Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm Taking A Short Break

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for all the mistakes in my first giveaway so far. I'm a complete greenhorn at this so please excuse all these posts.

And today, I'll be leaving for a one week trip to Hokkaido.

I'm so excited about taking the overnight train there!

I'll definitely be reading there (as I do everywhere), but I won't be able to post because I'm not bringing my laptop there. So, in the meantime, please have fun participating in the giveaway.

P.s. I've recently become a blogger for MindChicClub. I haven't had the time to post anything for them yet, but you should check out their site anyway.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UPDATE: Giveaway Contest

Hi everyone, I have more good news for you! Today, my copy of Warrior came, along with two surprises:

Yes, you saw that right! Two extra copies of Liberator and Aldo's Fantastical Movie palace. Unfortunately, this copy is an ARC version and I don't think I'm allowed to give it away. But, what this means is that now, apart from winning books 1 and 3 of the Dragons of Starlight series, you will also win book four of the series "Liberator". Sorry everyone, I just noticed that this book is also an ARC. So unless you don't mind receiving a used book (I'm reading the final copy instead of the ARC), it's only going to be book 1 and 3. But to show how sorry I am, I'll be including a small present in your package.

So, what are you waiting for? You can post your entries either one of the giveaway posts.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

It took me so long to finish reading this book, but I'm finally done! It's a fantastic book and with absolutely no disrespect intended, it reminds me a lot of a Taiwanese drama (the 700 episode kind, not the teen idol kind).

First off, there's the huge cast of characters. It took me a while to remember who is who, but once you do, the book becomes so much more rewarding. Characters are continually introduced and disappear (most of the time they get killed), which means you really have to pay attention while reading. If you're watching a long Taiwanese drama, you'll know that taking a break from it could mean coming back to a whole new cast of characters. >.<

Next, there are the many plots. The book uses multiple viewpoints to follow the different groups/houses, and so, the different subplots. Personally, my favourite subplot is about Danny (she's also one of my favourite characters) and how she's grows into a khaleesi (my brain tends to shut down the fact that she's only 14).

And can I mention the characters? They're all really well-drawn. Personally, I'm a fan of House Stark (and I really can't stand any of the Lannisters) although they're not very good at playing the 'game of thrones,' I'm quite excited about the King of the North subplot though. But back to topic, my two favourite characters (It's a tie) are Bran and Danny. I'm pretty sure it's not a coincidence that they're both the youngest characters because they have the most potential for growth. And they're so endearing!

Since the book is excellent at both plot and character, you can be sure that it's a really great read. I'm tired, however, of all the Lord Of The Rings comparisons from Beyond the Wall. After reading this book, I really think they shouldn't be comparing them. Tolkien wrote Orcs and Sauron as evil. I suppose now, it's harder to do so because the politically correct thing is to talk about how there are no absolutes and such, but I really wouldn't want to read a book where Sauron was secretly good or fed kittens or something. To me, Lord Of The Ring is a novel that discusses the nature of good and evil. On the other hand, the Game of Thrones is more like a soap opera - it looks at human life, warts and all, but it doesn't discuss these issues.

In addition, I want to warn you guys that there's lots of violence and sexual material (often combining in sexual violence) in this books, so I'd only recommend it for readers 18 and above. Younger readers may be disturbed by it (well, I would have been anyway).

*Special shout-out to Rachel, whose comment on Beyond The Wall reminded me that I have this post in draft :D

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Giveaway! (Dragons of Starlight Series by Bryan Davis)

If you can recall, I very recently posted about the new books I got, and how I have two extra copies of the Dragons of Starlight series by Bryan Davis. So, here are details on how to win the Books 1 and 3 of this series!

I remember how sad I felt/feel whenever I see contests limited to the United States so this contest is gonna be international. (my wallet is already crying in advance over the postage :p)  In addition, the contests will be open only to followers. Here, followers are defined as:

a. GFC/email followers (duh)
b. Others. Other's simply means that you read my blog regularly but don't follow via the methods in (a). But to qualify as a follower under (b), you have to have either tweeted me about my posts a few times, or commented a few times over a reasonable period of time. You know what? I've changed my mind. This contest is open to anyone who wants to enter :D

And since I'm not a fan of random drawings, I'm holding an actual contest. It's really quite easy, just tell me your funniest quip (I was going to say pun but that's a bit hard) about books in the comments section below. You can comment in any of the posts from this post onwards(: This is a really broad topic so feel free to think up, well, anything and everything. The only thing is that I don't want to see are curse words. Keep your language and content decent(:
UPDATE: I realised that the topic might be too hard, so to expand/clarify it, jokes about specific books/poems are also welcome. So if you spend your spare time making fun of your literature texts, feel free to enter as many times as you want!
I'll be getting a friend or two to judge the entries, and if there's a tie, then the person who lives closer to Japan will win (Please tell me which country you're from the first time you enter). The funniest person will win, and you're more than welcome to post multiple entries. There are no "bonus" activities, so while I encourage you to spread the word about this series, tweeting/blogging about this giveaway isn't going to win you any extra chances.

The contest will end a week after my review post of Liberator, so you all have plenty of time! (I'll be reviewing all four books in order).

Any comments? Questions?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Longreads #7

Woohoo! I've actually made it to week 7 of this project. I can't believe I went for so long without reading a few long articles a week. Especially since I don't have access to the newspaper everyday, these are what allow me to connect to the outside world. So this week, in preparation for my trip to Hokkaido, I focused on Japan-related articles.

Japan After the Earthquake and Tsunami by Evan Osnos: This article, like it's title, explains the immediate situation after 3/11. I watched the news broadcasts on that fateful day, but more than a year later, it's starting to fade. This is a timely reminder that the after-effects are still being felt today.

Graduation Day by Chris Heath: Probably the saddest article of the whole group. After reading this, I felt like crying. It poignantly describes one school's reaction to the earthquake and the fates of a few, unlucky students. The article is a good reminder that while it's easy to look back and criticise, making the right decision in the present is a much harder (and very different) task.

If You Knew Sushi by Nick Tosches: You'd think that you know all about sushi. But you're wrong. This long but entertaining article talks about the history of sushi (particularly in America) and the author's experience with the slightly strange sushi you can get. Strangely, I don't remember reading about the American-created sushi like the California roll or Spam musubi...

Uniqlones by Bryant Urstadt: When Uniqlo came to Singapore, it became an instant hit. Now that I'm in Japan, one of my favourite stores is Uniqlo (I was very excited to find a store near Tobitakyu today ^^). This article takes a look at how Uniqlo works and attempts to find out why it's so successful.

Cheap, Chic, and Made for All: How Uniqlo Plans To Take Over Casual Fashion by Jeff Chu: This article is similar to Uniqlones, but here, the author has managed to interview the man himself - Yanai-san. Plus, this article also looks at Uniqlo's history (which is actually really interesting), as well as it's retail operations.

I Sing The Body Electric by Margaret Wappler: This article is about vocaloids. Specifically, Hatsune Miku. Just up till recently, I didn't listen to vocaloid music. Thanks to my friend Becks. who introduced me to the Evilious Chronicles by Mothy, I am hooked. One great thing about vocaloid music that the article didn't really discuss was how the user-generated songs have really great story lines (really, just listen to any song in the Evilious Chronicles). But why didn't the article mention the other vocaloids like Rin and Len?

Let's Die Together by David Samuels: In Japan, the suicide rate is scarily high. Really really scarily high. This article takes an in-depth look at this phenomenon and even interviews people on the suicide websites.

Love in 2D by Lisa Katayama: This is the Japan that is most frequently seen on websites. The weird Japan where people fall in love with characters that don't exist. But this article doesn't treat them like some freakshow, rather, it examines it as a trend.

Japan, Ink: Inside the Manga Industrial Complex by Daniel H. Pink: A look at the manga industry (the other famous product of Japan). Personally, it doesn't say anything new to the manga fan (well, this is if you define fan as someone who reads beyond the super popular manga and considers the industry as well). This article will explain to you why the tightening IP laws are actually a cause for worry (and really, you could just read The Knockoff Economy and use this as a case study).

Well, even though I'm living in Japan, these articles have made me even more excited for the upcoming trip! I won't be posting during that period (I refuse to lug my laptop around), but hopefully, I can prepare some posts ahead of time(:

What did you read this week?

Friday, July 20, 2012

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

One Breath Away follows a hostage situation at a school. Well, maybe. There's at least one man with a gun. Or is it a knife? And what does he want? It's hard to say, because no one really knows. What we do know, is that there is a man (at least one), in the school taking people hostage.

The whole point of the book is that as each different character tries to figure out who the mysterious gunman is, we learn more about the gunman. There is a whole host of characters in this book, from Meg (the police officer) to Holly and her kids Augie and P.J, the reader is treated to a bunch of varying voices.

And even though each character sees a different part of the story, the author has managed to keep the identity of the criminal a secret till the end. Each character narrates the story for a short while, and what they know is very limited. As the reader, I probably had the "birds-eye view" of the whole story, but I was still missing some crucial information (because no one know that). I did, however, manage to guess who the ciminal was correctly, although that may be because I've been doing the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge and hence, have been reading too many mystery stories lately.

While the plot was strong, what really shone were the characters. All of them spoke in a different voice, and by the end of the book, I'd come to love all of them. That didn't mean that I wasn't intensely annoyed with some of them though.

At the start of the book, I really didn't think much of Holly and Augie. Holly just sounded like an ungrateful daughter, who was aware that she was acting like a brat (and she's the mom!). But that may be because I also had the perspective of Will (Holly' father), so I knew that things weren't as bad as she made it seem. And Augie, well, like mother like daughter. She was equally stubborn and way too sensitive for her own good. But her love towards her brother was so strong it won me over in the end.

In conclusion, this is an excellent book. You should read it if you have the chance :D

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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More books for review!

Yesterday, I got more books from Zondervan that I'm really excited to share with you. It's my 3rd time receiving physical books, but the excitement never wanes(:

*Pssst: please excuse the lousy photos. I was way too excited to take good photos.

This is the biggest package I've gotten so far <3
The reason for all this books is that I (sadly) haven't read the Dragons of Starlight series by Bryan Davis before, so Charleen very kindly sent me the whole series.

The Dragons of Starlight Series consists of four books: Starlighter, Warrior, Diviner and Liberator:
Sorry bout the camera strap. I was too excited and didn't notice.
As you can see, there was a slight mistake and I got two copies of Starlighter and Diviner, but not Warrior. They're sending over a copy of Warrior so I can do a full review, but more importantly (for you guys anyway), I've been given permission to host a giveaway for the extra copies of
Starlighter (Book 1) and Diviner (Book 3)! I'm still working out the details, so feel free to tweet/comment with suggestions.

Another really awesome looking book I got is Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen:

I'm really interested in the magical movie theatre premise. I can't wait to read it.

Here's the book trailer:

Well, I know what books that I'm going to bring with me to Hokkaido (I have a 16 hour train ride, a plane ride, and a lot of train time ^^)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tangi's Teardrops by Liz Grace Davis (Blog Tour)

So this is my third blog tour! Here, I'm particpating with a review (I always review! It's so fun!) of Tangi's Teardrops by Liz Grace Davis.

Tangi's Tear drops follows the titular character Tangi, who's never felt at home here. She's bullied by her sisters, and after her dad dies, by the maids in her uncle's house. But she has the three bottles that her dad gave her, and from here, she reaches her true home, the magical land of Rosevine. But the land is dying and Tangi is the only one that can save it.

I actually enjoyed this book most of the time, but there was one fairly big problem - it was too 'lukewarm'. When Tangi suffers, I don't feel as though she suffers very much (while this is a good thing in real life, it doesn't make for exciting reading). And when she reaches her fairy-tale kingdom, the "hardships" she has to go through barely register. After that, she has a fairly easy life, where her biggest problem is falling in love (really, that's it).

For example, she was supposed to be an outcast in our world right? But even as she's being abused, one of the maids softens and ends up helping her. Even though this makes for very flat characters, I would actually prefer for the villains to be villians to the end. This is because the book doesn't develope the characters enough, which means that I can't come to understand them. In that case, I prefer stock villians that I can go "aha!" and dislike.

While I really liked how the romance was slow and steady (on the part of Tangi at least), I wasn't altogether convinced of it by the end. I think that the book could have spent some time to create an event to bond them together.

But Tangi is a well-crafted character. Well, her willingness to love was what made me root for her anyway. She was actually to do some things that would make her unhappy in order to save Rosevine from destruction. She wasn't actually called upon to make this sacrifice, but her willingness to do so was enough for me.

This book isn't an exciting fairytale. It's quite tame, but it's a sweet story. There's not much danger or even much hardship, but Tangi grows on you and by the end of the book, I was happy for her that she got her fairytale ending.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Economics Without Illusions by Joseph Heath

Hisashiburi (Long time no see)! I haven't had any actual books (ebooks are so hard to get teasers from... they're just quotes) I wanted to share for so long, but today I do.

So, Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading and are really fun to do(:

Right now, I'm reading Economics Without Illusions by Joseph Heath, a book that promises to be very interesting. So, today's teaser is:

"Part of the 'pink ghetto' problem usually comes from the fact that too many women are seeking the same type of work (it's called a "ghetto" because it's overcrowded), which has the same effect of bidding down wages. As Rhona Mahony obseved, if the entire graduating class from university one year decided to go into the ice-cream business, then the wages of workers in that sector would plummet" (page 248)

Hmm...  I wonder what happens when we factor in university majors into consideration. For some courses (like nursing), all graduates would end up in the same industry. So if we factor in the gender ratio to that.....

What is your Teaser Tuesday like?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Heart's Journey by Barbara Cameron (ARC)

I'm not sure if it's just me, but I've been seeing (and reading) a lot more Amish stories recently. It looks like where's there's a paranormal fiction wave, an Amish fiction wave is happening simulateneously (maybe it's because they're such opposites?) But I'm not complaining since I prefer Amish fiction to paranormal fiction (aka paranormal romance).

The Heart's Journey is, at it's core, about domestic abuse. Naomi and John should be happy together, after all, they're engaged to be married. But John has changed to be a suspicious person, and well, Naomi is confused. So, she jumps at the chance to go to Florida with her grandmother and their driver Nick.

Nick, on the other hand, has a crush on Naomi. But, he knows that it's impossible between them, since he's "English" and she's Amish. But still, on the trip to Florida, sparks fly.

So while there is a romance story, there's an underlying story of abuse. It feels like the author did a lot of research, to make things believable. And while the abuse was still in the begining stages, it's easy to picture what might have happened if Naomi and John continue their relationship.

John would have continued using physical and emotional weapons to gain dominence over Naomi.

Noami's self-worth would have sank lower and lower.

And since marriages are forever, there can't be a happy ending.

The author also stresses that abuse is not a uniquely Amish or English problem. It's a problem that happens everywhere. The abuser's can be any kind of person, although you can be sure they're not real Christians. They're people who like power. And the best way to protect yourself is to recognise when things aren't your fault and walk away.

Weaved in with this heavy message is the sweet love story about Naomi and Nick. Nick, in particular, seems almost too good to be true. Throughout the whole novel, he always puts Naomi's feelings first, and he knows how to act within the Amish community. He respects them and their traditions.

There are a host of other supporting characters, and all are well thought out. This book is part of a series, so I didn't have enough background to recognise some characters. And I suspect that's why Anna (one of the supporting characters of this book), felt annoying to me, because I didn't know her backstory.

Another well-written novel.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Historian

Woah, I really took a long time to finish this book. It's a really thick book (but I got it for 300yen, so I guess in a price-per-page it may be one of the cheapest books I bought) and I've developed the bad habit of reading a few books at a time. So I read this book only in bits and pieces (but it's actually a book where you should read in one go. It's a slow book where you enjoy it more the longer you read it).

But anyway, The Historian is a novel set in a few time periods (all post-WWII though) and centres around Dracula.

The true beauty of this book though, would be it's description of places. I've never been to Eastern Europe but this book made me feel as though I was there. I was particularly interested in the description of Bulgaria, because I have classmates from Bulgaria now. After reading this, I really want to visit the Easter European countries one day. Take a "grand-tour" like how the nobility used to do.

Plot-wise, it was rather slow and sometimes confusing. The plot is told through three perspectives, the un-named girl protagonist/narrator, her father's recollection, and a bunch of letters. So essentially, there are three sub-plots that add up to one main plot in this story. There's also no way of telling when the point-of-view would shift (although the letters are very kindly italicised), so sometimes, I got confused as to who was telling the story now.

After you get the hang of it though, the story is interesting (but slow). The idea of a Dracula that is also a scholar, and by linking it to the actual Vlad, is a fairly original concept. I think, I'm not sure since I've been over-whelmed with the latest trend of YA paranormal fiction.

In fact, you should read this book as an antidote to the latest version of vampires. (I would say read Dracula, but I never made it past the first page. And barely finished the comic book version :p).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Long Reads #6

This week was all about books! As a way to celebrate my newfound reading time (I love long vacations!) I decided to read all the articles I'd saved about reading/books. It's a really long list, but I hope you have read/will feel like reading some of them:

Why Wattpad Works by Margaret Atwood - Margaret Atwood is a really famous writer. Personally, I haven't read any of her works (I got scared off by my complete lack of understanding of The Blind Assassin), but it's so cool to see a writer support a site like Wattpad. I'm on Wattpad too, but I find that all the stories are starting to sound the same (so many werewolf/vampire love stories....) although I'm trying to take it as a sign that I need to search harder. And if you're curious about what I write, you can find me here and I'll really appreciate any comments!.

Great, Wondrous by Marie-Helene Bertino - The only fiction work I read and the article I didn't like at all. I really couldn't understand what it was about and I was very confused by the end of the whole story. What was the point of it?

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction by Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Neil Gaimen, David Hare, AL Kenedy - It's not so much of an article but a collection of tips on how to write. Some are fun, some don't sound applicable to me and some make so much sense you have to try them.

Listening to Books by Maggie Gram - I haven't had any experience with audio books, but after this, I do wanna try an audio book at least once. I personally have nothing against them, so as soon as I can get my hands on one, I'll give it a try.

The End of Borders and the Future of Books by Ben Austen - I loved the Borders in Singapore (Wheelock Place) and I was really sad when it closed down (darn you bankruptcy!) But after that, I discovered Indie bookshops and I haven't looked back (and here in Japan, I'm at BookOff, a second-hand bookstore- all the time)

Thank you for killing my novel by Paterick Somerville - Or, how an author handles a bad (and factually-incorrect) review. It was really entertaining(: But I liked how he handled it with lots of humour and acheived some form of compensation.

Sherlock Holmes in Fairyland by Miles Klee - I'm not sure why I even read this... The link between Holmes and Fairytales was kinda interesting (although the article was more about Doyle), but I wasn't sure what the point was. Sigh, maybe it was just a bit too short for me....

My Life As A Bibliophile by Julian Barnes - As a proud bibliophile, I had to read this article. This actually warned me against my greatest weakness - buying too many books. But it gives me hope that Bibliophiles can have a happy life. And since it's about books, it also talks a bit of book collecting, and it's unscrupulous side.

I'm getting a bit ennui now, so I'll be really really brief.

Some Books Are More Equal Than Others by Claire Needell Hollander - It's about summer reading, and just confirmed what I knew, some books make you smarter than others. Haha.

C. S. Lewis on Reading Old Books by Benjamine Domenech - I love C.S. Lewis. And he always makes sense so go read this.

Why Gatsby Is So Great by Jay McInerney - I haven't read Gatsby but this article makes me want to go and find a copy and read it.

The Amazon Effect by Steve Wasserman - It takes a look Amazon and how it has influence (and will continue to influence) the book industry. Personally, I use Amazon when I know what book I want to buy, but bookstores are where I discover new titles (I don't think I've ever bought from Amazon's recommended list...). And yes, I do support bookstores through my impulse purchases.

Who Says Print is Dead? by Mark Hooper - Of course it's not.

What have you read this week?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Assasin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke (ARC)

I fell in love with this book even before it was available on NetGalley. It sounded awesome and the cover somehow appealed to me (a rare occurrence, since while covers can discourage my interest in a book, they rarely encourage it).

The Assasin's Curse follows Ananna, a pirate daughter who runs away from an arranged marriage. And because she does so, her spurned fiance's family sends an Assassin after her. But in a strange twist of events, she saves the Assassin's life and activates a curse that compels him to protect her. This is the premise of the book, and the rest of the book follows Ananna and Naji (the assassin) as they try to break the curse.

Personally, Ananna reminds me a bit of Huck Finn. Both are "anti-heroes" (they have no qualms about stealing and such), but have their own form of honour. But to me, Ananna is way more interesting. Her style of talking is very informal (and while she speaks like someone who's quite uneducated, the bad grammar manages not to offend) and friendly. And special mention must be made about the fact that though the whole novel is written in a conversational style, it does not get tiring at all.

Naji was another interesting character. He was very guarded at first, but he gradually opens up. In fact, I'm very interested in how his character is going to develop as the series goes on. At the beginning, he was obviously in charge, but now, I think it's a 50-50 relationship between the two, as Ananna starts to assert themselves, and as they get onto Pirate Territory.

The world building was really excellent. The pirates aren't completely lawless, they have a "Confederation", but there are also 'rogue' pirates. There's a world beyond the pirates which seems interesting (like the hierarchy for the Assassins, and the reason for their existence).

The only thing I don't like about the book is the use of swearing. While most of the curses are quite imaginative (and suited to the pirate world), the f-word does appear once or twice. Because of this, I'd recommend this book only to those about 15 or older.

All in all, a really enjoyable book.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Parenting and Whatnot

I haven't done a two-book review for so long! But anyway, a few days ago, I was reading Cracked (it's really funny if you stick to the history/others content. Otherwise, it can get very vulgar) and came across a "worst parenting" article. One of the methods/book - To Train Up A Child caught my eye, and I promptly spent whatever free I time I had in the next few days researching it. So, I found two books: the actual text itself (one of the earlier editions) and the counter-argument (Parenting in the Name of God), which is also available free.

To introduce this book, To Train Up A Child is a parenting book that advocates "switching" (whipping/spanking) as a method of training children. At least two children have died and their deaths are suspected to be linked to to this parenting method.

And the author responded to criticisms by telling us how he and his family is "laughing" at the 'ridiculous' accusations. But really, that is a very insensitive thing to say, considering that children have died. (And personally, I wonder if the fact that his grandchildren laugh all the time is because they're going to have a nervous breakdown or if they're afraid that they'll get "switched" if they do not put on a happy face.)

So, let's start with the book I read first: Parenting in the Name of God by David J. Dyck and C.L Dyck. I know it's kind of strange to read the counter-argument first but well, I already had a bad first impression anyway.

But really, I thought this free ebook was very well-written. At the very beginning, the authors tell you their background (so you know where they're coming from), and each chapter has a definition list so you know exactly what you're talking about. The book is also very calm and reasoned, and actually gave me a new perspective to the whole issue. By showing how the theology behind this book is un-Godly, it becomes easier to explain to others why this is not a Christian style of parenting. I definitely recommend reading this book.

And of course, it's quite self-defeating to list your stands against a viewpoint only to have to admit you've never read the actual text. So thankfully, I found a legal and free copy of an early version of the book online.

Frankly, I was disturbed reading this book. While I agree with some parts, like sticking to the limits you set, the whole "train your child like a dog" thing was disturbing. And even if I didn't read Parenting in the Name of God first, I would still have major doubts about their theology, considering how they seem to encourage their parents to act like God. No, the job of a parent is to teach their child about God, not be a god to their children until they reach their 'age of accountability'. Plus, it's just cruel to set up situations (like letting your child play with a toy and then call him for no reason) just so you can whip your child into a certain mode.

As for me, I grew up in a fairly strict household. I've definitely been caned before, but it wasn't very often. So from personal experience, I can say that this method is not the only (if it even works) method to raise happy and stable children. My parents have never needed to train me through caning (they used it only for extreme cases, such as playing during prayer and such). And I'm pretty sure I'm not the self-indulgent child that the Pearl's claim will develop without their training method (I may be a brat, but I do know my limits). My parents have managed (and here's the shocker) to teach me right from wrong without constantly caning/switching me. So yeah, while there are occasions where you should use "the rod", it should not be part of a training plan.

But really, the biggest issue is the very unChristian theology they have rather than the methods they advocate. It promotes a very ego-stroking view for the parents and demeans the child. I wonder, if without this training, children would grow up to be self-indulgent, than shouldn't the parents who read this for the first time (and decide to use it), also be self-indulgent? In that case, why should they be allowed to "train" their child?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge - Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley

Ok, I admit it, I didn't know what to read. It seems like for the last few books, I've been reading nothing but cozies (sorry, it's my favourite subgenre!). So, after searching the Internet, I found a parody of the Mystery genre - Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley.

Trent's Last Case follows the titular character, who amusingly, doesn't solve the case at the end (in his deduction, he was tricked by the murderer). It's really amusing, and doesn't have much (if any) of a serious tone.

Trent, the hero of the story, is overly-romantic and prone to dramatics. In a way, he's like an "eccentric detective" but exaggerated. His introduction as a detective is equally implausible - he's an artist, but is sent as a reporter by a paper. But still, he's a very likable character, he's honest about his flaws, and below the drama there's a kind person underneath.

As for the plot, it was full of drama. Really, I should just tell you that this is a very dramatic book, but it's the drama that makes it fun to read, in fact, I can't believe it's published in 1913. I guess it just goes to show that good books can and will endure.

So, here are three of my favourite quotes:

"Like the poet who died in Rome, so young and poor, a hundred years ago, he was buried far away from his own land, but for all the men and women of Manderson's people who flock round the tomb of Keats in the cemetery under the Monte Testaccio, there is not one, nor ever will be, to stand in reverence by the rich man's grave beside the little church of Marlstone."

To set this quote in context, this is the ending of the first chapter, which introduces us to the victim Manderson, who was a high-flier in the world of Wall Street/Finance. After reading this, I can't help but think that he's making fun of the Quaternary industry.

Here's a quote about one of the supporting characters:

"He was thinking about breakfast. In his case, the colloquialism must be taken literally: he really was thinking about breakfast, as he thought about every conscious act of his life when time allowed deliberation. He reflected that on the preceding day the excitement and activity following upon the discovery of the dead man had disorganised his appetite, and led to his taking considerably less nourishment than usual. This morning he was very hungry, having already been up and about for an hour; and he decided to allow himself a third piece of toast and an additional egg; the rest as usual. The remaining deficit must be made up at luncheon, but that could be gone into later."

And of course, Trent himself, is an enthusiastic, maybe over-enthusiastic detective:

"Some of these things have to be put back where they belong in somebody's bedroom at White Gables before night. That's the sort of man I am - nothing stops me."

If you haven't read this book, I really encourage you to do so. It's a really fun read.

So to re-cap: I read this book for the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge, and for once, it's not a cosy but a parody. ^^

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Longform Reads #5

This has been a fairly slow week, reading-wise, for me. I didn't finish many books, but thankfully, there were periods of times where I needed to read (and tada~ something of the right length). And I didn't have a "theme" that I read, but rather, a bunch of assorted articles.

School 'Reform' by Diane Ravitch - This essay looks at two aspects of school reform, one aiming to pull up a student's scores and the other aimed at their emotional adjustment. There's something in the article that mentioned that America has never tested well. Well, they made it sound like it wasn't important, but is that because the wrong kind of tests were given?

Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World by Amy Harmon - I have a bias/vested interest in reading this article. One of my cousins is mildly autistic, and since he's the same age as my brother, I have always wondered what will happen to him when he grows up. Sadly, Singapore doesn't have a good support network for those with disabilities. I really pray though, that one day, my cousin can live as an independent adult. The article looks at one young man's case, which made it fascinating and personal.

Honors Track by Molly Patterson - The first longform fiction I read, and it was actually really good. It's about the pressures of the 'honours track' (I assume it's some form of advanced education) and what may lead a group of bright students to cheat. I can empathise with the pressures faced, but (ok, I'm very biased here), I think the schools in Singapore are much worse. There was a slight mention about how being the 'vice-president' of clubs were important and such for college. Here, it's not just being in a leadership position, you have to win a few awards, preferably international (the number of friends I know who have won an international award -normally first- is way too scary). Still, there's no excuse to cheat.

The Virtues of Day-dreaming and How to be Creative by Jonah Lehrerh - These two articles feel familiar (well, I used to read stuff like 'how to be smarter' just before exams :p). But it's a good reminder that the whole stressed-out-multitasking may not be the best thing to do if you really want to be productive.

The Comfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen - I'm very embarrassed to say that I haven't read anything by Jonathan Franzen. But now, after reading The Comfort Zone, which is his experience of growing up with snoopy, I really want to read something that he wrote. He writes in such a wonderful style that this is my favourite article of the week.

The Original Sin by Lapham's Quaterly - A look at the origin of misogyny and why it endures. Well, I can't speak for the other religions, since this isn't my field, but I think there were some interpretation problems. And interestingly, the quote by Paul was also used in the movie Agora. But anyway, the last line, about Eve being the first woman to question what she was told was so wrong. She didn't question, she believed the devil and sinned. Nope, she didn't question anything. And I say this as someone who used to go around telling the boys in Church that girls were superior (I got into quite a lot of fights when I was younger).

What did you read this week?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge - Eric

Apparently, I've read this book before (no wonder it felt familiar!) But since I gave a one paragraph review the last time, I'll do a proper review now :D

Ok, so Faust Eric is a parody of the book Faust. Or at least, a parody on the premises (where you exchange your soul for ___). I can't go into specifics because I've never read Faust (I feel like a huge gap in my reading life has been exposed.......). But still, Faust is such a famous book that you'll know what Terry Pratchett is referencing from the very title.

So Eric, the titular would-be Faust of the book is trying to summon a demon. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and he summons Rincewind instead. And because that's how the way things work, when every Rincewind snaps his fingers, something brings them to a place where one of Eric's three wishes is fulfilled in a very unexpected way.

As usual, Rincewind was hilarious. He's really an anti-hero, being such a coward and all. But he does make a good case for being a coward, seeing as how he's survived all these books. Plus, his cynicism is hilarious at times.

But, I didn't really like Eric. I understand that he's supposed to a teenager and all, but he came across as an uninformed brat. He's thought process and speech grated on me. I'm actually glad he got stuck with Rincewind, who's the worst person you could get if you want help (Especially if the help you want involves danger of some sort).

Other characters include Ponce de Quirm (I wonder if he's related to Leonard De Quirm?) and the demon king with the name I can't pronounce, let alone remember.

Speaking of demons, the book explores the idea of evil in a pretty humorous (but not very accurate) way. There are the usual sly jokes like how the road to hell is paved (literally in this case) with good intentions but quite a lot of the book is focused on how evil humans can be. The things devised by humans are argued to be worse than those by demons (as seen by how inspired the king is at them). This is, of course, also poking fun at paperwork.

But since the whole premise is that humans came up with these ideas on their own (as opposed to having help from demons), this theory doesn't apply in real life.

Note: I forgot to mention this earlier, but I'm having End of Term exams (starting tomorrow), so except for Saturday, where I might post my "longreads" post, the earliest my next post can be is on Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Knockoff Economy by Kal Raustiala

I don't know why, but I enjoy reading books like this. They're not strictly business/economics textbooks, but they're much more interesting than the normal treatise. If I remember correctly, the last similar book I read was Overdressed by Elizabeth E. Cline. (and I have another one waiting to be read. I think).

The Knockoff Economy aims to examine the link between Copying and Innovation, and if copying has an effect on the industry itself. In the face of conventional wisdom, the book shows that in the industries studied (although it may not apply to all industries), copying can actually help to grow the industry and spur innovation.

The industries examined in the book are: fashion (which is why it reminded me of Overdressed), cuisine, comedy, football, fonts, finance, etc. They're a fairy diverse range of industries (although most of them are in the Quaternary industry - and I'm not sure if football counts as an industry) which means that the odds that this phenomenon is a statistical anomaly/limited to one industry is slightly less.

But in summary, the argument is that copying can help propel something into a trend, or the slight delay is enough for a first-mover advantage so there isn't much need for IP (or in some cases, like food, it's very hard to copyright stuff).

She ends with an epilogue on Music as a low-IP industry, something that I found very interesting considering the current state of the music industry.

Each chapter is really well-written, with a lot of examples. This being an advanced copy, I didn't get to see a lot of the graphs, but considering the fact that I normally can't understand them, I imagine that I didn't lost much. The only "downside" was the length of the chapters. For some reason, each chapter felt very very long.

Of course, this book focused very much on the American industries. I can't remember many references to China, but considering that China has managed to copy things like Apple stores and entire companies (e.g. NEC), I'd be very interested in a book talking about whether the new level of imitation that China has achieved is positive or negative.

So, is imitation the best form of flattery?

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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I can't believe that it's the first day of July! Where did the first half of the year go to? And more importantly, where have this last two months gone? It still feels as though I've just arrived in Japan. And to celebrate the first day of the second half of the year, I'm so happy to say that I've been tagged/won the Liebster Blog Award from Rie (thank you!).

The Liebster blog award is for "small" blogs (below 200 followers). Those tagged have to share 11 things about themselves, answer 11 questions and then tag another 11 people (oh dear, I always have a problem with the tagging part....). But anyway, without further ado, here are 11 random things about me:

1. I actually enjoy reading business textbooks/case studies.
2. That doesn't mean I enjoy studying though.
3. I started getting an interest in Japan not from anime/manga (though that is a fairly big reason), but from reading Silence by Shusaku Endo
4. And of course, the only reason why I came up with the topic I had for my Extended Essay (it's a graduation thesis) is because I insisted on analysing Silence.
5. I spent the first 12 years of my education in the same school system (basically, the same family of schools - so around the same school culture) but for university, I ended up in Japan (which is the most unexpected thing that I could have done).
6. I decided at Secondary 3 (age 15) that I wanted to come to Japan on this scholarship (I applied for it last year, when I was 17 going-on 18).
7. And I told everybody that I was -definitely- going to do this (I didn't even apply for my back-up plan of University in England)
8. I'm in Kendo
9. Even though I was in Robotics, I can't do programming (I'm better at presentations and writing proposals)
10. I love Hello Kitty
11. I don't know/don't like putting on make up or other (what I call) "girly stuff". But I wear lots of dresses because they're the most convenient thing to put on.

11 Questions from Rie
1. When did you discover your love of books?
Umm... I don't know! I grew up loving books (I remember being scolded for reading under my desk when I was 7). But it definitely intensified as I grew older.

2. Where do you read the most?
I don't have a reading nook (sadly). I tend to read anywhere I can.

3. Can you read whilst listening to music or whilst the TV is on?
Music yes, TV.... um, I won't be able to tell you what the programme was about. I think generally, I can read and listen to something, but my eyes can't focus on two things at one go.
4. What do you eat for breakfast?
Right now? Cornflakes. Last wee? Anko Donuts, Next week? Depends on what is cheap/on offer at the supermarket. :D

5. Why did you decided to start blogging?
Honestly, I needed a way to keep track of the books I read, and I hadn't heard of Goodreads or LibraryThing back then. That's why most of my posts are reviews and not much of author interviews or memes and such.

6. Why do you blog about books?
Well, I actually have a blog about my life in Japan. I didn't want to mix the two up. And well, most of the personal blogs I started before (when I was about 12?) all stopped because I got too lazy to post. But I'm forever excited about the books I read, which gives me motivation to write.
7. Tea, Coffee or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate for sure! Green Tea is second though(:

8. What is your worst habit?
Reading too much. Either that or Reading-and-(something). E.g. walking, eating, chatting with friends, etc.

9. Hardback or paperback book?
The prettier one. And nowadays, the cheaper one.

10.Who is your favourite author?
I can't decide! It really all depends on my mood.

11. What do you want to be doing / where do you want to be in 5 years time
Hopefully, graduating from University (I'm graduating late because of the language year). After that, well, anything goes!

Before I announce the list of bloggers, here are my questions
1. Do you have a favourite genre or do ignore genres when you choose your books?
2. Most overrated book you read
3. Most underrated book you read
4. Cats or Dogs
5. How many languages do you read it?
6. How do you make time to read
7. If you have 10 000 (insert home currency), what would you do with it?
8. What are some stereotypes about bookworms that you think aren't true
9. iPad or Kindle (or Nook or other tablet
10. If you had to run out of a burning library, which books would you save
11. Speaking of burning books, have you ever read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury?

Ok, so here are the winners
I'm sorry, apparently, all the blogs I want to give awards to have above 200 subscribers

... O...TL

Please wait while I try to find bloggers (I'm currently looking at blogs I comment on the most because if I don't feel like commenting...

Alright, so here are some truly noteworthy blogs I can't believe I overlooked (I'm slowly adding them):
1. Sandee from Books, Books and more Books
2. Brittany from A Pursuit of Happiness
3. Charlene from The Literary Word