Monday, October 27, 2014

BloggerBlackout: Because Stalking is Not Cool.

Image from Bookthingo
Ok, I know that I'm really really late to the bloggerblackout, but in my defence, I just heard about it today from The Passive Voice. And once I heard about it, I knew I had to join.

Wait, what's this bloggerblackout whatchamacallit? 

Recap of the incident (and why I don't believe what Kathleen Hale says). Feel free to skip if you've already read it. 

Simply put, it's a response by bloggers to the atrocious behaviour of Kathleen Hale. Kathleen Hale received a one-star review from a reviewer who initially liked the book, but was then turned off by PTSD jokes and statutory rape that seemed to be condoned (in her piece, Hale says that there is no rape [she fails to specifiy statutory rape]in the book, but it's mentioned in that reviewer's thread several times by more than one person that there is statutory rape. Hale also completely fails to address the PTSD joke, instead going on and on about the rape, so I assume that it's in the book and she doesn't want to admit it). Hale is so upset that she pays for a background check, visits her house and even calls her at her place of work. This is clearly harassment. But according to Hale, she was being catfished by the blogger.

To quote Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

The definition of cat-fishing is (according to "to deceive, swindle, etc, by assuming a false personality online." (when used as a slang verb). Please take note of the word "swindle". It's most commonly used for cases where the victim was cheated out of money. From what I can find on the net, the blogger simply used a pseudonym, and didn't actually try to get the author to give her money or free books or something like that.

Personally, my suspicions of the piece were first raised by the fact the author used Stop the Goodreads Bullies (STGRB) as source of information. If you didn't know, STGRB is a bully side dedicated to doxxing "bullies". In other words, bloggers who post critical reviews. I guess to them, the function of book bloggers is to love every single book and promote it for free.

And the second thing that convinced me that there were serious holes with the stories were the lack of screenshots. Or even a link to the offending review. Evidence is everything, especially on the internet, where you can capture webpages straightaway.

So what we have is an extremely one-sided piece, with indications that there are serious doubts as to how truthful the author is being. From searching on the net, it seems that there's no evidence to support her case.

So, what's with all the bloggers up in arms? 

This concerns our safety. Of course we're going to be worried. I'm lucky enough that I live far far away from most writers I review (and anyway, I don't really do snark because I'm atrocious at it - and I tend to pick books that I like so....). But other bloggers aren't so lucky.

If you don't believe what I'm saying, take some time to read this blogger's account of how she was hit over the head with a wine bottle by an angry author.

We book bloggers spend our time reading and reviewing books not because we're trying to be rich or famous, but because we love reading. We love reading, and we want to spread the word. We're not in this for the money or fame, and we shouldn't have to be afraid for our safety because we dare to speak our minds about books.

Hence, the #haleNo and #bloggerblackout trends on twitter.

So what's your blogger blackout going to entail? Are you posting non-reviews? Only reviews of authors long gone? 

My blackout will last till Nov 1 and I will not be posting anything new. I know some bloggers are posting non-review posts, and I might do that (if I find something to say), but for now, I want this post to stay at the top of my blog.

So give me something to read when you're gone! 

Gladly. Here are the most useful links:
Brianna from Pages Unbound did a wonderful post discussing "Who has the "Authority" to review books?"
Bibliodaze has two great posts, an Open Letter to Kathleen Hale and more about #HaleNo, blogger blackout and the non-existent war between bloggers and authors.
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books talks about The Choices of Kathleen Hale
Dear Author explains why pseudonyms are used by some bloggers (and why the pseudonym should be respected) in On The Importance of Pseudonymous Activity

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Sorry for skipping a day yesterday. I spend more time than expected doing the paperwork for, and setting up my new phone. 

I heard about this book, not because of reviews from other bloggers, but because of the one star review written by MacKenzie Bezos on It sparked my interest, because is one of the main ways I buy print books in Japan.

This book basically covers from its inception to around 2012. That means that there's no coverage on the Amazon-Hachette dispute (although it is mentioned three times), which is a pity. And considering the developments made by Amazon in the past two years (in Japan, we got the Kindle! I'm quite curious as to know how that happened), I'm guessing that quite a lot of things have been left out, which makes this book *gasp* dated. But I guess that's what happens when the company you're covering moves so fast.

Since I'm not related to anyone working at Amazon, I have no way of knowing how many errors are in the book. But, the review by Kaphan shows at least one inaccuracy, and the review by MacKenzie shows another one. So I'm guessing a few, but no major errors.

As for author bias, I think it's rather even-handed. While the author does call loyal employees "Jeff Bots" and refer to their oft-repeated words as "Jeffisms", he does praise several times as well. He talks about how Jeff Bezos can be very generous (even though he can be ruthless at times), and gives plenty of examples.

I really like this book. It's easy to read, and it covers's history in quite some detail. I finished this book with a deeper respect for, although I can't tell whether this is a company that I'd like to work for (I get the sense that I won't truly know unless I get the chance to work there). Amazon's story is more than being in the right place in the right time, it's the story of being tenacious, and taking daring risks.

If you've been curious about, and want something more than One Click (click to see my review), then The Everything Store may be what you're looking for. On the whole, it's an even handed and comprehensive look at the history of

Now, my wishlist for the next book is for someone to look at Amazon's impact on self-publishing, and its impact on other countries, such as Japan and the rest of Asia. I'm curious as to see how Amazon competes with other companies like Rakuten (who released the first eReader, Kobo, in Japan), and the Chinese counterparts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Last year, I finally read and reviewed Gone With The Wind, it's a good book, but definitely pro-slavery. One of the characters, that I didn't mention in my review, was Mammy, a black slave that took care of Scarlett and Ellen, Scarlett's mother. I was so focused on the main characters (Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie and Ashley) that I basically neglected everyone else.

As a belated add on, I should mention that I found Mammy endearing.

In this spin-off, Mammy is given the name Ruth and her backstory is told. From her beginnings with Solange (Ellen's mother and Scarlett's grandmother) to her marriage to Jehu, and how she ended up going to Tara with Ellen, the author has used the small bits of information to re-tell her story.

For the most part, I found the story to be very interesting. However, while I was reading the book, I kept thinking:
Isn't Mammy supposed to be the main character? 
Most of the book isn't told from her perspective and the first section seemed to be about Solange and not Mammy. In fact, if I didn't know that this story was about Mammy, I would have assumed the protagonist was Solange. It's only when Mammy leaves and gets married to Jehu does the book start to focus on her. And only the last section (the last 90ish pages out of 290ish pages on my kindle) is told from her perspective.

And yet, while Mammy is telling the story, the focus is on Ellen and Scarlet. All in all, I had this curious sense that mammy, again, wasn't the central character of the book. She certainly is present throughout the book, but she feels like a supporting character rather than a main character.

Which is a pity because I was very interested in learning more about Mammy. In the original book, she's a loyal slave, and that's about it. While she certainly has more passion and feelings in this book, I think that it wasn't explored to the fullest extent.

In conclusion, this spin-off could have been great. The author has given Mammy a complex back-story, which could have evoked a lot of emotion from me. However, the nagging feeling that Mammy is, yet again, relegated to the sidelines is a major flaw that can't be overlooked.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

For reasons, I've started reading Nutcracker and Mouse King, which most of you will recognise as the famous ballet.

I borrowed this from the NLB eReads program, and I just realised this book contains two versions of the story - the original and the French retelling. I'm looking forward to seeing how different they are!

My teaser:

"Marie supposedly is still queen of a land where you can see sparkling Christmas Forests everywhere as well as translucent Marzipan Castles - in short, the most splendid and most wondrous things, if you only have the right eyes to see them with. 
And that was the tale of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King." 
What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

I haven't read Kristin Hannah's books lately, but when I first started blogging (I took a look, and I can't believe my reviews were so sparse and short last time! But that's for another blogpost - how reviews change :p), I went on a Kristin Hannah kick. I think it started when I went to the US and came back with a bunch of her books. So far, my absolute favourite book of her's is Magic Hour.

But this isn't a review of Magic Hour. It's a review of Fly Away, the sequel to Firefly Lane. And, for some reason, I don't think I've read Firefly Lane, although the title sounds really familiar to me.

Fly Away looks at what happens to a friendship when one of the two dies. Tully and Kate are best friends, through life's ups and downs. But then, Kate dies from cancer. Before that, the two had a two year quarrel, which I assumed was the focus on the book but wasn't (I guess that was the subject of Firefly Lane). The book looks at how Tully and Kate's family falls apart following Kate's death, as a critically-ill Tully tells Kate what has happened. At the same time, Kate's husband Johnny habours a grudge against Tully (I'm not too sure why, but I think it's about the quarrel), and tries to raise his three kids successfully. Tully's mother is trying to recconect with the daughter she believes is going down the same dangerous path she went. And Tully's accident is what brings them together.

I must say, this book kept me near tears from the start. I was actually reading this on the way to golf, which explains why I didn't actually cry. Any other time, and I think the waterworks would have flowed.

This book covers a whole host of issues, from abusive relationships, to grief, to parenting. I find it a complex novel, and I loved how all the characters existed in this web of relationships, instead of several different subplots. If you like character-driven novels, you'll probably like this.

I'm torn between wanting to pick up Firefly Lane, and not wanting to read it, for fear that it'll be spoilt because of this book.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quotetastic Saturday: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I was going to post more about WriteOn today, but they're having this "interview an editor" thing going on, and I want to see what happens before blogging more about the site.

So instead, I present another one of the quote posters that I made recently:

This is one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books: Fahrenheit 451. My other two favourite quotes from the book are:

"It was a pleasure to burn."
"I'm seventeen and I'm crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane."

If I took the right photos, I'll definitely pair them together. If you really like this poster and want a hard copy, I present my Zazzle store (I chose the cheapest option for this poster, but it turned into a custom size, so I can't do anything about the price). Feel free to click on the link and look around :D
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 Poster
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 Poster by SweetTeaandFiction
Check out more Ray Posters at Zazzle
TODAY (18/10/2014) ONLY: 10% off when you quote WEEKENDS4FUN at checkout

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm Translated and Edited by Jack Zipes

I think everyone has heard of The Brother's Grimm. But what I didn't know (and what you may not know), is that the most commonly found versions of their fairy-tales are the heavily edited ones. The first edition of their fairy-tales were the least edited of them all. And this book is the first ever English translation of the first edition of the fairy tales.

But mind you, these fairy tales are not meant for children. Several of them are quite gruesome, like "The Children Who Played at Slaughtering", and in the original versions of tales like "Hansel and Greta", the antagonist aren't the stepmothers but the natural mothers of the children.

Reading this book left me inspired. When I say inspired, I mean that I was inspired with the possibility of re-telling this stories. Let's face it, fairy-tales can be retold (you can see my Fairy Tales Retold Challenge posts for reviews of such books). And in their original forms, the fairy tales are short and full of space for a re-telling. I actually bookmarked several tales which I would like to try retelling some day.

Apart from the stories, I really enjoyed reading the preface. Like my Teaser Tuesday quote, the language of the preface reminds me of G.K. Chesterton. Another quote that I really like is:

Every day affords individual people moments when they can shake off everything that is false and can view things from their perspective. 

And another one:

Everything beautiful is golden and strewn with pearls. Even golden people live here. But misfortune is a dark power, a monstrous, cannibalistic giant, who is, however, vanquished, because a good woman, who happily knows how to avert disaster, stands ready to help. 

The last forty or so pages are scholarly notes on the fairy-tales, and literature students may be interested in reading them.

If I saw this book in a bookstore, I would definitely buy it. And if you like fairy tales, I highly recommend you buy this translation.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

The movie Saving Mr. Banks sparked my interest in Mary Poppins. Despite the fact that the book and the movie is very famous, I haven't read or watch much or either. Of course, I can sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Chim Chim Cheree, but that's about it.

So I was curious to find out, why is Mary Poppins so loved by children?

And as an experiment, I decided to read this with my little brother, to see if the magic still holds.

And well, I know why I like Mary Poppins. She's so different from the characters in most books. She's not the kind, grandmotherly sort that excuses wrongs and saves kids, neither is she the evil godmother type. Instead, she's Mary Poppins. She's magical, known to all sorts of fantastic creatures, and has the most interesting relatives. She's also vain, strict, and very insistent that she's a proper lady. She's a proper conundrum, and I can see why kids are fascinated by her.

The book itself is a series of short stories, without any overarching plot. That means that while it's easy to just read one-a-day, there's not much motivation to finish the whole book at one go. To finish the whole story, yes, but not the whole book.

When I was reading a story to my brother, he'd be paying attention, but when the story was over, his attention would wander of. Quite different from when I read Roald Dahl to him, and he never stops asking for more.

I wish I'd read Mary Poppins when I was a kid. I have no doubt that my imagination would have been all the more richer for it. But, she's still in print, and it's not too late for me to hunt down the rest of her books and read them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Matthew 13:44 by Scott Coren

This book left me feeling conflicted - on one hand, it was an addictive read. But on the other hand, it was tied together by a series of coincidences so improbable that I felt like laughing in disbelief (especially at the end).

And no, the parts with the angel (I figured that out way faster than Lucy) were not the unbelievable parts. Those were still ok.

What I found unbelievable was how the "mystery" of Steve death's was solved. Sure, Lucy does go and ask people for information, once or twice, but most of the time, help comes in the form of improbable coincidences. Then again, her getting in trouble was very improbable as well.

You see, Lucy gets in trouble because her husband Steve, who was suffering from brain cancer, was found dead under suspicious circumstances. And without evidence other than the testimony from the villain of the story (Andrew), the police decide that she's a key suspect and decide to charge her. But, even though she's supposedly at the center of an investigation and media storm, for most of the book, you don't feel the presence of the paparazzi or the police. They appear in the beginning to make her feel threatened, then disappear when the other storylines become more important.

I think the problem with the book is that the author chooses to follow two very attention-consuming story lines at the same time. There's the sick-baby-no-money story, and there's the I've-been-wrongfully-accused-of-murder story. Both are interesting, and could probably stand alone. But I think that in a rush to make the two fit into a book that wasn't too long, the author had to use a lot of coincidences. Like re-meeting an old friend who works with the Feds. In particular, the ending felt very rushed. I didn't really understand why it was such a happy ending, but it may just be me.

Despite all the criticism I have, I have to add that the book is a fairly addictive read. When I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. It's a fast-paced read, and that's going to appeal to a lot of people.

It may just be me, but I think the story would have been much much better if there were much less coincidences (and if things weren't resolved so quickly - apart from the two main problems, everything else was resolved surprisingly fast), and if the financial strain and police suspicion/hounding by the press was consistently felt throughout the book.

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays - Stitching Snow

Happy Tuesday! How was everyone's week? We had a typhoon visit us yesterday, but at least it's all over.

My teaser tuesday is from an ARC I'm reading. It's called "Stitching Snow", and yep, it's based on the Snow White story. Since I love fairytales, I'm really enjoying it so far.

"Father and the Candarans wanted the exact same thing, but on a very different timetable. I said nothing, just smiled and wiped out the army occupying the boot-shaped peninsula." 

What is your teaser?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Since I'm always late when it comes to jumping on bandwagons, I just finished Ender's Game. I haven't gotten a chance to see the movie yet, so I was basically reading the book for the first time, not knowing what to expect.

Woah. That's all I can say. I'm still in disbelief that Ender was a 6 year old boy when the book started, and an 11 year old when the war ended. What was I doing back then? Just reading books under the table,

If you haven't read the story, basically, Ender's Game is the story of how you can brainwash a little boy into becoming the commander of a large army which "protects" earth. Your tactics are isolation, emotional manipulation and just plain lying.

Does that sound bleak? Well, this book is bleak. Most of the book is told from Ender's POV, and you can tell how close they are to breaking his spirit. And when the book switches to other characters, you see just how cruel they are, by purposely stacking the odds against him in hopes of making him the best commander ever - or a broken shell of a boy.

While Ender is off training, his older brother and sister are taking over the world. Peter is cruel, just so cruel, but good at what his does. His older sister Valentine is supposed to be too "soft-hearted", but she ends up helping Peter because he knows how to push her buttons. Sadly, Peter succeeds in his goals despite being such an odious person (first impressions are hard to get rid off).

Ender's Game is bleak, yes, but it also touched me. Ender is brave, much braver than he gives himself credit for. The bleakness in the book feels a lot like this world. I was actually going to type "but at least we haven't started exploiting children", then I remembered about the child soldiers used by Hamas, Sudan, and many parts of the world; and the use of child workers in many other countries as well. So yes, we are using children and that's a terrible thing. Just look at this book to imagine the emotional, mental and physical toll it can take.

Will I read more of this book? Before I finished it, I felt that I wouldn't need to, because it works well as a standalone book. But, after I finished the last page, I'm actually quite curious about the future of the Buggers. If a later book address what happens to them, I'll probably read it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Writing Site: WriteOn

So, for the past few months, I've been keeping a little secret to myself. You already know about Figment and Wattpad (I blogged about them here). And now, I'm here to give you another writing option, and just in time for NaNoWriMo too! Introducing.... WRITEON (by Amazon).

For a detailed look at how WriteOn works, fellow member, awesome author and great guy J.T. Stoll wrote a really detailed blog post, complete with screenshots. Right-click, open in new window/tab, read it and then come back. (My two yen, this site is very user-friendly)

I was invited to WriteOn from NaNoWriMo, and I love it! It's easily my favourite writing site now.


Because of the community.

Perhaps it's because it's still in Beta and pretty small, but it's easy (and un-intimidating) to go jump into conversations, ask for feedback, get feedback, etc. I've gotten loads of really great feedback from a bunch of different people and learnt a lot from them. After a while, you start to recognise the 'regulars', then as you post more and more, you eventually realise 'hey, I'm one of them now' - It's an awesome feeling, cause I'm used to being the new kid in writing sites.

And because of the mods.

The two most active mods I see are Nina and Jon, and both of them do a great job welcoming the members and responding to feedback. The rest of the team isn't as active, but you do see them around, addressing concerns and working their magic behind the scenes. They've started things like Feedback Friday (excellent for getting feedback - no matter if you're a first time poster or an established member. In fact, new posters probably have a greater chance at getting feedback), Weekend Writein, and now, I see writing exercises as well. The response rate makes me feel like we're in good hands, and it really does help foster a sense of community.

So, if you're looking for a site, come to WriteOn! I can get you access codes (while they're still in Beta), so leave a comment/drop me an email if you want one!

For a different opinion of the site, you can head over to Goodereader.

Next Saturday post: A comparison between all three writing sites I'm on :D

Friday, October 10, 2014

Princess: More Tears to Cry by Jean Sasson

I should make it clear from the start that I haven't read the previous books in this series (I found it out it was a series when I started reading). So, I'm pretty much reacting to the book as a first time reader.

Princess: More Tears to Cry is a look into the life of women in Saudi Arabia. It doesn't just focus on the sultana (or 'Princess' of this novel), but expands to include the various women that she's met/helped over the years and their stories. There was much less family drama than I expected (there's a story about her brother Ali in here, but from the introduction, I expected a lot more backstabbing). Instead, it focuses more on the lives of other women, and how it has changed since the first books were written.

To me, it seems like Saudi women have made great strides. More of them are being educated, more are being helped, and a few are even doctors now. It's a truly encouraging thing.

On the other hand, rampant sexism and discrimination against women still exist. It's still way too easy to divorce a women, and the penalties for crimes against them is laughable. There are so many sad stories in there, and not all of them have a happy ending. Reading it, you may come close to tears.

Bear in mind, the book does stress that this discrimination is the fault of the culture, not religion. Or rather, the book draws a distinction between religion and men of religion. Personally, I didn't feel like this book was wholeheartedly condemning a religion, just an unjust culture.

I do not think it's appropriate to say that I enjoyed such a heart-rending book, so I will merely say that it was eye-opening.

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Obsidian Dagger by Catherine Webb

Back when I was still in MG, I came across the Horatio Lyle series. I've forgotten what they were about now, but I remember really enjoying them. So, when I went to the library, I hunted down the series - they only had one available, and sadly, it's not the first book. But, I still enjoyed reading it.

The Obsidian Dagger is a murder mystery. Two men are discovered dead in a boat. A series of murders follows. Horatio Lyle would like to stay out of this, but Lord Lincoln is basically twisting his arm until he starts to investigate. And the more he investigates, the clearer it is that meddling is only going to bring trouble. Too bad it's the right thing to do.

Accompany Horatio are Teresa, a former pickpocket and Thomas Edward Elwick, the son of Lord Elwick. The two kids are as different as chalk and cheese, and that's what makes the trio so fun. Thomas is smart, very smart, and a bit naive. Teresa may be uneducated (compared to Thomas), but she's street-smart, and learns at a quick rate. Horatio is like the guardian of the two of them, and the affection they share is very touching.

While I don't think you need to have read the first book to understand this book, knowing what happened before will definitely help. Several people referenced to are key players of earlier books, and may confuse the first-time reader.

I really enjoy the vivid descriptions and the rather unexpected humor of this book. It's funny, but it comes at times where you don't expect jokes to be made. Apart from humour, this book also touches on the themes of love (twisted love, patriotic love, philia love) and self-sacrifice (which if you think about it, is tied to love).

Now I remember why I loved this series so much.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How We Learn by Benedict Carey

I've been a student for 15 years (excluding Kindergarten) and counting. So I should be an old hand at learning right? Wrong. Through lots of trial and error, I've only managed to learn how to struggle through my papers - sailing through them is but a pipe dream.

So this book excited me. If it can give me a hint as to how to study more effectively, then I'm all for it. And yes, I've tried the mind-maps thing - for some reason, they don't work very well for me.

This book is divided into four parts. Here's a quick summary and my thoughts on the four parts:

Part 1: On memory and learning. This is a quick introduction to neuroscience, and how it relates to learning. Not many techniques here, but it was an interesting read.

Part 2: How your learning environment affects you, how to effectively space your study sessions and are practice tests any good? This is where the book gets interesting. I learnt that changing your environment may help you learn (good thing I found one alternative study spot, so I alternate between that and my home). It's too late to practice the timed study sessions, but I realised that the reason why I enjoy Indonesian classes is because the study method I use utilises Space Repitition System, which makes it fun and effective. And as for practice tests, well, now I need to go find some practice tests to do.

Part 3: Distraction, Stopping mid-way and Block practice vs Mixed (interleaving) practice. I found the Distraction and Stop Early chapters to be interesting, and the distraction chapter, in particular, was comforting. It makes me less stressed to know that a break every now and then is actually helpful. The blocked practice thing was something that I actually learned from psychology last year. It's a good reminder to actually carry it out (for golf perhaps?)

Part 4: Perceptual learning and the relation between sleep and learning. Perceptual learning is interesting, and if it's true, then I need to find a way to familiarise myself with the different types of questions, and fast. And sleep as a learning aid? Sign me up!

To be honest, I'm not sure why the four parts are grouped the way they are. I don't see the link, so if you do, please let me know!

All in all, this is a fantastic book. I learnt a lot, and have a lot more ways that I can use when learning. I am definitely buying a hard copy of this book to have on hand from now on.

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Why Grow Up by Susan Neiman

My first teaser tuesday since I came back to Japan! This book is one of the birthday presents that I got last week. Since 21 = adult in Singapore, I supposed I got this book to reflect/push me to grow up.

Anyway, my teaser:
"This is what Kant meant when he wrote that growing up is less a matter of knowledge than courage. The gulf between is and ought can turn into an abyss, sometimes, all the more if you understand that it isn't an accidental occurrence but a feature of most of the experience you will ever have." (page 122)
Really enjoying this book so far!

What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Inside the Magic Kingdom by Tom Connellan

I heard that there's going to be a new Disneyland coming out in China, so before I 'lose' my title, let me just state: I've been to all the Disneylands in the world. So obviously I have a great interest in Disney and how it works.

And if you're looking for an easy-to-read introduction to the Disney business way (this book was written in 1996 so it may not be true of the company anymore), Inside the Magic Kingdom is a good book to read.

The author uses real-life incidents and incoporates it into a fiction narrative about a group of five business people who come to Disneyland to learn about its business practices. Basically, everything can be summed up into 7 principles:

1. The Competition is anyone the customer compares you with
2. Pay fantastic attention to detail
3. Everyone walks the talk
4. Everything walks the talk
5. Customers are best heard through many ears
6. Reward, recognise and celebrate
7. Xvxryonx makxs a diffxrxncx

And of course, there are many examples of the legendary Disney customer service. They make Disney sound like an awesome company (I'd like to work there!) and a role model for other companies to imitate as well.

I admit to not caring much about the characters, but I did think that the story format made the "lessons" easier to digest. The book isn't dry at all, and can be finished in one sitting.

This book is for anyone who cares about customer service, or just wants to make their company memorable.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Wonder by Colleen Oakes

So after reading Queen of Hearts, I was so excited to read The Wonder. I managed to get a NetGalley ARC, and for the first time, had it sent to my kindle account (thankfully there's an iPad app). This book was as good as I expected, and now that I've finished it - in one day I might add, I need MOAR.

The Wonder continues where The Queen of Hearts left off. Fleeing from her father, The King of Hearts, Dinah goes into the Twisted Woods. Somehow or the other, she, she ends up at the Yurkei (sp?) camp, and the book ends when the next step is decided.

While nothing much happened with regard to the whole "I'm being chased after my father who wants to kill me" thing, there were so many surprises. And much feels too.

Top surprises:

Chesire. Ah, I really want to tell you what's going on with Chesire, but I won't spoil the surprise. Just know that to me, this was the biggest plot twist in the entire book. And Chesire moved up a few ranks in my estimation.

Wardley. I didn't really talk about Wardley in my previous review, but that was because his part was basically "love interest". I'm still very ambivalent about what I think about him, but after one plot twist (which to be honest, I guessed from the very start of the book), I don't think I like him that much anymore.

Dinah. Dinah starts off as very spoiled, and she's still rather spoiled and demanding. But, she's learning to be a Queen, and it's interesting to see how she's struggling to control her temper. I'm not sure how she'll end up a villainess, but I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

Special mention characters:

Sir Gorrann. Cute grumpy old guy with a backstory. He's basically here for the "gruff outside, kind inside" role that is in so many many novels. He plays a fairly important part in the story.

Mundoo. He's the chief of the Yurkei, and what I like about his character is that it's rather unconventional. He's not hostile, and he's not a wise old man. He's practical and can be vicious if need be. He definitely reminded me (if Dinah's journey through the Twisted Woods didn't), that Wonderland is not a happy place.

I can't wait for Book 3! I desperately want to know what's going to happen next!

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review. The fangirling was entirely voluntary.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Sunken by S.C. Green

I'm finally back in Japan and back to reviewing books. I've missed a lot (a few NetGalley items I was approved of has been archived -cries-), but well, there's not time to spare! Today, I'm here to review The Sunken by S C Green as part of Enchanted Books Blog Tour.

The Sunken is a fascinating read set in an Alternate Universe during the time of King George III. There are a few main characters - Nicholas Rose/Nicholas Thorne, a brilliant architect that's also running from something. Aaron, a Stoker and friend of Isambard Brunel. Isambard Brunel is a talented and ambitious engineer. And lastly, there's James Holman, a blind man who wishes to explore the world. There's also Brigitte, but her role is more of "love interest", and she only provides some information in the early parts of the book.

Now that I've introduced the characters in one sentence summaries that do no justice to their complexity (not to mention how their relationships develop), let me introduce the setting and plot. King George is a vampire, English people worship a pantheon of "Industrial Gods". As a result of the "Industrial Gods", England is cut off from the rest of Europe, which is supposed to be Christian. The book starts off with Nicholas, Isambard and James as boys, when a horrible accident happens and someone dies. Nicholas and James feel horror and guilt, while Isambard just marvels at the beauty of the machines. Fast forward a few years, and Nicholas smuggles himself back to England, where he becomes Isambard's architect. However, as Isambard wins royal favour, it's clear that something sinister is happening, and all the main characters react differently.

While the book is supposed to be about the approaching menace of The Sunken (it's in the title, it's not a spoiler, right?), I can't help but think that the real main character of the story is Isambard. While the story is told from multiple POVs (including a few from those of Joseph Banks, the physician to King George), Isambard's POV is noticeably absent. Why? I think it's because he's complex, and most people view him in a different light. There are many differing accounts about the type of person he is, and the contractions aren't resolved at the end of the book - in fact, they become even more divergent. Trying to make up my mind about him was almost more interesting than the plot (which was pretty interesting on its own).

All in all, this is a fascinating steampunk/alternate history/AU book. The plot is interesting, and the multiple voices are distinctive and help the reader to piece the bigger picture together. I see it's the first of a series, and I definitely look forward to seeing what the author does in the next book.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book to review as part of the Enchanted Books Blog Tour. The opinions in my review are my honest opinions.