but when Steve Cioccolanti emailed me, I was intrigued. He talked about how his book was written partly with the hikikomori in mind, and to be honest, it sounded tempting. After thirty days is one short month.

And after following the book (instead of reading it in one go like what I normally do), I must say, this is a lot more like a devotional than a self-help guide to me. (And I find the book cover a bit misleading, since it's really "self-help"ish). Because you see, in the very first day, he says:

"Don't pay attention to goals - pay attention to God! God will change who you are before He changes things you have."

So really, this is more like a devotional that uses a lot of verses to illuminate your life. The key focus is to continually meditate on God's Word, and in the process, make that a habit for the rest of your life. And the more you know about the Bible, and the closer you get to God, the more your life will change for the better (from the inside).

What I like about this book is that instead of a verse a day, the book does the verses by the week (although there is one exception). And you really are given many many verses. Depending on what the week is about (basically, freedom), different verses are collected. I found this to be really easy (and it's good as a reference now that I've finished with this plan), and by meditating on the same few verses for a period of time, I could really think about what the verses meant over and over again, getting more meaning from them.

Personally, I found that doing this study in the morning was most effective for me (especially as the start to the day), but it really depends on the sort of person you are.

The only niggle (that means complaint right?) I have with the book is the occasional grammar mistakes. Ordinarily, I would have probably passed by them, but because I was studying each chapter a few times in a short period of time, it because pretty obvious to me. But if it disturbs you, you can always correct the grammar. But above that, my copy is highlighted with the many sentences and verses that I found useful (it's amazing how God can give you something new from the material you use every day).

Definitely worth considering if you're looking for a new devotional.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy from the author in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Next Web Magazine (for iPad)

Image taken from The Next Web
I probably haven't mentioned this before, but one of my favourite sites to read now a days would be The Next Web (TNW). It's a social media site, but it has loads of other interesting things involving entrepreneurship, and even humour (look at this page about Internet predictions!)

And one great thing about The Next Web is that they publish a free monthly magazine for the iPad app Newsstand. Yes, free! You can support them with a subscription, but you can also get the articles free. This means I can finally use my Newsstand app (considering I have no way/money to get subscriptions :p). Yippee!

So, every month, I can download a new issue. And each issue is wonderful! I'll have them permanently stored in my iPad if it weren't for the fact that I tried this once and ran out of space.

Each issue just gets better and better, as the magazine team turns each issue to a new and better version. Examples are like how the movie recommendations change from a simple blurb to a blurb with a trailer that you can watch in the magazine! Another example is how the music recommendations have added tracks that you can actually listen to!

As much as I love the printed word, I must say I can't imagine this magazine as anything but a digital copy. TNW has used the functions in the iPad to make reading this magazine a new and enjoyable experience! It's one thing to read music reviews, and another to listen to a demo track! I haven't bought anything while reading the app (There are links, especially for books) since I tend to read while offline, so I can't comment on the buying function.

Content-wise, the magazine is excellent. Each month has a topic, like Valentines Day (it's not always related to social media ;) ). This month's topic is Monetize and the feature articles, books and movies are planned around it. What results is that your knowledge in that category improves, plus you get recommendations on what to watch/read if you want more! So it's educational and entertaining! (Sorry, I have this thing about stuff being educational. I know, I'm a nerd :O )

If you have an iPad, you definitely have to get this. And if you can, please support those who made this magazine by subscribing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen

One of the few series I follow would be the Rizzoli and Isles series by Tess Gerritsen (I can thank Jurong NLB for that :D ). And while it's been a while, I'm glad that I read Last to Die, the latest in the series.

Last to Die follows three children, whose families are killed within a week of each other. And then their foster families are killed. Rizzoli doesn't believe the "official" solution (that Crowe created), so she investigates on her own, with Frost by her side. Isles, is pulled in through Julian, the boy who saved her a few books back (I've never read that particular book, I guess I'll have to go find it).

The plot is exciting. It's fast paced, and there's a twist. Then a double twist. It's really not so much a mystery than a thriller (at least to me). Most of the time, I was by the edge of my seat, frantically reading in order to find out what happened.

And this time, the sub-plots were really well done. I've gotten annoyed with Rizzoli on occasion, but this time, I really empathised with her. She's caught between a rock and a hard place with regards to her family. If you know nothing about the back story, however, you may not be so sympathetic. Isles, well, I've always liked her as a character. She seems calm and in control, but she's struggling beneath. And I loved how in this book, both ladies grew closer as friends.

Speaking of characters, I noticed Julian is getting more and more prominent, especially as his relationship with Isles grows stronger (I guess they wanted to make her more maternal). Now I've really got to hunt down the story he first appeared in and read that.

This is definitely a must-read for fans of the series! And non-fans.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Should I Buy A Kindle Paperwhite?

Hi friends, today's post isn't a book review. It's basically an opinion poll on if you think I should buy a Kindle Paperwhite.

You see, Amazon has just started selling the Kindle Paperwhite in Japan, and yay for me, I've been living in Tokyo since April. So, I'm trying to decide whether to pre-order the kindle. At about 8500 yen for the wifi only version and 13000 yen for the wifi plus 3G version, it's (the wifi only anyway), cheap compared to the about 10000yen Rakuten Kobo.

I already on an iPad where I do a lot of reading, and I really like to listen to music and read.

But I really would like to read more Japanese books (and I hear that they have quite a few copy-right expired books). But I also hear that some kindle books cost more than their American versions.

So, what do you think? Should I get myself the Kindle for a Christmas present? If I should, which model should I get? You can find more details about the Kindle Paperwhite here (if the link appears in Japanese, there should be a button on the top right which will bring you to the English page).

I'm also putting in a poll at the right, so if you don't want to leave a comment, you can always vote on the poll. ^_^

Friday, October 26, 2012

Women, Slaves and the Gender Debate by Benjamin Reaoch

One of the things I read before sleeping (while randomly googling on my phone), would be about Christian Patriarchy and Complementarianism and Gender Equality. Basically, it all boils down to one question - is the guy superior to the girl? Patriarchy says "yes", Complementarians say "we are made for different roles" and Egalitarians (Gender Equality) say "we are equal." This book is supposed to address that.

Now, seeing as I was the girl who used to pick fights saying "Girls are better than boys" and (less controversially) "Girls can do anything boys can do", I naturally lean towards Egalitarianism. And depending on what Complementarianism is (I'm still not sure what it's about), I may or may not support it. And I shouldn't need to state my position against Patriarchy.

In Christianity, there are a few key verses that people have been debating over with regards to this subject. This book aims to deal with these verses and conclusively determine what the Bible says on this position. Because the whole "wife-submit-to-your-husband" verses are closely tied to the "slave-submit-to-your-master", the author tries to make the case that the slave verses are cultural-specific, but the wife-verses are a timeless principal.

First off, throughout the book, the author has never defined male headship. He mentions the whole leading thing, but he does not define the limits. If he does, it wasn't marked out clearly enough, and I missed it.

Secondly, this book is pro-complementarian and more-or-less against egalitarianism. I say this because the bias behind the book is very important. Speaking as someone who has attempted to write a thesis before, I can tell you that your position is going to influence how you interpret things and how receptive you are to facts that disagree with you. So while the author is really polite towards the theorists he disagrees with, you can see that he thinks their wrong.

Thirdly, and this is really a fault on my part, I couldn't understand the book. I have no knowledge of Hebrew or the Biblical languages, so even if you tell me that what this particle mean, I have no way of knowing if you're telling me the truth. In addition, I found the argument hard to follow. I think I understand the basic gist of what this book is saying (I know what the conclusion is though), but it's an understanding so tenuous that I can't put it down in words.

But really, with all the different opinions floating around claiming to be the true interpretation of God's Word, what's a girl to believe?

Strangely, I'm absolutely confident that the Bible is the inspired and true Word of God, but I'm very murky on the details. I find it easier to understand apologetics than theology. So to me, this book was harder to understand. Although strangely, from what I understood, I ended up agreeing with the arguments of the ones he tries to discredit rather than his arguments.

In my opinion, I would disagree with the author, but not on the basis of his arguments. My reasons for disagreeing with the concept of male headship is that I believe that God gives people different gifts, and that he does give some women the gift of leadership. Just look in Judges, where Deborah lead the people of Israel. I believe that people who say that women should not have authority over men are denying women who are gifted by God with the gift of leadership.

Personally, I found this book hard to read and understand. But it may be that I'm simply not familiar with this topic, and hence, find it difficult to grasp. I would recommend this to people interested in the patriarchy debate, who are fairly knowledgeable about the topic and can follow along academic arguments.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Release Day Party for The Bone Knife by Intisar Khanani

We’re celebrating the release day party of The Bone Knife today. The Bone Knife is a YA Fantasy Short Story by author Intisar Khanani, who you can find on Thorn The Novel Website.
We’re hosting a giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card, spread across all blogs participating. Scroll down to participate!

About The Bone Knife

Title: The Bone Knife Author: Intisar Khanani Genre: YA Fantasy, Short Story Blurb: Rae knows how to look out for family. Born with a deformed foot, she feigns indifference to the pity and insults that come her way. Wary of all things beautiful, Rae instantly distrusts their latest visitor: an appallingly attractive faerie. Further, his presence imperils the secret her sister guards. But when the local townspeople show up demanding his blood, Rae must find a way to protect both her sister’s secret and their guest. Even if that means risking herself.

Author Bio

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Her approach to writing reflects her lifelong love for stories from different cultures. Her next project is a companion trilogy to her debut novel Thorn, with Rae as her new heroine.



We’re hosting a giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card. This giveaway is international! Fill in the Rafflecopter form to participate. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

Before I say anything about this fun book, Congrats Ivan William! He's one of my fellow bibliophiles from ACS(I) and he recently bought his first Terry Pratchett. Which, is an event I consider worth celebrating.

Ok, so on to the book. If I remember correctly, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is one of the books aimed at children, like the Tiffany Aching series. It actually doesn't matter, because even though it's funny (and the humour is more obvious), it does have a deeper message.

Now, while this book is loosely based on the Pipe Piper of Hamelin (whoops, almost typed Hamlet), it's really about rats (the "Educated Rodents" of the title, finding out what makes a rat a rat (and what about those rats who can't talk or think?), while Maurice (the cat), unwillingly grows a heart. Meanwhile, Keith (the pied piper) meets Malicia (the mayor's daughter) and they try to have an adventure (well, Malicia does. Keith just happened to be there).

The rats are a really lovable bunch. There's Peaches, a rather bossy female rat; Hamnpork, the old leader rat who isn't that enthusiastic about change; Dangerous Beans, the thinker of the group and Darktan, an athletic young rat. There are a bunch of other rats, but these are the main four. Within these four, there are musings on what makes a rat a rat? and a change in the way things are run. This leads to one of those "old vs new" themes that could be old, but is actually really well done (and resolved in a very humorous way).

Of course, Maurice is lovable. In fact, he's the star of the book for me. He's very much like Puss in Boots, although he'd definitely deny the resemblance. But he's sassy (I'm sorry Maurice, I couldn't think of another word) and has a heart of gold despite his mean exterior. I especially love how he's a good negotiator, because look at his effect on people:

"Now he [the mayor] had the slightly hunted expression of anyone who'd been talked at by Maurice for any length of time. It said, "I'm going where I don't want to go, but I don't know how to get off". "

If only I could do that. I could probably get the 2/3 majority needed in a MUN conference. Or you know, get my teachers to give me better marks.

The humans, on the other hand, were a mixed lot. Keith is a sweet kid, but Malicia was so caught up in her story that she was rather insensitive for most of the book (I did not like to write that sentence). But everyone works out to be likable in the end so....

Personally, I don't see much difference between the "kid" and the "adult" Discworld novels. You should just read them all!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - The Blue Door by Christa Kinde


I don't have much to say, except this is one of the books that I'm reading (thanks to Zondervan) at the moment! I've not gotten very far, but so far so good!

"Prissie wandered up and down, dismissing nearly everything she saw. It didn't seem right to feed an angel stuff like canned ravioli or cellophane-wrapped sponge cakes" (page 133)

If you didn't know, Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. All you've gotta do is to give a two sentence teaser of a book you're reading.

What are you teaser's this week?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

I was first introduced to Francine Rivers when I picked up her Mark of the Lion series by chance. I haven't been able to buy that series yet, but in the mean time, I'm catching up on her novels and loving them! Unlike Mark of the Lion, which was set in Ancient Rome, Redeeming Love is set in the Wild West.

Redeeming Love is inspired by the book of Hosea, which through Hosea and his wife, illustrates God's love. If you don't know the story, Hosea was requested to marry his wife, who left him repeatedly to go and be a prostitute. Yet, he kept bringing her back and forgiving her because of his love for her. This love is like the love of God, which is so great that He loves us through out worst sins.

Likewise, Redeeming love starts Michael Hosea and Sarah/Angel. Angel (she's called that for most of the book, so let's go with that), was born to the mistress of a rich man. An unwanted baby, she believes that she caused the dissolution of her parents relationship. When her mother dies when she's eight, she's sold into prostitution to a paedophile. Now at eighteen, she's trapped working as a high-class prostitute at a brother in Pair-a-Dice. Michael is a farmer who listens to the Word of God. As he sees Angel walking past him one day, he's told that this is the girl for him. But Angel doesn't think so. Can love change her?

I really loved this book because of the storyline. To see how Angel and Michael's relationship got closer as time past, then how Angel had to learn to forgive herself, it was so touching. The book is clearly centered around Angel, who's a lost lamb. And apart from the two stars, there are a whole host of characters, some good, and some who are hypocrites.

Plus the ending, well, I really love it!

"Love the Lord your God, and love one another. Love one another as He loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don't weaken. Stand against the darkness and love. That's the way back into Eden. That's the way back to life."

A note of caution, in the beginning of the novel, this is described as a "PG-13" novel due to sexual situations (Angel is/was a prostitute). Frankly, I didn't notice anything objectionable, and compared to most YA novels floating around, this is tame, but if you're uncomfortable with the subject, you might want to think twice before reading the book.

But otherwise, this is a fantastic novel that you have to read!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The S Factor Diet by Lowri Turner

I'm not sure why, but almost everyone I know if on a diet now. Personally, I'm too lazy to do it. But, I have been eating really unhealthily lately. But this book claims to teach you how to eat healthily, by balancing these four hormones - Serotin (the "Good Mood" hormone), Leptin (the hormone that tells you you're full), Dopamine (the hormone that motivates you) and Adrenals (the one that controls stress).

And really, I need to balance my diet. I've been eating really weirdly since I've arrived in Japan (I don't eat vegetables, yet there was period of time where I ate nothing but tofu and eggplant/carrots). It's because the grocery prices are so high. But it ended up wrecking my health (I'm probably the only person who falls sick after eating more vegetables). The most recent health-problem being really bad gastric, which resulted in me vomiting a few times during my mid-terms and leaving an exam half-way to get to the doctor. It was so bad I considered/was asked by my parents, to come home for the weekend to rest. It doesn't sound impressive, until you remember the 6/7 hour flight between Singapore and Japan. And by the way, I actually went back once my exams finished(Y)

But really, this book was quite interesting. I'm not sure whether these hormones exist (I took biology in Secondary School and I've never heard of them), but apparently, they're the latest discovery in science. So after you take a quiz that determines which hormone you lack (I lack Adrenals apparently), you can tailor your diet appropriately.

Most of the book consists of recipes. There is an eating plan, and then there are the recipes for the meals mentioned. I'm not sure if this is usual, but all the dishes sound really good. There are even deserts and snacks included! I don't think I can make any/most of them with my mini-stove and no-oven, but there are a few recipes which I'll definitely try in the future.

If you're just curious about what foods to avoid and what to eat, borrow this book. But if you want recipes that help you to eat better, then you should buy this book.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Long Reads #13

This week, it's just a collection of random stories. I've been reading less and less long essays though...

How Mormon's Make Money by Caroline Winter - After reading The Moroni Deception (link to review), I realised that I saved this article. To be honest, I'm still confused on how earning megabucks counts as spiritual. I understand how doing everything for God is holy (listen to Do Everything by Steven Curtis Chapman!), but for mere profit? Way to keep your eyes on Heaven.

Cat People by Louse Menand - It's on Dr Seuss and ... um, I think the cold war. I was really more interested in Dr Seuss than the political interpretations of his work. I mean, I have friends who still love Cat in The Hat, and I love Oh The Places You'll Go while almost leaving our teen years.

Cradle to Grave by Stephen Fried - This one's a crime article, along the lines of did they do it? If 10 babies all die mysteriously (supposedly due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), does that make the mother a cold-hearted murderer, or a pitiful woman? Add in the suspicions of the forensic department and well, you have a cold case that's heating up.

Can Tumblr's David Karp Embrace Ads Without Selling Out? by Rob Walker - Personally, my use of Tumblr is on-off. Sometimes I reblog a lot, sometimes I don't. I don't find it as intuitive as many people though, so I suppose it may just be me and my lack of technology know-how.

In Plain View by Malcolm Gladwell - To be honest, I only read this article because it was written by Malcolm Gladwell. But like his other articles, this brings a whole new light on a topic that you thought you knew. It's true that I tend to think of child molesters as perverted old men, but this article shows how they can be popular young people - and that's how they get away with it. I recommend reading this article so that you know when it's too much (if you already don't), and to stop yourself from being fooled.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett

I hardly ever do this. I've been putting down more books (I'm too lazy to read a book I can't connect with), but I hardly ever write a review for a book that I put down halfway. But yet, this book infuriated me so much that not only did I have to stop reading (I tried, I really tried), but I had to rant about it.

Yes, you have been warned, this is a rant.

I think, if you know me well, you can tell that I hate it when sequels change characters drastically. Especially for classics like Pride and Prejudice. So why one earth did the author change almost every character from Pride and Prejudice?

Look, Elizabeth is described as being without a sense of humour, Darcy has become some conservative uptight noble and Georgina is exactly like the rumours Wickham spread of her. It's as though the entire last chapter (or last few chapters for that matter) was ignored. There's a lot of say, but the one thing that made me so mad that I couldn't finish the book was Georgina's upcoming marriage. Not only does she choose a womaniser, she's portrayed as an irrational, jealous fiancee. Really? This is the sweet girl whom Elizabeth is close to, and sees how her sister-in-law and husband function? Really?

And what was all this for? To make Lydia more appealing (at least, that's the only reason I can find), by making everyone else so unlikable. Lydia is the "free spirit", the "fun one", the one that's supposed to appeal to the modern female audience. Except that she doesn't.

Lydia is selfish, manipulative and has no brains whatsoever. Oh, and she thinks the world of herself, being so "romantic" and all. So fine, you want to write an unlikable heroine, that happens (I remember .... Ok, no more talk). But at least write a good plot. If I don't like the protagonist, I should at least want to finish the book to find out what happens.

But no, Lydia drifts aimlessly from one event to another, whining and trying to scheme the whole way. And for some reason, there's a new character (Jerry) that she "falls in love" with, and he falls in and out of the plot in the most unbelievable ways (so he dies, but didn't really die, but then he leaves for America?). Can we have some consistency here?

So no, I did not like this book at all. It could have been a fun take on Jane Austen's classic, but it all went downhill when the author mangled the well loved characters of Pride and Prejudice. Add in a weak (or if I was harsher, non-existent) plot, and there's absolutely no reason to keep reading. I probably wouldn't have written a review either, but you do not mess with Pride and Prejudice.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. I was (obviously) not obliged to write a positive review.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Excuse For Company - Volume 1

HEY FRIENDS(: I have something I want to share with you! It's the first issue of what I hope will be a monthly magazine - An Excuse For Company (Link to smashwords page). And by the way, it's free~

I'm starting to think that my motivation for doing most things come from when I'm bored. Before I had the rush of exams/sick, I was being bored and suddenly felt like making a magazine! But I didn't want to do it alone, I wanted to have lots of people doing this, because it would be more fun, and you guys would get to see news and reviews that I don't know about.

So I posted on Goodreads where I got.... one response (thanks Jesse!). And then, I remembered Google+, and voila, the rest of the contributors appeared. I'm really so glad to have worked with them, and I hope that they become regular contributors!

But really, the hardest part of the magazine was the formatting and cover. The theme was easy, I already decided to do NaNoWriMo (ok, maybe I could have worked on the novel preparations instead of the magazine), so making that a feature was natural. Finding an appropriate photo (that I took, since I really don't want copyright issues) and doing the whole word document thing, was much more tedious.

I'm really not a tech person.

Still, I hope you guys download and read the issue (the formatting is the best on pdf, but ePub works too). And tell me if you have any comments or (better yet), if you want to be a part of the next issue. Heads up: The next issue will be Christmas themed, so I'll gladly welcome posts on Christmas and Christmas-y books, although any sort of book news/reviews are also welcome(:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Hobbit Journey by Matthew Dickerson

I came late to the Lord of The Rings fandom. While I missed out on quite a few things, I'm now grateful I missed out on the LOTR movies (the Peter Jackson ones). At least, that's the impression I have after reading A Hobbit Journey.

A Hobbit Journey is an analysis of the LOTR books, including the prequel (The Hobbit) and the "sequels"/canon. The book discusses issues like the ethics of war (including the question, is torture ever justified?), freewill, and the role/portrayal of religion in the book.

While reading this book, I keep thinking that it would be perfect for Evangeline (my classmate, who based her EE on LOTR). The book is entertaining (although to be honest, any book about LOTR is going to be entertaining to me), well written and thought provoking.

Unlike Narnia, which is more obviously influenced by Christianity, LOTR is much more subtle. Still, the author does an excellent job of showing and convincing the reader of the messages hidden inside the book. He also talks a lot of the difference between the movie and the book, which made me realise that Hollywood had hidden significant parts of the book in an attempt to change the messages and make it more palatable to the general public. This may or may not have been unintentional, but what's the point of producing a movie that doesn't stay true to the essence of the book? You may have to cut parts of the plot out, but you shouldn't mess with the message.

I must admit I haven't read that much of Tolkien. Unlike for C.S. Lewis (I've read almost everything by him), I've only read "On Fairy Tales" and I'm still making my way through the LOTR canon (Anyone wants to donate a copy of The Hobbit? (; ). But this book is, in it's way, inspirational. It made me want to go back and spend a few months reading and analysing all the LOTR books. There is still so much more that could be said about the books (the author himself briefly mentions a few topics he did not discuss).

If you're a fan of the Hobbits (this book, like the title suggest, centers around Hobbits), you'll want to read this book. If you're an Elf/Dwarf/Troll/Other fan, there's still lots to love, but you might want to consider writing your own book about LOTR featuring your favourite species.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Life of Pi by Yann Martel

As you may or may not know, I went back to Singapore during the weekend. And somehow, between receiving some books from the awesome folks at Zondervan, and going back and bring two old favourites back (ok, one old favourite and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mum for Rena) and getting one book, I found out that I'm absolutely drowning in books. What a happy dilemma.

So, today's teaser is a book that I started reading before I boarded the plane and somehow haven't picked up again (I was reading Agatha Christie and the past issues of Reader's Digest I brought back). It's.... Life of Pi (yes, I read behind the curve for best-sellers):

"I have just mentioned the notion of details that become lifesavers. Here was one: the lid was hinged an inch or so from the edge of the bow bench - which meant that as the lid opened, it became a barrier that closed off the twelve inches of open space between the tarpaulin and bench through which Richard Parker could get to me after pushing aside the life jackets." (page 187)

So, A Life of Pi is written by Yann Martel, and is apparently really good.

This meme is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. All you need to do to take part is to pick a book your reading and share a two teaser sentence.

So, what's your teaser?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Seventeen's Terrifying True Teen Stories by Seventeen Magazine

Even the cover looks like a magazine
Hey guys, sorry for the no show lately. I was pretty sick and had to fly back to Singapore for a while.

While I haven't read Seventeen magazine for a long time (I used to sneakily read my sister's copies), I was fairly interested in this short compilation. While I'm way above the stated age, this is a interesting and informative read.

The book is filled with short but dramatic stories with equally dramatic titles. Things like "My Scalp Was Ripped Off in a Freak Accident", "I Got Caught Smuggling Drugs", "I Had Brain Surgery ....for Headaches" and so on, this book is full of cautionary tales from real life teens.

What made the book stand out was that at the end of each story, practical tips were given. Things like what to do if an intruder enters your home, how to play with fireworks safely and how to stay safe while cheerleading. These are topics that I think most teens don't consider (unless you're deeply weird like me and spend the time before you sleep searching topics like "Christian Patriarchy Movement" and reading, but I digress) and this is one way to give them this information. And since this is coming from Seventeen Magazine, I have a feeling that teens will be receptive to the advice here.

So if you need a subtle hint/method to pass information to a stubborn teenager, you should definitely consider this book. If you're wondering, the topics are:

- School Shootings
- Robbery
- Fireworks
- Freak Accidents
- Drug Smuggling
- Kidnapping
- Shootings (random shootings)
- Cheerleading Accidents
- Texting while driving
- Headaches
- Tattoos.

All of them pretty common and serious topics.

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Moroni Deception - Interview with Jack Brody (Part 2)

Today, we continue with part two, where I interview/bombard author Jack Brody with all sorts of questions about Mormonism, his writing and even his dogs~

Hi Jack, thanks for coming to answer a few questions. First off, I think many of my readers (and even myself), don’t know anything about Mormonism. What books would you recommend as an introduction to the religion?

Although a portion mainly deals with the FLDS, or the fundamentalist, polygamist branch of the religion, the other half of Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven does look fairly accurately at the founding of the religion under Joseph Smith. His book was, in fact, what first inspired me to research the religion further.

I noticed that your book included a lot of detail about the history of Mormonism. Was it very difficult to do the research? (As difficult as Chenault?) How did you make sure that you included accurate information.

From sources as varied as The Book of Mormon, to several first or second hand historical accounts of both the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the death of Joseph Smith, to a number of other books examining the religion, to reams of information available on the internet, I tried to find several corroborating sources, rather than just resorting to widespread myths and rumors about the religion.

A lot of the novel is about the truth of Mormonism. Would you say that the information in your novel is fair and accurate? Or did you use any creative license to make the plot more interesting?

Well, if you read the reviews from the several Mormons who have read it--and even more criticisms from those who didn't--you might think that the information was not fair and accurate. However, everything having to do with LDS beliefs or historical points I would deem 99.9% accurate. I, in fact, made a point of not taking any creative license with those areas for the very reason that I didn't want to be accused of playing fast and loose with the facts. Most of the criticism there has been so far, I would point out, has to do with their perception of how Mormons have been portrayed in the novel, and nothing to do with the accuracy of their history or beliefs, which I take a small amount of pride in.

Ok, I suppose that’s enough about religion. After reading your novel, I wondered: Do you think that society has become too politically correct? For example, if you say something negative about a religion, you’re a bigot (unless it’s Christianity, then you’re a critical thinker).

 I would agree to a certain extent that society has become too politically correct, but I think in this case, kind of like Dan Brown's two books, or even Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, it comes down to a perceived attack by a group that finds their religion the subject of a piece of fiction, and since everything maybe is not flattering, they take it simply as an attack, and, in turn, attack back--in this case by saying a number disparaging things about me and the book, more it seems in an attempt to get people not to read it. I do know that the allegation that all Mormons in the book are portrayed as either "miscreants" or "stupid idiots" as one person put it, really doesn't hold any water. The funny thing, though, was that this same person said in the very next sentence that the book had a very interesting premise.

And following from this line, do you think that there’s space for reasoned criticism in today’s society?

For reasoned criticism there is, and should be all the space in the world. Unfortunately, what you mainly seem to see these days, whether it's an over-reaction to a political cartoon or a bad Youtube film, or disingenuous political spin that some loyal party members eventually not only accept, but swallow as Gospel, to the attacks on my book, are for the most part, purely knee-jerk emotional reactions, often by frustrated people whom it would seem would rather not think things through too clearly for whatever reasons.

That should be enough difficult questions ;) Can you please introduce yourself to the readers? Imaginary Bonus Points if you do it twitter‐style! 

To tell you the truth, I barely know what Twitter is. So I would just say I'm a new novelist, with quite a bit of life experience in having dealt with people from all walks of life, that I've tried to interject into my novels to hopefully give it a little more authenticity, especially when it comes to characterization and dialogue.

What teasers can you give us about the two future novels featuring Michael Chenault?

 Jeff Sharlet's The Family would be the first clue, and the second clue may have to do with an article I read a few years back about a white North Carolinan and his two sons who had converted to Islam, trained in Pakistan, and were in the process of creating their own terrorist cell.

And what are the names of your dogs?

 For their own protection, my dogs have requested that I just use their pen names, "Cheech" and "Chong."

Thanks for answering all these questions!

You're welcome. And thank you for coming up with such good questions after reading the book. Although I have to admit you've probably asked the toughest questions I've had so far.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Moroni Deception by Jack Brody (Part 1)

I was really lucky to be given the chance to read this book and interview the author. So today, enjoy the book review~

How many of you know about Mormonisn (otherwise known as The Church of the Latter Day Saints)? I suppose not many. After a quick Google search, I found out that there are a few thousand Mormons in Singapore. Yet, it’s a fairly unknown religion.

Well, even if you know nothing about Mormonism, feel free to read The Moroni Deception. The book is a tightly written thriller, similar to Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code but, I think, more accurate. Again, I googled some events mentioned in the book, and it seems like the author was quite accurate in his depiction of events.

The Moroni Deception stars Michael Chenault, an investigative reporter for The New York Times. After being tipped off about two strange murders, he starts investigating into these two ritualistic-seeming murders. And the implications may decide the next President of the United States.

 I noticed two main themes running through the book – a critique of Mormonism, and a critique of the censorship of the news.First, the critique of Mormonism. There’s no other way to say this, but the facts revealed are quite unflattering to Mormonism. As Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth LDS prophet said (and this was quoted in the book)

“Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false."

I am disgressing, but I’ll like to talk about this quote. Firstly, this sounds quite like C.S. Lewis’s Trilema, which he wrote about in Mere Christianity. And second, I don’t believe that Joseph Smith was appointed and commissioned. Mormonism is based on a “new revelation” and a “new translation” from God to Joseph Smith, something that directly contradicts Revelations 22: 18-19

"And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” (New Living Translation)

Ok, on to the next thread – the censorship. Michael Chenault is a reporter, and while he tries to present the truth, he is pressured by his superiors to drop this case. And why? Because someone even higher up is pressuring them. In addition, Chenault loses a Pulitzer prize because his story was politically too controversial. This book really made me think, how polarised are we as a society? Can we really say what we think?

In conclusion, this is an excellent book. It’s a tightly written thriller, and it raises many interesting topics to think about.

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

Stay tuned for an interview with the author coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

I'm actually wondering why it took me so long to pick up this book. I mean, I have read Phillipa Gregory before (Ok, so I only read The Other Boleyn Girl) and I like her writing, so why would I feel hesitation for a YA book?

In Changeling, young (younger than me) Lucas is sent to record the ending of the world, as he investigates if certain miraculous happenings truly are miraculous. On this first assignment, he has to investigate the miraculous happenings at an abbey, which seems to accuse the new and reluctant Abbess Isolde as the instigator of all the strange happenings. On Isolde's side, she's trapped in the abbey after she doesn't gain the inheritance her father promised her. Personally, I think her brother lied about what she got, or he tricked his father into depriving Isolde of her inheritance.

What shone for me, was the characters. The plot was a little.... strange. It's supposed to be a mystery, but the deduction took place too fast, and there was no way for the reader to guess how everything took place. Guessing the person responsible was easy, because it was quite obvious (in terms of character motivations and such). Plus, I don't understand why there was a second plot after the first one. It didn't seem to have any connection to the story. Well, it was a sweet plot.

That being said, the characters more than made up for it. Apart from Peter, the grumpy scribe, there are four main characters - Lucas and his manservant Frieze, Isolde and her maidservant Ishraq. I love the loving-but-disrespectful way Frieze treats Lucas, and the sisterly relationship between Isolde and Ishraq was touching. And as the group know each other more, the Lucas-Isolde and Frieze-Ishraq interactions are amusing. And the fact that after a book there aren't any couples makes me root for the (obvious) pairings.

I really hope that there's a second book. I want to see if Isolde can regain her inheritance, more about the Order for which Lucas works and of course, to see what happens between the characters.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

You should know me by now, I love Agatha Christie. So yup, today's teaser is from another one of her books. I've never heard of it before, but it sounds way interesting(:

So, if you don't know, Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. All you need to do is to pick a random page, share a two sentence teaser, and remember to tell what book you're reading. Simple~ So today's teaser is:

"A child, keeping that murderous intention in its heart, quietly practising day after day and then the final piece of acting - the awkward shooting - the catastrophe, the pretence of grief and despair. It was all incredible - so incredible that probably it would not have been believed in court" (page 104/105)
You know, this doesn't really sound like her usual style of mysteries. This sounds awesome in a different way!

What are you teasers?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Miss Dreamville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth

You know a book is good when you read it in one sitting. I would say that this is especially true recently, because I've been feeling an urge to study. Well, that and I have exams coming up again. But when I started reading Miss Dreamville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society (from now, called "Miss Dreamsville" today, I couldn't put it down! It's a good thing I had a free period.

Miss Dreamsville is about reading and books. That alone endeared me to it. The narrator Dora, is somewhat of an outcast - she's a divorcee in a small southern town. But when the (northern) Jackie comes to town, she starts up a Literary Society (something like a Salon) filled with outcasts. And of course, this makes an impact on everyone's lives.

First off, I love the range of characters here. There's the suburban mom, the (ex-convict but) still regal old lady, the Turtle Lady (Dora), a young Negro servant and so on. The wide range of characters means that many different viewpoints can be expressed without seeming forced.

Case in point: when the group read The Feminine Mystique, Jackie identifies with the book. Obsessed with reading it to the point where she neglects her household duties. On the other hand, Priscilla (the young Negro maid) finds the problems that these women go through to be luxuries only white people have. Being discriminated against, she can't afford to consider or even complain about such things.

Second, there's the setting. This book is set it 1962, Florida. This means that at that time, racism was still rampant, there was the whole South/North thing and the Klan was still active. At least, that's what I got from the book (and I have no reason to believe that's not true). The book paints a vivid picture of what small town America was like than, and pulled me into the story.

Thirdly, there's the plot. The book doesn't revolve only around books, it follows Jackie as she becomes the mysterious radio personality Miss Dreamsville, and what that entails. The plot manages to weave in themes of racism and friendship, making it a plot with a point. But it's not a message, these issues are naturally raised thanks to Jackie's personality.

And because the narrative is basically one long flashback, it allows for Dora to tell the point of view of other characters, since having hindsight, she knows what happened. That was really useful, because there were certain events that was crucial, but happened when Dora wasn't present.

Basically, this is a fantastic novel. I love how books were introduced naturally, (the discussion felt natural, because this was supposed to be a salon-style club). The plot wasn't book related, although it was sparked by the Literary Society, which made it interesting. I think this book will appeal to a wide range of people, bibliophiles and non-bibliophiles alike :D

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

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding

YAY NO ROMANCE IN A YA BOOK! And yes, I had to type that in caps. Do you know how hard it is to find a non-romantic book? As far as I see, Rail and Moa (our two protagonists), are best friends, but there's nothing more to their relationship.

The story is set in Orokos, a city that is not only segregated, it's also afflicted with something called Probability Storms which mixes up the lives of the citizens. For example, after a probability storm, Rail lost the ability to breathe, and has to wear a respirator all the time now. Because of that, the Probability Storm is colloquially called the Storm Thief (hence the title of the book).

One day, Rail and Moa are find a strange artifact among the others they are tasked to steal, and they end up on the run when Rail impulsively decides to keep it from the their mistress.

Orokos is an interesting city. They're under despotic rule, and they prefer it. Also they're segregated according to class. I wish that I could learn more about the city, but this isn't a "political" novel, so all we're left with is intriguing bits of information. I'd love to read more about the power structure of the city.

As for characters, Rail and Moa steal the show with their friendship. There are other important characters like Bane (the head of the secret police) and Finch (the boy sent to kill the two) and Vago (the Gollum), but by and by, I was just interested in Rail and Moa. They're fairly opposite in personality (think of Moa as having a sunny personality and Rail as cynical), but they complement each other quite well.

All in all, this is a really interesting YA dystopian book. It's unlike most of what's being published nowadays, so if you're sick of the standard fare, you should give this book a read.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Long Reads #12

Thanks to a spotlight by Byliner, these week(s) articles are focused on relationships (mainly online dating :p)

Love in the time of no time by Jennifer Egan - Even if I didn't see the published date of 2003, it's easy to tell this article is a little dated; after all, it speaks of Friendster as "recent". Which means that what this article depicts may be really different from what's going on now. But basically, the message is: online dating is getting less and less stigma-lised. And I suppose that it has continued to do so. I can't tell though, I've never used any of those sites.

How Do I Love Thee by Lori Gottlieb - This article takes an in-depth look at dating sites. From what I see, they all emphasize on being scientific. What I'm wondering at this point of time is - doesn't anyone have any hobbies? Or do they just go out to work, go to drink and then go home. Maybe they should join a club or something.

Is Online Dating Destroying Love? by Stuart Deffries - A recent article (published in Feb) looking at a negative effect of the rise in online dating - the rise in casual sex. Enough reason for me not to go onto any online sites, no matter how desperate I may get in the future. And this is unrelated, but I thought the humour in the article was appropriate and a nice touch.

Casting the Net from The Caravan - This article focuses on online dating in India. It was quite interesting, especially looking at how firms had to greatly adapt their model to this new market. Hmm.... apart from India, what about Japan? I haven't met any, but I've heard about hikikomori, people who just stay in their room and don't go out. But then again, most people here seem really sociable....

Adventurous SWF Seeking Soul Mate Gets Hottie (And Bothered) by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt - This last article is a personal account of the author's attempt to find love through online dating. It doesn't look good for technology, seeing as that by the end of the article, she met her boyfriend with absolutely no help from the online dating site. And by the way, what does SWF mean?

So, what interesting articles did you read this week?

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Shadowed Onyx Nicole O' Dell

When I say this book is captivating, I really mean it. Normally, ebooks have to be of a certain standard for me to even finish the book. And for some reason, the ePub version of this book crashed my BlueFire reader app repeatedly, so I had to read this on my computer. Yet, I finished reading it in one go (even through my Detective Conan anime!)

The Shadow Onyx follows Joy, whose life unravels after she finds her best friend's body (her best friend committed suicide). She gets deeper and deeper into the occult (although she calls it spiritualism) when she's convinced that Melanie (her best friend) was speaking to her from the dead.

But, while it's easy to get drawn into the occult, it's not so easy to get away. Joy is "given" a spiritual guide, a wolf called Silas. He hurts those that believe Christ, he demands all her loyalty and he does his best to keep her away. Towards the end of the book, one of Joy's biggest hurdles in leaving the occult isn't because she's found peace, but because she's too afraid of Silas.

And this danger of the occult is ever-present in the book. There are numerous incidents that show how dangerous it is. Objects are ripped, people are hurt. And about halfway through the book, Joy is given spiritual sight. She can see how monstrous these spirits are. She can see the battles being fought for our souls.

That, I think, is the most powerful part of the book. It has managed to take the battle in the spiritual realm and translate it into words. And while it's shown that Jesus has the ultimate power over all things, material and immaterial, the power of the devil is not minimised. While we are conquerors in Christ, we must not underestimate the power of the devil to intimidate and scare us.

In conclusion, this is a gripping book that vividly shows the dangers of dabbling in the occult. It's definitely a must-read.

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

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I didn't intend to, but I finished this book in one sitting.

In short, Edenbrooke is a romance novel set in the Regency Period (all of a sudden, I miss my Dummies Guide to Jane Austen, which I left in Singapore :/). It stars Marriane, a not very ladylike lady who's sent to live with people she doesn't know (to you know, turn her into a lady). But on the way there, she runs into a little trouble. And from that, she meets Phillip, whom she quickly discovers is part of the family she's going to stay with. To make matters bigger, he's the head of the house (which means that her sister Cecily is aiming to marry him) and she's falling in love with him.

While I'm not that much of a romance fan (so many have explicit scenes :/), this story was touching and captivating. I kept on reading because I wanted to find out what happened. And I wasn't disappointed. Plot-wise, the book is fantastic.

Character-wise, I really like the book too! Phillip and Marriane are fantastic main characters, and their interactions were very entertaining. Marriane isn't just un-ladylike, she's also a very considerate sister. She holds back on loving Phillip because she considers him her sisters. Most of the other characters were also expertly characterised. But there were two (Louise and Cecily), that gave false impressions.

False impressions because I honestly thought that the sister-rivalry concept was going to be explored in this book. There was this lovely quote that convinced me of it:

"I had to be different from Cecily so I would not be inferior. We could not occupy the same space together. Like horses in a race, I was tired of jostling for position and losing. I chose a different course so that losing would not be an option."

But there was no conflict, no resolution. At the end of the book, both sisters live happily ever after (even though Cecily doesn't win Phillip, she doesn't seem the least disappointed. Strange, considering that she's supposed to be determined to marry him). This book is slightly more than 250 pages, so I think that more could be written on this.

Still, this is only a small quibble. I have no complaints about the book, I just want to read more of it.

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

I don't know why, but the two Irish books that I read all have unique narrative voices. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha uses something that approaches stream-of-consciousness at times, and Angela's Ashes doesn't have any quotation marks, which just makes the prose flow and flow and flow. Both books are quite similar.

For one thing, both them are about the Irish Childhood. But while Paddy Clarke focused on one year (with flashbacks), Angela's Ashes ranges from birth to about twenty (when Frankie goes to America). And Angela's Ashes is also set in America.

And, both of them both quote the same poem (I'm quite sure). In particular, they both quote this line:

"And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,/ That one small head could carry all he knew."

I love those two lines!

Angela's Ashes is sometimes funny, sometimes sad and always wonderful. I'm not sure why, but I have this impression that this book has dark humour. Of course, I may have mixed it up with another book :p Apart from the fact that Frankie (Frank) McCourt lived an interesting (but somewhat sad) life, the writing is fantastic! I'm not surprised that this was chosen as my unseen prose text, there's so much to say about the writing style, about the, OH YEAH, I said something about oversharing more.

So basically, after I got this as an unseen prose in MG (the teachers have such good taste!), I've been looking for the book after that. I don't think I actually attempted the text (I'm terrible at poetry, but somehow, I score better at it), but it left a deep impression on me. So imagine my surprise when I found it at BookOff? Well, the first copy was large print and quite expensive (about 800 yen), and not in very good condition. So imagine my surprise when I find an almost pristine paperback for 200 yen. I did not let go of the book after that.

This book didn't disappoint. You definitely have to read it, it's fantastic!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - 30 Days to a New You by Steve Cioccolanti

Personally, I find the title and
cover misleading. 
It's Tuesday again so you know what that means! Teaser Tuesday! Teaser Tuesday is a meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. All you have to do is post two "teaser" sentences from your current book and share it's title.

I didn't start any new books so far (sadly, I have mid-term exams starting from Friday. Good thing I wrote some spare reviews during the Summer Break/Before this week). But I am reading this devotional titled "30 Days to a New You." So here's my teaser:

"To be a Christian means far more than changing religions, joining a Church or being forgiven of sins. It means Christ has transformed us to be so much like Himself that we can legitimately be called His Body and we can truly represent Him on this earth." (page 23)

So, what do you think? Does this quotes sound like it comes from a book that is titled like a self-help book?

What are your teasers this week? Leave a link in the comment and I'll make sure to visit your blog!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Samurai Awakening Giveaway!

I don't normally do giveaways (in fact, this is my first time participating in a rafflecopter giveaway :p), but I really loved Samurai Awakening, and I hope that one of you gets this fabulous prize - a signed copy. If you're unsure about whether to join, you can read my review of Samurai Awakening to make up your mind.


a Rafflecopter giveaway