Friday, November 30, 2012

In The Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I interrupt your regular book review for some important news:

Today, I officially won NaNoWriMo!

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

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


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Excuse For Company Volume 2

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

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

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

You can download your free copy at Smashwords

Monday, November 26, 2012

Renegade by J. A. Souders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Long Reads #15

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you been reading?

Friday, November 23, 2012

By Invitation Only by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge - Feet of Clay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read. This. Book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

So, what's your teaser?

Monday, November 19, 2012

One for the Books by Joe Queenan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kiku's Prayer by Endo Shusaku

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

I got this copy on the way back to Japan, but I'm just started reading it. But then, I saw the Folio Society version and now, I really want that copy (I don't mind multiple copies of a book!) ^^ Before you ask, yes, my new hobby is looking at the Folio Society site, wishing I have enough money to buy one of their books.

And at the rate I'm reading, this book will be next week's Teaser too! (I won't mind because I love Tolkien). So, today's teaser is:

"The feast that they now saw was greater and more magnificent than before; and at the head of a long line of feasters sat a woodland king, with a crown of leaves upon his hair, very much as Bombur had described the figure in his dream. The elvish folk were passing bowls from hand to hand and across the fires, and some were harping and many were singing." (page 179)
I don't think anyone will disagree when I say that Tolkien is a magnificent writer!

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Participating is easy, just give a two sentence teaser as well as the information of the book you're reading.

-insert some promotion here- Before I end, I want to ask if anyone here is interested in contributing to a free book review magazine that I'm creating. If I've piqued your interest, you can find out the details here.

Now, what are you teasers this week?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

I love Agatha Christie, really love her. And you know, Towards Zero is really different from her other books, in a good way. It sort of stars Superintendent Battle as our lead detective, and has a very unique sort of murders.

You see, Towards Zero postulates (that's a word that should be used more often) that a murder begins before someone dies. After all, it starts when someone decides to kill. And so, a murder occurs, and it's not as simple as it seems. There is Mr Strange, his first wife Audrey and his second wife Kay, all visiting his elderly relative when she's murdered. Add in a whole cast of characters and you have so many suspects you don't know what you're going to do.

The book is generally, really good, with interesting characters and a strong plot, except for two things:

One, Mr Treves, the guy who introduces the idea of "Zero Hour" dies halfway through the book. WHY???? -sobs-

Two, in the last few chapters, some dude called MacWhirther suddenly appears, falls in love with Audrey and proceeds to become the key to solving this case. Again, WHYYY?????

I thought Agatha Christie was above cheap plot tricks like this. Why couldn't she just keep Mr Treves alive till the end, and let him help the police? I don't mind if Audrey ends up alone forever, she's not a favourite character of mine anyway.

Basically, this was a generally awesome book because it was a departure from Agatha Christie's normal books. I just wish that there wasn't this sort of plot trick inside (ok, but since it introduces a character and not a new piece of evidence at the last minute, I can sort of overlook it).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Looking for Contributors to the December issue of An Excuse For Company!

Hey friends,

If you remember, last month, I debuted the book-ish e-magazine An Excuse For Company! I hope you downloaded it and enjoyed reading it!

Now, I'm looking for contributors for the December issue. It's Christmas-themed, but you don't have to submit only Christmas related posts. You can submit any of your blog posts/book reviews/book news that you want to share with everyone. Even photos are welcome (as a cover photo)!

Submitting is really easy. Just leave me the link to your blog post and an bio in the comments by the end of this week (16/11/2012) and I'll include your post in the next issue. Please note that I won't accept LGBT or erotica book reviews/news.


Friday, November 9, 2012

What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan

I mentioned some time back about The Dummies Guide to Jane Austen. That was more like the background and influences of Jane Austen. Here, we take her more seriously as a novelist an explore some questions in the novel.

The book is divided into twenty chapters (or questions), ranging from number one: "How Much Does Age Matter" and number twenty "How Experimental a Novelist is Jane Austen"? Each chapter gives a wealth of detail and a lot of information about the time Jane Austen lived in.

Needless to say, I loved it. I never knew how much a master of technique Jane Austen was (that woman is seriously talented at manipulating the reader) and now, I know a bit more about why I'm compelled to read her books over and over and over again (thank goodness you can get them free from Gutenberg). The book pointed out a lot of small details that was in the books (and that I missed), and I'm definitely going to be looking out for them when I do my next re-read.

And even though this is non-fiction, the book is really easy to understand .Really really easy. The chapter lengths are just right too. That being said, I wouldn't mind reading if each chapter became a book (or rather, a really annotated version of Jane Austen's works).

If you're into tracking down sources and stuff, there's a really extensive biography at the back, lasting a few pages long. Personally, this is one of the times where I wish every secondary reference was listed with a footnote, because it would be easier for me to see exactly which books I'd want to read (obviously, some topics interest me more than others).

Definitely a must-have companion book for the Jane Austen fan!

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Bone Knife by Intisar Khanani (Blog Tour)

If you remember, I once reviewed Thorn by this same author and loved it! So, when I heard that she released a new fantasy short story, I jumped at the chance to read it (I jump a lot for books. It's a wonder that I'm not more fit).

The Bone Knife takes place in this interesting world, where the fey live with humans (although the humans don't like them). Rae is a cripple whose family is suddenly visited by a fey (ostensibly to buy a horse). As a result, she has to juggle protecting her younger sisters and making sure no one upsets their guest.

Basically, this is like a teaser. It's an interesting introduction to Rae and her sisters, and creates enough empathy for Rae that there will be an instant connection once the reader picks up The Theft of Sunlight (which apparently is the name for the upcoming trilogy).

And bonus points for us, since this world is supposed to be like Thorn (which means it's really close to magical realism, but maybe more magical?) and I'm really hoping to see some of my "old friends" in this upcoming trilogy.

This is a short read, but it definitely piqued my interest in the trilogy.

Diclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from Enchanted Book Blog Tours in exchange for a free and honest review. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Top 10 Distinctions Between Entrepreneurs and Employees by Keith Cameron Smith

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a stock broker when I grew up. As I grew up, I changed course and decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. But what exactly makes on an entrepreneur?

Well, I couldn't find the video where Squidward explains what an entrepreneur is (in the chocolate selling episode), but this is what I sometimes feel an entrepreneur does. A glorified salesman (and I really hate the idea of being a fast-talking saleswomen.

Anyway, this short book (only 62 pages on my iPad, including the forward and content pages!) does clear up a few misconceptions. Entrepreneurs do more than just sell stuff they make/buy, they're also - lifelong learners, problem solvers, know-it-alls (in a good way!), risk-taking, etc. That sounds more like my thing.

If you're looking for a concrete, step-by-step guide to being an entrepreneur, you won't find it here. I find the book to be more of the inspirational than instructional. I finished reading it thinking "hmm.... I could do these" rather than thinking "oh, now I have to do ___,___ and ____.

In conclusion, it's a good starter book for those who want to be entrepreneurs. And if it doesn't work, I'll recommend the spongebob chocolate sales episode.

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

I totally forgot about Teaser Tuesday last week! I made my post, then wondered why I was seeing so many teasers. It took about two or three before I realised that it was Tuesday :p

So, today's teaser comes from a series that I'm currently reading - The Dark Is Rising Sequence. I'm pretty sure that I've read one of the books inside, but I can't remember which. So, here's the teaser:

"Go!" Rage filled the voice of Tethys suddenly. There was a great flashing and roaring in the depths, all round them; strong currents rose, tugging at their limbs; fish and eels darted wildly round them in all directions, and out of the distant shadow a great shape came. (page 415)

Isn't it wonderful? I wish I could write like this for NaNoWriMo.

So, Teaser Tuesdays is brought to you by MizB of Should Be Reading. Just give a two sentence teaser and you're good to go! What was your teaser this week?

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Blue Door by Christa Kinde

While I love fantasy and angelic stories, I don't tend to read them very often because I'm afraid of the author mis-representing them (just compare the description in the Bible and popular depictions and you'll see). But previously, I wrote about book one of the Halflings series by Heather Burch. Now, thanks to Zondervan (again!), I got to read and review The Blue Door, the first of the Threshold Series by Christa Kinde.

And if you remember how much I loved Halflings, well, I loved this more!

Halflings was a really good book, but it had the love triangle that seems compulsory in YA fiction. The Blue Door, on the other hand, is for kids, so there's no such thing (whew!). Instead, there's a thoughtful story that explores what it might be like if you could see Angels.

And while these angels all looked human, it's frequently said that this isn't their true form - to see them in their radiance would be too much for humans. But they have different roles to play (Messenger, Observer, etc), and they're loyalty to God is admirable. Plus, they stick to their Biblical description - they are indeed fear-inspiring.

Into this comes Prissie, a girly fourteen year old with a house full of brothers. One day, she finds that she can see Koji, an Observer, and from there, she's pulled into the world of Angels. Most of the book focuses on her struggle to accept angels as a reality, especially as it means changing her opinions of quite a few people near and dear to her. At the same time, there's drama on the friend front, as she feels further from her friends (especially with the new stuck up girl). With her nemesis determined to apprentice himself to her dad's bakery, Prissie has a lot of things to handle.

While this sounds like a lot, the book is mostly world-building and character building. The goriest scenes are hidden from us (and Prissie), although we do get hints (hint: think of King Lear and one of the most disturbing  and difficult scenes in stage history). Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more plot, but since the book ends on a really nice cliffhanger, I expect that the pace would pick up from the next book onwards.

All in all, an amazing start to a new series. I'm looking forward to Book Two!

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fearless Daughters of the Bible by J. Lee Grady

I love this book! Love it so much after reading Women, Slaves and the Gender Debate. It's not a theological book (it's more like an encouraging one), but it makes so much more sense than Women, Slaves and the Gender Debate (henceforth, "the other book")

From the very start, the importance of women is affirmed. The book says "when you read the Bible, it is obvious that God often anoints women to be initiators." The book goes one to take about a varied bunch of women, including The Five Daughters of Zelophehad (the courage to challenge tradition), Miriam (the courage to lead in a man's world), Priscilla (the courage to mentor others) and many many others. There are 15 women/groups of women in total, so that's a lot of courage and a lot of encouraging.

In addition, each chapter talks about various women that the author has met, proving that it's not only in the Bible that women was called to take charge and lead.

There is this really strong contrast between America and the rest of the world (particularly China) in this book. The author talks about how in America, some Churches are debating things like whether women can lead worship, while in China, women are pastoring thousands of Churches each. What a huge difference!

Because I believe that God gives his gifts as he sees fit, and not according to gender, I agree completely with this book. There's a Chinese saying which I don't know and can't be bothered to check, which goes like "Women hold up half the sky". There's really no reason for us to cower behind the guys when it comes to doing battle on God's behalf.

In conclusion, this is an excellent book that everyone should read. You don't need to be a girl to appreciate the message of courage, and it's fully of people you should know about.

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

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Long Reads #14

This week, I just read a random collection of articles. I hope you enjoy them! (Although really, I found the crime articles a little bit disturbing.

Tokyo Hooters Girls by Paige Ferrari - American things are really popular in Japan, and this article explores what is really famous in America (but unknown in Asia). I thought the article was a pretty interesting description of how certain cultural aspects have to change in order to appeal to the Japanese. But the ending of the virtual girlfriend, I don't quite understand how that ties in with the article. This is if, of course, you assume as I do that this article is about importing business between cultures, rather than being a comment about Japanese culture (which wouldn't fit anyway).

Inside the Sex-Offender Cluster of One Long Island Town by Jennifer Gonnerman - What happens to Sex Offenders (or other criminals for that matter) when they're released? Well, they group together, not because they're planning another crime, but because there are only so many places that will rent to them. The most common worry is - are they really reformed?

The Truck Stop Killer by Vanessa Veselka - When the author was a teengaer, she was almost killed by a trucker that she hitch-hiked from. Many years later, she tries to find out if her would-be murderer is the same sick serial killer. Through this, we see how there's a whole subculture, where a women is seen as next to nothing, and can go missing for weeks without being noticed. And into this, a truly sick human being choose to take advantage of them. I have never hitchhiked, and now, I never will.

How Our Brains Stop Us From Achieving Our Goals (and How to Fight Back) by - Not technically a long essay, but it's a useful article. I mean, everyone has their own goals right? That we fail at? (Or is that only me?). So, this article should help.

Land of the Rising Fun by John Bradley - Japan sounds really fun! And this guide focuses on the nature-y things to do. Among them (like skiing! I want to learn to ski!), there are some that aren't mentioned, like this scary sounding rope bridge that you can walk across. Seriously, it's in Tokushima, and I want to walk across that bridge one day (Ok, I want to see someone walk across. I may not make it :p)

What did you read this week?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Angels Everywhere by Debbie Macomber

Christmas is coming.... in less than two months! But, it's time for me to get into the holiday mood by reading some Christmas-y stories (seasonal stories FTW?). Anyway, after a really long time, I picked up another Debbie Macomber book.

Angels Everywhere is a collection of two novels - A Season of Angels and Touched by Angels. The two novels follow three angels - Mercy, Goodness and Shirley as they meddle, I mean try to help their charges by Christmas. The three get into a lot of trouble (mostly by riding on escalators, moving a war-ship, etc) but their heart of gold wins out in the end.

Both stories follow the same "pattern", if you will. There are three or more human protagonists, and they have to learn to trust God, let go of fear, or some other lesson before their lives can be filled again. I'm making this sound boring when it's not. They're sweet captivating stories, written in the Cedar Cove style (for the uninitiated, that means multiple POVs and plots).

I will, however, sound a note of caution about the heavenly trio. For some reason, the angels feel too human to me. While they are lovable scamps, they do seem to be fallible (does disobeying direct orders count as a sin?). Plus, they're totally not scary. In the Bible, the first thing Angels tend to say is "Fear not".

But despite my gripes, this is a typical Debbie Macomber novel, which is to say, I love it. Both stories are heart-warming (with messages about trusting God and such), and so appropriate for Christmas. Definitely one to put on your list along with Melody Carlson's A Christmas Dog and An Irish Christmas (link to reviews)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Cracked Slipper by Stephanie Alexander

This book reminds me of what my friend had for her skype status once "The prince is awake, your shit is wrecked". Only in this case, we should change the word to Princess, because it's our heroine, Eleanor who is the strong one.

The Cracked Slipper follows what happen after the prince (Gregory) finds Cinderella (Eleanor). Only unlike Cinderella 2, the Disney version, this reads a lot more like life here.

But with some crucial differences. For one, this is a magical kingdom. There are unicorns and dragons (both of which are put to work), magicians and witches (no fairy godmothers though), all of which make the normal court politics (Which is already too complicated for me to play) more, um, fun. Plus, the evil step-mother and one step-sister don't go down without a fight - they're fighting like ladies (through the court, through the court).

The most surprising thing is that there's no happily ever after, romance-wise, for Eleanor and Gregory. For some reason, she falls in love with Dorian, Gregory's best friend, and it's this conflict that most of the book is pre-occupied with. But since she can't leave Gregory..... Well, I just hope that in the next book (this is left unresolved, so I think there's a next book), she can find a solution. Preferably one that involves her keeping her wedding vows, although Gregory isn't the best husband (morally).

However, I would like to caution that the f-word is used quite a few times, and there are a few sexual references too. So even though this is a retelling of the fairy-tale, I only recommend it for mature readers. There are, however, quite a few positive things, like friendships and love inside (apart from the plot, which is interesting). It's all up to you on what is your deal breaker.

All in all, this is a pretty interesting book. It takes a really real-life approach to the whole fairy-tale stories, which means that it should appeal to women (older teens and up).

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