Thursday, June 30, 2016

Forgiving my Daughter's Killer by Kate Grosmaire

I finished this book much faster than I expected. I opened it up mainly so I could use it for a Teaser Tuesday, but the next thing I knew, I was done with the book.

Forgiving My Daughter's Killer is, like it's title says, about forgiveness. Kate's daughter Ann was killed by her boyfriend, and the book is about how she and her husband coped with her death, eventually ending in them seeking for restorative justice.

I have to say, Kate and her husband Andy have much bigger hearts than I do. They forgave Ann's killer, Connor, almost at once. There was very little of that "he must pay for what he did" type of rage that most people would feel. This is probably a result of them practicing forgiveness every day. So the lesson is: don't hold small grudges. It makes it harder to forgive the big ones.

And I think the concept of restorative justice is very interesting. According to the book, restorative justice is based on three principles:

1. Crime is a violation of people and interpersonal relationships
2. Violations create obligations on the part of the offender
3. The central obligation is the right the wrongs.

Of course, this is dependent on the criminal to realise that he's done wrong - if he thinks that what he does is right, restorative justice is not going to have an effect.

I really liked this book. While I hope never to have to experience that kind of tragedy (and I hope no one ever does), her message of continually practicing forgiveness is one that I really should be taking to heart. She and her family is living proof that it's healthier to forgive than to hold a grudge.

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Give and Take by Adam Grant

You've probably heard of the saying "nice guys finish last". Well, that's an incomplete truth. In fact, nice guys and gals (aka the givers) finish first and last.

So, why do givers occupy both extremes? This book aims to investigate why, teach you the difference between givers and takers, and figure out how givers can make their giving work to their advantage.

I actually requested this book because the one I wanted to read, The Originals, wasn't available. But, I have no regrets. The book is interesting, easy to read, plus it uses many, many studies to buttress it's points. I ended up taking many notes, which in my typical oversharing fashion, I'm going to copy here.

First: we should beware first impressions. Apparently, takers "tend to form glowing first impressions", because they are good at kissing up. You want to find out their true character? Look at how they treat their subordinates.

Second, there's something called "expedition behaviour". Basically, it involves putting the group ahead of the individuals, and like the name suggests, was coined by the National Outdoor Leadership School. And according to astronauts, it's also why they succeed in space.

Kinda interesting, especially since in Asia, the idea of the group before the individual was pretty prevalent. I wonder how the rise of individualism will affect those dynamics (and this has nothing to do with givers haha). (Sorry, that was a random digression.)

Also, responsibility bias is a real thing. We tend to overestimate our own contributions to a project. However, we can somewhat mitigate this effect if we take the time to appreciate what our partner/other group members have actually done. This is something that I can certainly agree with. I once worked with someone that tore my hair out, and I was tempted to tell everyone that I did 99% of the work. But, when I thought about it, I realised that all the work up to the actual analysis of the data plus the writing and revising of the paper was actually split equally, so I revised my contribution down to 80% (which according to my teacher, was still too high).

Third, psychological safety is important if you want people to take risks. I think this is self-explanatory.

Fourth, if you are a supremely qualified person, showing some of your weakness, i.e. Being intentionally vulnerable will make you more likeable. If you're mediocre though, this does not work at all.

Fifth, apart from fight or flight, there's another response to stress called "tend and befriend". Basically, we seek out people in order to "receive joint protection in threatening times".

And by the way, the way for givers not to be taken advantage of is to give strategically. Or as the book puts it, be "otherish". Basically, think of others as you act.

I also liked the idea that when givers negotiate, they should use a "relational account". Basically, think of the people who are depending on the giver to do a good job. Apparently that's really effective.

And this brings us to the end of my notes.

I really liked this book. Apart from being interesting, it also reinforced the idea that fighting my selfish impulses is the right thing to do. So even though the book isn't religious at all, it reminded me to be more Christ-like in my actions.

Plus, it also reassured me that I don't need to answer every single email that comes my way. I want to help, but I have to help smart. Oh! I just realised, this relates to what @untraceme was talking about in her Dayre!

I really do recommend this book. If you're Singaporean, it's available in the NLB's eReads program, so you don't even have to go to the library to borrow it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The Classic Ten by Nancy MacDonell Smith

Hey everyone! How's the start to your week going? I've got a test on Thursday and a presentation on Saturday (in Tokyo, of all places) so it's gonna be another busy week for me :p But I did find this week's teaser book in BookOff, and since I remember liking it when I first read it (though I didn't review), I figured I should just get it and reread it for old time's sake.

The Classic Ten is a short history of ten classic fashion staples, such as the suit, the jeans, the little black dress, etc. It's a pretty light read.

My teaser:

"In Venice, the city government passed a law that specified that only upper-class women in the first fifteen years of marriage could wear them. When that didn't work, they resorted to more draconian measures, and demanded that all the ladies of Venice, other than the dogeressa, her daughters, and her daughters-in-law, hand over their pearls."

To put this into context, European officials wanted to maintain the exclusivity of pearls, and resorted to that weird law.

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Risuko by David Kudler

Risuko is the tale of Murasaki Kano, nicknamed Risuko (squirrel) for her ability to climb anything. One day, she finds that her mother sold her to Lady Chiyome, to become a "kunoichi". What a kunoichi is would be the point of the whole book, along with a subplot about a traitor in their midst.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I already knew what the Kunoichi were, and I guess that anyone interested in Japanese history would know who they were too. So the whole mystery was sort of a non-mystery for me. I did, however, enjoy the descriptions of the lessons that Risuko and the two other novices - Emi and Toumi go through.

I also liked most of the characters - especially Masugu and Mieko. It was so obvious what their bickering was about, even if Risuko didn't see it. I found it cute.

So, some complaints:

One, the chef's way of speaking. The chef is from Korea, and he speaks with what I imagine is a Texan accent. That was really odd, but then again, I think in the English dub of Detective Conan, Heiji's Kansai accent was changed to a Southern drawl too, so it's not entirely without precedent. It's still weird though. (And yay for me not needing subtitles or dubs anymore)

Second, I didn't get along well with the prologue. It felt more like a blurb to me. But it's short, so I'd just recommend everyone skip it.

Last, there was a slight inconsistency in the way lady Chiyome was addressed. Sometime, she was Lady Chiyome, at other times, she was Chiyome sama. If there was a pattern, I couldn't figure it out. There was also some unneeded repetitions, like "mukashi mukashi, long ago" (mukashi; 昔 means long ago so...) which I thought was odd.

But I did read an advance copy, so hopefully all that's been ironed out.

Despite the complaints (which are fairly minor), I enjoyed this story. The lessons that Risuko and the other two were interesting, and the subplot developed in a way that I didn't really expect, but made sense.

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

I'm actually a bit ashamed to say that I've never read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms until now. All I know about the story are the excerpts from Chinese class/Chinese tuition, and stuff from dramas. So clearly this is something that has to be remedied. However, my Chinese isn't the best, so I opted to read a translation.

The story is too complicated to describe. Basically, a bunch of people scheme and fight and betray one another in order to gain power. Of course, there are a few characters who, through either sheer luck or ruthlessness, manage to remain in the story. For me, the two that come to mind are Cao Cao and Liu Bei plus his sworn brothers.

Oh, and for some reason, I've always had this Cao Cao = bad and Liu Bei = good association in my mind.

This is mostly true (Cao Cao does some really horrific things, while Liu Bei... Not so much), but the characters are more nuanced than that. Occasionally, Cao Cao acts like a decent human being. Of course, this normally occurs after his 'enemy' has been put to death and only when it suits him.

Liu Bei reminds me of the Mulan song, where you need to bend like bamboo in the wind. He really does bend here and there. But he's a good guy at heart.

Which is more than most of the other characters. I really think that he and his sworn brothers are the most loyal characters there (and have the most 'righteous' personalities). Everyone else... likes to listen to what suits them. But I guess that's human nature.

Oh, and the most pitiful character is definitely the emperor and his family. They're basically puppets of the prime minister, which reminds me a lot of the emperor and the Shogun in Japan (though this comes first, I think)

I'd totally read on. But before I pick up the second volume, I have quite a few other books on my TBR list. And I guess when I've finished this, I should go on to the Red Chambers (can't remember full title) and other classics.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Raven's Peak by Lincoln Cole

I won this book on Kindle Scout, so yay for that!

Raven's Peak follows... well, it's either Abigail or Haatim. So my normal opening sentence does not work here. Basically, Abigail hunts demons, and Haatim is running from his past. When Haatim unwittingly becomes entangled in the whole demon world, he meets Abigail and things start to get weird and dangerous for him. The two eventually end up at a tiny town called Raven's Peak, where people are going crazy, and where Abigail and Haatim will both have to face their past in one way or another.

I've previously talked about Lincoln Cole's books, and this was as good as the other, even though he's writing in a completely different genre. I'm really not kidding or exaggerating when I say that I was flipping the pages as quickly as possible. From the prologue, which doesn't make sense until you're deep in the book and then it hits you, to the ending, the book had many twists and turns. It was definitely a thrilling read (kinda like the roller coaster of books, come to think of it).

As for the characters, I really liked Abigail and Haatim. They worked well together, and they both had that essential spark that made them come alive to me. For Abigail, it was her bonds to the man she thought of as father (or a father figure). For Haatim, it was the tragedy in his past. Both of them are weighed down by it, and getting over them is something that they have to do if they want to confront the external problem that's all around them.

If you're a fan of horror, I really recommend this book. And if my word isn't enough, think of it this way: enough people liked the book to nominate it, and it caught the editor's eye over at Kindle Scout, so that should tell you how good it is.

Disclaimer: I know the author, and I nominated the book for Kindle Scout, which is how I got my copy. The gushing, however, was made of my own free will and is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Natural Curiosity by Lisa Carne

I must say, I like this book a LOT more than the other unschooling book, the one by the lady that really hates schools. I can't remember the title or author, and I don't really feel like looking for it, but I remember that it was fairly famous.

Anyway, Natural Curiosity is a book on unschooling, based on children's natural affinity and love for things in nature. The book basically posits that you can use nature as a starting base to learn anything, and the author tries to show that through stories about how her children learn. The only thing that I really disagree with is the quote:
"A class rota appeared where the children were occasionally expected to take their turn in sweeping up and cleaning the dinner hall after lunch, which meant missing valuable playtime." 
I can't remember if I've said it on this blog before, but I think that it's good for children to take part in keeping their schools clean (and their surroundings in general). I really do think that by teaching them that they're responsible for cleaning up their surroundings, it's easier to teach them to respect their surroundings. I mean, if they litter (for example), they'll realise that someone has to pick it up, and perhaps it'll help them see that it's best not to litter. Plus, the book itself says "occasionally", so it's not as though the kids were being forced to scrub the school every day.

By the way, as charming as the stories about her family were at first, the "Distraction" sections, which are literally her writing what's distracting her proved to be too much, and I eventually started skipping those and the "Note" sections as well. There can be too much of a charming thing.

I think this was an interesting book, although I still firmly believe that unschooling only works for certain types of children, while school is probably better for others, depending on their character and learning style.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki

Hey everyone! I hope you had a good week last week(: Like I mentioned in the previous TT, I went back for my cousin's wedding, and it was an amazing few days! My cousin was beautiful as the bride, and it was great to see everyone again. I even managed to put on a kimono for the wedding ceremony. The only thing was... I didn't have much time to blog (or go on the Internet).

Right now, I'm reading The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki. I don't know how I found it, but it's in my wishlist, so I decided to borrow it. So far, I like it.

My teaser:

"A bookstore was always cozier than a library - more comforting - a familiar place in an unfamiliar town. He picked up his bike from the sidewalk." 
What about you? How has your week been? What have you been reading?

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Yurei Attack by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt

I found this book quite by accident, but because I've read Ninja Attack, a different book by the same author, and enjoyed it, I decided to borrow this and read.

Luckily, it totally lived up to my expectations.

Yurei Attack is basically an introduction to the various kinds of Yurei (ghosts) haunting Japan. Of course, it's not exhaustive, but most of the main Yurei are featured (I think).

The Yurei in this book are divided into three categories: "Sexy and Scary" (aka famous lady ghosts), "Furious Phantoms" and "Sad Spectres". There's also a section on haunted areas in Japan and games related to the Yurei. Altogether, 36 Yurei/Yurei-related things are introduced. The last section is on the Japanese version of hell, a glossary, Yurei toys and an extensive bibliography.

Oh, and a list of resources they recommend.

I thought the book was very interesting, and I liked that each topic came with an illustration. So it was very easy to read and very colourful. It is not, however, and in-depth look into the Yurei - when I finished this, I wanted something meatier to sink my teeth into.

But first, I think I'll check out the other book in this series - Yokai Attack. I mean, the book did constantly refer to it after all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The Tank Man's Son

Hey everyone!! I hope your week has gotten off to a good start(: My cousin is getting married at the end of this week, so I'm really, really excited for her wedding!

But, I'm not really reading a lighthearted book. In fact, I'm reading The Tank Man's Son, which is supposed to be a powerful memoir. I haven't read enough to form a judgement, but I'm captivated by what I've read so far.

My teaser:

"All of that explains why Dad's one-day stay in jail coincided with Ike disappearing, only to return to us several days later in the form of a month's worth of T-bones, rib eye, and ground beef.  
Family dinners didn't always feel good, but finally eating Ike sure did."
Hope you're all enjoying your books as well, and that you have a great week ahead!

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs

I have to say, I enjoyed this a lot more than the first novel, Deja Dead. Maybe it's because I've completely managed to divorce it from the TV show Bones, or maybe it's because I haven't watched Bones in a long time because of season 11.

Death Du Jour opens with the subplot, where Brennan is asked to authenticate the bones of a (possible) Saint (if the paperwork goes through). That connects to the main plot, which is of a gruesome family murder.

One case is tied to another, and soon, Brennan is deep in what possibly could be a cult-related case.

I found this case to be very interesting, and I didn't even mind the long explanations of things like the definition of cults and such because I thought it was fascinating. But if you're sensitive to info-dumps, well, you've been warned. I didn't think it was that bad, but it toes the line.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book were the relationships - Brennan and her daughter, Brennan and her sister, even Brennan and Ryan, which definitely have a Brennan-Booth vibe going on, now that I think about it. But my favourite was definitely Brennan and her daughter, because they seem to have a good relationship, which is quite refreshing to read.

Plus, that scene with Birdie (Brennan's cat). No spoilers, but it was a heart-clenching one for me.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable story. I gobbled it up, and I'll definitely be reading more in the series.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Once Upon a Time X Reading Challenge (Early Roundup)

It's not quite June 21st yet, but I'm going to be busy on that day, so I might as well do an early round up of the challenge while I have the time and still remember what's going on. I can always come back and update if it turns out that I've read more books in the meantime.

Books I have read for the challenge:

The Complete Alice in Wonderland by C.S. Lewis, adapted by Leah Moore, John Reppion, Erica Awano (Fairytale)
Memories of Ash by Instisar Khanani (Fantasy)
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (Mythology)
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (Fairytale)
Sabriel by Garth Nix (Fantasy)
The Folklore of Discworld (Folklore)

That's six books in four categories, which means that I finish...



Plus, I blogged about Grimm (and by the way, the season 5 ending was AMAZING, I can't wait for season 6!!), which means that I also finished

That's three quests, which is one more than I was aiming for. Plus, I read a few more books that I wouldn't have otherwise - as much as I love the Once Upon a Time tales, I don't tend to seek them out, rather, I pick them up when I stumble across them. It was a nice change to go looking for them, and I found two new authors to follow!

Although it would be hard to pick a favourite, I know which one I didn't enjoy as much - The Penelopiad. I do know a history major who loved it, though, so I'm probably just not intellectual enough for her :p

Yay for this challenge, and hopefully I can sneak in one more book before it official ends(:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke

I requested this book because it's a topic that I'm very interested in. How can I, as a full-time student who also happens to be job hunting, do online marketing without burning out?

The book is basically divided into three sections:

1. Know yourself
2. Know your audience
3. Ways to reach the audience

Or at least, that's how I see it. The book itself says that it's divided into three phases:

1. Getting Organised
2. Turning your thinking into action
3. Staying the course.

Either way, it's the same thing.

What I liked about this book is that there were concrete exercises on how you can define your author voice and how you can narrow down your target audience. The advice on how to promote pretty much corresponds to everything I've heard and read from self-publishing advice podcasts and books. Actually, I think The Creative Penn, Rocking Self Publishing and the like may be slightly more advanced with the type of marketing they're trying.

Most of the advice seems to be more suited for the non-fiction author, although I think that fiction authors can probably adapt the advice.

The only thing I didn't really agree with was the line "if you are self-publishing your book, you will probably get fewer reviews than if you were published by an established publisher." If you're talking editorial reviews, then I can see how this is the case, but if you're talking about customer reviews (aka Amazon/Goodreads/Kobo/etc reviews), then I don't see how being traditionally published is going to automatically get you more reviews. I think your marketing is going to play a bigger part.

All in all, the advice seems pretty solid and aimed at the beginning author (like me). But, if you're willing to listen to the various podcasts, read blogs, you can probably get much of the same information for free. The next step would be putting it into practice (which I am admittedly lagging behind on)

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ask a Policeman by The Detection Club

I got this mainly because it said "AGATHA CHRISTIE" in really large font on the cover. As it turns out, she only wrote the preface. But I guess she was the most well-known member, so her name has to be biggest.

Ask a Policeman is a group-mystery. Basically, someone wrote the set up (unpleasant man gets murdered, everyone has a motive) and 4 members write their deduction down.

The twist is, all of them are writing with a detective that isn't theirs. In other words, it's Fanfiction (of a sort).

After all four of them have given their solution, an actual solution was presented. Oh, and all four accused a different person of being the culprit, so clearly they weren't going for the "everyone is right" type of book. Unless we're talking about that Poirot story where everyone was a murderer.

I think my problem with the book is that I'm not familiar with any of the characters. I only know Peter Wimsey, who was written by (if I remember correctly) Dorothy L. Sayers. So I have no idea which aspects were parody and which weren't.

Out of the four sections, I think the second, "Sir John takes his cue" by Gladys Mitchell was my favourite. So.... Gotta check out who this Sir John was, and what Gladys Mitchell wrote.
My least favourite section was "The Conclusions of Mr. Roger Sherringham" by Dorothy L. Sayers. It was just too ridiculous and felt like it was dragged on. I guess out of the four, it most resembled parody. Or a farce. Either one.

By the way, the Lord Peter section (by Anthony Berkeley) was a little bit silly, but not bad. It reminded me that I might want to check out more of Lord Peter's books, since I've only read one.

All in all, it's not a bad book. I'm quite tempted to read all the author's works, then come back and reread this, because I have a feeling that I've missed a lot of important details.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - Afraid of The Dark by James Grippando

Today's teaser comes from a book that... was recommended by one of the blogs I follow. I can't remember which, but I'll look it up when I'm done. I don't want to let anything spoil the book!

Oh, and I mentioned that I was reading the End of the World Running Club in a previous post, but I put it down halfway and that was a huge huge mistake. When I picked it up, I no longer wanted to read it, and rather than force myself (and end up giving the book an unfairly negative review which it probably didn't deserve), I decided to just let it go.

Let it go~

I would insert an Elsa gif, but I'm bad at gifs. Like, really bad. Anyway, I'm reading Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando and I'm really loving it! It's totally got my sucked in. Although my teaser is kind of a downer:

"Jack's voice cracked for the third time. Lengthy eulogies were inappropriate at a Jewish funeral on a Friday afternoon, but delivery of even a short one was painful."
What is your teaser this week?

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

I first heard of this book in an article about the penny dreadful, and luckily for me, it was available on NetGalley.

The Wicked Boy is a true-crime story, following Robert Coombes, who killed his mother in 1895. At that time, penny dreadfuls, which were serialised adventure stories popular with boys, were partially blamed for the murder. But, Kate Summerscale shows that this may not be the case.

I'll admit, the book was hard to get into. I'm used to the author liberally inserting him/herself into the narrative (the "this is how hard I worked to find the information" shtick), and Kate Summerscale's no-nonsense account was different from what I expected. Plus, she started from the aftermath of the crime, so I had to adapt to a completely different world instantaneously.

But, I quickly adjusted, and I realised that I like this method. True, the style is rather understated, but it helps bring a sense of rationality to the end.

I do wish, however, that there was a bit more investigation into Robert and Nattie Coombes home life. There are hints that they are turbulent, but it's not discussed and proved as conclusively as I hoped it would be. Most of the time, this was a narrative account of the affair.

Oh, and the epilogue was great, because it showed a different side to Robert Coombes (and marked the first and only appearance of the author). It suggested that in the end, the sentence he got might have helped, and that he wasn't a "wicked boy" after all.

And by the way, I really like the way Broadmare (asylum for the criminally insane) works. It's humane, and I think it does help with the rehabilitation.

If you're looking for a nuanced view of a Victorian matricide, I highly recommend this book.

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Road to Character by David Brooks

I borrowed this book because I read about it in the newspaper, making it the first time the newspaper ever made me want to read a book. However, this was in the opinion section, not the books section, so... I guess the official reviews still have a ways to go.

Anyway, The Road to Character has two premises:

One, there is an Adam I and Adam II in us. Adam I is the career-minded, materialistic self, while Adam II is the internal self. The one that wants to "embody certain moral qualities". These two selves are the reason for a continual tension within us.

Two, society has, in recent times, moved from a Little Me mindset to a Big Me mindset, where we put ourselves first. While this isn't wholly unjustified, Brooks argues that we have swung too far in the direction of self-love and self-centeredness, and that we need to take a step back.

To be clear, this doesn't mean the past is better than the present. Brooks says as much in the opening chapters. There are changes we've made that are for the better. But what he is saying is that there are things we can and should learn from the past.

The bulk of the book are the eight biographies of various people, from Frances Perkins to A. Philip Randolph to Augustine. As Brooks goes through their lives, he pauses to talk about certain characteristics they embodied, which is where I ended up saving loads of quotes from. Among others:

Love is a surrender. You expose your deepest vulnerabilities and give up your illusions of self-mastery. [...] Love depends on the willingness of each person to be vulnerable and it depends that vulnerability. It works because each person exposes their nakedness and the other rushes to meet it.

To be sure, none of these people lead perfect lives. Their characters tended to leave them under-compensated in some ways, so while they might accomplish great things, they had their own personal sufferings.

But taken as a whole, these people point the way towards how we could leave more contented, fuller lives. It is not a life of ease, since it is a life consisting of balancing two eternally conflicting selves, but it is a rewarding one.

I borrowed this from the library, but I totally want my own copy.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Thirty Hours with a Corpse by Maurice Level

Thirty Hours with a Corpse is a collection of short stories by a French writer named Maurice Level. Apparently he used to be super popular, but now he's an unknown.

Anyway, I actually put off reading this book for a few days, because I only had time to read at night and the cover scared me so that I only wanted to read it during the day. But the cover turned out to be the scariest thing.

I actually sort of recognised the first story in the collection. Or at least, I've read something similar - it's about a bank robber that leaves his loot under an assumed name... Then discovers he forgot it.

Oops, that may have been the twist. But the ending hasn't been given away. And there are a lot more stories in the book anyway.

Most of the stories are like the first. They're about the human nature rather than the supernatural or horror.

And they contain a twist.

The twist, and the liberal use of ellipses, are probably the two defining characteristics of the book. Which is why you really shouldn't read a bunch of them in a row, like I did. Sure, they're short and entertaining, but after a while, you learn to expect the unexpected, and the twist loses its impact.

Oh yeah, and the stories are really short. I wish they were longer, because they felt like snapshots rather than fully formed stories.

But overall, this was an entertaining collection. I don't know if the author wrote any novels that have been translated into English, but I would be interested in reading them if they exist.

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