Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Raven's Rise by Lincoln Cole

One good thing about having author friends is that if you fall in love with one of the series they write, you get early access to their books! I've been following the World on Fire series since the first book, Raven's Peak, and I'm so excited that Raven's Rise will be coming out today!!

Raven's Rise continues right after the events of Raven's Fall where (spoilers for the previous book) Haatim's father has betrayed the council which resulted in a demon killing almost all of them. Only Haatim, Dominick, Frieda, Haatim's father and one council member remain (Abigail's whereabouts are unknown and a plot point so I shall not spoil that for you).

Out of the three books, I think this is the one where Haatim really grows. In the first book, Haatim was basically scared but had potential. In the second, the focus for him was on family. In this, however, he takes a much more active role and learns a great deal more about the gift that he has.

And speaking of learning, the reader is going to learn a lot in this book. I thought I was pretty used to this world, but Lincoln Cole just proved that I knew nothing with quite a few explosive revelations about the council and Abigail's history. Even though I was surprised by it, I totally bought the new information too, so everything built on the previous books rather nicely.

If you're a fan of horror and for some reason you haven't picked up this series yet, you absolutely have to. The first two books are already out, and this third book will be out soon, which provides the perfect binge reading opportunity.

But you might want to limit it to daytime reading.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of the book from the author, who (like I mentioned above), I know.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

Drive is basically about motivation and I ended up taking lots of notes while reading so here you go. Right now, motivation (called Motivation 2.0 in the book) is based on a carrot and stick approach, i.e. Rewarding something gets you more of it and punishing it gets you less. But experiments have shown that extrinsic rewards decrease intrinsic motivation and even altruistic behaviour. For example, when kids were given a reward for drawing (and that reward was made clear before they started), they were more likely to have lower levels of enjoyment of drawing, no matter how much they liked it before. Also, money makes people give less blood. That said, extrinsic rewards/carrot and stick system is useful for tasks which are linear and have a clear goal in mind.

From there, the author comes up with two personality types: Type I (intrinsic) and X (extrinsic). No one is purely one type and everyone is on the continuum, but the author believes that we are naturally Type I. And even though I is mainly intrinsic, they still need things like adequate pay, which is kind of like what Herzberg's hygiene factors were talking about.

With these two types in mind, the author goes into detail on intrinsic motivation and defining three factors:

1. Autonomy - people need autonomy but don't suddenly switch their environment, they'll struggle.

2. Mastery - Flow is essential to mastery but does not guarantee it. Mastery is also a mindset: if you believe that intelligence is fixed then... wrong mindset. If you think you can increase it, it leads to mastery. For more, read Anderson Ericsson (who was referenced).

3. Purpose - to quote the book: "Autonomous people working towards mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more." But this motivator is not recognised by Motivation 2.0

From there, the book talks about the Type I toolkit, about what individuals, companies, parents etc can do. Suggestions include giving yourself a flow test, doing an autonomy audit and such.

One thing was that the book talked about unschooling, which I have some reservations about (though if everyone was born as Type I, like the author believes, I can see why he would recommend it), but it did recommend The Teenage Liberation Handbook which I really hated so I have mixed feelings about it. Plus, even if everyone is born Type I, external factors may make unschooling totally unsuitable (for example, if the parents let kids watch as much TV as they want).

There are also book recommendations, guru recommendations, and even fitness recommendations.

I would totally recommend people to read this book with Peak by Anders Ericsson and Grit by Angela Duckworth. This is on motivation, Peak is on practice and Grit is on hanging on. Someone should package these books as a set.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Avery by Ken Kratz

Full disclosure time: I've never had the chance to watch Making a Murderer. I have heard that it exposes the injustices of the justice system, but I don't have Netflix so I never did get around to watching it. And if we're talking about true-crime, I ended Serial thinking that Adnan Syed was guilty, and after looking at the full case files, felt even more certain that he was.

So I thought this book would be interesting, to see how 'the other side' explains itself. And since I've already heard about the injustice of the system, I read with an eye out for that sort of thing.

Avery is a surprisingly gripping and readable account of the Theresa Halbach case. And if even half of what the book says it's true, then the Making a Murderer people are committing an injustice by trying to get a guilty man out.

What makes me doubt Steven Avery's innocence is the fact that his own defence (and the Making a Murderer team) has to bend over backwards to make him seem innocent.

That cat incident? Avery chased down the cat, doused it in oil and threw it into a fire. That is clearly not goofing around.

His ex-wives talks about his abusiveness, and one called him a monster (claims are corroborated by an article in The Rolling Stone)

And the show itself splices courtroom video together in a way that changes the meaning of the conversation entirely. Lines are cut, to the extent that a "yes" becomes a reply to a question that was left out, rather than the question in the video.

That, I think, is very problematic.

As for the justice system part, I am inclined to take Ken Kratz at his word because of how honest about his sexting scandal he is, and the remorse he feels.

Plus, I also agree that framing Avery requires a ridiculous amount of effort and hatred would be needed, and that the cops that were involved (who were only involved because they weren't involved in the previous case and because of a lack of manpower) had no reason to have so personal and deep a grudge.

The writing in this book is enjoyable and engaging, though overly emotional at times. And while most of the book was spent on the claims and evidence against Avery, I appreciate the fact that the book starts with a portrait of Theresa, to remind everyone just who the real victim was in this case.

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I had really high hopes for this book, and the premise is interesting, but it turned out to be only so-so. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is Barbara Kingsolver's account of the year where she and her family tried to eat only what they raised or was grown locally (with a few exceptions).

The premise is interesting and I enjoyed reading some of her accounts, and of course I agree that we should eat seasonal (something that I learnt after coming to Japan - I appreciate the fact that even the big chain supermarkets have corners that are dedicated to local produce), but the book was off-puttingly preachy at times. I probably managed to miss the worst of it by reading only a couple of chapters at the time, but the introductory chapters and "you can't run away on harvest day" were really preachy.

(By the way, I don't know if it helps but I skipped over her husband's columns after one chapter. I persisted with her daughter's columns for a while more but eventually gave up too, since it's basically what her mother says.)

Oh yeah, and the book is basically "we should all eat local and it's totally possible and great for the earth" but doesn't really consider that this is possible only in countries like America. In Singapore, for instance, only 10% of the food consumed is produced locally. An experiment like Kingsolver's is going to be very hard, if not impossible. I even went to Google farmers markets in Singapore and it seems like for at least two, quite a lot of their stuff is imported too - unlike the farmers markets that are so highly praised in the book. A few seem to have more local stuff but they aren't held very often.

Plus, if I'm not wrong, there are studies that say that eating green would be more helpful than eating local - though I'm not too sure and I will not be giving up meat any time soon so I guess I should be choosing the less harmful of the two options.

In short, while I agree that we should try to eat seasonal and local when possible (because it is more delicious - not sure about whether it's cheaper, since Japanese mangoes and grapes are more expensive than the imported ones!), the book is incredibly preachy which makes it hard to read at times.