Friday, May 31, 2013

King by R.J. Larson

If you recall, I loved the previous books in this series. And I'm so glad that the third (and sadly last) book is as good as the previous two!

King is based mainly in Siphra. Akabe, the reluctant king, is desperate to build a temple to the Infinite. But it comes with a price - he must marry an Atean girl. And probably because he was upset that Ela rejected him (how could anyone not see that Ela and Kien were meant to be? Ok, fangirl moment over), he married her. The rest of the book deals with the Atean rebellion against the king (they have a queen that's Atean, why would they want the king to live?)

The queen is the 'new' character in the series, and I think she's actually really well-crafted. I could emphathize with her, although to be honest, I spent quite a lot of time wishing she wasn't so bull-headed. Still, she's young, vulnerable, and abandoned - bullheadness is probably one of the few ways she has to make sure she survives in an antagonist court.

What I liked about this series is that not all the Infinite's followers are admirable. They do a lot of, well I wouldn't say bad, but I would say "things you would disapprove off" like gossiping and such. It makes the world a lot more real to me.

For fans of Ela/Kien, I have really really good news - they get married in this book! (This takes place fairly early on, so this is not a spoiler). Of course, Ela is still struggling with her fear of an early death, because "a silver-haired prophet has failed". And Kien, when we last saw him, he was going to court in the Tracelands, and well, he lost. So the two of them have their own weaknesses, and it's beautiful to see how they mutually encourage each other.

This book has intrigue, romance and action (fight scenes, but nothing very gruesome). It's an awesome ending to a fantastic series!

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ink by Amanda Sun

I'm a huge fan of fiction set in Japan, so I should be thrilled with Ink right? I mean, it has Kendo (that alone could make or break a deal), the lead guy's name is Yuu (my nickname in Japanese) and another character's nickname is Tan (my name). But, after reading this, I can honestly say - if you're looking for Japanese-inspired fiction, you'll be better off with Benjamin Martin's "Samurai Awakening"(link to review).

The only saving grace of Ink was it's premise. I was irritated with the main character - Katie, and I have a few complaints about the Japan in the book.

But do keep in mind (wow, a disclaimer comes so fast!), that I would be stricter with a book like this because I live in Japan, I study here, and I also practice kendo.

Let's start with what I like: I like the premise of the Kami. It's a pun that I think all students of Japanese note, and I was really happy with the concept. I do wish though, that more details had been revealed - the book is unfortunately scant with my favourite part.

Now, about the Japanese part. There is no clear distinction between Japanese and English. There are Japanese words (normally in romaji, but occasionally in hiragana/kanji) thrown in, but instead of adding flavour, it just confused me. So when is Katie speaking in Japanese? When is she speaking in English? She's either way better than she first claimed, or she just happened to make friends who speak exceptionally good English (or at least, speak like a teenager).

About the Japan part - there are references to conbini's (love them!) and such, but most of the book is filled with "YUU TOMOHIRO. I FOLLOW HIM EVERYDAY. AND HE LOOKED UP MY SKIRT CAUSE I CLIMBED A TREE". Ok, the last sentence happened only once, but really early on in the book.

Yuu Tomohiro, if you didn't know, is this very cute male protagonist that reminds me of a manga character. Seriously. The way he's described.... I haven't seen anyone that looks like him (sorry friends). He's cool though, and apparently very good at kendo. The female lead, Katie Greene, is pretty much useless unless you're looking for a witness. But she's "plucky" and that's all that counts right? Personally, I find most shojo manga (girl manga) leads to be much much less annoying than her.

Kendo - the most important part. What I want to know is, how does Katie get so good at Kendo so fast? And why are highschool students doing tsuki? (Tsuki is a hit to the throat, and as far as I know, is limited to university students and above). There's also way too little kendo for my taste. Oh, and why is Katie wearing her bougu so fast? Like, at the end of the novel, she says she's been here "four or five months", and she did not start kendo straightaway. There is no way she could have progressed to bougu stage unless she had prior experience. Or you know, if she trained everyday, but she has two other bukatsu's/circles (clubs). One more thing, why are the senior's helping her remove her "armour" (it's bougu!) - you are taught to put on and remove it yourself. The only time I remember having people help me would be when I'm hyperventilating and can't take it out because my hands are cramped up.

To me, this is a love story with an attempt to throw in bits and pieces of Japanese culture. It could conceivably take place anywhere in the world and I doubt there would be a huge change if it were so. The only saving grace of the novel would be the concept of the kami itself. Personally, I'd recommend Samurai Awakening if you want to read a novel set in Japan rather than this.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

99 Reasons Why Everyone Hates Facebook by Emmet Purcell

Alright Facebook anti-fans, Emmet Purcell is here with a book of 99 reasons why the Facebook of 2013 isn't as good as it once was. And no, this isn't a list of 99 witty one-liners, it's a collection of short sections grouped into chapters. It reminds me of a blog (is there a blog? I would love to read it!)

99 Reasons is a fun, and occasionally thoughtful look into why Facebook evokes complaints - yet still keeps its users. From things like how you have to friend certain people, to Timeline and yes, even Graph Search, this is one of the most up-to-date accounts of Facebook.

I don't agree with all of his reasons (for example, I love Instagram!), but I do agree with his status-section. In particular, the one about self-pitying/emo statuses. I've always thought that anyone who posts a "my life is terrible/I'll never be happy/etc" status than says "oh, you don't understand" or "I don't want to talk about it" is just clamouring for emotion. But that's just me. My statuses all have pictures and are generally "I've just done this!"

I mean, I could post something like "I don't understand why everyone's version of my love life is more interesting than mine sob sob sob" but what would that achieve? I'm not giving details to anyone but my closest friends! And I don't need more interrogations when I actually return to Singapore. So I don't bother posting stuff like this.

Yet while this book mostly rants about the terrible side of Facebook, the author admits that he's still on it. He calls Google+ a ghost town (twice), and while I disagree, I guess it's because he hasn't found a way to actively engage the awesome users here. (I really believe in the Google+ for interests, Facebook for friends thing)

And although I call this "rant" (to be fair, the author calls it a rant too!), the writing style is anything but hateful. It's actually very funny (I don't dare to think of how what kind of impression I made laughing to myself), and it made me see the humour in the things that annoy me.

While I'm still going to be on Facebook (it's how most people make sure I'm still alive - and a lot easier than skyping every day), it's nice to know that there are people who share my complaints with Facebook.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

Woah, I haven't done a Teaser Tuesday in so long! Well, I haven't had many new reads lately (it's a bit embarrassing  but I've been using reviews that I wrote a while back - I have a bunch of saved posts). This is really all due to school and busyness.

But enough about me, here's something about Blood Moon: it's the second in this series about a female serial killer. The book is very fascinating so far, and I'm so glad there's a sequel! So without further ado, the teaser!

"She feels no particular pull to follow them. What they are doing is clearly staged, possibly for her benefit, but it impacts here not in the least, and she is still tired, so tired, not fully recovered from the wounds from the desert, the third near-death experience of her life."

And if you're wondering, the "her" does refer to our killer.

Remember, Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading.

What was your Teaser Tuesday?

Monday, May 27, 2013

How To Analyze Information by Herbert E. Meyer

This pamphlet is an introduction to analyzing information. I picked it up thinking it could provide helpful tips, but didn't help at all (It was all stuff that I already knew).

I can't say anything about what the book says because if I do, I will be be giving away the whole of the book. Since I'm being honest (and since I'm writing an honest review anyway), I'll just continue and say that the book disappointed me. I suppose it's because I was looking for something that could help me write essays (for example, something like "how to spot bias in writing") rather than just tell me generally what I need to do to write an essay (for example: Step Four is 'Determine What You Need to Know')

This book is really for those who have never analysed anything in their life. Actually, thinking about it, it might be best for primary school (I believe the equivalent in sometimes called elementary school) students, it is that simple.

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

Friday, May 24, 2013

College (Un)bound by Jeffery J. Selingo

I'm not sure that I should be reading this book, seeing as I'm trying to adapt to university and need encouragement not a questioning of whether I should even be here, but I read it. And I can sum up the book by quoting the author (this quote comes towards the end of the book):

"I believe additional education after high school is absolutely critical. I still consider a two- or four-year college campus one of the best places to obtain that education. The problem is that a significant number of students today are poorly matched with the college they eventually attend. We lack high-quality educational substitutes for those who are ill-suited to traditional colleges and universities at eighteen. It seems we wend some kids off to college because there is no where else to put them. The campus is a convenient, albeit expensive, warehouse."
So basically, university is good. Except for some people who aren't suited. And the present system sucks. But other than that, it's all good!

Ok, so I'm making it sound a lot more cynical than it is. The author really does believe in the university of tomorrow. The university of tomorrow is online (at least partly) and is extremely personalised. It's also cheaper (I can't argue with that!).

The book is divided into three parts: "How We Got Here" (why it is the way it is), "The Disruption" (forces working to change college) and "The Future" (The Future is Good - apparently). The last fifty or so pages are a list (with descriptions) of "collages of the future" and a checklist that is supposed to help you decide which college/university to go to. Being in a university (and happy in it!), I skipped this last part.

By the way, is there a difference because college and university? I know there is one in England, but how about America? This book is America-centric so I'm not sure if "College" is the accepted term.

And yes, this is, to me, the book's weakness. It's very America-centric. If you're not interested in American Higher Education, you don't need to bother reading this.

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

P.S If you're curious about my university, I wrote a blog post about it here

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Some time back, I read Happiness at Home (link to review). And since I do read things in topsy-turvey (Sometimes), I decided to read The Happiness Project.

The Happiness Project follows Gretchen Rubin as she devotes a whole year (a month per topic) to making herself happier. No, she's not depressed, she just wants to be happier. The result is a personal look at what makes one woman happier - and as she says (I think she said it somewhere in the book), what makes her happy may not make you happy.

And that is certainly true. I don't think I would make myself happier by doing a year-long project (if you like projects though, you can get materials to help yourself at her website - insert link). I do already do some of the stuff she says, like journalling (and the happiness journal is a very intruiging topic) and NaNoWriMo, but I don't think I can string it together.

For me, happiness comes when I don't expect it. Do I choose to be happy? Of course, if I don't, I would be one of those loner-girls. I choose to go to school and present a happy face and energetic countenance  And it does make a difference, I've been told (and not just once) that when I don't smile, I look extremely tired and sad and not myself.

My favourite part of the book may be how she's compiled a list of reading material. Some of the books sound really interesting (yes, she does mention them in the course of the book), and I'll have to go and look for them when I have the time.

While I'm not likely to do a happiness project and start blogging about it, I think this was a worthwhile read. It's was interesting to see how other people dealt with happiness, and pick up things that may apply to me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ooh La La! by Jamie Cat Callan (ARC)

If I had to identify myself as a "country"-phile, I would probably use the word Japanophile. But, that doesn't mean books like these don't interest me! I've never really felt the whole "French women are somehow better" thing that the author seems to feel, but I am interested in a culture of women who have made such an impression that they are perceived as glamorous.

On the whole, I'm quite impressed with this book. I thought it was going to be a beauty and style secrets kind of book, but it tries to go beyond that into helping you live a happier life. And yes, I can sum the book up into one sentence:

Be yourself.

And that really is the whole point of the book. The author talks with different French women of different ages and different personalities, and she gives different tips at the end of each chapter, but the entire book is about finding yourself and being happy in your own skin.

Which is actually good advice. There's this line about expats that struck me: "And so, they are lost somewhere in the middle, never feeling quite at home." That statement hit me pretty hard. It's something that I will deal with for the rest of my life. I know that I will never belong in Japan 100%, even if I'm constantly mistaken for a Japanese. But I also know that even if (or rather, when) I move back to Singapore for good, I will always feel a disconnect because a part of my heart will stay in Japan.

Because of this, the whole "be yourself" message in the book really impressed me. I can't say that I'll be following a lot of her concrete tips, but I will be keeping in mind that I shouldn't try to conform for the sake of conforming - I should be myself, even if that makes me the nail that sticks out.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Free Man Walking by Andy Nieman

Ok, I've thought long and hard about this review, and I've come to the conclusion that the strength of this book is also its weakness.

You see, Free Man Walking is a story of salvation. So by the subject matter alone, it's incredibly interesting. The author Andy Nieman writes very descriptive prose, filled with lots of detail that really helps you imagine how his life was like.

Unfortunately, there is too much detail. The book digresses into different topics, which at times skips forward - kind of like mini-spoilers. As proof, I'd point to the length of each paragraph - it's normally a page (on the iPad iBooks app) or more. That is really way too long, but this might be a preference thing. I really think that a lot could be cut out to make it flow smoothly and with the right amount of detail. This is really a problem of excess, to me, this book has too much in it. It reminds me a little of "Run Baby Run" by Nicky Cruz. The only difference is that "Run Baby Run" is very tightly written, which in turn makes it much more absorbing.

Personally, I think this book would be best as an audiobook. It reads like someone standing up and sharing his testimony. A really long testimony, but I suspect that all the people in the room would stay till the end. One major reason (apart from the narrative style) I think this way is because words are put in CAPS for EMPHASIS.

Now, there's nothing wrong with capitalizing words, but it's done way too often. I can imagine it using as a cue to raise your voice at certain parts of your sentence, but in a book, it comes off as annoying.

What I did like about this book would be the poems/song lyrics at the beginning of each chapter. If it was up to me, I'd use each poem as a starting point for the autobiography. Think of a short chapter explaining the inspiration for each poem. That would be really interesting.

Since I'm doing a good/bad format, I'll end with my last criticism - theology. There are a bunch of things I disagree with, but the biggest one for me was the position that babies have no sin. According to Romans 5 "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sin", "all have sinned", which would includes babies. This is known as the doctrine of Original Sin. Besides, think of the implication of babies being born without sin - if they have no sin to start with, then it's possible to raise a sinless child, which would negate the message of Jesus coming for the whole world.

All in all, I think this is an okay book. I haven't decided if the good points outweigh the bad, but I think quite a lot depends on your personal preference.

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

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bonnie's Story by Janis Hill

Since this book is subtitled "a blonde's guid to mathematics", I thought it was gonna be one of those books that explain math in simple terms. But I was wrong - this book is a novel centered around maths.

And it's not science fiction.

Now that your minds have wrapped itself around this concept, let me get on with the review. To put it bluntly, this book is actually pretty good. It doesn't have any actual maths in it, but it's definitely entertaining.

But the reason I like this book is because of Bonnie, our lead character. She becomes the token girl in a group of geek guys (ok, there's another girl called Clara, but she's actually smart and science-orientated), which is something I could totally relate to. You see, I used to be the only girl in an all-boys robotics club, and was also the token girl (after two years, the only thing that I've learnt was how to clone a simple (part of a) robot. I can't program (I tried in Primary School and it failed), and I probably never will.

In fact, I acted like Bonnie - bossing people around and making them clean up the place. Hmmm.... I wonder if that's what all token girls do.

Well, Bonnie does turn out to have a special gift, but it's not that related to science. And well, since the book is called Bonnie's story, it's basically about how she met her boyfriend Rogan (and by extension, all those science people) and well, a problem that faced them (mind-controlling people after technology that could take over the world. As Kim Possible says "no biggie" - wait, does she say that? I don't know)

Even if you're not a science/math person, you will probably still understand this book. The only thing that you need to enjoy the book is a liking of humour and romance.

Side note: There's nothing explicit in this book, but there are references. That means that I wouldn't recommend this to kids or pre-teens/young teenagers.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Giant Slayer (The Grimm Chronicles #7) by Isabella Fontaine and Ken Brosky

Oh yay! Book 7 of the Grimm Chronicles is out! I'm really loving this mini-series, and since they're all quite short (this book is 88 pages in PDF format), it's like having a mini-treat!

I mean those one-bite treats. Like cookie-dough pops! Ok, I'm gonna stop before I start making sweets that I ultimately give away because I made way too much and won't eat it anyway.

But to get back to the story, The Giant Slayer follows Alice as she leaves the 'safety' of America to go to Hungary (on the way to a fencing competition in Romania . The only catch is that the entire trip is funded by Sam Grayle, that corrupted dwarf. While he's only in the first few chapters of the book, you should know that the fact that he's not the most powerful being in the world bodes very ill for Alice.

While I enjoyed the story, I think that Alice's personal problems are starting to take over the whole Hero thing. There are three fairytales in this story, but due to a prophecy, she's doing some insecure thing that isn't helping her relationship with Chase. I understand where she's coming from, but this makes her more like any other YA heroine that's been appearing nowadays.

Seth, while in this book, also seems to be given less air-time. I really hope to see more of him in the next book. On the bright side, we do see more of Alice's fencing friends, which makes me think that fencing really could be what helps her fit into school.

I really really can't wait for the next book!

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

I was so happy when I started reading this book! I thought it was going to be something like Life on the Refrigerator Door (link to review), but instead of using notes, it would be done through email. But alas, most of the novel is written normally.

But, it's still a really good novel. This Is What Happy Looks Like (henceforth TIWHLL, oh forget it. I don't think I'll need to use the title again) follows Ellie O' Neil, a girl living in "Middle-of- Nowhere Maine", and ultra famous movie star Graham Larkin as they meet for the first time. Previously, they had only emailed one another, which started because of a misspelled email address. So it was really chance that brought them together.

And isn't chance sweet? Both of the characters are so lovable and make such a great pair. Despite being a huge star, Graham is still down-to-earth and is so sweet! (I prefer a nice guy over the misunderstood bad boy). Ellie is really a small-town girl, but she (and her mom) hide a fairly huge secret that blows up in the novel.

From that last sentence, you should be able to guess how the climax of the novel goes. I won't tell you anymore, but you should know that the plot is largely character driven. Personally, I think it really fits the story, but if you need a big plot  (taking over the world, defeating a secret society, etc) you might find this book too slow for your tastes.

This is a very sweet book and I highly recommend it!

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton

As you can see my the title, I'm in the "I'VE FORGOTTEN ALL MY LITERATURE HELPPP" sort of mood. Yeah, it pops up every now and then now that I no longer have literature as a class (I know, I'm weird).

So this book is a sort of refresher course. It's divided into five parts: "Openings", "Character", "Narrative", "Interpretation" and "Value". Of the five parts, I liked the last two the best. Why? Because it was something that I hadn't really considered before. The first three..... well, it would be useful if this is your first exposure to Literature, but if you've studied it before, you might find what he says to be a refresher.

Let's think about "Interpretation". We (my lit classes), used to joke that as long as you give enough supporting evidence, you could argue anything for a piece of text. And Terry Eagleton does exactly that. He interpreted the nursuary rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" into a poem that depicts a power struggle very well, assuming that there are two speakers. If you didn't grow up singing the rhyme, you would probably think "hmmmm he's got a point." If you're like me and have three younger siblings, you'll probably have listen/sung the rhyme so much the first reaction is "yeah right". So which response is right? Well, he spends the rest of the chapter debating the subject. That alone would make the book worth recomending, but he adds on the "Value" chapter.

"Value" looks at the age-old question "What makes a book literary?" This question is way more important than you think, because face it, would you consider Harry Potter literary? (Especially if you think that the Narnia series does). What about Twilight or any similar books?

Lastly, writing style. The author, I think he's trying to be funny. I don't know because his type of humour is not my type of humour. I can see when he's being funny, and I can imagine people laughing, but my reaction is ".... ok". It's really a personal preference thing.

For the discussion in those two chapters alone, I'd recommend the book to Literature students. However, if you're a total beginner, I'd recommend "How to read Literature" or "How to read a Novel" because the writing style is more accesible.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Schoolgirl Cinderella by Priya Narendran

Let's move Cinderella to the modern times. And make her a schoolgirl. That's bascially Schoolgirl Cinderella in a nutshell.

Our 'Cinderella' (Briony), becomes the poor overworked maid when her parents die in a tragic accident, leaving the horrid Mrs Eyres in charge of her parent's school. And since Mrs Eyres was previously fired by her father (shortly before the fatal accident in fact), she can't wait to vent her anger by turning the precious daughter into a maid of sorts.

And for our 'Prince Charming', is the heir to a huge biscuit factory, making him the most elligible bachelor in town (Tom). But when he serendipitously meets Cinderella, sparks fly, and I believe you know the story.

Personally, I really like the re-telling. I think it's quite a good version, if not for one problem - the old 'show not tell' problem.

Maybe it's because this book is written in present tense (It's not exactly my favourite form of narrative - and one I think is very hard to do successfully), but I felt like I was being told how the characters felt and why they acted. That meant that characters that should have been engaging and likable felt like cardboard pieces. And sometimes, I didn't understand the character motivation. Sure, I knew why they did it, but I didn't believe it.

I think that's the only flaw in this otherwise good re-telling.

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

Happy Mother's Day!

Today's Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day mommy! I miss you!

And if you're wondering what I gave her, well, there's a present, but since I was told not to mail stuff back anymore, I "gave" her an e-magazine too.

If you're looking for the link, here it is! Feel free to share this with your moms.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Glove Shop in Vienna by Eva Ibbotson

I say this every time I talk about her books, but I first knew of Eva Ibbotson from her novel Journey to the River Sea (which was a recommendation from a friend. And I remember spending a week's allowance at the travelling bookstore in the canteen just to get my own copy). So quite a few novels later, I found her book of short stories.

There's a really strong Russian-influence in this story. Well, Russia and Eastern Europe. It really does make me want to learn Russian, but I have other classes that clash with this. Perhaps I can take a class next year. But anyway, back to the Russian-influence. A lot of the novels involve a Russian protagonist, or is even set in Russia. If not, it's probably in Eastern Europe, and the last story should be set in England. Quite Europe-ish, if you like that sort of thing (which I do).

And I remember reading this somewhere, but most of her stories revolve around a "great love". That is true. There is always a great love, and sometimes it's tragic, sometimes it's not. You'd think that this would get repetitious, but it doesn't - I loved all the stories. The exception I can think of would be the first story, which is about about the Christmas Angel and growing up. I think that would be my favourite story, because of how much the protagonist learns. And probably because it's not about romance, like the other stories.

It's making me mushy.... But seriously, I'm quite amazed at how this doesn't feel similar to the other YA romances out there nowadays. YA nowadays is very "we're both special (and possible mortal enemies but our forbidden love will triumph".  At least, it's like that to me! But somehow, even if the love is forbidden in this collection, it feels nothing like all the YA novels. If you're looking for something different, I highly recommend this.

If you love Eva Ibbotson's other novels, you'll probably love this. And if you like stories with a European influence, you'll also like this. Give it a try!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ripped by Shelley Dickson Carr

If you could save your parents at the expense of others, would you do so? Would you take the hard right or the easy wrong? This is really the cruz of the matter with Ripped, not the fact that it's a Jack the Ripper murder mystery.

Ripped stars Katie, an American girl living in London. Her parents have died, and her older sister is a famous rock star. So one day, when on a visit to Madame Tussands with her cousin Collin and his friend Toby, she goes to the London Stone and makes a wish.

And suddenly, she's back in the time of Jack-the-Ripper. And this isn't a stuck in the past thing - Katie can go back and forth in time, but only three times. So this is also about using your chances (and your wishes wisely). In Ripper-Era London, Katie is helped/hindered by her cousin Collin (her great great great ancestor), and his half-cousin Tobias (Toby).

Of course, being a modern American girl in London, Katie has trouble fitting in. And in a really interesting move, the author chose to use Cockney slang - like how twist and swirls mean "girls". It really emphasized how out of place she was; even though Cockney slang existed in modern London, not-knowing it then didn't seem like much of a deal.

There is a pretty good twist in this book, and I must say, I didn't manage to guess who Jack the Ripper was in this story. A strong plot, coupled with Katie's desperate wish to change history made for a real page-turner read.

I don't have much to complain about this story. I mean, there is a romance (she's 14! How young are they getting nowadays?), but it was sweet and wasn't in-your-face. All in all, it's a really good book and worth the read.

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz

Some time in the beginning of this year, I read (and really enjoyed), A Tale Dark and Grimm (link leads to the review). So, I searched and found the second book - Through A Glass Grimmly. And it is as good as the first.

Just a note for everyone: if you were expecting a sequel (like me), well, expect to be disappointed. True, the characters are named Jack and Jill again, and they're royal, but apart from that, the storyline is completely different.

Again, the narrator takes us through various fairytales. And I'm super happy to note that Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (link leads to download page at Project Guternberg), which was an awesome poem. Yes, it's a poem (but it's accessible and awesome).

To me, Jack and Jill undergo a lot more growth in this book compared to A Tale Dark and Grimm. In the previous book, Jack and Jill leave because they think they're parents don't love them (I...shalln't give you the spoilers), and so embark on their adventures. But in this book, true, Jack and Jill have issues with their parents (and Jack has issues with about every boy in the villange), but what prompts their adventures would be a quest. And I think because of the quest, there was much more character developement.

There is also one more main character - the talking frog, who serves as the ignored voice of reason. He's an awesome and likable frog though, and in the end, he's the one that enables Jack and Jill to complete their quest successfully.

Finally, the narrator. The narrator makes it very obvious that this isn't a saccharine sweet fairy-tale retelling. But, he also makes it obvious that this book is for kids. So it's not one of those "adult fairy-tale retellings" that seem to be the pre-requisite to turn anything dark, this book recognises that kids can handle dark and scary tales and gives it to them in spades.

I cannot reccomend this book enough. It's awesome(:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How Cool Brands Stay Hot by Joeri Van Den Bergh and Mattias Beher

In Japan and Singapore, we have this trend called "aging population". In other words, the biggest market is/is going to be the slightly older folks. Well, I hear in other parts of the world, it's different and that youngsters are the target market. This book is written to show people how exactly to capture this market.

It turns out that the way to capture this market is through the mnemonic CRUSH:

Self-identification with the brand

The book then procedes to explain each element of CRUSH in detail, with lots of case studies and a summary at the end of each chapter. I must admit, I was impressed by how much evidence the book presents, and how understandable it is.

Well, you may be thinking "If I'm not a business student, I don't really need to read this book." Well, this may be true, but if you're a Gen Y baby, you might want to read this. Because no matter how special you think you are, this book will prove to you that you're not, and that companies are finding ways to persuade you to buy their products.

And before I end up digressing into some "we are all brainwashed by advertising" spiral, let me say that this book stresses that brands must stay true to their brand DNA (what makes them them). So I guess, marketing is not just brainwashing, it's also about finding the brand that fits your personality best.

This book is reccomended for those with an interest in marketing, or for those who want to know why they buy what they buy; remember "know thine enemy"(;

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

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Response to Faith Stories of One Good Catholic Girl

Hi all! If you remember, I reviewed her book some time back, and she's emailed me to explain the parts of her book that I disagreed with. She's kindly given her permission for me to share my email with you, and will be explaining more in a few weeks(:

Dear Eustacia, 
Thank you for reviewing my book, Faith Stories of One Good Catholic Girl, and for your remarks about it. I tried to respond on your blog, but couldn’t, so decided to email you. 
As you say, my book is a primarily a personal account of my Catholic faith. But the section on Original Sin was probably confusing. St. Augustine is the one who sent all the unbaptized babies to hell. Aquinas sent those babies to the “rim” of hell, called “Limbo”.  (Limbus comes from the Latin, meaning edge or boundary, or the “edge” of hell.) 
The point of that section is that, rather than theorizing about where sin came from, it is better to practice decency, care for others, and justice upon which Christianity is based. These guides are in the Ten Commandments, Eight Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount.
Eustacia, your experience with Buddhists is very interesting. Buddhism as practiced in the Pacific Rim may be different than that adopted by Western cultures. I asked my sister again if Buddhists believe in sin.  She has lived in London, England, for 40 years and teaches Buddhism there so her response may be valid in a western experience of Buddhism. Here is what she said, 
“A quick answer would be "No, Buddhists don’t believe in sin.” But we need to qualify that. Buddhism does not have any commandments.
It is based on respect for life and the law of cause and effect. Every action (thought word and deed) will have a reaction,(Karma) There are ethics that are commonly acknowledged in Buddhism--truthfulness, honesty, moderation, non violence, compassion, cleanliness, humility.
Buddhism believes that everyone knows when they are creating value, or negative causes. Bad actions create bad karma, which will affect you in the present or future. Good actions, thoughts, words, deeds create good karma which will affect you in the present or future. Everyone has the potential to reveal their highest life state of Buddhahood immediately in this lifetime. No one can judge another person or understand their karma. We can only help each other reveal our Buddhahood.” 
Eustacia, you are a thoughtful and literate individual, and your blog does a service to your readers.  Keep up the good work! 
My Best, 
Diana Milesko

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Accidental Time Traveller by Janis Mackay

Forget falling into the past, it's time to fall into the future. At least, that's what happened to Agatha Black, the that Saul met. In the middle of the road. With a car coming at them.

With such a dramatic start, and with her seriously old-fashioned clothes, Agatha convinces Saul that she really is from the past. Of course, Saul agrees to help her (Although he's also thinking of a 200 pound history essay competition that he could use her help in). But eventually, the two become fast friends, and well, let's just say it's a happy ending.

I liked both characters, but I think the smartest move on the part of the author was to write the book from Saul's point of view. Sure, it would have been more fun to see how kids from the past view the future, but I don't think it's possible to sustain that over a novel. And how do you find new ways to explain "car" and "popcorn" and other modern inventions? It's more effective to have your other protagonist (the one that's not narrating the book) show wonder and note it all down.

And that, became a writing tip. I wonder if that was the point of the story... Nah, that's me over-analysing.

The book was a decent length (over 200 pages if I remember correctly), and I did like both characters. The supporting characters, on the other hand, felt a bit weak. I would have loved more characterisation. And like most modern (that's 201X era to you people from the past/future) TV shows, the Saul's parents didn't appear much or contribute to solving the problem in any way.

Overall, this is a decent book about time travel (in Scotland - I almost forgot, the book's set in Scotland!)

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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Amity and Sorrow are running away. Well, their mom is running away, and they're bring dragged along. Amity doesn't really care, but all Sorrow wants to do is go back. And what Sorrow wants, Sorrow gets. Or so it has been her whole life. But when their car is smashed in Okalhama, things change.

That, is as much of a summary I can give. It's not a pretty book - the subject matter is actually quite ugly. I think I despised almost all the characters, except perhaps Amity and Dust. But still, I finished this book in record time.

This book was written in present tense, except for the flashbacks. I'm really not a present-tense kind of person, but the book was really captivating and drew me in. After a while, I didn't really notice anything and just let myself be dragged along by the story. Plus, the language really is beautiful (such a contrast to the characters and story), which made me want to read on and on.

The premise of the story is intriguing  and as the book progresses, the backstory is gradually revealed. Like the blurb says, they're running from a polygamous compound  but it also looks at the nature of love and control. This is a book for looking back, and even the ending is not complete. Not all the characters make it out of the past.

It's not the type of book I normally read (I gravitate towards sunny books), but I'm glad I read it.

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

I used to want to go to boarding school. Then last year, I moved into a dorm.

Don't get me wrong, dorm life can be fun, and I do miss it. But I realised that my longing for boarding school was mainly due to Enid Blyton. Enid Blyton and the Naughtiest Girl books. It's a good thing I didn't read First Term at Malory Towers (or at the very least, didn't own the books), because I would have wanted to attend boarding school even more had I read this when I was younger.

And yes, Enid Blyton is dated. She writes about a time that was either before I was born or while I was a little kid. (And yes, my love of trains probably comes from her too! Yay to finding out your childhood influences!) I'm guessing that kids today may not like her boarding school books - they may be too boring. When you're hooked up to the internet, I have a feeling that the Enid Blyton books that have the most hope of appealing to kids nowadays would be The Five Find-Outers (and all other mysteries - mysteries are classic!) and maybe the Far-away Tree.

In other words: this is for nostalgic people trying to look back at their childhood. Like me.

Oh yeah, time to talk about the story. First Term at Malory Towers is the first in the Malory Towers series of books about Darrell (check sp), a new girl at Malory Towers. She's a good girl at heart, but she can be unkind and she does have a temper on her. So there isn't so much a plot as a book detailing the first term and what the girls go through (hence the title).

I love this. This is my childhood!