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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Goebbels by Peter Longerich

Hey everyone! This week, I'm tacking a non-fiction book, which is a departure from the norm. Right now, I'm reading Goebbels, a biography of Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitler's most loyal followers. The biography is based around his diary, so you get to hear the man himself. It's a bit scary, to be honest.

My teaser:
"There is a dull longing in us that we cannot name and cannot describe. [...] In strange silence millions of the unredeemed, misled, betrayed, despairing, subjugated, the army of slaves is waiting for a word, a sound." 

This is from his diary, and to be honest, if I didn't know that this was by Goebbels and about Hitler, I would have thought the sentences beautiful. But I know who wrote this, and what for, so I can't say that these sentences are inspiring, beautiful or any positive adjective.

What is your teaser?
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!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Fairy-tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

First up, I've never watched the TV show Once Upon a Time (although after reading this, I kind of want to), so I can't really compare The Fairytale Detectives (part of The Sisters Grimm series) with the show. But this book made me think of the show, which I heard also has fairytale characters in the real world setting.

The Fairytale Detective (which I keep calling "The Sisters Grimm" by accident) follows Sabrina and Daphne Grimm. The book opens as they're sent to live with their grandmother Grimm that they were told was dead after their parents mysteriously disappeared. Sabrina is cynical and suspicious, and she highly doubts that this nice-seeming old lady with the delicious but strange food is their grandmother. Daphne loves her and the house and even Mr. Canis, the strange old man who lives with them. Even after their grandmother reveals "the secret" of their parentage to them, Sabrina still refuses to believe. It's not until Grandmother Grimm and Mr. Canis are taken by a giant that Sabrina and Daphne have to team up with Puck, yes the Puck (who is a villain, as he'll have you know) and save their grandmother.

To be very honest, I didn't like Sabrina at all. I liked Daphne and Puck a lot more, mostly because they were more fun. For most of the book, Sabrina was being a Debbie Downer, and even though being cynical can be a good thing, this was too much of a good thing. Sabrina was being so cynical that she was spoiling the fun of the story. I understand that she feels responsible for her sibling and all that, but what I really wanted the was the fun that Daphne embodied.

Apart from the two girls, I also enjoyed reading about the fairytale town. Not everything is peaches and cream, because the town is under a spell, but it was interesting to read about the different characters. Prince Charming isn't as charming as the Disney movies, but he probably has more depth here than the movies (or the stories). I can't wait to meet Snow White, who's a teacher at the school - we see a glimpse of her, but not much.

After reading this book, I really want to read more. Sabrina seems to have come out of her cynical-no-fun-mood by the end of the book, and with that gone, the future books should be a lot more fun. I look forward to seeing Daphne and Sabrina (along with Puck) solve more cases in the future.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The King in the Window by Adam Gopnik

Ok, I first read this book a long time ago, when I was in MG, and I loved it so much I ordered a used copy from Amazon after searching the used bookstores in Singapore and coming up with nothing. So I'm more than a little biased about this book.

The King in the Window is about Oliver Parker, an American boy who has been living in Paris almost his whole life. He's not particularly extraordinary, nor is he exceptionally evil. He's perfectly normal. One day, however, he puts on a paper crown, and quite forgetting it was there, declares himself the King of the Window. As it happens, there is a King of the Window, and Oliver is not only the new king, he has to lead the Window Wraiths to defeat the Master of the Mirrors.

In a way, Oliver reminds me of Bastian from The Neverending Story. Neither of them are particularly extraordinary, and for Oliver, this is quite ruthlessly emphasised. Bastian became a hero quite by chance, Oliver was made into a hero as part of someone else's plan. Oliver, isn't particularly eloquent (thought he slowly learns, a little), nor is he exceptionally quick witted or cunning (that would be Mrs. Pearson and Neige). He is, however, a lot less irritating than Bastian, and I was rooting for this not-quite-outsider the whole time.

Apart from Oliver and the window wraiths, there are a whole host of supporting characters. Neige, the French girl who lives in Oliver's apartment; Mrs Pearson, a Brit with an acerbic wit; Charlie, Oliver's American friend who has very particular ideas of how adventures are about to go and a lot more that I haven't touched upon yet. I loved how they all interacted, and I thought the fact that they all had something to teach Charlie was interesting.

I suppose if I have a little dissatisfaction, it would be about how the author generalises about France and America. But to be honest, most of the time, I thought all the detail the author gave helped me imagine the Paris of that book. The stereotypes of nationalities did give me (not the younger me, though) pause every now and then, but I suppose it was done in the interest of not dwelling too much on details that don't really matter.

Overall, this book lived up to my memories of it. I really enjoyed it, and the hardcover version I ordered is beautiful! I'm glad that I ordered it, and I have no regrets.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

I'm not too sure what to make of this book. It's like a MG mystery in terms of quirkiness, but YA-ish when you consider how old the characters are and how they act. This confusion is basically me throughout the whole book - while I did enjoy it, I always had this "um...." feeling.

Something's fishy at Enchantment Lake, and there's nothing to do with actual fish. A panicked Frankie flies to her great aunts, who live at Enchanted Lake, after a phone call, only to find they're alive and well. They do, however, suspect that someone's been killing off the residents. So it's up to Frankie, who once played a cop on TV, to do some detective work, and hopefully stay alive.

If the story was restricted to the mystery, it would have been a fun and lighthearted read. Frankie's aunts are quirky and adorable, and the huge cast of characters are entertaining. The mystery was engaging too, and there was a constant parade of suspects as Frankie tries to figure out who's behind everything. I definitely did not see the twist that appeared.

But, the story tries to go a bit deeper and pulls in Frankie's past. Questions about her family history are raised, and this is where the novel falls a bit flat for me. It feels as though the book wants to be both light-hearted and serious, and the serious stuff did not work for me. I suppose this is where the not-MG feeling came from, because these start to deal with issues that I associate more with YA.

Personally, I much prefer the fluffy, lighter sections of the book. Sure, the body count is high, but it's possible to write a light read with a high body count. Instead, the book's attempt to also be serious and deal with deeper issues was what pulled me out of the story. Weird, huh.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

I picked this up from the library on a whim, mostly because the title intrigued me. I'm not really a hashtag person, but a girl boss? Yes please. I've always wanted to be a boss (or a stock trader) when I was younger, so this part-memoir, part-advice book appealed to me.

#Girlboss (or more accurately, #GIRLBOSS) is written by Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, an online clothing shop. Ms Amoruso didn't actually set out to be an entrepreneur, she kind of fell into it after a series of lousy jobs. To divide the book into two, Chapters 1 to 5 is more on her memoir, and Chapters 6 to 11 is more about the business side, such as getting employed (or hiring someone), finding your creative streak, and so on. Both sides do mix the memoir and help, but I think the focus of both sections are slightly different.

I really like this book. Well, to be honest, I knew I would like this book after I read this line (about whether #GIRLBOSS is a feminist book):
"I believe the best way to honor the past and future of women's rights is by getting shit done. Instead of sitting around and talking about how much I care, I'm going to kick ass and prove it."
I read these two sentences and thought "woah, this lady is practical, bet the book is too." And it was.

While Ms Amoruso and I have vastly, vastly different upbringings, backgrounds and just about everything else, this book was inspiring to me. This book says that with hard work and perseverance, you too, can succeed. And you don't succeed by complaining on Facebook or getting your parents to call (this is an example in the book), you succeed by putting your best foot forward, and then working hard. Or as she puts it in the employment chapter (which, weirdly for me, may be my favourite chapter), four words that are taboo in Nasty Gal is "That's not my job". You're here to work for the company, not have the company work for you. And if I forget that, someone remind me.

The only thing about this book is that swear words make their appearance. Not that often, but enough that I cringed a few times. I would like to pass this book to my younger siblings, but because of the language, I won't be comfortable giving it to them until they're, say, older teens (so, either JC at the very earliest).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

The intro to today's Teaser Tuesday is going to be short, because there's a paper that I should be getting back to.

This week, I'm sneaking chapters of The Far End of Happy in between school stuff. So far, what I'm reading is making me wish I had no school, because I want to find out what happens.

My teaser:

"I can't live in a fantasy world either. I need to know where the cold stone walls are."
What is your Teaser Tuesday?

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!

P.s. If you remember my teaser last week, about "Food: A Love Story", well, I've finished it, and the review was posted yesterday. The tl;dr version is: I found this to be really funny,  but it's a matter of personal taste, and if you're a big fan of Jim Gaffigan, you're probably already familiar with the material.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

I'm not sure who recommended this book to me, but I owe them a big thank you. Apparently, I made a reservation for it on NLB, and promptly forgot about it. Good thing the library reminds me when the book is here.

Food: A Love Story is a collection of columns about, you've guessed it, food. It covers topics from the types of food in America to healthy food. For some reason, it reminds me of an American version of Guy Browning's books. Each chapter is a standalone, and as I found out later, is based on Jim Gaffigan's stand-up routines.

Really, I listened to the Hot Pocket routine because it sounded interesting, and I think the later half of the chapter is more or less the routine. So I guess if you're a fan of this guy, you may already know most of the material here.

I think the biggest factor that decides whether you like this book is whether you like the narrative voice. I happened to like it, but at the beginning, I remember thinking "I hope I laugh soon, or I'd get annoyed with the narration fairly soon." Of course, I laughed, and I laughed often. I may not have agreed with him (I love sushi and fish and shellfish and a bunch of other things he doesn't like), but that doesn't matter. It was still funny.

By the way, there's an audiobook version of this book as well, narrated by Jim Gaffigan himself. After watching his routines, I was really excited to listen to it (it's on Scribd!). But, the way he reads the book is different from the way he does stand-up. Stand-up speech sounds a lot more spontaneous, and more expressive. When I listened to the audiobook, I could hear him reading, and it feels like it's more controlled. I'm still listening to the audiobook though, and it was pretty good background listening while I was doing my work.

In conclusion, I found this to be a funny book, and I loved reading it. Whether you will, depends on whether you find the following video funny (yes, I know it's not the Hot Pocket routine, but I think McDonalds is a lot more universal than Hot Pockets):

Friday, June 12, 2015

Writing Magic and Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine

I haven't really reviewed Gail Carson Levine's books on this blog (definitely a mistake), but I remember a period of time, long long ago when I was still in Primary School, where I was binge reading her books. So while at the library with my little brother, I saw her two writing books, unsuccessfully tried to get my brother interested in it, and then borrowed it anyway.

Writing Magic may be a thin little book, but I wish someone gave me this when I was younger. It covers the basics of writing, from characters to plot ideas to getting through writers block. The chapters are short and digestible, and there are plenty of exercises for one to do. In fact, every chapter ends with the words "save what you wrote", because, as she explains it, as you grow and learn, your writing will change, and saving your writing is the same as building a time machine. When you look back at what you wrote, you'll see yourself as you were in the past.

The only chapter I disagreed with was the one on publishing. Gail Carson Levine basically warns people off putting their work on the Internet if they want to sell it, but well, lately the news has been talking about writers being picked up from Wattpad, and Fanfiction sites, so I don't think it holds true now. But this isn't a publishing book, so it's pretty easy to ignore that one chapter.

The sequel/companion to Writing Magic is Writer to Writer, which is really the "best of" from Gail Carson Levine's blog. Oh, except the section on writing poetry, which is new. I haven't read her blog, so I found the book interesting, and an expansion on what she was saying in Writing Magic. There are many examples and the story prompts were interesting. If you're a long time reader of her blog though, and don't really have an interest in poetry, you may not need to get this book.

Oh, and I'm not very good at poetry (I like Robert Frost, and Wilfred Owen and Shel Silverstein, but that's about it), so I can't judge the poetry chapters for usefulness. I enjoyed reading them, but the odds of me writing poetry isn't happening in the foreseeable future, ceteris paribus.

If I had to pick between the two books, I would probably go for Writer to Writer. It's much more comprehensive, and the same basic subjects are covered in the two books. Except perhaps writer's block, which isn't explicitly mentioned in Writer to Writer. But, she does have a chapter called "drops of blood", which is around the same thing, in my opinion.

These books will probably inspire young writers, and not-so-young writers as well. I really enjoyed reading it, and I could totally see myself doing a few prompts if I owned a copy and didn't just borrowed it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

I could have sworn I read the first two books in this series, Huntress Moon and Blood Moon only recently, but it turns out that was in 2013! But still, as soon as I opened the book, I slipped back into the world of Agent Roarke and Cara Lindstrom, where evil is all too real and one injured girl grows up to take matters in her own hands.

Cold Moon is the third book, and as such, it can't be a continuation of the hunt for Cara. Instead, when the book starts, Cara has already been caught. This book deals with the aftermath of Cara being caught, when she escapes (of course. Did you think mere walls would hold her? Ok fine, she got out on bail), and the growing online movement that may have already spilled over into real life. 

As with the past two books, I found myself sympathising with the "killers". Why? Because the men they killed were johns or pimps, men who exploit young girls. This book doesn't shy away from the details; while nothing is sexually explicit, the way these monsters break young girls and turn them into prostitutes is heart-rending. 

One unexpected "star" of this book is Santa Muerte, the female saint of death. The killings in this book come with offerings to her, and there's this sense that since there is such tangible evil in the world, someone, or something, has to come in and provide a balance. Get rid of the evil.

Unlike the other two books, there isn't much focus on Roarke and Cara's relationship in this one. In fact, I thought the dynamics between his team was more prominent. It could also be because the book is no longer focused on Cara (or just Cara and one other serial killer), and has broadened into her impact on society. Is Cara a lone ranger or a call to arms? Everyone has an opinion, but no one knows, not Agent Roake, and not even, I think, Cara.

While I have no idea if this is going to be the last book in the Huntress/FBI Thriller series, the ending certainly feels like one. The tension that was set up in Huntress Moon was very expertly carried for three books, and this book has lost none of the tension. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

I have no idea where I heard about this book - I don't know if it was a blog, or a newspaper, but somehow, I heard about it and had the urge to read it. NLB's eReads programme had the book, so I reserved it and forgot about it, until two days ago, when it was finally my turn to borrow the book.

My teaser:
"Aside from these minor inconveniences, getting delivery remains my favorite nonsleeping activity. I mean, besides eating cheese." 
What is your Teaser Tuesday 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!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman

I remember reading John Sung's biography (or was it autobiography?) a few years ago. Back then, I immediately questioned the accuracy of the stories, because it seemed like miracles were being performed left, right and centre. I remember one being an unsaved woman who died, was brought back to life to accept God, before dying again. My skepticism levels went right through the roof (especially since you don't get this sort of things in Singapore).

Reading Jesus in Beijing didn't get me to believe the above miracle, but I do better understand how those miracles could have made it into the book. And ok, I'm a bit more openminded about it - I can't say that it's impossible, especially since I believe that miracles have occurred (I have a tendency towards cessationism, although I can't say I'm firmly in that school of thought).

Basically, Jesus in Beijing is an overview of Christianity in Japan, and a quick biography of the main movers and shakes. Basically, it's like a book of mini-biographies, with a quick history lesson in the front, and a discussion of the role of foreigners and the Church's future at the back. The edition I read is from 2003, and I believe there's been a revised version, so I'm not sure how much stuff I'm missing, especially for the "future" section, because the Beijing Olympics, which was talked about as a good opportunity for spreading the Gospel, has passed.

I really liked this book. For some reason, I found it to be a very convincing piece on how Christianity in China was, and how it is, right now. I liked the appendix, which has the Church's confession of faith, among other documents, although I wish there was a Chinese version as well. I'm not sure how much I can read, but it'll be interesting to take a crack at it.

I wish I read this book earlier. I think having the history of the Church in China explained to me before I started reading autobiographies and biographies of some of the Church leaders would have made the way I read the latter works so much informed, and more balanced.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Spendors and Glooms (a.k.a Fire Spell) by Laura Amy Schlitz

I heard about this book from Pages Unbound, and thought it sounded interesting. I managed to get a copy, and it was as good as I expected! (Although, finding a copy turned out to be rather difficult. My library has this under "Fire Spell", but I had the title written down as "Splendours and Glooms". Not sure how that happened, but at least I found the book through the author name)

Fire Spell has three main characters - Clara, a rich girl who's suffocating under the weight of her dead siblings, as well as Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, two orphans who help the puppet master Grisini. The book opens with Clara's birthday. She's fallen in love with the puppets, and has managed to invite the puppet master and his helpers to perform a show. However, she disappears the next night, and while Grisini is the main suspect, he soon disappears. It's up to Lizzie Rose and Parsefall to survive on their own.

However, what the two orphans don't know is that dark forces are at play. They've never even considered the possibility of magic, and so have no idea about the witch and Grisini, and what relationship these two have.

This book really kept me flipping through the pages. I wanted to know what happened to Clara, and what on earth was going on with the witch and Grisini. The two adults basically tried to manipulate the children throughout the whole book, and I was really rooting for the kids to find out what's happening.

What I liked about this book were the characters. None of the kids were perfect, although Lizzie Rose certainly tried her best. Clara has problems with her family, since you know, her siblings are dead. Lizzie Rose was born to actor parents (her dad seems really famous), but now she's reduced to the status of an orphan, and tries her best to remain a lady. Parsefall is a thief, but he's also a gifted puppeteer, and although he may try to be a hardened streetrat, he still has his moments of vulnerableness.

If you like magic, brave characters and enjoy flipping through pages for long stretches at a time, you're probably going to enjoy this book. I certainly did, and while I was a little sad to see the book come to an end, I'm glad that all the children received their happy endings.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Life of a Banana by PP Wong

I actually heard about this book in The Straits Times, so I was super excited. It's about British Born Chinese, the Chinese part coming from Singapore. I'll just say up front that my standards for this are probably higher than most other fiction I read, because I've been looking for awesome Singapore fiction. Plus, after that disastrous Singapore Lover book, I'm probably overly sensitive to depictions of Singapore and Singaporeans.

So dun say I complain too much hor. Like is like lah, but still must say bad things if got, right?

(And if you understood that, congrats, you understand Singlish. Or at least, what remains of Singlish after you study overseas for a few years :p)

The Life of a Banana is about Xing Li, a BBC (British-Born Chinese). One day, her mom passes away, and she and her older brother Lai Ker have to move in with their rich grandmother that they don't really know (or like). Living in the same house are Auntie Mei, a wannabe actress and Uncle Ho, who's strange. School isn't much better either, because she's getting picked on, and she has only one friend, a Jamaican-Chinese boy called Jay.

What I loved:

Xing Li's voice. It's fantastic, and it drew me in immediately. I don't really have much more to say about it, really, except that I love the voice. (This is short, but it's like, five stars for narrative voice, wheeee!)

The story: At first, I thought this was going to be a memoir-style story, where things happen to the author rather than her doing things in reaction to events. But, as I read on, I started getting more and more engrossed in the story. It may be the voice, but I think the story of growing up and finding out your identity starts to come out as the book progresses (and it helps that Xing Li starts being more proactive as the book goes on).

What I wasn't too keen on:

Any third-person narrative section. I think there were only two, and both of them were terrible, especially compared to how awesome the first person narrative voice was. When the book shifts to third person limited, the author seems to jump from one POV to another awkwardly, and it just comes across as... weird. The dialogue somehow becomes stiff: "I come from a poverty stricken background... you see, my foolish personality renders me to have a soft heart..." somehow becomes moving speech for the headmaster, who's been headmaster for forty years. I know you change your speech to the occasion, but this is strange.

Grandma's speech. Grandma speaks in broken English. At first, I thought it was because English isn't her native language, but then it's mentioned that she has "tons of brains", and (slight spoiler alert), she has friends who speak excellent English and write in said English with her. And I believe that friend and her grew up together, so why would one have good, standard English, and the other not? Please don't tell me it's just to emphasise the "foreignness", because it doesn't even read like Singapore-accented English to me. Like, even the old ah ma's in Singapore speak better English (those who can speak English, that is).


While we're on the topic of Singapore, I'm glad to say that while Singapore only appears for a few chapters, its portrayal was more accurate than that Singapore Lover book. For one thing, prata appears! I miss prata! And Milo Dinosaur and Milo Godzilla.

Oh, and I found it strange that while there was some Singlish (people explaining Singlish words), hardly anyone used Singlish in Singapore. Like, what? Lah appeared twice, meh appeared once as an example of Singlish, and lor not at all. Then again, I'd rather the author not mangle Singlish if she's not used to it. It's just something I found strange.

One more strange thing that isn't really a complaint is that I'm not sure how Xing Li gets into a club. I'm pretty sure we're strict about stuff like this, and she's not even in her teens, but I might have misread that chapter, or mistook her age because the voice sounded so young.

Overall, this was way better than Singapore Lover. It's not the perfect book, but I did enjoy it, despite my complaints (then again, it is said that one of the Singaporean past-times is complaining. The other is queueing).

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

P.s. The author has this website for Asian writers called "Banana Writers - Where Asian Writers Get Unpeeled". Am I the only one who took the term "Banana" in the context of the novel and thought it meant "helping Asian writers become more Western"?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

This week, I'm reading Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff. It's the third book in The Huntress/FBI Thrillers series, and I'm enjoying it as much as I did the other two.

Without further ado, the teaser:
"He moved up to it and stopped on the sidewalk, looking into the window at the skeletal figure of the saint: white-gowned, globe in one hand, scythe in the other, candles at her feet along with the now-familiar offerings. 
The offerings with the latest two murders." 

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!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

I came across this book by chance, but since fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings are my weakness, I had to give it a go.

Sweetly is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, only in this story it's not clear who the witch is. Ansel (Hansel) and Gretchen (Gretel) have been thrown out by their stepmother. The two twins were marked by the disappearance of Gretchen's twin in the woods while they were little, which caused their mother's death, and their father to go in a deep despondency. Trying to make a new start, their car breaks down in Live Oak, South Carolina. They end up staying with Sophia Kelly, a candy maker who Ansel quickly falls in love with. But, Live Oaks hides a dark secret, and if the local outcast Samuel can be trusted, Sophia Kelly is the cause of every bad thing that happens. But can the girl that took Gretchen in as a sister and is dating her brother really be evil?

This story was pretty interesting. Apart from the candy-making Sophia, and the similar names, the parallel to the fairy tale isn't very interesting. Sure, there's a witch, but most people don't believe she exists. The only other parallel to the fairy tale I caught was Ansel getting fat. And the ending, which had fire, but not much similarity apart from that.

Gretchen was a pretty good protagonist and narrator though. While I'm not a fan of her judging people on their grief (her standard is to compare how others act to how she acts, then by their smiles and actions decides if they've lost a loved one - and since people can grieve differently, I don't quite agree with this), she's really does grow a lot through the novel. She was this scared girl afraid of disappearing at the start, and by the end, she was ready to take a stand against the witch.

The concept of the witch was pretty novel too. I'm not sure if I buy the explanation of who/what a witch is(which I can't go into, because that would be spoiler), the 'witch' of this book was a scary antagonist.

Sweetly basically takes the concept of Hansel and Gretel as a starting point and from there, wove its own tale. The end story bares only a slight resemblance to the traditional fairy tale, but overall, I enjoyed how it was done.