Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew

Hey! How's everyone? I've been completely swamped with schoolwork (four reports to write in a week), and haven't been able to blog lately. In fact, I'm not sure if I have time to blog this week :/ Thankfully, I don't have any blogging stops.

Anyway, this week, instead of a current book, I thought I'd share an excerpt from a book I just finished (before all the school madness started). It's called The Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew, edited by Shashi Jayakumar and Rahul Sagar. If you're curious as to why I chose to read this book, you can read my reasons here.

My teaser:

"The Chinese leaders were probably aware of Vladimir Lenin's famous maxim: "Probe with a bayonet: If you meet steel, stop. If you meet much, then push." By demonstrating a steely spine in his dealings with great powers, Mr. Lee helped to expand the geopolitical space for Singapore." (page 12)

If you're wondering, this particular "dealing" would be Mr. Lee telling the Chinese government that the book they tried to give him is merely their version of history, and that India has its own version. And that anyway, what the Chinese thought had nothing to do with us. That was a brave move, in my opinion.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
What is your teaser Tuesday? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Village Effect by Susan Pinker

This book and I got off to a bad start. In the introduction, it said "it's illegal to buy or sell organs for transplantation everywhere in the world except Iran and Singapore." That led to about half an hour of frantic Googling, and yes, you're going to read about it next.


First, the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) saysPART IV
Buying or selling of organs or blood prohibited and void
14.—(1) Subject to subsections (3) and (4), a contract or an arrangement under which a person agrees, for valuable consideration, whether given or to be given to himself or to another person, to the sale or supply of any organ or blood from his body or from the body of another person, whether before or after his death or the death of the other person, as the case may be, shall be void. [14/2009]
(2) A person who enters into a contract or an arrangement of the kind referred to in subsection (1) and to which that subsection applies shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both. (emphasis added)
What the author was probably thinking about, was the addition of the word "compensation" to HOTA. Part 3, section (c) says

(c) any contract, arrangement or valuable consideration providing only for the defraying or reimbursing, in money or money’s worth, of such costs or expenses that may be reasonably incurred by a person in relation to —
(i) the removal, transportation, preparation, preservation, quality control or storage of any organ;
(ii) the costs or expenses (including the costs of travel, accommodation, domestic help or child care) or loss of earnings so far as are reasonably or directly attributable to that person supplying any organ from his body; and
(iii) any short-term or long-term medical care or insurance protection of that person which is or may reasonably be necessary as a consequence of his supplying any organ from his body.
Also, this is limited to Singaporeans/PRs. If what I read about Iran was right (I don't know the relevant act, so I didn't look it up), it's legal for citizens to sell their kidneys for profit, something that is illegal in Singapore. What Singapore is doing is similar to what Australia is doing (and if you listen to that article, they're not the only two countries). So the author was mistaken to include Singapore - if she wanted to make compensation a form of buying and selling, then she should have included Australia and any other countries who do the same.


Anyway, after that rocky start to the book, I thought it was interesting. The book is basically about how face-to-face contact can really, really help our health, and how screen time may not be as beneficial as we think it is (although the technology is useful). The author goes out of her way to stress that she's not a technophobe, but that she wants more contact for people.

There are a lot of studies in the book, which would be the basis of all the recommendations/implications of face-to-face contact. Of course, after the whole including Singapore in list of countries that allow the selling of organs because of misunderstanding a law (and then suddenly correctly understanding that Australia's stance), I'm more than a little hesitant to let believe all her interpretations of the studies.

This is a readable book, and I do want to find out more about the subject. Does anyone know of a similar book, where someone else looks at the same studies and comes up with their own conclusions?

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Hey everyone! How's the week going? I'm only in the second week of the new school year, but I'm absolutely swamped. I haven't been reading much.

Right now, I'm slowly making my way through Enchantment Lake. It's a mystery, and I've just started, so I can't say whether it seems good or not.

"Francie looked up, half expecting to see Scarlett O'Hara in a hoop skirt and bonnet, but the voice came from someone who looked more like a Ralph Lauren model (a mature one) dressed casually, but elegantly, for the country, with the perfect hair, the perfect country look, and, Francie realised with a start, the perfect face. This woman was stunningly beautiful, and this was the weirdest part: familiar."
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
What is your Teaser Tuesday? 

Monday, April 20, 2015

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

I see this book in the used book store.

I buy it and bring it back to Japan.

One fine day, when I have a few minutes to spare, I think "I guess I can fit one or two chapters in. I haven't read this in too long." Then....


Before I knew it, I was pushing back the estimated time I need to leave the house just so I could read more. I actually know the story, but still, it sucked me in (again).

I, Coriander is about, obviously, Coriander's life. I remembered this book as being vaguely related to fairytales, and there are fairies, but it's really about Coriander trying to survive when hardships hit. There's an evil stepmother, a casket, a magic shadow, and a fairy prince, all set in the backdrop of Oliver Cromwell's steadily increasing influence.

Most of the characters here are well-written. Coriander, her mother's waiting woman Danes, the tailor Thankless and his apprentice Gabriel, even her stepsister Hester. I thought they were all wonderfully written, and I even cheered on Hester and Gabriel. The villains of the piece, Maud and Arise were truly despicable, the way they abused Hester and Coriander. The only characters I didn't connect with were, strangely, the fairy fold. There is Medlar, whose role I'm not too sure about (is he a trickster of some sort?), and there's Tycho, the fairy prince. Perhaps it's because they weren't given as much space as the other characters, but they never really leapt of the page. But since they appeared only relatively few times, it wasn't much of a problem for me.

I may have read this a long time ago, but this reread showed that I still love the story. I'm really glad that I bought the book when I saw it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Coming Up Roses by Cath Kidston

This book was on sale at Popular, so I got it for a song. I've always known about Cath Kidston, and I like the pretty designs, so I figured I'd like a book about how the business was built.

Coming Up Roses was written to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Cath Kidston brand (I found out that Cath Kidston was founded in the same year that I was born!), and covers things such as her childhood, which influenced her style, her working life before she started the shop, the first few years of Cath Kidston, the growing pains, and so on. And of course, it's lavishly illustrated, with many photos and a series of prints in the middle of the book.

While the book is short, I did enjoy reading about the history of Cath Kidston. The brand came out from Cath Kidston's love of marrying antiques with modernity, and while I don't like every single piece that the brand comes out with, I do like quite a lot of it. It also made me want to go out and buy something from the shop, so I guess it was a fairly successful book.

The thing that I didn't like of the book was that it so heavily borrowed from the interviews with Cath Kidston. That by itself is fine, but it's jarring to read about Cath Kidston in third person, then have pages and pages of text referring to "I". I would have much preferred that the book be written either entirely in first or in third (I like first better, because it's a very warm, engaging voice).

You won't get much business advice in this book - it's very much a follow your heart, try your best and things will somehow be ok type of book - but it's a lovely, encouraging read all the same. It's probably suited to fans of the brand, and for entrepreneurs who need a dose of encouragement.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie

Compared to the previous Christie book I read (which was, I think, The Hollows), this was a disappointment.

Why Didn't They Ask Evans is not a Poirot or Miss Marple book, but instead stars Bobby Jones (fourth son of the vicar) and Frankie (Frankie's the daughter of the earl) as they try to solve the mystery behind the death that Bobby comes across while playing golf. The two friends hatch plots and investigate suspects, with the twists and turns meaning that the truth is always just out of grasp for most of the novel.

The problem for the story was that, for me, it was too unbelievable. Towards the end, a lot of the twists and turns depends on extremely convenient plot twists, possibly more so than normal Christie mysteries. Some of them really stretched my suspension of belief (and ignored previous things in the plot), and kept pulling me out of the story. Plus, I managed to correctly guess the murderer early on, so the constant red herrings that the characters fell for was maddening.

And unlike most of her books, this ending felt very trite and unsatisfying to me. Not all the books end with the murderer being caught (Murder on the Orient Express is one example), but for this book, I get the sense that no one really minds that the murderer is free because he's 'charming'. And with two murders and at least two attempted murders happening, it feels to me that life is valued less highly than charm.

As for characters, well, I'm still thinking of the lovable Lucy from The Hollow (and Poirot, who's just so endearing) and probably because of that, the characters didn't hold much charm for me. Bobby is normal, and Frankie is the unassuming heiress who's very much take-charge, but somehow easily duped (although she doesn't think so). For some reason, they never came to life for me, and felt contrived.

It's quite sad, but this book seemed to hit all the wrong notes. Perhaps it's because there was such a long gap between my previous Christie mystery and this one, or perhaps my expectations were too high, but oh well. I imagine that if it was a novel by another author, I would have enjoyed it, but from the Queen of Mystery? This just didn't live up to previous experiences.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Release Day Party: Storm Surge by R.J. Blain

Welcome to the release day party for Storm Surge by R.J. Blain! If you haven't read my review of the first book, well, you can find it here. And yes, you should totally read the first book before reading this as a lot of the world building was done in Storm Without End.

Storm Surge picks up where Storm Without End left off, with Kalen and a few of his guardians in a Mithrian mercenary camp run by Captain Silvereye. New guardians are created, a princess is found, and the time to prevent a war (or death by Skreed) is running out. And who knows what Crysallis, the witch wants?

Lots of things happened in this story, and it felt as if the plot moved forward a lot more. I especially love how the mercenaries had their character development in the story, and of course, the Yadesh. I can't believe I forgot about the Yadesh. The Yadesh are horse/deer-like creatures that can speak and determine when people are telling the truth. They all have personalities of their own, which makes them developed supporting characters in my eyes. Despite the fact that there were a lot more fleshed out characters, I never felt confused by what was going on, or about who was who.

Kalen and his guardians are as likeable as ever, although Kalen seems even younger in this book than the first, if that's possible. He is short, and he has this really childish sense of humour. It was quite startling for me to remember that he's 30 years old. Then again, Breton comes across as young to me, and he's one of the oldest guardians. Speaking of which, where were the other guardians? They were in the first book, but in this book, only the four that found Kalen were present. The rest were... probably still searching, I guess (although according to one plot point, I think they should have made their way to the camp by the end of the book).

Seriously, Kalen and his guardians, Captain Silvereye and his subordinates, and of course, the Rift horses and the Yadesh, these three groups were the highlight of the book. I love reading about them and their interactions.

The only character I didn't like was Princess Tala of Kelsh. Seriously, she was spoilt and useless and arrogant. And, for some reason, she reminds me of the token female character (or characters in some cases) in shonen manga; which, if you know me, you know I normally don't like. If her character and relationship arc develops the way I think it's going to, then this will be the part of the book that I cringe at. It's quite surprising, because Lady Delrose, Anrille, Verishi and the other women in the book are awesome characters that I root for. I didn't expect to find one I disliked.

Overall, with the exception of princess Tala, this was a good book. The foundation laid in Storm Without End really paid off, and the plot advanced at a good pace. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham

I managed to borrow another two Fiona Griffiths novels before I left, but due to general packing and busy-stuff, I only got to posting my review of the second book now. Contrary to what I thought, the Love Story in the title doesn't actually refer to the budding romance between Fiona and the normal policeman Buzz, but between two bodies.

What two bodies? Oh yeah. Ok, so one day, Fiona gets called to the scene of a now-dead old widow (not the victim), where she finds a leg. A leg complete with a pink high-heel shoe, frozen. When the police start searching for the rest of the corpse, they find other body parts, but these are male and freshly dead. Is there a connection between the two? Are the police overthinking it?

This novel brings over quite a few characters from the first over. Not Jackson, the guy in charge (there's another officer in charge for this case), but Penry, the criminal ex-officer makes his fair share of appearances, and of course, Fiona's family and friends play a part. In fact, I think that Fiona's family plays a bigger part in this mystery. Previously, it was hinted that not all of Fiona's dad's money came about legally; in this book, they tell me he's a crime boss. No wonder he wasn't happy that Fiona became part of the police force.

Fiona is as strange as ever, although she's slowly approaching normal. Very, very slowly. I mean, she still has that connection to dead people, and her illness is still casting its shadow, but she's making progress. She's becoming a normal girlfriend, she's starting to get along with her colleagues, and I forgot what, but there was a list. Fiona's as surprised as the reader.

I only have two "complaints" about the book, and one's not really a complaint. The not-really-a-complaint complaint is that the ending is unsatisfying. I want one where the bad guys die/get locked in jail, but the book mimics real life, where sometimes, bad people can do bad things and get away with it.

The other complaint is that this book seemed to have more swearing than the previous one. I'm not sure if I just didn't notice the swearing in the previous book, and was more sensitive in this, or if it was, but for readers who don't like this sort of thing, here's the warning. I don't like it, myself, but I think the novel is good enough that I'd read it.

When I next have the time, my review of the third book will be up, and I'd have caught up with the series (I think?)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Storm without End by R.J. Blain

I'm so glad that I read Storm Without End just before Storm Surge (the sequel) came out. Because by the time the book ends, you'll want to purchase the next one.

Storm Surge starts with Kalen, the Rift King, as he's out of his kingdom. Why? We don't know, but the poor guy is going to undergo a lot of suffering before the book ends. At the same time, his guardians are out there searching for him, because if he dies, the Rift will Ride. Ok, I don't know what that really implies, but it's a cool phrase that's repeated quite a few times.

Kalen, the poor guy with the worst luck in this book, is a young 30 year old Rift king who's been reigning for 15 years. Because of his small size and missing arm, people can underestimate him. Even I underestimated what he could do, although I could see he was smart. But at the end of the book, I found out just how powerful he is, which justified the reasons why the Rift King was so feared.

Apart from Kalen, there are a few other characters, like his father Breton and his - whoops, almost had a spoiler there. Suffice to say, Kalen's familial relations are complicated, even if we don't include his many, many adopted foals (sons/daughters. The Rift seems to love their horse and horse-inspired terms). Anyway, Breton comes across to me as a really sweet guy, although as a Guardian, I'm pretty sure I'd be scared of him if I met him.

As for the Rift, well, I haven't really figured out what it was. I know slightly more about this world at the end of the book than at the start, but I can't say I know everything. I know, for instance, how Kalen becomes the Rift King (and how Rift Kings are made), but the reason why the Rift King is so important, I still don't know.

This book basically builds up for the next book. This world that R.J. has built is very unfamiliar to me, so the time spent on getting to know it should pay off in the later books. At least, given the promising cast of characters so far, I hope it does.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Rift by J.T. Stoll

This one requires a pretty big disclaimer, so let me get it out of the way (I'll repeat it again later). Not only did I receive a free copy from the author, I happen to know the author. He's one of the WriteOn members, and I have traded critiques for it. That said, I've done my best to be objective.

The Rift follows four, well, they're not really friends, so perhaps averaging out their relationships, I'd say acquaintance? There's Vero, who's dating Pieter, who brought her on a double date with his friend Neil and Gloria. I suppose Pieter is the friend in common. Anyway, there are these four kids, and on the double date which wasn't really working out, they come across a dying soldier from another world. He warns them of a coming invasion, gives them special weapons then dies. The rest of the book would be about the four trying to decide what to do, and running away from two of the evil soldiers that slipped in when the first soldier did.

Because this book is the first in the series, a lot of the space is there for the laying of groundwork. Sure, the kids are running and learning how to deal with their weapons, but the threatened invasion is absent for most of the book. But, the start at the end does focus on the other world (which gave me a shock, because Chapter one and the Prologue seemed so drastically different), tying this to the overarching plot.

I liked Vero and her family, and I hope to see more of them in the next books. As for the other three, they did have their appearances, but I felt Vero was the strongest character, and I liked her the best. Gloria sort of, faded, into the background until the end. Neil and Pieter were basically opposites - One super enthused about getting a quest like in a video game while the other is just trying to get away from it.

This book was short, but I'm not lying when I say that I enjoyed it. I'm the sort that likes reading about people mastering new skills and new environments, so while I do wish that the story was a bit longer and had more about the other world, it was still a fun and fairly read for me.

Disclaimer (the second one): I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for a free and honest review.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter Break!

Hey everyone! I've got tons of reviews waiting to post, but it's Holy Week and I don't have much time to be on the Internet. Plus, I've got to prepare to go back to Japan, because I leave Monday night.

I'll probably see everyone next Tuesday (if I can).

Please enjoy this photo of flowers :D