Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Reading Summary

I'm glad to say that I have completed all my reading challenges for 2015 successfully. I just wished I had more time to posts my review for all the books I've read this year and participate in the challenge discussions held by the hosts for each challenge.

Anyway, even though I've met my challenges, I felt that I kinda cheated cause most of the books are really books I read/listened together with the kids.

However, I did read a lot of series. I FINALLY finished reading the full installment of Sookie Stackhouse. I stopped reading Sookie Stackhouse when the TV series came out. I figured I had the complete books, so I should just get it over and done with. Slightly disappointed with the final outcome of the series but glad that I finished it nonetheless.

My favorite series for the year is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. I love all the characters and absolutely love the storyline. The narration on audiobook is really excellent. I honestly can't wait for book six to be out sometime in 2016.

We Were Liars is my most memorable read for 2015. Hands down.

To sum up, I participated in three challenges this year and read/listened to a total of 39 books. Woohoo...

Here are my list of books for 2015:

1. Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
Format: E-book
Challenge: 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Format: E-book
Challenge: 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

3. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Format: E-book
Challenge: 2015 E-book Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

4. Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
Format: E-book
Challenge: 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

5. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
Format: E-book
Challenge: 2015 E-book Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

6. Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

8. Jack & the Beanstalk by Richard Walker and Niamh Sharkey
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

9. The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Format: E-book
Challenge: 2015 E-book reading challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

Format: Hardcover
Challenge: Goodreads 30 books in 2015

12. LegoStar Wars: A New Hope by Emma Grange
Format: Paperback
Challenge: Goodreads 30 books in 2015

Format: Paperback
Challenge: Goodreads 30 books in 2015

Format: Hardcover
Challenge: Goodreads 30 books in 2015

15. We Were Liars by E.Lockhart
Format: E-Book
Challenge: 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

16. Going Gray by Briand Spangler
Format: E-Book
Challenge: 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

17. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

18. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

19. The Walk by Richard Paul Evans
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

20. Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

21. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

22. The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet by Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

23. Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

24. The Very Busy Spider
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

25. The Gruffalo's Child by Julia Donaldson
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

26. Reasonable Doubt by Whitney G
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

27. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

28. Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

29. Flesh and Bone by Jonathan Maberry
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

30. The Unmapped Sea (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #5)
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

31. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
Format: Audiobook
Challenge : 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

32. The Fold by Peter Clines
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

33. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

34. A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Format: Paperback
Challenge: Goodreads 30 books in 2015

35. The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

36. Fire and Ash: A Rot and Ruin Series by Jonathan Mulberry
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

37. The Remaining by D.J. Molles
Format: Audiobook
Challenge: 2015 Audiobook Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

The Gray Series: Omnibus Edition by Brian Spangler
38. Book #2: Gray Skies
39. Book #3: Blinded by Sight
40. Book #4: Union
Format: E-Book
Challenge: 2015 E-Book Reading Challenge | Goodreads 30 books in 2015

Here are the total books read per challenge:

Listened: 24/15

Read: 11/10

Read: 39/30

So that's my reading list for 2015. I'm googling challenges for 2016 to see what I can participate in next year. I'll definitely repeat all three challenges again next year but will commit to more books.

If you know of any great book reading challenges that is going around right now, do drop me a note.

Hugs.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Book Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan


Written by: Koethi Zan
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books

Publishers Summary: 

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”:  a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs.  But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

Review:

It’s been a while since I read anything from the mystery, thriller genre and I think this selection was quite a good break from all the young adult books that I have been reading of late. 10 years after escaping from her sadistic abductor, Sarah is forced to leave the comforts of her secure home to find out what really happened to her friend Jennifer. Her quest unravels something darker and sinister surrounding the events of her abduction.

To my surprise The Never List was actually a quick read. I actually read it in two seatings. It was engaging and gripping from the first page till the last and I could not put it down. The storyline provided a fairly good mystery and I felt the suspense was quite consistent throughout.

Though it does not tell you the details of the torture Sarah went through, I still found it dark and twisted. To be honest, I’m quite glad that the author didn’t go through the gory details because I don’t think I would have finished the book if she did.

Overall, I would think that this is something one can pick up if one wants a light thriller that’s quite easy to read.

I gave this book a 5 over 5 on goodreads because it was dark, suspenseful and had a great plot.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Audiobook Review: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris


Written by: David Sedaris
Narrated by: David Sedaris
Length: 6 hours 25 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Hachette Audio

Publisher's Summary:

From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new collection of essays taking his listeners on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler's experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist's shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.

Review:

This is my first exposure to David Sedaris’s work. I heard it on Audible. The essays were short and mostly revolving around his life experience covering some stories of his family, his life in France etc.

The first essay, Dentists without Borders got me laughing so hard I was afraid I’d get into an accident while driving. Most of his work is hilarious, especially the essays that are related to his own personal experience. He definitely has a very quirky view of life.

Not all the essays were ‘laugh out loud’ material but I generally enjoyed listening to this book. I think this book is better on audio format as Sedaris’s reading style does bring his essays to life and makes it feel a bit more personalized; for me it felt like I was having a conversation with a friend on his experience with his father, losing his passport and mourning the loss of his computer.

Sedaris’s piece on China is the one that I will remember the most. Thanks to you Mr Sedaris, I have decided never to visit China cause now all I think about when I hear China, is phlegm. Yuck…

I gave this book a 4 over 5 on Goodreads.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Colouring Books for Adults

I’m loving this new craze of colouring books for adults. I'm sure these books have been around for a while but I've just made the discovery about a month ago. 

I’m not an artistic person but I’ve always had a set of colour pencils with me. I know it sounds weird but I use it to colour my Moleskine notebook which I use as my daily planner. When I’m planning my day I use colours to identify meetings, to-do list, urgent or non- urgent matters etc. I’ve always found colouring an enjoyable activity, sort of a de-stresser when I list out my often long and always URGENT to do list.

So, when they started selling the colouring books at MPH I got myself two copies. These are not the books that I wanted but since it’s my first time trying this out I got the ones that interested me the most amongst the pile available at the book store. These are the two copies I got for myself.


I haven’t done much colouring as I’ve been pretty busy lately but this activity is quite enjoyable to do with the kids. The kids have their own set of colouring books and colour pencils and we coloured our books together. Though I have to say the kids need a little bit more practice when it comes to colouring their books… 


I hope I’ll be able to have more time to spend on my colouring books soon but I’m doing it bit by bit every night. This is my first attempt which is still a work in progress:


Are you into colouring? Share with me your work in progress, I’d love to know what you are coloring right now. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review: Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman


Written by: Neil Gaiman
Designed by: Chip Kidd
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow

Publishers Summary:

This book is a reprint of Neil Gaiman’s speech to the graduates of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in May 2012. In his speech, he shares a bit of his experience and how he succeeded as a writer. The nineteen minutes speech also covered his thoughts on creativity, bravery and strength. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ Speech is not a normal book, the speech is printed in stylish graphic design by renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd.

Review:

I absolutely love this book. One because it was so bright, colourful and beautifully crafted by Chip Kidd that it was really pleasing to read. Two, though Gaiman’s speech was specifically targeted to art graduates I felt that there were a few pointers that anyone regardless of age can take as good advise in order for them to succeed in what they do.

There are two quotes that I love from this book. The first:

“I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work”

I totally agree with this. I hold the same principle and believe that one should have passion in what they do then only will they enjoy the work.

The second quote I like from Gaiman’s speech was on why people will still get work, they don’t have to be perfect but at least good in one of these three things and people would re-hire them regardless.

“1. Their work is good,
2. and because they are easy to get along with,
3. and because they deliver the work on time.
And you don’t even need all three.
Two out of three is fine.”

I have much respect for Gaiman and have always thought of him as a very talented writer. I have enjoyed all of the books I've read from Gaiman so far. This book opened up my eyes to the fact that even though he is a great writer, he too faced challenges, made mistakes and faced failures in his journey to success.

This book will take less than one hour to read. It’s definitely a keeper on my book shelf for the insightful content as well as the colourful style it was presented in. I gave it a 5 over 5 in Goodreads.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book review: A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Written by: Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by: Axel Scheffler
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Authors Summary:
“Wise old man, won’t you help me, please?
My house is a squash and a squeeze.”
This was my first book, published in 1993, but it started its life earlier still, as a song which I wrote for children’s television. There is also a Big Book, a board book, a Braille edition, a Let’s Read edition, a 20th anniversary edition with early drawings from Axel’s sketchbook and audio version with Imelda Staunton, Steven Pacey and Julia which includes both story and song (I sing the part of the little old lady!)
A Squash and a Squeeze features in a Scamp play called Tiddler and other Terrific Tales which frequently tours the UK. For performing details visit www.scamptheatre.com
"a bit of a classic… a goat on the bed and a cow on the table tapping out a jig? My readers collapsed in heaps, and then had to have it read again. And again."  Vivian French in The Guardian.
Review:

The kids and I are exploring a lot of Julia Donaldson’s books this year. So far the boys’ favourite is The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. We have these in both paperback and audiobooks formats. Whenever we travel in the car, the kids will definitely want to hear either one of these books. I think my eldest has even memorized the whole Gruffalo book by now.

A squash and a squeeze is a simple story of a woman who thought her house was too small and had asked the advice of a wise old man. The old man then had asked the woman to bring one animal after another into her house and then take the animals out again one by one. It was not until all the animals were out of her house did the old woman realized that her house was not small after all.

I really liked this book. The story has a nice rhyme to it and I quite enjoyed reading it to the boys. The illustrations were colourful and bright and the kids loved asking about the animals. However, the kids didn’t seem to be as engaged with the story as much as they were with The Gruffalo or Room on the Broom. I’ve tried reading this book to them a couple of times already but they were just not interested in the story but were more inquisitive on the animals. Maybe stories of little old ladies don’t appeal to them? Oh dear...

Regardless of how the kids reacted to the book, I personally think this was an enjoyable book to read.

In the author’s website, Donaldson mentioned that this book started off as a song for a children’s television show. So I googled and got a video of it on YouTube of the song which is sung by none other than the author herself. I’m going to try sharing the video with the kids instead and see if the kids will like the video better.



We have a couple more books from Julia Donaldson which I haven’t started reading to the kids yet but I really like her work so far. I gave this book a 3 over 5 in Goodreads.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I've outgrown my blog


When I started my blog in 2008, the purpose was to review and write about the books I’ve read and engage with other book bloggers. It took me a while to find a name for the blog but after some brainstorming and checking with friends on their opinions, I decided on Ulat Buku in the City.

It’s pretty obvious my current blog name was inspired by my favourite show at that point of time, Sex and the City. I was single and living in a high rise apartment right smack in KL city. Ulat Buku means book worm in my native language Bahasa Malaysia. Book worm + living in the city = Ulat Buku in the City. It's not the most creative blog name but hey I loved it and it reflected well on who I was back then. I also created a twitter account to support the blog @msulatbuku.

In sum, the blog name, look, feel and content quite suited me at that point in my life.

However as individuals, we change and evolve as we grow (older? wiser? I’m not sure which to use to be honest LOL) and looking at the blog now I somehow feel that it does not reflect the person I am today.

I’m not a consistent blogger obviously but I love my blog site. I love writing and at this juncture in my life when I do find the time to write, I would really like to write about more than just the books I read. I want to expand my content to also include my experiences at home, my family and some thoughts on my profession as a marketing communications consultant.

On Twitter, I have stopped using the @msulatbuku handle for quite a while now and started tweeting @tashmusa instead. I don’t know why but I just felt that the @msulatbuku handle seems a bit childish now and like my blog, not reflective of the person I am today.

I know for a fact that I want to keep this blog site. I’m too lazy to start all over again with a new blog site. In fact, a couple of years ago I experimented with a new blog site at Wordpress and that did not turn out well for me.

The question that I am asking myself is do I re-invent and rebrand this site? Should I? To be honest, I have not decided. I am still mulling over this but I’m leaning towards re-naming the site simply as Natasha Musa’s Blog, that way however I evolve in the future, the writing and content is from me and reflective of who I am. BUT... I'm finding it hard to let go of Ulat Buku in the City due to sentimental reasons. 

If you are a blogger and you are reading this, have you ever gone through such transition? What did you do? I hope you can share your thoughts and advice on what happened when you outgrew you blog. Drop me a note, I’d love to hear your opinion. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Life begins at 40


Life begins at 40.

At least that’s what they say.

I celebrated my 40th birthday in January this year. To be honest, I was quite hyped when my birthday came about. I have some friends who would mope and say that they get depressed leaving their 30’s behind. Me, I was actually looking forward to it and am pretty proud that I have reached 40 quite gracefully (or at least… I think I have).

Whilst I am very happy with my life, I have to be realistic and honest about my physical state. I am very unhealthy and am often stressed out juggling the responsibilities of building a career and managing and caring for my family. Like most working mums, I think I got overwhelmed with my responsibilities at work and at home that I often forget to put some time aside for myself. Anyway, overall I felt shitty physically. I am tired all day, I have low energy, I suffer from migraines quite often and also from back pains consistently. 

A couple of months ago, I went for a medical check-up for insurance purposes and the doctor told me I had early signs of diabetes. My father’s family have all suffered from diabetes. I’ve known that I had a high chance of getting diabetes seeing that it is a hereditary disease but I guess I was hoping that it might skip me completely. This news really got me to stop and think: If I’m unhealthy now how will I be when I am 50, 60 or 70- if God willing I live that long?

Reflecting back on how I’ve lived my life so far; I never did care much for my health. I never exercised. Rarely took vitamin supplements. Never monitored the food I ate. I work too much. I slept too little. I smoke too much.

Time for change

At the time I was reflecting my unhealthy physical state, I came across this article on my Facebook timeline “How to get a muscular body after 40?” - an article written by Gert Louw. Gerts article showed how he was at the age of 40 and how he is now at 51. He decided to make a change because he was suffering from so many health problems at the age of 40. I was honestly impressed with his transformation. Yes, I am fully aware that his website was written for men but I was inspired by his story nevertheless. 

Anyway, reading Gert's story sort of motivated me to start exercising and eating better. My objective is not to gain a muscular body at the age of 50 like Gert obviously but I would really love to be fit and not feel like dying when I go up ten steps of stairs. I want to stop feeling tired and lethargic all the time.

What I got from reading his article was if he can do it at 40, then damn it I can do it too.

The new regime

So for the past two months, I have been taking baby steps to change my lifestyle. I wanted to take things slow cause I’m one that can get excited with something new easily and also feel demotivated and drop a project instantly when I get bored especially when it comes to exercising. This was what I have done since June:

Step 1: Medical check up

By luck, I found a doctor who practised holistic healing and went to consult him. I briefed him on my health history, concerns and what I wanted to achieve. We also discussed about my current meal intake. The two hour plus consultation also included a blood test which helped him to diagnose what was lacking in my body.

From my visit with the doctor, he had recommended a very detailed meal plan for me and also recommended some vitamin supplements I should take to improve my health.

Step 2: Healthier meal plan

The first two weeks of going through the new meal plan was tough and expensive! Who knew eating organic food like brown rice, fruits and juicing could cost so much. I suffered from more migraines than usual and my eczema really got worst but the doctor did say that it will be a normal side effect from changing my diet plan and the new supplement intake. His exact word were “Be prepared to feel worst, before you feel better”. To be honest, after a month – my husband  did say I looked much better, my skin felt softer and I did feel a slight improvement in my energy levels.

I am unfortunately not following through the diet plan fully at this point of time but I do take the vitamin supplements religiously. Like I said, baby steps. I will change my diet plan slowly but surely.

I am also planning to do a more detailed health check but after looking through the packages offered on hospital websites I found it to be very expensive. So I’m saving up for that and hopefully will do a full medical by year end.

Step 3: Exercise

Ok. I hate exercising. I really do. But when you want to lead a healthier lifestyle I guess one must just persevere.

In the past, when I have had a sudden inspiration to get healthy, I’d join a gym or yoga classes. Historically, these things never did turn out well for me. I’d drop the classes and continued paying without attending any of them. So this time around, I decided to exercise from home and not spend a single cent on instructors or classes.

I decided to do two things: Yoga and indoor cycling. The plan was to wake up earlier in the morning and spend just 10 minutes a day to do my exercises. I would alternate the exercise: yoga one day and indoor cycling the next.

Yoga at home

The beauty about this day and age is that there are so many YouTube video that can guide you for your exercises. All you need to do is research and choose one to do as part of your exercise regime.

The first week, I did yoga following this video as a guide. Its 10 minutes of yoga stretches without getting out of bed! That’s how lazy I am! Lol.

I think I did this for about two weeks. Now, I am following this video for my 15 minute yoga in the mornings instead.


Indoor cycling
My husband bought an indoor cycling machine some years back. We use it mostly to hang stuff. Really…. The handles are handy that way. 

Anyway, I thought that I should make use of the machine in the mornings instead of using it to hang my handbags in the recreation room. On days that I don’t do yoga, I switch on my audiobook and cycle for ten minutes. 

This is my second month of exercise and I have increased my cycling time to 15 minutes.

There are days when I say “Screw it, I’m going back to bed” but most mornings in the past one month plus I do wake up looking forward to do the exercises. I’ve been chronicling my exercises on twitter. I don’t know why but I think announcing to the world that I am exercising and making a slow change in my life helped to motivate me somewhat.

As I mentioned earlier, I am currently in my second month of exercising. I definitely feel the difference. I still feel lethargic sometimes but its not as bad as before. To be honest, I think I love this new lifestyle of mine.

Last week I added this video – 10 minute No Equipment Home Workout, Full Body – as part of my exercise regime on days I don’t do yoga or indoor cycling. This one is tough but so far I quite enjoy trying to do the exercises.


So, this is me at 40. I’m trying to change for the betterment of my health. I remember reading somewhere that it takes 30 days to change a habit. If this is true then I hope this new habit of living life healthier remains consistent in my life. I’d like to live healthy and grow old enough to meet my grandchildren one day.

I’ve decided to use this blog to chronicle my success or failure in following through this journey of living life healthier. If you happen to read this, wish me luck and a word of encouragement would definitely help. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Audiobook Review: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz


Written by: Dean Koontz
Narrated by: David Aaron Baker
Length: 10 hours and 33 minutes
Series: Odd Thomas, Book 1
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio

Publisher's Summary:
"The dead don't talk. I don't know why." But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.
Maybe he has a gift, maybe it's a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd's otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo's sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it's different.
A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world's worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd's deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15. 
Today is August 14.
In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock 'n' Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere.
Review:

A couple of years ago, I saw a movie called Odd Thomas. It was a good movie with a very sad ending that made me cry buckets. After watching the movie a couple of times, I suddenly wondered if it was an adaptation from a book. So I googled and found out that it was an adaptation from a book of the same title authored by Dean Koontz. To be honest, I was pretty shocked that I knew nothing about this book. Why? Because in my late teens and early adulthood I thought I had read everything from this author. Dean Koontz was my favorite author during that time and I assumed that I had read everything and I really mean EVERYTHING from him.

Anyway, back to my thoughts on this book. I loved it. I think the movie adaptation also did justice to the book.

I really do admire Odd’s character. At times I feel sorry for him especially when the book reveals a little bit about his parents and his upbringing but I love him for how he decided to live his life independently and in pure simplicity despite all that he had gone through in his young life. I love the relationship he has with the people around him especially with his soulmate Stormy.

I’m a big Dean Koontz fan and honestly I am biased. This book could do no wrong for me. The storyline was excellent and the pacing was good. The audiobook production was also excellent. The narrator’s voice and depiction of Odd’s character is perfect. Truth: I cried at the end despite knowing fully well how it ended as it was similar to the movie.

I definitely will read the rest of the series and see how life turns out for Odd and his little troupe in the little town of Pico Mundo.

I gave this a 4 over 5 rating on Goodreads.

Audiobook Review: Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin


Written by: Charles Martin
Narrated by: Andrew Peterson
Length: 9 hours and 15 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Oasis Audio

When paramedics find a malnourished 6-year-old boy near a burning car that holds a dead woman, they wonder who he is – and why he won’t talk. Chase, a small-town journalist who was raised by foster parents, is assigned to cover the story and investigate the boy’s identity. But will his search unearth long-buried emotions – and answers to his own history?

Review:

The first few pages starts with intense drama. A 6 year old boy is being abused by whom we can only assume is his mother in a car, parked in the middle of the railway track with an oncoming train headed their way. 

The story follows through in the aftermath of a tragedy, when the boy is found wondering, not willing to utter a word to anyone and Chase Walker, a local reporter is put to task to investigate on the boy’s background. The journey leads to a story of self-discovery, the test of family bonds and a secret that is finally revealed after being hidden for so long.

This book is definitely the best book I’ve listened to in 2013. Hands down.

This novel has strong and memorable characters. The development of each character from the first page until the last is absolutely amazing. Unc, who is Chase’s foster father, is my absolute favourite character in this book, followed by Chase and Tommye. Unc’s relationship with Chase as a foster father is admirable. Though Unc is known to sometimes utter things that only he can understand; spoke many words of wisdom in the book. Listening to audiobooks while driving means that I am not able to jot down notes of quotes from Unc which is really sad but trust me some of Unc’s words are profound.

Chasing Fireflies is paced well. Characters and storyline is revealed at just the right time and the storyline is engaging which actually made me want to take longer drives. Shamelessly, I’ll admit tearing a number of times while listening to this book on my drive to work.

This book is about the importance of family relationships and the quest in search for the truth. It is a beautiful novel that is filled with emotions, strong family bonds and a revelation that is quite unexpected at the end.

My hats off to Andrew Peterson, the narrator of the audiobook. Not only did he read the story well, he manages to read each character differently and bring each and every character to life and made the listening experience even more worthwhile.

I absolutely LOVE this book. I loved it so much that I gave it a 5 over 5 on Goodreads.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Audiobook Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr



Written by: Melissa Marr
Narrated by: Alyssa Bresnahan
Length:10 hours and 9 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: HarperAudio

Aislinn has the third eye and is able to see faeries. Unfortunately, Aislinn’s mother was killed by faeries when she was young. Because of this she has been trained by her grandmother to hide her gift in order to protect her from the evil faeries.

She lives her life by a set of strict rules outlined by her grandmother. And these rules have kept her safe, until now. Suddenly, none of the rules apply anymore as she is stalked by Keenan, the faery Summer King. Keenan is after Aislinn as he believes that she could be ‘THE' Summer Queen and help release him from his mother’s evil powers.

The review:

Ok. This was not an exceptionally great book but I quite enjoyed it.

It offered a different take on how I normally see faeries. I always thought that faeries were like Tinkerbell from Peter Pan… Eh. Wait a minute. Is Tinkerbell a faerie even? Ok whatever…. Anyway you catch my drift, faeries: small creatures, a bit mischievous but overall good supernatural beings with wings attached to them.

My absolute favourite character in this book is…. drum roll please… SETH! (I’m so predictable right?) He’s the perfect guy (well, maybe a bit too perfect thus the reason why he only exists as a fictional character). I love him because he was:

  • Patiently waiting for Aislinn (I mean the guy did wait for 7 whole damn months before he told her he was in love with her)
  • Supportive (Did not call Aislinn crazy when she told him about her gift plus he even went all out and did research to find out more about the fairies)
  • Cool, outgoing, good in bed and apparently the man can cook (two thumbs up from me on this point more than the previous points).

Keenan on the other hand I find a tad annoying. I won’t comment on the female characters cause … well, none of the characters had a huge impact on me.

Overall the storyline was ok. I quite enjoyed it mostly though I thought some parts was like… huh? For example: when grandma met Keenan.

Storyline revolves mainly around Aislinn (duhhh… she is the main character Tasha!). But seriously, its Aislinn wondering what’s happening, Aislinn pissed off at Keenan, Aislinn wondering what to do with Seth and Aislinn having to decide whether she would take up the challenge handed to her by the faeries. That about sums up the story. Sorry for the spoiler.

I heard this on audiobook and thought the narration was great though the narrator’s voice seemed a bit too mature for Aislinn.

Good book but not great. Enjoyable nonetheless because of the different take on faeries plus I do love Seth tremendously in this book. I gave it a 3 over 5 on Goodreads.

*Side note:

After writing this post, I did a quick Google search on fairies vs faeries. I’ve always spelt it as fairies and wanted to know what the difference was. Turns out there IS a difference between fairies & faeries. My perception on fairies (like Tinkerbell) is right and Marr’s depiction of faeries is not new or different after all. 

Hah! I learn something new everyday. Lets see if I can make any use of this information in real life. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Talk Like Ted



Written by: Carmine Gallo
Narrated by: Carmine Gallo
Length: 7 hrs and 42 mins
Format: Unabridged

TED talks have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and become the gold standard for public speaking around the world. TED and associated Tedx conferences are held in more than 130 countries and are being viewed at a rate of 1.5 million times a day.

These are presentations that set the world on fire, and the techniques that top TED speakers use are the same ones that will make any presentation more dynamic, fire up any team, and give anyone the confidence to overcome their fear of public speaking.

Public speaking coach and best-selling author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Carmine Gallo has broken down the top TED talks and interviewed the most popular TED presenters as well as the top researchers in the fields of psychology and communications to get their cutting-edge insights and to reveal the nine secrets of all successful TED presentations.

From “Unleashing the Master Within” and “Delivering Jaw Dropping Moments” to “Sticking to the 18-minute Rule”, Gallo provides a step-by-step method that makes it possible for anyone to create, design, and deliver a TED-style presentation that is engaging, persuasive, and memorable.

Ideas are the true currency of the 21st century, and Gallo gives listeners a way to create presentations around the ideas that matter most to them, presentations that will energize their audiences to spread those ideas, launch new initiatives, and reach their highest goals.

My thoughts:

In my line of work, we do a lot of presentations. A lot. You’d think that with the amount of presentations we do, we’d be as good as Steve Jobs by now. Far from it.

I’m always looking for ways to improve my presentation skills and thought Talk Like TED would be an interesting book to listen to. The book was an unplanned purchase, I happened to see it featured on Audible and decided it might be worth a listen.

Overall I gave Talk Like TED a rating of 3 over 5 in Goodreads.

It was definitely an interesting book and the advice provided by Carmine Gallo was really good but it was hardly anything new. The nine points highlighted are pretty obvious and some of the advice I’ve heard before through seminars that I’ve attended and some books that I’ve read in the past.

Though the nine secrets may not be anything new, Gallo does present the points in an interesting manner. What I liked about Carmine Gallo’s book was that some of the points he provided was supported with scientific studies, research and even case studies of actual presenters at TED conferences. After every chapter, I’d take the time to watch the TED talk presenter he mentioned in his book just to learn how well they presented. Most are pretty impressive and very inspiring.

One of the first public speaking books that I read and which is my favourite till today is How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie. Some of the advice Carmine Gallo offers, echoes Dale Carnegie’s points as well but of course presented with context and case studies which is more relevant to our time.

Worth a listen if you have not read any book on public speaking.

Now… I have a major presentation this month and my challenge is to develop an effective presentation using Gallo’s techniques. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Usborne Very First Reading: Book 2 - The Dressing-Up Box

Written by: Mairi MacKinnon
Illustrated by: Kate Sheppard
Pages: 32 pages
Format: Hard cover
Genre: Children’s Book
Reading Level: 3 – 5 years old 
  • An exciting story to inspire very beginner readers.
  • Based on the principles of synthetic phonics, supports the "Letters and Sounds" programme used in thousands of UK primary schools.
  • Adult and child take turns to read, and the child’s text uses only the letters s a t p i n m d.
  • Fun puzzles test understanding, and provide opportunities for discussion and further reading practice.

My thoughts:

This book is part of a series that introduces reading to first time readers. I started reading Book 1: Pirate Pat from the series a couple of weeks back to the kids. Per my previous post on my experienced reading the first book, my kids loved it because they love stories about pirates but I had suspected that the kids won't enjoy the second book so much.

I was right, my kids were not as excited to read the Dressing-Up Box unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong the book was fine but dressing-up is not something my kids are into just yet so that’s why they were not interested when I read it to them. It took a lot to get them to focus on listening to me read the whole book.

So note to self: Read books with subjects that they are interested in and it would be easier for them to stay focus on the book.

I had plans to slowly purchase and collect the whole Usborne Very First Reading Series but was surprised that they had removed it from the shelf of the bookstore I originally purchased it from and is no longer available for sale in any of their outlets. The sales girl was explaining about stocks being on their shelves for only six months and after that it is returned back to the stockist. I called all other local bookstores and they don’t carry it either. Buying it online would just cost more for delivery.

What that means really is that I won’t be reading any other books from this series to the kids. That’s kinda sad cause I was looking forward to reading the rest of the series with the children.

Anyway, I just made major purchases on Audible for the children like Gruffalo’s Child, The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet and Curious George Visits the Zoo. Big boy and I listened to the Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet last night and he quite enjoyed it because of all the farting sound effects… sigh… boys…

Monday, February 23, 2015

Travel: Sentosa Island, Singapore

The pool at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa
This is way overdue but I really wanted to share our experience when we stayed at Sentosa Island during a long weekend holiday in January. Hubs and I have not travelled with the family for almost three years. We made a conscious decision to delay travelling temporarily when I got pregnant with my second son. Reason? Well, we didn't think we were up to travelling with two toddlers.

My second son is two years old now and took his first airplane flight for this trip. He was a star. He did look a bit scared when we took off but other than that, he was enjoying himself on flight.

We wanted to bring the kids to Universal Studios Singapore and we thought it would be best to stay within Sentosa Island itself. We decided to stay at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa for the three days two nights trip. While the hotel looks a bit old, the facilities were awesome and honestly the service was beyond excellent. The staff were really friendly and they looked like they really enjoyed the work that they do.

It was also the boys first time experiencing the beach. The beach on Sentosa is not the best that we have been to but it was clean (it’s Singapore! Of course its clean!) and the boys had fun building their first sand castle. We spent more time at the pool then the beach honestly cause Shangri-La’s pool area had a better environment for the kids.

Traveling around Sentosa was really easy as they had a free feeder bus that took you around the island. The feeder bus schedules were consistent and easily accessible. The only time that we took a taxi was from the airport and back and when we wanted to visit The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

Universal Studios was good for the kids. They really enjoyed themselves. The boys especially loved Jurassic Park in the Lost World section and the Transformers section. Both my boys are into dinosaurs so you can imagine how excited the kids were when we got to Jurassic Park. My eldest son took his first theme park ride at Jurassic Park and he was super excited. As we were only there for one day, we did not manage to visit every corner of the theme park. We had to be selective and only went for the ones we thought the boys would enjoy. I think we should have allocated two days to visit the whole theme park at a more leisurely pace.

Mum and I quite enjoyed the 50’s diner called Mel’s drive-in. There was a performance by these 4 guys called The Cruisers singing 50’s and 60’s tunes and I absolutely enjoyed myself singing along to the songs (no I am not in my 60’s ok but mum played a lot of her favourite 50’s & 60’s tunes when I was growing up so I kinda know the lyrics to most of the songs from that genre).

Sentosa Island is a great location for short family get-away. We really enjoyed ourselves and would definitely want to visit Sentosa Island again in the future.

Before I end this post I'd just like to add: though I’ve visited Singapore many times, I have never visited Marina Bay Sands. We went to visit the mall this time around and I am absolutely in love with this place. The brands are a bit expensive for me but the detailing and finishing for the building was really impressive. The place was spacious and more importantly had FREE WIFI! Lol…

Till next time!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's Monday What Are You Reading This Week?


It’s Monday What Are You Reading This Week is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. We use this meme to share what we have read in the past week and what our plans are for the upcoming week.

It was a four-day weekend last week for us in Malaysia to celebrate Chinese New Year. Hubs and I took the opportunity to take the kids on a quick beach holiday in Kuantan. You’d think I would have managed to sneak in a couple of pages in between but seriously I was occupied trying to make sure the kids were ok at the pool or trying to get their ass out of the pool which requires 150% of my time and energy especially when your kids are below 4 years old.

Ok enough about my holiday, last week I finished reading Going Gray by Brian Spangler. You can read my thoughts on the book here. I intended to listen to Curious George Rides a Bike with the kids but I think maybe the audiobook is too long a duration for them. They would listen to it for the first 2 minutes and then suddenly they’ll lose interest and request for their favorite audiobook Jack and the Beanstalk instead. We did listen to The Gruffalo on our drive back home from the resort and the kids and I quite enjoyed it.

This week, I’m reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I’m just a couple of pages in and I’m liking it so far. I also started listening to The Walk by Richard Paul Evans this morning on my drive to work. This audiobook was kinda an impulse purchase. It seemed to have great reviews both on Audible as well as Goodreads plus its only a 4 hour listen. So that’s my reading list this week.
Anyway, I’m back at work today after a four-day weekend and as you can imagine I literally had to drag myself out of bed for work this morning. I’ll be having a really busy time at work from now right up till June. It’s like that every year. So I do hope that I’ll be able to keep up with my reading and blogging despite my busy schedule. In the meantime, happy reading everyone and do share whats on your reading list this week!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Going Gray (Gray Series Book 1)


Written by:  Brian Spangler
Pages: 285 pages
Format: EBook
Genre: Apocalypse, Science Fiction

Going Gray is a 285 page novel, and is Book 1 of the Gray Series.

CENTURIES BEFORE GRAY SKIES...

When Emily heard the first scream, she became concerned.
When she heard the second scream, she grew scared.
When she heard the third scream, she was struck with terror.
But it was what Emily could not hear that frightened her the most.

Emily wakes to find that her world has plummeted into darkness--the clouds have spilled out of the sky and taken the sun.

And there is more to the mysterious fog--the mist is poison, killing everything in its path. Emily's home is no match for the caustic fog, and her family is suddenly on the run for safety.

But when she learns that the machines built to save the world could be the cause of the accident, Emily turns to her father, the original architect, with the hope that they can stop the environmental catastrophe.

My thoughts:

Going Gray is a gripping story that kept me at the edge of my seat from pretty much the first page. The book starts off with a bang and was an intriguing read until the last few pages.

The ending however felt abrupt and there was not much story on how Emily and the group survived. I really did want to read more about what happened to Emily, Justin and Peter and how they built their life to survive the apocalypse. It would have been great if it was elaborated a bit more.

But anyway, the ending left me with a few unanswered questions: Why did the skies fall? What is the purpose of the machine? I suppose this book really focusses on how the apocalypse begins and sets the pace for the next book in the series, which I look forward to reading. So much so that I bought the Gray Omnibus version that has all four books from the series on my Kobo yesterday.

Going Gray is a quick read seeing that it is only 285 pages in total. Storyline was captivating making it an easier read. I gave this book a 4 over 5 on Goodreads.

We Were Liars


Written by:  E. Lockhart
Pages: 240 pages
Format: E-Book
Genre: Young Adult, Mysteries and Thrillers

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

My thoughts

We Were Liars is a story of Cady who comes from a family that is rich with ‘old’ money. Cady spends every summer on a private island with her cousins. The summer of her fifteenth year, a terrible event occurs which left Cady suffering from a severe memory loss and constant migraines. She returns to the island two years later and slowly the memory of the tragic event returns in scattered memories.

Can I just lie and say I didn’t like it? Ok. Truth: I didn’t like all of it but I liked the ending.

The writing style was not something that I’m used to and it was sometimes annoying to read. There were parts where fairy tales were used to narrate the story. Truth, I skipped those parts mostly. I’ve read reviews of people actually appreciating Lockhart’s style of writing but unfortunately, I can’t appreciate it.  

Despite the writing style, the storyline was still engaging. Cady is an unreliable narrator. Her memories are scattered and revealed in bits and pieces but just at the right time and the right doses to keep you wondering and wanting to know what happened to her that summer fifteenth.

What I did absolutely love was the plot twist at the end of the book. I. Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

I finished reading We Were Liars a couple of days ago and honestly the thing I remember the most is the twist and not much else from the book.

I gave this book a 5 over 5 in Goodreads for the memorable plot twist. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lego Star Wars Book Collection: A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back

Written by:  Emma Grange
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
Genre: Children’s Book
Reading Level: 5-7 years

DK Readers is a multi-level reading program guaranteed to capture children's interest while developing their reading skills and general knowledge. With nine new exciting titles to choose from this season, kid's ages 4-9 will find the perfect book at their appropriate reading level to help with school projects or independent reading.

A New Hope:
DK Readers: LEGO® Star Wars®: A New Hope is the exciting story of the iconic Star Wars: Episode IV movie, retold for young readers with their favorite LEGO® Star Wars® minifigures and sets. This Level 1 Reader follows our heroes as they attempt to rescue rebel leader Princess Leia from the evil empire.

The Empire Strikes Back:
Follow the adventures of the rebels as they fight against the Galactic Empire-all in LEGO® form, with DK Readers: LEGO® Star Wars®: The Empire Strikes Back. Clear, informative text helps beginner readers to read on their own in this all-new Level 2 Star Wars Reader from DK.

My thoughts:
I’m a big Star Wars fan and when I saw this box set on the shelf of my local bookstore, I just couldn’t resist getting myself one. The box has a picture of a storm trooper in front. Inside the box set, there are 4 books; one copy of A New Hope and one copy of The Empire Strikes Back plus two activity/sticker books.

My kids are into the Star Wars Rebel cartoon so when they saw me come back with this box set, they attacked it and tore it open. I think my kids enjoyed the sticker books more than the actual story books. The sticker book was really a fun activity to do with the kids and I also honestly think my husband had more fun with the sticker book than the kids.

As for the books, well I’m quite surprised that the author managed to capture the essence of the storyline in less than 30+ pages for each book. The Lego mini figurines were used quite well and flowed with how the author wrote the story.

Obviously, I had more fun reading the books than my kids did because they are below the intended reading level. It really is a cute book and a fun 10 minute read. A definite must have for the Star Wars buff parent who want to introduce their young kids to the Star Wars series.

I gave both these books a 5 over 5 on Goodreads
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