Thursday, 30 December 2004
I was supposed to go on a list-posting spree as the year ends, but looks like I only have time left for er... three lists before the New Year.
Anyway, I was wondering what I should list next, and figured that since this is a blog about books (mostly.. I think), so I should just get the most important list off first - my favorite books among those I've read this year.
Before anyone cries foul over any books I may have left out, lemme just say that these are books that I have READ, regardless of when they were published. So those I have not read obviously DO NOT COUNT.
Ok, enough rambling. Here are my Books of the Year. And NO, Dan Brown is NOT in it (although funnily enough, Grisham is).
1) A Hat Full of Sky (by Terry Pratchett)
No surprises here. A Hat Full of Sky was by far my favorite book because 1) I just couldn't put it down no matter how I tried; 2) The warm fuzzy feeling you feel after reading the book is, well, warm and fuzzy; 3) and it has the Wee Free Men. Any book with a race of little blue men who love fighting always tend to be good. Unless it's an adapation of the Smurfs.
2) Fool's Fate (by Robin Hobb)
This book loses out to A Hat Full of Sky only because it's the third book in a trilogy. If I'd read the entire trilogy in one go this year, it would have been WAAAAY ahead of any other books. Hobb is one of my favorite authors, and this book wraps up a great journey that spanned NINE books. Even though it had more than 800 pages, I devoured it in less than two days.
3) Going Postal (by Terry Pratchett)
Two Pratchett books in the top three? No, I'm not being bias here. It's just that these ARE my favorite books of the year. Going Postal loses out to A Hat Full of Sky on the 'fuzzy feeling' factor, but is still a great romp.
4) Eats, Shoots & Leaves (by Lynne Truss)
A non-fiction book in my top five? Yup, you read it right. This little book on punctuation made me think more about my writing than any other book. No author should have the right to be anal about commas and 'noktah's AND be funny at the same time.
5) The Isles of Glory trilogy (by Glenda Larke)
This entry is here not just because Glenda reads this blog. :-) This trilogy IS pretty cool- nice concepts, interesting characters, and even has a little bit of Malaysia in it. More on the books in a later review.
6) Lionboy: The Chase (By Zizou Corder)
The Lionboy series is better than Harry Potter in so many ways - interesting characters, good pacing, entertaining plot, and an adorable lead character.
7) The Name of the Rose (by Umberto Eco)
Will I never hear the last of this title? This book is in this list by virtue of being the slowest book I've ever finished, yet have nothing bad to say about. Sure, the pace is slow, and yeah, so the history lessons are tedious. But this book is a classic for a reason, and my reason for liking it is because of the lead character, and the ingenious plot.
8) The Last Juror (by John Grisham)
Hey, I like this, ok? It's one of the better books Grisham has come up with in recent years, and it is actually not as light-weight as many of his other books.
Yes, there's only eight entries (who said it was gonna be a top TEN anyway?). And yes, Grisham is in there (so sue me).
I'm too sleepy right now to remember other books I may have read over the YEAR, so I've put down the most memorable ones instead. But the top five really ARE my favorite of the year.
So there. Goodnight, and may I continue this list another day. Or not.
Wednesday, 29 December 2004
However, when I come back from Singapore, the first thing I find out was that my parents had been in at Tanjung Tokong, Balik Pulau and Batu Feringghi areas just an hour or so BEFORE the tsunami struck.
If you don't mind, I'd like to count my blessings right now.
Anyway, here's a final word on the disaster, and regular blog transmission shall commence from tomorr.. er.. today onwards.
The Visitor has asked for this link to be spread around. So here it is. It's the The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog (SEA-EAT for short, appropriately enough), and has lots of info on the disaster.
Monday, 27 December 2004
I was (and am still) following the news from Singapore, and got really worried when I heard that the tsunami had hit Penang as well, since my relatives are all there, and my family was there at the moment as well.
What made it even more disturbing was that I had just finished reading a book that ended with a gigantic tdal wave destroying a city. I remember reading that scene, and looking up to see footage of the tidal waves hitting Sri Lanka, Phuket and Penang.
I know that a lot of what we read in books usually mirrors real life, even when it is Science Fiction or Fantasy. After all, authors themselves draw on their own real life experiences sometimes. However, this time, that similarity between fact and fiction was a little too close to home for me.
Thursday, 23 December 2004
Haven't been updating for the past two days either because I was too excited about going on holiday. Hehe.
I'm looking forward to finally getting more time to catch up on some overdue books, like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel. I'll be in Singapore for a week, so I'll be haunting Borders while I'm there, provided Orchard Road isn't overrun by over-zealous Singaporeans with nowhere better to celebrate Christmas.
For now, Happy Holidays, and er... Merry Christmas!
Tuesday, 21 December 2004
While Harry Potter is hugely popular all over the world, I know many people (stand up and take a bow, Daphne) who can't stand Harry. Personally, I LOVE the CONCEPT of the Harry Potter books, but I also feel that Rowling is at best, an average writer with a wild imagination.
Anyway, she just announced on her site here that she has finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I had to go through a bloody hassle of answering six riddles to get to the darn message, and all I got was an announcement I'd read a few minutes before on another site. Ceh.
To get to the announcement, follow these steps on her official site:
1) Click on the black ring thingy (which is a Portkey) to get to the door of her study.
2) Figure out how to open the door (Very easy, this)
3) Once the door is opened, there are a few presents under the Christmas tree. Click on each present and answer the riddles that pop up
4) After you've answer every riddle, the Star on the top of the tree will light up
5) Click on the Xmas card with Star on it.
6) Read message
7) Curse and yell for having to go through all that hassle just to get to that short message
On another note, her official site IS quite fun to play around in. :-)
Monday, 20 December 2004
I've had discussions with colleagues about religion, argued about a certain band sounding very 'Christian-ny', read books that contained a certain degree of religion, and since it's almost Christmas, have had to put up with the usual 'Christmas spirit' at every turn (the spirit I can handle, its the CHRISTMAS SONGS I can't stand).
Religion on its own can be a very prickly issue. Everyone has their own thoughts and opinions about religion, whether they are for it or against it, or just plain indifferent. My own personal view of religion is this: I believe there is a God, but I'm waiting for a sign. I can tolerate any religion a person may believe in, as long as they do not try to convert me, or force their beliefs on me.
Religion in books can also be a rather thorny matter. Salman Rushdie was condemned for his book The Satanic Verses, which offended faithful Muslims, prompting protests and book burnings and even riots in which people were killed. He was even condemned to death for "insulting Islam, the prophet Muhammed and the holy Koran" by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. Dan Brown's fictional The Da Vinci Code has also caused all sorts of furore because of its suggestions about Jesus Christ's marital status, and have even caused some religious fanatics to go searching for their OWN 'Da Vinci Code'.
As you can see, when it comes to religion, things are never quite as simple as they seem.
I read a lot of fantasy novels, and religion in these novels tend to be rooted in real life as well. C.S. Lewis' Narnia books can be interpreted as 'very Christian-like', what with Aslan's resurrection, Susan become an 'unbeliever', and the very 'salvation'-like ending.
The Narnia books were condemned by Philip Pullman, who objected to the Narnia books' 'hatred of the physical world'. In fact, Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy were the direct OPPOSITE of Narnia, leading a rash of complaints that HDM was 'anti-christianity'.
Read an interesting interview with Pullman here: A dark agenda?
Later, I shall list down several 'religions' that I have read about in fantasy novels that I have found fascinating. For now, I shall pray (pun completely intended) that I do not get TOO much hate mail for this post... :-)
Friday, 17 December 2004
Even today, I was engaged in a discussion about which Two Towers Tolkien was referring to in the title of the book. It's still not clear which two, even though Tolkien DID mention in his letters that it would have to be the Tower of Cirith Ungol and Orthanc. But even he was unsure about it, and his explanation is rather hazy (see here). Peter Jackson clearly states it as Barad-dur and Orthanc, but lets not go into the movie version, shall we?
MY theory is that it should be Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. After all, they WERE twin cities, and even their NAMES just scream TWINS!
Anyone have any other theories abot the mystery of the Two Towers?
Another hot topic that's been going on is the adaptation of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series into a TV miniseries. Liz Tai wrote about it in her blog here, By all accounts, it is not only unfaithful to the books, it also messes around with it too much (The main character is not supposed to be WHITE!). Check out Ursula Le Guin's response to the mini-series here.
Daphne also wrote a list of her favorite book-to-film adaptations in her post The Film of The Book. Can't say I agree with he rviews on LOTR movie vs books, but I agree about her opinion that having read the BOOK first, she can "cling on to my own idea of LOTR and not be haunted forevermore by the image of village idiots when I think of Pippin and Merry, or heaving breasts when I picture Arwen".
Another two of my favorite fantasy books - Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, and C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, are both being adapted into movies in the coming future, along with Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy. AND there is news that Stephen R. Donaldson' Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is ALSO going to be adapted.
I feel very uneasy about these projects. In fact, I feel exactly the same way I did when I first heard that Peter Jackson was adapting LOTR. Wonder if that's a good thing...
Anyway, here are some links on the four projects:
- His Dark Materials: Northern Lights
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
There's also been news saying that Brian Cox is gonna voice Aslan in Narnia. Not good. I always thought Aslan's voice would be more James Earl Jones-like...
I'm just gonna get this off my chest first. I watched Phantom of the Opera last night, and I enjoyed it. So THERE!
I used listened to the Phantom soundtrack a lot when I was a kid (I used to be hooked to musicals' music then), and to me, it was always a musical, not a book. In fact, I didn't even KNOW it was a book until a few years back. And I really can't imagine it without the songs. So this is ONE movie that I am glad I never read the book first.
I'd always wanted to watch the musical, and I always lament the time I missed it when it came to Singapore a few years back.
Anyway, the movie was good enough for me, because it was a lavish and flamboyant show that was what I imagined it would be like when I listened to the soundtrack. I was still thinking of the show when I woke up this morning, and now I regret even more that I never caught the musical...
My favorite bits were:
- The Opening scene when the Chandelier first goes up. The minute that the Phantom's theme went up, my heart soared. That moment would make my list of most memorable moments in a movie this year.
- I also liked the way the Present day scenes were all fuzzy black and white, while the flashbacks were all in full colour. Nice touch.
- The Masquerade. Grand and uplifting at the same time, and great music. An incredible set piece.
- During the songs All I Ask of You and Music of The Night. Music of the Night has always been my favorite Phantom song.
- Great music. Made me dig up my old Phantom CD and play it on my car CD player this morning.
The disappointing bits were:
- The ending. Somehow, it seemed a little too forced. Would have probably come off better in the musical.
- The Cemetery Scene. The director over-edited it. The fight turned out to be nothing more than a series of foot shuffling and swords clashing. Ditto the Chandelier crashing scene.
- Raoul. Wanted to smack him for being so goody-goody at times.
- The Phantom was not as commanding as I imagined him to be.
Eyeris' Must-Watch-Again Rating: 3 out of 5
End of early morning (wadya mean its already eleven? That's early for ME!) transmission.
Thursday, 16 December 2004
In the meantime, I shall kick off my series of year-end lists with a very 'normal' one - My 10 Favorite Movies of the Year.
This are all mostly mainstream movies. Before anyone tries to convince me that the best movies are not the mainstream ones and that I should check out some non-mainstream films also (Visitor, stand up and take a bow), let me just say that I prefer my movies FUN and entertaining more than technically brilliant.
And these are MY personal choices anyway. So if you don't agree, so there! :-D
1) The Incredibles
The best superhero movie of the year, the best animated feature of the year, and definitely the one I enjoyed the most. Pixar can do no wrong in MY book.
2) Spider-man 2
"Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can". Better than the first - it's fun, cool, sweet, cute, and entertaining at the same time. And Doc Ock is the best super-villain I've seen on screen this year.
3) The Village
I've always been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, and The Village didn't dissapoint me. It is very atmospheric, and the acting is superb. And it doesn't scare you by being scary, but by HINTING how scary it can be. Anticipation and expectation can be scarier than skulls and corpses sometimes.
4) Team America: World Police
Fans of South Park should get the biggest kick out of THIS movie. It's the most offensively hilarious movie of the year. I can't for the life of me figure out why they banned this movie here. It's only got lots of foul language, violent puppet mutilation, Hans Blix getting chewed up by sharks, Kim Jong Ii wanting to take over the world, the Kamasutra with puppets, and Michael Moore getting blown up.
5) The Bourne Supremacy
Nothing like the book, but a damn good action/spy thriller anyway. WAY better than recent Bonds, and an improvement over the first Bourne.
6) Kung Fu Hustle
The best Hong Kong movie I've seen this year, and one of the funniest too. Stephen Chow's movies have progressed a lot since his Wong Jing days.
7) Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
Say what you want about this choice, but I liked it. Prisoner of Azkaban also happens to be the HP book I like best, and the movies captures the essence of the book well, down to the thrilling ending. Alfonso Cuaron is a darn good director, and it shows in this movie.
8) Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The perfect movie for geeks. I loved the retro look, the giant robots, the campiness, the dialogue, and the way it didn't take itself too seriously.
9) Shrek 2
Bigger and funnier than the first Shrek (although not as original), it shows that Dreamworks' animated features CAN challenge Pixar if they put their minds to it. Too bad they blew it with Shark Tale. Plus Puss in Boots can kick Catwoman's ass ANYTIME.
10) Ocean's Twelve
It's not as good as Ocean's Eleven, but it's still good, stylish fun. The dialogue was smart-assed, and it was COOL. Plus it has Catherine Zeta-Jones with a nice haircut as well...
- I, Robot - Not the perfect adaptation of Asimov, but a darn good try anyway.
- House of Flying Daggers - Cool movie, lovely visuals, entertaining fights, and Zhang Ziyi. Too bad about the silly ending
- Kill Bill: Volume 2 - Very cool....
- The Day After Tomorrow - I don't care what everyone says about the utter ridiculousness of the premise. I enjoyed it, and I think it was quite good for a disaster movie. Plus, writing too many enviromental stories made me feel for the subject.
- The Terminal - Rather mild for a Spielberg movie, but it's my favorite rom-com of the year (not that I've seen many, mind). Plus it has Catherine Zeta-Jones with a nice haircut... wait a minute, where have I heard that line before?...
- Hellboy (No, I am NOT calling it Super Sapiens) - I LOVED Ron Perlman's portrayal of the character. Says a lot about how good he was when I had never heard HEARD of the character before the movie, but I still liked it. Too bad the rest of the movie was not as good as Hellboy himself though. Here's hoping the sequel will be better...
- Collateral - Damn good movie. Great acting by Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, and great directing by Michael Mann.
- Phantom of the Opera - I watched this with a friend who'd seen the MUSICAL, and she said it was almost exactly the same. And for someone who has NOT seen the MUSICAL, I enjoyed this show very much.
Update: I updated the near-misses, adding Collateral and Phantom of the Opera, which I jsut saw tonight. :-)
Wednesday, 15 December 2004
Three words: Very short post
Four words: So lazy to work
Five words: Even lazier to write blog
Six words: Was awake till 3am last night
Seven words: Nearly could not wake up this morning
Eight words: Was watching the movie event of the year
Nine words: One I couldn't wait to get my hands on...
Ten words: Lord of the Rings: Return of The King Extended DVD!!!!!
Tuesday, 14 December 2004
Anyway, the buzz has got some of us LOTR fanatics talking about it, and yesterday, I was talking to Liz Tai about it when the topic came to whether one should read the books first or watch the movie first.
The topic popped up when she saw an ad for the Earthsea TV miniseries, and asked me whether I would watch it. I said I would rather read the book first. Then she asked, "Do you HAVE to read the book first?" To which my answer was... "OF COURSE you have to READ THE BOOK first. It came out FIRST! It's THE ORIGINAL!"
As you can see, I'm very touchy over the subject of movie adaptations of books. Even when it comes to the LOTR movies (which I really, really like), I can't stand it when people tell me that they like the movies, but not the books. Or worse (gasp!), they have NOT read the book NOR watched the movie at all (IreneQ, please stand up and take a bow).
I've mentioned before in this post here the reason why I get upset at people who tell me they watched the LOTR movies but never read the books. Because they are not using their own imagination to form their own ideas about Tolkien's world, merely taking for granted that what Peter Jackson has in the movie is what LOTR looks like.
For all you know, Tolkien's idea of how Legolas looks like may NOT have been Orlando Bloom, but was actually Danny Devito!
Ok, maybe that example IS a little far-fetched, but it's true that before the movies came out, there was not one EXACT version or image of Legolas or ANY of the stuff in Middle-Earth. Everyone imagined the characters, the places and the events differently. THAT's the beauty of reading a book. You IMAGINE it IN YOUR OWN MIND.
With a movie, you just stare at the screen and accept what is shown there. From now on, EVERYONE who reads LOTR will be imagining Legolas as Orlando Bloom, Frodo as Elijah Wood, and Aragorn as Viggo Mortenson. And that spoils the beauty of reading a book.
The vast and infinite imaginative possibility that was once the books has been reduced to sequence of pictures and movements on a screen that people just watch without using their imagination.
Entertaining as I found the LOTR movies, I lament that loss of imagination that future readers of LOTR will experience.
Anyway, to go back to the topic of books versus movies, my argument is simple - if the book came first, then read the book first before watching the movie (Unless the book was by Michael Crichton, in which case, don't bother. He probably writes his books with one eye on selling the movie rights anyway).
After all, the original VISION, the original IDEA and the original SOURCE of the movie in the first place is the BOOK. and the key word here is ORIGINAL. Without the book, no movie. Simple as that.
Movie adaptations also have the tendency to put people off reading the book, because "I've already seen the movie, so why read the book?" I find this incredibly irritating, not only because less people would be reading, but also because the true essence of the book as envisioned by the author is lost forever to that person who is too lazy to go beyond watching a movie and actually using his mind for reading.
Yes, I'm bitter about this subject.
Yes, I've been rambling.
And YES, if anyone would like to rebutt me on this subject, feel free to do so, but be prepared for another rebuttal in return.
And DON'T even get me started on BOOK adaptations of MOVIES.
Monday, 13 December 2004
Everywhere you look, you get lists like Best Movie of the Year, Best Dressed Celebrity of the Year, Best Ah-Beng Trend of the Year, Best Book of the Year, Best Shade of Red Lipstick of the Year, Best Polka Song of the Year, and so on. It can get a little silly sometimes, and most of the time, very amusing.
After all, who doesn't make up their own lists? When conversations come to what five movies were the best of the year, most people would happily divulge their own list of TEN movies, from their Numero-Uno-Favorite to their TENTH most favorite, and would probably throw in their worst movies of the year as well.
EVERYONE makes lists. In our minds, we watch a movie and think, "Hmmmm, I like this better than Shrek 2, but it's not as good as Finding Nemo", and file that bit of info away in a secluded spot in our brains, to be dragged out again when we happen to be discussing 'The Best Animated Movies of All Time".
Ok, maybe that's just me, I am a list-freak after all. I have lists for Favorite Movies, Favorite Books, Favorite Songs, Favorite Actresses, and even Favorite Types of Cheese Cake. There was a time in Primary School when I would come up with my very own music charts (based on the amount of airplay a song gets on my little radio).
Heck, even my BLOG here is peppered by lists. I've blogged about my favorite fantasy characters, my favorite 80's cartoons, my favorite Pratchett books, favorite nonsensical phrases and my favorite animal characters.
Anyway, over the next few posts, I'll be posting some of MY lists for the year. And in pure list-loving fashion, I shall list a list of the lists I shall be listing out in future lists. Here are some of them (the list is subject to relisting if list turns out to be not a list because the list only has ONE subject on the list; or if I have more lists to list):
- My Favorite Movies of the Year (ho hum.)
- Worst Movies I've Seen This Year
- Best Books I've Read This Year
- Favorite Bit of News
- Best Quotes I've Heard This Year
- Stupidest Trend of the Year
- Favorite Personality This Year
- Favorite Polka Song this Year (also voted the list most likely to be un-listed in this list)
- Favorite Type of Mosquito
- Weirdest Moments of the Year
- Favorite Mamak Stall experience
- Best Books I have NOT read
- Most Memorable Celebrity I've met This Year (which can be narrowed down to... er.. two. Not much of a list eh?)
- Weirdest List Ideas I can Come Up With
Now, I gotta find out how to stop this lisp I'm developing...
Friday, 10 December 2004
Maybe it was the faulty South Park DVDs I bought yesterday.
Maybe it's because I have to work on some silly stories about the history of football and basketball.
Maybe it's because my insurance agent called me up to tell me the payment didn't go through when it was SUPPOSED to go through (Read: When I actually HAD some money in my account).
Maybe it's because Daphne forgot to bring the Uncle books today (Heh).
Or maybe I'm just highly strung from too much coffee.
If those South Park DVDs had worked last night, I wouldn't BE in this state.
But then again, last night WAS a good night. I conducted an interview with Glenda Larke, an Australian fantasy author who lives in Malaysia who held a book reading of her latest trilogy last night in PJ.
The title of the trilogy is The Isles of Glory, consisting of The Aware, Gilfeather and The Tainted. From the bits that she read last night, it seems like a pretty intriguing story. Even my friend Erna (she who worships The Name of The Rose) thought that it sounded interesting.
Best bits of the night: free wine, free books (she gave me the entire trilogy to review), and and interesting interview. She talked about her influences, the books she likes (which include Pratchett, Hobb and Guy Gavriel Kay), how she writes her books and so on. For the full gist of the interview, wait for my story to be published. :-)
One of the first things she said to me was that she reads my reviews, and she doesn't really agree with my views on Terry Brooks. She also said she is looking forward to my review of HER books.
Great, the last thing I need is the author of a book I'm reviewing staying in the same city as I do.
Anyway, it was pretty enlightening to meet an author and get her views on fantasy, writing and her influences. Now, if I could only get Pratchett or Hobb to drop by in KL...
Thursday, 9 December 2004
When I was a kid, my parents would always bring me to bookstores because it was the only place where I would actually sit still in one place and not kick up a fuss about wanting a Transformer toy. This was during my primary school years, when I was reading lots of books. Put a nice book in my hands (those days, it was Enid Blyton books), and I was nice and quiet for at least an hour.
After I progress to er... 'deeper' books during secondary school, I would still hang out in shopping mall bookstores whenever my family took the rare trip down to KL from our little town of Temerloh. You see, Temerloh had more magazine stores - a grand total of TWO stalls - than actual bookstores. I was pretty deprived of bookstores back then, to say the least.
Anyway, whenever I was at a book store, I would try to finish at least ONE book there. I remember standing at the MPH in Sungai Wang for two whole hours, trying to finish Silence of the Lambs (I managed to get up to the final two chapters, then it was time to go home. Very agonizing); and countless store attendants telling me to get my butt off the floor, stop blocking the aisles and BUY something for a change.
When Kinokuniya first opened at KLCC, I rejoiced. FINALLY, a large bookstore that is easily accessible, where I didn't have to brave horrendous traffic jams to get to, had lots of good books, and a coffee place that had decent coffee. They even had nice benches to sit on and read my books! I finished countless books there (mostly books that I would never have bought in hardcover, but wanted badly to read it ASAP), and even had my own favorite spot in the bookstore.
Then, Kinokuniya decided that too many people were doing that (and damaging the books at the same time), and started to shrink-wrap their books so no one could flip through them.
Alas! What a tragedy!
I was dismayed, and utterly shattered. Gone were my happy days of sitting in my quiet corner, devouring Forgotten Realms books. No more flipping through chapters just to see whether the book was worth buying. I also spent considerably less time in Kinokuniya after that.
These days, I have money to actually BUY the books, so I don't read at bookstores much nowadays. Also, since I discovered Payless Books, my purchases from Kinokuniya or MPH have been significantly less.
I miss reading at bookstores though. Somehow, its a lot more fun, and the environment is more relaxed (for me, that is). I feel COMPELLED to continue reading a book, rather than when at home, where I tend to get lazy and turn on the TV instead.
Plus it's free. Who can complain about THAT? :-)
Wednesday, 8 December 2004
In fact, outside of Amy Tan and Salman Rushdie, I don't remember reading any other books by Asian authors (which either means that I didn't read any; or I did and forgot about it, because it was that unmemorable).
Anyway, I picked up Anulya Malladi's The Mango Season in the office book cabinet because it was nice and thin (which means I don't have to take too long to finish it), and the cover had nice juicy mangos on them (Mmmmmm....).
As expected, I finished it pretty quickly, and surprisingly, I kinda liked it. I guess I just might go back to those dust-covered copies of The God of Small Things and Mistress of Spices after all...
Title: The Mango Season
Author: Amulya Malladi
Priya Rao left India when she was 20. Seven years later, she returns to find her parents are intent on arranging her marriage to a suitable Indian boy. Priya can only guess at what their reaction would be if she were to reveal she has a fiance in America, a fiance of an entirely different race and religion.
- Priya Rao - 27-year-old Indian girl engaged to an American, who has to go home to India after seven years away, to tell her parents about her fiance. The whole story revolves around her and her conflicts with her family.
What I Liked:
- Short and sweet! (and I ain't talking about the mangoes)
- Good development of the characters, even if they seem a little stereotypical
- Asians should relate to this book, no matter whether you're Chinese, Indian or otherwise. After all, which unmarried twenty-something guy or girl has not been through the usual 'When are you going to get married' line by relatives?
- Interesting insight into the traditions and relationships in a traditional Indian-Brahmin family
- For those who like to cook, there are some recipes in the beginning of each chapter for some traditional Indian dishes using mangoes. Pretty nice touch, if you ask me. Even if you don't like the story, you can use it as a cookbook instead.
What I Didn't Like:
- Some of the characters seem slightly clichéd
- I'm not a fan of putting using excerpts from emails in a book, because to me, it just seems a bit forced. In this case, Priya communicates with Nick (her fiance) via email, and some of the emails just seem... unnatural.
- The ending seems a little abrupt and too 'neat'.
I kinda liked this book. It was easy to read, interesting, and you actually cared for the characters (even though some of them are somewhat stereotypical ). The relationship between Priya and her family is well developed, and the conversations were not boring, droning lectures.
Although I've not read that many books about Indian culture (or Chinese culture, for that matter), I found the culture and traditions covered in this book quite insightful, and interesting, and some of it I can relate to. After all, we are all Asians, and some things ARE the same, even between different races and religions.
All in all, a pretty good read.
Tuesday, 7 December 2004
November was a pretty animal-y month for me. At work, I was either surfing the net doing 'research' on some carnivore project, or spending most of my time reading Sherman's Lagoon comics.
To top it off, I even went to the zoo, which got me all depressed because I really don't like the idea of zoos in the first place, what with all the animals stuck behind bars and all. Plus, the headline in The Star recently about the National Zoo facing permanent closure got me even more depressed, so I decided to go home and watch some Animal Planet instead.
Anyway, I figured that since animals ruled the month, I'd list down some of my favorite animal characters in books and movies. I'm gonna leave comic strip animals out of this, because I like too many to count, including almost the entire cast of Sherman's Lagoon, Snoopy, Hobbes, and other assorted comic strip animals.
So, here are some of my favorite animal characters from BOOKS, in no particular order:
1) Reepicheep (from The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis)
A talking mouse known for his overbearing sense of honor, and immense bravery. The most fun animal character in the series. I almost cried when I read what happened to him in the end.
2) Charlotte (from Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White)
A talking spider who helps a little pig escape his slaughterhouse fate by spinning a web that reads "Some Pig," convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved.
3) Guenhwyvar (from the Drizzt Do'Urden Forgotten Realm books, by R.A. Salvatore)
A black panther from a astral plane (who doesn't talk, BTW), and Drizzt's best friend. Probably one of the coolest animal sidekicks in fantasy-dom.
4) Shadowfax (from The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
I always thought that Shadowfax was a cool name for a horse. Shadowfax is the only horse I remember from ANY book, and the fact that it was Gandalf's horse only made him even MORE cool.
5) Gwaihir (from The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming! That's my favorite part of The Hobbit's Battle of the Five Armies. Plus, eagles are always cool, especially when you can hitch a ride on them.
6) Brer Terrapin (from the Brer Rabbit stories, by Joel Chandler Harris)
Of all the animal characters in the Brer Rabbit books, I liked Brer Terrapin the most, because of his laid-back and cool character. I used to love it when he would team up with Brer Rabbit to outsmart Brer Fox and Brer Wolf. Also, all those made-up stories my dad used to tell us about about Dirty Tortoise (who lived in a drain beneath the market) only made me love turtles and tortoise characters even more.
7) Nighteyes (from The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb)
EASILY my favorite animal sidekick of recent years. His bond with FitzChivalry Farseer and their adventures together are some of the most memorable parts of Hobb's Farseer series.
8) Maurice (from The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett)
The book is a retelling of the Pied Piper fable given a Pratchett twist. Maurice is a talking cat who leads a band of rather special rats from town to town to fake invasions of vermin. Keith, in cahoots with Maurice, turns up with his flute and leads the rats out of town--a hefty reward in tow. It's Pratchett after all, and his lead characters are ALWAYS memorable.
9) Pantailamon (from the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman)
Technically not an 'animal' per se, Pantailamon is a daemon - some kind of spirit thingy that can morph into any animal form that a child which, and settles on a single form when the child grows up. The books are one of the best children fantasy books around, and Pantailamon is one of those sidekicks that you wish you had by your side as well.
Any more I missed?
Monday, 6 December 2004
Sunday, 5 December 2004
I was walking in Amcorp Mall this afternoon, and passed a book-rental store on the third floor where there was a book review of John Grisham's The Last Juror pasted on the front window. I took a closer look, and it runed out to be MY book review that was published in The Star a few months ago.
It took every ounce of my willpower NOT to rush into the store and proudly announce that that is MY review (MINE! ALL MINE!) that was stuck rather prominently with sticky tape on the entrance of the store.
I must say that it's moments like this that make reviewing books fun. I write reviews not just because of the extra money it gives me (although to be frank, it IS a major factor), but becuase if I like a book, I want EVERYONE to read it. In fact, the hardest reviews to write (for me, that is) are those where you don't have much good to say about the book, but you don't want to lambast the book so much either.
Anyway, another nice aftermath of my book-reviewing was when I got a call out of the blue from a Glenda Larke, an Australian fantasy author living in KL, and was invited to the launch and reading of her next book next week. What flattered me wasn't the fact that she invited me, but that during the phone call, she referred to me as 'the writer who reviews the fantasy books' and that she enjoyed my reviews.
Talk about stroking one's ego, eh? Hehe.
I think most writers live for moments like this, when people read your stuff and tell you they like it. That little remark by Larke certainly made my day that day, and I certainly wish I get calls like that all the time. Hehe.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to wipe this silly grin off my face.
Tuesday, 30 November 2004
One thing I like about taking a flight is the amount of time I get to read. I've finished countless books on planes (in between watching endless reruns of Jersey Girl and Spiderman 2 on the in-flight entertainment system), and that's a good thing, considering I can never seem to sleep on planes (what with distractions in the form of cute stewardesses and free alcohol...).
Anyway, books that I usually take on me for plane trips have to be light (heavy hardcovers are out), not too thick (no Lord of The Rings, obviously), and fairly light-weight on literary side of things (there goes The Name of The Rose. Oh wait, I've already finished that).
This time around, I'm bringing along Mango Season by Amulya Malladi (which I'm halfway through already), and The Bourne Supremacy, by Robert Ludlum (which I was supposed to review ages ago. Oops). These two books should be able to last me three odd hours I'll be spending on the plane. Otherwise, I'll just have to make do with Ben Affleck and Toby Macguire again.
Monday, 29 November 2004
Anyway, the good news is, I have no cavities. Bad news - I have a HUGE wisdom tooth that is the source of my pain. Well, at least my teeth won't be falling off anytime soon. And since that wisdom tooth of mine is not causing TOO much pain yet (the keyword here is YET), I'm safe to let it stick around in my mouth for a while.
But enough of me pain. Let us talk about ANOTHER type of pain. As in the bad-movie and bad-books kind of pain.
There's been lots of talk about Alexancer the movie, and most of it has not been good. A colleague of mine went, he saw, and he complained. He said it was over-drawn, over-blown and overdone. Another colleague said that it was like a three hour history lesson by Anthony Hopkins. Even Angelina Jolie couldn't save the movie, on account of her weird pseudo-Transylvanian-English accent. And Alexander with an Irish accent? I'd expect him to start singing an Irish drinking song halfway through the movie.
Suffice to say, I won't be watching THIS 'epic'.
Anyway, this year has had it's fair share of really bad movies too. And here are three of my un-favorites (yes, only three. My tooth hurts too much to think of anymore painful experiences...):
1) Catwoman - A catwoman who looks like a mouse. Nuff' said.
2) Shark Tale - Too much like a Shrek/Finding Nemo hybrid, too many cliched and overdone jokes, and too many fish that 'walked' on two legs. And can somebody PLEASE shoot that annoying yellow fish who looks like a Man in Black?
3) The Punisher - I actually ENJOYED the movie, but it just isn't very memorable. And for a Punisher movie, it's just.. not... VIOLENT enough. Besides, hiring a man named JANE to be the most macho hero in the Marvel Universe just doesn't seem right...
Tomorrow it's a trip to the dentist, and hopefully that would take the worst of the pain away.. GAAA! GAAA! GAAA!
Thursday, 25 November 2004
I have attended so many weddings these past year and suffered through so many bad karaoke sessions that I figured it would be nice to list out the ideal album of songs NOT to play during your wedding. Here it is:
Disc 1: The Classic Wedding Album
- Do you Really Want to Hurt Me, by the Culture Club - (As heard in the movie The Wedding Singer!)
- It's All About the Money, by Meja - (Express your feelings for your rich husband!)
- I'm Too Sexy, by Right Said Fred - (Anthem for the modest mind)
- How Can I Tell Her, by Lobo - (For those special nights when words can't explain how you feel about your OTHER wife...)
- Because I Got High, by Afroman - (The REAL reason you're getting married)
- All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You, by Heart - (Get her/him in the mood early!)
- Physical, by Olivia Newton-John - (While we're still on the subject...)
- U Can't Touch This, by MC Hammer - (The ultimate anthem for family planning)
- My Heart Will Go On (The South Park Mix), by Celine Dion (featuring the cast of South Park) - (features the classic lyric: "Ey Woman! Get back in the kitchen and make me some pie!")
- Special Asian Bonus Track: Fen Shou Ba (Let's Break Up), by Zhang Zhen Yue
Disc 2: The Rock Wedding Album
- Bitch and Creep, by Meredith Brooks & Radiohead - (Previously Unreleased Exclusive Duet/Medley!)
- (I Hate) Everything About You, by Ugly Kid Joe - (For the couple who loves to fight)
- Dude (Looks Like a Lady), by Aerosmith - (When you're not sure which is the bride and which is the groom...)
- Why Don't You Get a Job, by The Offspring - (Ideal after-honeymoon easy listening!)
- The Drugs Don't Work, The Verve - (Voted most popular song among marriage counsellor regulars)
- Push, by matchbox twenty (nothing like a little taste of what's to come. All together now: I wanna push you around... I wanna take you for granted...)
- (I Wanna Be) Your Underwear, by Bryan Adams - (Token crappy Bryan Adams song)
- Nookie, by Limp Bizkit - (Say it loudly and proudly: I did it all for the nookie! The nookie!)
Wednesday, 24 November 2004
Except me, it seems.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I DON'T want to read the darn book, but I have a weird tendency NOT to go for things that are VERY, VERY popular until the fuss has died down. I also have a weird habit of trying NOT to 'follow the crowd'. I absolutely refuse to buy a Nokia phone because everyone ELSE has one. I steadfastly avoided reading the Harry Potter books until my sister actually bought the books for me to read three years after Philosopher's Stone was released.
Of course, this idiotic stubbornness does not apply to everything. I'm still hyped about anything LOTR, and I drive a Proton Wira even though every other car on the road is one. And I rushed to watch Titanic when it first came out (Ah, to be young and completely devoid of good taste again).
But I digress. I was talking about Dan Brown.
Everywhere I go, people are talking about The Da Vinci Code. They wax lyrical about the pace, the plot, about how good it is, how fast they finished it, how the story is so brilliant, how it is so un-put-down-able, and how I absolutely HAVE to read it. Some even quote the title endlessly, as if reading the book was a pre-requisite to being considered a 'serious reader'.
Well, here is ONE person who won't be reading it. At least not YET.
My sister brought me Deception Point and Angels & Demons all the way from US, but I have not read them because I want to read The Da Vinci Code first. And I don't have a copy. With all the cashing in on the book going on right now, I'm frankly sick of it.
I saw THREE different covers of the book in Kinokuniya, and even The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Edition! To add to that, check out the entries for 'Da Vinci Code' on Amazon here, and you'll find over 8000 titles, including the following books (besides the ACTUAL book itself):
- Breaking The Da Vinci Code : Answers to the Questions Everybody's Asking
- Cracking the Da Vinci Code : The Unauthorized Guide to the Facts
- Cracking Da Vinci's Code: You've Read the Fiction, Now Read the Facts
- Da Vinci Code Decoded: The Truth Behind the New York Times #1 Bestseller
- Depth and Details - A Reader's Guide to Dan Brown's the Da Vinci Code
- Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code
- Solving The Da Vinci Code Mystery
- The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction
- The Da Vinci Deception
- The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code
- The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code: A Challenging Response
- Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know
It's all getting a little silly, if you ask me. What next? The Idiot's Guide to The Da Vinci Code? Chicken Soup for the Da Vinci Coder? Oooh, oooh, what about The Da Vinci Code Pop-up Book for Kids?
That is why I shall abstain from reading the darn book until EVERYONE else has stopped TALKING about the darn tome. I shall also try NOT to use the book's title here in the blog until I actually start reading it, and shall henceforth refer to it as THAT BOOK.
I know I WILL eventually read the book though. It may be sooner, it may be later, but I WILL read the damn thing. Of course, at this rate, I'll probably only read it just before the movie is released...
Tuesday, 23 November 2004
He's had quite a few series' out already, but his best is undoubtedly his debut - Magician. Magician is one book I'd recommend to anyone who wants a good fantasy story where the plot is reasonably exciting, the concept is good but not too complex, and where the characters do not spend the first 300 pages traipsing around a haunted forest and being rescued by fat blokes with colorful clothes.
King of Foxes is the second book in the Conclave of Shadows trilogy. I'll be getting hold of the third book, Exile's Return later this week. For the time being, here's the review of KoF:
Title: King of Foxes (Book 2 in the Conclave of Shadows)
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Talon, orphan of the Orosini tribe and last of his people has been transformed by the Conclave of Shadows from a trusting young boy to the dashing young nobleman Talwin Hawkins: educated, confident and now Roldem's premier swordsman.
But still his lust for vengeance will not be sated until the reason for the massacres has been uncovered and their architect revealed and punished. The Conclave demands its price from Tal: he must gather information on Laso Varen, a magician of terrible power and subtle craft, dangerous beyond contemplation.
To do this means service with the sorcerer's master, Duke Kaspar of Olasko - and swearing loyalty to the very man he suspects of killing his family, even if it means becoming the Duke's right-hand and tracking down his enemies - the members of the Conclave and Talon's own friends.
- Talon of the Silver Hawk a.k.a. Talwin Hawkins: The last of the Orosini people, transformed by the Conclave of Shadows from a trusting young boy to a dashing young nobleman
- Duke Kaspar - The ruler of Olasko, who plans on expanding his power. Also the man who ordered the massacre of Talon's people
- Laso Varen - Kaspar's 'advisor', a very powerful dark magician
- Pug - The legendary 'Black Sorceror' and leader of the Conclave of Shadows
What I liked:
- You'd have to read the first book - Talon of the Silver Hawk - to get a better idea of the characters, but the events in the first book are recapped well here, so it can actually stand on its own
- One major twist that I really did not expect (although on hindsight, maybe I SHOULD have)
- A few nice touches that made the story a lot more interesting
- Story was simple enough, but well-paced and entertaining with no boring moments
What I didn't like:
- The ending seemed a bit rushed and conclusive
- Some parts were just a little too predictable
- Things seem just a little TOO easy for Talon. One just KNOWS he will get through everything unscathed
- Some parts might be slightly confusing for those who do not know the entire history of Pug and Feist's world.
- Not enough Pug!
All in all, this is a pretty good book from Feist, whose record has been pretty consistent. It may be slightly formulaic and predictable, but at least it's well-paced and entertaining. I finished in just over a day, and actually made me want to get the third book immediately.
It DOES help if one has read the Riftwar trilogy (starting with Magician), and The Serpantwar Saga, because it references the events in these books sometimes. Also, I'd still recommend reading Feist's earlier books, just to get to know Pug better, because he is really one of the better characters ever created in modern fantasy.
Sunday, 21 November 2004
1) Don't read the instruction manual. You can do this on your own! (After all, there ARE only thirty different pieces of wood)
2) Assemble the bookcase downstairs (Even though it's meant to go into the room on the second floor)
3) Don't bother measuring the bookcase to make sure it fits through the doorway.
4) Lose some screws
5) Fit the shelves the other way around
6) Use a normal flathead screwdriver on a Phillips screw
7) Don't bother checking that the backboard is fitted properly before banging in the nails
8) Conveniently forget to put in a piece and try to discover it only when you're halfway through hammering the nails (Act surprise)
9) Hammer the nails as enthusiastically as you can and try to bend them in half. Better yet, aim for your own finger
10) Always, ALWAYS, assemble it on your own, even if the bookcase weighs a ton, and is twice your height.
I would like to dedicate this incredible accomplishment to my good friend EW, who lent me the book two years ago, and over these two years, never complained that I was hogging her book, or nagged me to return it (much).
Ok. Enough sarcasm. On with the review.
Title: The Name of The Rose
Author: Umberto Eco
Set in Italy in the Middle Ages, this is not only a narrative of a murder investigation in a monastery in 1327, but also a chronicle of the 14th century religious wars, a history of monastic orders, and a compendium of heretical movements.
One after the other, half a dozen monks are found murdered in the most bizarre of ways. A learned Franciscan who is sent to solve the mysteries finds himself involved in the frightening events.
- William of Baskerville - The 'detective' in the book. A Franciscan monk who is extremely proud of his own intellect, has deductive powers that could rival Sherlock Holmes', as well as a burning obsession with learning and knowing the truth of things.
- Adso of Melk - The narrator. At the time of the murders, he is a naive novice monk sent to serve William, and ends up playing a big part in the events at the abbey
- The plot, the plot!
- You just have to admire the way the labyrinth was mapped out. Am not sure whether it is actually Eco who came up with it, but it's pretty darn brilliant.
- William of Baskerville is an intriguing character with lots of layers, and different sides to his personality. Plus he is a pretty good detective, and capable of sarcasm as well!
- Some nice moments, especially when William is explaining stuff to Adso. William's experience makes for a great foil to Adso's young and naive personality
What I didn't like:
- VEEEEERY slow in some parts, especially the beginning.
- Too many pages taken to explain religious theologies, descriptions of doors (!), historical occurrences, and discussions regarding of heretics.
- I REALLY didn't see the point of some parts that just did not seem to do anything to advance the plot.
I can thoroughly understand why some people consider this a classic. The plot is brilliant, the characters are endearing, and some of the concepts here are really good.
However, I found reading this book a little tedious because, being use to faster paced books, this extremely leisurely-paced book got me dozing off in some parts. Spending an entire chapter describing the carvings on a DOOR did not endear me to the book much, and neither did the endless lectures/monologues/debates/sermons regarding religious issues, history and other heavy stuff.
However, now that I think back about it, a lot of it was pretty essential to the plot (though some huge chunks were largely irrelevant as well, IMHO). I won't spoil the book for those who have not read it, but all I can say is that after suffering through the boring parts, seeing it all come together eventually was pretty amazing.
Despite all the boring bits, the overall feel after finishing the book was one of satisfaction (and not just because I took so long to finish it!). It made me want to read it again, just to see what I missed, and to recap the entire story again. A book that makes you want to read it again is either very confusing, or very intriguing. Fortunately, TNOTR is the latter.
All in all, The Name of The Rose is a little tedious, but also an ultimately satisfying read.
PS: BTW, can somebody PLEASE tell me what the title has to do with the story?
Friday, 19 November 2004
YES! I'm down to the final 100 pages of TNOTR!
The book picks up towards the end, so I'm having no problems with reading it now. Let's hope I can finish it tonight so everyone can be spared anymore mention of me not finishing the darn book.
Ok, back to reading...
Thursday, 18 November 2004
I usually don't buy many music CDs (I prefer buying books and toys). In fact, unlike some of my friends, I only buy an average of one CD every few months. My last purchase was Green Day's American Idiot, and THAT CD has not left my car CD player ever since I bought it two months ago. Until now, that is.
Jimmy Eat World is one of my favorite bands, and when I saw their newest album - Futures - on sale, I simply had to buy it, and now it's taken over Green Day as the resident CD in the car CD player.
Futures is another Jimmy Eat World's follow-up to 2002's Bleed American, which featured lots of great songs like The Middle and Sweetness. Futures follows in pretty much the same vein as BA: nice melodies, catchy lyrics and a certain melancholic sweetness to the songs. There's even a silhouette of the Petronas towers on the album notes!
Bleed American was one of my favorite albums ever, mainly because the band's songs are not just about noise, loud riffs and pounding drumbeats. Their songs have nice melodies that are not just catchy, but in a way, are pretty melancholy as well. While I'm happy that they did Futures in pretty much that same style, at the same time, I'm also a bit disappointed that they did not try something different.
But I'm not complaining TOO much because I've always been a sucker for melancholic rock songs (which explains why my all time favorite song is Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls). And Futures has loads of these kind of songs, such as the title track, the first single Pain, 23, and Polaris.
I may not be a music expert like some people I know, but I know what I like. I like rock songs with nice melodies. I like catchy tunes that have emotion. Even though I like to tell people that I don't listen to anything without electric guitars, I also don't listen to EVERYthing WITH electric guitars. Bands like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte are loud, but their songs a so predictably loud and monotonous that I get bored after the second time I've heard it.
Bands like Jimmy Eat World, Oasis, Goo Goo Dolls, The All-American Rejects and Third Eye Blind rank very highly on my 'favorite albums' list because they fulfill my criteria, that is:
- Melodic and catchy tune, usually with some soaring moments that just lift your heart
- Easy to sing (or scream while in a car)
- Some melancholic moments that tend to make me feel a little emotional
- Interesting lyrics, some of which made me wanna quote it over and over again
That's just a part of my criteria. Of course, I also like other bands and songs that DON'T feature any of the above criteria. But these don't get a permanent spot in my CD player, only on my PC in mp3 format. Downloaded.
I believe in the principle that if only ONE song in the album is worth listening to, then the album is not worth owning. But if more than 5 songs are good, then I'll delete the files in my PC, and go get the album. Futures is one such album.
Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Anyway, while we're on the subject of Tolkien and LOTR, here are some of the lessons I have learnt from the novels. Here they are:
- Always bring a torchlight when going into dark caves.
- Always bring a friend when going to unpleasant places full of ash and dust.
- Always have a Plan B, especially if all your hopes rests on two puny hobbits who hug and cry all the time.
- Don't show your jewelry to strangers. They might want it too.
- Don't be too possessive of your jewelry. You might end up talking to yourself and coughing a lot
- Don't bring an axe to an Ent's Hari Raya open house.
- Don't break your promises. You might end up as a ghost, waiting in a dark cave for a smelly git with a sword to come and release you.
- If you get lost, smell your way out.
- If you have a magic ring that allows you to become invisible, don't tell your wizard friend.
- Make sure your son is REALLY dead before burning him at the pyre.
- Mushrooms are good.
- Never try to blindfold a person as stubborn as a dwarf.
- Never trust a wizard who spent his entire life learning about the bad guys.
- Never trust an employee who used to work for a wizard who spent his entire life learning about the bad guys.
- There is always time for food (especially second breakfasts), even if you are on a mission to save the world.
- When establishing a legend or prophecy to make yourself invincible, use the word 'HUMANS' instead of 'MEN' in the clause.
- When you're stuck on the top of a tower or losing a battle, don't worry. The Eagles will always come.
- When you're feeling sad, gloomy or just plain scared because some evil wraiths are after you - don't worry. Just sing!
- If you're gonna put all your power into a single object, don't put it in a golden ring. Put it in a safe-deposit box or a fixed deposit account. That way, even if you end up as a burning eye at the top of a tower for a few million years, you can still collect interest.
Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Anyway, last week was an eventful week, what with attending friends' weddings, enduring visiting relatives (who kept asking me when I will be getting married), and visiting a sick grandparent; all of which gave me a lot of things to think about during the otherwise lazy holiday.
Not surprisingly, reading was not on top of my to-do list, not with so many things going on, but I still managed to get through another quarter of The Name of A Rose (this is getting tired I know, I really need to finish this book...), and found that, just like Lord of the Rings, things REALLY start happening halfway through the book. In other words, after all the introductions, descriptions of the abbey, historical recollections and idle chatter have been taken care off. I'm now at the part where things are getting interesting, where the investigation is REALLY starting to become more than just a series of conversations with assorted monks. So, thankfully, I think I should be able to finish it soon... I hope.
Friday, 12 November 2004
I'm spending my holidays alternating between clearing out some junk in my house, fixing up some much-needed new bookshelves we just bought from IKEA, and going out to Ampang Point SF Coffee to lepak and at least TRY to finish The Name of the Rose before the end of the holiday.
If there are no updates here until next Tuesday, it'll either be because my Internet connection at home isn't exactly up to Broadband standard and I'm lazy to dial into Jaring; or because I'm just too plain lazy to write anything.
Well, it IS a holiday after all...
Wednesday, 10 November 2004
Apparently, this group meets up once every month or so to 'discuss' a certain book that was assigned in the previous meeting. What EXACTLY they discuss is not stated in the article (though I would very much like to know), but therein lies my perplexity at the whole idea.
The last time I had to 'discuss' a book was four years back when I was still in university, and my lecturer on 'Novels and Literature' assigned us to read a certain novel and 'discuss' it in an essay. While writing that essay was easy enough (especially when you have a good capacity for writing bull-poo), I found myself not enjoying the novel as much as I would have liked, mainly because I felt I was FORCED to read it.
I wonder if the members of Fiction and Friends feel that way when they are assigned a book. One member is quoted saying that the reason she keeps going back to the meetings is because of the "Satisfaction of reading a book that you don't want to read, or one that we might not have read out of our own choice".
Maybe they wouldn't feel the way I do about being forced to read a book I DON'T want to read (as opposed to those that I WANT to read because I SHOULD be reading it. See previous posts). Or maybe they don't really have as many books to read as some of us do?
Anyway, who am I to judge what other people like to do with their books? After all, I LOVE discussing the intricate elaborations and meaning behind Terry Pratchett's eccentric revelations on Death and Music with Rocks in It, with anyone who even remotely KNOWS what the heck I'm talking about.
Ah well, go read the feature story here: A club for bookworms, and judge it for yourself.
Tuesday, 9 November 2004
Here is the mini-review:
Title: Lionboy: The Chase
Author: Zizou Corder
Genre: Children's adventure
Synopsis: Charlie Ashanti is on the run from an amazing floating circus with six homesick, beautiful Lions. Charlie has promised to help the Lions find their way home, but he has his own problems. His mom and dad have been kidnapped and Charlie is being hunted down by villains. New friends offer help. But can Charlie and the Lions trust them?
One thing is for sure, the chase is on...
What I liked:
- Quite exciting, for a children's book
- Interesting premise, and original too
- Charlie is just such an endearing little character
- Some nice touches in the dialogue, and generally some very nicely worded scenes and conversations
- The story takes pot-shots at genetic modifying, tampering with DNA and cloning, rascism, evil pharmeceutical corporations, pollution and a whole lot of other issues that you don't usually read about in a children's book.
- The story ends on a very nice footing
- The story ends on TOO nice a footing. What's the point of the THIRD book then, eh?
- The beginning is a bit slow, especially when Charlie is stuck in the Palazzo Bulgaria in Venice.
- The characters seem to be able to get from one end of Europe to the other REALLY REALLY quickly.
I actually rate the Lionboy series much higher than Harry Potter, because it feels more like a REAL children's book. Where Rowling tries too hard to also cater to her adult readers, Zizou Corder (who are actually a mother and child team, BTW) never forgets who their target audience is. True, they may write about some heavy issue, but it is written in such an innocent and child-like way that there is never any doubt who the book is written for.
All in all, this is a well-written children's book that should entertain children, and make adult readers feel younger at the same time. Highly recommended.
1) Look at Snake
2) Pick up Snake
3) Check under Snake
4) If Snake has legs, then it is not a Snake
5) Release Snake if it has legs, for then, it is not a Snake
6) If Snake has no legs, then put down Snake before it bites you
7) If Snake bites, check if it is poisonous
8) If not poisonous, then don't worry
9) If Snake is poisonous, panic
10) After panicking, go to doctor within five minutes or say goodbye
1) Look at spider
2) Pick up Spider
3) Count Spider's legs
4) If Spider has less than eight legs, it is not a Spider
5) If Spider has eight legs, it is a Spider
6) Put down Spider before it bites you
7) For children, if Spider bites, go to mommy and shout, 'Mommy, mommy, a spider bit me!"
8) If Spider is poisonous, say goodbye. If Spider is not poisonous, scratch itch
9) Either way, squish Spider, preferably with foot
10) Laugh maniacally and yell, "TAKE THAT, YOU LOUSY SPIDER!"
Monday, 8 November 2004
There've been lots of comments about me not finishing TNOTR after so long. To tell the truth, one of the main reasons why I haven't been able to finish it is because it's just one of those books that I WANT to read, but not necessarily hope to ENJOY, but I WANT to read it because I know I SHOULD be reading it.
Confused? Lemme rephrase it in another way, in point form:
1) There are books that are essential reading
2) These 'essential reads' may not suit everyone's taste
3) My taste is slightly weird, so the 'essential reads' may not suit my taste
4) But because these are 'essential reads' I feel that I SHOULD read them, so that I can know better about them
5) I want to know more about these books so I won't sound like a complete doofus when someone starts talking about them
6) Problem is, I don't really enjoy them because they tend to be a little boring (which is an understatement, BTW)
7) However, I keep reading them because I WANT to finish them
It's all a little petty, but for the most part, I always feel that I HAVE to finish a book once I've started on it. Which is why I don't get started on many books even though I have a lot of unread ones. I'm just afraid to start one and find out it's about as interesting as growing grass , or drying paint chips.
Anyway, here are some of the books that I KNOW I should be reading, but just have not gotten around to reading them, for the above mentioned reason:
1) The Illiad & The Odessey (Homer Not-Simpson)
2) Soul Mountain (Gao Xingjian)
3) The Once and Future King (T.H. White)
4) Romance of the Three Kingdoms
5) Unfinished Tales (Tolkien)
And for good measure, some books/series that I SHOULD be reading but have not yet gotten around to due to 'unforseen circumstances'.
1) The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Stephen R. Donaldson)
2) The Earthsea series (Ursula K. Le Guin)
3) The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer)
4) The Darkover books (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
5) The Bromeliad trilogy (Terry Pratchett)
Friday, 5 November 2004
Anyway, I'm trying VERY HARD to finish what is currently the greatest challenge on my To-Read-List: The Name of The Rose, but I've been unable to get through more than a chapter or two at one go. When I get too bored of insane monks abominating laughter and killing people in an abbey, I turn to Zizou Corder's Lionboy: The Chase, the second book in a series of a children's novels that is turning out to be WAAAY better than Harry Potter could ever hope to be.
BTW, here is the full review of Pratchett's Going Postal that was published in The Star today:
Thursday, 4 November 2004
This is a GRISHAM book. Your so-called 'pulp fiction', too 'shallow' and 'commercialised' for people looking for 'deeper' reads. You don't like it: fine, but let's try to be objective with the comments, ok? :-D
On with the mini-review:
Title: Skipping Christmas
Author: John Grisham
Available at: It's Grisham. You can get his books ANYWHERE, from Kino to MPH, airports, and even certain mamak newspaper stands.
Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That's just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they'll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won't be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren't even going to have a tree. They won't need one, because come December 25 they're setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences - and isn't half as easy as they'd imagined.
A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.
- Luther Krank - A tax accountant who decides that the total cost of the previous Christmas was way too much, and decides to save the money THIS year to go for a cruise instead, thereby 'Skipping Christmas'
- Nora Krank - Luther's wife, of course.
What I liked:
- Good pace, no boring moments
- Short and sweet (I finished it in less than a day)
- Something different from Grisham (besides his courtroom dramas)
What I Didn't Like:
- The cover of my copy was the movie poster for 'Christmas with the Kranks', and spoiled the book for me somewhat, because I kept imagining Tim Allen's face on Luther (I'm not a big fan of Tim Allen).
- A rather predictable plot (but then again, it's Grisham; and after all, how unpredictable can a Christmas tale get?)
- Rather irritating characters (One can just imagine how the role of Luther just fits Tim Allen like a glove)
- Asians who don't celebrate Christmas as fervently as Westerners do might feel somewhat detached from the chaos depicted in the book (unless you relate it to your Hari Raya or CNY balik kampung experiences)
In a nutshell:
It's Grisham, fair enough, and one does not expect heavy-handed philosophical jabbering from this guy. His lawyer-books are decent airport reads (even if they are 'fluff'), and The Chamber was about as heavy handed as he got, which isn't much.
In case you were wondering why I showed TWO different covers of the book above, it's because my copy has the cover on the LEFT, and the one I would have preferred is the one on the RIGHT. Like I said, having Tim Allen and Jamie Lee-Curtis on the cover spoiled the book somewhat for me, because since the characters suit the actors so well, it was hard not to imagine how the scenes would look in the movie. Sigh...
Anyway, the book IS decent enough for reading in waiting rooms, in airports, or in LRT. Just don't expect anything more than a VERY light romp in Grisham-land, and you'll do fine.
Wednesday, 3 November 2004
A full review of The Incredibles is in the works. Meanwhile, you can check out this review on Shark's Tale in Purple Sofa (3 out of 5 stars is a bit generous, Irene...).
Meanwhile, here is a short comparison between the two:
The Incredibles: The animation was great (it is the first time Pixar has done a feature that used human characters). The facial expressions were brilliantly done (then again, if they can make a FISH look sad, how hard can a human sad-face be?)
Shark Tale: No complaints here, to tell the truth. Not a very realistic undersea-world like Finding Nemo (the fish 'walk' upright, and use their fins like hands), but it's colorful.
The Incredibles: Although mildly predictable and straightforward, the story about a family of superheroes still manages to entertain without being too cliched. Sure, there's the usual 'super-villain-destroying-world' thingy, but one gets the feeling that Pixar played that up that cliche rather than being unintentionally corny. In actual fact, I think the main story ISN'T the superheroes fighting the villain, but about the way their family comes together.
Shark Tale: Fish dreams of becoming famous. Vegetarian shark wants to 'come out of the closet'. Fish lies about killing vegetarian shark's brother and becomes famous. Mafia shark boss comes after fish for killing son. Fish and friends save the day and start dancing in car wash. Blah. Cliche after cliche, spoof after spoof, and stereotype after stereotype. The story has such a 'been there, done that' feel to it that one gets bored after the first fifteen minutes, and the jokes are very predictable.
The Incredibles: As usual, Pixar's strongest suit. The characters in the movie are well-scripted, with the stereotypical American family of a working father, a homemaker mom, a confused teenage daughter, a hyper-active brat of a son, and a cute baby. (Sounds like The Simpsons eh?). Add in their superpowers, and it makes for a lot of fun. The strongest character is Elastigirl (the mom), while Dash (the son) and Violet (the daughter) working together is more interesting to watch than when they are apart. Mr Incredible and Syndrome (the bad guy) are pretty standard feature characters, and I would have prefered more of Frozone.
Shark Tale: Stereotype after stereotype again. None of the characters stand out for the right reasons, and I couldn't feel ANYTHING for them. Only De Niro's Mafia boss shark Don Lino was interesting, while the rest were just boring. Oscar the main character is irritating (mostly because of Will Smith, more on that later), Angie (Zellweger) and Lola (Jolie) are just token female characters, and Lenny (Jack Black) is just annoying.
The Incredibles: Helen Hunt and Samuel L. Jackson's voices are pretty obvious here, but that's about it. the rest of the cast are not super-big names like Shark Tale has, but they work a lot better. The rapport is great, and sound a lot more natural. IMHO, Hunt's performance stands out the most.
Shark Tale: Will Smith is... just... so... ANNOYING! I got sick of Oscar/Smith after his first scene, and it REALLY didn't help that many of the jokes were so predictable and so... Smith-ian than they didn't turn out funny at all. Zellweger was pretty flat, Jolie was her usual sensual self, while Jack Black is another who suffers from the cliched script. Only De Niro and Scorcese came out well in the movie.
The Incredibles: A movie that combines two of the most successful genres in recent years - superheroes and animation - is almost guaranteed to be a smash hit. And I have to say The Incredibles deserves it. I may be bias towards Pixar movies, but to tell the truth, they DO make entertaining movies. This movie works because it doesn't resort to the usual cliches and spoofs to get laughs, but is genuinely trying to make a good movie. It may not be as laugh-per-minute as Finding Nemo was, but it is still a solid offering from Pixar - heart-warming, action-packed, and entertainingly brilliant.
Shark Tale: I hardly laughed at all during the entire movie, which hardly reflects well on a movie that's supposed to make people laugh. This movie feels as though the makers wanted to go all out to beat Finding Nemo, which is fine by me. However, when they start resorting to cliches, old jokes, and WILL SMITH to try and draw laughs, it falls flat. Spoofing brands like Starbucks and Coca-Cola was funny the first time round when they appeared in Shrek, but here, it's just tired. Same goes for movie spoofs of Gladiator, The Godfather and so on (Tip: for a much-better spoof of Jerry McGuire's 'You had me at hello' line, check out Team America: World Police). My advice? skip this, and go watch Finding Nemo again.
Tuesday, 2 November 2004
Title: The Opposite of Fate
Author: Amy Tan
Where to get it: Any bookstore in KL should have it
What it's all about:
It's a book of memoirs comprising stuff that Tan wrote throughout the years - speeches, essays, articles, and even a sonnet. The topics range from her mother, her hardships, human rights issues in China, her inspirations, and even some tips on writing.
What I Liked:
- Nice variety of stories
- Doesn't try to stuff her views and opinions down the reader's throat
- I actually LEARNT something from it
- Asians will probably relate to it better
- She even included an essay she wrote when she was 8-years-old. Very interesting when you compare it to her writing now
What I didn't like:
- A lot of repetitive examples & topics (understandable, since it's a collection of musings over a long period of time)
- Some 'peculiar' translations of Chinese phrases that I didn't really get
In a nutshell:
Somehow, I've always liked Amy Tan's books, probably because her fiction is easy to read, and I can relate to her stories about Chinese people. This books of musings is an interesting insight to how her mind ticks, her inspirations, her life, and her work.
It's interesting, somewhat inspiring, and actually pretty entertaining at times. Plus, it's not pompous and pretentious like the LAST book of memoirs I read - Michael Chrichton's Travels (which is one of the main reasons I never read another book of memoirs for 6 years).
Friday, 29 October 2004
Yes, Berjaya Times Square. The brainchild from the company owned by the Donald Trump of Malaysia, a shopping mall so sprawling, so large, and so unorganised that I have avoided going there like the plague.
The Borders shop is reportedly scheduled to open in April 2005, and rumoured to be the LARGEST bookstore in ASIA. Again, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I LOATHE going to Berjaya Times Square, but the lure of such a HUGE bookstore may... just.. be... too.. great.
Then again, maybe not. The thought of braving the traffic jams in Jalan Imbi or the expensive, inconsistent Monorail just to go to that Ah Beng-ridden termite-warren may just deter me from going to Borders too often. Oh well, guess I shall stick to Kinokuniya and Payless instead.
Thursday, 28 October 2004
Ok, maybe this sort of thing only happens to me, but it's annoying nonetheless. Why can't people see that when a remote is stuck in the middle of a book, it's there for a REASON?
I guess that's why they invented bookmarks then. Not the types that are marked ASTRO or SONY DVD, but actual bookmarks, those little glossy rectangular-shaped cardboard pieces that sometimes have a pointy end with a hole and a cute ribbon.
Over the years, I have used a number of objects as bookmarks. Besides the occasional remote control, I have also stuck pens (hence the ink blots in some of my books), spoons (which accounts for one unfortunate incident where I forgot I was actually USING it), tissue paper (doesn't work very well because the tissue gets so flat that you can never find later), RM1.00 notes (got stolen once), fingers, toes, mobile phones, other books (The Tale of Peter Rabbit comes in very handy sometimes), and even bananas (unpeeled, of course). On the occasions when I can't find a proper inanimate objects, I sometimes do what many avid readers hate doing - dog-ear the page.
In case you're wondering why I use these odd objects as bookmarks when REAL ones are a dime a dozen, it's because most of the REAL bookmarks I had (many of these containing advertisements for banks, insurance companies and charity organizations) have all somehow mysteriously disappeared (probably because they were mostly advertisements for banks, insurance companies and charity organizations).
Actually, I am now using a set of bookmarks that a friend gave me for my birthday this year. These LOTR-themed bookmarks are officially licensed from New Line Cinema, and were bought from the official LOTR fan club's website for approximately RM30 EACH. My favorite is this pretty thing:
Nice, eh? It's a mini replica of a Rohan banner, made from fabric with a small wooden hanging rod and costs USD5.99 EACH. Needless to say, I won't be losing THIS bookmark in a hurry. It also makes an interesting conversational piece. I was once reading a book at a cafe, when someone just came up to me and asked me about the bookmark and where I had got it from. And she was quite cute too. :-)
Another type of bookmark I often use are postcards. These may not count as actual 'bookmarks' per se, but they are actually some of the best bookmark-y things around. They're easily available from free postcard stands, have some very cool designs (unless you happen to get a crappy one advertising insurance companies), and best of all, their size and thickness is just PERFECT for marking pages in ANY book.
Beats a banana any day. Trust me, I know.