Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

Alright, what do you think of the death penalty? If you're American, I have a feeling you might be opposed to it. At least, that was the impression I got when the Walmart clerk started criticising Singapore's death penalty (at about 2am in the morning, when we just arrived).

For me, I don't know. I don't have any objections, but then again. I don't know anyone who was sentenced to death. What I see is the death penalty given to drug mules, murderers and the like. Not exactly people that you can sympathise with easily.

But in The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, you get a very clever book that slowly shifts your thinking around. I started out the book thinking that Noa was annoying, but I ended the book sympathising with her (or at least, I found another character to despise even more).

Noa is... not immediately likable. She comes across as cynical. And rude. And basically my opposite. Plus, she admits to killing the victim (and her child). But as she tells her story, I realised that inside, she's a softy. She's just cynical because of her childhood. And as cliched as that sounded when I typed it out, it was actually quite moving when I was reading the book.

Plus, I hate it when someone games the system. It was so obvious (as the book progressed), that Noa never stood a chance. She was up against a person influential enough to make sure she dies. And no, this is not a happy-ending book when all is revealed.

All in all, I think this is a good book. It's engaging and thought provoking. There's quite a few f-bombs, so coupled with the dark subject matter, I'd only recommend it for mature people.

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Point of Departure by Diane Kowal Kirtley

The title may sound like a thriller, but this is actually a novel based on the life of Charlotte Mailliard. And well, this is another book tour stop!


Point of Departure follows Charlotte Mailliard as she moves from a priviledged life in France (her God-mother is the queen!) to America. There's no over-arching conflict, rather it follows Charlotte as she grows up, falls in love, deals with racism and xenophobia and other issues.

Despite sounding like some kind of boring fictional biography (this really is based on her life, so it's partly true), it's actually very engrossing. I literally couldn't put it down, and no, this is not hyperbole. I had people come to install my washing machine the day I started reading the book, and I was just reading while the people did their work. I just stopped to let them in and sign the form saying that I received my product in working order.

My favourite character was, obviously, Charlotte. She's not particularly flirtatious like her older sisters, or a tomboy like her younger sister, but she is a bookworm, and she does stand up for causes she believes in. She makes me want to learn French because she is that cool a role model.

What I would have liked to see more would be her relationship with her younger sister Amanda. There was tension between them (mostly because of the hostility on Amanda's part). Unfortunately, this issue isn't never resolved satisfactorily.

This is an awesome book. I love it so so much. The characters are awesome, the book flows well, and the length feels just right. I highly reccomend this book.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Honest Toddler by Bumni Laditan (ARC)

I remember toddlers. Some are really really cute (like this little kid at the kindergarten), and some can be scary. Yes, scary. I'm up against little peoples with more energy than me, and to make things worse, their voices are louder (and you can't yell at them without looking like a meanie anyway). But how do toddlers want to be treated? According to The Honest Toddler - Like the Kings and Queens of this planet.

And no, they do NOT want siblings. There isn't enough love to go around.

And whatever they do, don't hurt their fragile spirit through discipline. Instead, learn to love the chaos they bring.

Which, I think, sums up the book (you should be reading it for the style, not the message).

From what I know of toddlers (and the little I remember of my toddler-hood), The Honest Toddler seems like a minority. Or maybe, Asian toddlers are better behaved (we turn into little screaming monsters a few years later though). But this doesn't mean that this account is any less hilarious. Or Oedipal - The Honest Toddler seems to resent the love between his parents.

This book covers a whole bunch of different subjects. What should you feed your child (no vegetables - they make you weak), should you potty train (no), and what to do if your little angel does something wrong (nothing, do not stifle their spirit). At times, the whole "I'm the center of the world" attitude got on my nerves, but then again, I'm the oldest child and I've long learnt that no one is the center of the world.

I have a feeling that some parents, particularly well-rested ones, may find this book extremely hilarious. But if you give it to a sleep-deprived parent, I fear that they may throw the book at you because "who has the time to read when I have 123592 things to do?!?!?!"

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

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Little Pony by Katie Cook and Andy Price

I didn't know that My Little Pony had a comic! *Squeals*

Story-wise, it was good. I imagine that if this was the cartoon, it would be a two-part episode that comes either at the start of the end of the season.

Basically, the main story is that the queen of the changelings (she's the one that tried to impersonate Princess Cadance and drain Shining Armor of his powers) has kidnapped Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. To save their sisters and Scootaloo, the ponies set out to rescue them.

Along the way, the changelings try to break up their friendship. Will the ponies survive? (The answer is "look at the name of the show!")

It really is a "friendship is magic" story, and I think any fan would love it. But for some reason, the graphics look a little different from the animated series. Perhaps it's just me, perhaps the artists were different.

Apart from the main story, there is one or two other short stories in-between. These are really cute, and I would have loved to see more.

For the die-hard My Little Pony fan, this is a must-read. For those looking for a gift for a little girl, this is a safe bet. And if you want a joke gift for someone who scoffs at My Little Pony (and I have a long list in mind mwahahaha), buy this immediately!

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Countess Below The Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

I love Eva Ibbotson! Ever since I read Journey to the River Sea, I've been in love with her works. And this is no exception.

A Countess Below the Stairs is like The Star of Kazan in the sense that the protagonists are nobility that have somehow become servants. In this book, Anna is a Russian Countess who has lost all her wealth in the revolution. In order to support her family (they escaped to England), she becomes a maid, and learning from a book called, well I forgot but it's outdated and the source of much humour for the reader, she tries to carry out her duties.

Of course, along the way, she and the Count (the guy who's her boss), fall in love, even though he's engaged to be married.

Darn, I really hoped she would end up with Sergei (although the book makes it clear that their relationship is purely platonic).

Anna is a really lovable heroine. She makes me want to learn Russian and French. So right now, that brings my "want to learn" language count to Russian, Spanish, French, Malay/Bahahasa Indonesia. Sometimes I wonder why I didn't try to major in languages.

In addition, the villian in this book (Muriel), is truly dislikable. She's beautiful and rich, but she's also a subscriber of the theory of eugenics, and that makes her do some truly awful things. I cheered at her end (she doesn't think it's a bad end, but I bet she'll find out soon enough!).

This book is easy to read and very engaging. I reccomend it to everyone of all ages. Particularly girls. I suspect that boys may find this boring, but girls would probably like the idea of an undercover princess.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Faith Stories of One Good Catholic Girl by Diana Milesko

I'm back with yet another book tour~ This time, I decided to take part in this book tour to try and better understand Catholicism. I do have Catholic friends, but apart from the Vatican, getting a new name at confirmation and the worship of Mary, I wasn't sure what it meant for someone to be a Catholic.

While I can't say the things in this book are true for all Catholics (some of the opinions seem very different from my friends - who were brought up in Protestant schools so....), I can say that this is a fascinating personal account of one women's stories about her Catholic faith.

This book is divided into five parts. Part 1 is called "Early Faith" and talks about what Faith means to her, the Catholic Calendar and Church Accoutrement's (Accoutrement refers to "additional items of dress or equipment, or other items carried or worn by a person or used for a particular activity" - thanks iBooks dictionary). Part 2 is a brief look at Church history. I did see a few factual errors in the ancient Church history part, but the Medieval Church section was really fascinating. Part 3 moves on to the problems facing the Church, and yes, it looks at the sexual child abuse and cover up. Part 4 is titled "Semantics, Religion and Reality" while Part 5 is called "A New Understanding". Put together, Part 4 and 5 is where her hopes for the Church appear most strongly.

As a personal account, I found this book to be informative and engaging. Ms Milesko shares a lot of family stories, including how many of her relatives have ended up leaving the faith due to what they've experienced. On a side note, her siblings account of Buddhism is fairly different from the Buddhism that I see. For example, her sister says that "Buddhism makes us aware of our potential rather than our limitations." which is "unlike Catholicism, which stresses our sins." Actually, a lot of Buddhists worry about whether hell, which you can see from the 7th Month Festival (aka Ghost Festival), and trust me, getting rid of their 'sins' is a priority with them. While she did mention relatives in Japan, I'm guessing that the reason for the difference would be, well, would be like how Siddhartha by Herman Hesse isn't how most Buddhists here think about Buddha. Disclaimer: I have never been Buddhist, so my experiences with Buddhism are all indirect (you know, friends, relatives, that sort of thing).

The only problem I see with the book is that its interpretation of Christian theology is completely wrong. Most of it could be remedied with a straight-forward interpretation of the Bible (I mean taking poems as poems, metaphorical imagery as metaphorical, understanding specific vs general commandments, basic stuff). But then, I remembered from the start, Ms Milesko said that she was not encouraged to read the Bible without a Priest interpretating it. That could explain all the mis-haps. Ms Milesko, if you ever read this review, could I recommend the (free I might add) podcast called Systematic Theology. I find it very useful, and there's a section on interpreting the Bible.

As a side note, I did email one of the theological questions to CMI (one of my favourite ministries. Their reply to my email is in bold:

Dear Eustacia
Thank you for your email. My comments are interspersed below in bold.
Kind regards,
Shaun Doyle 
Creation Ministries International
Recently, I read a book called "Faith Stories of one Good Catholic Girl" that claimed that Original Sin was invented by Aquinas and that "by insisting Jesus died for our sings and everyone who is not baptized is not saved, Aquinas and the Church are constantly tripping themselves up as they amend the story of original sin. Instead, they should consider that Jesus didn't so much die for our sings, as he showed us how to live. Original sin isn't a necessary doctrine, except to shore up the paper house of Church dogma." 
SD: I wonder if she was actually referring to Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430), rather than Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). I haven’t seen the book, so I can’t say, but that would be a very basic mistake to make. The doctrine of original sin received its first extensive treatment in Augustine, but he was not the first to expound on a doctrine of original sin. For instance, the second century church father Irenaeus (c. AD 130–202) said:“For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation.” [Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.18.7.]In this passage Irenaeus merely offers an expansion of Romans 5:19: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” He even seemed to have believed in inherited or corporate guilt (which is much more controversial as an aspect of original sin):“By which things He clearly shows forth God Himself, whom indeed we had offended in the first Adam, when he did not perform His commandment. In the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, being made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning [emphases added].” [Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.16.3.]The doctrine of original sin has both ample biblical warrant and strong pedigree in church history. For more information, please see Romans 5:12–21: Paul’s view of literal Adam. 
The book goes on to claim that "In his book Is Jesus God? Michael Morwood notes that "Jesus never indicated any 'original sin' theology which held that all human beings are bron in a state of separation from God's grace. The notion of people being blocked from access to God's loving presence is contrary to the heart of Jesus' teaching". "
SD: What does he mean by “‘original sin’ theology”? One essential feature of any ‘original sin theology’ is that we are all sinners by nature. The doctrine of original sin in the Fall explains why. And the inherent sinfulness of man is an empirical fact, explicitly affirmed by Paul (Ephesians 2:1–3), and implied in Jesus’ teaching. For example: 
·         Jesus said nobody comes to the Father unless he draws them first (John 6:44). This tells us we can’t come to the Father by our own power. Ask a simple question: why can’t we? The only reason is that we’re all sinners by nature.
·         Jesus said everybody needed to repent (Luke 13:1–5). How could Jesus be so certain? Clearly the answer is that we’re all sinners.
·         Jesus said repentance for the forgiveness of sins was to be preached toeveryone (Luke 24:47). Why preach forgiveness of sins to everyone if not everyone needs forgiveness?
Jesus clearly agrees with Paul that everyone is sinful. The question is, does Jesus agree with Paul’s explanation of the origin of human sinfulness? On this, we have no statements from Jesus. However, we do know that Jesus affirmed the historical scheme Paul used to explain the origin of human sinfulness (e.g. Mark 10:5–9Luke 11:51Matthew 24:37–39John 8:56–58). And when we combine the biblical historical scheme with the fact we’re all sinners by nature, the Fall is the only logical explanation for how we all became sinners. Moreover, we know that Paul was explicitly commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel. We also have the affirmation from Peter that Paul’s letters extant when he wrote 2 Peter, which would’ve included Romans, were Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). We have every reason to believe Jesus would endorse Paul’s ‘original sin theology’ in Romans 5:12–21, and no reason to claim otherwise. 
It’s incumbent on Morwood to explain why we should have a record of Jesus expounding on original sin during his ministry. Otherwise, his argument is one from silence.As to Morwood’s statement “The notion of people being blocked from access to God’s loving presence is contrary to the heart of Jesus’ teaching”; this is false. Salvation is open to all without distinction, but it is not given to all without exception. There is a condition: bowing the knee to Jesus (Romans 10:9–10). Jesus opens up access to God’s loving presence as the only mediator (John 14:61 Timothy 2:5through his sacrificial death (Matthew 26:28Romans 3:25–26), which Paul argues in Romans 5:12–21 was necessitated by original sin. Morwood seems to think access to God is (or should be) purely unconditional. But how is that just? How could a God who detests sin tolerate it in his presence? How could he ignore sin? The gospel of Romans 3:21–26 says he didn’t—he sent Christ to deal with our sin properly through his sacrificial death for us.

In conclusion, I find this a really interesting book, and I recommend it to those who want to read about what the average Catholic in America feels. I cannot endorse it as a theology guidebook, but since that's not the purpose of this book, I don't see much of a problem if the reader keeps that in mind.

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Informed Consent by Sandra Glahn

Informed consent is basically agreeing to something (like surgery) after hearing about the risks. It's a huge deal, because of people called lawyers. But this book isn't so much about a lawsuit (yes it appears, but it's not center stage), it's about a doctor who's trying to decide what's the right thing to do.

Jeremy is a research/doctor who's in a crisis. Well, no one says it, but it's obvious. He accidentally tripped - and a nurse got HIV. He brought his son to the lab - and his son gets a heart disease. Oh, and his wife still blames him for the death of his other son a few years ago, and he's consumed by his work, which has the potential to cure HIV.

This sounds like a very confused plot, but the different elements were introduced gradually enough that I was not confused. And well, I left out some secondary plots, so you can imagine how tangled this story is. If you're picturing a Taiwanese soap opera, you're pretty close to how it is.

Which makes the length of the book feel suprisingly short. There are so many things going on, it's easy to expect this book to be a long drawn-out epic. Yet, it's possible to finish this book in one day (or a few, if you're distracted and juggling a few books at a time).

This is a Christian book, but I think you'll be surprised to know that Jeremy isn't a Christian. His wife is, but he's struggling with his faith. And there's no resolution. Sure, he's pointed towards God, but the book gets caught up with the plot and leaves it dangling (it's a bit strange too, considering that he spent some time ranting about the unfairness of God and such). Then again, it's possible that something was said and I missed it. Anyone have anything to add?

I found this an interesting book. If you like medical-related novels, you'll probably enjoy this.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Every Christian Needs To Know About The Qur'an by James R. White

You know, growing up in a multi-religious society, you'd think that I'd know the basics of the major religions. Well, I know what Buddhism, Shinto-ism is about; I know a little about Hinduism, and I know about the different cults (there was a reading phase). But suprisingly (to me anyway), I didn't know much about Islam. Sure, I knew about Hari Raya, about the Haj, but what about the fundamentals?

And along comes this book! It's stated purpose is to

"seek to honestly communicate what the Qur'an says about who God is, what His purpose are, and how we are to know Him."

At first, I was a little worried about how impartial the book would be, but I came across this line about examining the Qur'an and my fears were put to rest:

"We will invest great effort to examine the text fairly and honestly. If we do so more closely than might seem neccessary, as Christians we must. Just as we ask the Muslim to handle the Bible fairly and listen to it in its own context, so as lovers of truth and consistency we extend the same courtesy."
Just to be on the safe side, I asked my Google+ friend +Brandon Yusuf Toropov if he would listen to my questions. Surprisingly (for me at least), I had a total of... 2 questions. One was on the wives of the Prophet and the other was on the issue of Mushkrim (check spelling) ('idolators'). Both didn't come about because of some mis-representation, the questions arose because I wanted more answers.

The book looks at "The Qur'an and Muhammad of Mecca", an introduction to the Qur'an, and then on to the different theological positions, like what the Qur'an says about the Trinity, Jesus, Salvation. Then, the book looks at the Bible, to see if it's been corrupted, and if there are any prophesies about Muhammad in the Bible. Lastly, the book looks at the "Perfection of the Qur'an". It's slightly over 300 pages, but it packs a lot of punch. In fact, if there was an expanded edition, I'd probably buy it straightaway.

After each chapter, there are extensive footnotes and at the end, there is an extensive bibliography. In my opinion, this makes it a good book as a starting point for a study of Christianity and Islam.

Because this book is aimed at Christians, the book is very much focused on how Christianity and Islam relate to each other. Apart from the Christian, the author has written this book for the Muslim reader in mind too (they have a note at the beginning and the end of the book). I'm really hoping that a Muslim will read this book too and let everyone know what their opinion is. Still, I think it's possible for anyone to learn something from this book.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Secret in the Old Lace by Carolyn Keene

I miss reading Nancy Drew. I didn't realise how much until I read The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived (link leads to review), but I missed this series. And even after a long absence, I find Nancy Drew as gripping as ever.

In this mystery, Nancy gets accused of plagarism and travels to Belgium to solve a hundreds of years old mystery. Or maybe just a hundred. But either way, I was having trouble putting down this book. And of course, in Nancy Drew fashion, she solves the mystery - within a time limit and under threat from the baddies.

To enjoy the book so much despite the fact that Nancy has Mary-Sue like qualities is quite suprising for me. Especially since I've developed a slightly higher intolerance for Mary-Sues (too much exposure to them). For example, being good at whatever she does. I suppose she's just a really likable Mary-Sue. Or you know, I'm suffering from my childhood bias.

Of course, you have to be familiar with the characters to enjoy the books. I didn't really realise it now, but a lot of the characterisation occurs after you've read several books. That's why the villians all seem very thinly drawn.

You know, I really want to read the other Nancy Drew books* now. In fact, I wonder how The Famous Five, Trixie Belden and all my childhood detectives will be like if I re-read them.

* When I say 'Nancy Drew Books', I mean the classics. Not the ones where she goes off to college or the more modern versions.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Scrapbook Of My Revolution by Amy Lynn Spitzley

This is one of the first books I read on my new iPad, and it was a good choice. This was a gorgeous reading experience (I'm talking about both Retina and the book). Because this was a scrapbook, there were loads of images, and they showed up beautifully.

Seriously, beautiful.

Ok, enough about how beautiful it is, let's talk story. This book has as it's protagonist Amber Alexander, a Malian. A Malian is kinda like an X-Men, as she is born with a superpower - in this case, the ability to read emotions. Plus, she's golden. That's the two traits of Malians - superpowers and different skin colours (there are others, but they're not widely known). And like the X-Men, there's an Anti-Malian group about making this difficult for them.

As a result of events, Amber starts up a Lake Michigan Malian Support group (check name) and gets pulled into a revolution of her own. In the process, she gets to know this guy called Jonny Marino, a persuasive Malian who may or may not have an evil agenda.

To be honest, the first one third of the book bored me. And this is from someone who likes slow books! Somehow though, her descriptions of her angst (and her way of coping) due to being a golden girl desired by all guys just bored me. But, the book picked up after she formed her group and I was pulled into the story.

Character-wise, I think it was fine. It definitely wasn't bad, but I'll be hard-pressed to say they were exceptional. I liked Amber and her (regular) cousin Bree, but some characterisations, like Kevin the blue Asian kind of annoyed me. Why did he have to be alchoholic?

One warning, while there is nothing explicit in this book, there is a lot of innuendo. I didn't have to skip any sections, but I was uncomfortable with certain conversations - and I certainly don't condone their morals.

So in conclusion, I'd reccomend this for older teens looking for an X-Men like book.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Hey! My teaser today comes from a book I'm currently reading called Amity and Sorrow. The teaser is taken from the very page I stopped (the first page of chapter 21). Here it is:

"The fields are red mud, wet dough. Rain has filled the playa, turning flat grass beneath cottonwoods to a lake bed where the stilt-legged waterbirds have magically appeared to bend and strut."

What do you think?

Remember, Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, take a two sentence teaser from a book you're currently reading and share it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Arise by Amber Garr (Syrenka Series #3)

I'm at the third part of this blog tour! And I'm really pleased to bring you my review of the third book in this series- Arise. And I'm very sorry, but I have to make one huge huge spoiler when I talk about the plot.



LUCIAN IS EVIANA'S FATHER! Whew, that was easier than expected. Alright, now that you know, let me just tell you, this book is all about Eviana trying to escape from her demented father and fiancee. And I'm glad to tell you that she has finally made her decision about who she loves. I won't name names, but I'll just quote "Instinces may win over some, but the feelings we had for each other took a lifetime to build and that made our connection all that much stronger." So, who do you think she chose?

I think this book had the most plot and the most character development  After reading this, I really admire Eviana and her friends. They're excellent at working together. In addition, this is the first book that alternates from both Eviana and Kain's point of view, which I thought was a really good move.

What I thought was most interesting in this book was the idea of the sea-creatures eating humans. It was mentioned in the previous books, but this is the book where Kain see's the sea-sprites eat humans (well, he chooses to turn away before it occurs, but this is the closest that it ever gets to actual witness). It raises up an interesting question - these are the mermaid's allies, and the mermaids want to protect humans. So, is it worth to make a small sacrifice (of people who don't even know what's going on) to protect the rest of mankind (who also don't know what's going on)? It's an interesting question - what do you think?

The book has a really satisfying ending, and I really enjoyed reading this series. It really should all be read together (none of the books can function as a stand-alone novel), so if you buy the first book, be prepared to buy all three.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of Enchanted Book Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

If you forgot to enter the giveaway, here's your last reminder:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

For a while, I was scared that I read most of the Poirot series, but this book has given me hope that I still have many more left to read(: Death in the Clouds is particularly interesting for me because it involves air travel.

Unfortunately, poor M. Poirot suffers from air-sickness, which is why he was asleep when the murder of Mdm Giselle occurred. In fact, the murder weapon, a blowpipe, was found stuffed in his seat, which is why our dear detective was suspected by the jury! Thankfully, the coroner refused to accept the verdict.

Not because of that, Poirot is drawn into the case. Because the case took place on a plane, both the French and English police are involved. And even when they wanted to give up on the case (push everything to the other country!), Poirot just continued on, frustrating the police force by refusing the share what he's thinking.

As always, I didn't manage to guess who the murderer was successfully. Classic Christie. Her solutions make so much sense, but somehow, I never manage to guess it. To me, this is what separates her from those feel good mystery-fluff (nothing wrong with reading those, I enjoy them too~). In mystery-fluff, I don't bother guessing who the murderer is because there aren't any clues, and the most suspicious people are the ones that the protagonist suspect (then again, these mysteries are always written in first person).

The romance in this book is actually not as heavy as some of the others. Romance is never a primary plot, but it's safe to say that Poirot is a romantic. I would actually like to read about how Poirot meddled in a certain couple's relationship in this book. It feels like it would be interesting.

Yes, the airtravel in this book is dated (unless you don't enjoy it, in which Poirot's troubles are yours), but this is still a very enjoyable read.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dust Angel by Jutta Profijt

Dust Angel is about Corinna, who, after losing her job and boyfriend in the same day, starts up her own cleaning agency. All is going well until one day, she find a dead body in a client's house. This book isn't a mystery, it's just a humourous account of Corinna trying to deal with the body, and the consequences. And with Murphy's law, the day the body is in the boot is the day that you have interviews and other unexpected events occuring.

What was unique about the book is that it's set in Germany. At first, I thought this was going to be another America-Sophie-Kinsella type of book, but the change of location made it feel different. There are no long rambling monologues aimed at explaining the country, but the humour and small jokes make the reader aware of the place we're in.

Another aspect of the book I liked were the characters. Apart from Corinna, there's her grandmother, Troll (friend), Lisbeth (grandmother's friend), which together with her ex-boyfriend and a cast of minor characters form a pretty interesting group. All the main characters have distinct personalities, and are really engaging.

The part I loved most was the process of how she set up her business. As someone interested in business, the trials she went through to set up and promote her business was very interesting and amusing to me. And I suspect that even if you're not the sort that is interested in business, you'll find her stumblings humorous.

But, I didn't quite like the writing style. In the first part of the book (which is written like a recount), it keeps talking about the corpse, only that she refers to it in an oblique way. At first, I was really curious, but after the second time, it just interrupted the flow of the story and felt fairly annoying to me.

All in all, it's quite a good book. I definitely enjoyed reading it.

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

When my dad came, he brought along a bunch of presents, including a book from my bestie Ray (Thanks dear~). She chose Madam Bovary for me, and I'm really excited to read it because it's supposed to be good.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldbeReading. All you need to do to enter is to pick a random two-sentence teaser from a book you're currently reading and share it with everyone. So without further ado, here's my teaser:

How was it that she - she, who was so intelligent - could have allowed herself to be deceived again? and through what deplorable madness had she thus ruined her life by continual sacrifices? (page 205)
Sounds dramatic and awesome! What was your teaser this week?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Betrayal by Amber Garr (Syrenka Series #2)

Earlier, I talked about Promises (link to review) by Amber Garr. Now, this is part two of the blog tour, where I review the second book in this series. (Note: I will try to avoid spoilers, but some are inevitable)

In Promises, the whole "run away with the love of my life" is more or less done. The focus here is on fighting Lucian, the insane guy that wants to take over the world (well, he wants the mermaids to take over the world and rule humans bwahahahaha). The love angle though, just got more complicated, when a cute British mermaid Graham enters the scene.

A good bit of the story centers around Eviana's training, and yes, she becomes more mature. And in something that I rarely see, I think that her love interest(s) actually help her grow up. She's trying to figure out her strange reactions to Kain getting a girlfriend (maybe), she's trying not to betray Brendan by crushing on Graham, etc. Yes, she has to grow up and lead her clan, but I think she really grows emotionally too.

Graham, if you're wondering, is a new character. He's a very, um, interesting character (and powerful). Speaking of characters, her younger sister Marisol does a 180 degree turn with regards to personality. And that is because (you've guessed it), LOVE. This is one of the things that I don't get - the angst in book one seemed malicious, but suddenly, she turns back into a normal girl?

One note of caution though, I'm a prude and on the abstinence camp, so if you are too, you might be uncomfortable with the mentions of sex in the book. There's nothing explicit, but Eviana and Brendan do sleep together (Then he breaks her heart - and I think the fact that they slept together made the heartbreak worse, because she keeps referencing back to that night). I think this also happened in Book One, but this is much more prominent. Again, this is really dependent on your position on this issue. Personally, this alone would make me restrict my recommendation of this book to mature teens and up (maybe even going out of the YA category).

The book ends on a cliffhanger. Despite my reservations about the above issue, I'm really looking forward to what happens next (that's probably because the way the book ends means that the whole pre-marital sex thing is probably not going to be an issue).

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of Enchanted Book Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Like Part 1 of this three part blog stop, here's the giveaway again! Remember to enter~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Long Reads #19

How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed by Marc Brookman - This long, engrossing, occasionally disturbing piece follows a murderer called Andre Thomas. It traces through his family background, to his crime, and finally, to him in death row. After reading this, I just find it sad that Andre Thomas has never gotten the help he needs. And please, when a guy gouges out his own eye, it's a clear sign that he needs medical help, not that he's trying to gain the pity of the jury.

The Princess and the Trolls: The Heartrending Legend of Adalia Rose, the Most Hated Six-Year-Old Girl on the Internet by Camille Dodero - The (really long) title basically sums it up. This is a piece about how Adalia Rose became famous, and then trolled. Adalia suffers from progeria, a disease whose carriers tend to have an average lifespan of 13 years old. That means Adalia is at middle-age. I do understand some trolling (as in the Alvin, Yuki and Zoe Raymond affair - Why on earth did Zoe Raymond intentionally break up an engaged couple?), but this? To a poor little six-year-old girl? That's just sad.

Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Sabrina Rubin Erdely - I've never heard of Kiki Kannibal, but apparently she's an Internet sensation and also the target of some serious web attacks. But the my main reactions was one of pity. It's so sad that she feels that relationships with people she doesn't know (and I doubt it's the kind of relationships built on common interests) are the deepest she has. And also, what were her parents thinking? Creativity does not mean immodesty.

The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains by Nicholas Carr - In a nutshell, we can't multitask. Also, the more hyperlinks a text has, the less content we remember. Now, what does that mean about going to Wikipedia? Hmm.... somehow, this reminds me of ebooks. I wonder if I should do a post about my feelings on ebooks. It might be nice to rant.

A Chinese Hacker's Identity Unmasked by Dune Lawrence and Michael Riley  - Some people think China sends hackers after people/the US. China says they don't. In this article, the former view is taken, and the reader is shown how they track down hackers. Why can't we all just get along?

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food by Michael Moss - Ever wondered why once you start eating snacks you can't stop? (In my case, I may have no appetite, but if you give me a cheesy snack/salt-and-vinegar flavoured snack, I can polish of the whole bag) Well, this article explains why they're so addictive. But looking at the first photo - I want some cheesy Doritos!

A Loaded Gun by Patrick Radden Keefe - Well, looking at this story, I see a protective mom, who kept protecting her (possibly mentally unstable) daughter, who ended up pulling a gun. I wonder, if she was given treatment and medication, would this have happened?

I realised I have more articles than I realised. What have you been reading?

Friday, April 5, 2013

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived by Allan Lazar, Dan Karian & Jeremy Salter

This fun book looks at the influence of the most famous imaginary characters - like Nancy Drew and Barbie for instance.  It is (as it admits), very America-centric, so there were characters that I either didn't know or didn't think should have been included in the first place. But overall, I think the choices were interesting and appropriate.

While they do provide a list of the greatest 101 characters, the book is actually organised by genre. This may make it a little counter-intuitive (I expected it to be by rank). but I suppose it's easier to introduce the characters by genre rather than by "top 10", "places 11 to 20" and so on.

Of course, I know a lot of the characters (Barbie? Please, who doesn't know her? Nancy Drew? Can I squeal?), but there were some I didn't know. Those however, were mostly brand mascots, like Marlboro man (I'm hoping I spelt his name right!). But, I think character mascots are very country specific - for example, who here has heard of Singa the courtesy lion? (From Singapore)

Every now and then, there's a tidbit of information in a side bar, and for a few characters (like Nancy Drew), there are book recommendations! It's given me a lot of books to put on my TBR list.

All in all, I think this is an entertaining and informative book. It's written in fairly short chapters, so it's something you can dip in between books.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lord of Publishing by Sterling Lord

I freely admit that I know nothing about the publishing world, and of course, nothing of the role of an agent. But that didn't get in the way of enjoying this humorous auto-biography.

Lord of Publishing talks of Sterling Lord's career as an agent. It starts with him talking about Jack Kerouc, one of his most famous authors. After that (in chapter two), is the story-telling of how he got into the author-agent business. The first two chapter arrangements felt a bit strange to me (The starting was a bit abrupt at first), but I can see that if the two chapters were switched around, it wouldn't have as much of a hook.

The rest of the book talks about the different types of books and authors that he has worked with, including the time where he declined a former American president's offer to be his representative. Even though I don't read quite some of these genres, they're still fascinating, and offer a glimpse into the world of publishing.

Plus, Mr Lord sounds like a nice guy, with a sense of humour.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was entertaining and educational (well, educational if you want to learn about the publishing industry). In fact, I have a lot more authors that I want to look up now, his passion for the authors he represents is so strong that it made me want to read their works! (Which is probably the best explanation of how he sold their books).

My favourite quote from the book would be this:

"What you should do as early in life as you can is find an occupation or line of work in a field that really interests you. If you get involved and become committed and stay with it, you can live a long time and enjoy it, and have a rich life."

He was talking about his own career, but I think this applies to everyone across all field.

An awesome book, I highly recommend it.

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Promises by Amber Garr (Syrenka Series #1)

Finally a self-aware heroine! I mean, she still has the "most powerful" thing going on, but at least she knows that she's been selfish.

Ok, let me back-up and explain. Eviana is the oldest daughter (and thus next-in-line) to one of the most powerful merfolk clans. That means that she's betrothed to Kain, this pretty nice guy that's in love with her. Unfortunately, she loves another - the Selkie Brendan, and to escape her marriage, they elope.

Unfortunately, she can't run away so easily. Although she was shunned by her mother (shunned = has never existed), her powers are way to strong to ignore. So someone is sent to attack Brendan and steal his seal-skin from him. Without the skin, he's doomed to a long and painful death. In desperation, she has to call the fiancee that she ran away from - Kain (and their friends).

I think it's a pretty powerful testament to how nice Kain is that he actually comes to help her. And I'm glad that by the end of the book, she realises how selfish she has been. (And even got a "shape-up" lecture) The character growth is my favourite part of the novel!

Apart from Kain, Eviana and Brendan, there are a bunch of other characters. There's her younger sister Marisol, who seems like she might turn to the dark side in the later books (rather than just being whinny), there's Carissa, a pretty Japanese mermaid who might have a thing for Brendan and so many more. These are just the good guys mind you. There are also those on the other side, and those that are in-between. In short, there are many many characters.

Because of the introduction of all these characters, the plot was quite short. It's very obviously the first book in a series, because I felt like the character introduction took slightly more precedence than the plot (but here is plot!).

If you like merfolk, forbidden love, and a love-triangle that doesn't quite exist (everyone knows how Eviana feels. Even Kain) you have to pick up this book. I'm so glad that there are more books that don't feel the need for the requisite love triangle - that alone is enough to entice me into reading the other books.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Enchanted Blog Tours blog stop. I was not obliged to give a positive review in any way.

And now, an INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY~ Have fun entering :D
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cover Reveal Party Sunbolt

Hey all! If you don't know by now, I'm a huge fan of Intisar Khanani, ever since I first reviewed her book Thorn. She's an awesome author, and I'm so glad that she's got another book out! So without further ado, the promo post for Sunbolt!

Cover Reveal Party Sunbolt

Today we’re celebrating the cover reveal party for serial novella Sunbolt. The author was kind enough to offer 3 digital ARC copies for giveaway to 3 lucky winners! Scroll down for the Rafflecopter form to participate. 
Here is the gorgeous cover for Sunbolt:

About Sunbolt
Title: Sunbolt
Author: Intisar Khanani
Series Info: Book One of the Sunbolt Chronicles
Book type: Serial Novella

The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she conceals her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to bring down the powerful and corrupt Archmage Wilhelm Blackflame.
When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she has to escape with her life. 

Author Bio

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar is hard at work on two new projects. The first is a companion trilogy to her debut novel Thorn, following the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife. The second project, The Sunbolt Chronicles, is a novella series following the efforts of a young mage as she strives to bring down her nemesis, a corrupt and dangerous Arch Mage who means to bring the Eleven Kingdoms under his control. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find the author online
GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17317370-sunbolt
Intisar’s Website: http://thornthenovel.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/booksbyintisar

Add Sunbolt to Goodreads
Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles, #1)

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

This has to be one of my greatest finds at BookOff so far! I hope that I can find the rest of the books too!

The Mysterious Benedict Society is about gifted young children. When Reynie spies an ad in the paper, he signs up for the "special opportunities", and meets three other children - Kate (an all-round athletic girl), Constance (the most contrary girl every) and Sticky (the human brain - he remembers everything he read). Together, the four of them have to stop the fearsome Mr. Curtain.

I love how the book is so centered on the four kids. To be honest, Constance was extremely annoying for the first part of the book - and yes, the other kids thought so too - but towards the end, I found out why, and then it wasn't annoying. Tada! The other three kids were all likable, and I fell in love with them almost immediately.

Story-wise, it was fine too. I think the pacing was right, and the plot was gripping. It's another one of those book you can't put down, and I honestly wish the book was longer. I think it's the way the kids are characterised - you can't help but want to read more about how they interact.

At the end, there's a quiz as to which character you'll be, and a few codes to solve (like, what is Mr. Benedict's first name?), which I think younger kids will enjoy. Like my little brother, since he loves puzzles (At least, as seen by his interest in Detective Conan and Professor Layton and Ace Attorney).

But, even so, I think this book is suitable for all ages. If you like mysteries, engaging characters and team-work, then this is the book for you!