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Inspirational Quote of the Day

"All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer." —Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince)

Monday, March 23, 2015

THE BELLA CHRONICLES: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, by Erica Leigh Austin


Book Synopses: Bella the Shih Tzu is in the throes of her great escape, searching for the loving home she’s always wanted.  She hears someone cry out that there’s a dog in the street! Bella immediately puts her escape on hold and springs into action as she frantically tries to save the dog…but she can’t find him. What will Bella do???
The Bella Chronicles: The Adventure Begins brings to life the journey of an extraordinarily smart, wonderful, and special dog named Bella as she wills her way to find a home full of love and warmth – and food! Told from Bella’s perspective, The Bella Chronicles is a warm and loving piece of literature that pet lovers’ and children alike have been awaiting…
The Bella Chronicles: The Adventure Begins is the first in a heartwarming, humorous, insightful and action-packed chapter book series for young readers who have always wondered just what it is that their little pets are thinking.

I absolutely LOVED this story!  And here's how it all started... 1. THE ESCAPE

“Oh no! There’s a dog in the street!” someone yelled from a car as I ran past.

Where is the dog? I wondered.

If only I could find this dog and teach him about the dangers of Topanga Canyon Road. I’ve seen my fair share of animals meet their fate while tangling with traffic on this harrowing street and it’s not pretty. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, not even a squirrel – well, most squirrels anyway.

I continued my franticsprint, not able to see the dog on account of my small size.
SCREECH!

A car stopped just short of my left paw.

“Get out of the street!” the driver yelled at me.

The whole story is narrated in Bella the Shih Tzu's voice. I breezed through the 268-page book and had so much fun that I did not notice how fast two hours flew by just like that. I almost did not expect the story to be so enjoyable and fun to read.

Bella is very fortunate to have been found by an animal lover while she makes her escape. From the story it does seem that Bella does not quite understand why she escapes because she is also secretly hoping her owner will come looking for her. Unfortunately, when the rescuer calls Bella's owner they do not seem to want Bella. Further down the story, we also gather the clue at the vet that she could have been beaten by her owner.

Bella's new life as Erica's beloved furkid starts when the rescuer's daughter decides to give her a 'forever home'. Even then, Bella is not sure if she will be abandoned again so she is not being too hopeful in the beginning. I really enjoyed following Bella around, to hear her thoughts and conversations with her new friends. There is also some serious tension in the doggy world. And wait, there's more! Will she form an alliance with Charlie the squirrel and the neighborhood crows? Charlie sees her as a valuable asset.

A snapshot from the e-book: Bella meeting Hellie and Wolfie, the rescuer's dogs for the first time. The rescuer is later known as "Nanny Mommy" after Erica (the daughter) becomes Bella's "Mommy".


The book is also cutely illustrated by Mary Kessel. Thanks to this book, I believe I now understand Hiro my Shih Tzu a little better! Coincidentally at home, my mom is called "Mammi Po Po" which is equivalent to "Nanny Mommy". The author has truly created a story I could totally relate to. I could not understand why Hiro barks the way he does or go around sniffing and behaving like a royal, or does certain things that he does, but now I totally do! I can't wait to read Bella's next adventure because something else is brewing...



About the Author: Erica Leigh Austin was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the Pacific Palisades.  Both of her parents – all three of them, actually – were teachers and Erica was blessed to have grown up in an artistic, intellectual home.  Her summers were filled with club volleyball and serving as big sister and role model for her younger sister, Jenny.  Erica attended the University of Michigan, where she studied English and starred on the Wolverines’ Women’s Volleyball team.  After college, she returned home to obtain her MBA from Loyola Marymount University.  While studying at Loyola, Erica worked at the iconic Gladstone’s Seafood Restaurant “where Sunset meets the PCH.”  Erica’s studies then took her abroad to France.  There she immersed herself in the art and culture of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan locales.

Currently a highly accomplished professional in healthcare IT, Erica lives happily in the Venice Beach area.  She enjoys yoga, spending time with family and friends, and pushing Bella the Shih Tzu around in her stroller (Bella is too lazy to walk more than 20 feet).

She is pleased to introduce you to her dog, Bella the Shih Tzu, in this first installment of The Bella Chronicles.  Learn more about Erica at www.ericaleighaustin.com.

Connect with Erica: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Where to buy the book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble


a Rafflecopter giveaway

http://www.sagesblogtours.com/the-bella-chronicles.html
Many thanks to Sage Adderley from Sage's Blog Tours for sending me the complimentary e-book. I'm happy to be a part of this book tour!


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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

THE THREE LITTLE HORSES AND THE BIG BULLY DONKEY, by Liana-Melissa Allen


Yesterday I reviewed Donkey's Kite and today, as promised, is my thoughts about the first book The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey, both from A Horse Valley Adventure series. It is a short book illustrated by its young author, Liana-Melissa Allen. I strongly recommend reading this first and then continue with Donkey's Kite.

This is the Kindle edition and the start of a wonderful story...

Book Synopses: A tale (based on the “Three Little Pigs”) about three little horse brothers who suddenly lose their house that is destroyed by a fire. The young horses are totally alone and thrust into the reality of having to depend on themselves and each other against a bully donkey, who wanders the forest wrecking homes and bullying the other animals. This warm-hearted tale promotes strong values and has a fun premise. Written and humorously illustrated in vivid color throughout by Liana-Melissa Allen, the story is a proven winner for reading aloud to children.

In this first book, we are introduced to the three little horse brothers named Jack, Max, and Lax. When they lost their house to a fire, they are forced to go live in the woods. However, there is a problem because the well-known bully donkey lives there too, and everyone avoids that place because of him. The brothers decide to be brave and build separate houses despite Jack's disapproval

Here is where the similarities with Three Little Pigs start. The three brothers build their own houses: Lax builds a house of bush, Max a house of sticks, and no prize for guessing, Jack builds the sturdiest house made of stones. As expected, the bully donkey comes a-knocking and wrecks havoc, but is he successful all the way through? Also, please pay attention to the little blue bird that is always with Jack wherever he is. Maybe he (or she) is Jack's little pet friend... Would you like to know what happens to Donkey? Well, read this book to find out!

I have thoroughly enjoyed both The Little Horses (book one) and Donkey's Kite (book two). The author's illustrations are impressive and she's such a talented young lady! As mentioned in my earlier review, the book format is conducive for reading aloud too and it's worth reiterating that it's a fun platform for discussion by adult readers with their young readers. The Little Horses has also been translated to the Spanish language titled Los tres caballitos y el burro bravo.



About the Author: Liana-Melissa Allen is a young author and illustrator of children's books and books for youth. She has written, illustrated and published six books. Her most recent one is the colorfully illustrated children's book "Donkey's Kite", the second book of "A Horse Valley Adventure" series. The first was "The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey". The lovable cartoon characters, Max, Lax, Jack and Donkey makes them a favorite of first and second grade students. She is now working on her third book of "A Horse Valley Adventure".

The magical world of fantasy has inspired Liana's imagination since as long as she can remember. Part of this was fueled by her dad reading aloud to her every day when she was younger. As a result, reading is her primary passion along with music. These two passions feed her imagination into stories and drawings, which she joyously sketches out into storyboards for a potential book.

Liana-Melissa is also a dedicated classical/jazz pianist, and mostly enjoys older music, especially from the big band era and the 1940's, 50's and 60's. While playing the piano, her imagination often leads to a great amount of improvising. Frequently, Liana will improvise a theme for one of the stories she is writing. Capturing this improvised music became a priority, which ultimately resulted in theme music for "A Horse Valley Adventure". The "Horse Valley" theme will be used for a short animated video featuring her Horse Valley characters.

Liana-Melissa loves to hear from her young readers. Please visit her website at www.lmabooks.com for more information, and to contact her by email. Visit her on Facebook too.

Where to buy the book:
On Author's Website
Amazon
Barnes & Noble


Many thanks to Laura Fabiani from iRead Book Tours for sending me a complimentary copy of this book. I'm proud to be a part of this book tour!


FOLLOW ALICE HERE!

Monday, March 16, 2015

DONKEY'S KITE, by Liana-Melissa Allen

Please welcome guest blogger and author Liana-Melissa Allen to Hello, My Name Is Alice!

Guest Post by Liana-Melissa Allen

Music is magic. It can put you into another world and inspire you to be creative. It can fill you with wonder and joy when you were once feeling sad or uninspired. Horse Valley has been largely influenced by music because all through my life I have marveled at musicals like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and My Fair Lady. Every time I hear the songs I imagine my characters singing or dancing to it and often it motivates me to write a story.

I love to make musical cartoons involving my Horse Valley characters, where (like in Disney movies) I draw my characters singing the songs and I'll make some sort of story out of it. I also compose my own themes on the piano for Horse Valley, which I use in book trailers like the one I made for Donkey's Kite. When creating themes for my characters, I feel like I have to completely understand who my character is in order to make a theme about them. It's like a test to see how much I know my character, and if I have trouble with it, then maybe I need to take a little more time to know them better.

Listening to or playing music is like adding fuel to the fire. It can send your creative mind spinning into another world, and because of this I'll often make playlists and choose particular songs or pieces to listen to that capture the spirit of whatever world I'm writing about. I believe music is like magic because it helps bring life to characters and can transport you into their worlds. It truly is a powerful influence on the imagination.
***

My Book Review

Donkey's Kite is actually a sequel to The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey, and both are from A Horse Valley Adventure series. It is a short book illustrated by its author, Liana-Melissa Allen. I thought about incorporating the review of the first book into this post, but I really think The Three Little Horses deserves a separate post, so please watch out for it tomorrow! I strongly recommend reading the first book to get a better sense of continuity and to better understand the characters. Having said that, there's nothing stopping readers from reading Donkey's Kite as a standalone.


This is the Kindle edition and the start of a wonderful story...

At the core of it, this is a story about friendship and lending a helping hand. In this second book,  Jack, Max, and Lax together with their new-found best friend, Donkey, decide to go kite flying. Well, Donkey was a former bully and the three little horses were once his victims. So how did they become buddies? That is why, my dear friends, you need to read the first book. 

In this story, we are introduced to a new character called Gusty. Gusty is a white goose and she has a big heart. She makes her appearance when Donkey is being picked on by other geese and rescues him from his situation. He finally understands how it feels like to be bullied and he does not like it at all. But why is Donkey being bullied by these geese? Why isn't he with his friends Jack, Max, and Lax? Gusty also helps Donkey with his kite and she is such a subject matter expert!

This is a fun read. I loved the illustrations and I'm sure young readers will appreciate and like them. I also liked the little blue bird that showed up on almost every illustration (do try to spot it in the two pictures I included above...). The book format is conducive for reading aloud too. Donkey's Kite is a pleasure to read and is a fun platform for discussion by adult readers with their young readers. Fantastic work, young Miss Allen!

Book Synopses: The three horses Jack, Max, Lax and their friend Donkey are back!

In Horse Valley, it's a perfect day to go kite flying. Jack, Max, Lax, and Donkey decide to get creative by putting together their own homemade kites. However, Donkey's kite doesn't work. No matter how hard he tries to get it to fly, it just keeps tumbling to the ground. How will poor Donkey get his kite to fly? A friendly goose named Gusty is delighted to help him out.

In this Horse Valley Adventure, Donkey learns not to give up when all seems hopeless. The friends all learn a lesson about helping others and true friendship.


About the Author: Liana-Melissa Allen is a young author and illustrator of children's books and books for youth. She has written, illustrated and published six books. Her most recent one is the colorfully illustrated children's book "Donkey's Kite", the second book of "A Horse Valley Adventure" series. The first was "The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey". The lovable cartoon characters, Max, Lax, Jack and Donkey makes them a favorite of first and second grade students. She is now working on her third book of "A Horse Valley Adventure".

The magical world of fantasy has inspired Liana's imagination since as long as she can remember. Part of this was fueled by her dad reading aloud to her every day when she was younger. As a result, reading is her primary passion along with music. These two passions feed her imagination into stories and drawings, which she joyously sketches out into storyboards for a potential book.

Liana-Melissa is also a dedicated classical/jazz pianist, and mostly enjoys older music, especially from the big band era and the 1940's, 50's and 60's. While playing the piano, her imagination often leads to a great amount of improvising. Frequently, Liana will improvise a theme for one of the stories she is writing. Capturing this improvised music became a priority, which ultimately resulted in theme music for "A Horse Valley Adventure". The "Horse Valley" theme will be used for a short animated video featuring her Horse Valley characters.

Liana-Melissa loves to hear from her young readers. Please visit her website at www.lmabooks.com for more information, and to contact her by email. Visit her on Facebook too.

Where to buy the book:
On Author's Website
Amazon
Barnes & Noble


Many thanks to Laura Fabiani from iRead Book Tours for sending me a complimentary copy of this book. I'm proud to be a part of this book tour!


FOLLOW ALICE HERE!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Alice Studies: Introduction to European Business Law (Lund University)

I took this free Coursera course for two reasons. One: Out of curiosity because I have ZERO knowledge on the subject matter and I am not a fan of law study (its complexity scares me...). Two: My love for Europe and particularly, Italy, so it makes perfect sense to satisfy my curiosity and at the same time tackle a subject that I "think" I am not capable of understanding. In short, I'm killing two birds with one stone.


I LOVED IT! I am very happy to announce I have completed the course today. I learned so much throughout the duration of it, and the team of instructors from the Lund University ranging from the librarian to the doctoral candidates to the professors is awesome! I viewed every interview by Senior Professor Hans Henrik Lidgard with these researchers, and was inspired.

About the Course: 
This introductory course will provide students with the fundamental tools they need in order to be able to do business with the EU, whether they live in Europe or elsewhere. Students will gain an understanding of both the practical and theoretical aspects of European business law and how the EU's Internal Market operates in a global context. We will focus on topics central to business law and to economic analysis, such as free movement law, competition law, environmental law, trade law and state aids law. Students will also gain a general understanding of the European Union’s legal system and explore the basic constitutional foundations of the European Union. Furthermore, students will learn how to find and use EU legal material. [More information here on Coursera]

I have learned about intellectual property law, competition law, state aid law and public procurement law, tax law, labour law, procedural law and environmental law. All these, of course, are at an introductory level and I will not say I know everything (a lot of it, in fact, is still fuzzy to me), but from zero knowledge I now have a foundation to build on for a deeper study. My basic knowledge of law and legal terminology is also very limited but the instructors are clear and I had no difficulty at all understanding the contents of the lectures. The reading materials (described below) are really helpful too.

Reading Materials:
While the lectures served as the main source of information, students like me can also consult the reference reading documents referred to in the module. Throughout the course, the lectures referred to key texts of European business law, such as EU secondary legislation and treaties, and case law from the European Court of Justice. This course provides a great structure and guides the students to the reference reading documents.

A snapshot of the reference reading document. This one's from Module 2: The Economic Freedom. As you can see, it is clearly tagged to the related lectures.

The reference reading documents consist of both mandatory and non-mandatory items. The mandatory reading material may be tested in the graded quizzes.

Certification:
Two types of Statement of Accomplishment (SoA) are awarded for this course: a Normal SoA and a SoA with Distinction. For me, having completed the three graded quiz assignments, I will only be receiving a Normal SoA. The SoA with distinction requires students to publish a case law report which will be peer graded, in addition to completing the three graded quiz assignments.

I couldn't commit more into the course and had to forego the peer-graded assignments because of my MBA studies and foreign languages pursuit. Still, I'm contented with what I've achieved and I did leave the course with a good introductory knowledge of the European business law, and using the relevant  databases to find Regulations, Directives, Decisions, and Commission Documents through EUR-Lex and Case Law through Curia!


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Friday, March 13, 2015

My Adventure at the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale 2015, Penang Times Square

http://bigbadwolfbooks.com/2015/penang/

It was a MAD HOUSE at the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale. Today is the first day of the sale at the Penang Times Square. I was confident I could browse in a slow-and-easy manner because a) it's a working day and b) I arrived at 11 AM. Boy, was I wrong! It was absolute madness right from the start! People everywhere. I grabbed the first stray trolley in sight.

The situation at the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale. The top two pictures were taken at about 11 AM, and the bottom two were taken as I queued for the cashier's at 2:45 PM. I started queuing at THE OTHER side of the building and for about 45 minutes before I reached the "finishing line".

This is THE book sale and THE best time to whip out my Wish List and go crazy. I found lots of goodies that are on my list and more. I also found Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In (for RM8!!!) but because it's currently on its way from Book Depository, I didn't buy it (what a pity and at such an awesome price...). I was disappointed I couldn't find Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Think Like a Freak, but then Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow (see Pile 1) screamed at me so thinking fast I bagged it. That discovery made my day.

Midway through the book hunt, I switched from the overfloweth smaller (blue) trolley to a bigger (red) one. I actually started "building walls" around the smaller trolley and has been successful in piling on the books, but for fear of breaking the handle of that poor guy creaking laboriously under all that weight, I hijacked an abandoned red trolley and transferred every libro (book) into il rosso (the red one). Here are my precioussss...

BBW Pile 1 (lots of Apple-related books and one on the mind of Sherlock Holmes *salivating*)
BBW Pile 2 (I so want to start reading The Ancient Paths now which is about the Celtic Europe)
BBW Pile 3 (with more focus on languages, and only two fiction titles by Danielle Trussoni and José Saramago; am aching to start on Ad Infinitum which is a biography of Latin)

BBW Pile 4 (with focus on my business studies particularly for the current MBA subject on Financial Management; they're introductory and I read them as an "executive summary" to the subject)

THE STATS
Total time spent at the BBW: 5 hours
Total books bought: 45
Total damage: RM395 (US$109 or €98)
Average cost per book: RM8.78 (US$2.44)

There is no way I would be able to buy all these books at the original price without breaking the bank. I will buy in batches under the normal circumstances at the bookstores (and even with discounts of up to 25%, they are still very expensive). Today, almost every title that I wanted is now in my personal library at earth-shattering prices.

Every purchase of RM150 will entitle you to an RM10 book voucher expiring on 23 March 2015. I got two of them, so I will be back for more. I may want to reconsider getting the Irish and Welsh language books...


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Alice Studies: My SECOND Coursera Certificate

I received my second certificate from Coursera for the course The Bilingual Brain by the University of Houston System! My first one dated  way back in 2013 (check it out).

I encourage you to also sign up for the courses because Coursera has really interesting offerings from many renowned universities. And the best of all is... they are FREE. Go for it!
My certificate

ABOUT THE COURSE: This course introduces the student to the behavioral and neural bases of bilingual language processing. It considers the importance of age of learning as well as language proficiency and control as crucial aspects of bilingualism.

My current courses-in-progress are:
  1. Chinese for Beginners
  2. Early Renaissance Architecture in Italy
  3. Introduction to European Business Law
  4. Roman Architecture

Please also check out my other posts on The Bilingual Brain. Buono studio e buon lavoro!

FOLLOW ALICE HERE!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chinese for Beginners by Peking University on Coursera

Today I found a great Chinese for Beginners course on Coursera. The information came through Coursera email and I decided to give it a try. It is good! It also looks like the entire course is in Chinese Pinyin (more information about Pinyin at the bottom of this post), so it's all about conversational Mandarin and getting the tone right.

I have completed two of the four parts in the first module: "Who Are You?" and "Where Are You From?" I passed the two quizzes with flying colors!

Here is our teacher, Miss Liu Xiaoyu.

Additional information about the Chinese Pinyin (Source: Coursera):

The Pinyin is a system for representing standard Mandarin in the Latin alphabet. It contains 26 letters, 21 initials, 39 finals, four tones and several special spelling rules.

In 1610, a French missionary first used the Latin alphabet to record the pronunciation of Chinese characters. Then in 1958, Chinese government published the "Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet" officially. Later in 1977, the UN adopted Pinyin as the international spelling standards of Chinese geographical names and the scheme became ISO 7098(Roman alphabet spellings for Chinese) in 1982.

The Pinyin has become the educational-based content in Chinese mainland and a essential part in Chinese- speaking communities overseas.

The laws of Chinese Pinyin are relatively simple, which plays an important in popularizing Chinese characters and primary education. With the popularization of computer technology, Pinyin has become a very popular Chinese input method besides character stroke input.

Because Pinyin is only for recording the pronunciation, it can never be the substitute of Chinese character. The article that completely written by Pinyin is difficult to understand. Therefore, Pinyin is not a formal way of writing and it is just a reading aid.

If you're interested in this Chinese for Beginners course offered by the Peking University, do give it a go! Happy learning!


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