Friday, December 27, 2013

The Dragon Tutor by Mar Mai

I came across this book thanks to Google+. And after reading this book, the first thing I wanted to do was the buy a Kindle gift-card and get the sequel! (Then I will probably spend the rest on books by my friends on Google+^^)

The Dragon Tutor is the first in what looks to be a really interesting comic series. It has Dragons, an adorable little prince, a ditzy little princess and... tragedy. Yes, tragedy strikes really early in the book. Zephyr, the dragon tutor of the book, is the tutor to Prince Quiver, this really adorable little Prince. The Prince is the son of two rather, shall we say ditzy parents, who try to betroth him to Princess Calista (who's surprisingly like him in temperament). Unfortunately, tragedy strikes (I'm not tell you what), and Prince Quiver is missing, presumed dead. A few years later, Zephyr is called to be a Dragon Tutor again, this time to Princess Calista.

What did I like about this comic? Everything! It had adorable characters, a range of settings and a hint of something darker. It's not all puppies and flowers, and there's a small hint of a conspiracy, of things about to get worse. That's really what's made me into a fan - it feels rounded and not too saccharine sweet.

I'm so glad that I got the chance to read this book! If you're looking for a fantasy comic that can be enjoyed by people of all-ages, you have to pick this up.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Marshmallow Hammer Detective Agency: The Mysterious Case of the Golden Egg by Ernie Lindsey

This is such a cute middle-school detective book! It's not like the five-findouters, which was safe although they got into some pretty precarious situations, it's not one of those gritty type of stories. It's a bit more complicated than that.

Hat (full name Halcyone Acasia Tintersmoot), receives a golden egg from a grandfather for her 12th birthday, three years after he died. The mystery would be to solve the mystery of the golden egg. So in that sense, there's no sense of danger to the book - it's more like solving a series of riddles. Helping her is her new friend Frank, who has a photographic memory.

Yet, there's something darker. Hat's new friend and assistant Frank, comes from a broken home. His dad is in jail, and his mom is probably an alcoholic and abusive. Hat doesn't recognise this, but her dad other adults do and I'm pretty sure older readers will. If you're going to talk danger, then there is the very real danger of Frank getting seriously injured by his mother (she slaps in him the book when angry, so there's the possibility that things will get worse before they get better).

I think that bringing in the possibility of child abuse into an otherwise safe world makes this book much more realistic. This world that Hat lives in isn't some safe fictional world where bad things are clearly defined - bad people are near her. She doesn't explicitly recognise this (although she definitely doesn't like his mom), but it's something that hit me.

To bring some balance to the book, Hat has an extremely loving family. She's expected to be responsible, her parents love her, they trust her, I have a feeling that she's going to grow up happily, in uneventfully. But I'd rather take the happy ending than one full of pain.

I'm looking forward to reading more of this series - I'd like to see what happens as Hat and Frank grow up.

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I spent Christmas at home, so I was so glad that three of the books I ordered online came. I guess it's a Christmas present to myself.

May you have had many books for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Looking Back on 2013 and ahead to 2014

This came when I borrowed a book from the university library.
Love the sentiment!
Woah, it's Christmas tomorrow! I can't believe the year has gone by so fast. So, let's take a lot at how the year went blogging wise:

I FINISHED ALL MY READING CHALLENGES :D I was a bit unsure about the Tea and Books reading challenge, but in the end, I did it! You can find more details at this page.

Plus, I won NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row!

That's really all I want to say *bows out*


Oh yeah, I wanted to talk about what's going on next year too.

Reading Challenges: Nope, not entering any at all. Why? Because I have something planned - so keep you eye out!

Memes: I've only taken part in Teaser Tuesdays this year, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I might take part in it less and less often in 2014.

Blog Tours: Bring on the tours!

So to sum, next year, I really want to go back to basics and focus on books and reading. I'm still working out the weekday schedule (I will probably be unable to post on Friday due to golf practice, but whether I can post on Monday is a bit uncertain), but my Saturday posts will alternate between Long Reads (a summary of the long form fiction/non-fiction that I've been reading), a review or a post about reading/writing. Sundays will remain post-free (please, stop your tears. Oh, they were tears of joy? Well, stop anyway). If I post on Sunday, it's probably because it's part of a blog tour.

And in addition, I plan to be a lot more active on Google+. I'll try to post at least once every day and reply to all comments within a day. And participate more in the Google+ Book Club. And post content other than reviews. I highly encourage you to follow this page (and my personal page too, if you're interested).

Those are my plans in a nutshell? How about you? How did your year go, reading/blogging wise?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Happy Hogwatch! Well, it isn't December 32, but it's December 23rd, so it's close enough for me. Of course, Hogwatch being a Discworld novel means that it's an awesome, if unorthodox, Christmas read.

Hogfather, if you can't tell from the fact I said "Christmas read", is Terry Pratchett's Discworld Version of Christmas. Now that I've stated the obvious, let's get on to the story. In Hogfather, the Hogfather has disappeared and Death has taken over his role. This disturbs his granddaughter Susan so much that she starts investigating what happened.

Obviously I love this novel. As I do all Discworld books. I have read Mort but this is the first time I've read a book that starred Susan. The fact that she was the Duchess of Sto Helit gave me pause and got me to feverishly google why she was the duchess and Death's granddaughter. But Susan is an awesome character. She's practical and good with kids, which means that she's not a normal hero. She's as undramatic as possible.

Plus, the Unseen University faculty play a fairly major role. Ridcully and his new bathroom, Ponder Stibbons, and even a new machine called Hex.

Oh, what am I saying. This is a Discworld novel. My words can't praise it enough. You should go read it, and then watch the two-part series (which I'm watching right now).

Here's part 1:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

This book is a really difficult book to evaluate. I mean, it is a pretty unique true crime novel, but unique can be both a positive and negative term.

And to be honest, my first impression was not very good. When I read a true crime novel, I'd want to read more about the crime, not about the author and how he feels shut out of the crime (he does get to meet the murderer later, though he talks with him mostly through the phone). Of course, it doesn't help that at the start of the book, he plays a dirty trick on the victim (in order to prove a point about race relations), which left me a bit ambivalent about the author.

But as the novel went on and it slowly shifted focus to finding out reasons for why the crime happen, the book got better. Since this is a murder of a white supremacist (who, strangely, got along fairly well with black people) by a black person, there is the very obvious "race theory." Then when you throw in the possibility of a sexual advance by the white supremacist, and something about a wage quarrel and suddenly, everything gets a lot more complicated. There are many many conflicting scenarios, and the more information you know, the murkier the case gets. It actually gets to the point where there's not clear solution to this mystery - sure, we know who the killer is, but we don't know why.

Oh, and while the subtitle mentions "befriended his black killer", I'm not too sure if that is true. Sure, he talks with Vincent McGee (the black killer in question) and helps him and such, but their relationship seems to be more of a transactional nature - Vincent gets money, John gets information. I'm not sure if you can call this a friendship.

All in all, this is an interesting book. I was a bit annoyed at the beginning, but once the book shifted its focus to the murder, I enjoyed reading it a lot more. This is a complicated murder case, and if you want something that shows you how race-relations is not as simple as it seems, this is the book to read.

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

I first ordered this book because the blurb sounded interesting. Then, while I was reading it, I found out it's the source for this meme:

First published on the blog Hyperbole and a Half
Now I know why the internet rejoices whenever a post from Hyperbole and a Half comes out (as it says on the first line of the blurb).

To be honest (and please, no arrows to my knee), I didn't find this book funny at first. I like dogs and stuff, but I didn't find them very funny. It was after her very moving post on her experiences with depression that I started to find the book funny. Soon, I started chuckling.

By the time that I finished reading, I can honestly say that I love this book. It's touching, it's funny and it's just plain awesome.

Just a quick note: you may want to keep this away from younger kids (primary/elementary school, and depending on maturity, lower-secondary/middle school) if you don't want them exposed to the f-bomb. It only appears a few times, but the first one appears almost immediately. Still, love the book.

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

P.s. You can read Allie's blog here

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

Today's teaser comes from Murder in Mississippi by John Safran. It sounded interesting, but I'm having a really hard time reading it. Not because of the content, but because it refuses to load on my Bluefire app for some reason. So for now, I'm trying to read it on my computer. 

So here's the teaser:

Here's the magician's trick: We're all from Africa. 
A thorough DNA test of anyone will reveal African roots. As this is the case - and as DNA sampling without permission is a murky legal/ethical area - after I scrapped saliva from Richard's balloon, I did a switcheroo with a sample from a consenting person.  
So, I am PT Barnum. Can we move on? 

To be honest, this is really not in favour of the author. And since this is a true crime novel of how the author met a white supremacist, and then befriended his black killer, I need to be able to trust the author. Let's see how it goes.

What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, just share a two sentence teaser (oops, I shared too much!) of what you're reading alongside the title and author.

Monday, December 16, 2013

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

When I was younger, I read an abridged version of David Copperfield. I didn't know it was an abridged version, so while I was browsing through a reading list for the Tea and Books reading challenge, I was quite surprised to find it on the list. So of course, I had to read it.

And for a really long, and rather old book, it's very readable. While I quite like Victorian fiction, I tend to be able to read it only in print format. Somehow, they don't read well as an ebook. But with David Copperfield, I was able to read the Gutenberg version in a few days.

If you've never heard of it, David Copperfield is basically a fictional biography of David Copperfield, who may or may not be partly modeled after Charles Dickens. David is born to a childish mother, who remarries a harsh man. He's sent to a horrible school, and when his mother dies, sent to work in a factory. He then runs away to his eccentric aunt, who protects him and educates him. After that, well, the novel really just follows the course of his life, just past his (second) marriage.

Despite the fact that I remembered it as a child's book, it's surprisingly mature.. David Copperfield is basically trial after trial after trial. There is seduction, there are wrong marriage decisions, there is blackmail and fraud, there is spousal abuse,  there is an unhealthy obsession with another person (by a minor character), the amount of dark material is actually quite startling. Yet David remains optimistic and along with his friend Traddles, they remain beacons of light in a really dark world. And yes, the world they live in is really dark.

There's a lot of stuff that could be analysed about the book, but really, you can just google that and page after page of results will come out. This book has been assigned reading for a long time after all. The only thing I want to point out is that quite a few characters are rather flat (actually, I could probably make the case that each character has one sort of trait that is there for their interaction with David. So David is like the complete version of them). Something interesting to take note of would be the different names that David Copperfield is called - his real name is called relatively little times.

I loved this book! It was really easy to read and I enjoyed reading it.

Note: I read this book for the Tea and Books reading challenge.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories by Katherine Paterson

Sometimes, perhaps during Christmas, you get so busy you can't read more than a little bit at one go. I find short stories to be very appropriate during times like these. I can finish one story at one time, and not feel the urge to continue reading (that strongly).

A Stubborn Sweetness is a collection of short stories about Christmas. It covers a diverse range of characters and people, which is why I really loved it. For example, one story was set in Communist China, in a reformative camp. Another was set in World War II Japan, where Christianty was seen as representative of the Americans and hence, an enemy. The inclusion of these two stories surprised me, and the diversity they added was very welcome.

The stories themselves are varied too. Some are light-hearted, some are poignant and some will bring you extremely close to tears. All of them end with hope, although a few of them aren't what you typically imagine as "Christmas Happy Endings" - where all the sick get well, family rifts are healed and well, Scrooge becomes generous.

Since Katherine Paterson is the author of Bridge to Terabithia, a story that brings me to tears every time I read it, I'm pretty sure that this book will tug at your heartstrings too. So perhaps you will need more time reading this book - after all, when you close the story, you may need some time to reset yourself back to the pace of your busy life.

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind is a fine piece of white-supremacy propaganda. It's also a really good book, but that doesn't mean it's not a piece of propaganda. I had to stop and do some Googling every now and then just to stop myself from buying into the message of the book.

The message is, as you may know, that the slave-owning South is not as cruel as they seem, and that when the South was defeated, it was treated badly (basically, they should be pitied and/or sympathised with). And yes, it's the story of Scarlett O'Hara, but to be honest, my main impression was that the story was doing its best to change the impression of the slave-owning south. In fact, it succeeds - I started getting a positive impression of the slave-owners and a negative impression of the Yankees (still do I think). I had to re-read about how all those slaves suffered before I regained a semblance of normalcy.

As for the actual story, why, it follows Scarlett O'Hara, an unconventional Southern lady. She's bewitching to men, but she has a heart like ice and is amazingly practical. While she loves the South, and in particular, Tara (her home), she's not afraid of cozying up to the Yankees, who are in charge. The only one she loves is Ashley, who is married to Melanie, who treats her like a sister.

Melanie. My favourite character (along with Scarlett). Melanie is under-estimated by Scarlett, but as the book travels on, I could see Scarlett start to get fond of Melanie. She would never admit it, but the way she treats Melanie starts to change.

Personally, I loved the character relationships because they were what propelled the story forward. Scarlett is the most vibrant character, but the supporting characters were all very well-written. I'm not sure if they had the intended effect on my though.

For example, Rhett reminded me of a little boy. I think he's supposed to represent dark sensuality or something, but personally, he reminds me of a primary school boy. I mean, he treats Scarlett badly.... because he likes her? That sounds quite immature to me. And he gives up way too easily.

While this book is really long, it's worth reading. Just keep in mind that this book is written to portray a positive image of the South, so take its message with a healthy spoonful of salt.

Note: This book was read for the Tea and Books reading challenge.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry

A while back, I reviewed Anne Perry's novel Blind Justice (link leads to review). And so, when I heard that she wrote a Christmas story, I decided to sign up to read it. And of course, it's set in the same world - so, a murder mystery with a Christmas twist.

A Christmas Hope follows a minor character in the series, Claudine Burroghs, an upper class lady. At a Christmas party, a prostitute is killed and fingers are pointed at a drunkard poet. The only thing is, she spoke with the poet before that, and she doubts that he's the killer. So she defies society and her husband to search for evidence that he's innocent.

To me, more than the mystery part, the societal aspect was more interesting. Here's a high-born lady, supposed to be ornamental and move in the highest circles. Yet she decides to do something unlady-like, and instead of going completely against the current, she does use some societal norms (like visiting others) to achieve her ends. I really enjoyed reading about how she used her status to get information.

Because this is a short-story, it finishes pretty fast, and with a happy ending to boot (well, it is a Christmas story after all). If you're looking for a cheery Christmas story but would like a little twist, I'd reccomend this book. It's an enjoyable book that despite being a murder mystery, was rather cheery (at the end, not in the middle).

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ever After High: Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale

One of the mini-series that I've been watching would be Ever After High. It's a fairytale retelling, but about the kids of the original stories. The two protagonists are Raven Queen, the daughter of the Evil Queen and Apple White, the daughter of Snow White.

All the characters have to go through Legacy Day, a day where they pledge to follow in the footsteps of their parents. However, Raven Queen doesn't want to be evil.

This is the premise of both the mini-series (which I recommend you watch - each episode is about 3 minutes long, so it's really easy to carve some time to watch it). However, while the series is very episodic, the book has more of a plot and actually covers what happens during Legacy Day (the cartoon mini-series hasn't actually gotten there yet).

I loved this book! The characters were just like how they were in the cartoon, right where to Maddie (the daughter of the Mad-Hatter), breaks the fourth wall to talk to the narrator. In fact, the book goes into more detail and introduces more background knowledge - for example, more about the Evil Queen.

Of course, the book being a book and not a three minute episode has more space to develop the characters. Plus, Shannon Hale is an awesome writer, so she really brought the characters to life.

If you're a fan of this series, you should read the book. If you're a fan of fairy-tale retellings in general, well, I'll still recommend this book to you.

Note: This book was read as part of the fairy-tales retold reading challenge.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

My friend Stephanie recommended this book to me and it's a really awesome book! I wish it were non-fiction, but it is not to be.

As the title implies, this novel is about a bookstore. But, as the title does not imply, this story is also about a secret society involving the deciphering of a fairly old set of books. In fact, it kind of deviates from the bookstore halfway through and starts to go after the mystery side.

In fact, at its very core, this novel is looking at technology and books and how they interact with one another. Technology, and even Google, is featured very prominently in the book. And no, it's not about the kindle or any other ebook reader (although they are mentioned).

Come to think of it, this novel has fairly little to do with a bookstore. It starts with a bookstore, detours into a mystery, solves the mystery (and the protagonist gets the girl, maybe) and then ends with the bookstore again.

Oh, and I forgot to talk about the characters! There is the titular Mr Penumbra, who sounds like a really cool bookshop owner - I'd love to visit his bookstore! And then there is the protagonist, Clay. Clay was a web designer that got laid off and ended up working at Mr Penumbra's 24 hour bookstore as the night clerk. His love interest is Kat, a Googler who meets Clay when she's targeted by Google's incredibly specific ads. And then there are Clay's roommates, his best friend Neel and a few other characters that make this book lively and populated.

An interesting setting, a mystery and a whole host of characters. This is my kind of book, and I'm really glad that I was recommended it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Grimm Legacy Blog Tour: Guest Post by Janna Jennings

Hey everyone! I'm here today with a blog tour! A while back, I reviewed A Grimm Legacy and loved it! So today, I'm happy to bring you a guest post from the lady that brought us A Grimm Legacy - Janna Jennings!
“Now that you have created your fictional people and the world they live in, you have probably discovered that they are terrific company and that they are all living in your brain. Suddenly you have a party in your head (a la that old Talking Heads song) and it is hard to make that party happen any faster than it wants to happen. And when the party is finally over, you will feel bereft and alone. So why not slow down and have the maximum experience?”
 -Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Travelers Wife 

 Characters are hard. Creating not only one, but a bookful of someones who are not clichés, interesting, different, likeable—but not too perfect, with the depth and intricacies of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a believable, driving force behind each word and gesture. Why would anyone ever want to do something like that?

 That being said, these people—who began half formed in the recesses of my brain—grew as my plot did, getting thicker, broader, increasingly complicated and problematic.

 My favorite person to write dialog for was Dylan. Not being the most eloquent person, I often have trouble getting my point across when speaking to someone. One more reason to write.

 Instead, I’m that person who thinks of the perfect comeback two hours later. The beauty of the written word is having all the time in the world to shoot off that pithy reply. Dylan obviously has a quicker tongue than I ever will.

 Andi was great to write inner dialog for, her thoughts almost a knee jerk reaction to situations. Her decisions were usually decisive and swift, sometimes to her detriment. But she was usually willing reexamine the situation when proved wrong, if slightly grudgingly.

The really interesting thing will be placing these fully formed people back in Elorium to see how they react to being dropped into unusual situations. Now I take on the role of scientist, my characters the rat hunting the maze for cheese. I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.

About the book: Enchanted castles and charming princes thought to exist only in stories come to life in this classically twisted fairy tale that combines the timeless quality of generations old folktales with the challenges of the modern world. 

 The woods of Elorium appear ordinary to Andi Grace, until birds start talking and elves answer doors. Along with three others, Andi has been whisked out of her world and finds herself the reluctant guest of the perplexing millionaire, Mr. Jackson—a stranger willing to help get them home, but who’s keeping secrets of his own. 

 Discovering unexpected family connections to this fairy tale land, the group must rely on each other as they dodge evil fairies and battle giants, intent on keeping them in Elorium. 

 Faced with characters short on whimsy and bent towards treachery, Andi, Quinn, Fredrick and Dylan are forced into fairy tale roles to find the way home. But in Elorium, happily ever after is never guaranteed. 

 A Grimm Legacy on Goodreads

 About Janna: Janna is a Colorado based YA author who loves a good fairy tale. She’s married to her own real life Prince Charming, and will usually admit to being mom of three, including her incorrigible middle child. 

 She has a good deal of education in subjects that are somehow not related to writing, which includes a Masters in Education. Currently she teaches toddlers important life skills like which end of a spoon to use and that gluesticks are not for eating. They lack a few things that make a good literary critic, but she loves her students all the same. 

 Besides wrangling with kids Janna can be found doing some therapeutic baking, dreaming of the ocean, and of course, curling up with a good book. 

Janna’s Website TwitterFacebookPatchwork Press 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela

This morning (December 5th), a truly great man passed away. Nelson Mandela, born 18 July 1918, was an anti-apartheid activist and really, do I need to tell you who he was? I think the man and his deeds are well-known.

What I want to share is that to one of my best friends, from South Africa, Nelson Mandela is the reason why she can even come to Japan to study. For that alone, I would have been eternally grateful.

Rest In Peace.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Other Side of Darkness by Melody Carlson

Although I started out reading the True Colours series, I'm slowly branching out into the various books that Melody Carlson has written. So far, this is the darkest, and perhaps one of her best.

The Other Side of Darkness follows Ruth, a mom who tries to be a prayer warrior for her family. Now, that isn't a bad thing - it is, in fact, really good, but the problem is that she's being manipulated into a small, rather close-minded sect. As the reader, it was pretty obvious that the Pastor and his groupies were unChristian and bad news, but to Ruth, who was treated badly by her mother (no physical abuse, but her sister and brother were clearly favoured), this acceptance from them is addictive. She's tricked into giving her money (money that her family doesn't have), her time, and as it goes on, her whole life - she's really consumed by it.

Ruth is someone who's also suffering from OCD, which adds a layer of complexity to the story. And as she spirals downwards, you can see how her her family is getting hurt by her actions.

For me this book was sobering. I'm lucky to have been in some wonderful Churches, but clearly, there are many Churches that are just using Christianity as a front for their own gain. And the ones who are most vulnerable are the ones that need Christ the most.

This is not a sunny, happy book. It's a dark book that shows us that Churches are not always the safe habors that we imagine them to be. They can be used for evil, and I think we should be on our guard against them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beauty's Daughter by Carolyn Meyer

I think most people would have experienced the pressure of living up to our parents. Particularly if our parents were very successful people. But what if your mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, and you, her not-so-beautiful daughter? Beauty's Daughter is about Helen of Troy's daughter - Hermione.

For some reason, I had three phases with this book - the "This is so cool! I have to read this", then a very very short "Wait, it's not ended yet", and then back to the original "what an awesome book!"

You see, the book goes through the growing up of Hermione. I thought that it revolved around the battle for Helen of Troy, but that was actually just the first part. The next two thirds of the book would be Hermione struggling to be reunited with her true love.

But now that I think about it, why should I expect the story to end when Helen of Troy's story ends? That makes the book about Helen of Troy, not Hermione. And to be honest, because the book continued, Hermione was given the space to mature at a believable pace.

The nature of the book is more biographical than narrative. While there is a story, it's largely centered on Hermione's life. I suppose you'd call this a bildunsroman. But whatever it is, it's a really good read and I'm very glad to have been able to reviewed it.

And if you do want to read it, don't fret! There's a giveaway at the bottom of the post, so enter to try and win!

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.
Carolyn Meyer is giving Thanks for her readers! 


What is it like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world?

Hermione knows . . . her mother is Helen of Troy, the famed beauty of Greek myth. Helen is not only beautiful but also impulsive, and when she falls in love with charming Prince Paris, she runs off with him to Troy, abandoning her distraught daughter. Determined to reclaim their enchanting queen, the Greek army sails for Troy. Hermione stows away in one of the thousand ships in the fleet and witnesses the start of the legendary Trojan War.     In the rough Greek encampment outside the walls of Troy, Hermione’s life is far from that of a pampered princess. Meanwhile, her mother basks in luxury in the royal palace inside the city. Hermione desperately wishes for the gods and goddesses to intervene and end the brutal war—and to bring her love. Will she end up with the handsome archer Orestes, or the formidable Pyrrhus, leader of a tribe of fierce warriors? And will she ever forgive her mother for bringing such chaos to her life and the lives of so many others?

Author bio:

Carolyn Meyer is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, and has no intention of quitting any time soon. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy: 

After years of writing about the young lives of fascinating women of power, from Cleopatra to Victoria, in BEAUTY'S DAUGHTER I've drawn on the myths of ancient Greece to tell the story of what it must have been like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world.

When Helen leaves her husband and daughter and runs off to Troy with handsome Paris, a thousand Greek ships sail for Troy to bring her back..and her daughter, Hermione, goes with them as a stowaway. Hermione's adventures on the Trojan beaches, her struggle for survival,, and her search for true love of her life drive this story.

Social media:
Follow me on Twitter:
Facebook: Carolyn Meyer Books

Victoria Rebels

Queen Victoria’s personal journals inform this captivating first-person account of one of history’s most prominent female leaders.

Queen Victoria most certainly left a legacy—under her rule as the longest reigning female monarch in history, the British Empire was greatly expanded and significant industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military changes occurred within the United Kingdom. To be a young woman in a time when few other females held positions of power was to lead in a remarkable age—and because Queen Victoria kept personal journals, this historical novel from award-winning author Carolyn Meyer shares authentic emotional insight along with accurate information, weaving a true story of intrigue and romance.

Cleopatra Confesses

It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh's six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history's most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely--herself.

In Cleopatra Confesses, award winning author Carolyn Meyer writes the story of the teenage girl who would become Egypt's most unforgettable queen, from her early years to her her ultimate destiny.

The Wild Queen

Mary Stuart was just five years old when she was sent to France to be raised alongside her future husband. But when the frail young king dies, eighteen-year-old Mary is stripped of her title as Queen of France and set adrift in the harsh world, alone. Determined to reign over what is rightfully hers, Mary returns to Scotland. Hopingthat a husband will help her secure the coveted English throne, she marries again, but the love and security she longs for elude her. Instead, the fiery young queen finds herself embroiled in a murder scandal that could cost her the crown. And her attempts to bargain with her formidable “sister queen,” Elizabeth I of England, could cost her her very life.

Win the books above by entering below:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I've heard it said that this is a very literary novel. I suppose this is true, but today, I don't really want to do an analysis of the book - I'd rather look at how readable the book is. There are good books that are very hard to read, and books that are pure fluff. This book falls somewhere in-between.

At its most basic level, this book is a murder mystery. There is a suspicious death, and a suspicious disappearance (possibly murder). At the same time, a famous town prostitute is going through some very strange things. What the book does is to connect these events through 13 men who tell the story in parts.

Now, how readable is this book?

Let's look at the narration. The book doesn't follow a normal linear chronology. It starts somewhere in the middle, then it goes back into the past, and then back into the present, and then continues on to the future. It may sound confusing, but I managed to follow along without too much problem.

The next probable problem would be the number of characters. There are the 13 main characters and at least five other characters. But, again, I didn't have too much problem keeping track. I think the reason is because most of the characters are very distinctive.

For me, the only thing I didn't quite like was the speed of narration. It starts of fairly slow, which I was fine with, but as the chapter lengths got shorter, the pace of the book picked up, and finally, at the end, it felt a little too fast for me. But since the book is intentionally written in such a way that each section is half the length of the previous one, I suppose this is unavoidable.

While I didn't quite understand the connection to astrology/the stars, I thought this was an interesting read. There are a whole host of characters, which add intricacy and subplots, while the main mystery was interesting - that made the length of the book race by.

Note: This book was read for the Tea and Books reading challenge.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How To Deliver A TED Talk by Jeremy Donovan

It took me a long time before I heard of TED, and then some more time before I listened to one, but lately, I've been hooked on TED talks. No matter if you agree with them or not, if you listen to a TED talk, you have something to think about.

So when I saw this book, I figured that I had to give it a show. And very conveniently, I had to give a two-minute speech around the time I was finishing it. The speech was, well, I didn't get to use my slides and my English was a bit too difficult, but apparently it was better than the first speech I gave.

This book is divided into 23 chapters, subdivided into a total of 113 tips. The tips span four parts - Content (how do you choose what to say?), Delivery (How do you say it?), Design (What else do you need?) and The Journey To The Stage And Beyond (this part is really really TED specific. The first three parts will be useful to anyone who has to give a speech, while the last part is for fans of TED or people who want to be able to speak at a TED conference one day.

Along the way, the book uses many many TED talks as examples. Apart from effectively illustrating the points, the examples also gave me a lot of videos to put on my "to-watch" list, so I suppose it's a double-benefit for me.

Personally, I really liked this book. It's written in a very readable manner - no dry "how to give a speech stuff", and I found most of the tips to be practical. I'm pretty sure that I'll have to give more speeches in the future (both in English and Japanese), so I'm looking forward to using more of the stuff this book has taught me.

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sworn to Conflict Book Blitz

SWORN TO CONFLICT, the third book in Terah Edun’s young adult fantasy COURTLIGHT series, will be released this December 6! Not familiar with the series? Check all three books in here and get a chance to win awesome prizes!

Sworn to Conflict (Courtlight #3)
Title: Sworn to Conflict (Courtlight #3)
Author: Terah Edun
Date of Publication: December 6, 2013
Ciardis Weathervane fought for the living dead and won. But worse than taking on a mass murderer, was her discovery that she had been deceived by her friends. Now she needs to not only fight a war in the North and survive, but also decide where she stands in the midst of competing sides.
A threat to all she holds dear lies in the North and her heart is not the only thing she might lose. A massive army awaits in the mountain pass, surging closer to the gates of the southern lands. Nothing the Algardis army has done so far has dissuaded their march forward and Ciardis finds out that her powers to enhance are needed now more than ever.
As she faces her greatest fears on the battlefields and her heart is torn between her love of Sebastian and loyalty to her family, Ciardis must choose her fate carefully. For in her path, lies the destiny of the empire.
This third novel continues the story of Ciardis Weathervane from Sworn To Transfer.
For those new with the series (you can catch up now!), here are the blurbs for the first two books.
Sworn to Raise (Courtlight #1)
Title: Sworn to Raise (Courtlight #1)
Author: Terah Edun
Date of Publication: April 10, 2013
Seventeen-year-old Ciardis has grown up in poverty, a cleaner in a small vale on the outskirts of the empire. But beneath her empire’s seemingly idyllic surface lies a hidden secret. Whispers of an inept crown Prince are growing ever louder—intensified by the five year anniversary of the soulbond initiations.
Amidst scandalous whispers, Ciardis finds herself chosen to train for the Companion’s Guild. She leaves her home and sets off on a personal journey to become a Court Companion. A position she’d never thought possible for a lowly servant to obtain, she must prove that she has the skills to attract a Patron.
But she must master those skills quickly. If the legends are true, only Ciardis can harness the power to raise a Prince in an Imperial Court sworn to bring him down.
This sensational series debut melds intricate storylines with remarkable characters and unforgettable magic. Sworn To Raise is ideal for fans of Kristin Cashore, Michelle Sagara, and Maria Snyder.
Purchase from Amazon | B&N
Sworn To Transfer (Courtlight #2)
Title: Sworn to Transfer (Courtlight #2)
Author: Terah Edun
Date of Publication: September 17, 2013
Eighteen-year-old companion trainee Ciardis Weathervane has won the friendship of the royal heir and saved his claim to the throne. Yet her interference in the inheritance rights leaves more harm done than good. The Ameles Forest lies unprotected and its inhabitants are dying.
As humans begin to die in gruesome deaths, the Emperor dispatches the royal heir to the forests with the solution to the kith concerns.
With enemies closing ranks in Sandrin, Ciardis can little afford to leave the city’s nest of vipers to take on a new task. But she’s given no choice when her loyalty to the crown and courts are called into question.
To keep the Companions’ Guild happy and the favor of the Imperial Court, Ciardis will be tested in frightening new ways, especially when she’s faced with an obstacle that could risk the lives of her friends and the family she never thought she had.
This second novel continues the story of Ciardis Weathervane from Sworn To Raise.
Purchase from Amazon | B&N
About Terah Edun
Terah Edun is a young adult fantasy writer born and raised in the Atlanta metropolitan area, who transplanted to the Northeast region for college, and has spent years living abroad in South Sudan and Morocco. She writes the stories that she always loved to read as a young girl.
She prefers tales of adventure, magic, fellowship and courtship – in other words high fantasy. But she’s not adverse to the occasional contemporary fantasy coming her way. Sometimes you’ll see cloaks, daggers, independent and strong girls, independent and strong guys, sweet and soft spoken girls, sweet and soft spoken guys, sparkly magic and irritatingly know-it-all boys. The book she’s currently working on is SWORN TO SECRECY, the fourth in the Courtlight series.
Outside of writing, she’s a international development professional with a penchant for Starbucks.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fanged Outcast by Elisabeth Wheatley

While you'll hardly see me reading vampire books, I really really like Fanged Outcast. Some time back, I reviewed Fang Princess (link leads to review) and I thought it was good. So, when I was given the opportunity to review Fanged Outcast, I took it.

And I do not regret it.

My only wish is that the book is longer. In this book, Hadassah is still protecting her brother and his human girlfriend. This time, they're living with a bunch of vampire hunters. But you know, you take whatever protection you can get. But with her dad, the Vampire King (of a certain area anyway) after them, something is bound to go wrong. And it does -  her brother is kidnapped and Hadassah has to go and rescue her little brother.

For me, the star of this book was clearly Hadassah. She's a very protective older sister, something I can identify with, and even though she doesn't seem to like her brother's girlfriend very much, she's very committed to protecting her. I really admire her loyalty to her family.

And speaking of family, Hadassah's family is really really messed up. I won't give spoilers, but you should know that a fairly huge plot twist revolves around one member of her family. I didn't really see it coming, but it definitely made the book a lot more exciting.

Fanged Outcast was released yesterday, which means that you can get it now. If you're a fan of vampire YA books, you should definitely read this series.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dragon's Breath by E.D. Baker

Now it's Book 2 of The Tales of the Frog Princess. It's starting to separate from the original tale of The Frog Prince, and growing legs to become an independent story.

In the sequel, Emma and Eadric are back into Princess and Prince. But, the Green Witch, or her aunt Grassina isn't fulfilling her duties because she's looking for her love, Haywood, whom she found has been turned into an otter. Of course, a neighbouring kingdom finds this the best time to attack, so Emma and Eadric meddle around trying to help. And of course, since the title is called Dragon's Breath, dragons are involved.

I really really loved this book! There are many things to love, such as the relationship between Emma and Eadric. The way the two of them develop their relationship without rushing into it makes it very sweet and very very real. Plus, I like how the two of them are friends first and lovers second.

Another thing would be the cast of supporting characters. One of my favourite was Lil, this adorable bat. She was introduced in the first book, but I think that she has a bigger role in this book.

If you're liked The Frog Princess, you'll definitely love this book. I recommend reading the series in order because this is a very well-written world, full of lovable characters.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Confessions of a Hostie by Danielle High

This was an extremely light-hearted book that I finished in two days. Like the title says, it's a real-life account of what it's like to be a flight attendant (loosely given narrative form with a sense of time), although partly fictionalised to make sure that the writer doesn't lose it's job.

And when the title gives away more or less what the whole book is about, I guess the only thing that people want to know is: is this book worth reading? My answer is yes.

I've always thought that flight attendants had a really cool job, and before I read this book, I thought it was glamorous. While I never wanted to be a flight attendant (which is a good thing, because I do not meet the minimum height requirements to be a SIA girl), I had a friend who at one point of her life decided that the best way to meet her husband was to become a SIA flight attendant.

But apart from that, I've always had fond memories of flying. Then again, when you've celebrated your birthday on board, and got petted because you were wearing a miniature version of the uniform, I guess it's pretty hard not to have fond memories.

This book, on the other hand, made me respect the profession even more. It showed me how hard the profession could be, and the kinds of terrible passengers that appear on planes. Sometimes, the situations caused by the passengers are down-right life-threatening.

One last thing that I appreciated, and which is pretty much unrelated to the writing or content of the book, is how the first chapter starts with the author flying to Singapore. It makes sense, considering that Changi airport is awesome and a fairly major hub (I think), and the scenes set in Singapore made me laugh and feel nostalgic.

Hey - that should be the next topic for the next big novel about Singapore. Someone write about the SIA girl!

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On Yet Another Trip

Hey everyone! I don't have a review to share today, instead, I have a small announcement.

I'll be taking today, Thursday and Friday off as I get ready to go to Tokyo! I'll be going back to see my friends and seniors, so I'm really, really excited.

But don't despair, I'll be back by Monday(;

Wheeee plane rides! I hope I get to see Mount Fuji from my seat! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Elmo by Matt Shea

Elmo is not the character from Sesame Street. Far from it. Elmo is the name of a panhandler - a homeless, jobless guy begging for change. Except that there is no Elmo.

If that sounds like some kind of science-fiction starting, well, sorry to disappoint. What I'm trying to say that Elmo is actually a role played by many people. You see, in the town of Miner, jobs are scarce and the fathers don't have enough money. So they take turns being 'Elmo' to try and get some cash. Of course, they keep this a secret from their wives and kids.

Ben Skate, is one of the most respected men in town. And of course, he's also one of those playing Elmo. He's also the most loving, generous and God-fearing person you can meet. Seriously, I don't think he actually does anything bad. It would be annoying in most cases, but since he's struggling against joblessness and poverty, I ignored the too-much-perfection stuff most of the time.

The other protagonist of the book is Sam Skate, Ben's son. Sam is an all-round nice guy and a good baseball player, but when he finds out about his dad's secret life, he decides to do all that he can to help. The only part of his character that jarred with me was how he decided to get back at this guy that hurt him (while he was Elmo). It was a move calculated to cause physical injury while looking like an accident and made it seem as though Sam is not really a good guy, just conditioned to behave like one. The fact that the rest of the men were encouraging him to do so made me wonder what kind of people the men of the town really were.

But, if I were to ignore that, this is a heart-warming story about how a small town takes care of itself during an economic crisis.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of the VirtualBookworm Blog tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Singapore Lover by Judy Chapman

It seems like this year, books set in Singapore have finally started to become popular. And I'm not talking locally published books. First there was Crazy Rich Asians (read my review here), and now, My Singapore Lover, which, to be honest, I requested because of the word Singapore.

Sadly, it seems like my search for an awesome book set in Singapore and published to a worldwide audience is not over. I didn't actually like this book very much.

Why? You ask. For one thing, the speech. At least for Crazy Rich Asians, the Singaporeans talk like Singaporeans. Here, the Singaporeans all sound too.... strange. I know that Sara isn't a Singaporean, but still, you'd think that the book could afford to put in Singlish now and then.

Another thing would be that  I didn't like Sara. I think I liked her less than Rachel Chu, the protagonist of Crazy Rich Asians. At least Rachel was a sufficiently empty character that I could enjoy the setting. Here, the book was full of Rachel's voice, which was just whiny to me. Not so much of a learning journey, but just her whining until she decides to put on her big-girl clothes. I'm serious. She doesn't realise anything, she's running and she knows it. And unfortunately, she wasn't a sympathetic enough character for me to root for her.

The third, and last thing, would be the inaccuracies in the book. It's not that much, but they appear mostly in the beginning, which prevented me from liking the book. You can skip the list (actually, I'm just three points, not all that caught my eye) if you want:

1. A character 'slices fried carrot cake.' The only type of carrot cake that you can slice would be the baked one. If you can slice this:
Picture from Wikipedia Commons
Then I sincerely congratulate you. In all my years eating it, I've either picked it up directly with chopsticks or with a fork - it's already in little pieces, why would I need to slice it?

2. "Crystal Jade is situated on the fifth floor of Paragon Shopping Centre and is one of Singapore's finest establishments for chilli crab, a local seafood dish." While I have eaten at Paragon's Crystal Jade a few times (there are a few outlets by the way), and it is a nice, though extremely expensive place, I'd hesitate to say that it's known for Chilli Crab. If you ask me where the best Chilli Crab is found, I'll probably say something like Jumbo Seafood restaurant. Not Crystal Jade, which for me, is more for when you want a high class Chinese dinner. 

3. "It does not take me long to discover that infidelity is not as forbidden here as in other countries." Please, just last week or so we banned Ashley Madison, the adultery website. The government banned it as a symbolic stand on where our societal values are (they know you can always use a VPN to get around it), and because many many many Singaporeans made a huge fuss. Considering that the book was set in 2005 (the 'Year of the Rooster'), I'd have thought that we were, if anything, more conservative then.

The only saving grace of this book is that every now and then, it describes a part of Singapore in a beautiful way. Like the migrant workers, or parts of Chinatown and Little India, those bits of prose were what stood out to me. 

Which means that I would have liked the book a lot more if they just kept those descriptions of Singapore and added photos, making it a travel guide. 

I wish I did like this book. After all, I'd love for Singapore to be the setting for many books. But unfortunately, the occasional gems in the prose was not enough to save the annoying characters and the inaccuracies. 

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this galley from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Entanglement by Dan Rix (Oops! I Read A Book Again Blog Tours)

You can find the tour schedule here

You know, despite the fact that I didn't like the main characters very much, Entanglement was an awesome book (I guess it's proof that liking a book and liking the characters are two different things). I think I finished it in about two hours, thanks to a sudden rush of spare time (I got to school too early) and the fact that the book was gripping (hey, I had the distraction of the internet, so this is a relevant fact :p)

Entanglement introduces the concept of halves. Halves are people who are born at the exact same time and are basically soulmates. But for Aaron, he's not too excited. And unlike what the blurb says, I don't think it's because he thinks the theory is crap. I think it's because he has a neurological problem that means that even if he does meet his half, he won't recognise her (halves have a special, almost telepathic conversation).

But then, he meets Amber, a girl who might be his half. The only thing is, there's another guy called Clive who's supposed to be Amber's half (even though they're not 18 yet - 18 is the age you meet your half). But there's this really strong chemistry between them, and Aaron's attraction (and then love) for Amber puts both of them in danger.

Personally, I loved this concept of halves. Add in a mysterious (possible evil) secret society and you have me hooked. I read this book mostly for the world-building, which is why my complain is that I need more on this brotherhood! If there was a way the history and structure could be introduced into the book, I would have been over the moon.

The characters? Well.... I quite liked Aaron (the book is from his POV after all), but Amber, well, she seemed extremely antagonistic. I wasn't even sure if she liked Aaron or was just using him to annoy Clive until the later half of the book. But I have to admit, the choices she made at the end really earned my respect. I think that while I won't be squealing over these characters any time soon, they do have my respect.

All in all, this is an excellent book. I'd highly recommend it if you love dystopian fiction.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of the Oops! I Read A Book Again blog tours in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

I have seen reviews that describe Bellman and Black as a cerebral ghost story. Whether it is a ghost story or not (I wasn't actually that scared), I'm not sure. As with most of my feelings towards this book. I don't know if I like it or if I don't.

Bellman and Black follows William Bellman, a poor boy who makes his way to the top. But at his very peak, people around him start to die, and as the reader, we know it has something to do with the Rook he killed in the first chapter. But William doesn't know that, and when he meets the mysterious Mr. Black, he imagines that he has gone into a partnership with him, thus creating Bellman and Black.

What I liked about the story was the build-up. William Bellman is the boy that made good, who was the envy of the village. And after he meets Black, he becomes a changed man - totally working towards the success of Bellman and Black. You could almost say he's possessed.

But, what let me down was the way it ended. It was totally anti-climatic. I expected something scarier, and a proper explanation for the actions of Mr. Black, but it was a let-down for me. I suppose that's why I'm so ambivalent about the book.

In short, I liked this book, but after all the time I invested in reading it, the ending was a let-down for me.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Grimm Legacy by Janna Jennings

I doubt this is a spoiler since I guess this was happening from the title (the characters, on the other hand, did not), but if you don't want to know, skip this paragraph. But anyway, if you've heard of the web-cartoon series Ever After High, then odds are you won't be unfamiliar with the idea of fairy-tale characters having children.

A Grimm Legacy follows Andi, Quinn, Frederick and Dylan as they're pulled into a land called Elorium. They all come from different places and different families, but they soon discover that they have something in common. Realising that Elorium is a land filled with fairy-tales, they have to survive using their wits and Andi's grandmother's items (a fairy tale book, a cloak, a pair of slippers).

Personally, I loved this book! The book goes through quite a few fairytales, and it was interesting to see what happened after each story ended. For example, in the tale of Jorinda and Joringel, the witch catches Jorinda many many times. But Jorinda refuses to live in fear of the witch, and takes it as a part of her life.

Another thing that I loved was the character of Quinn. Quinn is Indian, so she brought with her a really rich heritage. She's also a proper main character, not the token person of colour. She gets her own fairytale and her own romance. The only thing that would make it better if there were a few more characters like Quinn.

Oh, but when I say 'main character', I mean 'in the party of four that was pulled into Elorium'. If I had to pick only one main character, I would say it was Andi. Because she was the one who brought items in, she's the one that gets them out. So there's a good part of the story that focuses on her and her fairytale. But I would say that Dylan, Quinn and Frederick get enough space of their own.

If you're looking for a modern day fairytale involving descendants of the original characters, look no further!

And if you haven't watched Ever After High, you totally should.

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

Note: I read this book for the fairytales retold reading challenge.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien

Today's teaser comes from a book I bought at the start of summer but just started reading - The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien. It's the prequel of the prequel (it's way way before even The Hobbit) and I can't wait to read it!

Here come the teaser:

"But at evening Turin looked west into the sunset, as the sun rode down red into the hazes above the far distant coasts, and the Vale of Narog lay deep in the shadows between.  
So began the abiding of Turin son of Hurin in the halls of Mim, in Bar-en-Danwedh, the House of Ransom." (page 136)
What is your teaser this week?

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, simple share your two sentence teaser with the title and author of the book.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Name Used To Be Muhammad by Tito Momen

This may be a book about conversion, but the thing that struck me the most was that it was really a book about the need for religious tolerance.

You see, Tito Momen (formerly Muhammad Momen) was raised under a very harsh interpretation of Islam. He was even sent to be educated at a very radical school that hated America and Israel and preached the Jihad of war. So when he converted to Mormonism, he not only lost his family and the girl he loved, he was also thrown into jail for about 15 years.

I think this is a book that's going to touch anyone who reads it. Tito is engaging, and he doesn't blame anyone. While he has converted away from Islam, he doesn't disparage the religion at all. He does speak against extremism, but I think that is something you should speak against.

Now, I don't believe in either Islam or Mormonism (Mormonism theology is not compatible with Christianity), so this isn't a "one religion is better than the other" post. What I want everyone to take away is that we need freedom of religion.

What freedom of religion means to me is the ability to convert from one religion to another freely. Even if we think that person is damning himself to hell, or if their family wants to disown them, well, I suppose we cannot make disownership illegal. But what governments should do is to allow their citizens to change religions freely. After all, what is the good of staying a nominal __[insert name here]___. Why not let them choose? After all, one great gift we all have is free will, and we can choose which path to take.

And that's why I'm glad to be from Singapore, where we can choose what we want to believe in. You can choose to be a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Taoist or even an Atheist. If you want to convert between any religion, that's legal too - well, your family might not be happy, but you definitely won't get arrested. It's something that I learnt to treasure from reading this book.

If you ever need a reminder about the need for freedom of religion, just read this book. It'll convince you very quickly how precious this freedom is.

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

Friday, November 8, 2013

Jack: The Tale of Frost by Tony Bertauski

I think I love this book even more than the original! If you don't remember, last year I reviewed Claus: Legend of the Fat Man. It was a good book, so when Tony asked me if I would review the sequel, I said yes immediately!

While this book is a sequel, you could probably read it as a standalone. It definitely makes more sense (especially when it comes to character motivations) if you know what went on in the first book, but since there are new characters and new protagonists, you can still figure out what's going on.

Jack: The Tale of Frost stars not Jack (not really), but Sula, a girl who has some sort of connection with the Frost plantation. This year, she starts to work for Mr. Frost, who tells her that his name is not Jack. She also meets Joe, a boy working at the plantation that she feels an instantaneous connection with.

At the same time, we as the reader find out that Mr Frost is actually Pawn, Jack's only friend. He's been forced to bring Jack back to life via a clone and he's very close to succeeding. And when he does, humanity can say goodbye to the earth. But, one of the Jacks escaped and is living as a very strange homeless person (since he only has 10% of his memories).

For me, my favourite character turned out to be Jack. This is pretty ironic since he's the villain of the first book. But Jack as a partially amnesic, very strange homeless person trying to find Santa Claus (because he knows that he's from the North Pole, but not why he's in South Carolina), Jack is surprisingly sympathetic. I think he's given the chance to learn and to develop more in this book, and it was a very good choice. Plus, with only 10% of his memories, more of Jack's character comes out - he's still mean, but he's also lonely and the need for acceptance is amplified.

Sula and Joe are both interesting characters, and I like how their backstory tied into the plot of the book. I don't think I can say too much without giving away spoilers, so I shan't.

If you read the first book and liked it, you should definitely read this book. And if you're looking for a Christmas story that's different from most, this is the book for you too!

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