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alittlefaith

a little faith's bookshelf

I lost touch with books for about a decade because of life but thankfully I am able to return to this beautiful world. Eclectic mix from YA to erotica. I blame fanfic.

Currently reading

The Making of Asian America: A History
Erika Lee

What message would you leave?

I thought this was cute. What message would you leave for an unsuspecting passerby who might never know of the 'words of wisdom' you tried to impart?

Students' anti-smartphone app

The app, called Apple Tree, is designed to make people spend time talking face-to-face with family and friends, instead of being glued to their screens, The Straits Times website reports. It works by immobilising users' phones when two or more friends put their handsets together. If a phone remains untouched, an apple tree begins to grow on the screen, furnishing the user with digital fruit. Those apples provide the incentive behind the app, as they can be "harvested" and exchanged for rewards, Channel News Asia says. The longer the phone is ignored in favour of human contact, the more bountiful the apple harvest.

 

I really love this idea. 


                    "Joshua Beckford learned to read fluently by the time he was two and a half and taught himself to touch-type on a computer before he could write using a pencil.
                    He can speak Japanese, practices medical surgery on a computer simulator and has completed more than 1,000 maths problems.”

                This amazing little boy who plans to be a neurosurgeon and an astronaut, the youngest person to ever attend Oxford University, is “the face of the National Autistic Society’s Black and Minority (BME) campaign.” (And his father and he discuss what it’s like to living with autism [or with an autistic kid]).

5-Year-Old With Autism Paints Stunning Masterpieces

Autism is a poorly-understood neurological disorder that can impair an individual’s ability to engage in various social interactions. But little 5-year-old Iris Grace in the UK is an excellent example of the unexpected gifts that autism can also grant – her exceptional focus and attention to detail have helped her create incredibly beautiful paintings that many of her fans (and buyers) have likened to Monet’s works....

Levitating Girl!
Levitating Girl!

I love this girl's work, truly enchanting!

 

Natsumi Hayashi

 

 ”A sweet-looking Japanese girl who, one day, decided to take self-portraits..of herself levitating. She can be spotted in and around Tokyo, equipped with her SLR and her self-timer. When she feels the moment strike, she presses the shutter button down and then, quite literally, “jumps” into place. What I love most about her shots is that they don’t feel forced. Natsumi has a way of making us feel as though she naturally levitates throughout life. When I asked her how others react to her jumping around Tokyo, here is a funny story that she shared. “One day, when I was jumping at a famous sightseeing spot in western Tokyo, workers at a souvenir shop were frightened by how I was jumping. They were whispering things like ‘Is the girl mentally ill’ and ‘Do we need to call the police?’ “So I stopped jumping and apologized to them by saying, ‘I am taking jumping photos for my wedding party’s slide show.’ Their faces turned bright red, and they said things like ‘Oh dear!’ and ‘Congratulations!’ and even ‘Keep jumping!’

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Hmm, interesting...

 

I often analyze WHY people want to know the future outcome of fiction, rather than just a tease or taste.  Are we all just cowards at heart, unable to deal with the 'uncertainty' of fate in fiction because we're emotionally exhausted with fighting it in our very real lives?

 

My own example, I used to always read spoilers to films, TV shows before watching them, in an attempt to fast forward to the 'happy' ending to breathe that sigh of relief and let my heart rest again.  However, on a friend's advice and encouragement, I decided to take the path of courage and watch without knowing the end.  Yes, it was difficult not to know, not even to peek.  There was an element of anguish to contend with but that end catharsis was so much sweeter.  It is like when you drink water.  Have you ever tasted water, let it quench your thirst, when you have been parched?  That feeling is incomparable, the problem is you need to feel the thirst and pain first!

 

How do you feel about spoilers? Are they a plague, hindrance or much needed safety net?

Nature vs Nurture

When Boys Become Boys: Development, Relationships, and Masculinity - Judy Y Chu, Carol Gilligan

A lot of the fictional books I read from thriller to romance, from fantasy to contemporary, tend to revolve around the debate of nature vs nurture.  And though a vast many of those centre around the question of nature, it is rare that fiction ever comes up with some kind of profound judgement on the matter, wishing instead to test the parameters of the issue much like the T-rex in Jurassic Park.  Judy Chu's book is not only astute but relentless in its quest not only to explore the oft neglected element of nurture but its role in our very real lives. 

 

It scared me unlike any horror title I picked up because it illuminates the faults within a system that is entrenched throughout the world.  Our systems of education pass on not only knowledge but pre-determined behaviour models.  We are the enemies within our midst, destroying our children and thereby any legacy we hope to leave behind. 

 

It made me question who I am? And whether I too had betrayed the truth of that child I long since left behind, so much so that I strained to hear the song that little girl used to hum to herself.  

 

The lasting note of this work though is rooted in its diligent appraisal of the situation.  Judy Chu doesn't propagate an agenda but tells it like it is and lets the evidence speak for itself.  Would we put our children through the meat processor too? For what ends? What gain is there to be had in that? Like Trinity counsels Neo, "you have been down there, you know that road, you know exactly where it ends. And I know that's not where you want to be."

 

Highly recommended!

When a Camel Breaks Your Heart - Kodi Scheer

I bought this book because of that wondrous title.  At first I surmised it must be figurative but the blurb affirmed that it is indeed a camel that breaks this poor girl's heart without it being an update of furry companion stories. 

 

This short story is simply about a girl waking up one morning to find that her boyfriend is now a camel.  To say it with more complexity it is the analysis of the breakdown of a relationship.  Yes, he quite literally turns into a camel but then it works just as well figuratively.  In a world where injustice, strife and unfairness rule to bring out the very worst in people - especially people you once loved - it is not so far a stretch to imagine them wholly foreign entities, so different from what you once knew. 

 

Some reviews have hinted at undertones and metaphors of domestic violence and that might be so but for me the real issue brought home by Kodi Scheer's brilliantly told story is that of the affect of the global current climate on individuals.  This isn't about the bigger picture but the every day effects of that regressive coldness engulfing those very things that matter above all else. 

 

Kodi Scheer's writing, wit, and sense of the bizarre blur that line between the literal and the figurative so that this story keeps you pondering over every aspect again and again. 

 

Highly recommended and I'm happy to note that 'Incendiary Girls' - a collection of her stories - is about to be released. Yay!

Susana's review of Dogging

Reblogged from Susana "Lost in Fantasy Land":
Dogging (The Devil You Don't Know) - Stephanie Roi
 Copy provided by the author
 
A girl's sexual coming of age?
 

A representation of today's youth in pursuit for meaning in their lives?

 

How does one adjust one's real nature to society's expectations?

 

Cassie, our main character, could be just like anyone else in our day and time.

 

"She was also an average girl growing up in a society with high, nigh impossible standards of beauty. Intimacy issues? Of course she had them, who didn't?"

 

First thing I noticed about this book was the quality of the writing.

It has it in spades.

 

The second one: Cassie has absolutely no self esteem.

 

How does this affect the story?

Well, it affects it in the sense that during the _ let's call it _ first half of the book, in which Cassie enters into a relationship with Jemma, Cassie's actions almost fade into the background. Almost like a way to emphasize her worship and admiration of Jemma.

 

While reading this part of the story I couldn't help drawing some parallels. For instance, were Jemma a boy, he (she) would be the typical bad boy, who a certain day would pay attention _out of the blue _ to our main character.

Since this was written by a woman, the way these two interact _their obviously power unbalanced relationship _ felt a little jarring to read.

It's not as if two women cannot be together only for sex. But even so, sex creates a connection of a sort, and the long silences between them were hard to adjust to.

 

Also regarding the way Jemma is portrayed... the way she is described, from the way she talks, to the way she regards her actions, seem derived from a patriarchal pov. She's more like a goddess than an actual woman.

 

The plot of this story basically follows Cassie's life and her attempt to fulfil her need.

The path of a girl who, simplistically speaking, needs to be able to feel something in her, through her path in life... a different path from today's ongoing search (and of one of the characters) for desensitization. 

 

She sees herself as socially inept, but she has a strength of her own, as one can read in the situations in which she places herself into. 

 

This was not something easy to read.

You wish you could shout at this girl: "You deserve so much more than this!"

Do not let them use you like this!

 

Also, I couldn't help finding confusing the constant conversation regarding virginity.

What is virginity?

For starters Cassie has sex with Jemma. 

They're eighteen, they should know what constitutes sex.

 

The story moves forward, but still one thing remains as constant:

Cassie's lack of self esteem.

This will prompt her involvement with another character who also has some different views of the sexual act.

It was like this girl was a magnet for everyone who would just complicate her life.

Not that she feels this way:

 

"She would never regret meeting Lane, or Dean or Jemma. She loved them all even if they would never know."

 

The better part of this is that, as a reader, you can see the character's growth.

It would be easy to indicate Cassie's incapacity to see where her life is going, but that is not the case.

Cassie, _emancipated Cassie_, from a certain point provides very accurate analysis on the whys and whos of her actions.

She's not clueless, as one would expect. She's simply determined in following her path.

In the future, I just hope that it will involve more self esteem.

 

 

 

Dogging by Stephanie Roi

Reblogged from Isa Lavinia:
Dogging (The Devil You Don't Know) - Stephanie Roi

Book provided by the author for reviewing purposes

 

 

A friend of mine (names withheld to protect the guilty) went through a peculiar situation - he'd always thought of himself as gay, and suddenly he fell in love with a girl. He was going crazy thinking it over, rethinking it, over-thinking it: what did that make him? Who was he?

In our group we tried to be reassuring, but we were failing. But another friend came to the rescue:

 

"Don't over-analyse. The cock wants what the cock wants."

 

Simple, but genius.

Obviously, this is worded more elegantly in the book, but I personally like the core of that message:

 

"She had decided to follow her feelings instead of defining the situation through assumptive social constructs which might have been helpful to some but were staggeringly deficient in Cassie’s case."

 


Cassie and Jemma's relationship was too abrupt in its inception - not saying unrealistic because it could happen - but it doesn't make for an involved reading experience from the reader's point of view. There's the illicit relationship, hiding in closets and bathrooms. But we barely know Cassie, and we don't know Jemma at all, at this point. Why should we care, really? Personally, I needed more.

The sublimation of the emotional component with sex wasn't really my thing, to be honest. Oh, I believe you can have sex without love, that's not the issue I have with this, it's that when there are situations that needed to be talked out, emotional issues resolved, they were replaced with sex. Realistic? Yes. But again... I needed more.

 

And the thing is, all the sex described was very clinical - yes there is a relationship ahead where it's meant to be read as clinical (I won't go into that because of spoilers!) - but even when it was described in other relationships it just brought me back to my anatomy and physiology classes. 

 

Though this is a book about Cassie's sexual awakening, the sexual portions were, in my opinion, the weakest. This book's strong point is in the contemplations of a myriad of issues, not necessarily sexually related.

Jemma seems to like Cassie because she's socially inept. Why?
What little true intimacy there is between them is shown as "They spent the rest of the night texting opinions about actors, books and politics." Show us, don't tell us. Involve the reader, makes us care about these girls!

I like that Jemma doesn't allow slut shaming to diminish her, but she and Cassie generalise too much. There is more at work behind the patriarchal roots of slut shaming, it's not just envy or trying to destroy what they perceive to be a failing in themselves. It's more complex than that. More pernicious.

All in all, I'm not certain what this book is trying to be: an erotic retelling of Cassie's sexual awakening, reflections on sexual issues? Both at the same time?
The pacing doesn't lend itself to this.
Mind you, it's very well-written, pacing is something else. You can have perfectly structured sentences in a polished discussion of what constitutes being "other" in society. It makes for good reading. Unless it's stuck in-between a sex scene where the character says they're overwhelmed by desire... but not so much that they can't pause several times to discuss slut shaming, what exactly constitutes sexual deviancy, etc.

Again, they can't be concurrent. It's one or the other. Or one, followed by the other, or prefaced by the other. Trying to do both just pulls the reader out of the story because it's so surreal.
Especially since, as Cassie herself notes, at the end of their second encounter she's still surprised Jemma knows her name.

Mind you, most of my erotic readings of the non PR/HR/SFR-variety were of Anaïs Nin - who used language masterfully and, let's be truthful, her stories are a bit highbrow. But they involved the reader into the story.

So when I complain that Dogging is too intellectualised for the subject matter, what I mean is that, though Cassie decides not to over-think one aspect of her sexual awakening, she over-thinks everything else. At the wrong time. Pulling the reader from what is actually taking place while she is over-analysing how to react, or not, and why.

Jemma may be comfortable with who she is, but she goes through life as if she's playing a part, she's pretentious and the issue of consent is murky between them, which for me is always a turn off.
And Cassie's attachment to her is not healthy: saying she never has to apologise to her.... There is taking responsibility for yourself and your actions, and there's realising that actions have reactions and no one lives in a vacuum.

And Jemma... there needs to be more to the character, she can't be just this. It's a very dehumanizing view of her.
For instance: she was crying... why? We move on, as if it's irrelevant, and see Jemma as only the object of desire, the seductress. We're told a lot of what Cassie believes Jemma to be, and it falls within very convenient labels (though Cassie seems to refuse them for herself). Even though Jemma is seen through Cassie's eyes, she's described as if being seen through the traditional male gaze. Considering the issues discussed in the book, this is not acceptable.
Also not acceptable: Jemma being manipulative when it comes to sex, be it with Cassie or with other people. Again, being coerced is the opposite of consent.

The power imbalance in Cassie's relationships is disturbing. Cassie is always reluctant, Jemma or Lane are always pushing. Cassie is always feeling guilty for not trusting Jemma or Lane to know what she will like.
No. Just no. How about Cassie knowing what she likes? How about Cassie taking control of her life, as she claimed to want to? How about Cassie backing out of situations that make her uncomfortable instead of forcing herself to go on so as not to disappoint Jemma or Lane? This was very problematic.

Lane, with his particular sexual proclivities, was somehow more real - he was ironically more animated and a deeper character than Jemma. Not that his relationship with Cassie was anything even in the vicinity of ideal. Lane has his issues and Cassie has a severe self-esteem problem. She always believes herself to be undeserving of whichever partner she's with.

And here's the weirdest thing about this book: I'd expect this if it were written by a man, but why is it that a book written by a woman spends more time developing Lane, the male character, delving into his personality, in a way that wasn't afforded to Jemma?
Why was there girl on girl hate on a book like this? Why is a woman being blamed for not returning a man's feelings, but he isn't blamed for doing the same to another woman?

 

 

For all its talk of sexual issues, both Cassie and Jemma declare themselves to be virgins after having sex with each other... I don't get it? What have we been reading, then? The concept of virginity (because it is merely a concept) isn't terminated by a penis entering a vagina. And virginity should never ever be said to be a girl's "most prized possession". A woman's value isn't between her thighs. I'm baffled by the importance given to the idea of virginity throughout this book.

But there were also brilliant and genuinely funny moments in this book, and I really
did like the writing.

And I loved that Cassie grows as a person. That she realises she objectifies Jemma, that she comes to understand her emotionally stunted state and take some responsibility for it, that she sees she may be making the wrong choices out of loneliness. Even if it's extremely exasperating that she doesn't realise she deserves so much more, that she only sees herself being transformed by what others do to her, what others bring into her life, what others make her see.

 

 

The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Conquered the World Through Pop Culture - Euny Hong

I’ve been a fan of South Korean Entertainment for around a decade and like many others around the world I’ve seen it gain popularity steadily, then rapidly and now exponentially.  However trying to understand a culture through media and TV alone is unsafe, naïve and short-sighted.  Euny Hong provides not only the background to South Korea’s seemingly rags to riches story but her own personal musings about how it came about for those not inclined to believe in fate.

 

Euny Hong’s writing style is eloquent.  I often forgot that I was reading a piece of non-fiction, as facts are told with wit and unique notes.  The writing flows well so that it is a delightful read sprinkled with a good amount of pop culture.   It is rich in details but in a voice that elevates it above the monotone nature of textbooks so that it does not read like a wiki entry.  Right from the beginning the titles of the chapters hint at her wry humour.  Above all else, I loved her take on things, the way she pieced together the past with the present through odd notes that highlight her oblique slant.  It’s a beautiful read and I intend to seek out her other works now, in particular her first book which was interestingly a fictional story.

 

Euny Hong’s book has created a history that now frames the programmes I watch, the songs I listen to and a culture that interests me.  Her approach is such that I can follow her method and apply it to other nations too, looking closer to home and even comparing themes.  It has added depth to my knowledge of South Korea gleaned from TV and the internet so that I see aspects I was not able to before.  Issues are now nuanced so that I may comprehend the struggle in a way that adds weight to the seemingly easy success that happened overnight, but was actually brought about through hard effort and a determined spirit. 

 

Ebook provided through NetGalley. 

Rushed - Brian Harmon

At the time of writing this review, this book is free on kindle at amazon and I highly recommend that you get it. 

This book is a rush; rush of adrenalin, rush of emotions and just such a wild ride.  It starts off slow by describing a feeling, a deep yearning to be somewhere else - something we've all felt in some way or another.  That voice that calls and as much as we wish (or hope) that it is inspiration or destiny, it could easily be instinct pulling you down another bad mistake.  Though people say there aren't 'mistakes' in life only experiences.  However Brian Harmon takes that notion and spins it on its head.  I honestly didn't know where the book was taking me, but much like the protagonist Eric, I threw caution to the wind and fell headlong into the journey. 

This story is full of adventure, mystery with good helpings of the plain horrifying and downright scary.  

The premise is interesting and Brian Harmon is able to keep you invested in the protagonist's journey easily.  However the pace is uneven after the half way point but nothing so terrible as to make me forget about Eric.  It does seem to feel a little padded.  However you could even say that my annoyance was partly down to the excitement Brian Harmon had elicited in me in needing to know the end because it was desire that propelled me forward and not just plain curiosity.  All in all I think if you're a reader of adventure rather than thrillers, you'll be happier with the pacing and plotting but either way I'd recommend this wonderful book to you.

Youtube Abuse Recovery by TheGeekyBlonde

Reblogged from The Fangirl:

The BEST video response to recent Youtube/DFTBA sexual abuse scandal [click here and here for details], and it's not by John Green or Hank Green, but rather a 16 year old girl, youtuber and sexual abuse survivor. 

 

What's really interesting is how she points out that the sexism in the Youtube/DFTBA community is systemic, specifically citing how the venue for the "Women on Youtube" panel at VidCon (run by the Green brothers) has been progressively smaller each year. Resulting in last year where the panel was held on the lawn outside of the convention center. 

 

The video is worth your time to watch and will leave you thinking about what community leaders owe to the members of their communities. 

The Road Less Travelled

Reblogged from Arlena Has Read and Reviewed What Novels?:
The Road Less Travelled  - Morning's Hope

 

Title: The Road Less Travelled
Author: Morning's Hope
Publisher: M.H.
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: 5
Review:

"The Road Less Travelled" by Morning's Hope were of 'five fictional steams of consciousness narratives covering the concepts of love, hope, trust, courage and gratefulness.' This author will present to the reader five topics.

JUST A LITTLE ABOUT EACH SHORT STORY....and what I liked most:

Hope: The Last Grasp...presenting a story of hope
A story of a young man... on this trip in the valley
a quote from the read:

The fragile cracks he had noticed before seemed more like grooves shaped like hierarchal branches of trees and looked very much like the bronchial tubes of lungs.

He had won this game. He felt no elation as he would not dare indulge himself. The considerate wind caressed the back of his neck like the cooling palms of a mother’s care. He wondered if all valleys were like this one.

Courage: Blue...'What's your favorite colour? note the spelling of colour?

A conversation between Lily and Jasper...paintings.. her blue eyes
a quote from the read:
He moved in front of the painting she had chosen. It was one of the few paintings of Lily in colour. He smiled knowingly as he told himself, ‘Of course, it had to be this one.’ He removed his tinted glasses to view his favorite portrait for what might be the last time. He noticed something he had not noted in a long while: her blue eyes.

Trust: Zofi
the smile
a quote from the read:
The alienation of the soul means we are unable to trust ourselves. To know thyself is to know your character and not to become lost in the details of femininity and culture, as much as they engender beautiful diversity. My story isn’t about a man saving me. It is about trusting myself that I would allow a trustworthy person to help. I am not against men but rather I am against oppression. I am not a feminist
but rather I am a fighter. I fight for what is good for me as a person and thereby I fight for what is good for all people. Unlike the majority of others, both men and women alike, I can trust myself when everything else falls by the wayside. In my night's horizon this is akin to spying a supernova.

Love: The Princess and the Warrior
a quote from the read:
For love is so vast
a thing that it cannot be contained within comprehension.
Yours is forever an unspoken right,
Over a piece of my heart,
That no other could ever enter,
And where you are always welcome,
Never forbidden nor in need of permission.
Yours is forever an unbreakable claim,
Over possession of my hand,
That none shall hold,
And where you are always wanted,
Never found nor ever replaced.

AND LAST:

Gratefulness: Form
a quote from the read:
“I love words. We try in vain to hold onto to moments like dust caught in sunlight,
grasping unto nothing but despair when all we need are a few syllables to add weight
to them turning seconds into eons into an eternity. Words are underrated. They
could melt rocks and make mountains blush. I am sure there is a combination which
could coerce the stars to spell out my beloved's name, if only I would seek hard
enough.” I paused to pay due attention to this moment since I was about to
complicate our circumstance. “I would have them spell out your name…because…I
think you’re wonderful.”
Those lying mirrors! I thought as I noticed he was close to me now. They had
always shown me as ugly but seeing my reflection in his eyes I could see that I too
was capable of being captivating. I released my heart and added an addendum,
“And I love you.”
He smiled his grinning, smirking, beaming, twinkling smile at me.

Now, to figure out just what this author is relaying in each of her five topics you must pick up "The road Less Travelled" to read it for yourself. It will all come together from this well written script.
I was left thinking wow...she covers it all...love, hope, trust, courage and gratefulness with the "central theme of the importance of contemplation."
Hate List - Jennifer Brown

I'm not a fan of Lionel Shriver's 'We need to talk about Kevin' - excellent title though - and considering that I love to ponder the nurture vs nature debate, it's surprising, well to the friend who recommended it to me anyway. 

 

I tend to prefer the stance, style and viewpoint of 'Bowling for Columbine' over 'Elephant.' It's not just about portraying and musing but rather proactive steps towards change.  That's why I loved this book so much. It deals mainly with the aftermath of these incredibly terrifying experiences.  The manner that people react to it, deal with it and learn to heal as a community.  That's easy to say considering that mostly everywhere we don't really live 'as a community' anymore - something that came across vividly in Jennifer Brown's book.

 

This is heavy stuff and though it's emotional, it never becomes overly dramatic nor sentimental.  It carefully traverses through nuances of emotions that few YA/NA tread upon or discuss.  For instance the manner Valerie needs to grieve for Nick - or rather the person she loved - yet the conflict over that.  Also the manner her family change towards her and the way this begins an implosion within their dynamic. 

 

The way Jennifer Brown weaves in newspaper articles, forcing us back into the past, just as we're trying to heal in the present, helps us to understand Valerie's and victims' position better.  Everytime I just thought of those 'the family wish to be left in peace at this time' pleading requests you so often hear when horrible things happen and the media relentlessly descends.  Yet we feed the beast and as I raced to find out what lay in store for Valerie there was a certain amount of self-examination too.  We want to know so desperately, even with impropriety.  Maybe because we've felt that rage that turned Nick into monster, so far from that babe he once was.  We want to find out that we're different but as Jennifer Brown implies, there's actually not much that separates us. 

Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

I'll be honest I got lost a few times in the beginning of this book - not sure about the 'proper' introductions of people and places - but Marchetta's writing style is easy on the mind and soon enough I was at a place where I didn't need to keep tabs on people just to keep up.  However the manner in which Melina Marchetta weaves a present mystery on top of an unknown past is beautiful. 

I grew up wishing that I had mystery in my life, some secret to unravel but it was a stupid and idealistic notion.  In real life mystery, not having answers hurts, and is potentially detrimental - it has the capacity to distance you from the world. Maybe I hated knowing that I had already been defined but it was downright naive.  This book so beautifully captures that damage. All of Taylor's actions carry that subtle ache and it twists your heart.

Jonah Griggs development was most pleasant to see and is an excellent example of Marchetta's mastery of her art.  The manner in which she 'fits' Taylor into his life, yet as he imprints himself on to hers too, is finely done.  Their relationship is profound, seen from an outsiders advantage point but the journey is bittersweet and Marchetta again creates these layers through her wonderful writing.

Highly recommended.