Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling

I've been trying to figure out what this book reminds me of, and I finally got it. It reminds me of the Taiwanese dramas I used to watch - like Magician of Love, Meteor Garden, It Started With a Kiss, etc. I would be squealing throughout the whole book, occasionally have to stop for a while, but would still watch the next episode. The romance in the book (and the heroine) reminded me exactly of this.

The Ugly Stepsister is a twist on the Cinderella story. Kat, a gangly bookworm, accidentally rips a book and falls into the Cinderella story - as the ugly stepsister! But things are strange - Cinderella has a mother, her sister is a beauty, and Kat might just be falling for the prince (and vice versa). Can she still get a "happily ever after", which will allow her to get back home?

To be honest, I totally saw the romance coming, and at first, I didn't like it. I like the idea of Cinderella ending up with her prince, and I thought it would be more original if Kat selflessly helped Cinderella (she can fall for the Duke or some other guy if she wants, he's another awesome character). But, the romance slowly grew on me, and by the end of the book, I was rooting for the Kat/Prince and Cinderella/her own OTP (not telling, that would be spoiler-ish).

Part of the reason is because the romance between Kat and the Prince was developed well (and because Kat really did her best to give Cinderella her happily ever after). I liked that Kat didn't just concern herself about getting out, but also worked to improve the kingdom, by curtailing child labour. And it's through this that she starts to fall for the prince (and vice versa), which won me over. What can I say, having them bond over a common activity, which improves society, is a very effective way of getting me to support this relationship.

Apart from Kat, the Prince and Cinderella, there's also a cast of supporting characters that I really liked. I think my favourite was Krev, the goblin and Poppy, Kat's new friend. The fairies were... ok, I guess. I liked Krev better, but then again, he was in the story from the start. The step-mother and other step-sister, villains that are real villains.

All in all, this was a really fun read. It was a fun twist on the Cinderella story.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Unstoppable by Gigi Stetler (Review + Guest Post)

When I first heard about this book, I was instantly intrigued. Since I'm a business student, stories of women succeeding in business, especially in male-dominated fields, are the inspiring boosts that I love reading about. At first, I thought I was going to be reading a part-advice, part-memoir book, but as it turns out, I was wrong.

Unbreakable is a memoir by Gigi Stetler, and she has been through really tough stuff. Her home life has never been good, and every time she becomes close to success, someone betrays her, and she has to start from scratch. I don't know about you, but if that happened to me, I think after two, maybe three times, I'd just give up. But even though Gigi encounters setback after setback, she never gives up.

To be honest, there's very little business-related advice in here. Yes, Gigi does talk about her various ventures, and how she seizes on opportunities, but if you're looking for broad guidelines, well you're out of luck.

Overall, this was a riveting memoir written in a conversational, easy to read style. It's an inspirational read, and a reminder for us not to give up. Today, Gigi has written a guest post on her philosophy, "Work to Learn, Don't Work to Earn". I hope you enjoy it!

Work to Learn, Don’t Work to Earn
By Gigi Stetler

Graduation season in full swing, which means thousands of new grads will be turning in their caps and gowns for suits and ties—if they’re lucky. But whether they have a job lined up or are still on the hunt, my top piece of advice for success: work to LEARN. Don't work to EARN. This way, you can get everything you need to be successful in a business of your own.

As an unfortunate 10th grade dropout I needed to navigate my own path to success, and that did not come easy. But the key ingredient that led me to success was my determination to be successful at any cost.

The first and most important skill I learned at a young age was sales. I learned to sell anything and everything from school candy to time shares, and everything in between. Looking back, it wasn’t how much money I was making that made a difference. It was the experience that I gained from dealing with so many different kinds of people, learning how to satisfy their needs and creating good customer relations skills that I still use today.

Moving into my mid-teens, I jumped into the world of retail, soaking up every bit of knowledge that an entrepreneur needs to be successful. That meant taking a job as a cashier at K-Mart and earning minimum wage. After just a few weeks—and a lot of hours—I found myself filling in shifts in all departments, because other employees weren’t showing up. I wasn’t trying to make this a career for myself, but I knew it was an opportunity to gain experience in the real world, and that’s something you don’t learn at school.

It’s significant to note that when you obtain a degree, you pay thousands of dollars for very little on-the-job experience. Most likely, you still have to intern or work for minimum wage. Whatever your career aspirations, you have to understand that when you start out in the job market, you’re not going to be earning much anyway. But, if you’re smart, you’ll be learning—a lot. Take full advantage of these early years and soak up every piece of knowledge you can find. Get as close as possible to high ranking individuals. Stay late. Ask questions. And most importantly, learn from all the mistakes that others make, so that when you move forward, you’ll know what NOT to do—and how to do it better. It may be difficult, and it may take time, but eventually, you’ll earn from what you’ve learned.  

Gigi Stetler is an accomplished businesswoman, entrepreneur, and single mother. The owner of RV Sales of Broward in south Florida, she built the business from the ground up to become queen of a male-dominated industry and entirely redefine its business climate by establishing an all-new RV timeshare program, the RV Fun Club. As an accomplished equestrian, Stetler has turned her love of horseback riding into a business venture by creating Riding in Style. She has also developed her own all natural supplement line, Solongpain. Stetler continues to rewrite the rules…while writing another book.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge

My Teaser Tuesday this week is a book that I started reading today (and look at how I totally skipped the intro paragraph :p)

Because I'm also reading a rather heavy non-fiction book, I thought that having a fast-paced read would be a escape. And because I had to prepare for a presentation today, I was really in the mood for something gripping and fast paced. 

My teaser: 

"Emilia had crime in her blood. The eldest of six children, she had become famous when her drug dealer dad was sentenced to eighteen years imprisonment for using his children as drug mules." 

What is your teaser this week? 
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. 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!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

This really tense read made me so emotional, although I'm not sure if I reacted the way I intended to. It's conflicting, to say the least.

You see, The Far End of Happy is about a suicide standoff. On the day that her Ronnie's husband, Jeff, is supposed to move out, he turns a gun on himself and threatens suicide. Over the course of one day, Ronnie, her mother Beverly, and Jeff's mother Janet, are there, waiting for something to happen. Of course, in a standoff, there's really not much to do but wait, and we see, from the three women's perspective, not just what's going on, but what happened in the past, leading up to this.

And for me, any time an author brings in multiple POVs of the same issue, most of the time the aim is to show you how complex the issue is. I think this is supposed to be a story about how even the match made in heaven can slowly disintegrate when there is no honesty/when certain problems (not allowed to say because spoilers) appear.

But my reaction was mainly "wow, Jeff is definitely the one at fault. And his mom too. Janet needs to wake up and realise how lucky she is that Beverly and Ronnie still love her." Seriously. No matter who was speaking, Jeff just came across as unlikable, manipulative and selfish. Did I mention manipulative? It may because I have this weekly class that's about employment, but is really a "this is how gender inequality still exists in the workplace", but Jeff's attitude and actions towards Ronnie's attempts to use her journalism degree (something she likes) for something just screamed "STAY AWAY". Making her give up her dream? check. Making her take his dream? check. Putting down her attempts to write? check.


And Janet wasn't better. She spends most of the book complaining about Ronnie and how she's the one responsible for pushing her precious boy to the edge. And the more I found out about Jeff, the less sympathy I had for her.

Oh, and am I the only one that finds the 12 year age gap disquieting? I mean, Ronnie and Jeff are supposedly the perfect couple and all that, but pairing them as childhood sweethearts with such a large gap just makes me go ew. And it's hard for me not to assume that everyone was rooting for them since the start, especially when there are passages like these (don't worry, this doesn't contain a spoiler. Oh, and I took out all the "she said" stuff and interruptions, so it's just the story):

"Back when he was eighteen, your father came home to tell us about his first year at college. Your mom was only six and had beautiful ringlet curls... Little Ronnie's skirt was stiff with petticoats and she had on white anklet socks and patent leather shoes... and she crawled up on your daddy's lap and turned his face towards hers as if no one else was in teh room, because she adored him. And she loved him so much she had you two boys..."

I'm sorry, but this sounds like Ronnie was a child bride, even though she is not. Stuff like this makes it very hard for me to even start to understand Jeff and his mother, much less feel sympathy for either of them.

Assuming this isn't one of those "there are no right or wrong, just two points of view" sort of books, then this is a really well-written book about how monsters can gradually appear, and how standing up yourself means standing up for yourself, not compromising in order to "save" someone who can't be saved.

If I was rating this by stars: I'd give this a four, because it's excellent and made me feel so much. I'm obviously not a fan of Jeff or Janet, but this book did keep me in its grip, and I was very much satisfied by the ending.

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