Thursday, July 31, 2014

Digital Wars by Charles Arthur

So thanks to the Understanding Media by Understanding Google course that ended recently, I developed an interest in Google, Apple, and the rest of the tech giants. So I was really happy to see this book in NetGalley.

Digital Wars looks at Apple, Google and Microsoft, and how each of them have been reacting to the digital age. Microsoft established its dominance early on, but Google has overtaken it since then, and Apple has turned out to be a formidable contender.

This book goes through a quick introduction, and looks at the Microsoft antitrust case. After that, it looks at Search, Digital Music, Smartphones, Tablets and China, and compares how each of these three companies have done in each respect. So while it's not a chronological narrative, it does capture a good snapshot of how each company has performed in a given field.

I found this book to be very easy to read and extremely interesting. I haven't really considered Microsoft at all, but this book has showed me that they have been trying to regain their former dominance - although they don't seem to be succeeding in search or digital music.

As the different types of technology start to converge, what with rumors of an Apple smart watch, the debut of Google Glass, Microsoft 8, anyone with an interest in the technology market should read this book. Understanding how these companies have been acting in the past will help understand what they're doing today.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

(Un)breakable by Kesh Tanglao

A while back, I participated in the blog tour for The Real Score (link leads to my review) and if you read that review, you'll know that I loved the book! And I'm happy to tell you that there's a sequel to The Real Score called (Un)breakable!

(Un)breakable follows Caitlyn's best friend Lorin. This book takes place after the events in The Real Score and has Lorin torn between two guys - the rugby player Spence, and the Gezellig member Nigel. Now, this isn't a normal love triangle - Spence and Lorin (who have been dating for two years) are in an "open" relationship. Quotations because Lorin thought it was open and Spence didn't think so. Add Nigel, who's determined to win Lorin over, and you have a mess of relationships.

To be honest, Lorin was not the most endearing character. But as the book went on, I realised how much she had been hurt in the past, which resulted in how she was today. I thought that her character was developed much further in this book, and it was good to see another side to the supportive best friend role she played in The Real Score.

And not to give any spoilers, but the romance was so well-written! Normally, I'm not a fan of love-triangles, but I must say, the way that this one was resolved was done really well. I enjoyed reading it, and since I didn't favour Spence or Nigel, I didn't have a problem with who Lorin ended up.

The only complaint I have about this book is that it was so focused on Lorin and her love triangles (which, admittedly, needed the space) that it barely talked about Caitlyn and Marcus. My favourite couple! And trust me, a lot of things happened, and the biggest twist in the book for me involved Caitlyn and Marcus. It made me really eager to read the third book in the series, if only to reassure myself that these two will have a happy ending.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book as part of the Oops! I read a book again blog tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

Check out the giveaway too!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Into the Light by Nicole Weider

Tuesday again? That means I am one week close to exams! And the end of the year. And growing up. And ok, you get the picture. Life is passing by me pretty quickly.

Right now, I'm reading Into The Light by Nicole Weider. Nicole is a former model, and the founder of Project Inspired. I got the book from that site, and her story has been captivating so far.

My teaser:
"Life in Hollywood was a crazy existence that was both seductive and soul-destroying. Trying to make it to the top looks so glamorous."

What is your teaser this week?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer by Dusty Higgins

You know a book is going to be good when it references G.K. Chesterton. A comic that references it in the very first line? Even better! This book could not have made a better impression on me if it tried.

This is a story about Pinocchio, like you've never known him before. Unlike the (mostly) happy world of Ever After High, this fairy-tale retelling is dark. It starts off with an orphan Pinocchio, a vampire slayer in a town that refuses to believe in vampires. Apart from one girl, his only companions after Gepetto was killed would be the Blue Fairy and Master Cherry (a Carpenter and friend of Gepetto). There are many twists and turns, and no, I'm not going to tell them to you. Let's just say that being a real boy is involved, and no, it's not as good as it may be.

Wait, how does Pinocchio kill vampires? I admit, Vampire Hunter was not a job title that I would have given to Pinocchio. But think about it, to kill a vampire, you stake it in the heart. And for that, you need a piece of wood. Guess who's got an everlasting supply of ready-made stakes (contingent on his ability to lie)? Now that I thought about it, Pinocchio is the perfect vampire hunter!

Pinocchio's skill at lying/growing his nose is mostly used for comic effect, but I think one of the most powerful moments in the book I read came when it was used in a tragic way. I teared at that part (go read the book, you'll tear too!). I'm really amazed at how the authors of this book managed to use the original story elements to add both humour and gravity to the book.

Unfortunately, my preview copy on NetGalley only had half the pages of the complete edition (so I guess I finished volume 1 and half of volume 2). I tried looking for it in bookstores in Japan, but no luck yet. Perhaps I'll have better luck in Singapore - this is one book that I really want to finish.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Hollow Dream - Eternal Autumn by Andrew Van Wey

Back when I was still living in Singapore, I was approached to review Forsaken by Andrew Van Wey. I loved, and raved over, it so much that I was given the opportunity to review A Hollow Dream of Summer's End. That was almost two years ago, so imagined how surprised I was to learn that there is a sequel to A Hollow Dream of Summer's End, and yay, I got a review copy for that too!

Without giving too many spoilers, Aiden from the first book has died. And now, he's in Everland, a world completely different from the world we know. Here, Aiden meets his grandfather, a city of children, a charismatic leader and a whole host of secrets. What's a dead boy to do?

Ok, that last sentence made it sound as though this book is for kids. It's not. The language is stronger is this book, and the horror is for adults too. Aiden goes through "trials", where he sees the lives of those left behind. That's going to speak to adults, or anyone that has contemplated death. And trust me, those trials were scary. It hit very close to me, being one of those who have lost a loved one.

The strength of this book has to be in the immersive world. As the new kid, Aiden gets to learn about this strange world, and we learn with him. It's fascinating, and I don't think that the depths of this strange limbo has been fully dealt with. In fact, the plot of this book hinges on how this world works - this is where the setting really ties in with the plot.

I'm so glad that there's a sequel, because I want to read more. Horror's not really my genre, but I'm making an exception for all of Andrew Van Wey's books. They're addictive reading - if you want to stay up all night reading with a flashlight (or with the artificial light from an ereader), choose one of his books.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a free and honest review. The gushing was done of my own free will.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Hatmaker's Heart by Carla Stewart

This is one of those books where I'll invariably feel torn if I have to give it a rating. I enjoyed the story, but I felt it was quite different from what the blurb was. So, ignoring the blurb, here's my synopsis of the story:

Nell Marchworld may be related to English nobility, but in New York, she's just a lowly hat-maker. However, one of her hats catches the eye of a wealthy client and she's introduced to more and more opportunities. However, her boss is so terrible that she wonders if she'll ever achieve the success she wants. Oh, and there's something in there about a romance too.

For me, the enjoyable part of the story would be reading about Nell's struggle to make a success of herself. She's clearly a talented hatmaker, but way too unassertive (I feel her pain, I'd probably be unassertive in her case too). The problem is that her designs are too modern for her stuffy old-school boss, who happens to be a quit. The obvious thing to do would be to quit, but the chance of having her own label means that Nell will slog through whatever hardships her boss puts in her way.

And that childhood friend Quentin? Well, she definitely pines for him the whole novel, but I never saw a hint of him liking her. I mean, that guy has a girlfriend and, at one point, was engaged to said girlfriend. As far as the I could tell, he wasn't interested in her.

But an even bigger disappointment than the "love story" would be the ending. There's supposed to be a twist, but personally, it felt very forced and unbelievable. Nell spends the whole book being mentally abused by her boss, but she leaves because of... something her boss did (and not something he did to her, or a friend). I can't say that I was convinced by the ending.

Overall, I enjoyed most of the novel. I didn't even mind the lack of love story, since that's never a main pull for me. However, the forced ended let me down.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hipstopia by R.A. Desilets

Hipstopia was written by Google+'s +Rachel Desilets. In fact, I got to know about the book through Google+! Does this make me hipster? I'm not sure, since I don't even know what a hipster is.

But, even with my woeful lack of knowledge of contemporary culture and subculture, I found this short novel to be an entertaining read. It envisions a world where the hipsters have broken away from America to form.... Hipstopia. There, everyone is unique - which is to say that everyone smokes, drinks coffee and wears glasses. That would be me, except that I don't smoke or drink coffee. Darn, I wanted to ride on one of those scooters too!

Anyway, while Hipstopia seems like the perfect place, free of marketing from the Big Corporations (and with seven, count'em seven choices!), it's not. At least that's what Jay, the right hand man of the guy running Hipstopia is starting to find out. When he gets sent to quiet a disturbance, he meets prisoner number forty seven, a beautiful girl that grabs his attention immediately. Add that to a shock that he receives when he accidentally kills someone and Jay is disillusioned with the place.

Personally, I found Jay's escape from Hipstopia too easy. While this book is supposed the first in a series, the latter half felt rather free of conflict. Sure, there's a covert war going on between Hipstopia and the rest of America, but Jay seems to resolve his problems a bit too easily.

Overall though, this was an entertaining book. I'm not sure if I want to read more yet, but I suppose the blurb of book two (which I haven't seen yet) will convince me yes or no.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by mark haddon

This book is really famous, and I've been meaning to read this book for ages, but I've never gotten to doing it (strange right?). So today, while I was browsing Ranbow Plaza for something to read while taking a break from studying, I found it and decided to read it.

Here's to hoping that it lives up to the hype and is a wonderful read.

My teaser:

I like Sherlock Holmes, but I do not like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was the author of the Sherlock Holmes series. That is because he wasn't like Sherlock Holmes and he believed in the supernatural. (Page 88)

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, share a two sentence teaser along with the title and author of the book.

What is your teaser this week?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier

Why would the police investigate the murder of a horse? Even if it's a creepy, nightmare inducing murder? Well, if the owner of the horse is rich and influential, you can be sure the police won't have much of a choice. And with that unsettling case where money decides which cases are more important, The Frozen Dead starts.

This book isn't just limited to the murder of a horse though. As Commandant Servaz starts to investigate, people start dying. The more the police find, the more people seem to die. And with more knowledge comes plot twists. The more I read, the more I wondered "who is the criminal?" because all my guesses were wrong.

First written in French, this book is an excellent Police Procedural from France. There are some procedural differences from a normal novel (such as the way cases are investigated), which the book explains in a note in the beginning of the book. Another difference would be cultural difference. Once, a character mentions changing to use "tu" to the judge. This marks a change in their relationship, because "tu" is a more intimate form of "vous", which means "you" in English. I wonder how many of these nuances had to be left out when the book was translated into English.

Wait, that means I really should go learn French. It'll be there, on my "to-do" list of languages.

There are only two things about the book that I wasn't happy about. The first was the ending, in which one of the characters was revealed to have this big secret (unrelated to the case) which I didn't see coming and frankly, thought was a bit unbelievable. The second would be that a case mentioned in the beginning (the murder of a homeless man by three boys) as a contrast to the horse case seemed to be neglected and then forgotten about by the book. I would have liked to know how the case ended, and if proper justice was given.

All in all, this is a well-written police procedural. It's interesting, there are twists and turns, and generally, the characters are well thought out.

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Creating a World Without Poverty by Professor Muhammad Yunus

I managed to meet, and speak with Professor Yunus today, so what better way to celebrate than with a review? I'll be blogging about my experience soon! 

Normally, non-fiction books with such a heavy premise take me a long time to read. But surprisingly, I finished this book in less than too days - it was that readable and engrossing.

This book is a manifesto of how social businesses can change the world. A social business is a like a conventional business (called Profit Maximising Businesses, or PMB) in terms of organisation structure and practices. The difference is that while the business aims to be self-sustainable, the main objective is to make a difference in society. In other words, if there is a choice between more profits with less impact and less profits with more impact, the social business will choose the option that produces less profit but has a greater societal impact.

Of course, there are people who think it's possible to have a hybrid model, but Dr. Yunus doesn't agree, as he feels that once profit is brought into the equation, the demands from shareholders for more profit will come at the cost of the ethical objectives.

So this book consists of three parts: What a social business is and is not, the Grameen experiment (using the Grameen bank and its various subsidies as a real life cast study) and then Dr. Yunus's hopes for the future, and how he thinks a world without poverty can be achieved. In the edition that I read, his nobel prize lecture "Poverty is a Threat to Peace" and an afterword is included.

For most part, the optimism in this book is incredibly catching and inspiring. However, it is such that whenever I wondered if his ideas could work, I felt bad for being so cynical. So it's a two edged sword.

Things I doubted:

A stock market for social businesses. Considering that in Dr. Yunus's ideal case, social businesses do not pay out dividends, I really wonder how a stock market is going to work. He mentions using yardsticks other than profit, such as impact, but impact is hard to measure and I'm not sure if shares will rise and fall based on the impact of businesses. It feels (to me) that once shareholders come in, the profit factor will come in and distract the business from its ethical objectives. After all, even if 99% of the participants in the stock market do so in the ideal way, it only takes 1% who try to game the market in order to make profit to ruin the plan.

Whether by decreasing poverty, terrorism is decreased. While I think poverty is a factor in the threat to world peace, I also think that things such as religious extremism, political ideologies, etc are problems. For example, it has been recently found out that several Singaporeans and Malaysians have taken part in terrorist activities. Is it because they're poor? For the most part, I don't think so. I think it's brainwashing by religious extremists that are to blame. There are plenty of situations where to me, poverty does not look like the biggest obstacle to peace. There is no doubt that if poverty is eradicated, we will have moved a long way towards peace, but I doubt that terrorism will be eradicated completely.

All in all, I found this to be an inspiring book. Dr. Yunus clearly believes, and practices what he teachers, and the world is better off for it. He makes a compelling case for the existence of social businesses, and I see a bright future for them.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Brief History of Chocolate by Steve Berry and Phil Norman

I love chocolate. So obviously, I love reading about chocolate. But, this book, while entertaining, fell short of my expectations.

This book is not an introduction to the history of chocolate. For that, I recommend books like The True History of Chocolate、Chocolate Wars or even Triffic Chocolate (Reviews for The True History of Chocolate and Chocolate wars here), which is a for children but still much more comprehensive (Triffic Chocolate was also the first non-fiction book about Chocolate I read, and I really loved it!).

What this book is, is an overview of the chocolate bar. It's not so much a coherent narrative, but more like an introduction to various chocolate brands, including those that are now defunct.

Personally, I only enjoyed this book for the types of chocolate they introduced. For example, Dr. Who chocolate, Pink Panther chocolate, Mr. Men chocolate, etc. Advertising at its most blatant, but still, I'd fall for it.

Let's not forget the TARDIS easter egg! 
Apart from that, this short book doesn't have anything going for it. The book is vaguely organised into chapters according to the types of chocolate (chocolate bar, easter egg and so on), but each chapter is more of a list of chocolates in chronological order than a narrative of the history of chocolate.

It's a pity, because this book had a lot of good illustrations and could have been an interesting introduction to the history of the chocolate bar (and its descendants).

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

I actually heard of this series when I saw the sequel The Wonder on NetGalley. When my request was approved, I started hunting down a copy of the book to read before starting on my review copy.

And.... I LOVED THIS BOOK! It's a short read, and I finished it in less than one day, but it made me very grateful that I had the second book ready, because I dearly want to find out what happens next.

Queen of Hearts follows Dinah (did anyone think of Alice's cat?), Princess of Wonderland. Of course, we all know her as the Queen of Hearts. But what we don't know is that her father hates her, her little brother is an insane but brilliant hat maker (you should know who he is), and as the book starts, she finds out she has her half-sister. To make it worse, her half-sister is her opposite - blonde and dainty, and more beloved by her.

While Dinah started out as a whiny princess, I found that I could sympathise with her almost immediately. I felt sorry for her, because to be so obviously held in contempt while someone newcomer gets the love and attention she wanted has to be trying, no matter how good a temper you have. And I found myself identifying with Dinah's bad temper because I can have quite a temper as well (trying to change that though). Dinah is not a perfect character, her flaws are huge and since she becomes a villainess, you know she'll just get worse, but I found that I really liked her as a character.

As for the other characters, the only other character that made a favourable impression on me was Charles, the mad hatter. He was adorable in his own way, and I could see why Dinah was so protective of him. I really admire how she declared that when she was queen, she wouldn't hide him away but bring him to every function as well.

The world building here is excellent! It's a much darker world than the Disney film, which suits the tone of the book wonderfully. The world is very detailed, but I never felt as though I was being hit by too much information.

I cannot wait to start of the second book! This is a fast-paced read with characters that all have flaws. Sure, I think that Wonderland would be better as a republic instead of being ruled by monarchs with short tempers, but I'm still going to be rooting for Dinah through this series.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - A Quiet Vendetta by Roger Jon Ellory

Wheee, it's Tuesday again! The week certainly flew by! Today, I bring you a teaser from a book called A Quiet Vendetta. It's a story about the mafia, the police, and a kidnapping, but the book is definitely different from what I (and probably you) imagine. It's different in a good way though, I'm really enjoying the book so far.

My teaser:

He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to see his daughter's face.  
He struggled by it did not come. (page 313)

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. In order to participate, just give a two sentence teaser from a book you're reading along with the name and author.

What is your teaser this way?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Real Score by Kesh Tanglao

I believe that almost everyone who has listened to popular music has daydreamed or at least thought about the possibility of becoming friends with their favourite singer. Perhaps even something more.

Well, in The Real Score, Caitlyn Tan (same surname as me!) is the best friend of Marcus, the lead frontman of the uber popular band Gezellig. To everyone else, they're the perfect couple, but they keep insisting that they're just friends. But after they agree to do an interview about their friendship together, they find that their current relationship status may be changed to something more than friends.

To me, it was really refreshing to see a book that didn't fall into romance straight away. Yes, there is romance, but the emphasis for the most part, would be their friendship. Caitlyn and Marcus are a great couple because they're best friends.

And I pretty much identified with Caitlyn. I'm friends with loads of guys (although none of them are famous, yet), so I can totally believe Caitlyn and Marcus being BFFs without the romance angle for the first few years of their friendship. And Caitlyn being afraid to jepordise her friendship in order to date Marcus? I totally understand how she felt. In fact, she's my favourite character throughout the book and I was rooting for her to get her happy ending - even if that meant just being friends with Marcus (and no, this is not a spoiler about their relationship)

I LOVED this book. Because I identified so much with Caitlyn, I found myself really caught up in her (and Marcus's) story. And to make things even better, she's Filipino (maybe Filipino Chinese?), which is where all the "Asian Pride" stuff came in. I really enjoyed reading all the references to Filipino culture and yes, their dried mangoes are awesome. The ripe mangoes are pretty tasty too!

If you like music and boy bands, you'll probably love this book. I highly recommend it to everyone who's ever dreamt of becoming friends with a star.

Disclaimer: A free ebook was provided as part of the Oops! I Read a Book Again blog tours in exchange for a free and honest review.

There's a giveaway, so make sure you enter to win a copy of this awesome book!

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

This book is about blogging. And there's golf in it. By all accounts, these two factors alone should make me squeal with joy and love this book forever. But unfortunately, I didn't love this book as much as I hoped.

Don't Call Me Baby follows Imogene, also known as "that girl from the blog". Her mom, mommylicious has made documenting Imogene's milestones her career. They get sponsorships and make money advertising from it. However, Imogene hates being that girl. Along with her friend, Sage (aka VeganBaby), they plot to use a school assignment to blog to get their moms to understand their point of view (after their 'moral protest' against blogs fail).

What this blog gets right is how blogging can take up a person's life. All my blogs are small, and this blog doesn't really affect my life other than make me read constantly (as if I need a reason), but my other blog With Love from Japan, Eustacia, has definitely impacted me. Like how Imogene's mom is obsessed with taking pictures of everything, I've definitely felt the need to snap more photos and document more and more. The difference though, is that the longer I blog, the more I try not to include pictures of my friends and family if possible, because I don't want to infringe on their privacy (generally, if their picture is on my blog, I've gotten their ok on it). So while I sort-of understood how Imogene's mom was, I couldn't understand how that lady could let it consume her life to that extent.

Then again, I'm not a particularly successful blogger, so I have less at stake than mommylicious's blog.

Personally, I thought Imogene's plan of honestly documenting her blogger mom's life was brilliant. Which is why I was disappointed when she stopped doing it almost immediately. If the book let Sage (who actually continued with it) have a bigger voice, I definitely would have liked it better. As it is, the book starts of strong, but sort of fizzles out as Imogene never gets the courage to do anything.

So in the end, everything is resolved, which is good, without a climax, which is bad (for the reader). Imogene's mom was annoying throughout the book, yet at the end she suddenly became understanding. That was a bit too unbelievable to me. I found Sage's relationship with her mom to be much more realistic.

Basically, this book has an interesting topic, and it does some things, like describing the life of bloggers, right. I liked the references to golf by Imogene's grandmother and Sage's relationship with her mom. However, the plot was let down my Imogene's largely non-existent conflict with her mom. I would have preferred the book to focus on Sage instead, because I found her story to be much more interesting.

Looking for more reviews on this book? Amateresu Reads has reviewed this too!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chelsea Bird by Virginia Ironside

It took me a long time, but I only realised, at the end of the book, that Chelsea Bird meant Chelsea girl. Considering that they keep mentioning that bird = girl, I can't believe I didn't make the connection sooner.

Chelsea Bird is about Harriet, who's (I think) "in". She has a steady she can't really stand, she barely goes to art school, and at the young age of 18, she's already fairy cynical. This short novella is really just a snapshot of her life, and by extension, life in sixties London.

For some reason, the voice of this book really reminded me of the voice of Sylvia Path in The Bell Jar. Of course, the narrator here isn't certified as mentally unstable here. But there's just something about it that reminds me about The Bell Jar.

But unlike The Bell Jar, I didn't really like this book. For some reason, I never really connected with the narrator. And even though this book was supposed to "make all those who weren’t [alive in the sixties] wish they had been", I found myself relieved that I wasn't there. Why? Because none of the characters were very likable, to be honest. In fact, one particularly odious character says this, after a girl refuses to go to bed with him:
"She feels cut up! What do you think I feel? I plug her with gins and she won't even be raped. Some people. They don't know when they've got the chance of a lifetime." 
I'm not sure if this was supposed to be funny, but rape jokes aren't cool. Neither is blaming a girl for refusing to be raped - the narrator never really stands up for this girl (because she doesn't really like her, while she did fancy the guy a bit [I think]) and this statement is pretty much ignored by everyone.

So basically, the good parts of this book would be the voice. The terrible parts would be the fact that I can't connect with the characters and that really tasteless remark about rape.

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

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlim and Nicola Kraus

I really really don't know where I first heard about The Nanny Diaries, but like I said before, I think I heard good things about it. Thankfully, the book lived up to my expectations - it was entertaining and unexpectedly emotionally gripping. The only thing that ruined the book (slightly) for me was the ending.

There are three main characters in the book. As I introduce them, you'll get an idea of what the book is about.

Nanny, or Nan - the main character of the book, and the titular Nanny. She's a university student who wanted to work part-time as a nanny, but she gets sucked into being more-or-less a full-time slave for Mrs X, and slowly gets emotionally attached to the rambunctious Grover. Nanny was a meh character for me, since she doesn't actually do anything heroic in the novel, but her narration was entertaining.

Grover - the child, and therefore one of the main characters. Grover was a spoilt brat at first, but as the book goes on, it's clear that he suffers from behavioural problems because of the emotional neglect from his parents. I have a soft spot for him, because I do have a younger brother about his age, so most of the feels/emotionally gripping parts came from him.

Mrs X - the unreasonable employer and therefore the antagonist of the book. She's actually the second wife of Mr. X, and while she does have some drama of her own, she more or less negates any pity the reader might have for her by being a terrible mother and employer.

Most of this book was actually very entertaining. I enjoyed reading about the trials of being a nanny to a rich kid with a distant but overly-controlling mother. But, I felt that the ending was a let down. As the book progressed, my expectation that something was going to happen, something was going to change grew higher and higher. But in the end, nothing happened. The non-ending was really a let down for me.

I think, if you're looking for a light read, this book would suit that perfectly. Just don't expect a traditional ending, where the antagonist suffers some sort of fall, or where the protagonist gains a victory.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Creating a World Without Poverty by Muhammad Yunus

Today's teaser is from Creating a World Without Poverty by Muhammad Yunus. You might know one of his most famous social businesses - The Grameen Bank. I only borrowed this book today, but I'm already halfway through it, it's a truly fascinating read.

Here's the teaser:
"Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler than that." Mainstream economics makes everything "too simple", and therefore it misses reality." (page 55)

Isn't it interesting? As an economics student I do agree with this. The assumption of ceteris paribus (all else remains constant) means that models are rarely true to reality.

Teaser Tuesday is brought to you by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, simple share your teaser along with the title and author.

What's your teaser tuesday?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Think like a freak by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt

A long time ago (about three years, which is what, 30 years in blog years?), I read and reviewed Freakonomics. It's a fun read, and I think it's due for a re-review.

But before I go hunt down the book to re-read, I managed to get my hands on an e-gally of the latest book Think Like a Freak. I was really intrigued by the promise that I too, could be as interesting an economist as the two authors.

This book has nine chapters, with the introduction of "What Does it Mean to Think Like a Freak?" and then answers the question by proposing solutions like 'be curious like a child', 'approach a problem from a different angle/question', 'don't be afraid to quit' etc. In every chapter, the authors bring up a few case studies to illustrate the point. And of course, the book ends with plenty of footnotes, so those that are skeptical can go check them out for themselves.

It may have been a long time ago since I read Freakonomics (or its related books), but it feels like one of the previous books. This is less a how-to guide and more of of interesting stories, plus the authors straight up tell you one of the methods they use. So if you're looking for specific plans and exercises, then you've come to the wrong place.

Personally, I found the book entertaining. Did I come away with a whole new outlook on life? Not really. But I did learn about a few interesting topics, such as a Japanese competitive eater, and why Nigerian scams are written as badly as they are (it's to save time and effort to make sure only the gullible reply).

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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Long Reads #24 Special Edition: Understanding Media through Google

Hey, if you read my review yesterday (or follow me on Google+), you'd know that I'm taking this course called Understanding Media by Understanding Google. It's a really interesting course, and since this is the last week, I thought I'd share some of the readings that we were given. Click on the titles to get to the different articles(:

Pay to play: Can YouTube succeed with its paid channel subscriptions? by Janko Roettgers - I haven't had to pay for anything on Youtube, but I know of shows I will be willing to pay for. For example, if Toggle decides to charge to watch Phua Chu Kang (local Singapore comedy - I watch it whenever I'm feeling homesick) on Youtube, I would. Especially since Toggle doesn't stream it outside of Singapore. But, as a past Crunchyroll view who stopped once they started paying, I can say this much: If it's free somewhere online, I may not want to pay for it.

Is Google Making Us Stupid?: This paper talks about whether the Internet is changing how our brains work. For example, does it decrease our ability to absorb long essays and novels? Well, judging by the number of book blogs, I would say not. But what if we're an anomaly? I'd actually like to see some data for this, the statistical calculations would be fun to do.

The Freight Train That Is Android: What is Google's business model? This paper argues that not only does Google use a castle-and-moats strategy (castle = great business, moat = defence), they also scorch the earth, making it impossible, or at least very difficult, for others to compete with it. If you're into business, you'll want to read this paper.

Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed a Social Network) - This is a short article, but it looks as Google+ not as a competitor to facebook, but as "the connective tissue between all of Google’s formerly scattered services." If you look at it this way, then despite all the complaints, yes, Google+ is a success.

Minus its leader, what's left at Google+ - After Vic Gundotra left, there was a lot of speculation about what would happen to Google+. One of the speculations in this article is that the Google+ stream would disappear. Say it isn't so!

This is really just a small selection of the readings. There are also quite a few books to read (I got my hands on two, the second review will come soon! The rest, I will find when I go back to Singapore). If you're interested in Google and/or Social Media, you should definitely take this course the next time it's available.

Friday, July 4, 2014

What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

As part of my Understanding Media by Understanding Google Course, I was assigned several books. Unfortunately, none of them are available in the school library here, but thankfully, Scribd had a two of them. What Would Google Do is one of them,

To summarise the book in one sentence, it looks at what Google does, and how that will impact various fields such as Media, Public Welfare, Utlities, etc. Some of the areas that he looked at seemed very unlikely to be affected by Google, but the basic question asked is: what would happen if there was no middleman controlling the flow of information?

Whether you like the first part of the book, where he talks about how Google is changing things such as publicness, society, economy and others, or whether you prefer the case study is really a personal preference. Personally, I liked the first half of the book, but that's because the arguments brought up there were new to me and thus more interesting. The second half of the book is really an application of what the first half says, so it felt a bit repetitive at times.

This book is so optimistic that it's hard to be skeptical of what he's saying. The author is definitely persuasive when it comes to making a case for his new world. But, I wonder how much of it is applicable to countries such as China. For some, like how the media will change, I found his forecasts to be interesting and believable, but I still remain doubtful about whether his forecasts of things like healthcare will come true.

All in all, this book is an interesting read. If you're curious about Google and its impact on society today (and how it might impact us in the future), this is a good book to read. I'll leave you with a quote that I really like from the book:

We no longer need companies, institutions, or government to organise us. We now have the tools to organise ourselves. We can find each other and coalesce around political causes or bad companies or talent or business or ideas. We can share and sort our knowledge and behavior. We can communicate and come together in an instant. We also have new ethics and attitudes that spring from this new organisation and change society in ways we cannot yet see, with openness, generosity, collaboration, efficiency. We are using the internet's connective tissue to leap over borders - whether they surround countries or companies or demographics. We are reorganising society. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfield

I have long heard about the book Ballet Shoes. Apparently they're a childhood classic, and Dancing Shoes is in the same series as them. What I didn't know was that one of my childhood favourites - The Painted Garden, was also by this author! Thankfully, I liked Dancing Shoes, so I wasn't disappointed :D

Dancing Shoes follows Rachel and Hilary. Hilary is Rachel's adopted sister, and because of something that Rachel's mother said, Rachel is convinced that Hilary is cut out to be a dancer. However, when their mother dies, Rachel's aunt, who owns a dancing troupe takes them in. Not only is Mrs Winters a mean person who cares only for her selfish daugher Dulcie, they're doing the wrong sort of dancing! Although Hilary enjoys the dances, Rachel does her best to keep Hilary from making what she thinks is a mistake.

This book was a really fun read! Rachel and Hilary have a very adorable relationship - Rachel is goal-minded while Hilary is carefree, so their personalities were adorable together (made for some clashes though). Mrs Winters was a good villain, and had an interesting backstory. Dulcie was the type of girl that you'd hope to see fail, and when [SPOILER] both her cousins upstage her, you can't help but cheer a little. There's also a good supporting cast of characters, each with their own distinctive trait.

Most of the conflict in this book comes from the fact that everyone doesn't understand why Rachel is so opposed to Hilary dancing. As a result, most of the adults around her think that Rachel's a selfish and jealous sister. But since I, as the reader, know what's going on, it just made me like her more. I really admire how much she cares for Hilary, so much that she's willing to be misunderstood.

Hilary, on the other hand, I didn't like so much. She's a bit lazy, and I found her to be rather selfish, But I think that out of the two, Rachel is the real protagonist, and so I enjoyed the book for most part.

I'm way older than the target audience, but I would love to read the rest of the books in this series! And I really want to re-read The Painted Garden now. It seems like it's time for my second childhood!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan

This is rather off-topic, but when I first saw this title, I was reminded of another book. It wasn't until I finished the book that I remembered - The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. However those two books are nothing alike, although they do involve love and relationships.

In The End of Innocence, Helen Brooks is struggling to find her place in male-dominated Harvard. At the same time, Wils, a German noble (who's talented at poetry) is struggling to survive an increasingly anti-German American society. When the two of them meet, they fall in love. Complicating matters would be that Wils's cousin Riley, who also falls in love with Helen.

Personally, I loved the first part of the novel. The ending and later half? Not so much. While the current ending is definitely more realistic than the one I was hoping for, I felt as though the book ended, and a new book began. I can't talk about specifics without giving away spoilers, but I think it would be obvious where the new section began.

As for the characters, I think Wils was my favourite. His chapters were very well-written, and I was rooting for him from the start. As for Helen, I'm neutral towards her. I think that I didn't completely understand her character (especially at the end, because it seems different from how she was portrayed at the start), but I'm guessing most people will like her. These are the two main characters, and the other characters just feel like background characters to me.

But what I really liked about the book was how it explored issues such as women in higher education and American neutrality in the war. The second issue is definitely what drives this novel forward, and the book really opened my eyes. I remember reading about how Japanese-Americans were treated in World War II (Kira kira anyone?), but this is the first I've read about Germans in America during World War I.

All in all, this is a pretty good World War I novel. I like how it covers issues such as America's neutrality in the war. The main characters are well-written, and it's definitely an enjoyable novel.

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlim and Nicola Kraus

It's time for.... TEASER TUESDAY :D

This week, I'm reading The Nanny Diaries. I'm not sure how I heard of it, but I heard good things, and when I saw it at Rainbow Plaza, I decided to take a chance and read it. I'm liking it so far.

My teaser:

I sit down on my duffel bag and fight the urge not to throw up as only someone can who's just flown twenty-five minutes on a six-seater plane through torrential downpours, unrelenting fog, and massive turbulence with four adults, three children, a goldfish, a guinea pig, and a golden retriever. Only my consideration for the Horner girls prevented me from screaming at every drop. (page 298)
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To participate, just submit a two sentence teaser along with the title and author of the book.

What's your teaser?