Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Kite Family by Hon Lai Chu

I had really, really high expectations for this book. I mean, true, I'm not very well-informed on Hong Kong's literary scene (all I know is about Lee Bo), but I have grown up watching Hong Kong dramas. So I figured that I should enjoy this book.

Unfortunately, my expectations were certainly set too high.

The introduction sounded really good, and made me really excited. But the stories... were confusing. It wasn't that they were surreal - I can deal with surreal, it's that I couldn't find a plot. Let me deal with them one by one:

The first story is 'Spoiled Brains'. I had absolutely no idea what it was about. I think it's about immigration?

The next was 'The Kite Family', the titular story. Ok, I sort of understood this one. It's about a family who is genetically predisposed to become extremely obese. I do not get the point of the story though, it felt like it was just describing a family.

The third chair was possibly the one that I liked the best. "Forrest Woods, Chair", is about a man who realises that he was meant to be a chair. Yes, it's weird, but it made sense in its own way.

The fourth story also made sense, which gave me a bit of hope. It's called "Front Teeth", and it's about a lady who has way too many teeth. And the dentist, though I didn't really understand what was going on with the dentist.

Next was "Heartbreak Hotel", which I'd rank as somewhere between "The Kite Family" and "Forrest Woods, Chair". I sort of understood it, but I wasn't sure what it was trying to say. It's about a woman who goes to live in a hotel after the building she was living in collapses.

Lastly was "Notes on an Epidemic", about some strange epidemic for which the cure is social interaction. I got the setting, but not the plot, and definitely not the ending.

While I was reading this book, I had this sense that the author was trying to make a point about Hong Kong society. It's a bit like reading Catherine Lim, only I know what she's complaining/making a point about because she's slightly more obvious and I'm Singaporean, so the references come faster to me. Here, I "catch no ball", as we say in Singlish.

It's a real pity. I was hoping to find a Hong Kong author that I could become a fan of. I guess I'm not meant for Works With A Point (which makes me a terrible ex-Literature student, I guess)

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge

I don't actually know how I stumbled across this book, only that it was in my wishlist in my eNLB account.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight is about Penelope Tredwell, an ultra-talented young author who writes macabre tales under the pseudonym Montgomery Finch. On the day where the actor she hired to be 'Montgomery Finch' debuts in public, she received a letter from Bedlam Madhouse about a strange madness spreading around the patients there, and goes to investigate (dragging along said actor).

As it turns out, there is something strange going on at the asylum. It's no ordinary madness that's infecting the patients. Their ramblings almost seem to make sense...

While this was a really quick read (I finished it in about an hour), I really enjoyed it. At first, I was a little surprised by the ravings of the inmates, because they made perfect sense to me. They'll also make perfect sense to anyone who has looked at a newspaper/watched the news before, so don't worry, I'm not insane.

The ending was pretty unbelievable, but I enjoyed it for the sheer number of authors that appeared in it. Not gonna give any more spoilers.

As for Penelope herself, I thought she was a good protagonist. She's a really precocious kid, and I liked her. She actually reminds me a little of Flavia de Luce, in terms of precociousness, although Flavia's voice is pretty different from her. But the two of them are pretty much trying to navigate the adult world, and they're doing it in their own way.

What I would have liked to see more of would be Penelope's writing process, and how her magazine (The Penny Dreadful), works. But I think this is the start of a series (it feels that way, at least), so I'm willing to wait for more details.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The God's Eye View by Barry Eisler

When I heard about The God's Eye View, I was instantly intrigued. I mean, I embrace our google/amazon/what-have-you overloads as much as the next person, but I am the sort that never turns on location. Even if it means "find my iPhone" is pretty much more or less useless. The God's Eye View is a thriller that basically confirmed that I should be, if anything, even more cautious.

Basically, in the novel, the NSA has built this terrifying surveillance system called The God's Eye View. With it, everyone can be (and probably is) monitored 24/7. However, when news of this system falls into the hands of a journalist, Anders, the director of the NSA, employs more and more extreme measures to shut him up.

Coming into this mess is Evie, an NSA employee who's beginning to have doubts about what she's doing. But when the man who's sent to spy on her falls in love with her... Well, that's where the NSA's plans start to unravel.

The scary thing about this book is that it could totally be real. Actually, I'm pretty sure that the tech companies (Google, Facebook) already employ some form of this, as a way of data mining. We just sign away our rights without reading the fine print.

Apart from the plausibility of this scenario coming to life/already present, what I found interesting about this book were the characters. There were sides, yes, but each side believed that it was right. It's a bit like Cory Doctorow's Little Brother - are you for privacy, or will you give it up to potentially catch terrorists? The villain of the piece wasn't out for world/country domination. He just assumed that his methods were the best way to protect his country.

While the book has a somewhat happen ending (for the time being), the ending also leaves the possibility of a repeat incident happening in the future. When you get drunk on power, and have unlimited access to information, it's too easy to lose your humanity.

And a warning for the squeamish: there are graphic sexual and violent scenes in the book. I had to skip quite a few pages myself.

Overall, a well-written thriller, and one that will probably make the reader paranoid (or even more paranoid) about having her movements tracked. Looks like just not turning on the GPS isn't enough.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves is about Josephine Montford, a well-bred girl who has secret dreams of becoming a reporter. But when her father is found dead, her curiosity leads her down an increasingly dangerous path. Trying to stop her from going into danger is a newsboy called Eddie. And pulling her back to her old world is her beau Bram, who she doesn't really love, but has an obligation to. (Bram isn't a bad person, he and Jo are friends, but she's not in love with him)

I really like mysteries, and was excited-but-hesitant for this book because it had two elements that could have turned me off: one, an unconventional-for-her-time protagonist, and two, a love triangle. The first because I didn't want to be pulled out of the story due to a 21st century character stuck in the past, and the second because insta-love and love triangles aren't really my thing. But these two things were done really well, and they actually increased my enjoyment of the book.

For one, the unconventional thing, the book starts off by letting us know that Jo has access to the writings of progressive reporters, and has secret dreams. Plus, she constantly struggles between following her heart and society. It's not a straight line to disowning her heritage, but instead, she continually falters back. It might be annoying for some, but I found that her actions made her more believable and sympathetic to me. After all, it's easy to want to be different, but when you actually have to act that way, the status quo is going to feel safer.

As for the second point, the romance isn't instantaneous, and it didn't dominate the book. It was a vital part, but the emphasis was clearly on the murders and the investigation. Also, Eddie and Jo was a couple that I am definitely rooting for. I think they'll make each other better, and they have really great chemistry (I didn't think I would type these words :p)

The supporting cast of characters was also very varied, and I liked a lot of them. So two thumbs up🏼 for that too.

Despite the fact that this had one hundred chapters, it really flew by. Part of it is because the chapters are short, but I think the pacing of the book was well done too. If you like murder mysteries, you'll enjoy this. Totally worth reading.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Snoopy: Party Animal by Charles M. Schulz

I'm actually not sure what there is to say about this. It's a collection of Snoopy comics. If you're a fan of the beagle, you'll probably enjoy it. If you aren't, well... you might still enjoy it. It's Snoopy after all.

Most of the strips are standalone stories, so I can't really comment on that either. There are a few which deals with one of the kids getting a cat, and Snoopy's reaction to it. In general, I enjoy all the comics that involve Snoopy writing. I'm not actually familiar with the human characters, so those didn't hold my attention as strongly.

As for the non-comic bonus content, this is supposed to have a "pull out poster", "flip book animation", and I did see a partial origami instruction (I assume the final book will have everything).

I did enjoy reading this, but I don't have much to say about it. It's a Snoopy comic - by this time, it's unlikely to win any new fans, unless you're talking about introducing it to children. If you're already familiar with the comics, you can more or less predict if you're going to enjoy it.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - Turtle Recall by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs

Happy Tuesday everyone!! I hope you all had a great start to the week :D I think it's supposed to be officially spring, but as someone from the equator, I'm a little reluctant to get rid of my coat. I definitely don't need my scarf though!

Right now, I'm sort of juggling three books at once. One is The Kite Family, which I originally wanted to quote from until I realised the publisher requested no quoting, one is a Japanese light novel, and one is Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion... so far by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs.

Yes, it is weird to be reading the companion from front to back, but it's so funny and it's making me want to read Discword even more!

My teaser:
"Wheresoever two or three are gathered together, someone else will turn up and try to sell them something hot in a bun. This person will probably C.M.O.T. Dibbler."

I'm actually pretty sure this is a quote straight from one of the books, but it's still funny to me.

What is your teaser?
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Jenn of Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Reading Challenge: Once Upon A Time X

I was reading The Written World's blog, and found this challenge! Obviously, I have to sign up, right? It's about fairy tales and mythologies and I'll take every excuse to read more! This is apparently the tenth year the challenge has been held, so I suppose I'll be metaphorically slapping myself ten times for not knowing about it earlier.

This challenge is, (if I'm reading it right) from today till June 21st. It's hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings (THANK YOU SO MUCH). There are a bunch of quests (and a very low-pressure version, called The Journey) that you can sign up for, and I think I'll be signing up for two.

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

Read at least one book from each of the four categories. In this quest you will be reading 4 books total: one fantasy, one folklore, one fairy tale, and one mythology. This proves to be one of the more difficult quests each year merely because of the need to classify each read and determine which books fit into which category.
I'm really, really excited about this! Now to go and check out the NLB's ebook catalog and see what there is that I can borrow(:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tea: The Drink That Changed the World by Laura C. Martin

Let me count the tea-related things I have in my house. I have two bags/boxes of Mlesna tea from my favourite tea shop in Tokyo (specially requested from a friend), I have mulberry tea from Kaogshima, I have the ANA limited edition loose-leaf tea set, and I have the Lotte Milk Tea Chocopie. I even considered buying this overpriced Book of Tea, which is a mook that has 50 samples of tea. Or at least, I considered it until I saw the price. I think it's safe to say that I really, really like tea. Which is why when I heard about this book, and realised it was on Scribd, I had to read it immediately.

This is a non-fiction account of the history of tea, focusing primarily on its history in Asia. The later half does talk about its history in Britain and America, but in not as much detail as in China and Japan, which I thought was a refreshing change of pace. Apart from the historical account of tea, the appendix includes instructions on how to make tisanes, brew a cup of tea, about the types of tea and what time of day different types of tea are best drunk at.

I found it all very interesting, and among other things, I found out that 'low tea' is considered more high class than 'high tea'. Basically, low tea is served on the low tables next to couches and high tea at the dining table. The name comes from the type of table it's served on, rather than the 'class' of the company that is kept. I guess we've been using the word wrongly in Singapore all the while!

And by the way, even though I really love tea, after reading about how tea aficionados can tell where the tea comes from by taste, I feel like I still have a lot to learn about it! Perhaps my tea-lover status should be revoked? I mean, I can tell between the different types of tea, though the variants of green tea are a bit difficult for me (I can tell matcha and non-matcha, and that's it. Black tea vs green tea vs Chinese tea vs Rooibos etc is all fine, because they all taste so different).

This is definitely a good book, and one that I would buy in a heartbeat if I saw it at the bookstore. (assuming a reasonable price) The appendix alone is probably worth it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore by Jane Carter Barrett

This book was pitched to me as "The Princess Bride meets Jane Austen", so obviously, I had to request this and read it. It's what any sane person would do, right?

Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore is an intentionally anachronistic, intentionally funny book about Lady Antonia Barclay, who discovers that she's actually the long-lost daughter of Mary, the Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, the evil Sir Basil and his bumbling henchman of a son, Rex wish to use her as a stepping stone to becoming royalty. It's up to Mr. Claymore, Antonia's love-at-first sight to rescue her.

I must admit, this book and I did not start out on the right foot. Sure, the opening line was clever, but the first few pages felt like it was being forced to be funny. I suppose fashion anachronisms don't elicit laughs from me because I'm not a fashionista (not by a long stretch). But more importantly, the characters felt like they were caricatures rather than actually characters that I could root for.

Thankfully, as I read on and got used to the over-the-top style of the novel, I started to enjoy myself. Antonia turned out to be a sassy heroine with tons of courage, and I was rooting for her by the end of the book.

In fact, the over-the-top nature of the book actually helped me enjoy the romance aspect. Everyone who regularly reads this blog will know that I'm not a fan of instalove, which this book has in spades between Antonia and her Mr. Claymore, but the over-the-top nature of this book made me just laugh and go along with it, rather than sighing and wondering why anyone would assume this is a plausible reason.

While I can't really find any resemblance to Jane Austen, this book is an extremely light-hearted and humorous read. If you can accept that this book is going to be extremely exaggerated from the get go, you'll probably be able to enjoy this book. If you're looking for a book that plays up aspects of romance novels, and you want to read about a heroine that hates balls (being not a party girl, this helped a lot in getting me to like Antonia), then you should pick up this book.

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

P.s. Check out the next blog to in this blog tour: A Frugal Life

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Hey everyone! I hope your week is off to a good start :D I thought I wasn't going to go all-out for the job hunting season, but it looks like I was wrong. I've been wearing a suit for three days straight, and I have one more day to go before I can take a breather. I just hope that I can last the entire three months!

Right now, I'm reading These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. I can't remember who recommended the book (if it's you, let me know!), but I think it was someone from one of the blogs I'm following. It's a historical mystery, and I'm loving it so far (I'm about half way through).

My teaser:

"Words would make whatever was between them real. And as soon as it was real, it was over."

How about you? What are you reading this week?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Jenn of Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sixteen Sunsets by Mark Gardner

Time for another book review by one of the WriteOn members - Mark Gardner. He's been really helpful in giving advice, and when he asked me if I wanted to read his latest book, I readily said yes.

Sixteen Sunsets is about (I think) Kristof, who has cancer and only sixteen days to live (hence the sixteen sunsets), and Joaquin, a young criminal. Both of them aren't completely human - they both have super powers of their own. Joaquin has some sort of impervious skin, and Kristof... has his own special powers. The story starts when Kristof gets his dreadful diagnosis, and rapidly introduces a whole host of characters.

I think this book is going to be the start of a series. When it finished, I felt like the stakes were finally set. For most of the book, I was rather confused as to who was on what side, and what did each of the sides want? That was basically my main reason for continuing to read - I wanted everything to eventually make sense. Plus, the premise was interesting, and I liked the secret history that Anne revealed.

Oh yeah, Anne. Anne was the most interesting character to me (Sorry, Mark, I wasn't too fond of the two male leads). As the character with possibly the longest history, Anne's take on how things actually went down was what I enjoyed reading the most. I'm not too sure about what I think about her at the ending of the book (no spoilers, tough), but for most part, I found her fascinating, even though I never want to meet her, ever. She and the powerful little girl, Bree, scare me. By the way, Bree is another interesting character - she only really pops up at the end, but if I continue to read on, it'll be because of her.

By the way, this book contains fairly explicit descriptions of violence and lots of swearing. For the faint at heart, this might not be for you.

Overall, this was an interesting start to the series. I wish the book continued a little longer, because to me, the stakes only felt real at the end, but I suppose that's all part of Mark's plan. I guess now that we've got a sense of the characters, there's no choice but to read on and find out what happens.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a free and honest review. I did try my best to be impartial, but as I said in the start, I am kinda biased.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille Guiliano

Since I've just entered job hunting season (I even had an all-day event today), I thought this would be a good book to read (who am I kidding, I was reading job hunting books even before the season. Even before I entered university, probably). Plus, it actually kept my attention past the first chapter in a "my Scribd membership is expiring and I have too many books to read" sort of reading death match, where everything that did not catch my interest by the first chapter got filed for "when I'm back in Singapore".

Anyway, Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire is meant to be a handbook to women just starting out, to help them navigate the tightrope that is work and life. It's basically full of anecdotes from the author, about her career in the wine business, and what they can mean for the reader.

Personally, I liked the book. I found it engaging, and I liked the author's tone. A lot of what she says makes sense, especially about goal setting and priorities. In particular, the line

"Your heart should be in your work, but that doesn't mean your work has to be something you have always loved."
caught my attention, because a teacher once said something similar. Actually, what my teacher said was "your ideal industry is almost always different from what you think it is, so don't stick to it so closely". I think I like this way of putting it better than my teacher. I mean, I love reading, writing, piano, but I'm not at all of that (i.e. piano), and in fact, what I'm hoping to do in the future is something related to Industry 4.0/Industrial Internet. That's actually pretty broad, so I'm hoping I can find a job that interests me.

Towards the end, she talks about things like the differences between men and women in work, and well, I'm not so sure about that. Other parts of the book, like wining and dining in business, may not be as useful to me, since Japan has a fairly unique dining culture. Although I think with globalisation, what she says is probably going to make sense sooner or later.

Overall, I think this was a good book for me to read at the start of the job hunting season. It managed to calm me down, and remind me to be more selective when picking which events that I want to go to.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Candyfreak by Steve Almond by Steve Almond

Before I read Candyfreak, I thought I liked Candy. After reading this, I realised that I am far, far from a Candyfreak. Steve Almond is clearly the master here.

Candyfreak is basically about this guy's love story with candy, and about the underdog candy makers (I.e. The companies that are not Nestle and the like). Which is probably why I don't recognise most of the candy here. There's something called the Idaho Spud, there's a Big Hunk, and all sorts of candies that I don't recognise. Clearly when I went to the US, going only Walmarts and Targets meant that I was limiting myself.

But after listening to Steve describe the candies that he ate, I want to try them all! I especially want to try Valomilk!!

Image from Wikipedia

Valomilk is basically a marshmallow cream in a chocolate shell. I imagine it's like Reeses but with marshmallows instead of peanut butter.

I want to try one so badly! But apparently it's only available in some areas of the US, and they don't even deliver to certain regions if the weather is too hot. I don't even know if it's still around, since the book was probably published quite a few years ago.

Anyway, the book has an extremely distinctive conversational style. I find it amusing, but I can imagine some people finding it annoying. But I liked it - it felt like a friend was telling me stories. It was all very amusing, and without you even noticing it, bits and pieces of information - how a candy is made, the history of a company - is slipped into the text. I think I learnt something, though right now, my craving for sweet treats is the most dominant emotion.

If you think you like candy, give this book a go. You might discover that you don't know as much as you think. And if the author didn't live in the US, I'd be tempted to send him some of the bake-able kitkats just to see what he thinks.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

I think I got this book last year, but for reasons unknown, I never got round to reading it. Very strange, especially since I loved The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, and the Books of Bayern series in general. But, no worries, since I remedied the problem by finishing this book on the way to and from Dazaifu.

The Book of a Thousand Days is a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale Maid Maleen. Basically, a servant girl called Dashti has been locked up with Lady Saren, as her Lady refused to marry a different Lord. But her Lady seems to be having problems, and she makes Dashti pretend to be her when some other Lord (whose suit she accepted) comes for her. After a few years, they escape, and get to the other Lord's place. But the story isn't over yet (of course).

Throughout this story, while I was reading the names and looking at the illustrations, I thought, this looks a lot like the Manchu style and while I wasn't completely right, I was close. The customs were based on ancient Mongolia. How cool is that?

Another thing I found interesting was the character of Lady Saren. She's not a brat, but she's not brave like Dashti. Instead, she seems to be very trouble, psychologically. She made me think of another book, which I had to Google for just to find the title. Turns out it's The Phoenix Dance by Dia Calhoun. At any rate, I found her to be an interesting side character, although she doesn't seem to develop very much.

Plus, Dashti is totally a protagonist I can root for. The book is told entirely through her point of view, and her loyalty to someone as child-like as Saren is admirable. Plus, she can sing and her singing is powerful! (Not gonna say more, in case I accidentally something away).

As expected from Shannon Hale. After this, I need more fairy-tale retellings, STAT. Although sadly, The Phoenix Dance doesn't seem to be available for lending.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The God's Eye View by Barry Eisler and 謎解きはディナーのあとで

It's Tuesday! And I have a cold, I think. Most of the symptoms have been successfully suppressed with medicine, but I have an awfully dry throat now (and oddly enough, no drowsiness, despite what the label said).

Right now, I'm reading The God's Eye View by Barry Eisler, a novel on surveillance. I'm only two chapters in, but it's off to an exciting start.

My teaser:

"The outfit was ostentatiously stylish in the corridors of NSA, especially during shirtsleeves summer, but Anders supposed the look had its merits - chiefly that it at least partly disguised the fact that once upon a time, Delgado had earned a reputation as a technology-savvy killer for various East Coast crime organisations, both foreign and domestic. 
That had been ten years ago, when Anders had warned him about and ran interference with the FBI task force looking to put him behind bars."
Another book that I just finished today is called è¬Žè§£ãã¯ãƒ‡ã‚£ãƒŠãƒ¼ã®ã‚とで or Problem solving after dinner. It's a crime series that was turned into a drama (and a movie) in Japan. Basically it's about a rich heiress who's also a police officer, and her butler, who's way better at solving cases than she is. It's really funny, and the book makes me want to watch the series. The teaser (for those who know Japanese):

Basically, in this scene, Reiko (the protagonist) has accidentally damaged an expensive car, and (this is where the quote starts), she goes to the man driving it to apologise and ask about the damages. The man estimates it to be 700000 to 800000 yen, but the reveal is - she owns the car, and this is her new butler.

Oh, and the 「」 marks are actually quotation marks for speech! That gave me quite a shock the first time I saw it!

What is your teaser today?
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World by Tristan Donovan

Fizz: How Soda Shook Up The World is a history of soft drinks. I used to drink that quite a lot, but after I moved to Japan, I switched to tea and water. Much healthier hahahaha. But still, I was curious to find out the history of soft-drinks.

First off, I had no idea that soft drinks started as carbonated water. Apparently there was an idea that it was good with you. Then people added flavourings. For a while, it was like medicine (Coke started off as medicine, for one). Then it was a treat. And now it's an everyday drink. Although come to think of it, when I was a kid, I think coke (with all the bubbles beaten out of it) was occasionally used as a medicine. I think it was for cough?

I thought it was fascinating how far the influence of soft drinks reached. In particular, Coke, Pepsi and politics. It even spilled over into the race into space.

While the book starts in Europe, most of it takes place in America, since that's where soda was adopted most rapidly. After the war, there's a brief excursion into Japan and other countries. But mostly, it's very Western (particularly American) centric. Well... Looking at the subject matter I guess there's no choice.

I've actually read a related book before - Secret Formula by Frederick Allen, which was an extremely interesting and detailed look into the history of Coca-Cola. I remember saying, in my review for the book, that everything unrelated to coke was brought in only when it affected coke. Well, this book is more about the broader picture, and coke is but one of the many companies it talks about. Fizz is more like a broad look into the soda industry, though in the later half, when companies began to form, it seems to focus more on the leading companies.

So depending on what you're in the mood for, I have two books for you.

If you want a general look at how soft drinks took over the world, read Fizz. If you're a Coke person and you want to know more about your favourite company (as well as all the company politics!), read Secret Formula. Both books are interesting and easy to read.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber

During the early days of this blog, I had this huge Debbie Macomber reading addiction. I actually tagged books with her name, and I almost never tag books with author names (my tagging system is very strange). I loved the The Shop on Blossom Street, and I even own one of her knitting pattern books. Needless to say, when I saw her new book on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

A Girl's Guide to Moving On is a novel about Nichole and Leanne, a daughter and mother-in-law learning how to, you've guessed it, move on after divorcing their husbands. Leanne has put up with her husband's philandering ways for many years, but she's had enough. Nichole has found out that her husband takes after his father in the less savory aspects, and she's not willing to put up with it. As the two live on their own, they draw up a list of guidelines to help them move on.

And this is the backstory. The story really starts when Nichole meets a tow-truck driver called Rocco, and we find out about Leanne's ESL student Nikolai. Yes, this is a love story (and about moving on. Really).

Ok, should I go with the good or bad first? I think bad news first.

The bad news: the start of this story did not work for me. Because the story was in first person, Nichole's summing up of the events felt like someone giving a lecture. It was basically an info-dump of everything that I told you in the second paragraph of my review, but with more detail. Not the best way to bring me into the world.

That's what I didn't like. Now for the good parts.

This is a uplifting and encouraging read. I really, really enjoyed it. I basically picked it up after a really tough exam that I'm still pretty sure that I'm going to fail, and I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. After the awkward first few chapters, I found that I loved the characters, and very surprising for me, love the romance story. I was totally rooting for Nichole and Rocco the whole way, and yes, Leanne and Nikolai too. (Although Nichole and Rocco are what my sister would call "my OTP ship" or something like that. I'm not up to date, ok?)

If you like Debbie Macomber, you'll probably enjoy this book. I certainly did, even though for a while, I had serious doubts about it.

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Hey everyone! How's your week going? How did you use that extra one day of the year? I was reading, so it was definitely a good use of time. Job hunting season in Japan starts today (I believe Japan and Korea are the only two countries that use a system of hiring new graduates in the same time period. So it all has a schedule), so I guess the coming weeks and months will be busy for me.

Right now, I'm making my way through The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Apart from the fantastic storyline, I love all the references to Chinese history. I'm probably missing a lot, but I caught quite a few!

My teaser (sorry, it's three sentences today, because of the impact of the last sentence):
"Their brief moment of merriment was interrupted by the sound of shouting men and clashing swords in the street. The gates to the mayor's house flew open, and a blood-soaked Captain Dosa stumbled in, his body pierced by arrows.  
Mata was here."

How about you? What is your Teaser this week?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!