Thursday, January 31, 2013

What The Plus by Guy Kawasaki

If you can't figure out from my sidebar, I'm a huge huge fan of Google+. I don't actually have a facebook page for this blog, but I do have a Google+ page. So when I saw this free ebook from Guy Kawasaki, I jumped on it.

What The Plus is a simple introduction to Google+. It's aimed at the completely uninitiated, although I did pick up some things I didn't know, and learnt a few tips. That said, it is aimed at turning someone into a power user. Personally, I'm fine with how I am now, and I don't need to get a huge increase in followers.

Plus, I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of the book - that Google+ is for passions. My Google+ actually only became really active (and a lot of fun), in December, when I met the NaNoWriMo community (HI EVERYONE! ~Waves~). I was one of the few people I knew doing this, so the community there was a huge help. Just reading their posts reminded me that I'm not alone, and that other people are struggling with me!

Of course, the hangouts were awesome (even though I only participated in one). I actually would like to participate in more hangouts, but there's a huge time difference for the ones I'd like to join.

The book has a lot of things: a chapter for us ladies, a chapter for us photographers (I'm a terrible amateur photographer), etc. It doesn't have one thing though: a chapter on communities. But admittedly, that is a very recent developement on Google+. I'm still feeling my way around, but if anyone has any tips on how to make them more fun, please tell me!

(And of course, if you're in Japan/interested in Japan and love to read, you can always join my community Readers in Japan. It's dual language, and really, all you need is to have bought books in Japan (for two categories), or read a Japanese book (for the rest). I'd really love it if you joined and added your two cents)

If you're new to Google+, or even if you're just curious, you should totally pick up this book. You can find it at this link.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Nastya doesn't talk. She can, but she doesn't. But when she goes to a new school, she meets the obnoxious Drew and his friend Josh. And that leads her to the start of healing. I say start of, because at the end of the book, she's better but not healed.

There's not much to say about the plot. It's interesting, and it's told from the perspective of Nastya and Josh as they get to know each other. The whole story is centered on what happened to Nastya, and there's a pretty good ending.

I think, the stars of this book are the characters. There are a bunch of characters, but the book focuses on three - Nastya, Josh and Drew. Nastya is angry, bitter, and if you knew what happened to her, you'd think she has the right. Josh has had people pitying him for the longest time ever. Drew should be the most well-adjusted (he comes from a happy, normal family), but he's a playboy. The way the three of them interact (and no, Drew is not the antagonist here. I don't even think there's an antagonist) is wonderful.

But, there's a huge caveat to this book. Even though the protagonists are all teenagers, this is definitely not YA. I won't recommend it to anyone except those that are mature. While the story and characters are great, there is a lot of swearing. And the swearing is pretty offensive to, I almost stopped reading, but the characters had hooked me.

Apart from the swearing, it's a little explicit. There are no explicit sex scenes, but all the characters constantly make dirty jokes. If this sort of thing bothers you, don't even bother picking up this book.

Basically, I think this book is good. Unfortunately, the amount of swearing and sexual references means that I can't recommend it unhesitatingly. If you're interested, consider the kind of reader you are before deciding if you want to pick this up.

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy 200th Birthday Pride and Prejudice!

Dear Miss Austen,

Thank you so much for Pride and Prejudice! It's the first book of yours that I've read, and the book that made me fall in love with your works. I bought a cheap green Penguin copy on a family trip to Kuala Lumpur  and I probably spent more time reading that actually enjoying the sites (don't worry, we go there quite often). And when I got back to Singapore, I was distraught when I lost it one day on the way to school. It's one of the only two books that I've gotten upset over losing.

Well, at least this feeling went away when I bought an exact same copy.

I know Pride and Prejudice must be the favourite of many people (and rightly so), so I don't dare claim that I'm your biggest fan. I will say that I love Pride and Prejudice, and that I read it over and over again.


And that's my love letter to Jane Austen! This is part of the Pride and Prejudice 200th Anniversary blog hop, hosted by Alyssa Goodnight and Stiletto Storytime. You can find out more, and a list of participants here.

In addition, I have something else to contribute! While I can't narrow down my one favourite quote from Pride and Prejudice (I might as well quote the whole book), I did make one quote picture by picking a random quote an a (hopefully) matching photo that I took. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

February Issue of An Excuse For Company

Hey everyone! The February issue of An Excuse For Company is out and yours for free at this link!

This month's issue is about The Other Three Loves because, well, Valentines day is overhyped. Do you know in Japan, girls have to give things like giri-choco (obligation chocolate) to guys? And yes, only girls give chocolates on Valentines day here. I think I'll skip this year.

There are a lot more original materials in this issue (like poems~), and we have two authors speaking up - one about smashwords and the other showcasing her latest work.

If you want to participate (through a review, providing a cover image, through an original poem/story, etc), let me know and we'll work something out!

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins

Do you know, when I looked at the cover, I saw "Murder at Rosamund's Cafe". And then I wondered why there wasn't a cafe in this story. Ok, so just so we're (I'm) clear, this says "gate", which makes the title a lot more relevant to the plot.

In this novel/mystery, Lucy, a maid at the magistrate's house, is drawn into the murder when her best friend/fellow housemaid Bessie is killed, and her brother William is accused of the murder. At the same time, she has to contend with her growing feelings for the son of the magistrate, Adam. And of course, there's the plague to deal with.

To be honest, the murder mystery felt like a subplot. There weren't that much clues, and the mystery is solved by a bunch of coincidences - and the testimony of one person. I think this novel was more about England in the age of Restoration London. There are times when the life of the Londoners interrupt the mystery part. So if you're expecting a "pure" mystery story, you may be a little disappointed.

All the characters are likable, although Lucy reminds me of a Mary-Sue sometimes. She's one of those smart (smarter than girls of her "class"), sassy girls who don't see themselves as attractive. Thankfully, there weren't hordes of guys after her. I wouldn't have been able to stand it if there were. Also working as a redeeming factor, she feels like a real character. There were times when I thought "Mary-Sue!", but most of the time, I could think of her as "Lucy".

The ending was both predictable and unpredictable. I didn't manage to guess who the murderer was, I could totally see the state of Lucy's love-life. Then again, there were only two ways that her relationship could end up.

A sweet story, that happens to have a murder in it.

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

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer

I'm starting to like snow days. It's too cold to do anything but sit indoors and read, so I manage to finish The Time Travelers (it feels weird reading an ebook somehow). I previously talked about in Teaser Tuesday (link), and it was as good as I expected!

The book revolves around Peter Schock, Kate Dyer and Gideon Seymour. There are a few other main characters, but I think these three are the most important. So when Peter's dad breaks his promise (a birthday promise to Peter no less), Peter ends up at Kate's farm. And due to something about an anti-gravity machine, the two are thrown into the year 1763, where they meet Gideon (cutpurse and gentlemen), and go after the Tar Man, who has stolen their machine.

I read on Wikipedia that this book is so accurate in its depictions of eighteenth century England that some schools use it as a textbook. Those lucky students.

The book is interesting, both in terms of plot and character. I enjoyed learning about all the characters and seeing them develop. I think my favourite characters were Peter and Gideon. Peter was just this sad little boy, who felt neglected by his parents. Gideon was a flawed hero, and the connection between the two of them was touching.

What I also liked was how there was a double narrative, the second narrative following the children's parents back in the modern days. Of course something like this would cause a fuss, and I'm glad the author included it, and managed to weave the two threads together. I think the most touching scenes came from the Schock family; Peter's mom sounds like a nice lady. I think his parents really did try, but just forgot that they had a choice - son or career.

The only character I didn't like was Kate. I hope I don't become someone like her if this ever happens to me. Perhaps it's because as a reader I know more than her, but she seems like a complainer, and that was a little annoying. Plus, for someone supposed to be brave, she seemed to faint an awful lot. Why can't she be like George from the Famous Five or something?

And what's with the sudden love story between Peter and Kate in the end? It felt too sudden and unrealistic, especially since they were at loggerheads for so long. Plus, I'm pretty sure they're only in the their early teens.  Why not just let them be friends first?

But really, this is an awesome book overall. If you like historical fiction, you should definitely read this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie

I almost didn't get to read this book. I requested it from NetGalley, then it got archived. Then, it somehow got unarchived. But I'm not going to question that. I'll take my books when I get them.

So, Semper Fidelis (which, from what I understand, is Latin for "Always Loyal") is this Roman-era mystery set in Britain. It follows Russo, a medical officer who's investigating (against orders) the mysterious deaths of several recruits. Helping, or hindering, depending on what you think, is his native-born wife Tilla.

From the very start of the book, there's this very helpful character list that sketches out the relationships between the main characters. Treat it as those character maps you see on Japanese dramas, it doesn't tell you the whole story, but it gives you a pretty good introduction.

To me, there wasn't much mystery in this. It was mostly the whole army politics that I noticed and enjoyed. Russo seems to solve the mystery not by deduction, but by going against the flow. He's up against the Tribune and Centurions, which more-or-less hinders the entire investigation.

But this is really part of the main conflict, which would be "Romans vs Natives". You can see that the Native soldiers are discriminated against, which makes it admirable that someone like Russo is going against the grain to help them.

Added into this mix is the visit of the emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina. They mostly serve as catalysts, although Sabina gets a pretty important role towards the end.

The only thing I didn't like this book was that several key plot points hinged on chance and coincidence. I suppose that's real life, but it did feel a little like a cop-out. It's a pretty minor point though, especially in light of the excellent characters.

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

Hey everyone! Sorry for the late post, I just finished Kendo (yup, I've started going to practice again~). So, today's teaser comes from this book about the last empress of China - Empress Cixi (sorry, I can't pronounce Tzu Hsi, it doesn't even look Chinese to me. I think Cixi is the hanyu pinyin)

There's an interesting story of why I even have this book, but it will have to wait for the review!

So without further ado, here's the teaser:

"I lived in a world of chaos where torture was a routine practice. I began to understand why so many concubines became obsessed with religion. It was either that or complete madness" (page 187)

Ok, I know it's three lines, but hey, the third line is important(;

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. To take part, choose a two sentence teaser  from the book you're currently reading.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating The Journey by Ashley Hill

I think this book is being marketed wrongly. Ok, I've gotten the worst out of the way, now let me explain why.

This book was marketed at those going into university. But to me, this book is really more for those in abusive relationships. This memoir follows Ashley as she struggles in her marriage  She talks about the early days, where she didn't see the red flags, and the struggles it took to get back on track. It's true that the pivotal point was her university education, but that came into the book around the eighty page mark, and this book is about a hundred and twenty pages long.

Apart from sharing her life story, Ashley also placed worksheets at the end of each chapter, so that you can chart your own progress. I think it's a good idea, and it seems like there's enough space to write. She also shares candidly, about her feelings (and where it was her fault), her therapy, and much more. It was a really moving story.

I just wish there was more on the university experience. I read that she met her husband when she was an undergraduate, and her graduate studies was a pivotal time in their relationship. But even so, the book is centered around her marriage, not her university experience. If you're reading this book hoping to learn about how your seniors managed university, and what they experienced, you may be disappointed.

Let me just make it clear again. I really do like this book, I think it's a great self-help book that effectively uses the medium of a memoir to deliver its message. I just wish that it wasn't marketed as a book for university students; in my opinion, this is for those in a relationship/considering marriage.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book in exchange for a free and honest review as part of the Enchanted Book Tours program.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Figment vs Wattpad

If you remember, I participated in NaNoWriMo 2011. That pretty much inspired me to get back into writing regularly (my awful writing ability ignored), so after searching for things like "teen writing" and "writing sites", I found Figment. I've also been a member of Wattpad for some time, so now, I feel like comparing the two sites.

Note that I'm ignoring the genre of fanfiction on both sites, because I think fanfiction belongs on


I do like the messaging system, where you can have private messages to a user, something Figment lacks.

It also has an app, which is really useful for reading. I don't really care how good a mobile browser is, for writing and reading, I prefer dedicated apps. Plus, something goes wrong whenever I try to read a story of Figment, because it loads in about one-third of my screen.

For forums, Wattpad wins. That's because Wattpad will notify you if someone replies, unlike Figment. In Figment, I can't even keep track of what I've commented on.


I like the covers. I know a lot of people prefer Wattpad's cover functions, but to be honest, I had a lot of problems with it. I'm not very good with art, but I don't like the default cover of Wattpad, so I normally try to make my own. Unfortunately, I can't upload some of them, no matter what. I don't understand it at all. At Figment, I do like the alternative covers (besides the Default, which you can choose) and the (limited) customisation. I haven't felt the need to make my own covers yet, which suits me perfectly.

I also think the groups are better. I'm not sure how Wattpad's groups work even now, but I like Figment's clearly defined groups.

Lastly, the voting system, although I think that's personal preference. Basically, I like that in Figment, people can give a reaction as well as a vote. I think it helps you to see if your story succeeded. I mean, if your story is popular, but everyone gives it "laugh" instead of the "cry" you were aiming for, you can be sure your story missed the mark.


My first and most important reason - I've made friends on figment! Despite the fact that you can only communicate by commenting on each other's wall, I've made friends who cheer me on. It's so encouraging.

This is shallow, but I just like the design of the Figment site better. There's no reason for it, but the whole thing, from the colour scheme to the preview to the actual showing of stories, just appeals to me.

I like the stories on Figment better. There, I've said it. I know there are a bunch of different stories on Wattpad, but the "hot" stories on the front page are normally the same type. Unfortunately, it's the type I don't read. On Figment, the promoted stories change according to the time of year, which already makes it more diverse than Wattpad's.

There are also people who don't like the competitions on Figment, but I actually think it's cute. I don't enter, but if I ever wanted too.... well, more than the competitions, I like how it's tied up with popular YA books.

Lastly, I'm getting more reads on Figment. I do about the same amount of effort on each (at least when I was first on Wattpad), but somehow, I have more reads, comments in Figment. I felt ignored in Wattpad, but I do feel welcome in Figment. Which is why I'm on Figment a few times a day now (and reading so much!) while I haven't touched Wattpad in a while.

So in conclusion, I think it's mostly a matter of personal preference. I think it's really great that there's a bunch of writing sites on the Internet so you can find the one that fits. What about you? Where are you on?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sneak by Evan Angler

I should mention from the start that I haven't read the first book in the series. But nonetheless, I loved this book.

Sneak is set in a world that reminds me of 1984. Everyone's happy, everyone's united, and everyone has a Mark. Without the Mark, you can't buy anything, you can't own anything. Sounds familiar? Yup, this is taken from the book of Revelation. But, this story is very different from the normal end-times genre book.

For one thing, not all the markless (those without a mark) are Christian. All citizens get the Mark when the Pledge themselves, so there are many who, for one reason or the other, refuse to be marked. In fact, most of the characters don't know of Christianity - these are teenagers born into this world, who have never heard of a religion that "disappeared" a long time ago. Which made it really refreshing to see the characters journey towards Christ, something that came of their own free will as they fight against DOME (the people who are Marking others).

There are a few characters in the book, but for Sneak, the four that I noticed/paid the most attention to were: Logan, Peck, Erin and Hailey. Logan is arguably the book's main character - he's the one who's on the run from the authorities, and the one who's made the most "ruckus". Peck is the leader of the Dust, a group of Markless kids. Erin is Marked, and she was a traitor. Hailey is part of the Dust. They know each other because (and here is where it's a bit hard to explain) - Peck's good friend Lily is Logan's sister (and the two are trying to rescuse her). I don't quite remember about Erin and Hailey, but I imagine they went to the same school.

The four characters were engaging, and I found myself drawn into their personal struggles. And at the end of the book, each character grows.

Since I hadn't read the first book, I found it hard to keep up at the begining, because the book moves at a fairly fast pace. But after a few chapters, I got into the rythmn and couldn't put the book down.

This is a really original take on the End-Times genre, and you can see the influence of Dystopian fiction on it. And it makes perfect sense, at the end of the world, what we should expect is Dystopia, not Utopia.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Talking To The Dead by Bonnie Grove

I managed to get my hands on this free ebook thanks to Gospel EBooks on Google+ And well, I have no regrets reading it.

Talking to the Dead follows Kate, who's husband Keven suddenly died. In the aftermath, she realises that she's lost a chunk of her memory, and she hear's Kevin's voice everywhere. Is she going insane? The answer is - yes. But that's the whole point of the story.

As the story progresses, you can see that Kate was actually in an emotionally abusive (and starting to get physically abusive) marriage. It's clear to the reader that she was better off with Kevin dead. And while I normally don't wish characters dead, I only wished Kevin stayed alive for him to get what he truly deserved. He (and Donna) are truly two of the most awful, self-centered people in the whole book.

Apart from Kevin's betrayal, Kate also has to deal with Heather (her sister). This may be quite spoiler-ish, but I have to rant about it. I can't believe what a terrible sister Heather is. I can understand her being friends with Donna and unwittingly feeding her information when she didn't know any better, but when she found out Donna's true nature, how could she remain friends with her? She seems to have a complex - she has to appear right no matter what.

So yeah, I have a lot of sympathy for Kate. I think she's been treated really unfairly. But at least the ending is positive. No, she isn't magically cured and free from anger, she's getting there. She's making baby steps, and with God's help, she's getting rid of the hurt and the pain inside.

Allow me to insert an appropriate video here: It's called "Healing Begins" by Tenth Avenue North:

An excellent book dealing with mental illnesses, faith, betrayal and groping for the way back after falling hard on the concrete.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life by Georgia Varozza

This book had a lot of promise. I thought it was going to tell us about the principals that the Amish practice, and how that translate into our lives. After all, in the opening chapters, I came across this passage:

"The truth is there is another way. We can slow down - "come home" in the fineset sense of the word home. We can consciously delineate between our needs and our wants, and then make informed and prayerful decisions between our needs and our wants, and then make informed and prayerful decisions about what we will allow into our lives. We can concentrate on our families, friendships and faith communities instead of racing through life being too busy to deepen our most precious relationships."

Unfortunately, most of the book details how we can achieve an Amish-like lifestyle without actually being Amish. And for a good bit of the book (Housekeeping Tips and Waste Not, Want Not), the tips in it reminded me a lot of Chick Living: Frugal and Fabulous. Only that book was a bit more applicable to me because I'm the target demographic.

There are eight chapters. Out of it, I thought one was definitely helpful and two maybe were. I've already mentioned two in the paragraph so that leaves three. Two of the three (Backyard Gardening and Raising Barnyard Livestock) had very little application to me. I highly doubt I can keep another living thing alive for one, and I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to keep a chicken/plant in the dorm. Besides, what principles do these suggest? Self-sufficiency? Hard work? Must I raise my own food to achieve that?

The third chapter, Keeping Technology Where You Want It was actually pretty interesting. Of course, again it's inapplicable, because if I start to turn off my phone, my family will panic and think something happened to me in an earthquake.

The "somewhat helpful" chapters were Family First and Building Community. Family First talks about strengthening family bonds, although it focuses on people who have already given birth. And live in the same country. And are pretty young. Some of the activities suggested feel like they'll appeal only to younger kids, and to older kids if this is what they've been doing their whole lives. Building Community was interesting but again, the tips were generic.

 "Coming Home" was definitely my favourite chapter. It made a case for a simple lifestyle, and it should have been the first chapter.

What I did like about this book was how it explained the Amish practices, from which I probably took more inspiration than the author's tips. I felt as though the book was targeted towards an American mother, while I'm a single teen studying overseas. A bit of a disconnect.

It's definitely a book to keep in mind though, if you have a family and you don't want them to get caught up in the whole technology race. And if you want to raise animals (the raising chickens/rabbits/goats chapter was interesting. Although I don't own a pet).

Somehow, I expected something different. I found that I knew most of this stuff, from reading those "live on a budget" and "be organised" type of books that people started passing to me when they found out I was going to be living overseas.

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - The Green Eyed Monster by Mike Robinson

Today's teaser comes from a book I'm reading now. Without going into details, let's just say it's gripping and creepy:

"He ran his finger down the hardcover keyboard of book spines. Individual memories of each, particularly his first experience with every title, burned through him" (page 209)

Yup, this is a creepy story about authors and books. But I love this quote, since it's about reading.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. All you've got to do is to pull a random two-sentence teaser out of a book you're reading.

What is your teaser?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Forget the Past by Ian Fox

Last year, I reviewed Promise Me Eternity by Ian Fox. I don't think I told you this, but I read, and then declined to review another one of his book because it had too much sexual content for me. So imagine how surprised I was when Ian approached me to ask me if I would read Forget The Past, and remembered my reading tastes! I am honestly very touched.

And, I'm very happy to tell you, very objectively, the Forget the Past is a really good book. I couldn't put it down (good thing that it was the holidays) and finished it in one morning.

Forget the Past follows Anya, a reporter who has a few issues, as she investigates the murder of her psychaitrist, Patricia. She was initially recruited by Patricia's sister Bertha, but as she investigates, the case begins to take on a life of its own.

Very few of the characters (apart from Anya, Beth, and a few minor characters) were likable. Bertha was certainly more likable than Lisa (who was truly a self-centered woman), but even she wasn't the nicest woman in the book. But I think that's what makes the book good - it's populated with rather nasty characters, which made for many suspects. I was torn between the suspect choices and you know what? I still couldn't guess who the real murderer was.

Apart from the mystery, I think this book is quite a good look at the issue of psychiatry and normalcy. After all, must the psychiatrist be in perfect mental health his/herself? I would like the answer to be yes, but in this book, well, you'll see. I think almost every character in this book has some sort of mental issue, which begets the question - what is normal?

This isn't a happy book, it's quite gritty, but it's worth a read. It does have some sex in it, but nothing explicit is written down. I would recommend this to older teens and up looking for a good mystery.

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

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Long Reads #17

New Year, new articles to read! I didn't have a particular reading theme this time, but I suspect I'll focus on books for my next post ^^

The Rise of the New Global Elite by Chrystia Freelan - Do you know about the super rich? They're known as "plutocrats" and they're way above what you or me imagine in terms of income. Think 10, 20 million a year. This article (it's about 13 pages long in pdf format) is a good introduction to this super-rich, including the difference between them and the traditionally rich, and how they're affecting the economy. Frankly, I'm intruiged, and I want to find out more. If you know of any such articles, send them my way please~

How to Survive a Stepfamily by Anstey Spraggan - To be honest, the title caught my eye. I think it's an interesting article, although it's really more for parents of stepfamilies than anyone else. The message is: Don't feel guilty for the negative emotions you might face.

The New Old Way of Learning Languages by Ernest Blum- I've never heard of this method of learning a language, called Hamiltonian System (basically, by reading interlinear translations). I do agree on the need for students to read widely for texts, but I do wonder, is a good compromise what my school is doing now? First learn grammar, then learn from a variety of texts (vocabulary and new grammar points).

The Omnivore by Brad Stone - So bascially, is achieving dominance, and now with the kindle fire.... It's an interesting read, but I don't think I've quite figured out where I stand on the Amazon issue. I do like the indie bookshops, but I quite like Amazon too.

"Brainwashed" Foreigners in Japan by Japan Probe - Yeah, I'm not the "Japan is awesome" -insert hearts in eyes-, but I'm not the "Japan is terrible" camp either. I'm a realist. And this is what I'm going to give to people who tell me how terrible Japan is. If you think I came here with unrealistic expectations, you're wrong. And just because I'm mostly positive about Japan doesn't mean I don't know/ignore/am in denial about the negative aspects.

So, what have you been reading since the new year?

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Chance by Karen Kingsbury

When one man's rash actions break up the life of his daughter, can she see past the hurt? And can the boy she left behind ever find her? That's what The Chance by Karen Kingsbury is about.

Ellie Tucker had to move suddenly, when her dad found out her mom was pregnant with another man's child and kicked her out. And ever since, she's felt rejected by her mom and enstranged from her father. Meanwhile, Nolan, who's always loved Ellie, is searching for her. The night before they left, they burried letters to each other, and now, as the clock ticks down to the deadline, will they meet again?

I thought it was very interesting how Ellie and Nolan responded to suffereing. Ellie more or less abandoned her faith, while Nolan's faith was strengthened. It really just goes to show that how you respond to a bad situation is the most important thing.

Both characters were really well written. There was a bunch of other characters (like Ellie's family), but I was pretty much caught up in the story of the two of them. As the story progresses, you can just see the hand of God moving to bring Ellie back to him, and to bring Ellie and Nolan together. Ellie is very hurt, but through her daughter, she's slowly learning to forgive. Nolan is a famous NBA player, which is why Ellie feels like she's not good enough for him. But Nolan has been searching for her all this time. This is when I swoon over the romance. It's really sweet.

Apart from this, there is also the story of forgiveness. Ellie has to forgive her father. Her father and mother must forgive each other.

Another sub-topic was faith and celebrity. Nolan's a famous NBA player, and he uses that show others the good news of Christ. In one segment, a few commentors were talking about him, and one of them mentioned that someone so famous should keep his faith to himself. I really like the reply to that, so I'm just going to quote it, and leave out the description of the commentor while he was talking:

"People don't have to follow Nolan Cook. That's their choice. You follow a celebrity in today's world because you want an inside look at his life, his feelings. A deeper look at what drives him and motivates him. [...] Nolan, you go right ahead and tweet about God. This is America. [...] Last  I checked, freedom of speech was still our right. If it's our right, then it's Nolan Cook's right too."

Literally, an un-putdownable read. I loved it!

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Accidentally Amish by Olivia Newport

I think it's no secret that I quite like Amish-related books. There's something about the simplicity and utter disconnect from the world that appeals to me. And if you remember, some time back, I reviewed the fustrating yet addictive book Temptation (link to review!). Well, this is like that - English and Amish.

But so different.

For one thing, Annie (Analise), meets Rush (the Amish guy) when she stows away while running from a terrible lawyer (yes, lawyers are THAT scary). After a few misunderstandings, he helps her, and somehow, they meet more often and often. The more she sees him, the more intrigued she is with the Amish lifestyle, and the more she starts to fall in love with him (Difference #1 - It's no instalove)

Intertwined with this plot, is Difference #2 - the subplot. Annie finds out that they're very distantly related (like, they had a common ancestor a few hundred years ago). So the book flashes between the now, and then, when the Amish first came.

And in both plots, the tension between the Amish and the English way of life was present. It actually led to me consider - how Christian is the Amish lifestyle?

Before you start firing bunches of angry comments at me, let me explain.

As I understand it (but correct me if I'm wrong. Like really, false premises will never give true conclusions), the Amish are apart because they believe that they're are "chosen race" (First Peter 2:9), and to avoid loving the world (1 John 2:5, James 4:4). But if I am right, we are also called to be the Salt and Light of the world. For what use is salt if it loses it taste? It is thrown out. How does separation let one be the salt of the world? It's like being a lamp hidden in under a bushel.

If anyone knows the answer, please comment. I'm really interested in this.

In addition, this book is a very good introduction to the Amish lifestyle. It explains why they don't adopt morden technology (well, they're reluctance to adopt technology is a better word). The comparison between Annie and Rufus's lives really drove home this point.

This book is definitely a series. But the cliffhanger isn't very terrible.

Definitely a must-read for fans of Amish fiction

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer

I'm finally back with a Teaser Tuesday! This week's teaser is from The Time Travelers (Book One in The Gideon Trilogy). If you haven't heard of this, you may have heard of it's alternative title: Gideon the Cutpurse. Personally, I haven't heard of both. I bought it mainly because I like the pictures on the cover.

It's good so far ^^ And the teaser is....

Images of his mother came to him unbidden. Precious memories, silly things, momentous things: standing in a thunderstorm together, heads back, mouths wide open; her throwing a tub of chocolate mousse at him after he'd lied about taking some loose change, and then, as she scraped it off his clothes, her happy, infectious laughter; her waving good-by to him at Heathrow, trying very hard not to cry the first time she left for Los Angeles.

This quote isn't actually related to the main narrative of being stuck in the past, but I think it's a pretty nice quote that illustrates the mother-son relationship.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB of ShouldBeReading. All you need to do is to pick two random teasers from a page in a book you're reading and share it!

What are you teasers?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware

Yes I have been reading a lot of books about The Hobbit. Yes, it is because of the Movie. I must thank all the publishers for putting out books to catch the Movie wave.

Finding God in the Hobbit reads like a devotional. It does cover several deep topics at times, but each chapter was too short to do some of the topics justice.

Each chapter follows this structure: First an extensive (a few pages) quoting from The Hobbit. Then, an explanation of whatever that passage is supposed to signify, with lots of additional material cited as and when needed. If you haven't read The Hobbit, all this quoting is going to disorientate you.

The topics covered in this book are actually quite interesting. I would have preferred it if the author narrowed  down the number of topics, and instead, chose to go in depth in a few of them. It would have made it much richer reading, instead of fleeing bites.

Otherwise, there's not much to differentiate it from the other Hobbit Devotionals I've reviewed. They're all good, and it really just depends on which one you pick up first.

My favourite quote from this book is:

"For to laugh in desperate circumstances and sing in the face of disaster is nothing less than an act of bold and daring faith. It's a sign of salvation to the watching world, evidence of hope that lies just beyong the fringes of the darkness."
 Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for a free and honest review

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Blood and Thunder by Isabella Fontaine (The Grimm Chronicles #5)

Today is the day! It's the day of the Blood and Thunder Blog tour post!

Blood and Thunder is book five in The Grimm Chronicles, although it's supposed to be able to be read as a standalone. Since this book starts directly where the Orphanage of Doom ended (and I read this first), I was a bit confused, but I got my bearings pretty quickly

In this book, there's not only fairy-tales, but also Moby-Dick!

Yup Moby Dick. One of the classics I've never read (I really must remedy this soon). But if, like me, you've never read this book, no fear! What appears is what everyone knows (call me Ishmael) and the rest is a creative spin on the characters. Call it a form of fanfiction, if you will. And this link to the book is purposeful, it drives the plot.

Character-wise, I really did like Alice. She was a no-nonsense hero, prone to giving in. In school, she's not the most popular of girls (anymore), but she is a fencer! (As someone who does kendo, anything to do with swords gets my vote!). Sam-the-dwarf makes a minor appearance here (only in the front chapters), and of course, Seth plays a big role.

The only 'problem' with the characters was the lack of backstory. Espcecially for Chase, who, although is introduced in book four, only starts to play a big role in this book. His background is explained sometime in the book, but it is something that I thought should have been communicated earlier. If you haven't read the earlier books, you may be a bit lost.

And compared to the other books, the social dynamics in school are the strongest here. Alice used to be popular (well, she used to date someone popular), but now, she's dangerously close to social outcast status. And conversely, her friend Trish is starting to become popular (and hence more distant). Apart from the cliques, there's also the blatant favoritism. For example, athletes get a free pass, but normal students will get the full weight of the law on them.

Overall, a really interesting book. It's quite short (close to 150 pages) so if you have the time, you should give it a read(:

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of the book from the authors (via Enchanted Book Tours) in exchange for a free and honest review

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Orphanage of Doom by Isabella Fontaine (The Grimm Chronicles #4)

School has started! And the delicate balancing act Alice has been doing is about to start crashing. Not now, though, that will start in book five. But here, you can see the different pressures that Alice has to face.

One of the pressures being school. Alice's friend Trish is trying to get Alice to be popular again, but seriously, after you've been fighting all sorts of monsters, are you going to let an immature brat boss you around and tell you what friends you should unfriend from facebook? I didn't think so. I do think, though, that it gets much worse in the next book.

Also, this book is the first that features two Corrupted. Or rather, two Corrupted battles in one go. One is about music (who wants to guess the fairytale?) and the other is about the titular orphanage (this one is really hard to guess). In fact, I would say that the storyline involving music is the pre-dominant storyline.

Carrying on from Book three, Seth continues to play a bigger part in the series. In fact, it's almost as though he's Alice's partner (along with Briar). Also coming from Book three (with a mention in Book two!) is the dwarf Sam. You remember Sam, good-ole-heart-of-greed Sam. He's quite amusing here (not very scary though).

We're also introduced to a new character - Chase. Right now, we're just given his backstory, but he's probably going to play a significant role as the series goes on.

And as the series goes on, the Corrupted get more and more fleshed out. I like how there are Corrupted that aren't evil yet. They all acknowledge that they will turn evil one day, but for some, that day has not come. It's quite sad that most of them have to "die" after their encounter with Alice.

And tomorrow: the blog-tour post you've all been waiting for - Book Five in this series!

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

Friday, January 4, 2013

Revenge of the Castle Cats by Isabella Fontaine (The Grimm Chronicles #3)

- TV narrator voice- In the last episode/book of the Grimm Chronicles....

Alice collapsed from poison cuts from a mutated Frog Prince (and nope, surprisingly, that isn't a spoiler). So Revenge of the Castle Cats opens with a bang, as Briar rushes to get Alice somewhere she can receive help. Having read the last two books, I jumped into the flow straightaway, but for a first time reader, it might be a bit confusing.

When that's all and done, Alice is back to fighting the Corrupted. This time, it comes in the form of an app. Yes, an app, like that of Smurfs Village, Tiny Tower and the like. Meaningless but strangely addictive. But what if the addiction was affecting your life? For example, getting you to buy a certain product. Or you know, kill someone.

The Corrupted in this book are the dwarfs in Snow White. And there's a little twist. Well, I can only say that one of the dwarfs will become a recurring character in the later books. What I like about this book is that it's the book that shows very clearly just how integrated the Corrupted are into society. That makes them scarier/increases your paranoia.

In addition, Seth is going to play a bigger part in this book. Sadly, Trish's role will diminish. Well, I'm not that sad, I never liked Trish. I do like, however, that this book mimics a teen's life, where friends can come and go, but childhood friends will always stay. The book ends just as vacation ends, so from the forth book onwards, we're going to see Alice balance hero-duties, the library and high school. (Yup, the library is still there. In fact, there's a continuation of a subplot from the second book)

Start with book one, and keep on reading! This is a series you'll love(:

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happily Never After by Isabella Fountain (The Grimm Chronicles #2)

And here, is book two in The Grimm Chronicles series. Admit it, your interest was piqued by book one wasn't it? (;

Happily Never After has our hero Alice trying to deal with the um, fallout of Book One (must. resist. spoiler). And this time, she's been getting dreams (dreams are hints to the Corrupted) about rats. Lots of icky rats (sorry, I'm squeamish). At the same time, she's finding out that some of the most prominent businessmen in town may be Corrupted.

In this book, Alice and Briar are the dominant characters. Her good friends, Trish and Seth are starting to fade in the background. In fact, Trish is becoming unlikable. And because this is set in the holidays, there is no mention of school.

Well, Alice is volunteering at the library. I love the descriptions of the volunteering, and how it isn't a walk in the park. There are the nice librarians, but there's also the strict librarians that is everyone's nightmare. I really do like the mix of characters. It's also to see a character that reads and then uses the knowledge to fight the bad guys.

I didn't mention this in the last review, but in both Happily Never After and Prince Charming Must Die, the book not only comes with the fairy-tales that inspired the series, but also with the "lost diary" of another Hero called Grace Cohen. It's set in the Depression-era America and could be a story in its own right. It features Briar (of course), and hints at some characters that are going to play a bigger part in the series as it goes on.

I'm loving book two and the series!

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Prince Charming Must Die by Isabella Fontaine (The Grimm Chronicles #1)

So, I'm starting the new year with a series review! I have a book tour coming up soon, and the authors were kind enough to give me all the books thus far in the series! So, for the next five days, enjoy my reviews of The Grimm Chronicles (then go out and get a copy for yourself!)

So, Prince Charming Must Die is the first in this series. In this book, we meet Alice, the next Hero. Her job is to go around using a magic pen, killing the Corrupted. The Corrupted are the characters from Grimm's fairy tales that came to life after the brothers wrote their stories on pieces of magical paper.

I really like the idea of the Corrupted. Grimm's fairy tales have always been dark, so it's not hard to imagine the characters unravelling after their tale is told. After all, if you've suddenly become a prince after being the last born son/serving boy/lowly peasant, the power's going to get to your head. And the whole happily-ever-after thing. Well, as you grow older, you get cynical (especially if you read a lot of historical fiction). So I love the idea of immortal characters growing twisted as the years go past.

Alice, is an awesome heroine. I like how she loves reading, and isn't after the cool crowd. But yet, she isn't part of the cool crowd either. Neither is she a loser. That deviates from a lot of normal YA books already!

And how cute is Briar? (the Br'er Rabbit). He might be a huge walking, talking rabbit, but he's got a wonderful sense of humour! And I love watching him discover the Internet.

Note: there is some mention of sex in the book, but nothing explicit ever happens. If you're watching out for something, you should be paying more attention to the dark humour.

This is a really good start to the series. If you love retold fairy tales, you'll love all the fairy tales that are mentioned here. Plus, the authors have added the original fairy tales as an appendix at the end.

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!


... And that would be all the languages I know. 

I hope you had a great 2012, and I hope your 2013 is even better! 

This picture was drawn by my cousin Elena. If you like it, you should head over to her site: Ellustrate . She's a really awesome graphic designer/illustrator!