Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Hey everyone! My mom announced a last-minute trip, so I won't have access to my computer for a while. So, I figured I'll take the chance for a blogging break till the New Year for a blogging break (unless I get time in between Christmas and New Year).

In advance,


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Time Bandit Solution by Edward G. Brown

I requested this book because I really need to manage my time well. What I got was a book that was about time management, but focused on time management in the workplace. Oops.

To summarise the Time Bandit Solution, to manage your time, get rid of distractions by time-locking. What is time locking? It's setting aside a period of time where you are not interrupted by anything. The first part of the book was basically about how you can convince your bosses, clients and colleagues how to let you organise your time so this is possible.

While it was rather repetitive at first (especially since I was convinced of the benefits early on, and didn't think the rest was applicable), the last part of the book was slightly better. The author went on to talk about decision fatigue, scheduling, and all that. While I don't think I'll be using his focusing meditation exercise, I did manage to pick up some helpful tips about how to schedule my time.

I do have a thought though. Other books I read say that for studying, it's best to vary what you do and what you revise. Same goes for practicing sports. For example, it's best to practice a random mix of irons, drivers, putters and such in golf than to spend the whole practice on iron, the next one on drivers, etc. But here, the main focus is on setting aside a block of time to do one thing. The compromise that I can find is that in this one block, you can have variation, but you have to have only one purpose. Either that or the skills for study and work are different.

Basically, this would be an excellent book for someone who wants to learn how to be more effective in the office. The author goes into detail about what you should say, what you should write to convince your boss. For the rest of us, you can just skim and pick what you need.

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer

What am I supposed to feel about this book??

Shakespeare and Co. is a really famous bookshop that even I've heard of. So of course any look into how the bookshop is run would interest me. But, it didn't really talk about anything but the inhabitants of the bookshop, and that's the part that I'm not sure I like.

Shakespeare and Co. is an unconventional bookshop in Paris. The owner's a communist, and he lets any writer sleep in the bookshop for free. As long as, you know, they help out. The author Jeremy Mercer arrives to Paris after being threatened for breaking a promise he made with a criminal. In an effort to save money, he ends up living at Shakespeare and Co., and rediscovers his dream to be a writer.

Except, not much writing seem to take place. Sure, he's required to read a book a day, and he mentions writing a few times, but the impression I have is that reading and writing take a backseat to the true stars - the eccentric characters living in the bookshop - Kurt, Nadia, Simon, George (the owner) and many others.

In fact, the cast was so 'interesting' that it drowned out everything. If I didn't know the book was set in Paris, I could easily imagine it set in a commune somewhere. The people in the book are talked about more for their eccentricities than for their writing. Whether you like this bunch depends not on whether you like their writing (because you don't see much of it), but whether you like their characters.

All in all, this was an amusing book. If you like the characters, you'll probably like it. If you want to read about a bookshop, you may be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Irresistible Fairy Tale by Jack Zipes

Ok, this Teaser Tuesday book is chosen for a very specific reason. I've been wanting to read it because it's about Fairy Tales, but for some reason, I've not been able to get past the first chapter.

But, I've heard it's a good read, so hopefully this teaser whets my reading appetite.

"It is well known that Little Red Riding Hood in the two classical versions by Perrault and Grimms is not a heroine. She is more of a wimp." 

What is your teaser Tuesday?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

Sorry for the week of missed blogging! I had some personal things going on (which you can read about here), which resulted in me barely touching my computer, much less blog.

But, today, I'd like to talk about Scandals of Classic Hollywood, one of the books that I've managed to get and read from NetGalley (Hi NetGalley! If you read this, I'd really appreciate a function that sends emails to me BEFORE my books are archived. I've missed out on a load of books because I didn't log in to check every day).

Now, I have to state upfront that I have not read anything from this author before (I admit, I peeked at Goodreads, and it appears she's a popular blogger). I didn't even know what I expected from this book when I requested it. So, with that in mind, I enjoyed this book. It wasn't exactly about 'scandals', as we think of scandals nowadays, but more on how classic Hollywood used to so deftly manipulate the public and the news.

The author has grouped these scandals into six 'volumes', with themes such as "six angry men", "old loves", "twilight of the idols" and others. Each theme is meant to show one aspect of classic Hollywood, and a preface to each volume explains just what the author wants you to know.

Only the first and fourth volumes actually covered "scandals" that were incidents. Things like Bogart and Bacall's romance, Fatty Arbuckle's fall from grace and so on. The rest of the scandals felt more like mini-biographies, telling you exactly how Hollywood interfered with the lives of their stars.

If you like reading about old Hollywood stars but don't know where to start, or don't know anything about this, this would probably be a good starting book. Plus, there are pages and pages of references that you can hunt down.

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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

WriteOn vs Wattpad vs Figment

UPDATE: This post is really out of date, and I'm no longer using WriteOn, for reasons the reasons in this blogpost. I still have an account there, but I don't use it anymore.

Previously, I wrote about WriteOn, my new writing site of choice. Since I've wrote about it, WriteOn has made a few more changes, Wattpad did an update, and I've did NaNoWriMo on WriteOn, and I thought it's time for a comparison between the three writing sites (Click the link to see my previous post about Figment vs Wattpad). Of course, some of this information may become moot when WriteOn comes out of beta - I'll do another followup post then.

Creating a multi-chapter story
WriteOn: Creating a story is extremely easy. Click on the "Create" tab, and start. You can add chapters, save, move chapters around, add your cover, spend as much time making your book perfect as you want without having to post your story. I've typed, saved and exited, and come back, without any problems. Everything is in one page, and it's extremely easy to use.

Wattpad: There is a create button, but it seems to lead you to the My Works page (or is that just me?), from which I have to click on the new story button. And everything seems to be published as soon as you hit create - there's no testing here (not without deleting it anyway. And one thing about Wattpad that annoys me is that I cannot toggle between chapters very easily. I have to write, go back to the main page, and then edit. It's only one extra step, but I imagine it'll be very annoying if I'm doing major edits.

Figment: Like Wattpad, Figment's "Start writing" button on the main page leads you to the writing page, from which you create a new story. On the bright side, the organisation of the story is similar to WriteOn. You can add chapters, move them around, edit the actual contents, all on the same page.

Winner: WriteOn, followed by Figment. Wattpad is still too clumsy for me. 

In lieu of the site logo, here's a screenshot of the site. 
Cover Creator
WriteOn: I believe that the cover creator in WriteOn is the same as KDP. I'm not sure, because I've never published on KDP, but that's what I heard. Anyway, the cover creator here has many different pictures you can use (you can also search by category or enter a keyword), a few templates (6 image-based templates and 4 Non-image based templates), and font size and choice customisation. It's not as good as Canva (on which I'll base all comparisons), but for a free program, there's a decent amount of changes you can make. I don't recall a default cover.

Wattpad: Wattpad used to have the worst cover creator. Or at least, I didn't remember a cover creator, just the option between an awful default cover (still awful - it's your profile picture with the cover) or your own upload. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a creator from March of this year (which explains a lot, I haven't tried looking for a cover creator since... quite a few years ago). There is a very limited number of pictures (I think 10, or less), and the option to change font choice and size, and I think colour. There are no template options.

Figment: Although it possibly has the nicest default template (it's clean simple, although you don't have your title or name on it), the cover creator is now tied with Wattpad (since it improved). You have a choice of certain backgrounds (I think the number of choices are about the same as Wattpad), although none of them are pictures, and I think two places where you can place the title, with very limited font choices.

Winner: Canva. Oh wait, sorry. I mean WriteOn, for sheer choice. And then Figment and Wattpad are tied.

Getting Readers
WriteOn: Since it's still in Beta, there are more writers than readers. Not the best way to build up a fan-base, especially since you need to log in just to read the stories, but who knows what will happen once it leaves beta mode?

Wattpad: I think there's very little competition for Wattpad so far. There are way more readers than authors on this site, plus a reader-friendly mobile app (my sister uses it), and if you know how to work it, you might be able to develop a following. I've never had any success, even in the days where I was actively reading other people's works, but it's worked for a lot of people. But be warned, there are some big-named writers there, so you face a lot of competition.

Figment: Figment is probably where I get the most unknown eyes on my story. Even with me doing very little, every now and then, I get a notification that someone liked my story and/or reacted to it. So something is working there. Readers can also read the story without logging in, but they can't vote or react.

Winner: Depending on the person, either Wattpad or Figment. For most, it might be Wattpad, since they have mobile apps that make it easy for people to read your stories. WriteOn isn't in the running, since it's still in beta and is closed off from all non-member readers. 

Getting Feedback
WriteOn: I've gotten the best feedback on WriteOn so far, hands down. Perhaps it's because of the site culture that they've been trying to inculcate, plus the fact that authors can customise their feedback requests (you can tick areas "e.g. characters, plot, proofread" AND include a personal message "hey, I think my MC is whiny, what do you think?"). But I don't know why, on average, my feedback received on WriteOn has been the most helpful and longest. You can request feedback in the "Ask and ye shall receive" subforum. This may change when WriteOn goes out of beta, although I'm very optimistic by the discussion about how to encourage good feedback taking place in the forums.

Wattpad: I don't actually recall getting feedback. From my impression, Wattpad is for your nice, polished stories (despite what the site says in their interview with The Verge), not for getting beta feedback. Of course, it's possible that in certain genres that I don't write in (like fanfiction), Wattpad may be good to get beta-readers.

Figment: The second-best feedback I've gotten is from Figment. Some members make it a point to leave detailed, useful feedback, while others just give general encouragement. You can also request feedback in the forums.

Winner: WriteOn, followed by Figment. This order may change when WriteOn comes out of beta, but who knows. Wattpad is trailing behind. 

WriteOn: Apart from an active forum, WriteOn has what they call Feedback Fridays, where you participate by reading someone's book, giving feedback, and having others give feedback to you. It's all managed through the weekly thread. There's also Thank You Tuesday, started by Katie Adee, who gave the best feedback ever (and she wrote pretty fantastic children's stories), where you're reminded to thank your readers and reviewers in your status. They're also getting a few authors to come in now and then to do interviews and give feedback on member stories, which is really awesome and helpful. And, they just started a bookclub to give members who have completed their novels beta readers. Ok, I started it, after getting permissions from the mods. I heard something about genre-specific clubs coming up in the future.

WriteOn mod squad/team: Oh, and I can't not mention the WriteOn team. They've been extremely receptive to feedback, with one active subforum for member complaints/bugs found. And it's not just talk, we've had changes suggested by members implemented. If they keep this up, WriteOn will really develop into an awesome community.

Wattpad: I'm not really on there, so I can't say, but they seem to have annual contests, like the Wattys. And of course, the aforementioned famous authors putting their books up (although I've not heard anything about them giving feedback). Depending on your genre, their contents might be your thing.

Figment: I know of Figment ambassadors and several contests, as well as a prompt of the day. The contests tend to generate a lot of swap requests (more for hearts than anything), but that's only natural, I think. There are also excerpts of novels there.

Winner: Depends on whether you're more of a reader or writer. Writeon's extra features are geared more to writers, while Wattpad seems geared to readers. Figment is probably closer to the writer segment, although quite a few of their contests seem to be to promote new releases. 

So, which is the site for you? It depends on whether you want readers or feedback. For feedback, I really reccomend WriteOn, especially if you do not write in YA (WriteOn has a lot more different types of writers that can give feedback). Wattpad is the established go-to site to get readers, so if you have a polished permafree, you might want to put it there. Figment is very much like Wattpad to me, only easier to create stories, so between Wattpad and Figment, I'll choose Figment. But for now, my writing site is WriteOn, for the feedback I've gotten.

Note: While I'm totally recommending WriteOn now, please keep in mind that this is my experience of WriteOn in beta. As more people join, the tone and culture of the site is going to change (I've already noticed some changes, as have a few members that joined even earlier). It might become something like Wattpad in the end, it might be like Figment, but it might (and I hope it does) remain like it is now.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

Ok, I have to get this out of the way before I begin my review proper: I haven't read Cinder yet. Sure I've always meant to pick it up, but it's so hard to find in Japan, and my TBR was so long that I didn't get to read it while I was in Singapore. So, if you need a Cinder/Stitching Snow comparison, you're at the wrong review. I'm reviewing Stitching Snow with no prior expectations of how this style of retold fairytales is supposed to take place.

I suppose Stitching Snow is what you consider steampunk fairytale. I mean, there are robots and spaceships and high-tech mechanics (Snow/Essie "stitches" machines together), and there are the "traditional" ways that the King likes to practice.

We all know how the story goes: the King is good (or dead) and the Queen is evil. But what if both parents are evil tyrants? What if this Snow White doesn't want to go back to the palace?

The only girl on a mind in Thanda, Essie (Snow) makes money by fixing robots (the seven dwarfs) and taking part in fights. A damsel-in-distress she is not. But one day, a guy called Dane crash lands on the planet. Except, Essie's new friend turns out to be an Exile (one of the supposed bad guys that aren't) that kidnaps her to trade for some political prisoners. After a ton of things, she falls in love with him and agrees to help the rebellion against her dad and step-mom. Ok, the falling in love and decision wasn't so strongly related in the book, but it sure felt that way to me.

Can I just be upfront here and say I don't like Dane? Sure, he has a good reason to kidnap Essie, but I just can't get that negative first impression from my mine. After all, he betrayed Essie's friendship. Sure, he spends the rest of the book helping her and falling for her, but first impressions stick.

The rest of the story was good though. I enjoyed reading about Essie's return to the palace, and her attempts to follow her mother's footsteps in being a secret rebel. I just wish a greater part of the book was dedicated to that, instead of her journey back home.

So basically, the story was decent, but I don't like the love interest. I might be one of the few though, so on the whole, I will say that if you're a die-hard fan of fairytale retellings, you should give this book a go.

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I saw this book being raved about on a few book blogs. The blurb was intriguing enough (what on earth is Melanie??) that I decided to give it a go. And as a testament to its popularity, it's extremely difficult to even get my hands on the book in the Singapore libraries (all copies loaned out, you need to reserve it, etc).

For those of you who expect me to read the book and be disappointed (I mean, it is very hyped), I'm sorry. I'm one of those reviewers that fell in love with the book and will end up praising it to high heaven.

The Girl With All The Gifts follows Melanie. All Melanie knows is that she lives on an army base with a bunch of other kids. They're also all special. What she doesn't know is that they're actually all test subjects. Even her beloved Miss Justineau is part of an experiment to test her cognitive and emotional capabilities.

And ah, I can't stand it. Let me say it right here: Melanie is a hungry (aka zombie). She and the other kids are different because they can think and feel. The only thing is that when they get close to human flesh, the hunger overtakes them. For Melanie, that is her biggest fear: that she will lose control and eat her beloved Miss Justineau.

When the Junkers (not sure what they are, but I think they are humans who are rebelling against what's left of the government) overrun the base, Melanie, Miss Justineau, the ruthless Dr. Caldwell and two soldiers (Sergeant Parks and Private Gallagher) are forced to leave and try to find help. Parks wants to kill Melanie, Dr. Caldwell wants to dissect her "number one test subject" and only Miss Justineau is trying to protect her. Melanie? She just wants to protect Miss Justineau.

This story was engrossing and tugged at my heartstrings. Melanie is really a special little girl, and I LOVE HER SO MUCH. She was my favourite character in the book. The other characters were well-written too - they all started off as one dimensional but then developed. I love character development of this sort!

If you like zombie books, and even if you don't, you should pick up this book.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Woohoo, another Teaser Tuesday! I'll not mince words and jump straight into the teaser. After all, it's from a book called "How to be a Heroine", subtitled "Or, what I learnt from reading too much." How can you say anything after that subtitle? (At least that was my reaction)

My teaser:
"If this were a novel, I wouldn't let my heroine fall tempestuously in love three times in a row. It would make her seem fickle and unserious." 
What are your teasers this Tuesday?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Leopard Stratagem by T.A. Uner

And, we're now at book two of the Leopard King series - The Leopard Stratagem. I'm going to come clean and tell you right from the start, I liked this book a lot better than the first one. Why?

Well mainly because there's a lot more magic. I mean, I like reading about political intrigue and all that, but magical creatures and humans? I'm just waiting for the Griffins in book three now. They have to show up, right? On the good-guy side, we have Tullus and Celestra, who are learning how to use their powers. Well, Tullus is learning. On the bad-guy side, we have the Serpentus. While you won't recognise his name, but he's one of the villains from book one.

And as you can guess from the above description, this is a good vs bad story. There are people who practice evil magic (Serpentus and his demon), trying to call up demons to this world. Then, there are people like Tullus and the circus troupe, who are trying to stop them. Tullus is training, and the circus troupe are trying to destroy the door to Katoika (check sp), the demon world, under the guidance of a new character, a potion mistress. The two groups meet in the end as Serpentus makes his move and forcus Tullus and Celestra to go back and fight.

You might be wondering, where is Eliana in all of this? Well, she's in Caligula's palace, trying to overthrow the crazy king. To be very honest, I found her even more annoying than in the first book. But, I was very diverted by the magical parts of the story that it seemed to me that she played a very small role.

I would say that book two of the series is different from book one. Book one reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones, a lot of political intrigue and scheming. Book two is much more like a traditional fantasy novel, with magic and battles and werewolves. Yes, werewolves are in this novel. And talking snakes. And a few other magical creatures.

Definitely recommended to fans of fantasy.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Leopard Vanguard by T.A. Uner

This book, where do I start? There was a lot that I liked, a little that I was disappointed with, and one issue that irked me. Although on the whole, I liked it and I'll definitely keep reading though (mostly because I want to see what happens).

The Leopard Vanguard takes place in an alternate version of Ancient Rome, where magic happens. I was really excited during the first part of the book, because GRIFFINS. That's a really major reason why I want to read more (and a tiny reason why I was a bit disappointed) - there's not nearly enough magic in this book for me. The beginning promised a lot of magic, but then the book started turning to political intrigue.

In this book, we follow Tullus, a gifted Roman centurion. For the sake of love, he quits his job, but then his lady love dumps him (despite the fact that's unconventional in every other aspect, she refuses to go off with the man she loves). Heartbroken, he's found by a troupe of circus performers and bonds with a Leopardess named Celestra, becoming the Leopard King. When the troupe master is killed, he swears revenge on him.

At the same time, his lady love is being pursued by Tullus's perverted ex-boss, who despite his political inclinations has no qualms about abusing his future wife. The lady love (her name's Eliana), is more concerned with helping the merchants, who are being terrorised by a criminal overlord who is, you might have guessed, in league with the her fiance.

Behind all this is the story of emperor Caligula and his rise to power (as well as the people who want him dead).

Most of the time, I enjoyed the story (apart from the explicit scenes and swearing, but that's my personal preference), but I really don't like how Gansu, the Chinese troupe member was portrayed. The troupe is made up of many people, not all of them Romans, and yet every single character apart from the one Chinese guy talks normally. The way he talks reminds me of the stereotypes people use for Chinese people:
"You westerners, too much hurry. Come back tomorrow; I teach you more"
And yes, he's teaching meditation. What else? And that was not my point. What I want to make is that this speaking style is not only unnecessary it's inaccurate as well.

Let's just use the final point: "I teach you more." In Chinese, I would say "我会教你更多。“ 我 - I, 会 - will, 教你 - teach you, 更多 - even more (Typo fixed, thank you!). I was going to pull out my Latin textbook and do another translation, but that would be pointless. This book is written in English anyway, and there's very little Latin. Besides, according to the way you conjugate the verb in Latin, you can probably make it express future-intention (will do something), so basically, you can have the same sentence in English, Chinese and Latin. There's no need to fall on stereotypes, since all the other characters, who presumably did not have Latin as a first language, speak very naturally.

Thankfully, weird English is about the extent of how things are for Gansu. I'm willing to overlook it for this book, but I'm really hoping the second book gets better (or eliminate Gansu's role. Really. I'd rather not see this).

Basically, apart from the Chingrish stuff, which irked me because I am Chinese, and the swearing and explicit scenes because I am a prude, I quite liked the book. It's like Game of Thrones, but set in Ancient Rome. So if you like Game of Thrones, you'll probably enjoy this book.

Disclaimer: I got this book from Enchanted Blog Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I have no idea why I requested this book from NetGalley, but I'm really glad I did. It's an eye-opening book and I think everyone should read it.

Just Mercy is an account of how the justice system in America is broken. It's grounded through the story of Walter McMillian, a man who spent 6 years on the death row for a murder he didn't commit. Interspersed are the different cases that Bryan Stevenson was also taking at that time, from young children locked up in jail with adults to adults with mental disabilities being ignored and untreated.

Since Walter McMillian's case is what anchors the book (I think it's one of the first cases the author undertook), I want to talk about a bit more. In Alabama in the 1980s, a young woman was killed. That's terrible, but what's worse is that the law enforcement officials ignored evidence and pressured people to lie in order to put Walter McMillian in jail. Why? Because they wanted him as a suspect. He already had a bad rap from having an affair with a white woman (Walter McMillian is African American), and he was the easiest target. So instead of doing police work, they framed an innocent guy, then spent a lot of time and money making sure he stayed in jail. If only they spent that much effort on actually finding the murderer.

Adding to the irony is that Alabama was trying to use To Kill a Mockingbird to drum up some tourism money. I think everyone is aware, but To Kill a Mockingbird very specifically address the issue of racial bias. And yet, while they were promoting themselves using the book, no one realised that they were doing as much to keep an innocent guy in jail because they didn't like the fact he had an inter-racial relationship.

The other cases in this book, from a 13 year old who was sentenced to life in prison, to a mother who was convicted of murdering a stillborn child will break your heart as well. In fact, if you don't get angry while reading this book, I'd suspect that something is very wrong with you.

Everyone should read this book. Even if you're not an American, I think it works as a cautionary tale. Look at your own country, is there any group being discriminated in the justice system? Are rehabilitation efforts working? And what can be done.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. I got emotional on my own accord.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Release Day Party: Winter Wolf by R.J. Blain

Friends! Remember when I reviewed Inquisitor by R.J. Blain? And how I gushed about it? Well, I'm participating in her Winter Wolf release day party today, so prepare for more gushing!

Winter Wolf is the second in the Witch and Wolf series (the first book being Inquisitor). It features a whole new set of characters, but it's just as gripping and entertaining as the first.

The protagonist of Winter Wolf is Nicole, who's hiding a secret - she's a wizard. That means she can control electricity, and that if the Inquisition finds out who she is, she'll be executed. As a struggling actress without a voice, she's surprised when one day, she's picked for a major role. At the same time, a young man dies next to her, and several attempts were made on her life. Oh, and did I mention that her family is fenerec (werewolf) and that she wants to help to cure the plague that's killing them slowly? And let's not forget the serial killer!

Woah, that's a lot of stuff in one book. You might think that the pacing would be affected, but everything ties together in one seamless read. One event leads to another, and the consequences carry over.

Oh, and if you're like me, the name Winter Wolf is going to nag at you. Nag at you until you figure out the connection between this book and Inquisitor. So make sure you have both books handy!

I really enjoyed this book. There was a cast of smart characters, a world that's alike ours but with magic, and a great storyline. If you liked Inquisitor, you'd definitely like this book. I want to read more about this world - R.J. Blain has created two wonderful protagonists and supporting casts, and I would love to read a sequel where they meet!

Note: I received a free copy of this book as part of the Enchanted Book Promotion Blog Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Not convinced yet? Read this excerpt:

I slammed my car’s door, spun on a heel, and swore I would have a perfectly normal visit to the mall. All I needed was one little book. Even I could walk into a bookstore, pick up a novel, and leave without causing any trouble.

This time, I wouldn’t blow out the lights. There wouldn’t be a single power surge. I wouldn’t turn on every unplugged device in the electronics store on my way across the mall. In the ten minutes it would take me to get in and out, the only thing anyone would notice about me was the fact that I wore a high-collared sweater in late summer. I had a mission, and I would complete it without fail. The novel my agent insisted I read would be mine.

For a long moment, I considered turning around and getting back into my car. Dominic would forgive me if I didn’t start reading the book until tomorrow. I could call in a favor and ask someone to pick up a copy for me. Then I definitely wouldn’t run any risk of blowing anything up. If I had been smart, I would’ve just ordered the damned thing on the internet, but I had waited too long.

Fishing my cell out of my pocket, I unlocked the screen with a swipe of my finger. The charging icon mocked me. Despite running every battery-draining app I could find, the battery held a full charge. I opened another app, a devilish program capable of killing the battery in ten minutes. It wouldn't, not with me around, but if I was too busy keeping my phone topped up, maybe my mall shopping trip would prove to be mundane.

I shook my head, laughing at my foolishness.

No one would notice my phone. No one would notice me for more than a second. They'd notice my clothes, and then they'd file me away as yet another weirdo wearing something strange to catch attention. L.A. was full of people like that.

I had no reason to worry. Even if I managed to embarrass myself yet again by losing control of my powers, no one would know I was the cause of unplugged electronics turning on or unusual power surges.

Straightening my shoulders, I fixed my eyes on the line of glass doors and marched my way across the parking lot.

In and out. No blown lights. No power surges. No feeding power to unplugged electrical devices. No charging batteries for strangers. I was in control, and I would charge only my phone.

Making my way to the entry, I paused long enough to hold the door for a little old lady who insisted on making her way through the regular doors despite her walker. I couldn’t blame her. If I lived to be her age, I wouldn’t want to rely on automatic doors either.

She thanked me with a pat on the arm. Flashing her my best smile, I slipped inside.

Nothing happened.


I could handle ten minutes in the crowded corridors. Maybe if I told myself that enough times, I’d believe it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Land of Stories by Christ Colfer

Woohoo! It's Tuesday! That means that my relatives are coming tomorrow! So you won't see me until I come back on the 24th with R.J Blain's Winter Wolf Release Day Party!

Right now, I'm reading The Land of Stories. I got this from BookOff a while back but had no time to read it. But since I'm a sucker for fairy-tales retold, I had to buy it. Well, no more procrastinating, I'm reading it now.

My teaser:
"The world will always choose convenience over reality," the Evil Queen said. "It's easier to hate, blame, and fear than it is to understand." (Page 380)
What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Consolation of Economics by Gerard Lyons

Randomly picked this book up at the National Library because *ECONOMICS*. I really wonder what people think of my borrowing history, it's like 9 comics (me and my bro), then one "Consolation of Economics".

Anyway, this book is supposed to be a "lucid and accessible expert's attempt to look objectively at the changing global economy." So my review will focus on how "accessible" and "lucid" it is, not on how sound the economics is (I shall leave that to the experts, because I can't find any obvious problems here).

I must say, the book is surprisingly readable. I would think that as long as you've taken an introductory economics course, you will be able to understand what the author is talking about. Terms like "nominal" and "inflation" do appear, hence the "introductory knowledge needed" thing I just said. The author does a good job of explaining new terms too, like when he talks about soft power (he uses a slightly different definition than the norm).

As for how international the book is - well, it's complicated. The book clearly looks at the global economy - China and India (particularly China) are discussed in depth, and Japan is talked about many times as well. Even Singapore made its fair share of appearances (way more than I was expecting). But, since this book is orientated towards readers in the Western economies (it is about how the shift of power to the East isn't necessarily detrimental to the West after all), there is slightly more focus on the UK, EU and the US.

The book itself is divided into 9 parts, and includes: a brief history of economics, China's economy, the 2008 Financial crisis, the Ukraine crisis, the G7 and the G20, and lots more. You'd notice that the book is very very current, since it was published this year. I dare say that in a year or two, when some of the current crisis have played out, the book might not be as relevant, but for now, this is one of the most accessible books on modern economics that I've read.

My favourite part of the book was, surprisingly, the last chapter, which looks at the future of economics. It references something that I learnt last semester, that younger economics prefer Game Theory, but older economists look at things like unemployment, fiscal policy, etc. So to read about Mr. Lyons' opinion was really interesting to me.

All in all, this is an excellent and accessible book. Read it now (in 2014), because it contains information about current events. A year or two down the line, and a new edition might be in order, so get your hands on it quick.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mademoiselle by Rhonda K. Garelick

Even though I don't own any Chanel, and barely understand fashion, for some reason, I'm always fascinated by Chanel. I suppose that's how far the Chanel mystique extends.

This book aims to be a fair and comprehensive biography of Chanel, no small feat since Chanel had no qualms about lying (and changing her lies) about where she came from. What impressed me was that the book acknowledged Chanel's mystique right from the start. It's as though it says "I'm trying my best to be impartial, but Chanel is really charming, so remember that."

I can't quite remember what the other Chanel biographies I read contained (and I left the book in Singapore/lent it to my teacher), but I'm pretty sure that I learnt a few things that I didn't know before. For example, Chanel's connection to the Nazi's and her very strong anti-Semitic views are unflinchingly described, and there is no attempt made to excuse her for what she said. The author notes the mode of thinking of the set Chanel mingled with, but that doesn't become a convenient excuse for why Chanel held those views. After all, Chanel was an intelligent and savvy businesswoman.

Another thing that I liked was the amount of detail in the book. For every lover or close friend of Chanel, there is a short biography. It might seem like a digression or too much to some people, but I enjoyed reading about it as it helped me build up a more complete picture of the times Chanel lived in.

Finally, the book ends with a short description of Chanel's legacy and her impact on fashion. And in my ebook ARC from Netgalley, there's about 100 pages of footnotes, so those wanting to go deeper into the story will have a lot of sources they can start chasing.

I won't turn into a Chanel convert just because of a well-written biography, but my fascination with her still continues.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An Alphabetical Life by Wendy Harris

I picked this book up at the library because, let's face it, it's about books. About a life working with books. Sadly, I didn't like the narrator of the book, which meant that I didn't like the book much.

An Alphabetical Life is Wendy Werris's memoir of how she started a career in books, first in a bookshop, then as a publisher's representative. I'm pretty sure this is also supposed to be about how it's like working in a male-dominated profession, and how she works to overcome various obstacles. Unfortunately, I never really connected with her, or felt that there was a larger story than whatever anecdote she was currently relating.

Even after reading the book, I'm not how being a woman publishing rep between then and now has changed. I don't see any clear changes, and it might as well be as chauvinistic as when Ms Werris first started out. And yes, her surviving that long is a really great thing, but it's really because she decided to conform, not because she made waves and changed the industry or something. So lesson here: if you're in a male-dominated world, act like what they expect, and they'll let you survive.

Plus, Ms Werris comes across as very self-centered. She has siblings, but I didn't see any evidence of her living a life with them until she mentions things like having to borrow money from one of them. Well, actually, this is pretty admirable, if the siblings don't want to be in a book. But then again, she does blame her parents for her screwed up family dynamics (of which, she appears to play a central role), so it doesn't particularly seem as though she's censoring for the sake of her family. In fact, what made me think she was self-centered isn't the lack of family in her book, but the way she treats others and her job. She got fired quite a few times, and each time, I couldn't help but think that she deserved to get fired for acting like a child. And of course, she wanted to get fired at that time. Not very responsible, in my opinion.

The book wasn't all bad though. I have a feeling that if I had the same character as Ms. Werris, I would have enjoyed it very much. She's not a bad writer, because her account of her rape was well-written, and I really felt for her then. I thought she was very brave in the way she handled it.

So overall, the one part of the book that made me feel for the author wasn't related to books. I would say that as an account of a life with books, it doesn't work out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Indie Author Power Pack

Happy Teaser Tuesday! I'm happily caught up in NaNoWriMo, and in the spirit of things, I bought this 3-book pack. It's only 99 yen (on Amazon), so I figured that even if I don't use it, it'd be a good read.

I'm currently making my way through Write, Publish, Repeat, and it is way more inspiring that I thought. Totally worth the money.

My teaser:
"The truth is seldom glamorous. Nobody wants to hear that, but it's a fact." 
What is your teaser this week? And if you're doing NaNoWriMo too, how is your progress?

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Copyright Wars by Peter Baldwin

This was a hard book to read. Hard is in, technically difficult, dense and rather dry. But, I think if you have an academic interest in copyright law, you may want to use this as a textbook.

It's hard to describe the book without giving a summary of what it's about, but I'll try. Basically, it's a historically look at how the Continent (Europe), Britain and America dealt with copyright law at various points in time. Generally, Europe has been all about the author and his/her rights, while the Anglophone countries have been more about the public. However, the Berne convention brought America more in line with Europe. The book ends with a look at how the internet is changing the way people view copyright today.

And hey look, it appears that I learnt something. So even though the book was very difficult for me to understand, it looks like enough got in for me to actually do a summary.

Oh, and to answer a class question. I was in a just-started class when my teacher asked me something that roughly translates to "So why didn't England join?". Unfortunately, I misheard and thought the question was "So why didn't you go to England" and made a reply. So, to salvage whatever dignity I had, the "actual" answer had to be decent. Thankfully, parts of this book was stuck in my head and I managed to give a good enough reason that didn't make the teacher sigh or shake his head.

I wouldn't really recommend this if you're new to copyright law. It's a bit dense, and if you have no idea about what it's about, this might scare you. But, if you're looking to dig deeper into copyright law, then you'd be interested in this book. It's tough, but it does contain a lot of information.

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Curse of the blue tattoo by L.A. Meyer

It's the second book of the Bloody Jack series! This is really shaping up to be one of my new favourite series! I actually read the book before I left for Singapore (so three months ago?), but somehow forgot to post my review. My bad ><
Anyway, if you want to read my review of the first book, click here.

After the ending of the first book, where [SPOILER ALERT] Jacky's true identity as a girl was revealed, she was sent to the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls, where she is to learn to be a "lady". But, the strict rules and mean girls prove too much, and Jacky's yearning to be free leads her into a host of adventures, which include her getting thrown into jail, and disguising herself as a boy (again) to ride a horse in a race.

One other thread running through the book would be Jacky and Jaimy's romance. The two of them were separated at the start of the book, and they attempt to keep in contact through letters. The key word is attempt, because somehow, their letters don't reach each other. Jacky's suspicion is that Jaimy's mother, who disapproves of her, and there's a fair chance that Jaimy's letters are being kept from Jacky by Mistress Pimm, the strict schoolmistress.

Lots of things happen in this book, and if I summarise them all, you might think it terribly unbelievable and far fetched. But the way Jacky tells it, it seems very natural to me. Jacky is just doing what she thinks is best, she can't help it if she has all sorts of crazy adventures.

Oh, and Jacky is way more charming than she thinks. I'm pretty sure she won the admiration of all the servants, and her new friend Amy's brother Randalph (although Randalph is a connundrum, since you're never sure why he's nice to Jacky).

Speaking of Amy, I thought she was an interesting character. As a girl who chose to be an outcast (she refuses to sit with the popular girls because one of them owns slaves), her friendship with Jacky was one of the high points in this book.

Another interesting character was Mistress Pimm. I had thought her to be the sort of headmistress that would be partial to the rich, but she's actually quite fair. As long as you break her school's rules, you will get punished, no matter who your father is. She wasn't as shallow a character as I had thought her to be.

Lastly, there's a reference to the first book here, as Jacky quotes the opening of the first book when she tells her lifestory to her friend Amy. Honestly, it sounds a bit weird, because if Jacky were to recite the entire first book, it would be way too long. But, in another way, it does make sense, because Jacky is the narrator of the first book as well, and she's telling her story to a friend.

In conclusion, this is a wonderful second book. I can't wait to get my hands on the third book and read it!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

So You Want to Work in Fashion? by Patricia Wooster

I requested this book because... because... I'm not sure why. I guess I requested this book because I'm reaching the stage in my life where I need to start thinking about my future goals, and I figured I should learn as much about different industries as possible.

Personally, I'm rather impressed with this book. It covers many areas of the fashion business, from the "obvious" jobs like blogging and modeling to things like stylist, production, photographer etc. At the end, there's a guide as to what you can choose to study, and how to take your first steps (there are activities scattered throughout the book as well), alongside a glossary of terms. Interspersed with the descriptions are interviews with various people working in the industry.

For some reason, a few of the interviews made me feel as though you need connections (or a lot of luck) to make it in the fashion business - especially if you intend to be a designer. I'm not quite sure if that's what they're trying to convey, but I got that impression. Also, I should probably note that I skipped over quite a few of the interviews because they bored me, and because I found the "introduction" font hard to read. But, I think if you're interested in the fashion business, you'll find the interviews to contain a lot of useful information.

Overall though, I think this provides a level-headed view into the fashion business. I like how they covered all the different aspects equally, and seem to provide good advice to people who want to be in the business.

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Mademoiselle by Rhonda K. Garelick

Hey everyone! It's the first Tuesday of NaNoWriMo! I mean, November. Anyway, I'm participating as a Rebel this year (resisting the urge to place a Ever After Video here), so my blog posts might taper off after a while. For this month at least.

But, I'm still reading, and right now, I'm working my way through a biography of Chanel. I don't actually own anything from the brand, but Coco Chanel is so fascinating that I can't help but pick up books about her.

My teaser:

"And so, instead of embossing her initials on her personal, household goods, Chanel figured out a grander plan: she would imprint her initials on the entire world. The double-C logo crystallizes the paradoxical brilliance at the heart of Chanel's empire: it granted prestige through uniformity, through mass identification with one idealized individual."

What are your teasers this week? And to all those doing NaNoWriMo, all the best!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

Aaaand, blogger blackout is over. Let's restart with some positively. Here's a review from a book I really enjoyed :D 

How did it take me so long to know about Veronica Mars? I first saw the (start) of the movie on my flight to Singapore, and then started watching the series. I saw the movie on the flight back to Japan, and it was awesome! I'm still watching the series, so I can say that I started from the end of the series.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line takes place after the series and movie, so you might not want to read it if you hate spoilers. Skip this review too, because I need to start setting the scene in the next paragraph.

So, Veronica has officially given up her big city lawyer's job to take over Mars Investigations. Keith Mars, still hurting from that accident that killed Sachs (He was one of the better police officers), disapproves heavily but has no choice. However, business is slow until one day, she gets a job. Despite it really being a case for the police, the commercial powers that run Neptune recognise that she's a better detective than the lackey they have in the sheriff's office. So with the help of Wallace and Mac, Veronica does some good ol' investigative work.

By the way, this book (actually this series) is canon compliant, fanfiction writers, you should really be reading this to get up to speed. While this series features a grown-up Veronica (well, the series started of grown up compared to Nancy Drew or Tracy Belden), the format is very much the same as how the series runs in terms of solving the mystery.

Definitely for fans of Veronica Mars. And, if you're a fan of darker mysteries (and don't mind missing the numerous series references), you'll probably enjoy this mystery as well.

Monday, October 27, 2014

BloggerBlackout: Because Stalking is Not Cool.

Image from Bookthingo
Ok, I know that I'm really really late to the bloggerblackout, but in my defence, I just heard about it today from The Passive Voice. And once I heard about it, I knew I had to join.

Wait, what's this bloggerblackout whatchamacallit? 

Recap of the incident (and why I don't believe what Kathleen Hale says). Feel free to skip if you've already read it. 

Simply put, it's a response by bloggers to the atrocious behaviour of Kathleen Hale. Kathleen Hale received a one-star review from a reviewer who initially liked the book, but was then turned off by PTSD jokes and statutory rape that seemed to be condoned (in her piece, Hale says that there is no rape [she fails to specifiy statutory rape]in the book, but it's mentioned in that reviewer's thread several times by more than one person that there is statutory rape. Hale also completely fails to address the PTSD joke, instead going on and on about the rape, so I assume that it's in the book and she doesn't want to admit it). Hale is so upset that she pays for a background check, visits her house and even calls her at her place of work. This is clearly harassment. But according to Hale, she was being catfished by the blogger.

To quote Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

The definition of cat-fishing is (according to "to deceive, swindle, etc, by assuming a false personality online." (when used as a slang verb). Please take note of the word "swindle". It's most commonly used for cases where the victim was cheated out of money. From what I can find on the net, the blogger simply used a pseudonym, and didn't actually try to get the author to give her money or free books or something like that.

Personally, my suspicions of the piece were first raised by the fact the author used Stop the Goodreads Bullies (STGRB) as source of information. If you didn't know, STGRB is a bully side dedicated to doxxing "bullies". In other words, bloggers who post critical reviews. I guess to them, the function of book bloggers is to love every single book and promote it for free.

And the second thing that convinced me that there were serious holes with the stories were the lack of screenshots. Or even a link to the offending review. Evidence is everything, especially on the internet, where you can capture webpages straightaway.

So what we have is an extremely one-sided piece, with indications that there are serious doubts as to how truthful the author is being. From searching on the net, it seems that there's no evidence to support her case.

So, what's with all the bloggers up in arms? 

This concerns our safety. Of course we're going to be worried. I'm lucky enough that I live far far away from most writers I review (and anyway, I don't really do snark because I'm atrocious at it - and I tend to pick books that I like so....). But other bloggers aren't so lucky.

If you don't believe what I'm saying, take some time to read this blogger's account of how she was hit over the head with a wine bottle by an angry author.

We book bloggers spend our time reading and reviewing books not because we're trying to be rich or famous, but because we love reading. We love reading, and we want to spread the word. We're not in this for the money or fame, and we shouldn't have to be afraid for our safety because we dare to speak our minds about books.

Hence, the #haleNo and #bloggerblackout trends on twitter.

So what's your blogger blackout going to entail? Are you posting non-reviews? Only reviews of authors long gone? 

My blackout will last till Nov 1 and I will not be posting anything new. I know some bloggers are posting non-review posts, and I might do that (if I find something to say), but for now, I want this post to stay at the top of my blog.

So give me something to read when you're gone! 

Gladly. Here are the most useful links:
Brianna from Pages Unbound did a wonderful post discussing "Who has the "Authority" to review books?"
Bibliodaze has two great posts, an Open Letter to Kathleen Hale and more about #HaleNo, blogger blackout and the non-existent war between bloggers and authors.
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books talks about The Choices of Kathleen Hale
Dear Author explains why pseudonyms are used by some bloggers (and why the pseudonym should be respected) in On The Importance of Pseudonymous Activity

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Sorry for skipping a day yesterday. I spend more time than expected doing the paperwork for, and setting up my new phone. 

I heard about this book, not because of reviews from other bloggers, but because of the one star review written by MacKenzie Bezos on It sparked my interest, because is one of the main ways I buy print books in Japan.

This book basically covers from its inception to around 2012. That means that there's no coverage on the Amazon-Hachette dispute (although it is mentioned three times), which is a pity. And considering the developments made by Amazon in the past two years (in Japan, we got the Kindle! I'm quite curious as to know how that happened), I'm guessing that quite a lot of things have been left out, which makes this book *gasp* dated. But I guess that's what happens when the company you're covering moves so fast.

Since I'm not related to anyone working at Amazon, I have no way of knowing how many errors are in the book. But, the review by Kaphan shows at least one inaccuracy, and the review by MacKenzie shows another one. So I'm guessing a few, but no major errors.

As for author bias, I think it's rather even-handed. While the author does call loyal employees "Jeff Bots" and refer to their oft-repeated words as "Jeffisms", he does praise several times as well. He talks about how Jeff Bezos can be very generous (even though he can be ruthless at times), and gives plenty of examples.

I really like this book. It's easy to read, and it covers's history in quite some detail. I finished this book with a deeper respect for, although I can't tell whether this is a company that I'd like to work for (I get the sense that I won't truly know unless I get the chance to work there). Amazon's story is more than being in the right place in the right time, it's the story of being tenacious, and taking daring risks.

If you've been curious about, and want something more than One Click (click to see my review), then The Everything Store may be what you're looking for. On the whole, it's an even handed and comprehensive look at the history of

Now, my wishlist for the next book is for someone to look at Amazon's impact on self-publishing, and its impact on other countries, such as Japan and the rest of Asia. I'm curious as to see how Amazon competes with other companies like Rakuten (who released the first eReader, Kobo, in Japan), and the Chinese counterparts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Last year, I finally read and reviewed Gone With The Wind, it's a good book, but definitely pro-slavery. One of the characters, that I didn't mention in my review, was Mammy, a black slave that took care of Scarlett and Ellen, Scarlett's mother. I was so focused on the main characters (Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie and Ashley) that I basically neglected everyone else.

As a belated add on, I should mention that I found Mammy endearing.

In this spin-off, Mammy is given the name Ruth and her backstory is told. From her beginnings with Solange (Ellen's mother and Scarlett's grandmother) to her marriage to Jehu, and how she ended up going to Tara with Ellen, the author has used the small bits of information to re-tell her story.

For the most part, I found the story to be very interesting. However, while I was reading the book, I kept thinking:
Isn't Mammy supposed to be the main character? 
Most of the book isn't told from her perspective and the first section seemed to be about Solange and not Mammy. In fact, if I didn't know that this story was about Mammy, I would have assumed the protagonist was Solange. It's only when Mammy leaves and gets married to Jehu does the book start to focus on her. And only the last section (the last 90ish pages out of 290ish pages on my kindle) is told from her perspective.

And yet, while Mammy is telling the story, the focus is on Ellen and Scarlet. All in all, I had this curious sense that mammy, again, wasn't the central character of the book. She certainly is present throughout the book, but she feels like a supporting character rather than a main character.

Which is a pity because I was very interested in learning more about Mammy. In the original book, she's a loyal slave, and that's about it. While she certainly has more passion and feelings in this book, I think that it wasn't explored to the fullest extent.

In conclusion, this spin-off could have been great. The author has given Mammy a complex back-story, which could have evoked a lot of emotion from me. However, the nagging feeling that Mammy is, yet again, relegated to the sidelines is a major flaw that can't be overlooked.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

For reasons, I've started reading Nutcracker and Mouse King, which most of you will recognise as the famous ballet.

I borrowed this from the NLB eReads program, and I just realised this book contains two versions of the story - the original and the French retelling. I'm looking forward to seeing how different they are!

My teaser:

"Marie supposedly is still queen of a land where you can see sparkling Christmas Forests everywhere as well as translucent Marzipan Castles - in short, the most splendid and most wondrous things, if you only have the right eyes to see them with. 
And that was the tale of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King." 
What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

I haven't read Kristin Hannah's books lately, but when I first started blogging (I took a look, and I can't believe my reviews were so sparse and short last time! But that's for another blogpost - how reviews change :p), I went on a Kristin Hannah kick. I think it started when I went to the US and came back with a bunch of her books. So far, my absolute favourite book of her's is Magic Hour.

But this isn't a review of Magic Hour. It's a review of Fly Away, the sequel to Firefly Lane. And, for some reason, I don't think I've read Firefly Lane, although the title sounds really familiar to me.

Fly Away looks at what happens to a friendship when one of the two dies. Tully and Kate are best friends, through life's ups and downs. But then, Kate dies from cancer. Before that, the two had a two year quarrel, which I assumed was the focus on the book but wasn't (I guess that was the subject of Firefly Lane). The book looks at how Tully and Kate's family falls apart following Kate's death, as a critically-ill Tully tells Kate what has happened. At the same time, Kate's husband Johnny habours a grudge against Tully (I'm not too sure why, but I think it's about the quarrel), and tries to raise his three kids successfully. Tully's mother is trying to recconect with the daughter she believes is going down the same dangerous path she went. And Tully's accident is what brings them together.

I must say, this book kept me near tears from the start. I was actually reading this on the way to golf, which explains why I didn't actually cry. Any other time, and I think the waterworks would have flowed.

This book covers a whole host of issues, from abusive relationships, to grief, to parenting. I find it a complex novel, and I loved how all the characters existed in this web of relationships, instead of several different subplots. If you like character-driven novels, you'll probably like this.

I'm torn between wanting to pick up Firefly Lane, and not wanting to read it, for fear that it'll be spoilt because of this book.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quotetastic Saturday: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I was going to post more about WriteOn today, but they're having this "interview an editor" thing going on, and I want to see what happens before blogging more about the site.

So instead, I present another one of the quote posters that I made recently:

This is one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books: Fahrenheit 451. My other two favourite quotes from the book are:

"It was a pleasure to burn."
"I'm seventeen and I'm crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane."

If I took the right photos, I'll definitely pair them together. If you really like this poster and want a hard copy, I present my Zazzle store (I chose the cheapest option for this poster, but it turned into a custom size, so I can't do anything about the price). Feel free to click on the link and look around :D
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 Poster
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 Poster by SweetTeaandFiction
Check out more Ray Posters at Zazzle
TODAY (18/10/2014) ONLY: 10% off when you quote WEEKENDS4FUN at checkout

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm Translated and Edited by Jack Zipes

I think everyone has heard of The Brother's Grimm. But what I didn't know (and what you may not know), is that the most commonly found versions of their fairy-tales are the heavily edited ones. The first edition of their fairy-tales were the least edited of them all. And this book is the first ever English translation of the first edition of the fairy tales.

But mind you, these fairy tales are not meant for children. Several of them are quite gruesome, like "The Children Who Played at Slaughtering", and in the original versions of tales like "Hansel and Greta", the antagonist aren't the stepmothers but the natural mothers of the children.

Reading this book left me inspired. When I say inspired, I mean that I was inspired with the possibility of re-telling this stories. Let's face it, fairy-tales can be retold (you can see my Fairy Tales Retold Challenge posts for reviews of such books). And in their original forms, the fairy tales are short and full of space for a re-telling. I actually bookmarked several tales which I would like to try retelling some day.

Apart from the stories, I really enjoyed reading the preface. Like my Teaser Tuesday quote, the language of the preface reminds me of G.K. Chesterton. Another quote that I really like is:

Every day affords individual people moments when they can shake off everything that is false and can view things from their perspective. 

And another one:

Everything beautiful is golden and strewn with pearls. Even golden people live here. But misfortune is a dark power, a monstrous, cannibalistic giant, who is, however, vanquished, because a good woman, who happily knows how to avert disaster, stands ready to help. 

The last forty or so pages are scholarly notes on the fairy-tales, and literature students may be interested in reading them.

If I saw this book in a bookstore, I would definitely buy it. And if you like fairy tales, I highly recommend you buy this translation.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

The movie Saving Mr. Banks sparked my interest in Mary Poppins. Despite the fact that the book and the movie is very famous, I haven't read or watch much or either. Of course, I can sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Chim Chim Cheree, but that's about it.

So I was curious to find out, why is Mary Poppins so loved by children?

And as an experiment, I decided to read this with my little brother, to see if the magic still holds.

And well, I know why I like Mary Poppins. She's so different from the characters in most books. She's not the kind, grandmotherly sort that excuses wrongs and saves kids, neither is she the evil godmother type. Instead, she's Mary Poppins. She's magical, known to all sorts of fantastic creatures, and has the most interesting relatives. She's also vain, strict, and very insistent that she's a proper lady. She's a proper conundrum, and I can see why kids are fascinated by her.

The book itself is a series of short stories, without any overarching plot. That means that while it's easy to just read one-a-day, there's not much motivation to finish the whole book at one go. To finish the whole story, yes, but not the whole book.

When I was reading a story to my brother, he'd be paying attention, but when the story was over, his attention would wander of. Quite different from when I read Roald Dahl to him, and he never stops asking for more.

I wish I'd read Mary Poppins when I was a kid. I have no doubt that my imagination would have been all the more richer for it. But, she's still in print, and it's not too late for me to hunt down the rest of her books and read them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Matthew 13:44 by Scott Coren

This book left me feeling conflicted - on one hand, it was an addictive read. But on the other hand, it was tied together by a series of coincidences so improbable that I felt like laughing in disbelief (especially at the end).

And no, the parts with the angel (I figured that out way faster than Lucy) were not the unbelievable parts. Those were still ok.

What I found unbelievable was how the "mystery" of Steve death's was solved. Sure, Lucy does go and ask people for information, once or twice, but most of the time, help comes in the form of improbable coincidences. Then again, her getting in trouble was very improbable as well.

You see, Lucy gets in trouble because her husband Steve, who was suffering from brain cancer, was found dead under suspicious circumstances. And without evidence other than the testimony from the villain of the story (Andrew), the police decide that she's a key suspect and decide to charge her. But, even though she's supposedly at the center of an investigation and media storm, for most of the book, you don't feel the presence of the paparazzi or the police. They appear in the beginning to make her feel threatened, then disappear when the other storylines become more important.

I think the problem with the book is that the author chooses to follow two very attention-consuming story lines at the same time. There's the sick-baby-no-money story, and there's the I've-been-wrongfully-accused-of-murder story. Both are interesting, and could probably stand alone. But I think that in a rush to make the two fit into a book that wasn't too long, the author had to use a lot of coincidences. Like re-meeting an old friend who works with the Feds. In particular, the ending felt very rushed. I didn't really understand why it was such a happy ending, but it may just be me.

Despite all the criticism I have, I have to add that the book is a fairly addictive read. When I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. It's a fast-paced read, and that's going to appeal to a lot of people.

It may just be me, but I think the story would have been much much better if there were much less coincidences (and if things weren't resolved so quickly - apart from the two main problems, everything else was resolved surprisingly fast), and if the financial strain and police suspicion/hounding by the press was consistently felt throughout the book.

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays - Stitching Snow

Happy Tuesday! How was everyone's week? We had a typhoon visit us yesterday, but at least it's all over.

My teaser tuesday is from an ARC I'm reading. It's called "Stitching Snow", and yep, it's based on the Snow White story. Since I love fairytales, I'm really enjoying it so far.

"Father and the Candarans wanted the exact same thing, but on a very different timetable. I said nothing, just smiled and wiped out the army occupying the boot-shaped peninsula." 

What is your teaser?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Since I'm always late when it comes to jumping on bandwagons, I just finished Ender's Game. I haven't gotten a chance to see the movie yet, so I was basically reading the book for the first time, not knowing what to expect.

Woah. That's all I can say. I'm still in disbelief that Ender was a 6 year old boy when the book started, and an 11 year old when the war ended. What was I doing back then? Just reading books under the table,

If you haven't read the story, basically, Ender's Game is the story of how you can brainwash a little boy into becoming the commander of a large army which "protects" earth. Your tactics are isolation, emotional manipulation and just plain lying.

Does that sound bleak? Well, this book is bleak. Most of the book is told from Ender's POV, and you can tell how close they are to breaking his spirit. And when the book switches to other characters, you see just how cruel they are, by purposely stacking the odds against him in hopes of making him the best commander ever - or a broken shell of a boy.

While Ender is off training, his older brother and sister are taking over the world. Peter is cruel, just so cruel, but good at what his does. His older sister Valentine is supposed to be too "soft-hearted", but she ends up helping Peter because he knows how to push her buttons. Sadly, Peter succeeds in his goals despite being such an odious person (first impressions are hard to get rid off).

Ender's Game is bleak, yes, but it also touched me. Ender is brave, much braver than he gives himself credit for. The bleakness in the book feels a lot like this world. I was actually going to type "but at least we haven't started exploiting children", then I remembered about the child soldiers used by Hamas, Sudan, and many parts of the world; and the use of child workers in many other countries as well. So yes, we are using children and that's a terrible thing. Just look at this book to imagine the emotional, mental and physical toll it can take.

Will I read more of this book? Before I finished it, I felt that I wouldn't need to, because it works well as a standalone book. But, after I finished the last page, I'm actually quite curious about the future of the Buggers. If a later book address what happens to them, I'll probably read it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Writing Site: WriteOn

So, for the past few months, I've been keeping a little secret to myself. You already know about Figment and Wattpad (I blogged about them here). And now, I'm here to give you another writing option, and just in time for NaNoWriMo too! Introducing.... WRITEON (by Amazon).

For a detailed look at how WriteOn works, fellow member, awesome author and great guy J.T. Stoll wrote a really detailed blog post, complete with screenshots. Right-click, open in new window/tab, read it and then come back. (My two yen, this site is very user-friendly)

I was invited to WriteOn from NaNoWriMo, and I love it! It's easily my favourite writing site now.


Because of the community.

Perhaps it's because it's still in Beta and pretty small, but it's easy (and un-intimidating) to go jump into conversations, ask for feedback, get feedback, etc. I've gotten loads of really great feedback from a bunch of different people and learnt a lot from them. After a while, you start to recognise the 'regulars', then as you post more and more, you eventually realise 'hey, I'm one of them now' - It's an awesome feeling, cause I'm used to being the new kid in writing sites.

And because of the mods.

The two most active mods I see are Nina and Jon, and both of them do a great job welcoming the members and responding to feedback. The rest of the team isn't as active, but you do see them around, addressing concerns and working their magic behind the scenes. They've started things like Feedback Friday (excellent for getting feedback - no matter if you're a first time poster or an established member. In fact, new posters probably have a greater chance at getting feedback), Weekend Writein, and now, I see writing exercises as well. The response rate makes me feel like we're in good hands, and it really does help foster a sense of community.

So, if you're looking for a site, come to WriteOn! I can get you access codes (while they're still in Beta), so leave a comment/drop me an email if you want one!

For a different opinion of the site, you can head over to Goodereader.

Next Saturday post: A comparison between all three writing sites I'm on :D

Friday, October 10, 2014

Princess: More Tears to Cry by Jean Sasson

I should make it clear from the start that I haven't read the previous books in this series (I found it out it was a series when I started reading). So, I'm pretty much reacting to the book as a first time reader.

Princess: More Tears to Cry is a look into the life of women in Saudi Arabia. It doesn't just focus on the sultana (or 'Princess' of this novel), but expands to include the various women that she's met/helped over the years and their stories. There was much less family drama than I expected (there's a story about her brother Ali in here, but from the introduction, I expected a lot more backstabbing). Instead, it focuses more on the lives of other women, and how it has changed since the first books were written.

To me, it seems like Saudi women have made great strides. More of them are being educated, more are being helped, and a few are even doctors now. It's a truly encouraging thing.

On the other hand, rampant sexism and discrimination against women still exist. It's still way too easy to divorce a women, and the penalties for crimes against them is laughable. There are so many sad stories in there, and not all of them have a happy ending. Reading it, you may come close to tears.

Bear in mind, the book does stress that this discrimination is the fault of the culture, not religion. Or rather, the book draws a distinction between religion and men of religion. Personally, I didn't feel like this book was wholeheartedly condemning a religion, just an unjust culture.

I do not think it's appropriate to say that I enjoyed such a heart-rending book, so I will merely say that it was eye-opening.

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Obsidian Dagger by Catherine Webb

Back when I was still in MG, I came across the Horatio Lyle series. I've forgotten what they were about now, but I remember really enjoying them. So, when I went to the library, I hunted down the series - they only had one available, and sadly, it's not the first book. But, I still enjoyed reading it.

The Obsidian Dagger is a murder mystery. Two men are discovered dead in a boat. A series of murders follows. Horatio Lyle would like to stay out of this, but Lord Lincoln is basically twisting his arm until he starts to investigate. And the more he investigates, the clearer it is that meddling is only going to bring trouble. Too bad it's the right thing to do.

Accompany Horatio are Teresa, a former pickpocket and Thomas Edward Elwick, the son of Lord Elwick. The two kids are as different as chalk and cheese, and that's what makes the trio so fun. Thomas is smart, very smart, and a bit naive. Teresa may be uneducated (compared to Thomas), but she's street-smart, and learns at a quick rate. Horatio is like the guardian of the two of them, and the affection they share is very touching.

While I don't think you need to have read the first book to understand this book, knowing what happened before will definitely help. Several people referenced to are key players of earlier books, and may confuse the first-time reader.

I really enjoy the vivid descriptions and the rather unexpected humor of this book. It's funny, but it comes at times where you don't expect jokes to be made. Apart from humour, this book also touches on the themes of love (twisted love, patriotic love, philia love) and self-sacrifice (which if you think about it, is tied to love).

Now I remember why I loved this series so much.