Saturday, March 30, 2013

Second Thoughts on Goodreads and Librarything

On Saturdays, I tend to post reviews of Essays (if I even post), but I read this piece of news that made me pause.

Apparently, because Goodreads was bought by Amazon, Librarything is giving all members one year of unlimited membership. Without going into the "how many sites does own?" debate, this kinda sparked me to give an update of how I'm using the two sites (you can find my first comparison here).

Like how I've said before, I love the way you can catalogue books in Librarything, but Goodreads is more of a social-site for books. Unlike the last time, I've got loads more friends on Goodreads now, and it's more fun. I'm also getting in touch with more authors there.

On the other hand, I've hardly touched Librarything. I've been so afraid of reaching the 200 books max limit that I've hardly entered any books. And while it is easier to win books on Librarything (I've never won a single book on Goodreads), I've started using NetGalley, and more or less gave up entering the giveaways at both sites.

As for groups, the groups on Goodreads are way more active than Librarything. Or at least, my interest  groups on Librarything don't actually reply.... But now that I've joined Google+, I don't really need the groups anymore.

That means.... I go to Goodreads everyday to post reviews and keep track of what I have read, but I don't visit Librarything anymore. I still think that Librarything has the better cataloging system, but the limit does put a huge damper on things.

Bottom line, in my case at least, the amount of books you can track is the make-or-break factor. I'm not particular about things like apps, or what features there are (although they are nice), but with the books I read (even at my reduced speed, it's still a fairly large amount), I need a place to keep track of them. Hence, although I started using Librarything more than Goodreads, I've ended up using Goodreads almost exclusively now.

Still, with the new one-year unlimited membership for everyone, I may just start using Librarything again. I'll let you all know what happens(:

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cold Cold Heart by Karin Slaughter

This short story (about 23 pages on my iPad) is actually really good. But creepy.

It follows Pam, as she goes to see her ex-husband die - at his request. As she travels back, she reminisces about him, and you know what? He's a terrible husband and I don't feel sorry that he's dying. He's an egomaniac and a hypocrite. I was actually hoping this would be one of those anti-hero stories where it turns out Pam is out to murder her husband.

Um yeah, I'm violent. Sorry, I know it's bad.

The ending was a little hard for me to understand, because it made no sense. I suppose it's because I don't believe that what her ex-husband wanted would happen. So to me, that action was meaningless. But I suppose to others, this would be the perfect revenge.

I really do wish this book was longer. The characters are very well-crafted, and I'd love to read more about them. They're not lovable, but they're fascinating.

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

I really thought this book was set in Ancient Japan. The sprinkling of Japanese words were used correctly, but some of the names and details felt off. Then I finished the book and found out that this is an alternative universe based on Ancient Japan.

All together now:


But seriously, this is an excellent book. I always say that there isn't enough good Asian/Asian-inspired fiction about, so I'm glad to find more. Seriously, I haven't read the Katana series so I don't know if it's good, but I took one look at the cover, and the inner kendo girl in me forbid me from reading it. So if you know anymore books like this, please recommend them to me!

Anyway, Shadows on the Moon revolves around Suzume, who (after a series of tragedies), is convinced she doesn't deserve anything good and lives only to take revenge for her father and cousin. And since this is a re-write of Cinderella, her plan to achieve this is to become the Shadow Princess (main concubine) during the yearly ball.

What I loved about the book was its details. Apart from a beautifully written Japanese-inspired world, there was also this cool power about shadow weaving. The only "complaint" I have is that more time wasn't spent on the true nature of Suzume's power. But I suppose, a plot is essential to the book (and Suzume was trying to avoid the truth about her powers anyway).

The book can stand alone, but I hear that there's a sequel. I'll definitely have to look for it once I have free time. I'm actually glad for flight delays, because I couldn't put down this book.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Men At Work by Cheezburger Network

This is really just a collection of photos. You'll probably like it if you like looking at the stupid (and potentially life-threatening) things people do sometimes. If you don't, you probably won't find this book appealing.

And really, that's all you need to know. This being a collection of photos, there's no narrative, no plot, no characters to criticise. I will, however, do my best.

What I liked about this book were, the photos (to state the obvious). I didn't think that so much common sense was lacking in the world. Considering that I was reading this book while moving (on the plane anyway), it really provided some much needed chuckles.

On the other hand, I didn't get the rating system. I understand it's supposed to show how much common sense was missing, but I didn't find it very funny. Sometimes, I didn't even agree with it.

Plus, the captions. They hit the mark most of the time, but some were fairly stale jokes. It's really the things that you see on the internet everyday. Only most of the time, they come with some caption.

In conclusion, this is a simple little book for when you need a laugh (at the expense of the men). I suppose in the right mood, it would be rib-tickling, but if you're in the wrong sort of mood, you'll probably just shut the book after a few pages.

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett

To be honest, I requested this book because my little cousin is autistic, and more recently, my brother has been diagnosed with autism too. I didn't expect this book to be so engaging, and more than that, encouraging. (And I googled him, this story is true)

The Spark follows Kristine's journey to stop her son Jake's autism from taking him away. And her method is unconventional - stop therapy and let him do what he likes. This not only let him come out of his shell, but helped him develop academically. He's apparently working on a completely original theory that will put him in line for a Nobel Prize.

Here's a video of Jake himself; give it a look!

But if you ask me, the real hero is his mom. She didn't just blindly trust what the experts tell her, she went with what she thought was best with her son. Instead of focusing on what he couldn't do, she focused on what he could. And that has made all the difference (credit goes to Robert Frost for crafting such a beautiful sentence).

And she didn't just stop at her son - she went on to help as many other autistic children as possible. Apart from organising a free class for autistic children, she also tried her best to build a place where they could feel like they belong. To me, she's a role model for Christian charity.

To me, reading this book reminded me to just let my brother be. Of course, we have to make sure he has basic manners, but other than that, we should let him develop his talents as far as possible. He's no genius like Jake, but he's definitely talented in things like math, science and even art. What am I saying, he's good at English too! (He used the world "compromise" correctly at age 5). Ok, big-sister-bragging will stop now.

I recommend this book to everyone. Whether you need something encouraging, or just something engrossing to read, I think you'll like this book a lot. And if you have an autistic child/sibling/relative, you may find this book to be more important than you first thought.

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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fargoer by Petteri Hannila

Let me start by saying that I think this book could be a lot longer. Currently, it's a very tightly written fantasy book, but I think it could be expanded into many more volume (I can see the current book being expanded into three volume). This isn't some criticism that important details were left out, it's just me wanting to read more.

Fargoer revolves around Vierra. After a prophecy that either she or her cousin will lead their clan (with very different results for the clan), she ends up NOT being the leader. That was my first surprise, and from there on, Vierra's life took on different turns. She left her tribe (though not willingly) and underwent a lot of hardships. The book ends with, I think, the promise of a sequel.

Each section of Vierra's life is described by a bunch of brief chapters. They are tied together, but at times, it feels like too much time has been skipped.

Because Vierra's life is described in fleeting episodes, the only character that is fully developed is Vierra herself. The other characters simply don't get enough space. And that's why I wish this book was longer, I think given the chance, we could get a really interesting cast of characters.

The world-building here is fantastic!It is, I think, set in Finland, long long ago. It's not a place that I'm familiar with, but the author has deftly managed to bring the place to life. To me, this is a interesting world where women are in charge, and people live in harmony with nature (and the spirits) - well, except the foreigners.

Speaking of nature and its spirits, Vierra and her tribe have a few rituals. In these rituals, poetry is used. Can I mention how much I love the poetry? It's story-telling, and really broke me into the world of the Fargoer.

Only one thing I don't understand - what does Fargoer mean? I know Vierra is the Fargoer, but I guess I missed the part where we were told what role she had.

I heartily recommend this book. You're probably not me, so at 200 plus pages, you'll thing it's the perfect length (I love long books!). With it's unique background and choice of protagonist you'll definitely be hooked!

Disclaimer: I got this book free from the author in exchange for a review. I was not obliged to give a positive review in any way.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

April Issue of An Excuse For Company (+ Sneak Peak)

Hey all! My computer time today was spent fixing up the next issue of An Excuse For Company for everyone to read! You can get it here.

As always, it's completely free! In fact, here's a sneak peak of what's inside:

When it rains, the sakura fall
The shorter the bloom, the more beautiful the memory.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Back Before Dark by Tim Shoemaker

Hey all, sorry for the EXTREMELY long absence (if you can get my reference, you get a gold star!). I moved, and apart from unpacking, making furniture and such, I didn't get my internet till today. But, here's another review for you!

What happens when your best friend and cousin gets kidnapped right before your eyes? This is what happened to Coop, the protagonist of this novel. His cousin Gordy is baited into being kidnapped (tasered and then kidnapped if you're fussy about the details) in front of him and their two friends Lunt and Hiro.

As a result, Coop is desperate to find the kidnapper and Gordy. It leads him on to a reckless course of actions, with policeman wanabee Hiro trying to restrain him and ex-bully Lunt supporting him all the way. But exactly what is driving him? Is it guilt for not being able to find the kidnapper? Partly (mostly in the first part of the book). Is it love for Gordy? Yup, especially towards the end.

Even though this is published by Zondervan (and hence a Christian novel), I was quite surprised by the actions that Coop took. Breaking and entering, planting evidence and then calling 911, there was really no limit to what he would do. His justification is that because the kidnapper broke the law when he kidnapped Gordy, he's willing to break the law to get Gordy back. I find these to be an accurate picture of a young man in grief. (Note: The book does not condone these actions)

In addition, the amount of Christian content in this book is very little. There are Christian characters, and there's a character who struggles with faith, but in no way is there a huge conversion or the like. It's a bit like the book of Esther - God isn't mentioned directly, but if you keep in mind He's there, you can sense His presence.

To me, this is an excellent book about friendship. Lunk and Hiro represents two types of friends - Lunk being the kind that stays with you through your stupid ways, and Hiro being the kind that stops you from doing stupid things. And even though I write this so easily, I find that they were well-written, well-rounded characters.

This is the book for those looking for a fast-paced novel. It's long (over 350 pages if I'm right), but it's gripping. I read it in one sitting.

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Social Entrepreneurship For The 21st Century by Georgia Levenson Keohane

Quick note: I moved out of my dorm today. I may not get internet for a while, and I'll be settling down into my new apartment, so I might not post new reviews for a few days (hopefully though, I can get my internet the day I arrive)

Do you think that business should not be focusing only on profit, but also think of ways they can improve the markets they're in? Or to even aim at disadvantaged markets? Well, I used to think that this was either part of Corporate Social Responsiblity, or the reason why Non-profit Organisations exist.

But, this book challenged me to think otherwise. Sure, it's quite technical, but it has so many case studies that just by reading them, you can get a feel of how these new businesses are trying to operate.

In a nutshell, social entrepreneurship well, it's extremely hard to define. But like it's name suggests, it uses techniques common in entrepreneurship, and the work done is system changing and innovation. According to the author, "system changing" refers to "systematic" and "far-reaching" change. So it's like a huge business, but for good.

The book is divided into three parts: Social Entrepreneurship in the Nonprofit Sector, Social Impact in the Private Sector and Social Innovation in the Public Sector. Well, there is a fourth part, where they discuss the debates going around this issue (for example, introducing business practices may lead to an over-emphasis on the needs of Nonproft Organisations to make a profit (or at least break-even), which in turn may detract from their original purpose.

I found this book extremely interesting. Sure, it was dry at times, but who cares! Ok, fine, most people care. I think the "dryness" comes from the large amount of technical terms like Social Impact Bonds, which, although are explained, make this book seem to be aimed at the specialist rather than the laymen. And in some of the case studies, too many corporate names are given, and it doesn't feel like a story at all.

In conclusion, I think this book is great for those who are interested in this fairly new field. But, since there's a large amount of technical terms, it'll probably be best that the reader have at least some background knowledge in business.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Your New Job Title is "Accomplice" by Scott Adams (ARC)

I never thought that I'd get to read another Dilbert cartoon so soon! I normally get my fix from the libraries back home, so I thought I'd have to wait until summer break to read another volume. Thankfully, a new volume is coming up, and it was on NetGalley.

When I started reading Dilbert, I started from a long time ago. It had business concepts that I knew about, but quite a lot of the humour was dated. Here, the humour is dated too (or it will be in a few years). It's dated 201X. There are lots of references to the Cloud, start-ups, and even a reference to the popularity of Apple products. What doesn't change would be the characters - inept boss, inept workers, inept company (Dilbert is not a comic that inspires confidence in any sort of corporation).

Personally, I would have loved to read more about Dogbert. And that evil HR cat. Both animals are hilarious, and I love reading about the stuff they scheme about. Also, the dinosaur (I think his name is... Bob?), anyway, he's gone. Well.... I really liked the animals.

On the bright side, if you like seeing Dilbert at work, you have a lot more to read. The Elbonians are also a staple feature now (let's attack the Elbonian missile factory!), which is really funny. HR and stuff, on the other hand, don't appear so often.

There are a lot of pokes at the huge paychecks of top management (which is understandable, given the recent economic climate). In fact, I would say that you need to be fairly well-versed with business terms and the workplace to understand these jokes (which may explain why I'm the only one my age that actually reads and enjoys Dilbert).

For me, I love this! I'm so glad Dilbert is still coming out! Now, if only Foxtrot was making a new anthology and had it up on NetGalley.....

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewllyn

I graduated today (read about it here), so in honour of that, here's a review of a book about learning. And school (or not-school).

I'm starting to suspect I'm not normal. I read this book (which is supposedly 'life-changing'), and found myself mentally arguing with the author the whole way. Then again, all the friend's I've showed this book to so far agree with me. So, be warned, this is going to become less of a review and more of a "why I don't agree with this" rant.

Ok, so we start off with an analogy about wanting to eat fruits and learning to eat that no matter how hard I imagine, I cannot accept as being an analogy for school. But if I start a literature analysis this post will double in length so I will stop here.

Before we even reach part one, the authoress says to kids who actually enjoy school "Maybe I have something to learn about docility. Or maybe I have a healthy aversion to something dead in people that should be alive." Wow, I'm insulted and I'm not even in the first chapter. I can't even express how insulting this is to Malala, a brave girl who got shot in the head by Taliban for going to school. In fact, I call your bluff and say that those who enjoy school are the ones who are really alive. They know what school really means, and don't waste their time complaining. And so, we reach:

Part 1 - Making the Decision

Apparently, rules = lack of freedom, and minors are "one of the most oppressed groups of people in the U.S., and certainly the most discriminated against legally." Here I was under the impression that minors get treated better by the law (look at the penalties for crimes for minors and adults. Look at why that rapist in India is so anxious to be tried as a juvenile). After all, we have a phrase called "kids gloves". It certainly doesn't mean something like "worst every treatment". The freedom they speak of are things like "I don't have to raise my hand to speak", "[In school] you had to have permission to go to the bathroom". I'm sorry, maybe it's because I'm Asian, but how is that restrictive? That's called having respect for one another. In real life, you don't interrupt a conversation, you find a way to catch your partner's attention (like by raising your hand). In real life, when you're with a group of people, it's normal to excuse yourself to the bathroom.

In Chapter Two, we find out that "School is not for learning". The main arguments are that schools use passive learning, busywork and prioritize appearance over reality. That is how school is? Wow, to think I learnt how to debate in school, how to research a topic of my choice in school, how to think in school. I never knew that was called passive. I never knew the the multiple drafts I wrote for one essay was called busywork. I thought I was learning how to refine my writing skills. I didn't know that whenever my teachers did things like inviting guests to share their experiences with us (for example, what is it like to live in a welfare state?), that was appearance over reality (a favourite literature theme for us anyway).

And look, a quick quiz!

"Which has more books, a school or a library?" Hmm.... most of the time, probably my school. The local library isn't very big, unless you're talking about regional or national libraries. Plus, if you're into researching stuff, school libraries are really helpful (the librarians will help you get the books too!)

"Which has better books, a school or library?" See above.

"Where are you made to read deadly textbooks?" Hey, I LIKE my textbooks. They're actually quite interesting.

"Where can you read at your own pace, for your own pleasure, without being tested and tricked and otherwise disturbed?" My home. But then again, all the books are from the school library.

Oops, I think I gave the wrong answers. I guess I failed your quiz.

Last thing to note: all the teachers I've ever had have always been opinionated. And contradictory. This just means they taught us the difference between facts, opinions, and how to form your own opinion.

Chapter Three: What School is for. Apparently, to churn out workers. True, a lot of entrepreneurs end up dropping out of school, but for me and my friends, school was where we got our first taste of entrepreneurship. When you have to set up a Haunted House yourselves or find a product you can buy and sell at a profit, you learn about things like Supply and Demand really quickly. And no, my teachers weren't hand-holding us (they had a lot of other things to do). And yes, this was compulsory for us.

And then, she starts talking about teachers in Chapter four. The basic thing is that they're all fine people, but they don't teach from the heart.


I understand that you were once a teacher, but I'm beginning to thing that despite what you claim, you sought out schools where you would be stifled to prove a point. Either that, or I go to an exceptional school.

And I'm only at page 67 of 444. Do you guys really want me to go on? Bottom line is, the first part is where I disagree with everything.  And these are the only things I have reservations from the later sections (which are actually the majority of the book).

There is one section where a European girl (girl living in Europe) reflects on her unschooling experience and mentions that due to the lack of resources, she basically lies to get what she wants. Nice skills for the future you got there.

And another section about Japan, which makes the schools sound terrifying. Well, I haven't gone to a Japanese highschool (I'm in university and all), but most of my high-school friends seem happy enough. I'm guessing that while the bullying and physical punishment do exist, it's for a rather small number of students.

Next, she brings in Yin and Yang (and also, she calls the Dao De Jing the Tao Teh Ching. What's with the "h"? I think the "t" and the "c", while not pinyin, are common ways of spelling - if you're not learning Chinese). I won't say anything about the yin-yang part, but I do want to say something about the section of the Dao De Jing she quotes. The quote is "The Tao Teh Ching reminds us, 'For all things there is a time for going a head, and a time for following behind; a time for slow-breathing, and a time for fast breathing;... A time to be up and a time to be down.' " Even if I'm not talking about how incredible hard it is to understand, let alone translate the Dao De Jing, I think she's mis-using the quote. The original Chinese is this "故物或行或随,或嘘或吹,或强或赢,或载或隳。" If you can't read Chinese, there's a pretty good translation here (this is from chapter 29). The meaning of this is actually: extremes are bad. Don't go to extremes. The way she uses this quote implies that there's an appropriate time for a certain extreme, but actually, this passage is telling to avoid all extremes and practice moderation. You may call this a subtle difference, but I think it's pretty important.

In other words, the book gets much better as she gets into advice on how to learn different subjects. The potshots at school and teacher get less, and it's much easier to ignore. Still, a lot of what she recommends to "unschool" are things that I either remember doing in school, or that the school offered (sometimes, I didn't bother taking advantage of everything - because I had no interest in it!).

Bottom line, my stand is the same as always: homeschooling is not for everyone. And yes, I carry serious doubts about unschooling. I think that if the child is not intensely self-motivated, unschooling will not work. Even though she claims that you'll be smarter even if you don't do anything, I doubt that will be true. How can you be smarter if you have no interest in reading (poor language skills), maths, etc? If this book didn't have the first section, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Or to put it another way, if she didn't insult my love for school, my school experience or my teachers, I wouldn't have gotten so emotional.

I realise this is an extremely long review, and I've only touched the tip of the ice-berg! If you want me to write out a full review, chapter by chapter (because I don't think I can summarise it), let me know. I may just do it. And if you strongly disagree with me, please comment and let me know why (no ranting though). If you're really persuasive, you might just convince me(:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

I finally have an English book from which I can get a teaser. It's really terrible of me, but I bought another book. It won't make or break the move, but if I keep doing this.....

"Gold brushes and boxes, jars of face cream, boxes of powder - dainty luxuries all around her. But in the midst of the luxury Cicely Horbury sat with dry lips and a face on which the rouge showed up in unbecoming patches on her cheeks." (page 237)

I love Agatha Christie. Nothing more needs to be said.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, all you need to do is to share a two sentence teaser from a book you're currently reading.

What are your teasers this week?

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

If you're looking for a re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, you should definitely consider reading this book.

Sophie/Sophia is a maid at the castle of Duchess Ermengard. She's treated horribly, and unbeknownst to her, the Duchess plans to kill her. Meanwhile, Baron Wilhelm's family is told that Sophie is actually the daughter of Duke Baldewin, and is in danger. With her betrothed Valent unable to leap to the rescue due to a broken leg, his impetuous younger brother  leaps to rescue her.

The rescue was actually pretty short - the two spent quite a lot of the at the Cottage of the Seven trying not to fall in love. Yes, this is a forbidden love story. Gabe is betrothed to another gentle-born lady (Britolla), and Sophie is betrothed to this older brother. What I really admire is that they both tried their best to consider each other siblings - Gabe tells her as much as soon as they meet, and Sophie tries her best to discourage him. It really convinced me that their love was real, because they really struggled just to accept it.

In this story, the Cottage of the Seven don't consist of dwarves. They are actually normal people too strange to live in normal society. Reading about them, I have a feeling that at least one of them is autistic, and another may be deaf, and so on. The house is actually a sanctuary for them. This was one twist in the story that I thought was suitable - after all, the dwarves would have been considered strange people in the original story too.

Just one note for everyone - the characters in this story are all Christian. The story is set in Germany, so I think it's not too much of a stretch. And I can re-assure you that the story isn't preachy, it's just that the morals of the characters (for example, to forgive even your enemies), are clearly depicted as being influenced by the Bible.

I love this re-telling. I love the plot (ok, I loved the original plot anyway), I loved how they added the romance twist, I love the characters, I love it all. If you're looking for a good YA retelling, this is for you.

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Buyer Beware by Diane Vallere

After so long, I'm reading a fashion-related mystery again! This really reminds me of the Crime of Fashion series (I used to get a book everytime I went to the library!).

Buyer Beware follows Samantha Kidd as she investigates the death of an employee at a recently opened designer-bargain shop Heist. And this book really starts off with a bang! The very first page has Samantha committing premediated robbery. Well, she's doing this to win a Heist competition and get a prize.

Of course, the 'robbery' was successful. But at the party, the Handbag Buyer of Heist is found dead. And suddenly, the boss of Heist is at her doorstep offering her the job of Handbag Buyer - with a catch. Now, she has to find out who killed the buyer.

I think that this book was more about the mystery (or trying to uncover the mystery anyway), than the fashion aspect. Apart from the fact that she works in a clothing company, and a quick lesson on fakes (that is limited to a non-existant brand), there's not much mention of fashion anywhere. The emphasis is clearly on Samantha as she tries to find out who the killer is.

The strength of the book are clearly the characters. There's Samantha, Cat (her former enemy turned friend), Eddie (childhood friend) and Dante (Cat's brother). The relationship between Samantha and Dante was especially interesting, since the two are so clearly attracted to each other - but Samantha has a guy in Italy. Take note, this triangle isn't resolved by the end of the book.

This book should appeal to anyone needing a light read. It's not like Agatha Christie where you have to think about who the murderer is. I think it's a good book for those looking for some distraction.

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

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Best of Quora 2010-2012

I heard of this book thanks to the Google+ community. And it's amazing! If you're the sort that likes to know all sorts of random things, you'll love this book!

This book is divided into 18 sections, covering things like Personal Experience (What is it feel like to be both very physically beautiful and very academically intelligent?) to Sports (Do Olympic or competitive swimmers ever pee in the pool?) and of course, Literature (Is The Hunger Games a pro-girl/pro-woman story, the way Brave is?). It's chock full (442 pages of PDF) of various questions and their really thoughtful answers.

And you'd be surprised at who answers the questions (at least for the more technical ones). When you look at the job titles at some of the users, you can tell that they're experts in their respective fields. And when you read what they write, you can see the it's a topic their passionate about. Plus, there was this Maths questions (What is it like to have an understanding of very advanced mathematics) that increased my respect for maths even more, and probably helped me to see the beauty in maths even clearer.

I think this is the sort of book you can just pick up and dip into. Each question is unrelated to the other, which means you're free to skip questions if you're bored by it. I just wish that a paperback version is published, because face it, flipping through a book randomly isn't that much fun with an ebook.

Plus, this book makes Quora sound so fun that I actually joined it! (Yes, yet another site I've joined). Only time will tell if I'll stick to it, but I am having fun reading all the different answers now.

You can find the free ebook here.

If you're the non-fiction type, or just the curious type, you should definitely pick up this book!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grimm Fairy Tales: Robyn Hood by Patrick Shand

I initially picked up this story because I thought it would be a good book to read for Fairy tales Retold reading challenge. But I was so so wrong. This is a good comic, to be sure, but it's also very dark and definitely not meant for younger kids.

Robyn Hood tells the story of a girl (who may be born to the dark side), that was left to grow up in the human world. She has a terrible childhood, culminating in a rape that left her blinded in one eye. But somehow, she stumbles into well, Robin Hood's world (the world of Grimm I guess), and finds out that to get home to take revenge, she has to help create a revolution to topple King John.

So basically, her motives are revenge and revenge. There are really no morals in the story - Robyn says so a few times, that she doesn't feel any remorse for killing people. There is, I suppose, a fairly good social commentary on the herd mentality, but it was overshadowed by the number of graphic killings.

The violence in this comic was to be expected (at least, once I grasped the direction of the story), but what I didn't understand was Robyn Hood's outfit. Her initial outfit (hoodie and jeans) were appropriate, but what was the skimpy thing she was wearing in the forest? Somehow, it looked more modest on the cover. >.<

Most of the humour came from Robyn using language from our world, and the inhabitants of this separate dimension not understanding it. That would be fine, but a lot of the words are insults, so those needing a clean comic, step away now.

In conclusion, this is a dark comic for those who want a modern day Robyn Hood. There are no morals in this story, and Robyn is motivated only by thoughts of revenge (sadly, her mother dies early in the chapter). From how the story ends, it seems like the moral developement will come later, as the real villian emerges, but somehow, I don't feel too inclined to follow this series.

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Stolen by Alex Shearer

This book proves once again that there are lots of really good unknown titles that should be more famous. Sadly, fame is a limited commodity. Oh well, if you read this, and you happen to like a YA story about witches and stolen bodies, go and get this book right now! It's really worth the read.

The story centers around Carly and her new 'friend' Meredith. I use quotation marks because Meredith is like Haibara Ai but less likable (Haibara is a character from Detective Conan, and she acts like an adult). But then, Carly discovers that Meredith is actually a witch who stole her body. The real Meredith is actually the old woman Meredith claims is her grandmother. And so, Carly tries to help right this wrong.

What I love about this story was Carly. She's this really talkative girl who wants a sister/special friend. I wasn't sure if I'd love the story in the first chapter (This story is told from the first person point of view), but I fell in love with her voice and character. She's a truly likable heroine.

Another thing about this story is that it explores the youth/age idea. I think it's a very good wake-up call to all those young kids complaining about their lives. At least they have the energy to complain (I certainly don't). It's also a really good portrayal of how sometimes adults and kids can be condescending to the elderly - especially when you think the elderly in question has lost her mind. My heart just broke at some of the treatment that went on in the book.

My only complaint about the book is that they took Necromancy to be about magic. Strictly speaking, it's about raising the dead, which no one should do because it goes against the will of God (you shouldn't even be doing witchcraft in the first place). But that's me being anal about details.

Overall, this is a really enjoyable book. It's targeted at younger kids, but it'll probably appeal to older kids too.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Common-sense Supply Management by Dr. Tom Depaoli

*Note: If you're bored to death by business talk, you may want to skip this post*

I was really interested in this book because it claimed to have stories from "the supply-management trenches". I really love stories! And Supply-Management is quite hard. But, while this book has a good idea, the execution has something to be desired.

The first chapter just jumps into the stories, with only the headers telling you what you need to know. After that, the rest of the book is devoted to showing you how you can improve your supply management process. I think it would have made more sense if the stories were spread out throughout the book, and used to illustrate a point.

Another thing about this book is that it's very geared towards large corporations. Some of the techniques required (especially when it comes to the standards you expect of the suppliers) doesn't seem like it'd be effective for a small company with little-to-no bargaining power.

While this book is quite simple to understand, the reader has to understand what Lean and Six Sigma is before they start reading. These two are key terms which aren't explained till the end, in the glossary of terms. Simply put, both terms refer to techniques that are aimed at cutting down waste and getting things down right the first time.

So, is there anything that we can use in real-life? Well, if you're not in a corporate job, I think your take home would be "do your leg-work, put in your best and expect the best from others." I think it's a good idea to take home.

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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Long Reads #18

I'm finally back with another Long Reads post! Hisashiburi desu ne~ (It's been a long time). This time, I'm focusing on book-ish essays:

My Father's "Eviscerated" Work by Raphaëlle Rérolle - This is actually a really good essay about Tolkien's legacy, and a little of what his family thought about it. For example, the Lord of the Ring film studios didn't want to pay royalties to the estate. That's not very fair. And sadly, the estate has no way to make sure that the films are true to the books (so if you don't like the films, just blame the producers).

It Matters if You're Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers by Annie Schutte - This is actually a really thought provoking covers. Even though I buy books based on whether the cover is attractive, I don't normally think much about the cover afterwards. She does make a compelling case for a bias towards Caucasian characters though.

YA Book Post - Whitewashing Covers by Diana Peterfreund - And here, one of the authors featured in the above article to say that her cover was accurate (surprise!). And yes, it does seem as though her protagonist is white, even though the word "brown" was used at one point. I think the point to take back from the two articles is: some covers are accurate, and some are not. Let's do all we can to change the inaccurate ones.

Royal Bodies by Hilary Mantel - I'm including this under the "books" category because Hilary Mantel is an awesome writer. Yes, this is the article that had everyone in shock because she said some bad things about Kate Middleton, but the real focus of this article is really how women like Marie Antionette and Anne Boleyn have been portrayed. A really good look if you're into historical fiction.

On Travelogues by Ian Manley - If you were to read only one article from here, read this one. It's so awesome that clicking the title will link you to the page (It's that good!). I may even subscribe to their RSS feed(; And this isn't in the article (but appeared when I saved to readability), but there's also a list of "enduring Travelogues in the Public Domain". This is a really great introduction to the history of the travelogue (also bemoaning how most travel blogs nowadays are awful - oops! I think my other blog falls under this!), and I think I'm going to read more travelogues as a result. Any reccomendations?

What about you? What have you been reading?

Friday, March 1, 2013

With or Without You by Domenica Ruta

When people say that reading lets you live a thousand lives, I'm pretty sure they're talking about memoirs as well. After all, Domenica Ruta's life is as unlike mine as could be possible, but after reading her memoir, I feel like I've (in some small way), experienced what she felt.

Ms Domenica grew up with Kathi, her insane, drug-addicted mother. Domenica isn't pretty either (so this isn't one of those Cinderella books either), but she does love to read. In her own words, she has a hunger for knowledge and

"Hunger like this is pitiful. It never affords you the luxury of distinguishing between useless and important knowledge, between good and bad words. And, like movies, bad words were another resource in which my family was truly rich."

And no, the love of reading and writing doesn't save her. Instead, she manages to acquire several addictions while pursuing her study.

So far, the book sounds bleak. But the way With or Without You is written is somehow matter-of-factly, as though this was normal and no sympathy is required. And in a weird way, this is true - her extended family is as dysfunctional as her, and what happens must have seemed normal.

The book ends (I can say this because the blurb mentions it), with Ms Domenica "living the life she grew up with". In other words, she gets sober. It's no miracle, it's a long, painful process, and I admire her all the more for it.

If you like memoirs, you have to read it.

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