Wednesday, December 28, 2016

SEA Reading Challenge + 2016 Roundup!

So I've been thinking about the kind of reading challenge that I want to do in 2017. I looked at a few, but couldn't decide on one. Then I realised... there's something that I want to do. I want to read more books from South East Asian (SEA) authors. This year, I managed to read a few Chinese and Japanese authors and I'm glad I did, but I would really like to read more from SEA. Not just stories set in SEA, but stories by people from SEA.

Which is why I decided to create my own challenge, the SEA Reading Challenge. 

If you didn't know, SEA is an area that consists of:
- Vietnam
- Laos
- Cambodia
- Thailand
- Myanmar
- Malaysia
- Indonesia
- Philippines
- Brunei
- Singapore
- East Timor

The challenge: To read books from SEA authors, not just books set in South East Asia. The purpose for this is because I want to read what the authors of these countries have to say, rather than read how other people see these countries. Books can be fiction or non-fiction

And I have no idea if anyone else apart from me will be doing this, but I set up levels because I have no idea how many books that I can find and read. The levels go like this:

- Domestic: 1-2 books
- Weekend Traveller: 3-4 books
- Exchange Student: 5-6 books
- Scholar: 7-8 Books
- ASEAN: 9 or more books

If you have recommendations or would like to join, please comment below!

2016 Reading Challenge Update

Non-fiction Reading Challenge 2016

Hosted by the Introverted Reader, I aimed for the master level and suceeded! To be honest, I lost track after a while, but I read at least 31 books. Here's a partial list:

Targeted and Trolled by Rosayln Warren
Of Sugar and Snow by Jeri Quinzo
The Zero Marginal Cost Society by Jeremy Rifkin
Lawyer Games by Dep Kirkland
Monsters by David Gilmore
The Shift by Lynda Gratton
The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan
How to be a Brit by George Mikes
The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter
An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabinga
Elegant Entrepreneur by Danielle Tate 
The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter 
Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World by Tristan Donovan
Candyfreak by Steve Almond
Tea: The Drink that Changed the World by Laura C. Martin
The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely
Ctrl+Z by Meg Leta Jones
The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
Blur by Bill Kovach
Women Talk More Than Men by Abby Kaplan
Sushi & Beyond by Michael Booth
The Road to Character by David Brooks
The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale
Natural Curiosity by Lisa Carne
Give and Take by Adam Grant
Forgiving my Daughter's Killer by Kate Grosmaire 
The Tank Man's Son by Mark Bouman
Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman
Linked by Albert Lazlo Babarasi

Once Upon a Time X

Another impulse challenge, I'm really glad that I managed to do this. All in all, I finished three quests: Quest the First, Quest the Second, and Quest on Screen

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)

Best Books of 2017

There are only 7 books on the list this year, and out of the seven, only 2 are fiction! I think it's because I like most stories, but for it to become a 'top' book, it has to really, really stand out. By comparison, it's easier for nonfiction to stand out because it's their content that matters most.

In no particular order, we have:

The Shift by Lynda Gratton

A friend recommended this to me, and now I'll recommend it to all of you. It's on the future of work and all the predictions are based on macro-trends happening now. Of course, things change (2016 has been a huge year of change), but quite a lot of the changes she mentioned are permanent, at least in my opinion.

And while I disagree with a few things, I really like that this book is very global in outlook, and that it uses case studies to illustrate her points. It makes it a lot easier to understand what the author wants to say.

This was one of my top books because of how thought provoking it was, and because it's something that will concern all of us.

Full review

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina

I think quite a few people would have seen the film Hotel Rwanda, or have heard of the Rwandan genocide. At least, I learnt about it and watched the movie during secondary school.

Even if you have, and even if you haven't, you should read this autobiography. Paul Rusesabagina is an extraordinary man who put his life at risk to save 1268 Tutsi and moderate Hutus. And the even more amazing thing is that he thinks that this is the normal thing to do.

Mr. Rusesabagina has come under some criticism, and he admits that he had to be friendly to some evil people at times in order to call in favours, but I think that he has done great work.

His story is powerful and inspiring, and we should all learn from his example.

Full Review

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This is one of the two fiction novels on the list and looking back, I want to read it again!

It's the biography of a very talented author named Miss Vida Winters (I want her talent) as she tells it to the protagonist. The story is told piece by piece, and in extremely beautiful language.

It does seem to inspire either great love or loathing, so while I recommend it, I understand that it's a risky recommendation.

Full Review

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Loved loved loved this book because how often do you see Chinese-inspired steampunk? (Although it feels a lot more like Epic Fantasy to me) If you're familiar with Chinese history, then a lot of things will resonate with you. I mean, quite a lot resonated with me and I only know the basics.

I also managed to read the sequel, The Wall of Storms this year and while I found that captivating as well, it totally broke my heart and I'm not sure if I can continue the series.

But yeah, read The Grace of Kings. Totally worth it.

Full Review

The Road to Character by David Brooks

How do people live full, contented lives?

While people in the past didn't live perfect lives, it's possible to look at some notable figures and learn from them. So through 8 biographies of people like Augustine, Frances Perkins, Philip Randolph and many more, David Brooks considers the elements that make up a contented life and how we can balance two contradicting aspects of our personalities.

Full Review

Peak by Anders Ericsson

From the guy that brought us the 10,000 hour rule comes Peak: Secrets from the new science of expertise.

Anders Ericsson explains what is purposeful practice is and how that can make us 'experts'. It's useful if there's a particular skill that you want to become good at.

I borrowed this from the library but I totally intend to buy my own copy some day.

Full Review

Grit by Angela Duckworth

I think this should be read with Peak. It's basically on grit - what it is, why it's important and how you can cultivate it.

While the focus is very narrow, I think it's worth reading because this is something that we will use (or not use) in almost everything we do. And if we intend to stick with something, then it makes sense to learn as much as possible so that you can follow through.

Full Review

Friday, December 23, 2016

Dayre Book Recommendations

Merry Christmas in advance!! I don't intend to blog over the Christmas to New Year season (except for a round up post), but that's mostly because I really need to finish my graduation thesis during the winter break.

Anyway, I've been using a blogging/social media site called Dayre. It's smartphone based, and you basically update your day in 500 character posts. Everything posted within one day gets collected into one long post. I use it mostly to blog about my daily life, but I do ocassionally talk about books and got to know a few other bookworms! A few days ago, I asked them for book recommendations, and I figured that since it's the season of giving, I should share them here too!

Dayre uses usernames, which I wrote as @username. And after each recommendation, I wrote my thoughts (basically whatever is after the colon is by me, just so I don't cause more confusion).

From @samanthatya

- Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender: Available from NLB so I have this bookmarked! The blurb indicates it's about the secrets of an asylum (ok the title indicates this too)

- The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison (hopefully I have the right book): Haven't found this yet, but it looks so fascinating! About girls who have been kidnapped and tattooed to be 'butterflies' by a madman.

Samantha wrote a post on why she loves reading and gave some awesome recommendations! It's focused on fairytale retellings (especially the darker ones), so you should click on the link if you're interested.

From @enigg

- The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien: I have this on my bookshelf! But I think it's best appreciated if you've already read LOTR, because it's basically the myths of the world

- Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (also recommended by @crystalhzf ): I've read the first book, and while I quite liked it, it reminded me of an extremely violent Taiwanese drama (think 'Ai'). Perhaps I'll read the second book sometime.

From @happygo_lucky

- Chicken Soup for the Soul: I loved this series when I was younger too! It's so heartwarming and an easy read.

- The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton: Funnily enough, I think I've actually read the first chapter, and then for some reason stopped. I wonder why, since I rarely give up so early.

From @kyaro

- Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof: the blurb shows that this is about women's rights, and it has a lot of good reviews too! Will have to check this out.

- As a Man Thinketh by James Allen: This sounds like a self-help on how your mind affects your actions. Hope I didn't misread the blurb :p

From @sarahfied

- Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews: she's currently reading this one, and I think I read it a long time ago, but I can't remember if I liked it or not. And since it was before I started blogging about books (I think? Definitely before I started Goodreads), I have no review to reference.

From @puffyjoy

- The Black Isle by Sandi Tan: A friend's review says this is an alternate imagining of Singapore, which is definitely intriguing. Gotta look for this next time I want to read some local fiction (though another review says China but I suppose if you're not familiar with Singapore...)

From @vanduhlism

- Divided Minds by Pamela Spiro Wagner and Carolyn S. Spiro: This is on schizophrenia, which is something that I know next to nothing about. Another non-fiction book for the TBR list (I feel like I might go on a non-fiction binge soon, but so many fiction books to read too!!)

From @mulanthesecond

Historical fiction recommendations:

- Books by Anchee Min, especially Empress Orchid: I have the book, but I can't recall if I read it or not :p Guess I'll have to reread to find out.

- Books by Yip Mingmei: I took a quick look at Goodreads and Secret of a Thousand Beauties caught my eye. It looks to be about Ghost Brides, which should be interesting.

- Books by Lisa See: I have Shanghai Girls on my TBR but I haven't gotten round to reading it. I really should!

Political Science Recommendations:

- From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp

- Democracy Kills by Humphrey Hawksley

Both books sound interesting but Democracy Kills especially so! Sounds thought provoking.

About North Korea:

- The Invitation-Only Zone by Robert S. Boynton: this is on the North Korean abduction project. I haven't read anything about this so it sounds fascinating!

From @panthera

Most of the books are animal-related nonfiction! I haven't read any of them, and they look pretty interesting so I'll have to check them out sooner or later. They were written in a post hashtagged #Claudiareads, and I don't have the link at hand, which means I can't link it now ><

- The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

- Part of the Pride by Kevin Richardson

- American Zoo by David Grazian

- The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

- In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall (yeah, that Jane Goodall!)

- Jame Herriot's trilogy: All Creatures Great and Small and the rest (I saw these in the MG library and always thought about reading them but never really picked them up)

- The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell

From @alwaysmore

- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: Sounds like a very powerful character driven novel about 4 classmates. And coincidentally, I heard good things about it today, so I hope to get to read it in the future.

Every time I start to think that I read a lot, something comes along to remind me that there are tons of books that I haven't read yet. All I know that is in 2017, I'll have lots of books to look out for!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sisters of Fortune by Jehanne Wake

Sisters of Fortune is the biography of the Canton sisters, the four granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. As this implies, the girls came from an extremely privileged (and wealthy) background.

Perhaps unusually, all four of them were raised to be smart, independent women. They could discuss politics, knew why they thought and believed the way they did, were money savvy (and even invested!), and they even chose who they were going to marry (OK, this was the Regency era so I'm not sure if that's normal or not).

The bulk of the book is about when three of the four sisters went to England. They were: Marianne, Elizabeth (Bess), and Louisa. The one who stayed behind was Emily. And in the end, all three of those who went ended up married to British aristocracy and assimilated into British society, well before the age of the American 'Dollar Princess'.

This book is fascinating and detailed. It's a little formal, as are most biographies, but still very readable. If you're interested in how the upper class of that time lived, then you're in for a treat.

And by the way, I don't think that I have a favourite sister. I think all four of them are amazing and admirable women. They all chose different paths, but they had their own agency throughout, which is the most important thing (not gonna make any judgements on who has the happy ending).

If you're into biographies, then you should definitely get this. I really enjoyed reading it, and not only is it pretty rare to see how women acted in history (at least in history books), and I think transatlantic incidences are even rarer. (Of course, this is based on my limited history knowledge, since I didn't take formal lessons past O Levels).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie

IT'S CHRISTMAS WEEK!

Doesn't feel much like Christmas though, since I was at school today (and had a test). Plus my family went back yesterday so...

But on to happier topics, I'm currently reading The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie. It's about the 10 month tour she did and apparently it's told through her letters and photos. I'm pretty excited about reading it - I started today and only finished the preface so far.

My teaser:
"He gave me something which 'might quieten things down,' he said, but as it came up as soon as it got inside my stomach it was unable to do me much good. I continued to groan and feel like death, and indeed look like death; for a woman in a cabin not far from mine, having caught a few glimpses of me through the open door, asked the stewardess with great interest: 'Is the lady in the cabin opposite dead yet?'."
That was Christie talking about seasickness. I'm glad that I never had it!

I hope everyone has a great Christmas week!
How to participate in Teaser Tuesday: 
•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! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.

Monday, December 19, 2016

How Change Happens by Duncan Green

How Change Happens is an ambitious book that not only aims to explain the mechanisms behind change, but also to provide change-makers a blueprint they can use to effect change. I'm going to be honest and say that this book impressed me from the introduction, so I'm probably pretty biased. The author starts out by admitting that:
"[I]n the end, this is a book written by a white, Western (and rapidly aging) male, and it inevitably echoes my experiences, networks, culture, assumptions, and prejudices. Please don't forget that, while you're reading it. "
Consider how rare it is for people to admit their bias, I was immediately impressed by this, and had a pretty good feeling of this book. Because while a lot of people like to call on others to "check your privilege", they rarely check their own privileges (unless it's to brag/make a point, which is also not that common)

The book basically introduces and explains what the author calls a "power and systems approach". Basically, a PSA works two ways: looking backwards at past stories of change to see what kind of questions should be ask, and to avoid "the tendency to think that whatever changed was 100 per cent down to the activists concerned", and looking forwards, because "a PSA acknowledges we can't anticipate those critical junctures, so it is essential to 'expect the unexpected' by putting good feedback and response systems in place."

Part one is an introduction, looking at system thinking, how power lies at the heart of change (and the different types of power and changes that can happen) as well as looking at how shifts in social norms often underpin change. The case study was on the Chiquitanos of Bolivia. I had lots of highlights, but I wanted to share this:
"Unfortunately, the way we commonly think about change projects onto the future the neat narratives we draw from the past. Many of the mental models we use are linear plans - "if A, then B"- with profound consequences in terms of failure, frustration, and missed opportunities. "
Part 2 is on the how states evolve, how laws can be very effective in getting real change happening, how media and politics work, and to what extent the international system shapes change. And a chapter on transnational corporations and how they affect change. The case study for this is on the December 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Part 3 focuses on activists, leaders, and advocacy, and I was surprised to see Lee Kuan Yew mentioned, though not really discussed. But out of the three chapters in this section, I really liked this section in the chapter on leadership, because it sums up the different between feminine and feminist approaches to leadership very well:
"A feminine approach to leadership recognises that women often bring a greater attention to collaboration, collective decision making, and building relationships, characteristics that fall well within the traditional gendered roles of women. In contrast, a feminist approach seeks to transform relations of power, paying close attention to 'power within' and 'power with', as well as hidden and invisible power."
The last section is basically a summary of the whole thing.

The narrative style reminds me of an interesting lecture. It's formal, but readable and occasional moments of humour. Plus, the author manages to work in the phrase 'conscious uncoupling' which made me laugh. The author also draws on his experiences too, which I found very illuminating.

"Western campaigners tend to dumb down the complex realities of messy conflicts into simple narratives of good and bad to be remedied by simple solutions (preferably delivered by the West). Such narratives squeeze out the more nuanced views of local people and the deeper, underlying causes of conflict, and end up promoting superficial victories rather than real change. "

In conclusion, if you are interested in learning how change works, or if you're interested in effecting some change yourself, then you should definitely read this book. While it's not a step-by-step manual, it does explain things in a way that shows you the path you should be taking.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I found this book via Wendy @ Literary Feline, when she talked about books she planned to give as gifts. The book sounded amazing and the library has a copy, so why not? I've read Before We Visit the Goddess, which is by the same author, and loved it so I had very high hopes. And luckily this did not disappoint!

Sister of My Heart follows Sudha and Anju, two cousins who are more like sisters. They have an incredibly tight bond, but one day, Sudha discovers something about her past that calls everything she knows about their relationship into doubt. And even though she is madly in love with someone, she agrees to her arranged marriage because it will make Anju happy.

While Anju loves the man her mother has picked for her, she discovers on her wedding day that he has fallen in love with Sudha (who has done absolutely nothing except be beautiful). But she is moving to America with him, and so sort of manages an escape.

And then the rest of the book happens, but I don't want to spoil it for you so let's live it as that.

What I really loved about this book is the language. The language is absolutely beautiful, and so extremely lyrical. It brings you into the mind of Sudha and Anju, and I found that I really sympathised and was rooting for both of them to be able to find their own happiness.

Where the book falters is when it comes to the male characters. With the exception of Singhji, the chauffeur, the male characters never really come to live. I didn't really mind, but it seems like it would be important in the second book.

And yes, there is a second book. I'm sort of hesitant to read it because it promises heartbreak. I might just borrow it (if it's available) and just read the ending or something.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

Even though it was extremely addictive (super hard to put down when reading), I'm in two minds as to whether I want to continue the series or not.

The Wall of Storms is the sequel to The Grace of Kings, which I absolutely loved when I read it. But, I also read a volume of Romance of the Three Kingdoms between the two so when I first started this, I was very confused as to what happened in The Grace of Kings because it drew pretty heavily on Chinese history.

But luckily most of the main characters here are new, so I got used to it after a few chapters. The "main characters" from The Grace of Kings are: Kuni Garu and his wives (Jia and Risana), Gin, and Luan. The new characters are: Kuni's kids (Thera, Phyro, Timu and Fara) and Zomi.

To be honest, out of the four kids, only Thera made a strong and positive impression. Fara seemed to be more of a prop, Phyro was unmemorable and I wanted to punch Timu at the end of the book.

But it's a large cast of characters and I suppose I can't expect to love and remember all of them. Oh, and even though I didn't mention their names, plenty of characters from the previous book do appear, they just don't play as big a role.

The Wall of Storms can roughly be divided into two halves: How an Empire keeps its peace and The Foreigners Invade. I liked the first half better, but that's because despite having their history, I couldn't stand the invaders (Lyucu people).

And while I liked how the plot moved for most of the book, there was a series of chapters (that was essentially all flashbacks) during the invasion that I skimmed. I suppose important information might have been there and I might have missed some (hence my inability to sympathise with the invaders), but I wanted to read about how the fighting would turn out, not about the past. I wish those chapters could have been moved somewhere else.

Oh yes, the 'Greek chorus' using the Gods of Dara felt about the same as before. I liked it, especially when they meddled, and I thought their changes based on how the invading people thought about them pretty interesting.

And now for why I'm in two minds about continuing the series. While the writing was gripping, Jia is making me seriously reconsider reading on. I much preferred her to Risana, Kuni's other wife (although I don't think I mentioned it in my first review - just that I liked her) and the path that she is taking is just breaking my heart. I'm quite afraid that her end will not be what I hope for her, which is why I'm considering stopping here.

In a way, I guess I should have listened to myself in my first review (that I checked to refresh my memory about the book) and not have read on, because the ending of the first book was much more hopeful than this one. Plus, even though this isn't really a cliffhanger ending, it's so obviously leading to a third book so it doesn't feel as 'complete' as the first was.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Shakespeare on Page and Stage by Stanley Wells

When I read the introduction, the idea that jumped out at me was "readable academic essays." Which seems like a paradox in itself, but as the introduction promised, this is an enjoyable collection of academic analysis on Shakespeare.

The essays are divided into four sections: Shakespearian Influences, Essays on Particular Works, Shakespeare in the Theatre, and Shakespeare's text. It's going to be impossible to summarise all twenty nine essays, but rest assured that this work will give people who are studying Shakespeare plenty to chew upon.

And though this is a readable work, it is still very dense with ideas and analysis and I found that my reading speed slowed considerably while reading it. Which is a good sign, because if it's an academic work, then I expect to read slowly in order to understand what the author is trying to say.

While this isn't the best book for a reader looking to get into the analysis of Shakespeare, readers with a working knowledge of Shakespearian criticism (in this case, I'm defining it as 'if you've studied Shakespeare in school') will probably be able to understand most of what this book says. And I'm sure the academic audience will be delighted to read it.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Winter Solstice: Short Stories from the Worlds of KP Novels

I wonder if you've heard of Kindle Scout before. It's this program where you can read an exerpt of a book and then vote for it (up to 3 books at a time). At the end of the campaign, the Kindle Scout staff will review the book and decide whether to publish it or not. I've actually voted for a few, then I realised that my Amazon account wouldn't let me download them because I was voting with a non-Japan store (same email though, so that's weird). Finally, though, I managed to read it using the cloud reader and that brings me to this novel - short stories from various Kindle Scout winners. All the stories are related to the world, and hopefully I'll find a few that I like and that I voted for (and thus received a free copy.

There are several categories involved in this, so let me go through them one by one:

Romance - I'm not really on a romance kick now, but I thought they were pretty good. Out of the three stories, I liked "Coconutty Christmas: Holiday in Hawaii", which was a fun look at what happens when a staff member of a Hawaiian resort gets attracted to one of the guests (and vice versa)

Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Horror - I thought the stories here were really strong, but that's probably because I've always like these genres. I liked all three, but my vote for this category would be for Awash in Christmas Spirit, which is about Beth, a 15 year old who can heal people. Kind of sadly, I didn't vote for this so I don't have a copy to read.

Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense - This was the most uneven category for me (and the one with 6 stories, twice the number of the previous two). Some stories were great, while I just wasn't feeling a few of the stories - there were some passages where I felt like information was being recapped. I really liked Killing Anna, which had a really great twist that left me questioning who the real killer was. The book it's related to is Random Acts of Unkindness, which I actually voted for and have! Quite excited to read that! All I Want for Christmas was pretty good too, and I liked how the story moved (and the fact that it had a happy ending! If it's a Christmas story or has Christmas in the title, I kinda want it to have a happy ending).

Literary Fiction - There was only one story here, and I wasn't really feeling it, but I'm picky when it comes to literary fiction anyway.

Overall, this is a pretty good collection to get if you've got a bunch of books and you don't know what to read first. The stories should be pretty representative of the author, and I'm hoping that if I like the short story, I'll enjoy the novel too. After all, I did like the first few chapters enough to vote for it.

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura

This week has been rather hectic, so here's another short review. I read The Book of Tea and it's only 74 'pages' on my iPad, so a really quick read.

The Book of Tea is what its title says. It's a discussion of the Japanese perspective on tea. It has 7 chapters:

- The Cup of Humanity
- The Schools of Tea
- Taoism and Zennism
- The Tea-room
- Art Appreciation
- Flowers
- Tea-masters.

There's also a mini-biography of the author, which helps explain why he wrote the book.

The author's love of tea comes across very clearly in this book - as does his disdain for the West (although his life seemed to tell a different story). I really enjoyed the whole book and learnt a lot from it. Plus, I really love the language in it, like this passage:

Translation is always a treason, and as a Ming author observes, can at its best be only the reverse side of a brocade - all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of colour or design.

And by the way, this was originally written in English. So you can be sure that you're getting the original, not a translation without subtlety or colour.

If you like tea, you should take a look at this. I borrowed it from the NLB e-reads app, so if you have an account, you can get it straight away (if you don't, you can make one if you're an NLB member).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Battlestar Galatica: Six by JT Krul

The reason why I requested this was rather odd. I rode the Battlestar Galatica ride at Universal Studios Singapore, and while in line, I looked the story up. From what I saw, Six seemed like an interesting character and when I saw this origin story on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Battlestar Galatica: Six uses a flashback/present day narrative for Six/Eve as she tries to figure out who she is. I daren't say more, because any more and I'll probably give away quite a few spoilers.

I believe that this contains all the issues from this series, but it was pretty short. I suppose I was expecting something longer (and a lot more character development - perhaps I'm too used to novels), and the comic seemed to have ended before it begun.

Still, it was a pretty interesting origin story.

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

All of us have biases. We use it to look at the world and interpret the different things. That's the reason why two people can look at exactly the same thing and have two differing interpretations. And because these biases are so crucial in how we see the world, it's hard to hold them up and examine them. And it's even harder to reject them - especially when rejecting them means rejecting your entire support system as well.

And yet, that is what Nabeel Qureshi has done. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is his extremely moving testimony of how he was raised in a loving Muslim home, and how after investigating both Christianity and Islam, he ended up converting to Christianity. (Also, I just want to say - I was super surprised and happy to see that he did TOK (Theory of Knowledge). If it's the same TOK that I did, then he's a fellow IB alumni!)

This book is part testimony, part introduction to a comparison between Islam and Christianity. Of course, it's not as complete as No God but One (the later book that takes a much more in-depth view of the similarities and differences between the two religions), but it's a very good introduction to the whole thing.

There's not much more I can say. I have no regrets about buying this book, and I thought it was a very engaging, encouraging and enlightening book. Definitely a must-read, especially in the multi-religious world that we live in.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Collision of Worlds by Lincoln Cole

Just finished this second book in the Graveyard of Empires series! I'm happy that I read it soon after I finished the first book, because I suspect that if I left too much time between the two books, I would have another "The Grace of Kings" and "The Wall of Storms" problem where I couldn't remember the main characters for the first few chapters.

Collision of Worlds continues the saga, with a few more pieces moving into place for a huge, explosive ending (which will probably be in a later book). Traq, the kid that we meet in the previous book (the boy that Argus discovers) exhibits more powers. Argus doesn't get as much airtime in this book, but his co-worker, Vivian, does and I really find her character interesting! She has no idea how to raise a child, reading tons of books to compensate, and it leads to her doing some very unorthodox things. Moms may not approve of her.

Maven and Alyssa, the twins in a never-ending battle move their rivalry one step up by betting the lives of Jayson and his teammates. Darius doesn't really appear much, but from Maven's section, I got a much better sense of how the Union operates. And they really, really don't seem much better than the Republic, like I suspected in the first book.

And for the Kristi and her ship - sadly, Kristi and Abigail do not appear as much. Instead, more airtime is given to develop Abdullah, her second in command. And while Abdullah didn't really make that big an impression on me in the first book, (sorry, but Kristi totally overshadowed him) I did remember him and so his enlarged role wasn't as big as a surprise to me.

Two "new" characters are Jim and Oliver. They basically first appeared at the end of the first book, and I totally didn't expect them to start playing a big role. But I find that I quite like their storyline too - Jim's struggles to fit in with the upper class, and his tenuous friendship with Oliver was oddly captivating. And for the record, I find Jim a lot more sympathetic than Oliver, who's more practical and money-minded.

If you liked the first book, you will probably enjoy the second. The cast of characters largely stay the same, with the difference being the amount of page space given to each individual character. I still haven't decided if there's a side that I want to root for, and I look forward to finding out more and more about this world.

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