Sunday, September 30, 2012

Adam in the New Testament by Richard B. Gaffin

I heard, a few years ago, that Genesis chapter one was allegorical, and that Adam wasn't real. And also, UFO's existed and God used evolution to bring about the earth. All at the Aldersgate Convention, an annual event held by the Methodist Churches of Singapore. I remember feeling very disturbed by the speaker and my suspicions were confirmed by the pastor.

If only I had known of Creation Ministries at that time. Or if only I had read Adam in the New Testament. This book is the perfect answer towards the whole "Adam did not exist" theory (although it says nothing about UFOs).

Adam in the New Testament is a short, translated book looking at whether Adam is a mere teaching model (and hence just allegory) or a historical figure. There are many who claim that whether Adam actually existed has no bearing on Christianity. I happen to think that they're wrong. As the introduction puts it, one of the biggest implications is that it results in

"a radically altered understanding of sin, particularly of the origin and nature of human depravity and the corresponding abandonment of any meaningful notion of the guilt of sin. This changed view of sin, in turn, results in a substantially changed notion of salvation. Eclipsed or even denied is Christ's death as a substitutionary atonement that propitiates God's just and holy wrath on sin and removes its guilt. And these shifted perceptions of sin and salvation are inevitably followed by a significantly different assessment of the Savior. Stressed is Christ's humanity, especially the exemplary aspects of his person and work (he is the "ideal man" realised within the constraints of the evolutionary process), an emphasis that minimises or even denies his deity."

If you still don't think this is significant, you seriously need to re-consider why you're still a Christian and what you believe in.

The book first explains the concept of the "Teaching Model" and then goes on to examine Romans 5:12-21, the verses that are central to this concept. After this, it examines other New Testament data and then rabbinic references to Adam. Lastly, the book sums up the arguments and its consequences.

If it sounds heavy going, it's not. Even though the original text is looked at, it's written in an understandably style and can be understood by anyone. It's also fairly short at under a hundred pages. In short, this is a book that should be on your bookshelf. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and this book helps us understand that

"Whoever divorces the work of redemption from the framework in which it stands in Scripture no longer allows the Word to function as the norm that determines everything."

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

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Hollywoord Scoop by Jordan Parker

Yesterday was my birthday, so I ran out of time to blog. But to make up from it, I'm reviewing a book from LibraryThing! (It's been a long time hasn't it?)

After a long period of inactivity on LibraryThing (it's not fun when you have to keep watching the number of books you add), I'm finally re-entering the world of member giveaways and early reviews! And one of the books that I recently received was this entertaining book - The Hollywood Scoop by Jordan Parker.

The Hollywood Scoop centers around 16 year old Josephine ("Joey") as she tries to become a real reporter. She gets a series of chances when she witnesses what could be the next big hit (the script I mean) gets stolen before her very eyes. The "mystery" is actually solved just after the half-way mark, which makes this book more about growing up than a mystery.

And it's a really sweet tale too. Joey is likable and honest. Her mother wants her to be a lady, but she wants to be a reporter - and this conflict provides quite a lot of avenue for growth. Plus, Joey is constantly worrying about her older brother, who's fighting in the war. All in all, it's not just a romance, it's not just a "wanna-be reporter" story, it's a very good mix of many different elements.

Oh yes, the setting. This book is set in WWII (the earlier days), but it doesn't seem to impact the story much. I mean, the book feels fairly historical, but the going-ons of the war don't bother the main characters (except for the fact that her brother is a soldier). I would have, however, appreciated more mention of the war. There is an instance where she realises that it's not just about the fighting (when she's told about the camps for the Japanese-Americans), which shows that it could be developed further.

Romance in this book, was at least realistic. I liked that she didn't fall for the guy straight away (That is probably my only criteria for whether I like the romance story), and they have an interesting relationship. But I think Elliot (the love interest), is rather heartless and manipulative, especially when the truth comes out. He does, however, become a better person/hides his flaws by the end of the novel.

Lastly, this book portrays smoking in a positive (or at least neutral) light. If you don't want someone younger to get the idea that smoking is cool (Elliot, the love interest, is always smoking), then you might not want to let them read this book. But if you've already developed a fairly firm stand on smoking, then it can't hurt you to read this sweet story.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author through LibraryThing in exchange for a free and honest review.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dragonsword by Deborah Teramis Christian

I found this free ebook through Google+. So bookworms, that should be enough of a reason for you to go onto Google+. And while you're at it, why don't you add my page to your circles? Ok, enough advertisement  It's time to talk about this fantasy book.

Like most fantasy, Dragonsword is long. On my iPad, it's 440 pages long. And because this is the first book in the series, it's spends quite a lot of time setting the background. But I didn't mind, because I found the childhood of the main characters very interesting (in fact, I thought that the book was going to be set during their childhood).

Dragonsword follows two opposing houses - House Isshki and House Palumara. Nebuki Palumara (the representative of House Palumara), is scheming to become the next Shengu, although the currect power of House Isshki makes the journey harder. In the meantime, Norigeo Kanato is fostered to Ushiyama Isshki after his mother's death (which makes House Isshki the "good guy" in the novel), where he grows up with Ushiyama's sons Temuro and Adukaro and his daughter Kiyani.

To me, Dragonsword's stroke of genius was to have the prologue in Nebuki Palumara's point of view. It created sympathy for him, and made the storyline much more complex than a "good-house vs evil-house". It tells the reader that while House Isshki is generally good, they do have (perceived) flaws like nepotism.

As for settings, it was really refreshing to see a book inspired by ancient Japan. Most fantasy books are inspired by a western country (very prominently, Lord of The Rings), and while that's great too, I was really psyched to see one inspired by Japan! It's obviously not ancient Japan (like the authoress says), but there are many similarities.

All in all, this is a really interesting novel. Plus it's free, so you have nothing to lose (except your time, which is said to be worth more than money). Go give it a read! Me? I have lots of other books on my TBR list, and I'm waiting for book 2.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Bartered Bride Collection by Nine Different Authors

Not long ago, arranged marriages were the normal way of getting married. (And at the rate I'm going, I'll have to get my parents to arrange a marriage for me too :p) So naturally, I was interested in this short story collection. It's quite long (each story is about 10 chapters), so I've got lots to say.

Starting from the top,

Joie De Vivre - I'm not sure where this story is located, (it mentions Acardians, so it may be in Canada), but it has a lovely French feel, without actually being in France. There was quite a lot of French words used, but it just added to the feeling of "French", and was understandable (you know those French words that somehow everyone knows). The story itself was sweet, although I would have liked it better if the conflict was further elaborated. And there was a loose plot end (which I just noticed :p)

Button Strong Bride - It's wound around this interesting concept that a woman must collect 1000 buttons before she marries, and when she does marry, it's to the man who gives her the thousanth button. So Charity (our heroinne), has to live with Ethan and his children due to unexpected difficulties on the road (they are moving to the frontier). It's an interesting romance story, although there is a bit of confusion about "unequally yoked". Ethan, at one point of time, says that apart from sharing the same faith, he and Charity would be unequally yoked. Well, that's not true. As long as both are Christians, they are equally yoked.

The Wedding Wagon - Frankly, this book disturbed me a little. My warning bells were first raised when the groom starting harping on how he was afraid Bethany (or "Bethy-mine" as he calls her) may have married him for his family. Then the word helpmeet (a word that has patriarchal connotations for me) appears. And then, the groom rejoices at finding his wife's great fear of water, because it will make her depend on him. But you know, there's a happy ending, because she likes his possessiveness, and at the end, she learns to ignore the needs of others and focus on him first.

From Halter to Alter - A really amusing and sweet story. It all starts when the evil brother-in-law tries to sell off our heroines (a group of four sisters) off as mail-order bride. But a mis-spelling of "bridals" as "bridles" means that they're sent of to a small town by mistake. A small town of only men I might add. So there's the amusement of life as they adjust (and as the town tries to court them), a cute budding romance between the oldest girl Matty and Jim, the man who accidentally "ordered" her. The ending is fitting and has some kind of "poetic justice" feel.

Oh, and at the end, there's a recipe for goosberry jam. I wanna try cooking....

From Carriage to Marriage - Number two in this series (it'st he sequel to From Halter to Alter), this story follows Corrie, Matty's sister, and Luke (Jim's brother). Corrie's a new (pregnant) widow and Luke's shy (he doesn't want to hurt her feelings or scare her). Basically, it's a sweet love story.

From Pride to Bride - Before I continue, I just noticed that all the stories in this series have rhyming titles. Yes, From Pride to Bride is the third book and follows the third sister Bess (a very prim and proper lady) as she tries to be independent. Along the way, she meets Gideon, the saloon owner (a.k.a. the guy who owns the den of iniquity in town). A really amusing story.

From Alarming to Charming - The last in this mini-series, this follows Bertie and the new stranger (well sort of, he used to live there) Thomas. It's probably the most interesting story because it also deals with racial prejudice (there's a Chinese family), although I don't recall a particularly satisfactory ending for that subplot. And there's a slight mystery, involving two generations and quite a lot of excitement. Well, Bertie has always been portrayed as tomboyish, so I suppose it's fitting that her story is exciting!

A Vow Unbroken - After From Alarming to Charming, this felt rather subdued. It was a sweet love story, but there was very little conflict, internal or external. To me, it was just meh.

Finishing Touches - The final book in the story, it had an interesting premise. The bride and groom got married because the original bride ran away shortly before the wedding. I liked how both sides had to work to overcome the barriers between them, although I think the ending with the sister wasn't plausibly resolved. If she wasn't flighty and didn't dump the groom for a momentary infactuation, then why did she even agree to marry him? That question was never resolved.

Generally, this is a really sweet book, and I liked seven out of nine stories. Which is a pretty good rate, if you ask me.

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Storm Thief by Chris Wooding

Welcome back to another Teaser Tuesday! Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading.

This week, I'm reading Storm Thief by Christ Wooding. I'm enjoying it so far, although I feel like I've read it before.... So my teaser is:

"They stood mesmerised as it uncurled and shifted, like a nest of snakes slowly writhing. The mirrors on its flanks were angling this way and that, making it seem as if the whole surface was in motion" (page 249)

Sounds cool right? What's your Teaser Tuesday?

Monday, September 24, 2012

PressReader App

Alright so today, I'm going to review something that's not a book!

-cue the gasps of horror-

But it's related to reading though

-audible sighs of relief (with everyone thinking "we don't have to listen to more of her life")-

You see, a few weeks ago, Caleb from PressReader contacted me about their app. Since I arrived in Japan, I haven't really been reading the papers, and I was actually craving the papers back home. Naturally, I was interested in reviewing this app. And the clincher was the fact that you could read offline. Since I only have wifi during school hours (where I can't read), the availability of offline reading was very appealing.

I've been using the app for about a month now, and I'm dreading the thought of life without it. The folks at PressReader gave me a pretty cool account for the time being, and I've been able to read The Star and Today newspapers everyday (and now, Guardian Review every Saturday).

Obviously, I love the app for the offline reading. That means you have to download the issues, but I didn't have any space problems with it. For papers that you want to read everyday, you can actually subscribe, and have it "automatically" download everyday. The only caveat is that you have to open the app for the download to start.

And, there are a lot of newspapers to read. While there wasn't The Straits Times or The New York Times(I suspect it's because they have their own iPad app), there are many many newspapers. I made quite a lot of people happy by letting them read their home papers (like The Cape Times, or this Korean paper). So I suppose for most people, they could find their favourite newspaper here. And, if you really love to read the papers like me, you can actually browse and try a lot of different papers from around the world.

Navigation-wise, it's pretty obvious. I had some problems figuring out how to delete the papers I didn't want, but it turns out I overlooked the "edit" button at the bottom left-hand side. You can search for the paper by Country or Language, which I thought was quite useful.

Apart from a few times when the app crashed (I suspect that's because my iPad is pretty old and starting to have some hardware issues), the app runs perfectly. I don't have any complaints in this department.

Oh, and before I forget, this is really like a newspaper. There are a few times, where the feature/comic is cut of halfway because it's printed in the middle. You can view two pages at a time, but the pictures still look a little strange (As though someone printed a picture in the middle, then folded it like a book), and the text becomes really small. You can zoom in, but I like the font size on the single page option (in landscape mode).

The bottom line is that this app is really cool. If you love the papers like me (or you know, need to read them for school/research), then it's worth paying money for this (And I saw a few, like one or two papers, which was free and didn't cost money; so the poor students like me can stick to those). But if you read only one paper and pretty much ignore the rest, you might as well stick to the app made by the publisher of that company (like The Straits Times), which might have better formatting and extra content.

Disclaimer: I received a free trial account from the company in exchange for a free and honest review.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Christmas Home by Greg Kincaid

How many of you have read A Dog Named Christmas? Chances are, if you're a book lover, you've read this heartwarming tale about how the right dog can change a family. Of course, I read it too (in fact, I own a copy). So, when I saw that a sequel was out on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Well.... I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it's a really sweet story and I did want to finish the book, but somehow, it wasn't as touching as A Dog Named Christmas. 

Personally, I think this is all the fault of the narrative choice. The book is written in third person (and if I remember rightly, A Dog Named Christmas was written in first person). While this was necessary, as the book jumped from character to character, it ended up distancing me from the characters. I think, the book would have been much better if it had the immediacy and intimacy of the first-person narrative. 

As to the plot, it's interesting. Due to the economic slowdown, the small town is struggling. It's struggling so much that they have to close the shelter where Todd now works. And so, Todd, Haley and the volunteers at the shelter do their best to either keep the shelter open or find homes for all the animals in the race against time. In addition, Todd has to struggle with finding a new job, and we're also given a look into his relationship with Laura. 

All in all, this is a really sweet and short book. I didn't feel very touched by it, but I have a feeling that it will touch a lot of (other) people.

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

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Long Reads #11

I'm trying a new way of writing, in hopes that it means that I can read more articles and write more about them too! This time, I focused on Singapore. Yes, I'm homesick.

Disneyland with the Death Penalty by William Gibson - I'm assuming that this piece was written a long long time ago because it feels dated. And honestly, how is Singapore like Disneyland? We only just got a USS. Apparently, Singapore is too boring, except for the death penalty. Well.... when I went to America, it was, interesting (if you count seeing a lady walk a man with a leash and collar interesting) but still, it just made me decide that I didn't not want to live there. I think there's something under appreciated about peace and quiet (and a healthcare system that is somewhat affordable).

Singapore by Ian Burma - Again, something written really long ago. If anyone knows long-form essays written about Singapore published recently, please tell me. These articles seem to value journalistic freedom very highly, without considering if the papers sued by the goverment/ Lee family really did commit libel. I don't know the facts so I can't say much, but that's why I read articles like that.

The Place to Disappear by Susan Orlean - I forgot that the Singapore Sling is a famous drink (don't ask me why). This article is actually about one particular road in Thailand that's the destination for back-packing tourists. It's an interesting article and reads like a travel article.

The Singapore Solution by Mark Jacobson - The article is fairly recent, published only two years ago. And I think out of all the articles I read, this was the most balanced article. Yes, he does talk about Singapore's censorship, but he also mentions that it's a trade-off for peace and prosperity. And I thought he made some good points about the internet. Plus, he got to interview the (ex)MM Lee Kuan Yew, which yielded interesting insights. If you're going to read about Singapore, this is the article to read.

What about you?

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Hollow Dream of Summer's End by Andrew Van Wey

Last year, I reviewed Forsaken by Andrew Van Wey. In my review, I mentioned that I (somewhat stupidly I admit), started reading this at night just before exams. The end result? I didn't sleep much because I was hiding under the covers reading (this romantic image being spoilt by the fact that I was reading from my iPad).

And just recently, he emailed me to ask if I was interested in reading his new novella A Hollow Dream of Summer's End. Honestly, I was touched. I'm just an unknown reviewer yet so many people are willing to give me the opportunity to read their books.

But enough gushing. This time, I was smart and resisted the urge to start reading this during lunch. I actually waited till the end of school before devouring the book. And devour the book I did. Like Forsaken, I couldn't put this book down and ended up reading it all in one go. It's a good thing this book is less than a hundred pages or I would probably still be reading.

The book centers around three boys: Freddie, Aiden and Brian. One night, while they're at a sleepover, something comes for them. It doesn't sound much, but it's exciting and has a pretty interesting twist at the end of the book.

Although this book is fairly short, I'm glad that time was taken to briefly introduce the characters and the situation. This was done in a summary about the boys summer vacation (the story takes place at the end of said vacation). With this, it was easy to remember which character was which, and made me more emotionally invested in the book.

Plus, one of the strengths of the book is how it explores the relationship between the three boys. They're supposed to be best friends, but as they're being hunted by the monster, their friendship is tested. And so are their characters. It's an interesting look as to how fear can change a person's character.

The language of the book is fairly family-friendly throughout the whole book, except for the ending where the f-word is mentioned. But I admit that it's natural for boys of that age to use it when they're agitated (I know because I spent the last two years yelling at boys of a similar age for using it :p).

If you liked/loved Forsaken, you would definitely enjoy this book. It's a bit creepy, a bit scary, and a very interesting read.

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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I recently reviewed The Distant Hours (review was posted on another site) and now, I finished her latest book The Secret Keeper! To me, the books just get better and better. The Secret Keeper is dreamy, romantic and has a good mystery in it.

Like The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper has a daughter (Laurel), investigating into her mother's (Dorothy) past. Because there are some things that Laurel can never hope to find out, the book alternates between war-time London and the present. As to the secret - well, when she was a teenager, Laurel saw her mother kill a stranger. And now that her mother is dying, she wants to find out why. And who is "Ma" anyway?

To me, the book shone because of the war-time London plot. The main characters were Dolly (Dorothy), Vivien and Jimmy, with a few supporting characters that played fairly important roles. It's a well-written story that has romance, friendship and revenge. To me, it was a very well-written story about how human emotions work.

As for the present-day plot, it's basically a mystery. Like The Distant Hours, as the plot progresses, the two sub-plots intertwine. To me, the plot in The Secret Keeper is actually superior to The Distant Hours. There are many twists and turns, all of them unexpected but believable. Especially the last plot twist. It was really unexpected, but wasn't over-stretched (I will never forget the plot twist where everything was blamed on the sudden appearance of an evil twin. I've forgotten the book and plot, but not this part ._.).

If you like Kate Morton's writing, you'll definitely love this book. It's quite long (over 400 pages on the iPad), but that shouldn't stop you. The book is engrossing and really pulls you in.

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge: Pyramids

So this month, the book I'm reading for this challenge is one that I found at BookOff. I have a feeling it's a satirical take on Ancient Egypt, but who cares? It's a fun read!

This book is one of those "stand-alone" Discworld books. The Assassin's Guild does appear, but most of the Ankh Morpork characters don't. Instead, it stars Teppic, a (new) member of the Assassin's Guild, unexpectedly called back to become the Pharoh of the desert Kingdom Djelibeybi. Basically, he has to struggle with a High Priest telling him what to do, while unsuspectingly making a big mess of his father's pyramid.

In Pyramids, the starring character is clearly Teppic. And maybe his father, the Late King (I find the Late King the most entertaining fellow in the book). To me, the book is about tradition versus mordenity, and so, doesn't actually have a villain. But I guess Dios, the ancient High Priest, comes as close to a villain as possible, with him forever telling Teppic what to do. Apart from the three characters mentioned above, there's also Ptracie, the "headstrong handmaiden", although she spends most of the book being so straightforwards as to appear inept.

Apart from the whole tradition/modernity thing, the book also takes a look at Royalty. I mean, there's no Royalty in Ankh-Morpork (The Patrician is a tryant, not a royal after all), so this book explored how people viewed royalty and the extremes that it can go to (such as cutting of the hand that touched a royal). That accounts for a lot of the humour in the book, because Teppic has been away for so long that he's out of touch with how the people of Djelibeybi feel.

For example:

"The king ambled toward him in a nonchalant way designed to make the master builder feel he was among friends. Oh no, Ptaclusp though, he's going to Remember my Name.
Why couldn't kings order people around like the old days? You knew where you were then, they didn't go around being charming and treating you as some sort of equal, as if you could make the sun rise too."
The amazing thing about this book is that at the end, there's a section that introduces Discworld, with the customary humour in the books themselves. Because I brought this along with me to a Kendo taikai (competition), I got to introduce Rena to the book. And yes, she laughed a lot. In fact, I think that there may be one more fan to the Discworld series.

Now, does anyone know where to find a copy of Jingo? That's the book that Rena (and I) want to read the most.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

I've wanted to read this book for at least three years, maybe four. It all started when I did an except as part of an Unseen Prose test (I will continue over-sharing in my review). And now, I managed to get a copy for only 200 yen! In what I consider mint condition too(: And so, without further ado, is my teaser:

"Priests and masters tell us Confirmation means you're a true soldier of the Church and that entitles you to die and be a martyr in case we're invaded by Protestants or Mahommedans or any other class of heathen. More dying. I want to tell them I won't be able to die for the Faith because I'm already booked to die for Ireland." 

I know it's three sentences, but the middle one is so short it shouldn't count! And like always, Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. So tell me, what are your teasers?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores Edited by Greg Ketter (ARC)

I'm not a fan of the cover though...
I think it mis-represents the book.
As you can obviously see, I'm a huge huge bibliophile. So when I saw this anthology about stories that feature a bookstore, I had to read it. However, I have fairly mixed feelings about the book. To me, the book had rather weak stories as it's starting and ending, but the middle stories were wonderful! I really really loved them. My favourite stories were:

The Hemingway Kittens: Successfully mixing kittens in a bookstore with science-fiction elements, this makes me want to grow up and start a bookstore with kittens in it! Well, almost. I don't relish the idea of having to clean up and feed kittens everyday. A really adorable story.

Lost Books: It's a ghost story (I mean, there's literally a ghost/undead person in it). But it wasn't scary and was really rather sweet. I enjoyed the idea of loving books through time and space.

Pixel Pixes: A tale with the fey in it! Well, it makes sense that such a story is here, because really, we're all introduced to fairies from books right? This was an entertaining story, and struck the right balance between the traditional fairies and the modern world.

Blind Stamped: Again, this story looks at loving books beyond the physical constraints. It appears that a lot of stories featuring ghosts like to do this. Still, I'm not complaining, I thought it was really well-written, a bit spooky at first but with a really cool ending.

Ballard's Books: Featuring a mysterious shop and a not-so-likable protagonist, this story looks at the idea of changing fate. Personally, I thought the protagonist deserved what was coming to him.

Books: Ahh, something about the addictive-ness of books. One of the creepiest stories, but very well-done. As a tip, don't read this as the last story before you go to bed. Especially if you bed faces a shelf of books. If you're anything like me, your imagination may get the better of you (;

Escapes: Another one of the books-literally-change-lives stories. But I thought it was really interesting. Plus, the author has created an engaging and sympathetic heroine, with a very distinct bookstore. I was really impressed with how the conflict-resolution plot was tightly written into a few pages. One of my favourite stories (along with the kittens)

I Am Looking for a Book.....: A parody of the 'book of power' and it has a protagonist that wouldn't feel out of place in Discworld. I laughed a lot while reading this book, and I thought it was very clever.

The rest of the stories (around 6 in total), I didn't quite understand. That, and I didn't really like the protagonists, made it a bit disappointed with the book. I think, if you're interested in this book, you should borrow it from the library first before deciding if you want to buy it. It's definitely one of those books you can read over and over again, but first, you have to decide if you want to re-read these stories.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Economics Without Illusions by Joseph Heath

Ever since I've come to Japan, I've started to believe that some books are meant to be bought. Books that are meant to be bought will always be on the shelf when you return - like this book. I didn't know if I wanted to buy the book, but after thinking over it, I really wanted it, and was so happy when I went back a few weeks later and found it on the shelf.

This book aims to show why the favourite views of the Right and Left (the American Right and Left political views that is), are both wrong. For this, I instantly agree with the book. In Singapore too, most of the views held tend to be very extreme, with little to no middle ground. So, it's refreshing to see a book which (implicitly at least) endorses a middle ground.

First, the book looks at fallacies held by the Right. The book tries to show why a completely free market will never work, why welfare policies (like universal health care) can be a good thing, and generally debunks the commonly used arguments.

Just when becoming a Liberal/going to the Left sounds like a good idea, the book goes and shows you why a lot of ideas held by the Left (like equal pay for everyone) is also a terrible idea.

The whole book is very entertaining, and a lot of interesting (and relevant) examples are used. It's shown that there tends to be a huge gap between idea and reality. The book also doesn't try to give a one-size fit all answer, and looks at the external effects of certain policies. This isn't to say the book is all pragmatic, it actually has quite a lot of heart (although you see this more when dealing with policies proposed by the Right rather than Left).

In short, this is an excellent book. It might not be orthodox economics (well, not for say, an introduction to it), but it shows a lot of common sense. And if you're studying economics as a subject, make this part of your required reading so you have a broader view and can list convincing counter-arguments/arguments in your essays.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hermitage House Miracle

Another short review for a short but sweet book!

This is another of the "my childhood!" books (I should create a category for that!). It's a short (seventy plus pages) book, but it has a rather interesting storyline. Although to be honest, the title is a little misleading, it's not really about a Miracle involving Hermitage House.

Ok, the basic plot of this book goes like this: Jamie's a newly made orphan at Hermitage House. Unlike Magaret and the Moth Tree, this orphanage is really nice. But, Jamie's been getting unsettling dreams about his past. A past that's supposed to be impossible.

The Miracle is never explicitedly mentioned, but it's easy to guess what it is at the end of the book. What I can probably say without giving away the whole plot is that there's a dual crisis in the book: Jamie's personal crisis (which is the main plot) and the crisis facing Hermitage House. At the end, there are a few loose strings that aren't tied up, but if the authors decided to wrap up everything, I think it would be too long and boring (because it involves legal matters like custody).

This book is really sweet, with a few well-thought out characters. There's Jamie, there's his best friend, and there are the Sisters in Hermitage House (I count all of them as one character :p). Since this book is short, each of them is given a perculiar trait to distinguish them. Thankfully, none of it feels forced and the characters are endearing.

I would say that this is a book aimed at younger readers. It's a nice change from all the paranormal fiction coming up, although I suppose to a kid raised on vampires, this might be considered too boring.

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

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Giveaway results!

Hi all!

If you were keeping track, yesterday was the last day of my giveaway contest. And although very few people entered, there were still entries -celebrates-.

And the winner (as decided by Stella) is...


Congrats, you win these two really awesome books!

Please email me your mailing address, and I'll mail the books to you the next time my scholarship money comes in.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker

While reading this book, I had to keep in mind that it was fiction. You see, L: A Novel History is written in the exact same style as a biography - complete with appendixes.

L purports to show the dangers of a charismatic individual on a nation. Much like, Hitler, Stalin etc (the book also gives these men as examples). In a re-imagining of history, Britain, in a bid for, I don't know, to be contrary I suppose, managed to achieve a despotic government.

And at the center of it is L. A charismatic and unknowable character. Since this is written in the style of a biography, it's impossible to have an emotional connection with L. The distancing effect means that to me, this is nothing more than a creative imagining of what history could have been.

But what the book excels at is to show how the public can be so easily manipulated. The events in the book are very very believable, and it's easy to see how sleight of hand can be used to create distrust and violence among people.

The biggest thing about this book is it's narrative form. The fact that it reads like a biography is it's greatest strength and weakness.

It's the book's greatest strength because it's so interesting. Plus, it prevents us from sympathising with L too much. In addition, it allows the author to talk events not necessarily known by L or his cronies (As seen when the state of society is talked about). A lot of events and people which might be left out in a conventional narrative form could be included here. And since one of the aims of the book is to show how a charismatic leader could rise to power, using the form of a biography was a very smart move.

But, because it's a biography, the language tends to be rather formal, much like reporting. What this meant is that I tended to get bored with it. I suspect that some places where I felt bored was because I was tired of the style of writing. The events were definitely interesting, but the factual reporting style got a bit tiring after a while.

Still, it's an interesting book, and I think a lot of people will enjoy it. But if you cannot stand non-fiction books, I don't recommend it.

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Amazingly, I found a Terry Pratchett Discworld book at BookOff! And naturally, I had to buy it. So, this week's teaser comes from Pyramids by Terry Pratchett:

"The late king had had many fine attributes, but doing mighty deeds wasn't among them. The score was: Number of enemies ground as dust under his chariot wheels = 0. Number of thrones crushed beneath his sandaled feet = 0. Number of times world bestrode like colossus = 0. On the other hand: Reigns of terror = 0. Faces of poor ground = 0. Expensive crusades embarked upon - 0. His life had, basically, been a no-score win." (page 150)

I know it's more than two sentences, but once I started, I couldn't stop!

Remember, Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Now, what are your teasers for this week?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Claus by Tony Bertauski

I thought I knew all the variations of Santa Claus. I mean, how original can you get about the big fat man in red? While, I'm evidently wrong, as seen by Claus.

Last year, I reviewed The Annihilation of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski. And he was kind enough to think of me when he published Claus. And I was not very easy to work with.

The first time I tried to read the book, there was something wrong with the formatting because there weren't any paragraphs. So I ended up complaining and yay, it got fixed! I'm really grateful to have the second chance to read this book because it's fantastic! I would say that it's actually better than the Annihilation of Foreverland (to me at least).

Claus follows the tale of the Santa family, as they meet the Elven folk, currently under the tyrannical rule of Jack (is that a reference to Jack Frost I wonder?), his oppressed brother Claus and a rebel colony. The family is separated and the two narrative strands race towards and exciting (and unexpectedly moving) conclusion.

This book is quite thick. It's over 400 pages. Yet, I didn't really feel the length. I think with my intermittent reading (meaning that I was reading about 4 books at the same time), I finished it in about 3 days. Yes, it's that good. When I started, I didn't want to stop. Of course, the pacing of the book really helped. Each chapter wasn't very long, so I kept thinking "just one more chapter, it won't take very long".

The characters were wonderfully written. There was the Claus family, and the Elven. Each character had their own distinct personality and really came to life. But what I probably liked best was the characterisation of Jack, the villain of the piece. Even while he was so obviously evil, you could see that he was emotionally disturbed, and his characterization was such that the plot-twist at the end involving him was believable, though unexpected.

I really recommend this book. It's interesting and well-written. I found the occasional grammar error here and there, but it didn't bother me much.

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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Margaret and the Moth Tree by Brit Trogen and Kari Trogen

For some reason, I had the thought "my childhood!" when reading this book. It reminded me of the books I loved (and still love) to read as a child. Ah, my childhood, days of Enid Blyton, The Bookworm Gang and a bunch of stories whose titles I have forgotten but plot sticks in my head. (People around my age should know what I mean ;) )

On a side note: does anyone know how to find the title of a book from the plot?

At a short seventy-plus pages, you may thing that there's not much. But this story grabbed my attention from the very start. The plot is also much more than what you would expect from the story. It's about orphans with pluck (the most important thing), a cruel villianess and an unexpected ally.

Margaret, the protagonist, is a lovable character. She's still a child, and she's living in the difficult circumstances I associate with books and Disney movies. But, she has a special gift - listening. It sounds boring, but the authors have managed to make it a useful and interesting talent. Plus, I was really happy to see that she got this gift not through magic or birthright, but her circumstances. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!

I shall not spoil this book, because if I keep talking, I will probably give away something important about the plot. But I will say that you should really read this sweet and short book. If you have sisters/juniors/kids, even better! You can get this book for them too!

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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Long Road Ahead (Quote)

I actually have quite a lot of reviews to share, but then, I realised that I haven't shared a quote for such a long time! So I searched my images a little, played around on, and here's the quote that I want to share:

Isn't it a beautiful quote? The full quote is:

"I have walked the long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter, I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."

As I take more photos, I'll see if they fit any of the quotes I want to share. I'd really love to share The Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, and Irish Blessing if I can find the appropriate photos.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee (ARC)

When I first read (First Date), I didn't know what I was getting into. I started getting an inkling at Starring Me, and now, I can safely say that Krista McGee is one of my favourite authors! I started Right Where I Belong one night and simply couldn't put it down!

Right Where I Belong loosely follows the story of Ruth. Natalia, our protagonist, has decided to follow her ex-stepmother Maureen to America to comfort her about her divorce from her father. Because of the many failed relationships she has seen, Natalia has firmly decided to remain single. But what will she do when she meets Brian, the pastor's son and sparks fly?

Personally, this book was a wake-up call to me. I've been praying about this subject recently, and I was wondering if I was supposed to be single. Like how my friend and I were complaining to each other - it's so hard to wait! But reading this book, it showed me that God has his own plan and timing for everything in my life, even the parts that I'm impatient about.

As for characters, they were fabulous! First, there's Natalia. She's a rich girl from Spain, but so humble. Natalia struggles with her feelings, something I can completely understand. Vying for her attention is Brian, the pastor's son who isn't so popular and the popular Spencer, who really seems like a jerk. But both boys don't stay the same, they grow and well, the book really focuses more on their growth than this "love triangle" (the fact that Natalia turns them down for most of the book means there's none of this angst that's been appearing in YA books).

Plus, and this was a big bonus for me: Addy's here! And Kara and Lexi. I was silently screaming in my room (it was close to midnight and it's not a good idea to anger the tutors) when I realised that this book was set in the same fictional universe as First Date and Starring Me. While Kara doesn't play a significant role (she's a star after all), Addy and Lexi play fairly significant parts in the story. It was really nice to see those familiar faces again.

If you loved any of Krista McGees books, you have to read this one too! And if you haven't read her books, you should give it a go.

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt

I kinda wish I could say this book wasn't as racist as what everyone was saying. But who am I kidding? Reading this book made me angry. I couldn't sleep at night because I was mentally screaming at the characters and blatant racism in this book.

Shall we start with the title? Revealing Eden itself isn't that bad. It has Biblical associations, implying something about paradise being found. But then, it's subtitled: "Save the Pearls". So right from the start, the book is saying that there's a group of people who are precious (like their namesake) and need to be saved.

Alright, I'll ignore the plot for this book review. But the fact that even a humanities student like me can see the obvious contradictions in the plot (especially the science part) means that the suspension of disbelief required for any fiction novel is near impossible to achieve.

And about the setting. Um, where's the oppression? How is there a water shortage but there's internet? There's something seriously wrong with resource allocation here. And personally, if I wanted to write a book that 'turns racism on its head', I would have done the opposite. Make the heroine dark-skinned. Of course, in that case, I'll be writing historical fiction. Hmm.... so what would I do if I couldn't do anything but write a white heroine? How about this: because of some implausible reason, the lighter-skinned people are almost wiped out. But the African Americans and others remember how they were treated and now help the new minority, treating them with respect and kindness. But of course, those that remember their days as 'superior' plot to destroy what they see as the disrespectful 'overloads'. So our (white) heroine does the courageous thing and betrays those intolerant people, ensuring the continuation of peace.

Now on to the characters. Before I start talking about Eden, let's talk about the use of stereotypes. First off, the different races and nationalities are completely ignored. I'm not a sociologist, but I'm pretty sure that Indians from India, Native Americans, Africans are all (while being dark-skinned) different from one another. So why are they all lumped in together as "Coals"? And it seems like the author cannot bear to have anything bad happen to a white-skinned person. Despite their 'oppression', they're given high-ranking positions in science (of course, they're the only people smart enough for this qualification), are healthy and hardworking (because you know, Eden keeps having to take over for the co-workers who are always ill). In short, they're model employees despite the oppression that I never see.

In addition, why are the "Indians" speaking Spanish? I was under the impression that people from India speak Hindi, Tamil or their other native languages. And why do they not have Indian names? Perhaps a more accurate term should have been used. Actually, the whole book could have been more accurate.

And now, Eden. Of course, Eden is perfect. She flip-flops in her emotions, but that's ok. Because she was merely in denial the first time, and of course she's really in love the second time round. And you know, she hates herself and has low self-esteem despite the fact that I get the feeling that deep down, she loves her skin tone the best (she complains and wishes to be dark, but those complains ring hollow). And even when she's out of society, she still has a pretty easy life. And of course, she's so bright, figuring out things normal people can't do. What a Mary-Sue.

So basically, I felt that this book was racist because it didn't promote equality of the races. Rather, it lifted up one race (the pearls) and (either knowingly or unknowingly) diminished the value of another race (the Coals).

Lastly, this isn't about racism, but I felt that the book was unduly sexual. It's supposed to be a YA book right? But it has descriptions (especially towards the end), where I felt like bestiality was being described. It was unexpected and frankly, it was repugnant. I'm sorry if you want more details, but I can't bring myself to write more. Just please, stay away from this.

To be honest, I only read this book because I was really curious. Plus, I heard a comment to the effect of "only white people have read and reviewed my book" so as what you call a "person of colour", I wanted to add my two cents. And my honest opinion is: this book really is racist.

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Liberator by Bryan Davis

Wow, am I at the end of this amazing series already? It seems like just a short while ago, I was being introduced to Koren, a slave who's trying to find out the truth and Jason, a boy from Major Four who's trying to find out what happened to his brother. And now, Koren has realised that she's a Starlighter and Jason is playing a major role in the liberation of slaves on Starlight. And we've been introduced to so many characters, most of whom have grown throughout this series.

In the final book, a lot of events are happening.

Oh, you wanted more detail right? Well, the soldier's from Major Four are here, the Benefile have been released and Taushin is still plotting something. All this will lead to one final, major collision that ends most of the problems that our characters are facing now.

In the book, there's a lot of talk about how Cassabrie is unpredictable and hard to understand, but personally, I thought she was one of the most straightforward characters. In fact, I thought that Koren was more unpredictable (really, helping Taushin again?). I'm trying to understand her, but I don't understand how even after all she's learnt, she still thinks she can out-wit Taushin by pretending to work with him. Basically, Cassabrie expressed my feelings when she said

"Are you listening to yourself? You put your own wrists in manacles! Koren, how many more times are you going to enslave yourself? You think you won't be persuaded to join the darkness, but your bonds say otherwise."

As for the other characters, wow, you can really see how they've grown. And if you're interested in the love life of Jason, just know that there's a really sweet ending in store for him.

The topic that caught my eye the most in this book would be the racism. Literally, racism, as in dragons versus humans. I think by this book, it's clear to the reader that the dragons aren't cardboard characters, they're characters that change and grow just like the human characters. Yet sadly, it seems like while Axard and Magmar are slowly getting over their prejudices about humans, the humans are still far away, with quite little progress (except for Tibalt). I think this is because the book focuses on the liberation of humans rather than inter-species coorporation, but it was just a topic that struck me. It's certainly not a main theme in this series.

Before I end, I want to share this lovely quote from the book.

"I was speaking about idolatry. For some, their idol is a grudge that is nursed and prepared for the day of wrath. For others, it is an end to suffering, or a beloeved person, or perhaps the idea of love itself. Any idol is able to turn a mind from the Creator, so they must all be purged by choice or smashed through trials, and only then will darkeness turn to light."

You probably shouldn't pick up this book staight away, the plot is quite confusing without prior knowledge. What you should do is to read the entire series. Start with Starlighter, move on to Warrior, and finish Diviner before you pick up this wonderful book!

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

And don't forget! My book giveaway of Starlighter and Diviner closes in one week from now on the 12/9/2012!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beloved by Toni Morrison

I'm going to sound like some uncultured philistine after this review.

Beloved is one of those books that you (or at least I) always hear about. As a really good book, one that changes your lives and such. I think I first heard of it in How To Read Literature Like A Professor, where the whole metaphor of the four horseman of the Apocalypse was discussed. So really, it sounded like a really fantastic book and I was so thrilled to find it at BookOff.

And to be sure, the book has really beautiful language. Sometimes, the prose feels like poetry. Reading it is just, wonderful. I think you could probably just turn to any page in this book and find a quote that you want to remember forever.

But somehow, I didn't connect with this book. I didn't connect with the characters and I didn't connect with the plot.

If we're talking about plot, I understood the plot. In the end. But there were long frustrating stretches where I was very lost about what was going on. Sometimes, being lost can be fun but here, it just made me really frustrated. I could understand the past, as it was revealed in bits and pieces, but when I was introduced to Beloved, I got so confused. I actually had to refer to Wikipedia to understand what was going on.... I get that there's supposed to be ambiguity, but I really do wish that there was less ambiguity.

Characters, characters. Well, Denver was my favourite character and Paul D was my least favourite. I liked Denver because she was sensible and because she grew throughout the novel. I didn't like Paul D because he was mistaken about Denver (why does he call her slow-witted?) and because, well, just because. I'm pretty much neutral about Sethe and Beloved.

In short, this book was pretty average for me. I liked it, but I didn't feel any strong emotions about it and I definitely wasn't changed by the book. Perhaps it's because my expectations were so high, but I wanted to laugh and cry and live another life reading this book.

Personally, I prefer I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. It's an autobiography, but it's really moving and well, I (perhaps wrongly) expected Beloved to touch me in the same way.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Samurai Awakening by Benjamin Martin

While I don't really care about how accurate books set in Western countries are, I have this almost fanatical need for any book set in Asia to be accurate. This normally means my books set in Asia are normally written by Asians (except Neil Humphrey, although he could practically be considered a Singaporean by now).

So it was with some trepidation that I started reading Samurai Awakening. I wondered, how would you make it plausible for an American to become a Samurai? But I needn't have worried, this book exceeded my expectations. It's a must-read!

Before I start my usual ramble on character and plot, can I talk about how happy I was that Japanese was included in the first few chapters? (before David, the protagonist, understood Japanese). It wasn't some random word in romaji too, it was a proper sentence, with kanji! And the way they translated the sentence into English wasn't a literal translation, but something like how we would translate for people. That was probably the defining section of the first chapter that caused me to fall in love with this book. I was actually jumping about in my room screaming about this!

Character-wise, it was great too! David isn't a Gary Sue (thankfully). He's a gaijin, but he's a gaijin that's willing to learn and adapt. He might have been a bit annoying in the beginning, especially when he didn't seem to try and fit in, but I have days where I feel like that, so I can't criticise much. The Japanese characters all have diverse personalities and are clearly not stereotypes. In particular, I thought the change in Natsuki's character was really interesting.

Plot-wise, it was interesting. I might be repeating myself a lot, but it felt like the first book in the series. There might be too much introduction for some people, but I enjoyed reading about how David grows into a true warrior. It's not an action book, but it's definitely interesting.

With regards to accuracy, well, most, if not all, of the modern Japanese culture touched upon felt accurate to me. When the book switched to oni, obake, youkai and the mythological legends of Japan, I'm pretty sure a lot of creative license was taken. So if you're fanatical about having your mythologies accurate, you might feel frustrated at this point.

And while I was so happy to see that Kendo would be playing a part, it's clear that this kendo is completely different from the kind I learn (I think it's made up too). But, it's quite interesting to read about it, and it wasn't mentioned that much. But for this, I would have preferred if a more general term was used (like 武道 budou - the way of the warrior) rather than a specific discipline since creative liberties were taken.

If you're a fan of Japan, you have to read this book!

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

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Long Reads #10

I'm back! I still haven't been able to get much reading done, but it's better than nothing~

Beat Boutique by Lindsay Zoladz - This essay was about something called a music library. I've never heard of it before, but apparently, that's where a lot of the jingles in the commercials come from. It's quite an interesting look, because it uses music libraries and explores the whole commercialism in art idea.

When S'mores aren't enough: the New Economics of Summer Camp by Natasha Singer - I wish I could go to summer camp. It sounds really fun. But then again, I'm not a fan of nature. I don't dislike it, but I prefer to appreciate nature from the comfort of an air-conditioned room, away from bugs. If more and more kids are like me, than it might explain why summer camp is struggling. To be honest, I've never thought of this before, the biggest impression summer camp has left on me was that it was in The Parent Trap. But it does sound like a viable idea, and it'll be nice to see if the business model could be tweaked without changing the essence of summer camp.

The Worst Marriage in Georgetown by Franklin Foer - This is a look into how naive Washington can be sometime, and at an unscrupulous guy who, well, I'm not sure what his motives are. But apart from trying to fool the elite in Washington, he also abused (and killed) his wife, who's about forty years older than him (if I remember correctly).

The People Own Ideas by Lawrence Lessig - A look as to how the open source economy works. Personally, I'm all in favour of open source, but then again, I don't exactly have the cash to spend. But I suppose that if I was an author or something, I'd want people to pay for my books. But as a counter-example, Paulo Coehlo actually calls on his readers to pirate his books, because he believes that this increases demand and ultimately book sales.

Let's Try to Think This iPad Mini Thing All The Way Through by John Gruber - an iPad mini? Personally, I just want an iPad 3 with retina graphics (and 3G access, I want Internet on my iPad). But if an iPad mini is really affordable, I might be tempted into buying it, especially for reading and such. But in that case, wouldn't the kindle (or the kobo) be a better choice?

And on an unrelated but important note, Happy Teachers Day to all teachers! I've had many teachers and most of you have always encouraged me to read and explore (and I'm sorry for always reading under my desk during lessons).