Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse by Otsuichi

My second Otsuichi book, the first being Black Fairy Tale. While I like Black Fairy Tale better, since you know, fairy tales and its connection to stories, Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse was an equally weird and creepy short novel.

IIn Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse, the protagonist Satsuki (incidentally, it's another way of saying "May", which may or may not have a deeper meaning) is killed by her best friend Yayoi. Did I mention that the girls are only... I think nine? They're seriously young kids. Anyway, kids being kids, Yayoi freaks out, and her older brother (only two years older) decides that the solution is to hide Satsuki's corpse. What follows are the kids moving a dead body around, and lots of close calls.

The end of the tale though, I totally did not expect, and seriously creepy stuff. I do wonder what would happen to Ken, Yayoi's brother if the story continued.

The second tale, Yuko, was much shorter but no less weird. The story follows Kiyone, a maid at a big house who begins to suspect that her master's wife, Yuko, isn't really alive. To be honest, my suspicions and Kiyone's matched up, but at the end, I was left very confused as to who was telling the truth and who was deluded about everything. It really can be read both ways.

Both stories combined still make for a short read, and I finished it in under an hour. I recommend it if you're looking for something different and creepy to read.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Good Faith by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

With a subtitle like "being a Christian when society thinks you're irrelevant and extreme", how can I not read it?

I suspect that I did, however, approach the book differently from most of the audience. For one thing, I'm not American, so I never grew up with the "Christian nation" idea. For another, Singapore is proudly multiracial and multireligious, so living with people who don't share my views is something something that I do consider natural. But, the tensions between the religious and non-religious have been rising lately, so I figured that this book might have something useful. Oh, and this means that I didn't really look at the stats in the book either, so no comment there.

Rather than tell you what to do, Good Faith provides a blueprint ("Love - Believe - Live") and explores how we can use it to engage with the people around us while standing firm for Christ. There is some theology in it, but not as much as I was expecting.

Oh, and by the way, this book also introduced me to Darling magazine, which I really do like. Apart from the no-photoshop thing, the content (covering things from the price of people pleasing to what's in someone's bag and healthy replacement for junk foods) also appeals to me. So there's always that.

But, I did find a lot in this book illuminating, especially the different approaches that they raised. In particular, I really like the discussion on tolerance:
"True tolerance is an ability to acknowledge and permit other people's views. To put up with opinions with which you don't agree. To live with ideas and people you find appalling. True tolerance - some call it "principled pluralism" - is a fundamental feature of a truly free society.  
 But a new definition of tolerance, let's call it "fake tolerance", has emerged over the last decade. It goes something like this: "We will tolerate you as long as your opinion falls within the range of what we deem acceptable." Diverge from society's groupthink on any number of issue, and you are a bigot- or an extremist. In the name of tolerance, fake tolerance is a terrible and ironic counterfeit."
I find that this really resonates with me, and I hope Singapore never loses this spirt of tolerance.

The other thing I liked was their point on how you don't have to have an other half to live a fulfilled life. They were very clear that as Christians, we are to build a family of brothers and sisters in Christ, and that our one purpose is not to get married and have kids. A lot of my friends are getting engaged or in long term relationships, so it's always good to have encouragement that there is nothing wrong with being single, because there are many other meaningful relationships that you can have. I am not defined by my relationship status, and no one should be either.

All in all, I'm pretty happy that I bought and read this book.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

I requested this book mainly because of the word "Tolstoy", not "How to", because me and writing long stories don't really mix (I like reading them, but I can't write them :p). Which is a good thing, because this is less of a how-to book than it is a discussion of the different aspects of a novel.

Richard Cohen takes the reader through the different aspects of the novel, from the beginning to characters to revising and the ending, and even the tricky issue of sex in writing. It's less instructional and more "this is how different writers do things". For sure, he does tell you when he thinks a writer has failed in a particular aspects, but rarely does anything become a rule, probably because you can always find an exception to a rule.

Plus, things are never really clear cut. For example, what is irony? The book has an entire chapter on it, and he talks about a bunch of people's opinions, but it does not end in a conclusion. It ends with his opinion, but it (and a few other chapters) feel a lot like "well, we don't really know, but if it works, does it really matter?" (The answer is no. I think.)

Oh, but if you want to really enjoy this, you should (ideally) be widely read. It's ok if you're unfamiliar with the literary criticism, but if you don't know Lolita, Austen, Madame Bovary, Tolstoy (obviously), then even the quote excerpts won't help much, I think. I appreciated all the different references, but from the few that I didn't get, I imagine it can be quite confusing to others.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I like the tons of references to the classics - it felt like I was revisiting a lot of old friends, and I think the book was written in a very understandable way. Definitely recommended to people interested in literature and books.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

Hello everyone! I hope your week went well(: It was a public holiday yesterday (Marine Day), so I had a great start to the week. Exams start next week though, so I guess it's gonna get pretty stressful soon.

Right now, I'm reading The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. It's supposed to be on the 12 trends that will change the world, and while it's pretty entertaining, it's not as meaty as I expected. I was hoping for more in-depth stuff, rather than a surface introduction. I'm only two chapters in, though, so hopefully that changes!

My teaser:
"A world perfectly fair in some dimensions would be horribly unfair in others. A utopia has no problems to solve, but therefore no opportunities either."
What about you? What is your teaser? (And how is your week so far?)

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!