Thursday, July 28, 2016

Originals by Adam Grant

I've been wanting to read it for a while, so I was super excited when it was finally in the NLB's system!

Originals is on how originality comes about, and how you can increase your originality in practical ways. Adam Grant (he also wrote Give and Take, which I read earlier this year), sifts through many different studies for us to give us what is the most important info. While reading this, I made so many bookmarks that I'm just going to list them briefly here. After all, I have to return this book, so I want to make sure I can come back and look at it later.

Chapter 1: Creative Destructions starts with how the author missed a chance to invest in an original (and later hugely successful) business, and he looks at why he missed it. But first, who are originals? According to the book:
"Originality itself starts with creativity: generating a concept that is both novel and useful. But it doesn't stop there. Originals are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality."
Apparently, most originals are tempered risk takers. In other words, they know how to hedge their risks (which is why their businesses tend to succeed - they've thought of why they could fail, and take steps to avoid those results). Apparently, "the entrepreneurs whose companies topped Fast Company's recent most innovative lists typically stayed in their day jobs even after they launched."

In addition, once you temper the risk, aka have a balanced risk portfolio, you can actually take more risks. The book puts it better "having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another". So it's extreme risks (like starting your own company) tempered with extreme caution (keeping your own day job). Of course, not everyone fits this mould, but it seems like a majority do.

Chapter 2 is on how to recognise original ideas. According to the book, "the biggest barrier to originality is not idea generation - it's idea selection". And this is probably why the most profiling people have the highest originality, and their best work is during their most prolific output (like Einstein). So if you want to be original, brainstorm like crazy.

And this does make sense, like, the writers who write the most unique stories tend to have more story ideas than they can write, and I guess having so many ideas lets them pick and choose the best to write (I'm still working on getting there).

Oh, and "broad and deep experience is critical for creativity", which is to say, specialise, but don't just stick to your speciality. Venturing outside your field can be a source of creative insight.

Chapter 3 is on how to communicate your ideas effectively. Basically, there are two things in a social hierarchy: power (what you can make people do) and status (how much people like and will listen to you). You need to build status if you want people to listen to you. If you lack status/are presenting to higher-ups, leading with the weak spots may disarm the listeners and help you persuade them instead.

Also, don't target agreeable people (who won't want to rock the boat). Target people who have a history of originality.

Chapter 4 is on how procrastination can help originality. But it's a specific type of procrastination: you have to be motivated to solve the problem. If you are, procrastinating allows the brain to mull over it for longer, plus take in more ideas from the outside world.

Chapter 5 is on coalition, and basically, you want an original to be a tempered radical. What you propose may be super against the norm, and to get the mainstream to accept it, you have to frame it in such a way that you can understand it. For example, the women's suffrage got a lot more support after they framed their argument differently - they pointed out that women who could vote could vote for legislation that concerned them (like the Temperance Movement).

Chapter 6 is on how siblings affect originality and yes, I am shortening things as I write 😂 But basically, this chapter is all "younger siblings tend to be risk takers", though it does say that birth order is more about how you raise kids (so it's not set in stone), and that this is still a controversial topic. I did read "The Birth Order Book" before (available in the MGS library), so the ideas here weren't completely new to me.

Chapter 7 is on company/group cultures and there are lots of points but my main takeaway is that groupthink hinders originality (duh), and that instead of just a devil's advocate, you need someone who really does think differently from the rest. Although in the short term, a strong culture does help a company grow better.

So uh, I guess it depends on which strategy you take? Or perhaps you can change tack halfway through.

The last chapter is on all those negative emotions. They introduced the concept of 'Defensive Pessimism', which I thought was interesting. Basically, "when self doubts creep in, defensive pessimists don't allow themselves to be crippled by fear. They deliberately imagine a disaster scenario to intensify their anxiety and convert it into motivation."

Oh, and if you're upset, venting doesn't actually help (or so the studies say).

The book ends with a list of actions that you can take to become more original, which I think is really useful (I actually want a copy of this). Apart from the summary, I don't really have much to say. The fact that I took copious notes shows that I was interested in this and thought it was useful, and the book is really easy to read.

I did skip quite a lot of stuff in this review/summary, so if what I said interests you, you should definitely check out the book to get more information. Singaporeans/NLB members, you can get it from the eBooks lending program.

Ok, next wish for the NLB: Grit by Angela Duckworth!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oliver Cromwell by Frederic Harrison

I started this book knowing nothing about Oliver Cromwell, and in retrospect, that was a mistake. All I know after the end of the this book is that there was a civil war, Oliver Cromwell's side won, and that the dude was a very religious man.

While the book has a very flowy (can't think of a better word) style of narration that's not unpleasant to read, it's way, way too short. On my iPad, it's about 200 odd pages, and I really think that if it was twice or three times as long, and if the author took the time set the context, the book would have been a lot more understandable and rich. For example, the first chapter is (I think), on the genealogy of Oliver Cromwell, and I didn't even realise what was going on until the chapter ended.

Oh, and I hope that this is a mistake that only the ARC has, but there were a few missing full stops. I read somewhere that the full stop was supposed to go extinct or something like that, but I didn't expect it to happen so fast. Hopefully the published version will have it fixed.

If you already know about Oliver Cromwell and wish to deepen your understanding of him, I think you will enjoy this book. If, however, you are like me and don't really know much (especially about English history), you may want to read a Wikipedia article or something to grasp the context of what was going on.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas

Hey everyone! I hope you had a good start to the week. I had my first exam today, which means that I'm now in exam season (on the bright side, it means that the summer break is that much closer). Right now, I'm reading The Happiness Effect, which is about social media and how it can drive people to appear happy at any cost. It's extremely readable, and even though I'm only two chapters in, I'm really enjoying it.

My teaser:
"When my student spoke of watching the snow fall against his window that day, of reveling in its beauty and then recoiling from what this moment of stillness evoked in his mind, he was really talking about recoiling from himself. Our devices and our compulsive posting and checking are helping us to flee ourselves." 
What about you? What are you reading right now?

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!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse by Otsuichi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Good Faith by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Classic Ten by Nancy Macdonell Smith

This is my second time reading The Classic Ten, and I'm still glad that I got the book. I've forgotten most of the information already, so it might as well be my first reading.

The Classic Ten is a collection of the histories of ten pieces of fashion items, from the LBD to sneakers.

Each chapter looks at the history of the item, and how it impacted society of that time (and of course, when it was in style). Plus, what the author thinks of the style item - these sections are pretty short and almost always just one anecdote, so I quite liked them.

If you're familiar with pop culture/pop history, you'll probably recognise many of the references here. For me, Audrey Hepburn and The House of Mirth are the things I know. The pro-sports players and fashion icons: not so much. It was interesting, though, and I've got a hankering to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's again, given that the movie and Audrey Hepburn get their fair share of ink.

Another book she mentions a lot is a book called Elegance by Gabrielle Dariaux. I wanted to read it, so I did a quick Google search, but the only book I could find that resembled it was by a Genevieve Dariaux. This is starting to feeling like Princess Starla/alt name and the Jewel Riders again. At any rate, the selected bibliography is a few pages long, and I saw quite a few books that I'd like to read.

If you're interested in the history behind some (not all, since I doubt many people in a tropical country will own a trench coat - I don't own one either. Just a regular coat) of our everyday items, this is a good book to pick up.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Books I have Forgotten (Help!)

Today, I thought I'd talk about books that I have forgotten. As embarassing as it is, there are books that I've read but then forgot the title. Some (like The Race for the Lost Keystone), I've managed to rediscover, but these few are gone for good. So I figured that I might as well commit what I remember of them to this blog, and see if I can find them again (or if anyone can recognise them).

1. The one that ends with an irish name

I remember reading this in my school's Primary school library (though I might have graduated by then), so this is probably a middle grade book. I don't remember much, but I think a girl had to move and/or she had a new sister (maybe stepsister?) on the way. The front and middle are all blurry. I do remember, at the end, she was invited to help name the baby, and Aislinn was one of them, which is why I think the book might have been set in Ireland.

2. The one about the teacher

I actually may have found this book, but I haven't been able to read it yet, so I can't confirm if it's the one I'm thinking of. Basically, I remember a teacher coming to a cold place to teach, and there was something about fish. I keep thinking "North Pole", but one day, I decided to try something else (like Alaska) and fount "The Year of Miss Agnes". From the blurb, it seems like the correct one, but I really don't know. I'm definitely going to borrow it and read it to check though.

Oh, and the reason why the book made an impression on me was because I borrowed it and read it on a holiday.

3. The one about the Butterfly Boy

Ok, this one... I remember that it was next to The Year of Miss Agnes or whatever the teacher book was. So author name should start with the same letter.

What I remember about the book: girl has to do science project with strange boy. Strange boy sleeps in a cocoon-like bed, drinks something like nectar. The boy may or may not have wings. I remember their project was on butterflies and he gained confidence in the end? Or maybe he did have wings and he showed it off as they did their presentation on butterflies because someone ruined the original presentation?

4. The one inspired by Edgar Allen Poe

This should be easiest one, BUT IT DOES NOT SEEM TO EXIST.

I read it when I was in Cambodia in Sec 2. It was from the library and pretty old (I sort of remember yellowed pages), so it's definitely fairly old. For the record, Sec 2 was about 8 years ago.

What I remember: boy goes to some creepy house, Poe stories are clues, and in the end, someone was bricked behind a wall a la The Cask of Amontillado.

I have searched for stories based on The Cask of Amontillado, but I can't seem to find it.

Has anyone heard of any of these books? I really would love to read them again.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Linked by Albert-laszlo Barabasi

So, I had to read this for a class, which meant that I took notes on every single chapter. So... my review really just consists of my notes. So this review is really just more for me to remember things than for anyone else.

First line:

February 7, 2000 should have been a big day for Yahoo.

The First Link: Introduction - the book opens with the story of mafiaboy, the teenager that managed to bring down Yahoo. Then it changes, quite inexplicably, to Christianity and gives everything to credit. I really don't know if the author simply hasn't read the Bible, or if he's doing one of those things where people pretend that Jesus didn't say the things he said he did. But whatever, the point of this chapter is that the book is about Networks.

The second link: The Random Universe - we have Euler (truly an amazing guy) to thank for the graph theory, which is the basis of how we think about networks. Also, the most brilliant mathematicians are the most eccentric. And from Erdos and Renyi, if we have just an average of one link (connection) per node (e.g. Person), then we have a cluster in which everyone is connected.

The Third Link: Six Degrees of Separation - this concept really emphasises that we live in a small, dense world. Also, I'm starting to get the hang of the story -> concept structure of the book. Interesting, when the author did a study of the web in 1998-1999, the web had 800 million nodes, but it's diameter was only 18.59, aka around 19 degrees of separation. So in other words, the interconnected nature of the network leads to relatively short paths.

Also, 6 degrees of separation may be an overestimation because we don't know everything about our acquaintances and may miss the most efficient route.

The Fourth Link: Small Worlds - The story of weak ties. I remember Dayre-ing about this before, but to quote:

In "The Strength of Weak Ties" Granovetter proposed something that sounds preposterous at first: when it comes to finding a job, getting news, launching a restaurant or spreading the latest fad, our weak social ties are more important than our cherished strong friendships.

Ok, so this chapter is about clustering. Basically, it's an improvement on the Network model by Erdos and Renyi, in that it accounts for both strong and weak ties, making it much more realistic.

The Fifth Link: Hubs and Connectors - This introduces the idea of hubs, which will be familiar to you if you've read Malcolm Gladwell's The Topping Point. The chapter, however, ends by admitting that hubs seem to be a mystery and that they challenge the status quo, so I guess that's the next topic.

The Sixth Link: The 80/20 Rule - From the Pareto rule, we go into the power law, which is related to hubs (hubs being the thing that early network theories said didn't exist). So the question is, why does the power law indicate order coming out of chaos? I don't know, so on to Chapter 7.

The Seventh Link: Rich get richer - The author makes a momentous discovery, writes paper in 10 days. Paper is rejected, but he manages to change editor's mind.

Ok, the actual substance of the chapter is

Real networks are governed by two laws: growth and preferential attachment.

Basically, as the network grows, nodes prefer to form links with other nodes that have many links. I wonder if this is how the first mover's advantage works? I mean, the book calls it "rich get richer", but it sounds like first mover's advantage to me. Something to look into

Oh, and the answer to the question in the previous chapter? The power law isn't about turning chaos into order. It's about "organising principles acting at each stage of the network formation process".

The Eighth Link: Einstein's Legacy - the book anticipated my question, and here, it tackles first mover's advantage. Google is the first case study here - being a success story that was late to the game. Well, to cut the long story short, it's not timing, but 'fitness' (how useful they are, to put it another way), that determine which nodes become hubs. Then there's something about the Bose-Einstein equation, which is quite tough, but the consequences are: "the winner can take all"

The Ninth Link: Achille's Hill - natural systems can withstand high error rates, unlike man-made systems. Except the internet and any network generated on the scale-free network. Apparently hubs keep networks robust? At any rate, error tolerance is a good thing, but it does mean we are vulnerable to attacks (kinda contradictory, imo).

The Tenth Link: Viruses and Fads - what does the spread of AIDS have to do with going viral on the Internet? Both are things that spread over the network. From the Pfizer study, innovations spread from innovators to hubs to the masses, like the product life cycle. Then there is the threshold model, which is the level of evidence we need to accept something new. And if we figure out the critical threshold, we can figure out if the innovation will succeed.

The Eleventh Link: The Awakening Internet - This is kinda like a mini history of the Internet. If you want a more comprehensive look, definitely read Masterswitch by Tim Wu

The Twelfth Link: The Fragmented Web - Continuing from the previous chapters, the Internet is fragmented into smaller communities, which makes sense if you think about it. But it's really hard to find those communities (for researchers).

The Thirteenth Link: The Map of Life - On genetics and networks. To be honest, I don't understand much of it, but basically (I guess) everything is a network.

The Fourteenth Link: The Network Economy - I love the title of this. Totally looking forward to reading it!

And guess what? It turns out that the "old boy's network" is created by small world dynamics. Also, cascading failures (e.g Asian financial crisis) are because of network economies

Networks do not offer a miracle drug, a strategy that makes you invincible in any business environment. The truly important role networks play is in helping existing organisations adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.

Ok, this is very timely. It's easy to see the Network as a panacea, and that as long as we know that it exists, we will succeed. But, as the quote says, the Network isn't necessarily the end, it may only be the means to the end.

The Last Link: Web Without a Spider - to sum: there's a hierarchy of hubs that keep networks close together. But, we haven't completely understood the network yet. Hopefully, though, we can in the future.

And the book is more or less done.

It was an interesting book, but I can't think of anything to say about it that doesn't involve me summarising it. Like, the book anticipated my questions, so... There's not much I can say. And that does sum up the entire review.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Black Fairy Tale by Otsuichi

I heard about this book from a friend and her review convinced me to request it from Netgalley. I finished it and woah, it is so dark, but so good.

Despite what the summary says, this book is not "also" about Nami, it's "mainly" about Nami, the girl who has lost her memories, and hence her former personality (and am I the only one to think of Nagi from KHR? Yes? Ok).

Anyway, Nagi receives an eyeball (which is connected to the Raven story and quite against current medical science, if I'm not wrong), and suddenly begins to receive memories from its previous owner. It seems like something terrible has happened, and unhappy at home, Nagi decides to go and set things right for the former owner of the eyeball.

To be honest, I did not expect this to be quite so dark. I have no idea why, though. It's not like the original fairy tales were any happier :p

And I'm really happy to say that I did not see the ending coming. I actually believed Nagi and her reasoning, so the sudden twist came as a surprise to me too.

I really enjoyed this story. I like the dual-perspective narration, and the fact that it interweaves a fairytale as well (although I totally don't understand the author's note at the back). If you're looking for a dark read that is a little different, you should check this book out.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando

To be honest, I wanted to read Gone Again, the 12th book in the series, because of Lectus' review. But, the NLB e-Reads programme didn't have it, so I borrowed Book 9 because the title sounded interesting, and I really wanted to see if this could work as a standalone.

Afraid of the Dark starts with the "innocent girl gets killed" scene, but with a slight twist - there's someone at the scene, and they have the name of the killer. And then it goes from bad to worse. A few years later, Jack (the hero of the story), takes on the case of a gitmo prisoner, who turns out to be the missing suspected killer, who is then killed, and really, the story just gets more confusing from there on.

Because the book started with Vince (the cop that found the girl and then was blinded), and the accusation of Jamal (the gitmo prisoner) as the killer, I was unsympathetic to Jamal for most of the book, even though he had a pretty solid alibi. I guess that's how powerful dying testimony can be. Anyway, I had immense sympathy for Vince and Chuck (the father of the victim), and didn't really get what Jack was doing.

And despite the fact that this series is about Jack, he was not my favourite character. In fact, he seemed to just get in the way of other characters, which I guess is a good thing, but didn't really affect the ending anyway. Or perhaps he's there because of the story with his FBI fiance, Andie (Andie is awesome, by the way).

Still, I gobbled up this book in two days. The previous book was one that I couldn't finish, so I really loved the fact that this kept me turning page after page. The chapters are pretty short too (about four or five pages on my iPad), so it was easy to fit in a chapter or two here and there.

I will definitely be looking out for other books in the series. I mean, if they're all this gripping, I have nothing to lose.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - Originals by Adam Grant

I've been reading non-fiction books lately. Right now, I'm reading Originals by Adam Grant. I've been wanting to read it for quite some time, and now that my library finally has it as an eBook, I snapped it up. It's extremely interesting so far, and I like it as much as I liked Give and Take.

My teaser:
"Across fields, Simonton reports that the most prolific people not only have the highest originality; they also generate their most original output during the periods in which they produce the largest volume. Between the ages of thirty and thirty-five, Edison pioneered the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the carbon telephone." 
I think this is pretty interesting, because we (or at least I), used to think of geniuses taking time to produce their work. But the chapter does explain why the claim is true (or at the very least, legitimate)

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, July 11, 2016

Murder in Ancient China: Two Judge Dee Mysteries, Translated by Robert Van Gulik

I haven't read Judge Dee before, so I was quite happy to find two of his stories released as an ebook. And since they're short, I thought I'd just review each individual story:

The Murder on the Lotus Pond

First line for The Murder on the Lotus Pond:

"From the small pavilion in the centre of the lotus pond he could survey the entire garden, bathed in moonlight. "

I should say before I start that I don't have any experience with Chinese mysteries. Apart from the TVB dramas "A Pillowcase of Mystery" and "Xi Yuan Lu", I have no idea what ancient China was like and how they solved crimes back then.

The first story was definitely interesting, and more like a Western mystery than I expected. It's got a twist, a almost super-sleuth, a beautiful young woman, etc. I guess some things really do transcend culture.

I thought Mrs. Meng was an interesting character - even though she's not the main character (not even close to it), she's essentially the hooker with a heart of gold character, and I would have liked to see more of her.

Murder on New Year's Eve

First line of Murder on New Year's Eve:

"When Judge Dee had put away the last file and locked the drawer of his desk he suddenly shivered."

Just finished the second story, and it's really very charming. I won't give the ending away, but I had a smile on my face at the end of it.

Oh, and the start, where they mention his three wives really reminded me of Xi Yuan Lu - specifically the ending of the first season, where Song Ci ends up with his two wives. And that's all I wanted to say - that I was reminded of it.

This story starts with what looks like a murder, and the lonely Judge Dee goes and investigates right away. And then... One thing leads to another hahaha. Really can't say without giving it away.

By the way, you really shouldn't read the starting note for this, because it does give the twist away. Or at least, that's what I thought when I read it after the story (didn't read it before).

Oh, and I realise that I'm really not used to how they transliterated the Chinese here haha. It's quite different from the hanyu pinyin that I'm used too.

That said, I would totally read more of Judge Dee. These stories are short and satisfying, and I would like to see if by reading more, certain characters would be more fleshed out.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Shattered Girls by Tyrolin Puxty

When I started reading this, I was really nervous because I loved Broken Dolls (the first book) so much that I didn't know if Shattered Girls could live up to it. While I'm not going to gush as much as I did for Broken Dolls, Shattered Girls is easily a five star book.

After a hope and skip in time, Gabby is now 16 years old, while Ella is still a doll (world famous doll, I might add. There was an incident and now everyone knows about Ella). One day, Gabby's parents disappears, and something is wrong with the professor too. Soon, Gabby and Ella discover that it's not only her parents and grandfather, people all around the world are disappearing, and no one seems to care about it. Gabby and Ella will have to team up with crazy Sianne and even (gasp) Lisa (Libby) if they want to save the world.

For anyone still thinking of Broken Dolls, let me first say: Shattered Girls is nothing like Broken Dolls. I don't think I can quite articulate it, but apart from the world being expanded, the book has a very different tone from the first one. Which I suppose is natural, since Gabby is now 16, with all the trials and tribulations that it brings.

I must say, I really liked Ella's growth over the course of this book. In the first book, which had a not-so-happy ending, Ella makes a really selfish decision. In this book, Ella manages to atone for that, and I'm actually really happy with the ending. Even if there wasn't the third book (which there is, yay!), I would be pretty happy with this ending, because of how things turn out with Ella, Gabby and family. Plus, Lisa turns from psychopath to cool psychopath in this book, and I'm actually looking forward to seeing what she's going to do in the next book.

If you liked the first book, I think you'll like the second book as well. And if you want something that's a little different from the norm, definitely check out this series.

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman

You may be wondering why I read this book. I mean, I'm not a mom, or even a teenager trying to figure out what's going on. Well... I heard that this book inspired the movie Mean Girls (yes, I'm slow), and I was curious as to what kind of non-fiction book could inspire the movie. Although disclaimer: I've only watched the movie once, and if not for the ten year anniversary thing going on two years ago, I may not have remembered it (and yes, that's how slow I am).

Basically, this book is on how to talk to your teenage girl like she's an adult, and not like a child. And a reminder to think back as to what the adult was like as a child, and to assume that the basic personality of the teenager is the same. The only thing that's different is the use of technology, and how that has changed the dynamic, making it easier for bullying to take place, and for news to spread.

To be honest... I'm still not sure which part of the social hierarchy I was. I mean, I had a few close friends, but until I graduated, I didn't even know we had groups. I had to ask my friends and be told "Yes, Eustacia, we did have popular girls." So either this form of interaction is more applicable to Western societies, or I'm just really, really blur. It's one of the two.

I did find the book interesting, even though I didn't really notice any of what she said happening. I'm guessing it's a Western/American sort of thing, or perhaps I was just a really, really obedient child. And now... I feel like watching the movie Mean Girls again - because now the mom who tries to be cool, the Queen Bee dynamic, and all that will start to make more sense to me (rather than just being a movie). Perhaps that's why the movie has stood the test of time - because it's based on real experiences and resonated with enough people.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Tank Man's Son by Mark Bouman

The Tank Man's Son is supposed to be a memoir as powerful as Angela's Ashes. Since I loved that, I had high expectations of this. While the book isn't quite Angela's Ashes (and let's face it, it would be tremendously difficult to live up to that), it is a moving read.

Mark Bouman is the Tank Man's Son. He grew up with an overbearing, Neo-Nazi father, who (as his mother said), "valued things and used people". Among other things, his father got a tank, even though the family was struggling to get by. Hence the reputation as the Tank Man's Son, and a huge struggle to fit in. The story is quite sad for most of the book, but it does have a happy ending, as Mark learns his true worth in the eyes of God and manages to pull his life together and even learn to forgive his father.

Oh, and while there was a trigger warning about language, I found it pretty mild. Or at least, it's pretty run of the mill for most fiction aimed at adults.

In fact, if I were to complain about something, I would say that I was more interested in how a Neo-Nazi managed to get by in America without any one (aka the CIA or FBI) taking note. But the book was short on details. So to me, his dad was more of an abusive dad, which while no less tragic, isn't exactly "neo-Nazi".

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this memoir. While the subject matter was dark, this was an ultimately inspiring book about how God can use anyone.

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: Maxims and Reflections by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Good Tuesday everyone :D

I'm back from the trip, which was...interesting (to put it nicely). I'm just really glad that I'm back home right now. And after the trip, I got into this "I don't know what I want to read" mood, so I'm actually juggling two books right now. One of them is Maxims and Reflections by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and it's a collection of the stuff he wrote, so it's very easy to read in bits and pieces.

My teaser:

"72. Certain books are apparently written not so that we may learn from them, but to demonstrate the fact that the author knew something. 
73. They whip up curds hoping it might turn into cream."

I also like this additional line:
"91. Anyone who doesn't know foreign languages knows nothing of his own." 

I think it's one that can inspire plenty of debate!

What are you reading 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, July 4, 2016

The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki

I don't remember how I found this book, but it made it into my wish list in the NLB catalogue.

The Stone Child follows Eddie, the new kid in town, and his new friends Harris and Maddie. Eddie is a big fan of the horror writer Nathaniel Olmstead, but trust me, you do not want these books coming to life. Unfortunately, they do for Eddie. Plus, his mom accidentally got into things (though she doesn't know), and well... let's just say that as cliched as it sounds, Eddie has to go save the world. Or at least his town.

I really enjoyed this book, especially as it kept me guessing throughout. I can honestly say that I didn't see the end coming (unlike Zootopia, which was good (not horror though), but which ending was pretty obvious at the one hour mark). I'm glad that it was a happy ending though, because a sad horror ending is just "throw book at wall" material.

Eddie and his friends are pretty likeable too, though they sometimes very very close into trope territory, with the new kid, the weird goth kid, etc. But thankfully, they stay realistic. The character that was closest to "cardboard" to me was Maggie, but I think that was because she was introduced the latest, and before she entered, the kids already stereotyped her (and as awful as that is, it informed my understanding of her). But Eddie and Harries were really fun to read, no complaints there.

I'm definitely reading more from this author. And if this isn't a series, well, I hope that one day, he'll write the Nathaniel Olmstead books as well. They sound like they'll be fun, scary reads as well.