Thursday, May 31, 2012

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Even though I'm slowly/not so slowly buying/borrowing books in Japan, I still go back to the books I brought with me when I'm homesick. Like Sarah Dessen, I think out of all the authors I packed, I packed the most books from her (4 books). I previously reviewed The Truth About Forever, and now, here's another re-read: Keeping the Moon.

Keeping the Moon features Collie, who has never fit in. First, that was because she was fat and when she became thin, she developed a reputation she didn't deserve (school can be cruel). But one summer, her mom (who became Kiki Sparks and famous after losing weight) goes on tour and she's sent to her Aunt Mira for the summer. Mira is eccentric in ways too many to count but like in a Sarah Dessen novel, this is when she makes friends and finds out her own worth,

I say "like in a Sarah Dessen novel" because looking back, it fits her storyline pretty typically. But, while reading it, I never once felt a sense of deja vu. In fact, it was the complete opposite. I'll have to say that this is probably because of the writing and the characters. Colie, Morgan, Isabel and really everyone else is so well-portrayed that it made the story unique.

Especially Morgan and Isabel's friendship. They're alike (and at the same time opposite) that they remind me of my best friend and I. The way they talk, know each other so well, it sounds like what Rachel and I do. We don't talk about the same subjects, but the way we talk (or don't need to) is the same thing.

While I've never had Collie's problems (I'm sorry, but I don't think I was/am fat. And I was a goody-two-shoes), I can certainly identify with her loneliness. I think this is amplified all the more in Japan. While I have really awesome friends, there's a certain loneliness from being so far away from the friends left behind, and the language barrier doesn't help much. So in a way, reading about Collie fitting in by being who she is encouraged me that I will make friends eventually and there's no need to worry about fitting in.

Seriously, I think if you're going overseas/moving, you should bring Sarah Dessen along (I could make a list of authors to bring). If you have a friend moving, maybe you could give her this book to let her know you'll be thinking of her.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Little Night by Luanne Rice

I didn't know what to expect when I requested this book. It's supposed to be a family drama, but I didn't know what type (If you want a brief long introduction to family drama, watch the Taiwanese series Ai (Love)). But basically, Little Night examines the relationships between sisters and mother-daughter.

While trying to protect her sister Anne from her abusive husband, Clare hit him and got sent to jail for two years. This more-or-less broke the ties between them since Anne lied on the stand for her husband. But one day, Anne's daughter Grit appears on Clare's doorstep all of a sudden, and well, everything collides.

I found this story really heartbreaking. The two sisters didn't intentionally severe ties, it was all caused by Anne's husband, who emotionally and I think physically abused her. Basically, the book explores the effects of domestic violence on the relationship between female members of the family. It's not as clinical as I make it sound, but it's heartbreaking because while I was hoping for a happy ending, I could see that it wasn't going to happen (and it didn't).

As for the characters, I think they were wonderful. I have nothing more to say about it, except that I thought it was realistic.

The plot was interesting. It shifted between the incident in the past, the present, Clare and Grit's point of view and Anne's journals/website. In this way, I kinda knew more than the characters, but that actually served to increase the "tension". Because I knew more, I wanted the characters to behave a certain way but since they only knew what they knew, their actions and my expectations diverged.

Plus, in Anne's case, the release of information was well timed. Because it's linked to when Clare/Grit reads her diaries, we only get her point of view at very selective stages - and a lot of it is about the past. There was another plot device that managed to delay releasing information from her website even though the reader knows it exists.

In conclusion, this is a good book. I think it was sensitively written, and I enjoyed reading it very much. Most of the plots were fully explored so yay!

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Midterms are over! And now I can resume reading(: Right now, I'm reading another book that I borrowed from the school library (I try to go there often) called - Notes from a Small Island. I picked it up because in Singapore, we have a book whose title was inspired by that (Notes from an Even Small Island by Neil Humphreys - go read it!). So, here's today's teaser:

"I forgot to mention curry houses earlier in my brief list of Bradford's glories, which is a terrible oversight. Bradford may have lost a wool trade, but it has gained a thousand excellent Indian restraurants, which I personally find a reasonable swap as I have a strictly limited need for bales of fiber but can take about as much Indian food as you care to shovel at me." (page 180)
Do you think the book sounds funny? So far, it's an amusing read, but then again, I'm only 3 chapters into it.

What are your Teaser Tuesdays?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Blogger Hop #1

Book Blogger HopAs always, I'm not much of a meme person, but I am very intrigued by this week's question. Plus, I like the ethics behind this meme. So, this week's question is:

How do you handle the writing of a negative review?

Well, honestly, I try my best not to write negative reviews. I'm well aware of my biases, so I tend to stay away from books that I think I won't like. But since I've been getting more review copies to read (thank you NetGalley), I've also encountered more books whose blurb's and my expectations don't meet. In this case, I'd rather decline to review. If I'm getting a free copy, I don't feel good writing a negative review, so if I can't write a nice review, I'd rather not write anything at all.

There was this one time, however, where the book was sent from the author. In this case, I emailed him once I realised I couldn't write a good review and told him my reasons. Since I'd previously agreed to review the book, I asked him if he still wanted me to do so (but I won't write a nice review when I can't). Thankfully, he understood my position and let me back out.

But if it's a book I bought/borrowed, all bets are off. I may or may not write a review, depending on how infuriated I am with the book itself (and it's lack of logic/excessive swearing/etc).

Hmm... what about you? Do you prefer not to write negative reviews too?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reckless Heart by Amy Clipston

I actually didn't know that I've read one of the books in this series until I started reading Reckless Heart. Then, it hit me. I realised that the names were familiar not because they were common, but because I've seen them before.

And really, I enjoyed this book more than A Life of Joy.

Reckless Heart follows Lydia, who's suddenly overwhelmed when her younger sister Ruth is diagnosed with Leukemia. She reacts by alternately trying to bear the weight of the household on her shoulders and what she perceives as "lashing out/being disrespectful" towards her dad (her mom is at the hospital with poor Ruth). At the same time, she has to make a career choice and deal with a friendship with an English boy, a friendship frowned upon by the community.

Personally, I think the two subplots weren't as well dealt with as the main plot. While I didn't always agree with Lydia's perception of herself, I could understand her and I was hoping along with her that Ruth would get better. Plus, the characterisation of this household in turmoil was very well done, and brought the characters to life.

On the other hand, I think that the weight of the main plot crowded out the subplot. There wasn't enough space given to each that they could develop and honestly, I thought that the whole "school-or-bakery" crisis was a non-event. It didn't feel like a crisis anyway. But, the friendship with Tristan (the "English" guy) had definite potential. In fact, he was my favourite character in the whole book, a nice Christian guy who goes beyond the discrimination against him. It was a stronger sub-plot, but again, the resolution felt like a non-event. Perhaps more time was needed to build up the tension before the resolution?

All in all, this is an enjoyable book. The speech felt a bit confused at times (sometimes I didn't understand the Amish words, and sometimes I felt like the characters were speaking exactly like modern teens), but it wasn't a very big impediment. I'd recommend it if you're looking for a fiction book centered around the Amish.

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Interview with Nancy Rue

I know I'm late, but it couldn't really be helped. But anyway, if you remember, I did a review of The Whole Guy Thing by Nancy Rue a some time back (was it two weeks ago?). Anyway, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Nancy and her are her answers:

Me: Thank you for letting me ask you a few questions! I loved reading the Lily series growing up (still do :D) But anyway, here are the questions

I used to be teased really badly by some of my Church mates; in fact, I felt like I was being bullied. But when I asked them about it, they claimed to be “just joking” (this is when we were around 17). The issue was sort of resolved when I changed to another youth group, where I feel that the teasing is good-natured but how should I have handled it?

Nancy: Bullying is hard enough, but when it happens in the church it’s particularly heinous. Here’s the thing: whether comments are intended to be good-natured or not, if they hurt, they aren’t okay. I advise girls in this situation to do one of two things

a. If the people making the rude comments are friends of yours, explain to them that what they’re doing is hurting your feelings. It’s okay to say, “I know I might be more sensitive than most people, but in the interest of our friendship, could you back off a little?” After all, teasing is only fun when it’s fun for BOTH sides

b. If the people doing it are not your friends and never will be because they are, in fact, bullies, the last thing you want to do is let them know how they’re making you feel. That only encourages them to do it more, since their intention is to mess with your head in the first place. Hold that head high, look them straight in the eye, and say, “You know, seriously, I thought you were better than this.” What are they going to say, “No, I am NOT better than this?” While they’re trying to figuring out what just hit them, walk away. Staying as far away from people like that as possible really is the best solution. It doesn’t make you a wimp. It makes you smart

Me: I know that The Whole Guy Thing is for young teens, but what advice do you have to share with older teens/young adults? We’ve kind of reached the stage where we can all talk normally to guys, but there are still plenty of the “does he like me?” moments happening.

Nancy: I think the same principle applies no matter how old you are. As long as you don’t measure your own worth by whether a guy likes you, you can relax and enjoy relationships and let them develop without a whole lot of angst. Besides, if you have to wonder for weeks whether he likes you, he probably isn’t that into you, as they say. If he isn’t, move on because there’s somebody out there who will appreciate the real you. I also want to say, “Be the best you that you can be, always growing and evolving, but do not try to change the core of who you are for a guy. It never works and I promise you that you won’t be happy.”

Me: One of my friends right now has 2 crushes on non-Christians (we’re both overseas students in Japan), so what should she do? We always read in the Bible about not being “unequally yoked” so we’re confused as to how to deal with it

Nancy: I think we have to be careful about applying Paul’s advice in his letters to specific groups of people too literally. For us in the twenty-first century, there are several things to consider

1. Are you just hanging out together for fun, because these guys are interesting and a delight to be with? If so, why not? We shouldn’t completely cut ourselves off from people who don’t believe as we do or we become rigid and narrow and miss out on some great people.

2. Are you shopping for a husband? If so, and you want to marry a Christian, then why go there? If it develops into something serious, you have tough decisions to make. Just keep it friendly and enjoy their company as friends

3. Are you confused about whether a Christian should consider marrying a non-Christian? Give it a lot of thought and prayer. Journal about it. Talk to couples who don’t share a faith. I personally don’t believe you’re going to lose your salvation if you marry someone who’s not a Christian, but if you’re committed to a life with God and your partner isn’t, the going can get rough. Just give the relationship LOTS of time before you make any long-term decisions.

Me: And um, my friend has another question. She wants to know how to approach guys as friends only. We actually have very little in common with the people we’ve just made friends with (different cultures and language barriers), so she feels that she always ends up saying something stupid. It’s quite awkward for us since in kendo (our new club), most of them are guys. She’s tried what you said in “Can We Just Be Friends” but she thinks that the differences are too big

Nancy: You definitely can’t force a friendship, right? The only thing that comes to me for your situation is to take a genuine interest in what’s different about them. Ask them to introduce you to the foods they love. Get them to play their favorite music for you. Ask questions about how they grew up and what challenges they face. Of course, if cultural differences prohibit guys from making friends with girls, all bets are off! Again, if it isn’t there, it isn’t there.
Nancy Rue
Me: And on that note, how should we deal with culture shock (relating to guys). Here, most guys are very un-self-conscious and my friends and I were startled a few times when we walked in and found our seniors changing. We don’t know what to say (or where to look!). What should we do?

Nancy: I’m thinking learn as much as you can about the culture, figure out what you CAN do to fit in and what you CAN’T, and most of all don’t make them feel like your way is the only right way. A sense of humor is absolutely essential. I think a blog about “Where to look when you walk in on naked bodies” would be hilarious!

Me: Thanks so much for answering my (our) questions! I really appreciate it(:

Nancy: My pleasure. These were definitely challenging!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's Your Type of Career (2nd Edition) by Donna Dunning, PhD

Ok, I admit it, I got this book with an eye on the future. I'm pretty sure I want to do business, but I wasn't sure exactly what (it's a big field). I was hoping that this book would help me to realise more clearly what it was exactly.

And what this book reminded me off was one of those seminars that my schools used to make us go to. The ones that make you do all those quizzes and tell you your personality types. So this is what this book is like, only without the very detailed quizzes.

What I did was to read all the relevant chapters for me. That would be the first few chapters, especially where you "diagnose" yourself. After that, the book goes into the 8 working styles there is, with plenty of excercises to help you figure out your working style, leadership style, etc. Because of this, I think this book is best used in a group. You're not going to want to read all the chapters (unless you intend to become a career guidance counsellor), and I think it might be more fun to do the different excercises together.

The writing was, well, it was attempting to engaging. For some reason though, I wasn't engaged. As I said before, it felt a lot like those workshops from school and I used to start to drift off half-way through, just like this book.

In addition, I feel like the book is a promotion for this website called O*Net (I think that's the name, I kinda stopped paying attention). The reader is constantly encouraged to use that site, to the extent that I think important information was ommited. At the end of each chapter, each type is presented with a list of jobs that might be suitable and encouraged to look through them - using O*Net. For me, I couldn't finish reading the list, and I would have really liked to have a short explanation why each job (if not each group) would suit each particular type.

In conclusion, I think that this book is best used as a workbook. The many excercises seem useful but I'd need a very strong motivator to do them seriously.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge - Equal Rites

Now that I've finally finished the Tiffany Aching series, I'm on to other Discworld books. And because of I Shall Wear Midnight, I had the urge to re-read Equal Rites, staring Esk, the first and only female Wizard.

Equal Rites (notice the pun on the word rights?) is simply a very entertaining book on discrimination. In Discworld, everything (w.r.t. magic) is divided into two categories - witches and wizards. However, when a um, a mistaken wizard passes his staff (and I suppose by extension his power) to Esk, who isn't the 8th son of an 8th son but a girl, this simple division is turned topsy-turvy. The truth can't be denied (sorry Granny Weatherwax!) and Esk has to try to gain admission into Unseen University, which unfortunately is a boys-only place (Except for cooks and cleaning ladies).

So, basically, this is one of the few books that combine two of my favourite groups of people - the Unseen University and Granny and friends. Unfortunately, this is before Ridicully's reign, I mean tenure as Arch-chancellor so I "missed" out the opportunity of seeing how he and Granny would have interacted. But really, it is very entertaining.

I quite like how the book deals with the topic of discrimination. There isn't any huge marches and whatnot (Esk is only 9 after all), and even Granny doesn't want Esk to be a Wizard. It seems to be saying that there's no point in trying to break down any walls for its own sake, but rather, to break down the walls if it hinders you from being you. When you think about it, it's quite an interesting take on the subject.

And on to the subject of the characters. I loved Esk! She's so precocious and the mingling of absentmindedness (well, a sort of distracted focus anyway) was naturally done. I wish I was like her (wait, am I? I can't tell).

On the other hand, Granny didn't seem much like Granny. I'm used to seeing her being very sure of herself, but here she has some doubts. It's not like her getting lost, but something more concrete. I guess it's good that she appears more fallible, but I had more fun reading about her when she knew everything and couldn't be shaken.

Anyway, I just checked and this is apparently the third book in the series. Wow that's early! That explains a lot of things. While I still hold that you can read the books in any order, the characterisation in this case means it makes more sense to read this before you have set expectations about how certain characters behave. And I really still want more books featuring Esk(:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Reckless Heart by Amy Clipston

I'm going to try doing a teaser from an ebook today. It's a NetGalley review copy, set in the Amish community. So, I'm gonna swipe my finger and see what random page it ends up. Here goes...

"Then standing in the doorway to the family room, she saw her parents sitting next to each other on the sofa, while holding hands and frowning towards her.

"I know it's bedtime," Dat continued, "but we need to speak with you." "(page 72 of 272)

Hmm... interesting. What is your teaser?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wait by Frank Partnoy (ARC)

Quick, from the title alone, what's book is the opposite of this? If you said Blink by Malcom Gladwell, then you and I have the same thought process. The subtitle of this book is "The Art and Science of Delay", which is so different from the thin-slicing concept in Blink. But, apart from the subject matter, both books feel similar - they're written in an enjoying way (well, there's another part about the essence of the book, but I don't know how to describe a book's character through mere words).

This book, like Blink, explores the decision-making process. Only in this case, they advise waiting as long as possible. Even for the superfast sports, like Baseball, the experts wait as long as possible before making their move. Hence, we should also do likewise (between these two disparate statements is a fairly long and convincing explanation). Of course, the book also goes on to show how we can possible control these reactions (and biases in thin-slicing).

The book actually has a survey you can take here to see how you deal with time. I haven't taken it yet, but I will (when I finish procrastinating, which apparently may not be a bad thing).

The only problem I had with the book was with the first chapter, where it keeps talking about the evolutionary role. I don't think evolution is true (or even convincing), so to me, this whole reptile-throwback stuff is unbelievable. Why can't we just say that we have two such parallel systems? How does it enhance the theory?

Otherwise, the book was really good. Most of the research presented is interesting and fairly convincing, although I have no way of telling if there's any cherry-picking going on. A wide range of subject matter, from Fight Club to a It's Just Lunch (a dating service) is used to illustrate the various points in the chapter.

In fact, one of my favourite things learnt involves the subconscious influence (and I sent it off as a "quote of the day" to my friends and cousins. It goes about how research shows that if you want to cram for an exam, or just finish reading faster, you should go to MacDonalds. My really smart friend (Aggy, it's you!) that the red and orange in the place physiologically makes you feel energised and want to rush.

Apart from that, I really like the quote on how "Two of the skills that many students develop in college are the ability to manage their time throughout a semester, and the ability to cram for an exam or quickly finish a term paper at the semester's end. Students who are required to finish an assignment every week may not develop these skills." I shall go out on a limb and assume that the second sentence means that your grade is completely/largely not dependent on a major exam but is consistent. Well, apart from university, IB will do fine too. While I like the whole "working constantly" thing that IB taught me -time management!- (and I'm using it now if TUFS), there were major assignments and exams too. Which is why when, for example, we have a maths portfolio (it's a math essay), you'll notice that the amount of sleep that goes down beyond the normal levels as everyone rushes to finish the portfolio/essay.

Well, basically, this is a really interesting book. If you need a non-fiction read, you should really put this on your reading list.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Fairy-Stories by J. R R. Tolkien

I first heard of this book from Pages Unbound when they reviewed it. It sounded so fantastic I decided to hunt down a copy and read it for myself. And, it's truly a really good (although fairly-short) read. After all, I grew up on a diet of Disney movies (why don't they show the classics anymore?) and I thought I knew quite a lot about fairy-tales.

This short book (or if you have another viewpoint, long essay) is 27 pages long, but does a good job of introducing and discussing the genre of fairy tales. First comes the definition, which is really more of a discussion on the nature of this genre. A quick look into the history follows, their target audience (is it really only meant for children?) and other topics.

What I really love about the book is how well-read Tolkien is. I like to think that I read a lot, but clearly, I'm not even a small fraction of how well-read he is. So here's a note of warning, you may not want to be like me and read this book on a train. Instead, you should read it in front of a computer or compilation of fairy-tales because you will want to start searching to find out more about all these wonderful tales Tolkien references (you don't need to if you just want understanding, but it's so much more fun to do so).

Of course, the prose is fantastic. (I don't think Tolkien could write otherwise). At the risk of gushing, I will say that's it's a joy just to read. Even if you don't fully understand (and I had to re-read many sections a few times), it's still wonderful how the words just flow over.

Basically, this is an excellent text. If you have an interest in fairy-tales (or just literature in general) or you just like Tolkien, you should really read this book. The only way I can think of someone to not enjoy this book is if you happen to hate well-written non-fiction on a genre that we're all familiar with by an excellent author.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Want Guest Post (Blog Tour)

Hello, sorry for (another) late post. The only defence I have is Kendo... But anyway, here's the second part of the Want Blog Tour! You can read my review here if you haven't already. And without further ado, here's a guest post by the author of Want, Stephanie Lawton:


Isaac’s playlist

I hear about so many writers who need to listen to music while writing to get in the groove. I can’t do that. I wind up singing the lyrics or humming along—and staring at a blank page.

However, I compile a playlist for each book and listen to it while I’m not writing—in the car, while cooking dinner, in the shower (TMI? Sorry). I often wake up with one of the songs in my head.

Below is poor Isaac Laroche’s list. The guy’s caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place with no clear solution, and his playlist reflects that struggle, as well as his training in classical piano.

·        “Back Against the Wall” by Cage the Elephant

·        “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park

·        “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon

·        “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran (it’s an oldie but a goodie)

·        “Undisclosed Desires” by Muse

·        “Add it Up” by Violent Femmes

·        “All the Right Moves” by One Republic

·        “Not Strong Enough” by Apocalyptica (featuring Brent Smith)

·        “Dirty Little Secret” by All American Rejects

·        Etude-Tableau no. 5 in D Minor by Rachmaninoff (Chapters 5 and 9)

·        Moments Musicaux Op.16 - No.4 E Minor Presto by Rachmaninoff (Chapter 7)

·        Morceaux de fantasie, Op. 3 - IV: Polichinelle, Allegro vivace by Rachmaninoff (Chapter 7)

·        Piano Concerto no. 23 in A by Mozart (Chapters 7 and 9)

·        Piano Concerto no. 1 in F# Minor by Rachmaninoff (Chapter 9)

·        Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini XX. Variation 18: Andante cantabile (D flat major) by Rachmaninoff (Chapter 16)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kagen no Tsuki (下弦の月) by Ai Yazawa


I first saw this in my school's AV room, since it's been made into a movie. I was really intrigued by the blurb so I decided that the fastest way was to simply read the manga. And wow, it's really great! Plus, it feels good to finish a series! The three I'm currently reading are still on-going (not that I'm complaining)

Hmm, how should I summarise the book without giving anything away? Well, let's see, the protagonist of the book is Hotaru, who meets an amnesiac ghost and developes a friendship with her. Well, after that, the book is mainly about the girls trying to help the ghost they dub Eve. All Eve remembers is that she's going to meet her boyfriend Adam (see why they chose that name?). What happens is a well-written detective story, although the reader knows from the start who Eve really is.

What I loved about the book was, simply put, the story. It's simple but captivating. It also explores the notion of identity, although I suppose you could say that since it's Eve has amnesia, they can't avoid the issue. But there is this plot device, that made me wonder - what makes us us? Is it our memories, or is it what we dub our personality?

The characters were also while done. While I'm still a bit sceptical about why a bunch of school children (like Primary School age) were having romances (but it was very slight!), I think that they were well characterised. All of them were distinctive, and their individual quirks didn't appear forced on them. The "older" characters were also well done, although I would have liked to see more of Tomoki. I didn't really see how he was suited to Eve. There was a very sweet flashback, but still, I really wanted more backstory.

On the other hand, the romance between Adam and Eve was quite sweet if slightly sad. I don't know if Adam is meant to be the "bad guy" but I thought this story was very sad. Actually, thinking about it, I think we're supposed to feel sympathy for Adam. The last chapter made it very clear, because it was the one chapter where we're shown his point of view.

All in all, this is a very short but good manga. I managed to finish it in 2 days and the only reason why I took so long was because I could only read it in school (and I can't read during my lessons....)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

I haven't read The Happiness Project (I regret not buying it in America when I saw it), so when I saw that another happiness book was out, I wanted to read it so badly. Happier at Home, which is a happiness project on how to make the home a happier place seemed like an intriguing read.

First off, my current home is a 15m squared room. I'm severely limited as to how I can customise it (dorm rules and such). But still, I'd like my room/home to be a place where I can feel safe (no small thing when studying overseas). While this book doesn't deal solely with the home (it goes into how your response to things), it's still pretty relevant.

The book follows her personal journey, which focuses on a specific incident month by month. Each month, this like Possessions, Neighbourhood, Interior Design (your character, not your house) is made the focus, and she shares with us her successes and failures.

What results is a very enjoyable read. There's no overload of information, but rather, it feels like she shares what she learns on her journey. Even though it's very specific, it is interesting to learn from her experience. In fact, I made quite a lot of bookmarks/highlights. (And also, when she mentioned how she wasn't adventurous, I felt an instant connection).

Most of the "advice" in the book is commonsense. Do one small thing at a time (and do it consistently). As Anthony Trollope said (and quoted in the book) "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."

Personally, I can't do a lot of the things that involve actual interior decorating (I'd like to have little miniature scenes hidden in my room but I have no money or space). So mostly, it's the character things that I'm going to try and adopt. The main one would be to be a tourist at home. I'm so lazy, that even though I live in Tokyo now, the furthest I've ever been is the Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama. I'm going to try to go to more places during the weekends.

Lastly, the phrase "Tiggers emerge in contrast to Eeyores, and Eeyores emerge in contrast to Tiggers" really struck a chord. I wondered why I sometimes suddenly become more energetic than usual. I used to think it was to irritate someone and I guess I was -partly- right. It makes sense that when I'm around people who are feeling down, I'd act even more cheerful; partly because I don't want to "catch" that feeling, and partly because I want to make them happy too. I guess I'll have to take care not to overdo that.

So, here's my rather random review. In fact, it's really more of a response to the book don't you think?

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

This would be the other book that Yoonjin-san lent me. It was written a fairly long time ago, and deals with growing up on the wrong-side of town. And for some reason, this book reminded me a lot of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle ( henceforth known as Paddy Clark and which incidentally, is an excellent book you should read).

The Outsiders is narrated by Ponyboy (no, that's his real name), who is a "greaser" on the East Side of town (the poor side). They're constantly at war with the "socs" (socials - the rich kids from the West Side of town) and one day, the war is taken to a new dimension when Johnny, his friend, kills a socs while trying to save his life.

I suppose the reason why this book reminds me of Paddy Clarke is because of the cruelty of childhood in the book. While Ponyboy, at 14, is older than Paddy, and definitely in a much more cruel world, the interactions between Ponyboy and his friends and the socs remind me of how Kevin (and friends) treated the new kids. In fact, if I were to draw a connection, I would say that this book might be Paddy Clarke a few years from now (but I would place Paddy and friends as the socs).

The language style of this book is quite easy to follow. There's quite a bit of slang, but it doesn't reach the proportions of Paddy Clarke and it's written in more or less proper grammer. In short, it reads like a story more than as a insight into Ponyboy's mind. It's kind of like an autobiography (the style anyway), so all the advantages and disadvantages of the first-person narrator come into play here. In fact, in the ending, there's a hintvery-obvious-clue-bordering-on-telling-the-reader that this might be something that Ponyboy wrote (as part of something for school). And since I've already started comparing this book to Paddy Clarke, I might as well add that the narrative style in Paddy Clarke is much more similar to the thought process of a 10 year old boy, although not a stream-of-consciousness. Personally, for these kind of books, I would prefer the style of Paddy Clarke, although it's harder to understand and even harder to write.

Another important part of the book would be the characters. Ponyboy and his brothers (Darry and Sodapop) don't have a perfect relationship, but how they interact with each other fits perfectly with their characters. But more interestingly, how they view themselves is interesting. At times, they seem to flaunt their status as a greaser, with all its negative connotations. For me at least, that was a rather unexpected idea to encounter.

Basically, this is another really great book. I wish that this was one of the books I studied in IB. It would have been fun to do a comparison essay for The Outsiders and Paddy Clarke.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

When Yoonjin-san recommended this book to me (she also lent it to me :D), she mentioned that she thought of the colonial-colony relationship when she read the book. Which should indicate to you how deep this book is. While I can't do the book justice in the review (that would require the luxury of time to properly study and analyse the book), I will try.

The reader deals with the legacy of Nazi Germany. The narrator -Michael Berg, meets Hanna when he falls ill on the way home from school. As a result (and even though she is more than twice his age), they embark on a complicated affair, which reminds me of a power struggle. (I'll insert a warning here that there are pretty explicit scenes so if you're young, think twice before reading this book).

But one day, Hanna leaves without warning and it's only later that Michael sees her. At a trial for the Nazi's, sparking a long process where he tries to come to terms with their relationship.

This book is beautifully written and moving. Michael is used as a vehicle to explore various issues - love, cultural/historical legacies, family etc. Of course, with all these heavy themes, the book borders on self-pity some of the times. But mostly, it does a good job of exploring the issues.

But about the whole colonial issue I mentioned, I can really see why she thought of it. The relationship between Michael and Hanna is very much similar to a colonial-colony relationship. It's a power struggle, with various tactics used to to maintain order. And the whole abrupt departure of Hanna reminds me of how Singapore was "kicked out" of the British Empire (but strictly speaking, we were supposed to join with Malaysia. And we kinda wanted to leave by that time -it was after WWII- so our feelings were like Michael's). And of course, now we're all obsessing over it and trying to figure out our attitude towards our former colonial masters. (But if you read the book, you'll wonder at the implications of Hanna's secret in relation to the colonial masters)

And really, placing it after WWII was a stroke of genius. The spark that set of our desire for independence was because of what we went through during the war. And as you know, these things reverberate through the generations because of family, the education system, etc. So even though I'm not part of the post-war generation, I can understand the atmosphere of the society in that book. When something of this magnitude happens, you can't help but react.

Although the book is called "The Reader", the book looks at other issues. But early on, there's a beautiful passage on books that I want to share:

"Being ill when you are a child or growing up is such an enchanted interlude! The outside world, the world of free time in the yard or the garden or on the street, is only a distant murmur in the sickroom. Inside, a whole world of characters and stories proliferate out of the books you read. The fever that weakens your perception as it sharpens your imagination turns the sickroom into something new, both familiar and strange; monsters come grinning out of the patterns on the curtains and the carpet, and chairs, tables, bookcases and wardrobes burst out of their normal shapes and become mountains and buildings and ships you can almost touch although they're far away. Through the long hours of the night you have the Church clock for company and the rumble of the occasional passing car that throws it's headlights across the walls and ceilings. These are hours without sleep, which is not to say they're sleepless, because on the contrary, they're not about lack of anything, they are rich and full. Desires, memories, fears, passions form labyrinths in which we lose and find then lose ourselves again. They are hours where anything is possible, good or bad."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Death in the Delta by Molly Walling

Contrary to the impression the title gives, this isn't actually a mystery story. Rather, it's partly a family biography, partly an autobiography (or at least, a personal account) and partly a musing on racial tensions in the South.

Death in the Delta follows the authoress as she tries to uncover the truth behind a family secret - that of her dad killing a black man when she was a child and walking away scot-free. The structure of the book follows her search, but at times delves into the past (her memories) and her musings on the subject. As she talks to various people, relatives or simply people from the community, she finds different versions of the same story. So which one is true?

Well, we'll never know. Like someone rightly said, most of the primary people involved are dead. And it's very hard to get a community used to holding on to secrets to let go. So what we're left with in the end are just suppositions/theories.

But, I think it'd be worth reading the book is only to read about the history. Ms Walling's family was quite prominent in that area, so her family history intersects with the local history. When we read of her grandmother's way of running the household, we read about the "white man's burden" attitude that was prevalent in the time. In fact, the book kind of sums up it's "real" motive, which isn't so much of uncovering the mystery but:

"What mattered most to me, then and now, was that intersecting lives and countless social, economic, historical, psychological elements zinged into place in an instant. This drama could have played on a similar stage anywhere that class and privilege met with degradation and resistance."

So really, this book is more interested in the possible motives behind the events than what actually happened. I think this arises because it's impossible to set a definitive version of what happened down on paper. And even if it was possible, why would we care? But if we look at the reason, which are so much broader, this topic, this isolated incident suddenly becomes much more relevant.

I'll just indulge in one more quote, about non-fiction in general before I stop for good.

"Nonfiction writers, like me, know that their primary role is to tell the truth, to present the facts, to steer wide and clear of conjecture and supposition, to write with clarity and transparency. ... For me to put forth another version of the story requires me to indulge in the kind of fallacious suppositioning that undermines our memories of true events. But since this 'quilting' together of disparate parts is painful, there may be some merit in doing it."

I just wish all non-fiction writers were this honest (especially the historical non-fiction writers).

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

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Want by Stephanie Lawton (Blog Tour)

Yup, you saw right, this is my second blog tour! I've actually tried to schedule everything before my exams so I can be sure of posting, so the next blog tour I take part in may be next month.... But anyway, today, I'm here to review Want (an Upper YA Romance) by Stephanie Lawton.

Basically, Want revolves around Julianne (Juli), a music prodigy who's trying her best to escape her mom and the small town she grows up in. But due to some unfortunate events, she ends up with a new teacher just before (a few weeks) the critical audition. And since this is a romance, she starts to fall in love with her teacher (Isaac), who's hiding some sort of big secret.

Want is basically a very deep romance novel. There's little of the "he-likes-me-he-likes-me-not" in most fluff. Instead, we're presented with very flawed characters. Juli has a dysfunctional family (her mom has a mental illness) but everyone pretends that everything is ok (town environment). And due to her mom, she doesn't have many friends either (but she did get low self-esteem). The book is as much about her journey through this difficult period of time as it is about her romance.

The romance part was actually really interesting. There's a lot of angst on both sides, but it's so well done that I didn't mind it. In fact, it made the book interesting. I can't say much without giving away spoilers, but the ending was not only surprising, it was also very apt. After thinking about it, it makes perfect sense (the clues are all in the book).

But, I just have to mention, this book is really for upper YA and up. There aren't any explicit scenes, but there are mentions of mature themes fairly often in the book, especially in the lower half.

And of course, I have to say something about the music. As a failed pianist (I mean this literally, I failed my piano exams 3 times), I loved reading about the descriptions of music. One of my biggest weakness is that I can't interpret music (my meager skills are only concentrated at the technical level); my piano teacher and I have given up on modern music because I play too strictly to the time (and this is without ever using a metronome). So reading about how the music moves Juli was inspiring. I hope that one day, I can see and feel all this emotion too.

All in all, this is a really interesting book. What I probably loved most was about the music, but really, the other aspects were also well-written.

(P.S. I'm sorry this is posted so late. I went to support my seniors at the kendo competition today and just got back...)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Thank you Project Gutenberg Australia! It's thanks to this site that I managed to find a copy of The Daughter of Time to read (my interest was piqued after reading an article about Josephine Tey). And this book does not disappoint.

Simply put, it's attempt by Inspector Grant to find out the truth behind the murders of the Princes in the Tower, and he ends up exonerating Richard III of the crime (although he is popularly thought to be the murderer). What is most interesting about this book is that it doesn't take place during that time itself, and in fact, Inspector Grant is confined to a hospital bed, which means that the book essentially uses research and third-parties to find information.

While I know nothing about British history (save what I read in historical fiction novels - which I take with a pinch of salt so large I may get kidney failure), the arguments in the book are quite easy to follow. There are references to people and places like the Tudors, War of the Roses and Scotland that the reader is expected to know, but the conversations do provide enough background information that those completely in the dark can follow along. So while I can't say that she makes a valid argument, I will say that she writes a very convincing and entertaining case.

Apart from being a mystery, the book also looks into the question of What is History? I've heard it said, that history is written by the winners (or if you're feminist, by men). And it's true that for every event, depending on what educational system you're in, you'll find a certain version of history. And let's not go into the different schools of thought like Revisionist History. But back to the topic; I think that it's interesting how a good portion of the book was spent on discussing the accuracy of history books (and the part the writers play).

Of course, my favourite from the book is "Tonypandy". It's a reference to the Tonypandy riots, but sounds as though it's a slang term.

All in all, this is a very interesting book. And a very unusual mystery one too. Although I'm reading it for the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge, I can't seem to put it into any of the categories. I think I shall just classify it as a "cozy" since it is tame (but then again, what can you expect when the protagonist spends the whole book in the hospital unable to move?)

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

Ok, before you say anything, I know this is a children's book. But in my defense, it WAS recommended by the incomprehensible Goodreads machine. And so far, Goodreads seems to be able to judge my taste pretty well, I enjoyed reading this book.

I think how I got this book is pretty interesting. After pretty much giving up hope finding it in the public library in Singapore, I saw it in the MG Primary Library. About a week before I left for Japan. Thereafter, I gave up hope on ever finding it. So imagine my surprise when I saw it for 300yen in BookOff.

Finished imagining? If it involved barely suppressed squeals of joy, you're probably really close to what happened.

Basically, the book reminds me a lot of Enid Blyton. It's a children's book and unlike YA fiction today, it's not full of exciting/dystopian stuff. It's just like it's subtitle: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy. But it works. It's a really enjoyable story.

The Penderwick Sisters are renting a cottage for the summer, next to the snooty Mrs Tifton. There, they meet (and immediately try to help) her son Jefferey from going to Pencey, an awful military boarding school. Of course, they get into various incidents as they make friends and try to help.

What made the book shine was really the characterisation of the sisters. I think that the author paid a lot of attention to the birth order and character because when I was reading the book, I thought: that's so true! (I have 3 siblings, although the last one is a boy). I could empathise with Rosalind (the eldest) almost immediately (plus I feel we're quite similar in character), and how I felt about the younger sisters varied based on what they were doing (again, my reaction was the same as Rosalind's) and how much I missed my own siblings.

The sisters are very united, with their own rituals like MOPS (Meeting Of Penderwick Sisters) and MOOPS (Meeting Of Older Penderwick Sisters), which are the kind of formal affairs that we used to do as children. Or at least, my family did. It's immensely fun when you have a ton of people to play make-believe with (I used to live with my cousins).

The narrative occasionally jumps from the point of view of one character to the other, but more or less maintains a third-person style. It's actually quite interesting because of some of the perspectives (like Hound).

Oh! How could I forget Hound? Hound is the family dog and Batty's (the youngest girl) best friend. He's very intelligent, but still a very typical dog. Reading his point of view is like seeing how a very loyal best friend might be like (with some kind of extrasensory perception because he always knows when Batty is in trouble).

Somehow, this is a really good book for when you're a long way from home and feeling a little homesick.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Whole Guy Thing by Nancy Rue

I know I'm 18 turning 19 and I'm supposed to have the whole BGR thing more-or-less down, but honestly, I'm still confused. This probably came about due to 10 years in an all-girls-school and a tendency to assume everyone just wants to be friends. So, for those of you as confused/ignorant as me, it's a good idea to read The Whole Guy Thing by Nancy Rue.

The Whole Guy Thing is actually written for a much younger (say 5 years younger) audience. But it really doesn't matter what age you are because the principals in here are timeless. Nancy Rue covers things like if it's possible to just be friends, dating and relationships and of course, the various boy-girl dramas that take place in real life.

What I like about the book is that it's very focused on having a relationship with God, and to use that a guideline on how you should behave towards guys. In fact, my favourite piece of advice appears in chapter one - "take time every day to talk to God about this stuff." This book doesn't focus on how to get a guy, or how you don't need one, rather tries to show how you should approach this in a Godly way, and how your feelings don't have to be suppressed in an attempt to be Godly.

The book itself is very easy to read. It's written in a conversational tone of voice and is very well structured. There are things like quizzes (which will definitely appeal to all girls, especially the younger ones), a "twitter version" that summarises each chapter into less that 140 characters, a section on how to approach this with your parents and so on and so forth.

Probably because it's written for tween/teen girls to read, this book is quite short. But, don't let that deceive you, it contains a lot of information, all of it written in a way that reminds me of a wise, older mentor. And what is most interesting is how the book doesn't prescribe a set of rules (like courtship or dating or whatever is going on). Instead, it centers on getting girls to make the right, Godly decisions, treating them like mature adults instead of little kids who can't handle responsibility. Isn't that great?

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

And this doesn't end with a review! There's an author interview coming up, so stick around for that(:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge: I Shall Wear Midnight

I finished this book (which marks the conclusion of the Tiffany Aching series), and I feel... confused about it. Don't get me wrong, this is an excellent book, but there were one or two things that didn't really gel with me.

Ok, so to give you a rough overview of the book, Tiffany is now (more) grown-up at the age of 16 and a very busy full-time with. But with Roland about to marry another girl (yes, you read right), and a strange force that is turning people against witches, she's got her hands full. And this time, the enemy is worse than the Hiver, The Fairy Queen or the Wintersmith.

And yup, most of my O.o moments lie with the fact that Roland is going to get married to someone else. I don't know about you, but I spend the last three books reading about Tiffany and Roland's (slowly blossoming) romance. And to suddenly hear that he's going to get married? O.o There is some explanation about incompatibility, but I really would like more, and some flashbacks because this break is way too sudden for me.

On the other hand, it was worth reading the book just because of Eskarina Smith the first (and only) female Wizard. I loved her in Equal Rites (I think I'll re-read that next) and I always wished she appears more in the Discworld series. She's such a unique character and this is very evident in the book (but not much of her personal life appears.

On the whole, this is probably the most serious Tiffany Aching book. It deals with concepts like the mob mentality, revenge and the lifespan of an idea (or emotion). I loved the phrase "rough music" used to describe the mob mentality. It was a very visual (or should I say audible?) metaphor about how the mob mentality works. And in this, all the other ideas are brought in. Possibly because of this, I feel that the language used in this book is more poetic. Definitely a book approaching the normal Discworld books rather than a Discworld book targeted at the younger readers.

Of course, I've ended the last three Tiffany Aching book reviews with quotes about the Nac Mac Feegles (who are as funny as ever) and I won't stop now. In fact, I think this is the most quotable book out of the whole series (well, I have the most number of bookmarks for this).

"Tiffany sniffed. There was a definite scent in the air, and it was the kind of scent you get when you have sheep meat in close conjunction with, for example, a roasting pan. All right, she thought, we know they do it, but they might have the good manners not to do it in front of me!

The spokesfeegle must have realised this because, while wringing the edge of his kilt madly with both hands, as a Feegle generally did when he was telling an enormous lie, he added, 'Weel, I think I did hear that maybe a piece of sheep kind of accidentally fell intae the pan when it was cooking and we tried to drag it oot but - well ye ken what sheep is like - it panicked and fought back.' At this point the speaker's obvious relief at being able to cobble some kind of excuse together led him to attempt greater heights of fiction, and he went on, 'It is my thinking that it must have been suicidal owing to having nothing to do all day but eat grass.' "

And I love this quote, which reminds me of both Shakespeare and Agatha Christie:

"By the blinking of my eyes, something wicked this way dies."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Review Copy of The Whole Guy Thing is here!

Today was a much better day than yesterday(: For one thing, I got two packages! One care package from my family (I'm so happy because the postage is terrible) and this: The Whole Guy Thing by Nancy Rue (if the author's name sounds familiar, it's because I'm a huge fan). I really couldn't resist taking photos:

I love getting packages like this!

Doesn't it look interesting?

I will try to post a review in one or two days (because it's quite a short book) but no promises. I did finish a few books that I'm just waiting to review, but I've been/am sick (extreme tiredness that makes me hyperventilate). And with any luck, I'll have finished the online interview with her within these two weeks(:

So, since today's Tuesday as well, here's a teaser from the book:

"Being just-friends with a guy has way more benefits than drawbacks. As long as you're honest with each other, there are no negatives." (page 83)

And if you don't know, Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading(:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Friendship (Quote)

"Flowers are lovely; love is flowerlike, Frienship is a sheltering tree."

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge-

After I took this photo, I was suddenly reminded of the quote above. I know quotes (and photos) don't need dedications, but this is for all my wonderful friends (both in Japan and Singapore). You know who you are. I really can't thank you enough for all you do (which really is putting up with my nonsense - something that is very hard to accomplish)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thorn by Intisar Khanani (Blog Tour)

This is the first time I'm participating in a blog tour and I'm so excited! There's a guest post by the author (Intisar Khanani) to come in a few days, but today, I just want to share my review of Thorn.

Thorn is a retelling of the Goose Girl fairytale. You know, the one with the talking horse called Falada? Well, before Thorn, the only other retelling I read was The Goose Girl by Shanon Hale. Well, both of this stories are different, but similar in the sense that they are both excellent reads.

Thorn follows the story of The Goose Girl, but with a few changes. For one, Thorn (although she has another name, I shall just go by what she calls herself for the majority of the novel) has a darker past. She has suffered things like abuse and she wasn't loved much. The prince and the king are definitely scarier and probably have a callous streak in them too. The tone of this tale is also much darker, with the mysterious Lady responsible for Thorn's plight.

Much of the story, on the other hand, remains the same. There is Falada, the talking horse who becomes Thorn's advisor. There is the treacherous lady-in-waiting. There is the stove. Basically, it's easy to recognise the story as a retelling, which allowed me to appreciate the details instead of wondering about the plot.

But after reading the book, I get the sense that it was a good thing for Thorn to go through what she did. While she was always a likable character, she certainly became stronger because of her trials. And of course, if she was always the princess, she wouldn't have found her own place in this new land. I have the feeling that being in court from the beginning would have stifled her.

And despite all she goes through, Thorn has a good heart. I could see this very clearly by the end of the book, when she talks about Justice (one of the heavier themes). She talks about the harshness of justice and regrets not tempering it with mercy. And the event she referred to took place a long time ago, while she was a child. In fact, I didn't see much wrong with how she handled matters then. In fact, I would probably have done the same.

Basically, this book takes the original tale turns it into a rather deep, reflective novel. Thorn explores ideas like that of justice, of social equality, of fitting in and growing up and such others. The reading may get heavy at times, but the book manages to steer away from being a message. It is, at heart, an excellent retelling of the story of the Goose Girl

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I remember reading this book a few years ago, so when I saw it in BookOff, I knew I had to buy it. And re-reading it has been so fun! I haven't realised how much of the plot I'd forgotten. Plus, now that I actually know more about the book, I can appreciate the jokes way better.

The Princess Bride (I'm sorry to tell you this if you're unaware), isn't an "abridged" work. It's an entirely original work by William Goldman, who plays a metafictional joke on us. When I first read the book, I really did think it was an abridgement, but then, I read wikipedia. I must admit, I was disappointed, I really wanted to read the 'original' work, since it's supposed to be a thousand pages long (and I like the stuff about royalty training, the descriptions and things like that).

This is why the introduction is very important. In fact, it's part of the narrative itself. While you can read and enjoy The Princess Bride without reading the introduction(s), treating it as a good story, most of the metaficitonal jokes come about in the introduction, when he talks about the 'original author' S. Morgenstern.

As for the story itself, it's good. Although it's essentially a romance, it's not sappy in any way. Buttercup and Westley are both interesting characters with their own strengths. But I would have liked to read more about Westley's pirate days. The book basically travels through a few arcs: The farm (where Buttercup is only in the top 20 most beautiful list due to her potential) - p.s. this is where Buttercup realises she loves Westley). Royalty (where Buttercup almost marries the wrong guy) and the Consequences (the exciting part). And by the way, this is my way of diving the novel; there are many chapters with different chapter names. But I like the flow of 3 arcs.

The last part of the book is just Buttercup's Baby, the supposed sequel to The Princess Bride. It comes with a lengthy explanation about Stephen King and copyrights, but boils down to: William Goldman is having a hard time writing a sequel (at least that's what I think). But, since it also comes with an 'abridged' first chapter, you can enjoy reading it and dreaming up your own continuations.

The style of the book shifts between the narrative style and the authorial intrusions. They're similar to Terry Pratchett's footnotes, with the same type of humour (although in the Discworld series, the authorial voice isn't so strongly felt). I kept laughing at the authorial intrusions, which were so cleverly done.

I really wish that either Buttercup's Baby will come out or William Goldman will release the "unabridged" version of The Princess Bride(:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Two Crosses by Elizabeth Musser

First off, this book is long. And the subject matter's fairly intense too. But, while I was reading it, I barely noticed the length, that's how absorbing the book was. Two Crosses, to put it simply, is a book about love and war. And no, there is no resemblance to War and Peace in any way.

Set in 1961 France, Gabrielle arrives for what she thinks is to continue her university studies. But when she meets David Hoffmann, her professor, she's dragged into the Algerian war for independence, and a plot for revenge.

As melodramatic as I made it sound, the book is actually very believable. The pacing was well done, with the right amount of information being released at each stage, I always wanted to know what was going to happen, but I didn't have any "gaps" due to the need for a sudden plot twist. Plus, the book feels quite timeless. Until a reference to "records", I had completely forgotten that the book was set in the past, it seems to be able to exist anywhere in history (I'm not a history student, so the Algerian war doesn't ring any bells).

Plus, I liked how the book was Christian, but not in a pushy way. This book is in no way a sermon disguised as a story (and those are so terrible to read). David and Gabrielle (and just about everyone else), struggle with faith. And many concerns are legitimate. Since David is the convert in the story, I'll focus on how his faith is presented. Basically, his conversion to Christianity feels legit, and after he believes, he doesn't suddenly become a super-Christian. In fact, he struggles with how to pray and how he thinks he should feel - all legitimate concerns.

I didn't realise it was part of a series (a trilogy) until just now when I checked Goodreads, but the ending is really very open. I'm glad, however, that the ending is not a cliffhanger because unless you've bought the whole series at one go, cliffhangers only serve to annoy me (and instead of getting me to buy the next book, I normally google/wikipedia the ending).

Conclusion? Read this book. It's really fantastic, I love the characters, the plot, the setting, everything!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Girls' Book of Glamour (Buster Books)

This book belongs to Simone. But one day, when Rena and I were eating in her room (it's a long long story involving Golden Week), my eyes happened to fall upon this book. It just so happens that I had lent her my "Friends" book (same series) so the books looked like a set when my eyes fell upon them. So before I begin, I should start with my friend's comment "The friends book seems to be written for older people and the glamour book for kids."

And you know what? Her comment sums up the two books perfectly (now, if you're lazy or don't feel like reading, you can stop here). The glamour book is basically on how to be more feminine (I guess that's how they define glamour).

What was nice about this book was that it had practical (if often heard) tips on protecting your skin, taking care of your hair, etc. Most of this stuff is found in any beauty book, but it is written in a way that would appeal to younger girls.

What I didn't like about this book was how at times, it seemed to encourage one to behave like a brat. Things like How To Convince People You're A Celebrity and How to Convince People You're A Hand Model have suggestions like "be unreasonable wherever you go" and getting your parents to "insure your hands for a million dollars." While these articles are very very few, it was enough to put a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall, this is a nice book for girls. It's a bit simple for anyone over say, 15, but it generally has positive messages. But do beware the few "celebrity" sections. It may be modeled on how celebrities seem to behave, but that's no reason to encourage others to behave like them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Today's Teaser Tuesday is a re-read! Although it's the first time I actually owned a copy of this amazing book(: I'm about half-way through it, although I'm not sure when I'll finish because I have the attention span of a gnat nowadays (plus, I'm reading a few books at one go despite having less reading time). So, today's Teaser:

"What happens here that you aren't going to read is the six-page soliloquy from Inigo in which Morgenstern, through Inigo, reflects on the anguish of fleeting glory. The reason for the soliloquy here is that Morgenstern's previous book had gotten bombed by the critics and also hadn't sold beans." (page 223)

Don't you just love author asides?

Ok, so Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Drop a comment and I'll be glad to check out your teaser(: