Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Neil Gaiman's 'Make Good Art' Speech (text arranged by Chip Kidd)

This 'Make Good Art' speech is Neil Gaiman's commencement address at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. Here is the speech, so if you really want to know what the book is about, watch the video below.

With the entire speech online, you don't really need to buy this book. But if you like books with text arranged in interesting ways, you could consider this.

Because it's a speech, there's enough words to play around with, but not so much that it gets bothersome (imagine Les Miserables being arranged like that - how thick would the book be?). And because the words are the stars, it's possible to emphasize certain words or sections via colour or size or placement.

And generally, I like this book. It's pretty interesting to read, and it looks nice. Except for when the text goes sideways or superimposed. I really prefer not to have to hold a book sideways just to read a text. And even if you use two different font colours, it's hard to read words that are superimposed on each other. But that's pretty much my complaints about the book.

This will probably make a cool present for people interested in writing, designing, or any aspect of the arts. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Islamophilia by Douglas Murray

It seems to me that there are two types of opinions floating around on Islam: the haters and the slavish adoration. This book attacks the slavish adoration but doesn't veer into hater territory.

Let me state up front: this book is not attacking Islam. It's attacking the uncritical adoration of Islam by non-Muslims. The premise of the book is that society has become too uncritical because of "the combination of the desire to be nice with the knowing of very little."

Most of the book deals with how people bend-over backwards not to be critical of Islam (while being critical of everything else), but my favourite quote comes at the end of the book. It says:

"But we do not need to keep handling Islam with kid gloves. If people are ever all going to be genuinely equal and genuinely integrated it will be when the playing field is genuinely level - tilted neither one way nor the other. That includes hearing things you don't like hearing, having to defend things you don't like defending and discovering for yourself - at some point along the way - that societies in which even your deepest beliefs and feelings can be questioned and trodden upon are the only societies worth living in."

To me, I think everything is fair game for reasoned criticism. Not the "You're wrong and anyone who thinks like you is stupid" comments that are all too common, but comments that say "hold on, I don't understand this" or "wait a minute, I'm not sure I agree with this interpretation/this intent." There are lots of ways that you can disagree with something and not hate it.

And yes, when I say everything, I mean everything. Even Christianity should have to be scrutinised. The Bible does say to love the Lord your God with all your hearts, with all your soul and all your mind after all. I believe Christianity can stand up to the scrutiny.

So when we rush to coddle anything, we're not being nice, we're being rude. We're telling a whole religion that "I don't think you can take even a bit of criticism, so I'll treat you like a baby." That's just rude. I believe that everyone should be treated as an adult - with respect.

There are parts of the books I do disagree with though - For one thing, I think that after a terrorist attack, there's nothing wrong with politicians stressing that this not how all Muslims think. For me, that's less of bending backwards and more of trying to calm down an understandably nervous population. And another, I don't think there's anything wrong with a General responding to allegations of the Koran being desecrated - of course, he should do the same for the Bible, for the Veda, for any book that is held sacred by its respective religion.

On the whole though, this book does a good job at pointing out at what the author calls Islamophilia.

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Creation by Kat Mellon

If, as an artist, you were placed in a society without money, with all your needs provided, and told to create, what would you think? I think most of those who feel the need to dance, to write, to sing, to draw would love this. But anything can be twisted, and it's this world of forced creation that Creation draws us into.

In Creation, all the creators (the writers, dancers, painters, etc) live in a seemingly ideal society where their only focus is on creating new works. But it's not as it seems - when they run dry, they're sent to the Community. And there are topics that they can't create about - like money or war. 

The narrator is a Writer. And as one of her friends gets sent to the community, she starts getting strange memories, of real trees - things that have only existed in the creations so far. And well, you can probably imagine how it goes. 

What I liked about this story was the set-up. The world was really interesting, and it's a pity that finding out about the true state of society is now part of the plot. So no worries, I won't give any spoilers away!

The only thing I didn't like about the book was that it's too short! It ended at a place where I think most books would be in the middle. I'd really love to read more about this!

Disclaimer: I got this book as part of the Enchanted Book Blog Tours stop. I was not required to give a positive review, just my honest opinion. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda De Lisle

Before this book, the only thing I knew about the Tudors would be from Queen Elizabeth and whatever was in The Other Boleyn Girl. But even for a ignoramus like me, this book wasn't too difficult - in fact, I would say that it's a good, if long, introduction to the Tudor period.

Tudor: The Family Story starts with Owen Tudor and how he married a queen. Then it traces the rise of the family until the death of Queen Elizabeth. It's a long read (over 500 pages), but it's captivating.

I'm actually quite surprised at how engrossing it was. It definitely doesn't read like a historical novel (not that much speculation, and it has the feel of a history book somehow), but it's flows easily.

Because it's focused only on the Tudor family, a lot of extraneous people and details got cut off. That means that it's an introduction rather than a comprehensive book about the Tudor period, but it also makes it easy to follow.

In short, this rather long book was a very enjoyable read into past England. Considering the huge social changes that came with the Tudor period (the Church of England was established for one), so if you're even remotely interested in English history, you should definitely pick up this book!

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

A long time ago, when I was in Secondary School (fine, about five years ago), I was given this really funny excerpt to analyse as part of a literature test. The excerpt was from a book called "A Dog's Life" for Peter Mayle, and I liked it so much that I went (unsuccessfully) looking for the book.

Last week, my Economics core seminar teacher was reccomending this book about living in Provence by an English author. I immediate thought of this book and guess what? I was correct (and my teacher got the Japanese title wrong). So, here you go, an excuse to read!

And I'm so happy that I got to read this! It was an extremely fun read! The book follows the author and his wife as they try to fix their farmhouse in Provence, and how they deal with the weather, workers, tourists and life in general.

I wouldn't say this is a travel guide - I would say this is more of a primer for life in Provence many many years ago (I checked, the book was published in 1991 and things have probably changed by now). The author admits to not doing tourist-y things and not going tourist-y places, instead, he and his wife prefer living in the countryside.

Kind of like me. I lived in Tokyo, and the only time I went to a tourist destination was when someone asked me to. It isn't something I do voluntarily (unless we're talking museums).

But to be honest, this book has gotten me interested in spending some time in France. Although I don't speak the language. Or know the customs. Alright, this is starting to sound like a bad idea.

This book is easy to read, humorous and sparkles with love for Provence. I really recommend it!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Along the Watchtower by David Litwack

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt of Along the Watchtower. If you thought the book sounded interesting and wanted to know more, well, I'm here with my review!

Along the Watchtower has two plotlines - there is Freddie, the injured war veteran who's sent to recover (he has a lot of emotional pain holding him back). And then there's the Dauphin, a prince of a fantastical kingdom who has to undergo trials and prove himself worthy of being a king, if he fails, his kingdom perishes as well. The two storylines are linked because Freddie plays WoW, and he dreams of being the Dauphin.

I found this story to be really interesting. Freddie was a very well-crafted character, and I was rooting for him from the start. And in his side of the story, there are a whole host of interesting characters, which reminds me of Wilfred Owen's line that war is "the old lie" dulce et decorem est, pro patria mori (it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country). These veterans aren't dead, but they've lost so much, and they're comrades lost even more.

What felt slightly weaker by comparison was the fantasy side. I never did understand what the trials were. I only knew that they were over when the Dauphin mentioned the trial being over. And I still can't figure out how the last trial was overcome - I know love is involved, but not much else. I would have liked a bit more information for this side.

All in all, it's a really interesting read!

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of a book tour in exchange for my free and honest opinion.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Watchtower Tour Badge
As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.
Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.Visit David on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Along The Watchtower Blog Tour

Today, instead of a teaser, I'm here with an excerpt from Along The Watchtower as part of a blog tour! Please enjoy the excerpts and look out for my review tomorrow! 

Please enjoy this gripping excerpt from Along the Watchtower by David Litwack. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.


On the ground floor, the center of the hospital opened into a small courtyard, an insecure space with too many places for insurgents to hide. I took a quick breath and tensed.

“Wait up, Ralph.”

“It’s okay, Freddie. You’re safe here.”

“Give me a minute. It’s my first time out.”

I surveyed the perimeter. A few benches. A flower garden dominated by hydrangeas, but not like the softball-sized blossoms my mom used to grow. These were small and paler than the Cape Cod variety, which were a blue that could compete with the sky.

At once, I could see my mom, hands buried in the hydrangeas, grooming her flowers—one of the few memories I could bear to recall. Me and my brothers in the driveway shooting hoops. Mom telling us to keep the ball out of her garden. She was happy then, surrounded by her family, her garden, and the ocean.

I looked past the hydrangeas to find purple asters and some lilies too. But no roses. For some reason, I’d been hoping for roses.

Despite the nice day, the courtyard was deserted, except for a woman about my age who sat on a wooden bench, finishing up a brown-bag lunch. Her eyes were closed and her head tipped back to take in the sun, making her appear to be dreaming. Sitting alone on the bench, her face seemed framed by flowers.

When she heard us coming, she sat up, straightened her scrubs, and smiled.

“Hey, Ralph. What do you have there? Another victim for me?”

“Becky,” Ralph said. “What’s up? This is Freddie, Lt. Williams, our newest patient. We’re trying to bring him back from the dead. Freddie, meet Becky Marshall, one of our physical therapists.”

I nodded a greeting to her, not much in the mood for small talk. She tilted her head to one side as if evaluating me. Then she gave me the kind of look that said we’d met before, if not in this world than in another, and that she intended to make a difference in my life.

“Is he ready for me?”

“Soon. If he’s assigned to you.”

My attention was drawn to a soda can on the bench next to her. I’d seen too many IEDs in soda cans.

She caught me fixating on it and grinned.

“Just my diet Pepsi, Freddie. See?”

She chugged what was left and tossed the can into a nearby trash basket. Then she crumpled the bag into a ball and to show off, stepped off exactly five paces and shot the bag into the basket in a perfect arc.

“Nice shot,” I said.

“I make that shot every time.”

“Yeah, right.”

She came close enough that our knees were almost touching and hovered over me, sizing me up.

“You’ll be mine,” she said finally. “I can tell. I get all the hard cases.”

As she walked away, light on her feet like a dancer, I fumbled for the wheel of the chair, trying to spin it around so I could watch her go. But Ralph had set the brake.

The Gardener

The white butterfly fluttered before her face. When she saw it, she reached out a hand and at once it landed on the curve of her wrist.

“Now there’s a fine omen for you,” she said. “Light knows we need one these days.” She whispered some words and the butterfly flew off across the courtyard and out over the castle wall.

A fine omen? Perhaps. But I’d learned to be wary. I stepped forward, scuffling my boots to make noise. She ignored my presence. Not until I was a pace away did she turn.

It was hard to say if she was beautiful or even pretty. Soil from the garden had splattered her cheeks and marked her forehead with a splotch that looked like a raven. A muddied apron hid her shape. But I took note of a glint in her gray-green eyes, as if the flowers had conspired to lend their color. And her mouth was a crescent moon upturned on its side.

The corners of the crescent twitched when she saw me but only for an instant. Then she went back to her work as if I were invisible. Her hands cradled each bloom as she sliced off the heads with a small knife.

“Are you spirit or demon?” I demanded.

She made no answer.

I drew my sword, relieved it slipped so easily from its scabbard, and stretched it in her direction. She watched the point from the corner of her eye but kept her head down and continued to work. Finally, I nudged her with the tip.

She let out a yelp. Only then did I realize I’d thrust too hard, and the blade had slit her garment. I backed off at once, ready to apologize, but then recalled my encounter with the assassin. I poked again, more gently this time.

“Why do you keep doing that?” she said.

“To see if you’re real.”

She stood and faced me, feet set wide and planted squarely on the ground.

“Why shouldn’t I be real?”

She was tall for a girl, her head rising above my chin, and had a bearing unlike a servant. When I continued to challenge her, she reached out and eased the point of my sword to one side.

“Would you put that silly thing away?”

I began to back off, then remembered the circumstance and held firm. “Why didn’t you say anything when I first approached you?”

“Because we servants aren’t supposed to talk to you royals.” She lowered her gaze and turned back to the flowers. “I’m sorry . . . Milord.”

“What’s your name?”


“Rebecca. My name is Frederick.”

She paled and then bent in a deep curtsy, her brashness collapsing into two whispered words. “The dauphin.”  . . .

I wandered in a circle, hands folded behind my back, and inspected the flowers, unsure of what else to say. Then a thought occurred to me.

“Do you have roses in this garden?”

“No roses, Milord. I have asters and hydrangeas. Some fall crocus. And climbing the wall to the watchtower, sweet autumn clematis. A bit of monkshood underneath and tulips in the spring. But no roses.”

I must have looked disappointed. She came closer and reached out, but not enough to touch me.

“It must be lonely, Milord, a terrible burden. Every morning as I walk from my village to the gardens, I see the darkening clouds and wonder where my strength will come from. Then I remember. The dauphin will protect us. Save Him Oh Goddess, I pray. If only I could do something to help.”

I mumbled a thank you and turned to go, but stopped when I saw her examining her damaged apron.

“Are you here every day?”

“No, Milord, I have other gardens as well.”

“Come tomorrow, and I’ll bring you a new apron to replace the one I tore.”

She curtsied more deeply this time.

“I’d be so grateful, Milord, but I have nothing to give in return.”

“No need.”

“Ah, wait.” She took her small knife and clipped off a bulging blossom at the stem and handed it to me. “Now place it in water the first chance you get.”

I accepted the gift and admired her through its petals.

“Thank you,” I said. “Tomorrow at noon.”

As I walked away, I glanced over my shoulder to get one last look at the gardener. She was back at her work, resuming her song and snipping away, so light of hand and foot. As she blew away a curl that had drifted across her face, the summer dress rustled against her skin. I inhaled the scent of the flower and thought I caught the sun peeking through the clouds over Golgoreth.

And for the first time since my father died, goodesses seemed possible.
   Watchtower Tour Badge
As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:
  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.
Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the Visit David on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Coat Route by Meg Lukens Noonan

While I don't think of myself as an extravagant person, when I spend, I spend. I managed to shock my seniors when I bought omiyage (souvenirs) on a trip. I like to buy bargains, but I also like to splash out on things I like. Like a piano.

Ok, digressing. Ahem, back to topic. The Coat Route traces the origins of a $50 000 coat (Wait, what kind of dollar? USD? ASD?). If I had that much money, I would have gotten the top-range furisode already for ... Ok, stopping before I get distracted again.

Sorry, when it comes to buying stuff I have a very short attention span. 

Anyway, back to the book. The book looks at the different aspects of a coat, from the lining, to the buttons to sewing it entirely by hand. By the end of the book, I wasn't wondering about the $50 000 price tag, I was wondering why it wasn't higher. This coat was a labour of love. 

I found the book very engrossing and easy to read. Each chapter starts of with the tailor (John H. Cutler) and how he made the coat. The chapter then continues with the author's journey to that particular factory to see how the button/lining/engraving/etc was made. And like the author, I grew to want something that was truly bespoke. Like a nice dress, for formal occasions. 

For the curious, the tailor John H. Cutler has a website. If you're interested in learning more about bespoke, you could click on the link and read his various posts (warning, quite a lot of the latest posts are about the book). 

All in all, an enjoyable and educational read. 

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I'm in two minds about this book. I liked it, but I also took the longest time to finish it (that may just be my reluctance to finish reading an actual paper book and hence reduce the amount of books I have to read though).

If you haven't heard of this really famous book, basically, Madame Bovary is about um, Madame Bovary, the wife of a country doctor called Charles Bovary. She read a lot and had a lot of romantic notions, but her marriage to Charles wasn't as romantic as she hoped. So she entered two affairs, one after the other and ruined herself with the second one.

To me, the strength of the book lies in its characters. Madame Bovary (Emma) is complex, to say the least. The way she treats her husband and how her guilt influences her actions is interesting. She makes some really stupid decisions, but when she makes them, as the reader, I understood why she made them. Monsieur Bovary, on the other hand, is the perpetual trusting husband. He really is sweet, and if it wasn't for the fact that he's incompetent and has very little ambition, I think he really could have made Emma happy.

But, having said that, I somehow felt a disconnect with Emma's two lovers. For some reason, I didn't really understand them, and I probably felt more emotion over more minor characters than them (I was more angry at the tradesman that conned Emma then them, for one thing).

All in all, I think this is a very interesting book that you should read. It's a nuanced, beautiful book, and it's definitely one that I could read over and over again. In fact, I probably will re-read it sometime in the future, because I'll like to analyse it (perhaps on the second reading certain themes will jump out).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

King Blog Tour!

Today, I'm really glad to be hosting a stop on the King Blog Tour! I really loved all the books in the series, and as you can see from my review (link leads to the review), I loved this ending too!

So today, I have a blog post from R.J Larson (and I'm so glad she liked my question!):

Do the ends justify the means? 

I love this question! When people ask, “Do the ends justify the means?” often, they are actually asking, “Can I do something illegal or immoral to achieve something noble or good?”

No. Not recommended. Why? Because, to borrow a popular analogy, choosing a “shady” route to reach a noble goal often leads high-minded individuals down a dark and slippery path toward their own destruction. At the path’s end, they find themselves trapped in mire and brambles, wondering how their lives ended up in such a dire mess.

To offer an example from my latest book, King, the protagonist, Akabe of Siphra, is determined to glorify his Creator, the Infinite, by undertaking a monumental task: to rebuild his country’s ruined Holy House, which was destroyed in the previous reign.

Without spoilers—this situation crops up within the first few chapters—Akabe decides that, because he is Siphra’s king, he must take any steps necessary to achieve his noble goal. This includes marrying the daughter of a spiritual enemy, which is a huge no-no from the scriptures. Solomon himself, the wisest of all of Israel’s ancient kings, entered into many such marriages for political expediency. Wrong-wrong-wrong!


Because, for all of his wisdom, Solomon fell into one of the oldest spiritual traps ever devised by the Adversary, Satan: Use love, sensuality, and “political necessity” to lead the faithful astray and weaken their faith. Solomon’s presumably charming and exotic wives led him off course, away from his Creator, and his ultimate sorrow is reflected in the often morose verses of Ecclesiastes. (Ecclesiastes was most likely written by someone other than Solomon, but the book’s mood and intent undoubtedly mirror his mindset.)

Akabe has willfully walked into this same spiritual trap, with potentially disastrous, even fatal consequences. Souls are involved here. Not just Akabe’s soul, but the souls of his own people, and now they are endangered by their king’s impatience.

Moreover, Akabe’s new queen has been trapped in a social and spiritual situation she never expected or wanted, and Akabe is now morally and legally responsible for her misery.

Akabe has rationalized his impulsive shortcut to regain the sacred land consecrated to the Holy House by telling himself, “My Creator is silent. I must do whatever I believe is best for my people.” And, “How can He be displeased if I am marrying this Atean lady to rebuild His own temple?”

But was his Creator actually silent? Did Akabe receive any wise advice from others who cared for his spiritual wellbeing? Will Akabe escape his Adversary’s trap? And how can he possibly protect his vulnerable young wife? Stay tuned, dear reader. Stay tuned. J

King by R.J. Larson

Fantasy Meets the Old Testament in a Novel That Will Reach Readers of All Ages. 

Against his wishes and desires, Akabe of Siphra has been chosen by his people to be King. But what does a warrior know of ruling during peacetime? Guided by the Infinite, Akabe seeks to rebuild the Temple in the city of Munra to give the sacred books of Parne a home. But dangerous factions are forming in the background. To gain the land he needs, Akabe must forsake the yearnings of his heart and instead align himself through marriage to the Thaenfall family. Meanwhile, Kien Lantec and Ela Roeh are drawn still closer together...while becoming pawns in a quest to gain power over the region. As questions of love and faith become tangled with lies and murderous plots, each must seek the Infinite to guide them through an ever more tangled web of intrigue and danger.  
Author R. J. Larson R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such as Women's Devotional Bible and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. Prophet marks her debut in the fantasy genre.
  Giveaway Details $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 7/23/13 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Psychology of Dexter Edited by Bela DePaulo

Even if you're like me, you've probably heard of the tv show Dexter. Actually, I think my dad watches Dexter occasionally. As for me, I'm making my way through the books. So while I'm jumping the gun, I requested to read this anthology.

Because Dexter is so obviously full of psychologically complex characters (Dexter does claim to be a sociopath after all), there is so much to dig into. This book has eighteen different topics, covering things from The Dark Passenger In All Of Us to Why Psychopaths Like Dexter Aren't Really All That Bad (that one was a really interesting read).

What I liked about the book is that each chapter is it's own self-contained analysis. Quite some of the authors raise points that might contradict each other (incidentally, what is your opinion of Harry?), proving that there are no right answers (wait, this is about literature, I thought we were talking about psychology).

If my psychology class was this interesting, I would probably remember a lot more. As it is, I liked the book a lot more.

So in conclusion, if you're a fan of Dexter, you should definitely read this book. If you like to read about psychology and don't mind spoilers, you should definitely read this book too - I think it explains the subject matter really well.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - Sun Tzu for Success by Gerald Michaelson with Steven Michaelson

My parents have a pretty good idea of the books I like. So when they went to a book fair, they got me: Sun Tzu for Success (this is what happens when you have at least one or two business books in every stack of books you borrow. And when you start drooling over the business section).

So far, it's pretty interesting. And here's the teaser:

"1. The ability to carry on a meaningful and intelligent discussion decreases with an increase in the number of people attending.
2. All advice is not sound advice" (page 83)

Well, number one explains why I don't like to meet people in large groups!

What is your teaser this week?

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, just take a two sentence teaser from the book you're reading and share it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Asleep by Elizabeth Darcy

This is one of the most interesting fairy-tale retellings that I've read so far this year! It not only successfully retells the story of Sleeping Beauty, it also successfully casts a lady as the hero. No more Prince Charming (ok, there was a charming prince, but he was the one sleeping!)

You see, on the eve of Prince Dev and Princess Jess's wedding, strangers break into the castle and abduct Dev away. And being a warrior princess (her mom is a warrior queen, which is way cool), Jess isn't going to let anyone get in her way to rescue Dev. And as Dev sleeps, he dreams of his past with Jess, which was a pretty effective way of giving us the backstory behind their relationship while moving the plot forwards.

What I liked most about this book was the relationship between Dev and Jess. They didn't fall in love at first site - they were best friends first. And even in the present, you can see how strong their friendship is.

Another plus is the extremely supportive cast. I'm so glad to see two normal families behind the main characters. Sure there is political intrigue within the Five Realms but Dev and Jess have two awesome families!

The author mentions some mature scenes, and there is one. Thankfully, it's not very explicit and it's at the end of a chapter, so I just skipped it. For those of you scared by the warning, don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds (and this is coming from me, with my oh-so-high levels of prudishness)

If you're in the market for an original retelling of Sleeping Beauty, you should check this book out!

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Torturer's Daughter by Zoe Cannon

This book. Was. Incredible.

Like really incredible. Sure, I would have liked a little more worldbuilding, but it has a lot of things I like - realistic characters, interesting internal conflict and a rather unexpected twist.

In The Torturer's Daughter, Becca is well, the daughter of a prominent Torturer (her mom's job is to get confessions from Dissidents). One day, her best friend Heather calls her - apparently her parents and her were taken to 117, the place where her mom works. So she rushes down and well, she can't do much, but she manages to meet Heather.

Heather does get released (but not her parents), and Becca sticks by Heather despite all the rumours that surround Heather. And when she hears from her mom that Heather's parents were Dissidents and were executed that night, she tries to find proof of their guilt).

And of course, since this is a dystopian story, she does find proof. And the proof makes her question the status quo. Add a boy who has a dissident past, and well, it seems to be shaping up to be a normal dystopian story right?

Well, no. One of the parts of the book I loved was the characterisation of Becca's mom. Yes, she's a torturer, but she's also a mom who's doing her best. You can see that she loves her daughter and that she's following her principles. Those two traits make her admirable, and the only reason why she can be considered the bad-guy would be because she supports the Government.

And on the other hand, the love interest/dystopian-background guy isn't so admirable. For one thing, he lies. Repeatedly. And he seems to have an anger problem.

The subversion of these two characters is what makes the book so interesting for me. To be honest, that's why I really want more about this society - I can't make up my mind if to go against the current government is that wrong. I know it's generally accepted that if it's dystopia, the current ruling power has to be wrong, but looking at the characterisations in this book, I can't help but think - what if the government is flawed (it does do terrible things), but ultimately working for good? It's a definite possibility in this book.

I really hope there's a book two! I'd love to know more!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Whole by T. Colin Campbell

This is one of those radical medicine books where the author claims to be able to solve all health problems. It's pretty convincing, although I disagree with one point.

Basically, this book posits that if humans return to a plant-based diet (not vegetarianism - no diary!) we would be much healthier, and by extension, much happier. According to the author, research shows animal-based protein is the cause, or at least speeds up, diseases.

While the book isn't a specific "eat this way and you'll feel find", the book aims to, through tons of evidence, to persuade you that the current health-care system is flawed and, contrary to what you may think, is not dedicated to helping you get healthier. Through a critique of what he calls the "reductionist approach", the book tells you again and again that the way to health is not through whatever the government is telling you. And you should read The China Study, which teaches you good health (I think?)

Personally, I found the book a little heavy going at times (and it felt awfully long), although I do think that the evidence that a plant-based diet is healthier for us fairly convincing. Unfortunately, I can't really eat vegetables (I mean it, I find it so bitter that I throw up whenever I eat vegetables - especially raw vegetables), and I really like meat. And tofu. And milk. And yeah, you get the picture.

Apart from the book being heavy-going, I have one more complaint - and this one is fairly major to me.

The author obviously believes in evolution. And if you've been reading my blog fairly regularly, you should know that I'm a creationist. What I thought, when I read about the plant-based diet was that "oh yeah, that makes sense, after all, we were originally created to eat plants, and we were only given meat after The Fall." But the book is trying to say that evolution makes us need plants? It's a point I disagree about.

But overall, I think this is the serious sort of book that will appeal to those that aren't me. I think it's the "I'm a matyr" style that was overdone and made me a little annoyed with the book - I'm sure all the things are true, but there's a fine line between "enough information to be convincing" and "too much information which ends up sounding paranoid".

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hello Hot Lunch, Hello Cool Lunch

I think I've found the perfect book for my neighbour! She loves making lunch for her kid, and this is exactly the kind of book she likes.

Hello Hot Lunch, Hello Cool Lunch isn't so much a recipe book as it is an assembly book. Each "lunch" is really an assembly-how-to. So while you may not be whipping up new five course lunches, you will, at the very least, know how to make really adorable lunches from simple items in your kitchen. And with some of the least amounts of equipment needed (nothing fancy - except for the nori punches, which is really optional).

This book is divided into Rice, Soups and Sandwiches. Each section has a bunch of different ways to assemble such lunches. The closest things to recipes would be the soup recipes (which seem really simple - I'm going to try some one day) and sandwich fillings. The only thing I don't like about it is that I have to turn the book upside down to get to read the second half. I know it's meant to be cute, but it's a little inconvenient.

Before you ask, it's quite unlikely I'll be making these lunches in Japan. Not while I have my meal card anyway. And not while I'm in school. I'll probably be making them when I get back to Singapore (for my neighbour's kid and maybe my little brother - if he doesn't think he's too grown up for all this).

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of the Virtualbookworm Tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Break These Rules by Luke Reynolds (Editor)

This is one of those rare books that I managed to finish in one day. I used to read at least one book a day, but with university coming up, well, I've slowed down a lot. So this is currently the highest praise I can give a book when it comes to addictiveness and readability.

While I don't read much YA (because of how every book seems to have a heroine that's gorgeous but doesn't know it, with two guys after her), I was very pleasantly surprised. This really are "rules" that ought to be broken.

For example, "Listening is a waste of time" or "Don't clash with the crowd" (guess which one I break really often?). Some rules are more of unspoken social norms, like "Look like a magazine cover" - they're not said, but it's more implied that everyone should follow them. Again, I'm starting to feel pretty good of myself - I break that rule too! (Ok, I break it because I'm too lazy to put on make up and I prize comfort more than anything, but still!)

There are some that I have doubts about, or actually thing are worth holding, like "Dress appropriately" (ok, I know this is about personality, but it's always good to wear, say a suit to your entrance ceremony rather than fbts and flip flops), and "There are firm rules in life". Personally, I do think there are firm rules in life - the basic ones being stuff like "Don't murder", "Don't steal", "Respect your parents" (I could just list the Ten Commandments here), "Love your neighbour", etc. To say "do what feels right, right now" is to me, impractical. What if taking my friends stuff is what feels right to me? Or what if I feel like I should punch/insult someone who's annoying me? Those may feel right at that time, but they're definitely not the right things to do.

But what really impressed me though, were the books that the authors had written. Quite a few of them made reference to their books, and they were really different from what I've come to characterise YA as. I really need to go and pick up those books.

Probably not just for teens/young adults, this book is suitable for everyone.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Demigods and Monsters (An Anthology)

I admittedly have a very on-off relationship with the Percy Jackson series. I probably saw The Lightning Thief in a Popular bookstore a long long time ago. Unfortunately, the only thing I remembered was a tagline that went something like "half-boy, half-god, all hero". How I managed to find the series again is something I still don't understand.

And when I finally read the first book, well I loved it! But then, left the series alone (I don't actually own any of the books - I think my sister has one as a present though, I remember reading it). It seems like if I can get my hands on a copy, I read it and enjoy myself immensely, but if I can't, well, life goes on.

But I do know what the series is about - and I think that this companion book is perfect not just for fans, but for anyone interested in Greek Mythology. You see, while the book does analyse/talk about the Percy Jackson series, they also cover a lot about Greek Mythology - for example, would you want to take the vow or Artemis?

I might have gone on a myth-reading kick in Secondary School, but this book still managed to give out a lot of interesting things that I didn't know off. Including Mayan Mythology - that sounds really interesting (yes, it appears, but I won't tell you why(; )

At the end of the book is an A-Z guide to the different characters in Greek Myth (not just the Percy Jackson series). Personally, I found it very interesting, but it's something that you should read in small bites, not in one go.

This review is more of me and my relationship to the Percy Jackson series. Oops. Anyway, I really like this book, and I heartily recommend it.

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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Long Reads #21

I really wanted to do a book-centered long-reads post, but I ended up reading a bunch of different articles. They're all really interesting though, and I think my opinion the first article may get me reviled.

Death in Singapore by Raymond Bonner and Christine Spolar - Basically, Shane Todd was murdered, the Singapore police is incompetent and we want the FBI to lead the investigation despite the fact that this isn't America. Oh please. I actually have faith in the Singapore police force. And Singapore is no lackey of China and there's no way we would interfere with an investigation and move it in China's favour. And we aren't the lackey of the USA either - Why should we let the FBI in? We're a sovereign nation. I understand that you may not want to accept that your son killed himself (as a Christian, I understand the implications), but the way to go is not to blame another country. And yes, I know as a Christian, all this anger is un-Christianlike, but really, I can't stay calm while my country is insulted. (Although what convinced me that he wasn't murdered was when I learnt that the much vaulted thumbdrive was handed to the Todd Family in the presence of US embassy staff rather than being found by them, as they claimed.)

Mad Men - And the Women Who Love Them by Sarah-Jane Collins - Boy, am I glad that I wasn't born in the time of Mad Men. And while I haven't actually seen the show (whoops), I really do want to watch it now. I'm not sure if I can take the sexism though (I know it's an accurate portrayal, but I can't help but think that my blood pressure would be raised anyway).

If You Call It Art, Is It Still A Crime? by Mike Bowers - This was really interesting. But ultimately, I think that if you didn't take the image yourself, but only edited it, you have to cite the original photographer. I don't really care if you made it 100 times better, it's still someone else's work. It's like the difference between Homage and Plagiarism.

She stole another's identity, and she took her secret to the grave. Who was she? by Maureen O'Hagan - This was a really interesting read. It's about Jane Doe, a woman who stole the identity of another women called Lori Ruff and lived a lie for many many years. Well, her life with a stolen identity wasn't happy and her death was quite tragic. But I really am curious, who is she, and why did she feel the need for a fresh start?

What have you been reading recently?