Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teaser Tuesday - The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

Happy Tuesday everyone! How's the year starting out for you? I'm slowly getting into the "moving" gear, since my uni-related stuff will be winding down and I'll be moving to a different prefecture next month. I've still got some time, but the thought of packing (especially all my books! I think I've double - maybe tripled - the number I own since I arrived) fills me with fear.

I finished The Bear and the Nightingale yesterday, and it was fantastic. Right now, I've just started The Gift of Rain, which is also very highly acclaimed (or at least so I've heard). I'm just hoping that the high from The Bear and the Nightingale doesn't influence how I feel about The Gift of Rain.

My teaser:
"On the day I was born, my father planted a casuarina tree. 
It was a tradition begun by his grandfather."
What about you? What are you reading?

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Achievement Habit by Bernard Roth

Finally finished reading this book! I thought it was pretty good so I took lots of notes - which I've shared here. The book is based on Design Thinking and the principles are (according to the guy who's one of the founders): empathise, define the problem, generate a possible solution, prototype, test and get feedback. And the order is flexible.
The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. - Carol Dweck
So the first point that was made is that we give things their meaning. The second was that reasons are "just excuses prettied up." Which does make sense - we find time to do the things we want to do, and we make reasons for why we didn't do others. True, there might be extenuating circumstances, but that plays a much smaller role than you might think.

For example, I could have kept up my NaNo word count at the Balloon Fiesta. I just didn't because I didn't want to (and told myself I was tired).

The other point in chapter 2 that I liked was that making decisions is important. It's like what the conversation between the Cheshire Cat and Alice, where he tells her that if you don't care where you want to go, "it doesn't matter which way you do."

Chapter 3 was on reframing problems, trying to get to the route of it. Ask yourself "what would it do for me if I solved this problem" and see what the real problem is.

Chapter 4 I summed up as "We can learn from others - emulate their positive attributes and be careful not to copy their negative ones."

The next chapter was on doing. The book says that "small steps with accompanying successes lead to major life transformations", and to be careful of making decisions based on research because researchers have biases too. But the quote I liked best from this chapter was:

Doing takes intention and attention.

Chapter 6 was on language and I thought it was very illuminating. I didn't think of how small changes can have a big impact. For example "I want to finish this report and I'm tired" is more conducive to finding a solution to the problem than "I want to finish this report but I'm tired." which is more like an excuse. Other words include can't (helpless) and won't (volition).

The book's guidelines for conversations are:

1. Speak from your own experience and feelings as much as possible
2. One of the most difficult things to do is to listen to someone's story and not interrupt
3. The next most difficult thing if you're a listener is not to follow immediately with one of your own stories

The next part is on Group Habits and I think it applies mainly if you don't really know your group mates? I don't know but if it's people I know, I feel like I can be a lot blunter with them.

And then it's Chapter 8, which is on 'Self-Image by Design'. The thing to realise is that we carry traits from our parents, even if we don't want to. So what we have to do is to figure out our basic intentions and figure out how to achieve them, either by affirmation or changing something.

The book recommends this series of questions to find your self-image:

1. Who am I in terms of what I have?
2. Who am I in terms of what I do?
3. Who am I in terms of my being?

And remember, your self-image does not have to stay stagnant.

The second last chapter is on the big picture. Remember that life isn't always linear. And that if you mess up, 'fess up. Lying about your mistakes always makes things worse.

Problem: "any situation we want to change"
Life: "consists of solving a series of problems."

I thought this book was really good (and my summary only scratched the surface so go borrow it! It's on the NLB eRead's thing!). It's full of practical tips, and a lot of what it says makes sense. I'd recommend it to people who need something to motivate them to change/start taking action.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Daughter's Deadly Deception by Jeremy Grimaldi

This alliteratively titled book is about the Jennifer Pan case, where an outwardly 'perfect' daughter plotted to have her parents killed by hitmen. Luckily, they messed up, her dad survived and her plans were uncovered (and she was found guilty).

The first half of the book covers the aftermath of the crime, the investigation and the trial. The second half is an analysis of why Jennifer might have been pushed to falsify her high school results, university results and ultimately, plot to kill her parents after they found out part of the truth.

While a big part of the book hypothesises that Jennifer was driven to do what she did because of her strict Asian parents, I'm more inclined to agree with the psychologist that says that "Jennifer's behaviour is more consistent with that of a sociopath than someone who is suicidal, depressed, or struggling through the symptoms that lead to cutting" and her other behaviours.

The fact that she spent a significant stretch of time plotting to kill her parents and escape being caught basically tells me that this wasn't desperation, this was a premeditated act. She could have taken the ultimatum to leave her family, but she wanted the comforts of home without the rules that it had and decided that killing was the right choice.

I mean, I'm raised in an Asian home too (though my parents weren't as strict), so by all accounts, I should have been able to empathise and sympathise with her. But I couldn't because she was just so selfish. It really seemed like she thought the world revolved around her.

And while I found the analysis to be deeply interesting, I also find it weird that so much time was devoted to the parenting method (especially the Tiger Parents thing). If this was a non-Asian person, I think a lot more attention would be paid to "warning signs" rather than the way she was raised as a cause of her actions. Think about it: the Tiger Parenting method produces both successes and failures, like every other parenting method. So why is so much attention paid to this when it ordinarily isn't? Not to mention the fact that it wasn't a household entirely devoid of love - while her father may have found it difficult to express love, it seems like her mother did make the effort.

In conclusion, this is a well-written presentation of an extremely tragic case. I found the analysis interesting, though the emphasis on the 'Asian Parenting style' was a little odd to me (but only because I think more blame should be ascribed to Jennifer rather than her family).

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I heard about Catherine McKenzie when Wendy at Literary Feline reviewed Fractured. But the library only had Arranged, so I decided to read that instead. When the blurb mentioned that "X is not who he seems" and stuff like that, my mind immediately jumped to SERIAL KILLER THIS MUST BE A THRILLER.

Well, this was definitely not a thriller.

The "arranged" in the title refers to arranged marriages. Basically, after breaking up with a boyfriend and then having everyone around her have a happy relationship, Anne Blythe gets fed up and decides to take things into her own hands. She contacts an arranged marriage company (well, she thought it was a dating company at first). There, she ends up being matched with Jack, who she ends up marrying.

But while the company is very legit, Jack is there under false pretences (but not evil nefarious ones, even if Anne thinks so after she finds out the truth).

After I got over my shock that this wasn't a thriller (I suppose I should pay more attention to covers), I found that I really enjoyed the book. Anne was a little whiny, especially at the start, but I can understand why she was so whiny and desperate, so it wasn't too off-putting.

Plus, I really liked the relationships in the book. Not just Anne and Jack, but Gilbert (her brother) and Cathy, and Sarah (her best friend) and Mike. I wish that these couples were given more room on the page, because they were sweet but not sickeningly so.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I would totally read more from the author. I really hope that the library gets Fractured soon!