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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

List of Books



Just want to have a post that includes different lists of books for future reference... as if I don't have enough on my TBR list! Will continue to add.

Books with Unreliable Narrators
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/6473.Books_with_Unreliable_Narrators
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/931944-unreliable-narrator-wanted

Stories about characters becoming real
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1102782-stories-about-characters-becoming-real

Dystopian
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1088673-dystopian-fiction-ya-or-adult

Fairy Tale Retelling
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1013993-fairy-tale-retellings



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just how behind am I?


Not reading much nowadays make it much easier for me to blog reviews... since I actually don't read everyday... that means there is no fallen behind since I am not under the pressure/thrill to start a new book right after I finish one! So that makes blogging a bit more enjoyable but it also means blogging less since I am reading way less...

Thought I'd take a lot to see how many books I am still behind though, since this year is almost done you know?

8 Fiction and 2 Non-Fiction from 2011 (yep you read that right!!)

11 Fiction and 8 Non-Fiction and 2 DNF in 2012.

Total = 31.

Sigh.


I'd list them all here, maybe it'd motivate me to catch up. Or do mini-reviews...

Fiction
  1. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston (3 Stars)
  2. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (3 Stars)
  3. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross (3.5 Stars)
  4. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach  (2 Stars)
  5. Q: A Novel by Evan Mandery  (3.5 Stars)
  6. Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne and Travis Thrasher (3.5 Stars) 
  7. The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar  (3.25 Stars)
  8. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys  (4.75 Stars)
  9. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2 Stars)
  10. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu (4 Stars) 
  11. The Restorer (Graveyard Queen #1) by Amanda Stevens  (3.5 Stars)
  12. 1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen #8) by Anne Holt (3.5 Stars) 
  13. Half-Past Dawn by Richard Doetsch (3 Stars) 
  14. The Devotion of Suspect X 容疑者Xの献身 by Keigo Higashino 東野圭吾(4.5 Stars) 
  15. The Three Coffins (Dr. Gideon Fell, #6) / The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr (3.5 Stars)
  16. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (4 Stars)
  17. Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer (4 Stars) 
  18. Legend by Marie Lu (4 Stars) 
  19. Delaney's Shadow by Ingrid Weaver (3.5 Stars)

Non-Fiction

  1. Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackhall (3.5 Stars) 
  2. The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers by Caroll Spinney and J. Milligan  (3.5 Stars)
  3. A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (3.5 Stars)
  4. How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy) by Julia Cameron (2 Stars)
  5. Helicopters, Drill Sergent and Consultants: Parenting Styles and the Messages They Send (Love and Logic series) by Jim Fay (4 Stars)
  6. What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir by Alice Eve Cohen (3.5 Stars)
  7. French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon  (4 Stars)
  8. Bringing the Baby Home: An Owner's Manual for First Time Parents by Laura Zahn (4 Stars) 
  9. HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan  
  10. The First Eight Days of Being a Mom by Gea Meijering

DNF

  1. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  2. The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan


And of course there are still a bunch of ARC I was supposed to review... well I'd need to read them first wouldn't I. I have stopped taking in ARC since I don't think it'd be fair... will I ever read up to 100 books a year again? Not including children's books of course :) So far I'd read 28 this year (19 Fiction and 9 NF, and 4 DNF).



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves


On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

Sixteen years old TJ and his thirty years-old tutor Anna survived a plane crashed, and ended up on a remote island by themselves...

The beginning was a little slow, then I got into the story once they were on the remote island trying to survive. The last part of the book was a little slow again...

This is probably a bit more chicklit-ish for my taste, though it did make me wonder how I'd handle the situation if I were Anna (esp since I'm just a few years older than her). Made me think of the TV show Lost (though with just 2 people, instead of a whole plane load of them, and no weird stuff like time traveling happening lol :))

Good beach read... well or at least I hope I was at the beach during this colder weather now... okay maybe NOT a totally remote island beach though :)

3 Stars. It's okay for light reading.



Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review - UnWholly (Unwind Trilogy #2) by Neal Shusterman



UnWholly (Unwind Trilogy #2) by Neal Shusterman

Unwind was one of my fav YA dystopian books (see my review here).  At that time, there was not going to be a sequel, but I guess its popularity demanded one and now it's a trilogy.

I was disappointed in the beginning - it was very choppy, alternating between many characters and "announcements"/newspaper clips. The 3 main characters from the first book were hardly mentioned and many new characters were introduced. I didn't really get engaged until about half way through the ~400 books when you get to know the characters better, and have a better sense of the plot.

I like the theme of the book, and "Cam" is an intriguing character. I am glad I didn't give up the book, because now I'd for sure read the last book to find out what happened. Unwind was a 4.5 Stars book for me, but this one is only 3.5 due to its choppy, slow start. 



Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review - Love Anthony by Lisa Genova



Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

I love Genova's first book, Still Alice. I thought her second book, Left Neglect, was okay (see review here).  I was excited to hear she had a 3rd book out!

I think now that I am a mum, I can understand the mum/child connection better. The aspect I love the most about this book, is for me to learn more about autism from the autistic person's perspective as I do not know a lot about it, and it was eye opening. This reminds me of Still Alice in that regard.

However, I felt that there is an aspect of the story that is a bit unbelievable. I don't want to spoil it by revealing what it is, but for those of you who had read it would know what I mean. Is it impossible? Maybe, maybe not, I don't know, but I felt it weakened the story. Thus I gave it 3.75 Stars since I couldn't decide between 3.5 or 4.



Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - The Strange You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams



The Strange You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

Not bad for a debut. The main lead, ex-FBI profile Keye Street who is now a private investigator, is flawed, which makes it more interesting than a character who is perfect in every way. In that sense it reminds me of the main lead in Revelations by Laurel Dewey.

There are a couple of things that bug me though (SPOILERS ALERT!!!!!!!)


(1) There are some unnecessary plot lines - e.g. the missing cow case has nothing what so ever to do with the main plot. Maybe the author wants to reinforce Keye's confusion about women hitting on her but I don't think eliminating that part of the story will harm the rest of the book

(2) the real killer - seems like it was done just to add a twist since there was no explanation given about why s/he did what s/he did so the ending felt rushed.


3 Stars - it's okay



Note - Received a free ARC.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baby is here!




I know I had been MIA, but Baby Mental Foodie is here! He was born last week and we'd been home a few days... we're all still adjusting but each day is getting better. We're both doing well though :)

We'll see when I'll have time to read (I AM reading a book but only a few pages a day...) and we'll see if my reading tastes has changed (e.g. mother/family books don't appeal to me much before...)

Hope all of you are happily reading away :)



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review - The Phantom of the Post Office (43 Old Cemetery Road #4) by Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise (Illustrator)




The Phantom of the Post Office (43 Old Cemetery Road #4) by Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise (Illustrator)

I haven't read the first 3 books in the series. Just saw this on the library shelf and thought it looks cute - it is not really a written word book in the typical sense, as it includes illustration, letters etc.

Cute concept, cute characters, cute message but nothing very substantial. It was categorized in the adult fiction in the library, but read more like a middle-school book. Since it didn't take that long to finish, didn't feel like it wasted my time at least I guess, but the plot was fairly predictable.

3 Stars for something different.


Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - XO (Kathryn Dance #3) by Jeffery Deaver




XO (Kathryn Dance #3) by Jeffery Deaver

The good - I haven't finished a non-baby related book for a while so I finished this book relatively quickly, since each chapter is short.

However, it doesn't live quite up to the usual Deaver standard... I was a bit disappointed in Kathryn Dance since she's the Body Language expert, but this book lack the technical details that I usually like in Deaver's books (some people though may like it better...) There were more music details than body language info, so that was disappointing for me.

The plot was just okay, the characters were just okay if not a bit cliche. The highlight was that my fav Deaver characters, Lincoln Rhyme and Ameila Sachs (from Deaver's other series, which is much more forensic focus) made a guest appearance - even though they just were mentioned in a few pages, but it was like meeting an old friend.

Overall, just okay. 2.5 Stars.

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review -Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes




Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

I am always for the next favorite murder/mystery author. This is a debut, so I was excited about that, as you never know what to expect!

Not a bad effort for a first book, as I did finish it despite my lack of attention / time / energy right now (33w today!) but I think there are some room for improvements.

1) The prologue gave too much away, probably can do without

2) The beginning was a little confusing since the timeline jumped all over the place, with different people. Though once you get into it, it's mainly between 2003/2004 and 2007, and you get a better sense of who the people were.

3) At almost 400 pages long (ARC copy anyway), it dragged on a bit too much and some editing would probably make the story moved faster

4) The characters were okay, not really memorable [SPOILER] - with Cathrine's OCD, I was surprised at how fast she recovered once she started seeing the psychiatrist Alastair? I mean, she went from not wanting to go out and having panic attacks with just the thought of Lee, to totally almost confronting him after just a couple of sessions?! Also, I kept waiting for Stuart to be a bad guy... he just seemed to good to be true? [/SPOILER]

5) The ending almost seemed a bit anti-climatic...

The story did make you want to keep reading to find out what happened, to see who's telling the truth, so that's always a great start :)

3 Stars out of 5.




Note - An ARC was given to me by HarperCollins, in exchange for an unbiased review.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review - The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi



The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi

Murder/mystery, my favorite genre. Just okay for me. A little slow (not sure if it has anything to do with the translation?) but I did finish. Quite a few twists and turns, but in the end it almost felt like the twists were put in there just for the sake of having another twist, if you know what I mean?

Would have scored it a little higher if not for one aspect [SPOILER] - a psychic was used to solve part of the crime... not discrediting the use of psychic, but the whole story had been based on this criminologist and a missing-child-profiler using their expertise to find the serial killer, so the use of a psychic seemed like a cop-out. [/END SPOILER]

3 Stars.



Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review - Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford



Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford

This book is timely, as I'd become a first time mum this summer. And we live in an area where tornado is a possibly, as well as snow storms in the winter time. But this book goes more into just natural disaster survival - it also talks about "survival finances" (if losing a job) and "essentials for safety and security" (personal safety).

I have always wanted to more prepared (been meaning to get that survival kit, or first aid kit, for years...) but well, just never got around to it. So I'll call myself an extreme beginner when it comes to disaster preparedness. The intention is there, just no follow through... 

I admit that this book is not something you'd want to read cover-to-cover in one setting. You'd probably feel overwhelmed, and well, panicked (what if something happens tomorrow? I AM SO NOT PREPARED!!) Even the author suggested to "browse through this book, read what catches your eye, and begin making 3 lists for future actions: To Learn, To Do, and To Buy". Really, this book is to help you prepare, to give you a starting point, and to guide you. Like most things though, I plan to adapt the suggestions to our needs, rather than just following everything listed. You just have to do what makes you feel secured. I mean, if you live in the desert, you probably don't have to worry about snowstorms and how to keep yourself warm if your heat is out, you know? I like how the book includes tips, stories, and checklists.

Even though the book is titled Survival Mom, I think this is a great book to read with your family so the whole family is on the same page, and that they all can actively participate. It'd be a fun family activity (plus you don't have to rely on one person's memory to remember where everything is!)

I know a lot of the tips can probably be found online (or from the author's blog) but it's great to have it in a book, especially if the electricity is out, then the book becomes handy!

As we're preparing our house to welcome the new baby (decluttering, reorganizing, cleaning and all), this is a great time to read this book with my husband while we make lists of action (rather than just read and forget about it soon after...) I think we'll start with Chapter 6 - Home Base. Then as we move to cleaning out the kitchen, we'll read the chapters on food storage. There are 12 chapters in the book plus some extra bonus materials. We can always just read one chapter a month (or more if we're ambitious) and make that into a family learning activity without feeling too stressed about having to do everything at once (and then be put off about the whole thing.) Of course, we'll hope no disasters will happen in the next 12 months :)

(Note - since I am currently pregnant, my attention span does not allow me to read every chapter in this book... so this is probably not a good review of all the content in the book. However, just browsing the book and reading the tips here and there helps motivated me to get started and take action, which is saying something during this busy time! Once we have thoroughly read the book (and hopefully have done something about preparedness), I will give a more proper review on what works and does not work for us... yes it may be a while... but I don't want to give up half way through!)




Note - Received a free copy of the book as part of the TLC Book Tours. Check out all the other blogs reviewing this book!

Tuesday, April 10th: It’s a Crazy, Beautiful Life
Wednesday, April 11th: A Homesteading Neophyte
Monday, April 16th: the state that i am in
Thursday, April 19th: The Apartment Prepper’s Blog
Monday, April 23rd: Cheerios Underfoot
Tuesday, April 24th: Being 5
Thursday, April 26th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Monday, April 30th: Mental Foodie
Friday, May 4th: 2 Kid and Tired Book Reviews
TBD: The Chatelaine’s Keys
TBD: My Year(s) of Spending Less and Living More
TBD: {A} Musing Mother
TBD: Prepared LDS Family



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updates


So, in preparation to become a first time mum, I thought I'd borrow some baby related books to learn about what will happen, what to do, etc etc etc.

But why, oh why, these books have so many words?!

There, I said it. And this is coming from a book lover. Someone who loves to read non-fiction even.

One doesn't usually read baby-related books until you need to. Like, when you are pregnant. And when you are pregnant, you really just don't have any energy or attention span to read a book with many, many words... yes I know you want to back up what you said with history, background, research and all that. Usually I appreciate that, and in fact, would be leery if you don't.

But right now, I just want a summary. Just tell me what to do in bullet points. If it doesn't work then I'd move on to another method to see which one will suit the baby.

What happens to writing to your target audience?!

(Granted, not all books like like that, some are very THIN and CONCISE and SIMPLE and has PICTURES. But I admit I put a lot of books back on the shelves when the many, many words in it gave me a headache. Scared me even.)

I hope my reading will return to normal after baby is here. I know, I probably won't have as much time to read. But at least I hope I won't be too put off by books full of beautiful words anymore...






All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review - The Art of the Sale by Philip Delves Broughton





The Art of the Sale by Philip Delves Broughton

I read the author's first book, Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School back in 2008, and really enjoyed it. I just finished my own MBA back in 2007 so it was interesting to read about the differences between Harvard, and my non-Harvard school. So when I found out he had a new book out I was curious about it - especially since I felt the same way as he did, why isn't sales part of the MBA program. I know salesperson (think car salesperson, insurance salesperson) usually get rep, but sales really is all around us, just that we usually associate sales with profit. But it really is all around us - including "selling yourself" when you are at a job interview.

Unlike his first book, this one is not a memoir. This is also not a how-to book either. This book includes stories of different top salesperson and what makes them successful. Some believe that they shouldn't sell ice to Eskimo ("we'll sell them jackets or heaters instead!"), while others have a different philosophy - e.g. one hiring manage asked the candidate what he'd spend the money on if they suddenly came across a large amount of money. If the candidate answered "paid off debt, saved it...", they won't get hired. If the candidate answered, "I'd go buy this luxury car" or something to that effect, then they'd be hired because they understand the the desire to spend the money. I found that reading these stories rather interesting as there really is no one-size-fits-all.

If I have one feedback, I wish the book is organized differently - Right now there are 8 chapters based on some broad categories. I wish each chapter is the story of a one sales person, so that each chapter is shorter, and easier to go back to for reference.

I am not going to rate this book for the time being - only because due to my pregnancy, I am not absorbing the information as much as I usually would, and I don't have as much attention span, so I will likely rate this lower than what this book is worth (it seems like even with fiction, I can only do YA right now... haven't touched an adult novel for almost 2 months, which is unheard of! And those were books of my favorite murder/mystery genre too!) But I know I won't be giving this book away anytime soon, I'd like to revisit this book in the future when my pregnancy brain is back to somewhat normal :)


Note -  I got a free copy of this book as part of the TLC Tour. Check out all the other reviews on this tour! :)

Thursday, April 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Friday, April 13th: 800 CEO Read
Monday, April 16th: Mental Foodie
Tuesday, April 17th: Ed Roach: The Branding Guy
Wednesday, April 18th: Nanxi Liu
Thursday, April 19th: Business Growth Strategies
Tuesday, April 24th: Man of La Book
Wednesday, April 25th: Balance In Me
Thursday, April 26th: Less Ordinary Living
Wednesday, May 2nd: The Mom Renewal Project
TBD: Dave Stein’s Blog


All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review - The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow







by


I photograph weddings (well I am on a sabbatical right now) so this book intrigued me as the book was set at this bridal shop in a little town in Michigan. I also had a long engagement (4 years) so I got to try on lots of dresses before the wedding :) I pretty much tried on every style there was, and in the end, I chose what I'd thought I'd choose right from the beginning - a simple bias dress with no beads or lace. Though I had a dramatic necklace and a long veil. The dress was easy to transport (rolled it and threw it in the suitcase from Australia to the US, as we had to get married within 90 days after I landed in the US, so no time for gown shopping then!) but it was very me.

As I was reading this book, it brought back memories of my own wedding dress shopping. And what it went through my mind as I prepared for that next chapter of my life - not just about getting married and being a wife, but also having to leave my family and friends behind to live in a new country.

The book was more than about buying a wedding dress. It talked about how Becker's Bridal Shop got started, and how this family business and been passed on from one generation to another; and how the society had changed regarding marriage and wedding dress and wedding dress shopping. What did not change was "the love we wish for our daughters" - as the subtitle suggested. The book really was a book of stories - of the current owner, and several brides who went dress shopping at Becker's - of how they found love, of what wanted in their life, and also of the bond between the brides and their family (mostly mothers, but there were some exceptions like grandmothers and daughters.)

Some of the stories were quite touching and I got a little teary. However, I am not sure if I like the way the book was organized - it talked about Person A (part 1), then Pearson B (part 1), Person C (part 1), Person D (part 1), Person A (part 2), Person C (part 2), Pearson A (part 3), Person B (part 2)... okay this wasn't the exact order, but you got the gist. So it was a bit confusing to go back and forth among the different persons. If I read this book fast (within a few days) I probably would have remembered everyone's stories a bit better. But since I am reading at a much slow pace right now, I read this over 3.5 weeks, and I forgot a lot of the back stories... The only nice thing about this structure was that at the end, it talked about each bride's wedding day so everything came together... The book also included some pictures of the brides and dresses, though I wish the pictures showed the dresses a bit better! :)

You might remember about 1.5 months ago, I found out that the author died in a tragic accident (see post here). It was kinda coincidental that this was his last book - this book had such an emphasis on the parent-daughter relationship. I am sad that he won't get to walk his three daughters down the aisle or get to see them grow or get to meet his future sons-in-laws or grandchildren. I couldn't even imagine how his daughters would feel - that their dad's last book was written to them. For them.

3.5 / 5 /


Note - I received a free copy of the book as part of the Crazy Book Tours.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I am I am pregnant when...

I was reading The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow while waiting for the bus this morning on my way to work.

One of the brides mentioned in the book (non-fiction) had a car accident, and her right hand/fingers was severely damaged. The description was no where near graphic - and for those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you know I read a lot of murder/mystery books, and watch a lot of TV shows in this genre and usually the more gore the better.... I like CSI, Bones etc... and we can talk about diseases and medical procedures at dinner table... or watch these shows while we eat hamburgers. You get the drill.

Well, while I was reading about this poor bride this morning, I started feeling nauseous. I had to stop reading and took some deep breaths. If I didn't see the bus was coming, I probably would've walked back home and have hubby take me to work a bit later or something...

Sigh. I guess baby is telling me to read happier stuff instead. Or baby books. Who would have thought, food didn't make me puke, books did :p I hope after the baby is born I can be back to normal!

(No, I didn't have a problem while watching the Hunger Games. The violence was really a minimum - it was really more implied than shown - after all, it was rated PG13, and I saw a lot of younger kids there. Though my friend who lived overseas, she had to leave half way through... she said not to go in with a full stomach and sit too close to the screen. There were some jerky camera movements, but it was done for a reason and I was fine with that even if I was not a fan of the Blair Witch.)




All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Movie Vs Book - The Hunger Games

I had enough energy to go watch the Hunger Games over the weekend with hubby :)

This post is going to INCLUDE SPOILERS - so please stay away if you don't want to know what happens! :)

Overall, I think they did a pretty good job - it stayed fairly true to the book, and the details they omitted were probably due to time constraint (it was already over 2 hours). I felt indifferent about the actors selection prior to the movie, unlike some real die hard fans, but I think they all did a wonderful job!

However, there were a few things I wish were different:
  • I wish we got to see Gale more. I like both Gale and Peeta, but maybe Gale just a tad more (probably because husband and I are best friends, so I like that between Gale and Katniss). I wish Catniss would perhaps think more about Gale during the Game - now I know it's hard to portray "thinking" in a movie, but I guess she could have whispered to herself or something? To show she missed him? I also wish Gale showed a bit more emotion while watching the Game - granted I get that he probably didn't want to show emotion in public, but I don't know if he looked heartbroken enough when Catniss and Peeta kissed. It doesn't have to be very dramatic - e.g. Catniss was shaking subtly when she talked to Cinna right before she went into the tube during the countdown, you could tell she was scared and nervous - I thought that was probably one of the best acting scene in the movie.
  • It also seemed like Catniss started liking Peeta all of a sudden - I get that she was vulnerable after Rue died and that she had just killed another human being, so she felt the need to find Peeta when the game-maker changed the rule of the Game to allow 2 winners from the same district. But it just seemed a bit abrupt.
  • For some reasons I thought Haymitch would be more rough looking and drunk lol
  • The relationship between Catniss and Cinna also seemed a bit too simplistic, that they just became BFF out of the blue. 
  • While the movie was fast paced, I found that there really wasn't a climax? Maybe because I knew what was going to happen? Don't get me wrong, I still cried at multiple spots of the movie, despite remembering the gist of the story (read it 2 years ago), but there wasn't a heart-stopping moment for me.

Anyway, hubby liked it too (he hadn't read the book, and had no idea what the movie was about. I had to reassure him that it was not a chick flick lol.) He thought the ending was a bit abrupt - but he didn't know that it was a trilogy  so he thought the ending was a bit unfinished for those not familiar with the books.

Yes I will still go watch the next one :)



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Updates

Still here.

Still reading very slow - especially since I have 4 non-fiction to read this month (1 late blog tour, 2 blog tours in April, and 1 for April book club) and it's taking me much, much longer to read, due to lack of energy, and also spending time reading on baby stuff instead (much to learn!!)

Sorry if I haven't visited your blog for a while :( It's tiring for me to read online so I can only read so much everyday... especially since at work I am in front of the computer most of the time.

The exciting news is that we found out that the baby is healthy so far, and that it's a boy :)

For some reasons I thought it'd be a girl. I did a bunch of those gender prediction tests, but the results were half-and-half... but now we know for certain!

Now onto thinking of baby names... it took us forever to come up with our cat names... so we need to start early!










All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Review - Retribution by Jilliane Hoffman




Retribution by Jilliane Hoffman

This book was recommended during Tea Time with Marce's Thrill Week. The author was an Assistant State Attorney, so it was good to read more legal details than the typical thriller though from memory, though its main focus was NOT on court scenes (which I do enjoy).

I read this over 3 months ago, and so a lot of the details have been forgotten. I remember I enjoyed reading it and learned something new, such as status of limitation on rape cases, and how it might be different in each state - since I didn't grow up here in the US, it still baffled me sometime how each state is so different when it comes to laws. I mean, for even something more general like car seat laws for children, it differs in each state in terms of height / weight / type of car seat needed. What if you go on a road trip? Do you need to get a new car seat in each state?!

Anyway I digress.

So the story didn't have much staying power, and none of the characters made a lasting impression, but it was a fun read (if you could call thrillers "fun") while it lasted. It was a little long though at 420 pages and could possibly be edited to a shorter length.

3.5 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter


Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter

Read this for my work book club. The first half of the book was one of those business story / fable. It was a little awkward but you know going in that this is NOT a fiction book, and the story was just for illustration purpose. I mean, you have character's name such as Heidi Agenda ("Hidden Agenda") and Pompus Meani.

The 2nd half of the book listed the different strategies to counter the attacks if someone tries to shot down your ideas. It listed 24 different type of attacks, and their responses. This is rather useful, but I'd imagine this works better as a reference book, as there is no way I'd remember everything listed.

This was a quick read. I'd recommend it to those who needs help dealing with nay-sayers in a diplomatic way.

3.5 / 5 .
Good reference book.



Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



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Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review - Darkfever (Fever, #1) by Karen Marie Moning


Darkfever (Fever, #1) by Karen Marie Moning 

I was intrigued after Tea Time with Marce asked whether she'd get the fever.

Ugh, I should have just listened to her when she said she abandoned it.

Urban fantasy is totally not my genre. I'd only read one, Moon Called (Mercedes Thompson, #1) by Patricia Briggs and thought it was just meh but I did finish it.  But I thought maybe I just haven't found the right book. Darkfever started out fine, I wanted to find out why the protagonist's sister was murdered in Ireland. But the story went downhill once she landed in Ireland... it just got repetitive and nothing happened and I just lost interest... I just couldn't get engaged and just didn't care anymore when I see the words Seelie and Unseelie or whatever they are called.

Have to say, I like Twilight better than this and I am not even a Twilight fan. At least I finished it and googled to see what happened in Book 2-4.

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review - Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Brian L. Weiss



Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Brian L. Weiss

I am intrigued about the concept of past lives. I don't know if I really believe in it or not, but many Chinese believe that what you do in this life, will affect your next life, e.g. if you do a lot of good deeds in this life, then you will have a good next life. If you have really bad luck in this life, it's probably because you did a lot of bad things in your past life. Or if in this life there is a person who treats you badly but you still care for that person a lot, it's probably because you did something really bad to that person in the past life, so it is now your turn to pay.

Anyway, I was interested in this book since this was written by a psychiatrist, and I totally agree with its opening sentence, "I know that there is a reason for everything."

There were some interesting parts:

  • the author's patient knew the author's father's name or why the author's son died when both weren't common knowledge.
  • "We must share our knowledge with other people, our debt and ability can carry over (to the next life)."
  • People are in a coma "are in a state of suspension, and not ready to cross into the other plane... until they have decided whether they want to cross or not. If they feel they have no more learning in physical state, then they are allowed to cross cover. But if they have more learning, then they must come back, even if they do not want to. This Si a rest period of time, a time when their mental powers can rest. (p69-70)" 
  • But if people know that "life is endless; so we never die; we were never really born, " then this fear (of dying) would dissolve. If they knew that they had lived countless times before and would live countless times again, how reassured they would feel. (p122)
  • There are different levels of learning, and we must learn some of them in the flesh. We must feel the pain. When you're a spirit you feel no pain. It is a period of renewal. Your soul is being renewed. When you're in physical state in the flesh, you can feel pain; you can hurt. In spiritual form you do not feel. There is only happiness, a sense of well-being. But it's a renewal period for us. The interaction between people in the spiritual form is different. When you are in physical state, you can experience relationships. (p124)
  • Wisdom is achieved very slowly. This is because intellectual knowledge, easily acquired, must be transformed into "emotional," or subconscious, knowledge. Once transformed, the imprint is permanent. Behavioral practice is the necessary catalyst of this reaction. Without action, the concept will wither and fade. Theoretical knowledge without practical application is not enough. (p209)


However, this was mostly the account of just one patient. There was a person that the author was supposed to teach him something, but it was never mentioned again, so it felt incomplete. The author briefly mentioned 12 other patients but did not provide much details, apart from the fact that some were not able to go back to their past lives. He didn't offer an explanation of why not.

The biggest criticism for most people (myself included when I first read it) was this sentence that the patient spoke of when she went back to a past life, "People are writing all day, making a library. It is 1536 BC" (p39) - would people really say BC back then, before they even knew they were in the BC?! I supposed the author could have use BC to clarify the time frame for us, but he never clarified whether that was the case or not.

The author also stated that he's scientific and skeptical due to his medical training, so it was very difficult for him to believe about the past live business in the beginning, but he kept an open mind, and in the end the patient seemed to be "cured" for her many psychiatric issues due to knowing what had happened in her past lives.

It was an interesting story, but I still don't really know what to believe in. I guess it is one of those things you have to try it out yourself to really believe in it? I guess I wouldn't oppose to talking to the author to see if I do have any past lives :) So, really, it is difficult to rate this book, but I'll give it a 3 - an "okay" rating since I don't love it or hate it, but I am still intrigued.

3 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



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RIP - Jeffrey Zaslow

I just found out that Jeffrey Zaslow had passed away in a car accident a few days ago.

I first heard of him when I read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow back in 2008. I watched Pausch's Last Lecture youtube video first (if you haven't, I hardly recommend you watch it - with some Kleenex!) And this book was written for his children as he knew he won't live long due to his pancreatic cancer. I used to follow his blog to get updates on his progress, but sometimes was afraid to check it in case of bad news...

Anyway, I was saddened to hear Zaslow had also passed... it reminded me that I had his latest book, The Magic Room: A Story about the Love We Wish for Our Daughters, but haven't gotten around to read it yet... in fact, I found that I was supposed to be doing a blog tour on this book on 1/29, but I had totally forgotten!!! This was a first... but I guess I blamed it on pregnancy forgetfulness and fatigue!! At least I remember I have the book... now that I will be (hopefully) a mother, I think this book will become even more meaningful. Zaslow had 3 daughters, so this book was dedicated to them about his hopes for them :(

I read a very heartwarming tribute to him - even if you haven't read any of Zaslow's books, at least read this tribute and you'd find that not only we lost a fine writer, but we lost a fine person too (and a husband/father).  

RIP Jeff.

PS - Yes I totally plan to read the Magic Room!! I remember how fun it was to try on wedding dresses... I had a 4 years engagement, I probably tried on 100+ dresses... but in the end I chose a very simple bias dress instead. Still it was fun to try on puffy, princessy dresses that totally weren't me.




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Saturday, February 4, 2012

quote








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Friday, February 3, 2012

Updates

I am once again behind on my reviews. But I guess I do have an excuse this time.

I have been feeling very tired, and just had no energy to read, let alone blog.

Because I am with child :) Due in mid-August.

I shouldn't complain too much as I don't have much morning sickness. Apart from fatigue, I just have hunger attacks (first time it happened, I was sweating, shaking and almost passed out). We were going to go out for dinner at 7pm, and it happened at 6pm. I told husband to just get me some food so I ate some leftovers quickly. Needless to say, we didn't end up going out since I was full.

I am also getting forgetful... I forgot to renew a library book oops. Luckily the fine is only 75 cents. Usually I am on top of this since it's all done online and they send you reminder! I don't even recall seeing the reminder...

Something book related - I was reading 1222 by Anne Holt, a locked-room Scandinavian mystery/thriller. In the middle of this book, I was enjoying this sub-genre (locked-room) I went to search for other books. I found a few classics that had been voted as the best in this category. My library doesn't have them, so I am having other libraries in the network to send them over! For those of you who have read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, that's an example of this sub-genre. I like that you have to use logic to deduce who the killer is.

So these are the ones I am going to read (hopefully I'd have more energy soon!)

The Three Coffins / The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr, 1935 (supposedly the best there is)
The Judas Window by Carter Dickson, 1938 (aka John Dickson Carr)

Rim of the Pit by Henning Nelms, 1944
The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux, 1907 (John Dickson Carr's favorite)

These are all old books, and I usually prefer contemporary books (after 2000?) so we'll see how I like them!

Has anyone read any of them?





All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Updates

Yay I am only 13 books behind in my review (9 fiction and 4 non-fiction). Well for the 2011 books I read anyway. I have another 4 (including 1 NDF) to review yet for 2012. But at least I am catching up, as it had been over 20 books behind for a long time!

Part of the reason was probably because I am reading rather slow this year, so I am not as many books behind. So far in January, I'd only finished 3 books, and had another 2 DNF. I am about half way through my current book, A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. So I will finish at least 4 books this month (and if I read something fast/short after that, I may be able to squeeze in another one). This is far less than my usual 8 books on average. Ah well, quality over quantity.

It's also Chinese New Year today! Happy Chinese New Year to those who celebrate it! There is not much atmosphere here though. I do miss the food... maybe next year I'd make more of an effort to celebrate it. I was thinking of going to the Asian grocery store for something, but it had been cold / road conditions hadn't been the best, so we abandoned that idea.

Kitties are doing well. Sometimes I wondered if Sesame should have been called Sesa-you instead of Sesa-me since he is quite "me-centered" :) He doesn't like you petting him if he doesn't want you to, but you'd better pet him when he wants it! Though I should learn from him - everything is a toy to him. The whole house is like Disneyland according to him. Empty boxes? Yay! Plastic pen? Yay! Toilet paper roll? Yay! If we could only have such an optimistic outlook and find fun in everything.



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Book Review - Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave


Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave

This was my November book club choice. I'd heard some good things about it so I was looking forward to reading this story. I am a bit torn about how I feel about it.

The first half of the book was very engaging, and what a strong first sentence - "Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl." (implying that people are happier to see a coin than an African girl). However, the second half slowed. And I also did not like the ending - not because it was happy or sad, but because it was ambiguous. I just do not like ambiguous endings. I know some readers like that because they can finish the story with their own imagination or have their own desired ending, but I prefer the author to tell me because it is their story, not mine.


The story were told from two perspectives - Little Bee (the African girl), and Sarah who met Little Bee in Nigeria on that fateful day on the beach that changed both of their lives. I liked the Little Bee chapters much more than Sarah's. Someone from the book club asked if the book would have been better if Sarah's chapters were eliminated. Well, her side of the story did provide some background, so I don't know how that'd work. I guess I just did not know how I felt about Sarah - I really admired a couple of actions she took, but at the same time, she seemed rather naive for a 32 years old and she made lots of decisions I disliked also.


I also wondered about Little Bee's language ability - it did not seem like she knew much English beforehand (that was the impression I got anyway, since she lived in a rural little town in Nigeria), and yet she spoke too poetically and with much sophistication from someone who learned most of her English in the detention center watching TV. Though I suppose some people are more gifted with languages than others. (Note, I was not aware that English was Nigeria's official language, though according to wiki, English is more for the urban elite, and not for rural areas.)


The story sometimes was too contrived [Spoilers] - Little Bee's detection "friend" hanged herself, Sarah's husband hanged himself.  Little Bee and Sarah's boyfriend Lawrence both mentioned the word "just" and its implication separately, e.g. calling someone "just" a co-worker when it wasn't necessary ("she is a coworker, vs. "she is just a coworker"), as it implied some guilt. The cop got called about Sarah's missing son would also arrest Little Bee, then Little Bee would be back to Nigeria so soon for deportation, even though she was in the detention center for 2 years prior... [/Spoilers]

I am not a writer, but I also thought the author seemed to tell more than show - mostly with Little Bee telling us what hapepend. I think my disappointment also came from the hype - the back of the book said "Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how they story unfolds." But I didn't really feel the magic. I kept waiting for the magic. The message of the story was an important one (what refugees had to do to survive), and I don't disagree with that, but I thought the execution could have been better. However, it did make me think, if I was in Nigeria on that fateful day, what would I have done? Would I have done what Sarah did? or Andrew? Or something else altogether? I simply do not know. I think it is one of those scenarios that you won't know how you'd react until it happened to you.


One of the most interesting aspects of the book was to read about Little Bee's survival/exit strategy (see 3rd quote below) - what her mind set was even when she was in a seemingly safe place. But the author didn't really have to devote a whole chapter to it as it just got boring after a while - we got the message already. I also liked the author's subtle humor (see 4th quote). As you could see, all the quotes came within the first 50 pages. I really wish the rest of the book was as strong.


Note - there were some brutal, violent moments in the book. So be warmed as I know some readers couldn't stomach graphic descriptions.


We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived. (p9)

In your country, if you are not scared enough already, you can go to watch a horror film. Afterward you can go out of the cinema into the night and for a little while there is horror in everything. Perhaps there are murderers lying in wait for you at home. You think this because there is a light on in your house that you are certain you did not leave on... Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it. For me and the girls from my village, horror is a disease and we are sick with it. It is not an illness you can cure yourself of by standing up and letting the big red cinema seat fold itself up behind you. (p45)

In the immigration detention center, they told us we must be disciplined to overcome our fears. This is the discipline I learned: whenever I go into a new place, I work out how I would kill myself there. In case the men came suddenly, I make sure I am ready. The first time I went into Sarah's bathroom I was thinking, Yes Little Bee, in here you would break the mirror of that medicine cabinet and cut your wrists with the splinters. When Sarah took me for a ride in her car I was thinking, Here, Little Bee, you would roll down the window and unbuckle your seat belt and tip yourself out of the window, no fuss, in front of the very next lorry that comes the other way. (p47)

In the canteen there was a television that was always on. I began to learn more about life in your country. I watched programs called Love Island and Hell's Kitchen and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and I worked out how I would kill myself on all of those shows. Drowning, knives, and ask the audience. (p49)  


3 / 5 .
(The first half would have been at least a 4 / 5, but the 2nd half did not live up to the expectation.)


Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review - The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I know many bloggers love this book (or other books by Selznick). This is my first book by the author, and unfortunately it just didn't work for me. It has an interesting concept - a story combined with pencil drawings. The drawings were nice, but didn't wow me. Maybe because I had seen some really amazing pencil drawings. The story was fine, but a bit simplistic and slow for me. I kept waiting for some magical moments but they never arrived. I don't remember the ending now (3 months later), but whatever it was, it didn't blow my mind. Maybe I am spoiled by Shawn Tan's books? His stories were even simpler, but I felt inspired from his books.

I know I am totally NOT the target audience, so I am sharing my thoughts from an adult's perspective - someone who is not familiar with children's books (at least not for this age range - amazon listed it as 9 years and up). Maybe if I read this with a kid, I'd have felt differently. Or I am just too old and cynical lol.

I know the movie came out not long ago, and had good reviews too. But I doubt I'd be watching it any time soon. There are some quotes I did like from this book:

Some magicians started off as clock makers. They used their knowledge of machines to build these automata to amaze their audiences. The sole purpose of the machines was to fill people with wonder, and they succeeded. No one in the audience could figure out how these mysterious figures danced or wrote to sang. It was as if the magicians had created artificial life, but the secret was always in the clockworks. (p113)

"Sometimes I think I like these photos as much as I like the movies, " she said. "You can make up your own story when you look at a photo." (p193)

"Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason?" he asked Isabelle. "They are built to make you laugh, like the mouse here, or to tell the time, like clocks, or to fill you with wonder, like the automaton. Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do." (p374) 

2 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review - Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth




Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth

Yep, another YA dystopian trilogy. But I do like this one - it did remind me a bit of The Hunger Games, though I still thought the Hunger Games is better, probably because it tugged on my emotion more (Katniss' love for her little sister).

The main protagonist, Beatrice/Tris (she decided to go by Tris later) reminded me a bit of Katniss - strong, smart, but sometimes she acted before she thought through it. The 5 factions each 16 years old had to choose which one they belonged to were Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). I liked the world-building in the book.  It did make me think, if I had to choose, which faction would I choose? I think most likely Erudite. I doubt I'd ever be a Dauntless, but those who chose it thought:


But becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it., that's the point. (p239)


It didn't really explain why you could only choose one, but I supposed that was the whole point of dystopian fiction - there were elements that were out of the characters' control, and it was up to them to do something about it:


My father says that those who want power and get it live in terror of losing it. That's why we have to give power to those who do not want it. (p68)


I could also guess who Four (another character) was right off the bat, so it didn't quite come as a surprise. I liked him too, but we did not know a lot about him yet. The other characters didn't leave as much of an impression (I could hardly remember their names now) but there were quite of few supporting characters. I had to laugh though when I read what Tris thought about having a pet - that's exactly what I felt before I became a kitty mama:


What is the point in providing food and shelter for an animal that just soils your furniture, makes your home smell bad, and ultimately dies? (p193)


While part of the plot was predictable (you know, like Tris can't die yet in Book 1) I am not quite sure where the next book would lead us, so I look forward to it! Hopefully it'd just be as fast paced as this one, and we'll get to know the characters a bit more, and that it doesn't suffer from "middle book syndrome" where the author saved the best bits for the last book.

If you like YA dystopian, go read this series!

4 / 5 .


Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Reivew - Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan




Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan

Part memoir, and part recipes, I was getting hungry while reading this book. The author's family fled from Iran to California in 1978, and she talked about the Persian food she grew up eating, the French food she learned cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and the fusion food (combining the two) she served in her own restaurant.

I am not familiar with either Persian or French cuisine, so it was interesting to read about recipes such as Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant, Orange Cardamom Cookies,  Roast Duck Legs with Dates and Warm Lentil Salad, and Rose Petal Ice Cream. She also mentioned persimmon and how Californians had no idea what they were missing out on with this wonderful fruit (they found lots of persimmons wasted from people's yards in California). I love persimmon! Though I grew up just eating it as a fruit, or as a dried fruit (you have to soak it first before eating it. I much prefer it fresh). I also knew about pomegranates, which the author also grew up eating, since I was a little kid (many years ago now :) so I was amazed how it'd become a buzz food here in the US in recent years. When she talked about Persian food, it actually reminded me a bit of Chinese food too. I was so glad I won a copy of this book, so now I didn't have to type up the recipes from the book!


But above all, this book really was a tribute to her mother. Her mother had such a big influence on her and you could tell between the lines their love for each other. Her mum was a remarkable woman,  and I was so touched by their stories that it made me missed my mother, who lives overseas, that I called her right away (I don't like talking on the phone much... so I don't call as frequently as I should... and my mum doesn't email.) It was a heartwarming story, though the author did not go into a lot of her own personal life, such as how she met her husband, or her relationship with her sisters. Hence why I thought this was written more in her mother's memory (she did dedicate it to both her parents. Her dad just did not get mentioned as much as the mother.) I liked her mother's thought on parenting:


She believed a parent's job was to provide love and security without staking any claims on a child's future, that children owned their dreams, their mishaps, their triumphs, and their failures. (p98)


I could also really identify with the quote below - like the author, I had lived in 3 different countries (her - Iran, US, France. Me - Hong Kong, Australia and US). I often have no idea how to answer the question, "where are you from?" because well, I call all three my homes. Do I really have to be exclusive and choose just one? 




Paris, San Francisco, Tehran, all claim a part of me. As I looked out the window on the plane home from Paris, I thought about how the ktichens where I was shaped belong to all these places, and yet none claim to be the center. I'll always negotiate that in-between culture. And I'll alwyas rely on the longing for these places, and I'll always be learning to move between them without falling through the gaps. (p203).
I recommend this book to those who like food, cooking, and like to learn about other culture!

4 / 5 .


Note - The book was originally borrowed from the library, though I'd also won a free copy from another blogger, Chocolate and Croissants.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Review - Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 1 - 3 (out of 5) by by Koushun Takami, Masayuki Taguchi


Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 1 - 3 (out of 5) by by Koushun Takami, Masayuki Taguchi (GRAPHIC NOVELS)

I have never heard of this book before until The Hunger Games - some people said The Hunger Games author, Suzanne Collins, stole the idea (a bunch of teenagers killing each other off in a game) from this book, written by a Japanese author. I was curious, and wanted to see how close the two stories were. My library did not have the novel, but had the graphic novels instead. So I decided to read them.

It was probably a good thing that I read the graphic novels instead! I think there were like 40+ kids in this game, and with all their Japanese names, I would never have remembered who was who without the visuals! In fact, with 24 kids in The Hunger Games, I already got confused with a lot of the minor characters. Anyway back to this series...

Each of the ultimate edition is THICK. It wasn't until I was done with Book 3 (all the volumes my library had) that I found out there were 2 more volumes! And I couldn't find them in any of the library in my network... so I googled the ending instead (interestingly enough, the plot/characters/ending in the graphic novels differed a bit from the original novel, as did the movie!)

Now, I could see where people said Collins may have copied the idea from this story (if she did indeed read this story). The premise really was very similar. However, I think that was where the similarity ended. The reason behind the game, how the game ended, and most importantly, the personalities of the characters, were all very different, so the two stories had a very different feel to them. I mean, look at all the vampires stories out there - most of them are about vampires and non-vampires falling in love, but yet they are all different.

Due to the numerous characters in this series, only a handful of them were more developed, but I guess this was more of a plot-driven story to see who'd win ultimately. I supposed, since I read the graphic novel version, the character development might also be lacking a bit compared to the novel (just a guess). I also would NOT recommend this series for those until 18 years old - it had A LOT of adult content - violence (more so than The Hunger Games) and sex (to think these were 9th grade students). I am not sure whether the original novel included sexual content or not (but I presume the violence would still be there, given the premise.)

I did like the ending of this story (well, from what I could tell from searching google).

This story was also made into a movie, and I watched that too. As mentioned, some plot development and what happened to the characters were altered, but the overall story was still the same. Interestingly enough, there was no sexual content at all in the movie, but the violence was probably worse because now you got to see all the blood and gory.

Overall, I still liked the Hunger Games better, because I cared about the characters. With this series, I just wanted to see who win and how it ended. But you have to give credit to the author for using such a controversial and thought provoking topic as the backdrop of the story. This story also was not dystopian - it could be something that was happening in today's world instead.


3.5 / 5 .





Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay


No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay


Fourteen-year-old Cynthia Bigge woke one morning to discover that her entire family–mother, father,brother–had vanished. No note, no trace, no return. Ever.  Now, twenty-five years later, she’ll learn the devastating truth.

Sounds so intriguing! I mean, if I wake up tomorrow and find my family gone... I wouldn't know what to do.

This was a fast paced, engaging thriller, and I nearly missed my bus top when I read it on the way home. The characters were likeable but not memorable. The twists were good but not WOW. The way the twists were revealed were a bit anticlimactic, but it did keep you guessing. The loose ends were tied up at the end.

I would try other books by this author (this was my first, based on Thrill Week's recommendations, thank you!) if I want something "light and fluffy" (if you can call this genre light and fluffy lol). Though I have to admit, now that it'd been 3 months since I read it, I hardly remembered the plot - when I read some spoiler reviews, I remembered what happened, but not without those prompts. So it was fun to read while it lasted, but it did not have much staying power. But I guess that's what light and fluffy reads are for! If I remember every single book I read, my brain would explode.

3.5 / 5 .


Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern



The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I was looking forward to this book - there was such a hype on the blogs about this. I should know better since my reading taste seems to be different to the majority of the bloggers. I thought this book would be magical (hey it's about the circus after all!) well, it started off well, and captured my interest, and then it just went on, and on, and on, and on, and on... and a quarter of the way through the almost 400 pages book, and still nothing happened.

Maybe this would work better as a movie, as I'd love to see how Celia did her magic, and what the opening night bonfire looked like. But that'd probably only last just seconds, instead of multiple pages.

If you like descriptive, flowery, wordy story, then go for it. Not for me.


0 / 5 Did Not Finish

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Amazing!

Wow, came across this video. Riusuke Fukahori 深堀隆介 is crazy talented!

Just watch - all the goldfish are PAINTED!





All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - Hot Lights, Cold Steel by D. P. Lyle



Hot Lights, Cold Steel by D. P. Lyle

Forensic criminalist Dub Walker is called upon when an old friend enlists his help in finding her 19-year-old daughter.  I saw this book in the library's new book section, and I found the premise intriguing as I was hoping it'd be like Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series with a forensic criminalist as a protagonist. The author is a cardiologist, a writer, and a story and technical consultant for several popular television shows, including 1-800-Missing, Cold Case, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, House, Judging Amy, Law & Order, Medium, Monk, and Peacemakers - pretty impressive credentials!

I was disappointed with the story. I felt like there was no character development for Dub Walker - then after I had finished the book, I found out that this was #2 in the Dub Walker series, so that might explain the lack of character development (I am guessing all his background was discussed in #1? Unless #1 was written in the same manner...) So there was a disconnect because I had no idea who he was or what he was like, apart from he just knew all this people or had all this knowledge and could solve the crime just like that.

While the protagonist did use a little bit of scientific or behavioral knowledge to solve the crime, it was no where near as engaging, interesting, and detailed as Jeffery Deaver's story. So overall, a fairly unremarkable thriller for me, though there were a handful of good reviews out there. Maybe my expectations were just too high, or that I should have started with Book 1 - the cover did not indicate that this was a series at all - I guess you could read it as a stand alone if you really don't care about knowing the characters. While I prefer plot-driven to character-driven novels, I still have to care the characters enough to keep on reading. Why else would I waste my time on reading something I don't care about - be it the protagonist or the victim or villains. I need some emotional attachment.

2 / 5 .


Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review - Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb



Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb

As you can guessed from the book title, this book is about Henry and his 3 sisters - and how they dealt with a family crisis when something happened to mum. I thought the book started out okay... then 5 days later and about half way through, I just got bored. Normally I would have stopped, but since this was for a book club, I thought I'd try a little harder, so I skimmed the rest to see what happened instead (yes I cheated!) Well, not much happened until maybe the last couple of chapters, so I didn't feel like I missed much. The book could have been a lot shorter (funny, both goodreads and amazon said it is 352 pages? But I made a note that it was 430 pages?! Maybe it had been shortened since?!?!)  Regardless of the actual number of pages, it still felt too long.

But the main reason I didn't like it was because of the characters - it seemed like EVERYBODY was a stereotype. EVERYBODY had to have an extreme flaw. Now, I get that we are not perfect and we all have flaws, but what is the likelihood that everyone in the family had a different behavioral disorder from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)? It just seemed quite unrealistic. Henry just happened to be the glue that brought everyone together because he... well I am not going to spoil it for you if you decide to read it. Just know that everything was so contrived, and everything was tied in a nice little bow at the end of the story as someone else from the book club put it. Though most of the people at the book club did liked it (except me and my friends, who are younger than the rest of the group).

This book reminded me a bit of The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (see my review here) minus the Shakespeare reference. This book was published prior to the Weird Sisters though.

I did find a few quotes I liked (I do have 2 younger sisters after all):

"And we were never locked in closets. We chose to go there all on our own. To hide." (p14)

To me, the wind has always seemed like a person, with all the mood swings and rampaging, out-of-control emotions that we have. Sometimes it's angry and whips around corners, sometimes it ruffles the river as it hurries toward the ocean, sometimes it puffs on by, gentle, caressing. (p25)

The problem I see with fights between sisters is that the fights can degenerate to scorching meanness so quick, the words cutting right to the marrow, because sisters know how to hurt each other with pinpoint accuracy. They have history and hurts and slights and jealousies and resentment and they don't know how to rein it in, filter, or how not to be brutally honest with one another. (p95) 


1 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - Letters for Emily by Camron Wright



Letters for Emily by Camron Wright

Grandpa was dying from Alzheimer's disease, and so he decided to write a book of poems for his granddaughter, Emily, while he was still alert. As Emily and her parents and relatives read the letters later, they were full of riddles - what did they mean? Could it have been a hidden fortune? Or something else?


I read this book soon after The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright (see my review here). In fact, I went to the library specifically to borrow The Wednesday Letters, and then found this book nearby since the author's last names were the same. The premise sounded inspiring, and I ended up liking this book a bit more than The Wednesday Letters - but mostly because of the riddles. It was fun to try to solve the riddles, but of course the story was written for the characters, not the readers, to solve the riddles, so we did not always have enough clues or were exposed to every riddles (sometimes we just got the answer - the message - instead.)


The writing was just okay, similar to others I had read in this genre. There wasn't a lot of character development, so you don't really get to know them, as it focused more on the message. It just didn't get as emotional or touching as I hoped it would be. It was interesting to learn that the author was inspired to write this story based on writings from his own grandfather.


I did found a couple of quotes I liked:

This disease is a thief. It begins with short spells of forgetfulness, but before it's finished, it steals everything. It takes your favorite color, the smell of your favorite food, the night of your first kiss, your love of golf. (p2)

Parents are strange and wonderful creatures. When you're small they seem bright, shiny, and invincible. As you grow, that image starts to fade. It's a sobering moment, but the time will come when you realize they are not the heroes you imagined. They are just people struggling to do the best they can, just the same as you are. You will feel let down, betrayed, even ashamed. This is the time, Emily, when you need to forgive your parents for being human. (p179). 

3.5 / 5 .

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.