Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Confessions of a Non-Non-Fiction Reader

I have a confession to make. I don't like reading non-fiction. In fact, I can count with one hand the number of non-fiction books I actually remember reading.

It's not that I have anything AGAINST non-fiction books, it's just that I would rather read a nice fantasy book that allows me to use my imagination, or a nice pulp fiction book that doesn't require any thinking. Most of the time, that is.

BTW, by non-fiction, I mean NOVELS. I also read a substantial number of travel guides, encyclopedias, movie guides and so on, but those don't count. And neither do self-help books (which I ALSO don't read on principle, but that's another rant).

I HAVE tried to read non-fiction books, and a case in point is Primo Levi's If This Is A Man, his memoirs about life in Auschwitz (The Nazi's largest concentration camp) during World War II. THAT was an interesting read (made the more poignant by the fact that I actually VISITED Auschwitz in Poland).

Besides that particular book, I REALLY can't remember a non-fiction book that has really made an impact upon me. Of course, I've not read many to begin with, but my point is, I just can't bring myself to BEGIN a non-fiction novel.

The beginning of a book is very important to me, as it determines whether I will keep reading it or put it down. And most of the non-fiction books I've TRIED to read have been depressingly dull in the beginning, which most of the time, just prompts me to toss it aside and read something else instead, preferably something that starts with lots of fireballs, swordfights and cussing.

But that's just me. Right now, what I could use is a nice list of non-fiction books that WON'T bored me to tears. Any suggestions, anyone?

Monday, 28 June 2004

A Time to Read

I read a lot of books. I also BUY a lot of books. However, these two statements combined does not necessarily mean I actually READ all the books that I buy. In fact, I buy a whole lot more books each month than I can read, hence the 200 odd books that I have sitting on my bookshelves, with me not having a CLUE what they are about, or sometimes even why I bought them in the first place.

Nevertheless, even though my BUY:READ ratio is somewhat lopsided, I still try to read an average of two books every month (this total does not include children's books, magazines or any book by Enid Blyton or Dr Seuss, BTW.)

My point is, people keep asking me when I find the time to read all these books. Well, I don't actually FIND the time, I just happen to read the books wherever and whenever I can.

Most of the time, I just bring the book around with me wherever I go, and anytime I am idle, waiting for the LRT, or in a queue, I'll just take it out to read. You'll be surprised how many books I've managed to finish while sitting in the LRT or while stuck in a traffic jam (while miraculously avoiding taking the bumper off the car in front of me).

Anyway, listed here are the occasions where I manage to get the most reading done - in order of frequency and number of books finished while in that particular situation:

1) Waiting in the bank/restaurant/post office/LRT station/mechanic etc...
2) While on the LRT (much more productive than just staring into space like most commuters do)
3) Sitting on the toilet (For decency's sake, I shall not elaborate further)
4) When stuck in snail-paced traffic jams (kids, don't try this at home)
5) While 'lepaking' in coffee joints or eating dinner(instead of just sitting down and eating, I READ while eating, especially when I'm alone. Makes for quite a number of coffee and curry stains on my books though)
6) Dedicated book-reading marathons into the wee hours of the night (usually conducted when I absolutely HAVE to finish a book or I wouldn't be able to sleep)

Sunday, 27 June 2004

Panduan LOTR (ENG-BM-AB) yang unik sekali

This post was inspired by the fact that sometimes I have so much free time that I scare myself.



Sons of Gondor, and Rohan, my brothers!
I see in your eyes, the same fear, that will take the heart of me!
A day may come, when the courage of men fail,
When we forsake our friends,
And break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day!
An hour of wolves and shattered shields,
When the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day!
This day, we fight!
By all that you hold dear on this good Earth,
I bid you, STAND! MEN OF THE WEST!!!

--------------The BM translation----------------------

Anak lelaki Gondor dan Rohan, abang-adikku!
Saya nampak dalam matamu, ketakutan yang juga akan ambil hatiku!
Satu hari akan datang, bila keberanian manusia akan gagal,
Pada masa itu kita mengetepikan kawan-kawan kita,
Dan memecah semua ketalian kesahabatan, tetapi ia bukan hari ini!
Suatu jam serigala dan peyelindung yang pecah,
Apabila tamadun manusia jatuh, tetapi ia bukan hari ini.
Hari ini, kami gaduh!
Untuk semua yang berharga yang kamu pegang atas bumi baik ini,
Saya minta kamu - BERDIRI! ORANG DARI BARAT!

---------------and now, the Ah Beng version!--------------

Anak Gondor dan Lohan, taiko taiko sumua!
Gua nampak dalam mata lu, manyak takut, macam dalam hati gua!
Satu hali nanti, kita sumua jadi takut,
Dan kita buang sumua kita punya member-member,
Dan tak kawan sumua olang, tapi bukan hali ini!
Lepas satu jam, ada banyak itu A-WOOOO punya binatang, sama itu tahan pedang punya benda akan pecah,
Dan olang-olang sumua jatuh, tapi bukan hali ini.
Hali ini, kita lawan sama dia!
Kalau you sumua ada mahal punya benda atas lantai,
Gua mau lu sumua - STAND UP! OLANG BALAT!



Arise! Arise, Riders of Théoden!
Spears shall be shaken! Shields shall be splintered!
A sword day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now! Ride now!
Ride for ruin, and the world's ending!
Forth, Eorlingas!!!!!

----------------The BM translation-----------------------

Bangun! Bangun, Penunggang-penunggang Theoden!
Lembing akan digoncang! Perisai akan dipecah!
Satu hari pedang, satu hari merah, sebelum matahari terbit!
Tungganglah sekarang! Tungganglah sekarang!
Tunggang untuk kemusnahan, dan ketamatan dunia!
Ke hadapan, Eorlingas!!!

-----------------and now, the Ah Beng version!------------

Mangun! mangun, mah-cai mah-cai Tioden!
Goncang lemping lu! Pecah lu punya itu stop pedang punya benda!
Hali ini ada pisau besar, hali manyak melah, matahali pun belum bangun!
Pegi sekalang! Pegi sekalang!
Pegi musnah, dan habis dunia!
Jom, Iulingling!!!



You cannot pass.
I am a servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Anor.
The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun!
Go back to the Shadow!

--------------The BM translation-----------------------

Kamu tidak boleh menyeberang.
Saya orang suruhan api yang rahsia, pemegang api dari Anor.
Api yang gelap tidak akan tolong kamu, Api Kepunyaan Udun!
Kembalilah ke Bayang-Bayang!

--------------and now, the Ah Beng version!-------------

Lu tak boleh lalu!
Gua itu diam-diam punya api punya kuli, dan gua ada api Jalan Alor!
Itu hitam-hitam punya api itu sudah tak flen lu, Api Mee Udon!
Balik tempat gelap lu!

Saturday, 26 June 2004

Me and my Mags

Usually, I would rather buy books than magazines. But somehow, every month I inexplicably spend at least a hundred ringgit on magazines. In fact, a quick sort-out of my magazine corner today revealed a whole load of magazines that I can't remember what I bought them for.

Of course, the reasons for buying stuff like FHM, NewMan and Maxim are fairly obvious (and it's definitly NOT for the articles, though NewMan's are strangely interesting), but what that odd PC.com magazine is doing lurking among my FHM's is beyond my recollection. Maybe it's those cheat codes for Warcraft III in it. Or maybe it's that sexy picture of a CD-rom drive posed seductively on the cover. RIGHT.

Anyway, the only magazines I consider MUST-BUYS are the imported-from-UK Empire and Q magazines. I like watching movies, and Empire is probably my favorite movie magazine. In fact, I set a lot of stock by Empire reviews. If they say it's good, chances are I'll like it too. So far, they have not failed me yet (except that three star rating for I-Spy... what were they THINKING???

Now, why I buy Q magazine is rather strange, considering I'm hardly crazy about music in the first place (my musical tastes range from the songs of South Park, to anything that features an electric guitar riff). I started buying Q when they released that 3-part Special Edition commemorating 50 years of Rock N' Roll earlier this year. The articles were surprisingly interesting reads. However, I was drawn towards the style of writing more than the subject of the articles. The writing is has typical British humor, very interesting facts, and the layout of the pages were easy enough. Oh, and the captions of the pictures are darn funny sometimes.

Besides these two, the only other mags I buy regularly are FHM (yes, I'm shallow, so sue me), NewMan and that Singaporean movie magazine, FIRST (mainly because they always have cool movie posters and postcards).

Anyway, the main reasons I would be tempted to buy a magazine are as follows, in order of importance:

1) Picture of pretty girl on cover
2) Free poster of pretty girl inside
3) Free movie poster (preferably including a pretty girl)
4) Anything with LOTR on the cover (Preferably a picture of pretty girl Eowyn)
5) Special commemorative issues or special collector's editions
6) Good writing
7) Interesting articles (pretty girl, optional)
8) Cheap (The magazine, not the pretty girl)

So as you can see, I'm a real sucker for free stuff and pictures of pretty girls. But at least I don't read Cleo. That big pile of em' over there is my girlfriend's. Honest!

Another book buying frenzy! GAAA!

GAAAA! Somebody, PLEASE take my car keys and throw them into the deepest ditch where I can't find them, so that I will not be tempted to drive ALL THE WAY to PJ just to go to the Times Bookshop warehouse sale again.

Yup, I went there again, and spent another load of money on books I probably won't even finish reading before I retire. And I was SOOOO proud of my restraint on the first day.

Anyway, I managed to get a few books I somehow missed the first time around, including the remaining Artemis Fowl book I don't have, and a Salman Rushdie book, and a few Tintin books.

Even after this second session, there were STILL books that I had to let go, because of that infernal thing called 'credit limit'.

Oh well, here's what I got:

1) The Tangle Box, by Terry Brooks
2) The Telling, by Ursula K. Le Guin
3) The Sheep Pig, by Dick King-Smith
4) Rhyme Stew, by Roald Dahl
5) More Tales of the Unexpected, by Roald Dahl
6) Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code, by Eoin Colfer
7) King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green
8) Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie
9) A Man Betrayed (Book 2 of the Book of Words), by J.V. Jones
10) The Farseekers (Book 2 of the Obernewiyn Chronicles), by Isobelle Carmody
11) Ashling (Book 3 of the Obernewiyn Chronicles), by Isobelle Carmody
12) The Keeping Place (Book 4 of the Obernewiyn Chronicles), by Isobelle Carmody
13) The Adventures of Tintin - The Blue Lotus
14) The Adventures of Tintin - The Black Island
15) The Adventures of Tintin - King Ottokar's Sceptre
16) The Adventures of Tintin - Tintin in Tibet
17) The Adventures of Tintin - Land of Black Gold

Sigh... time to buy new bookshelves...

Friday, 25 June 2004

Lovely, lovely hat full of sky...

I just finished Terry Pratchett's newest book, A Hat Full of Sky last night after a marathon four hour non-stop reading session that stretched into the wee hours of the morning (causing me to miss that BRILLIANT game where Germany lost to a second-string Czech team), and all I can say is, the book is just lovely. That was the first thing that popped into my head when I read the last page - LOVELY.

I haven't dreaded finishing a book this much since Robin Hobb's Tawny Man saga, and it's pretty hard to top THAT masterpiece. In brief, this is what the book is about:

It's a sequel to The Wee Free Men. It's about Tiffany, an 11-year-old witch-in-training, who gets help from a smelly race of blue men called the Nac Mac Feegle in fighting an ancient demon-like creature that takes over her body.

It's hilarious. It's touching. And it's just lovely (there's that word again).

Am currently writing my review for it, so stay tuned.

Thursday, 24 June 2004

Book-buying frenzy!!!!!

Oh dear. I knew it was a bad idea to go to the Times Bookshop warehouse sale this close to the end of the month.

Within ten minutes of stepping into the sale, the basket in my hand was already full to the brim. I bought all sorts, from children's books to fantasy (mostly fantasy), and a pair of Bryce Courteney books I'd been searching for for ages. Most of the books were going for RM10, with some only RM6-8. There was even a thick book of Celtic myths and legends going for fifty cents!

I spent two hours wandering around the piles of books there. Total damage: RM153.00, (including RM3.00 for a DVD folder I just picked up on a whim)

Here's what I got:

1) Four Fires, by Bryce Courteney
2) The Potato Factory, by Bryce Courteney
3) Smoky Joe's Cafe, by Bryce Courteney
4) The Baker's Boy (book 1 of the Book of Words trilogy), by J.V. Jones
5) Big Fish, by Daniel Wallace
6) The Saga of the Renunciates: Darkover Omnibus, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
7) The Forbidden Circle: Darkover Omnibus, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
8) Little People, by Tom Holt
9) Skin and Other Stories, by Roald Dahl
10) The Great Automatic Grammatizator: And Other Stories, by Roald Dahl
11) The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar: And Six More , by Roald Dahl
12) Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer
13) Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, by Eoin Colfer
14) The Wish List, by Eoin Colfer
15) Stuart Little, by E.B. White
16) True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
17) Otherland IV: Sea of Silver Light, by Tad Williams
18) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, by Ian Fleming

There were a whole lot more I didn't have time to buy.. oh well, tomorrow's another day! Woohoo!

Wednesday, 23 June 2004

The never-ending Wheel of Time

Liz Tai commented on my essential reads list in Daphen's blog, and noticed that I did not mention Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time there. Well, here's why:

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time has got to be the most long winded fantasy series in the history of time, even worse than the first three-hundred pages of Fellowship of the Ring (BEFORE the hobbits get to Rivendell).

Not only has Jordan clocked in at ELEVEN books already, HALF of those books hardly advanced the plot, and the characters just went around hitting people, scolding peasents, while the hero fooled around with his three (YES, THREE) girlfriends.

To make things worse, instead of concentrating on FINISHING the darn series, Jordan decided to take a break and write a PREQUEL (A New Spring). Now, if that isn't blatant exploitation of his fans, I don't know what is.

Nevertheless (sucker that I am), I have read every single book in the Wheel of Time (Though I flat out refuse to even TOUCH the prequel). To those who ask my opinion about the books, here is what I have to say:

First of all, the concept and the world that Jordan has created is just briliant. The detail is rich, and the scale of his world is vast; plus it helps that the story has a great deal of potential in it. Starting with The Eye of the World, Jordan weaves a pretty good yarn, and continues to do so through the second (The Great Hunt), third (The Dragon Reborn) and fourth (The Shadow Rising) books. Through these books, and the fifth, (The Fires of Heaven)one is always hungering for more, and can hardly bear to put the books down for even a single minute.

The sixth book onwards, however, brings me to the...

To me, the 6th (The Lord of Chaos), 7th (Crown of Swords) and 8th (Path of Daggers)book of the Wheel of Time can be considered a total waste of time.

The story barely progresses, the characters whine constantly and get stuck in unlikely situations, and Rand (the hero) does nothing but frolick with his girlfriends and kill the occasional Forsaken (the evil minions of the Dark Lord - think Nazgul with better dress sense). In fact, nothing significant really happens until the ninth book (Heart of Winter).

Jordan also has an irritating habit of adding more and more characters into the mix to the point where I got so confused that I considered drawing a flow-chart to indicate which character appeared when.

In defence of the series (and there is precious little to defend it with), book eleven - Crossroads of Twilight WAS an improvement over the previous books, especially after events in Winter's Heart sort of FORCED the story along. This actually boded well for the series, and had my hopes up again. Until Jordan came out with a PREQUEL of all things. Now, I've lost all hope again. Sigh...

All in all, the Wheel of Time can be considered a pretty good but incredibly frustrating fantasy series, one I would not recommend reading BEFORE Jordan has actually FINISHED the darn series. But in case you're a sucker for long-winded and elaborate fantasies with no end in sight, here is the complete list of books

The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan:

1) The Eye of the World
2) The Great Hunt
3) The Dragon Reborn
4) The Shadow Rising
5) The Fires of Heaven
6) The Lord of Chaos
7) The Crown of Swords
8) The Path of Daggers
9) Winter's Heart
10) Crossroads of Twilight
11) New Spring (prequel!)

My Essential Reads on Daphne's blog

Daphne's been compiling essential reads of everyone around her (even the toy Lurtz with an orange ribbon on her computer) and posting it on her blog The Places You Will Go. MY essential reads are there too. Just go to her blog here to check it out.

And in case anyone was wondering, the soundtrack in my head is NOT Saturday Night Live, but rather, varies from time to time; from the soundtrack of LOTR (The Ride of the Rohirrim, to be exact), to various South Park songs (WEEEELLLL! Kyle's mom's a... never mind), the theme songs from assorted cartoons like the Powerpuff girls and Dexter's Laboratory, and Spiderman (Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can!).

Oh what the heck... no harm with a little strutting... Ah hah hah hah, Stayin' Alive!

Monday, 21 June 2004

LISTS - Terry Pratchett must-reads

I've been a big fan of Terry Pratchett's books ever since I first read the City watch Omnibus which consists of three books Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms and Feet of Clay. They were the first books that made me laugh out loud, and I mean REALLY REALLY loud.

After that, I bought almost every single Discworld book I could find, and some of his non-Discworld ones as well, and every year, the release of a new Pratchett book is almost as big an event as Chinese New Year (for me, that is).

Admittedly, I have yet to read EVERY SINGLE book of his, such as the The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers & Wings)and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, but I'm GETTING there.

Nevertheless, of the ones I've read, here is a list of my favorites, with a short review of WHY I liked them so much:


1) The City Watch Omnibus (Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms & Feet of Clay)

Ok, so this is actually THREE books, but when read together, the reader gets a great introduction to the City Watch characters, starting off with Vimes, Colon, Nobby and Carrot in Guards! Guards!, then adding Angua & Detritus in Men at Arms.

To me, Feet of Clay marks the first book where these central characters REALLY gel together, while Vimes and Carrot begin to come of age after two books of growing up as characters. After this book, the subsequent City Watch books worked better because the characters were already so well-established.

It also happens to be the first Discworld books I've ever read, so these books have a special spot in my reading heart. heh.

2) Wyrd Sisters
Although Equal Rites introduced the indomitable Granny Weatherwax, she is at her best when supported by her coven (Nanny Ogg and Magrat), and Wyrd Sisters is the first book in which they come together. After that, the Lancre witches are as prominent in the Discworld universe as a wizard's knob in a nudist beach (Go figure).

3) Reaper Man
Death is one of my favorite characters in Discworld, and it is no surprise that three books on this list feature him as the main character. Reaper Man is the first book that Pratchett uses him as the lead character rather than a mere supporting one like in the other books. The premise is brilliant (what would happen if Death decided take a break from his job?) and the Death of Rats (SQUEAK!) is one of Pratchetts funniest creations yet.

4) Hogfather
Death as Santa Claus. HO. HO. HO. 'Nuff said.

5) Monstrous Regiment
This book is one of the more 'serious' Discworld stories written (though still darn funny), and probably the most thought provoking, as Pratchett explores the dark, dark world of war, feminism, racism, and the consequences of caffeine addiction.

6) The Wee Free Men
Ach! Crivens! This is supposed to be a 'children's book' but adults would probably enjoy this more than kids. It is hilarious. Of course, what would you expect from a book about a race of 6 inch tall blue men with red hair and a fear of lawyers? Look out for the sequel - A Hat Full of Sky, coming out soon.

7) Thief of Time
I LOVED this book mainly because of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and The Fifth Horsemen (who left before they became famous). Besides that, the story flows along wonderfully, and the characters are the type that you really wish you could meet. ALSO, books about mucking around with Time always guarantee a good non-waste of time.

8) Soul Music
Death and Rock n' Roll. What else can I say? This book parodies the music business, turns good old rock n' roll into 'Music with Rocks In It', and turns out to be one of Death's most entertaining outings.

9) Interesting Times
Even though Pratchett started out the Discworld books with Rincewind as his main character, he quickly discarded the inept wizard after the first two books (The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic) to focus on more interesting characters. Personally, Rincewind is my least favorite of the Discworld main characters, because he was so annoying (though The Luggage is one of my favorites).

However, Interesting Times is er.. interesting because of the fact that it parodies China, has the Luggage running, and Cohen and his band of senior citizen Barbarians (Hur, hur ,hur). One of the funniest in the series, IMHO.

10) Moving Pictures
One of the few Discworld books that doesn't have either Rincewind, Death, the Lancre Witches or the City Watch (although Seargent Colon and Nobby DO make a cameo appearence) as the main characters. The book parodies Hollywood, and ends with whats has GOT to be one of the funniest spoofs of King Kong in a book or film EVER.

Sunday, 20 June 2004

An Ode to Gandalf the Colorful

I (badly) wrote this little Ode to everyone's favorite wizard back when I had nothing better to do (wait a minute, I STILL have nothing better to do), and posted it on the forums at the Malaysian LOTR fan site: LOTRien. Needless to say, I really need to work on my rhyming.


Gandalf The Grey, was happy and gay,
But no one would come out to play.
He took out his staff, (Though it was so rough),
And said, "It must not be long enough."

Gandalf the Grey, he ate some hay,
Because for food, he had no money to pay.
He drank some mead straight from a cup,
And later, could not get it up.

Gandalf the White, his robes so bright,
That they lit up the sky at night.
He took them off to cure Theoden King,
But realised he did not wear his underthings

Gandalf the White, rode through the night,
From dawn to dusk, till there was no light.
Shadowfax, he stumbled; Gandalf, he screeched,
And they both ended up in a ditch.

Gandalf the White, he needed a disguise,
Because to run around Mordor in white would not be wise.
He looked through his closet (and strangely, found a turtle)
And decided to change into Gandalf the Purple.

Gandalf the Purple he ate an apple,
And then he brushed his teeth and gargled.
He came to Gondor in search of answers,
But all he found was a troop of belly dancers.

The bellydancers, they welcomed him gladly,
And through the White City, Gandalf cavorted madly.
One and all the citizens cheered with renewed hope,
(Though behind his back, they snickered at his purple robe)

Saturday, 19 June 2004

REVIEW - The Sovereign Stone Trilogy (by Weis & Hickman)

Title: The Sovereign Stone – The Well of Darkness; Guardians of the Lost; Journey into the Void

Authors: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

FULL REVIEW: A villain’s quest

I read lots of fantasy books. No... actually, I DEVOUR fantasy books by the dozen. Weis and Hickman were the first authors that set me down this path of dragons, elves and lawyer toads (don't ask).

Here's my review in The Star on their newest trilogy - The Sovereign Stone, which sadly, is not one of their better outings.

REVIEW - The Last Juror (by John Grisham)

Like I mentioned before, this blog is about books, and about books it shall stay. For now, that is. heh.


Title: The Last Juror
Author: John Grisham

FULL REVIEW: Story of a Small Town

John Grisham's always been one of my favorite authors, even though he fell into something of a rut a few years back when he kept writing books that read the same. Thankfully, with his last few books, he's managed to write himself out of the rut, and is back on form with his latest book.

So.. here's my review on Grisham's The Last Juror that was published in The Star here recently.

Bandwagon jumping

Yes, yes, after years of resisting, I've finally started me own blog. Blatantly ripped off the idea from two of my colleagues who have their own blogs, reviewing books. So I figured I might as well start a nice little book blog as well. Bandwagon jumping is so much fun, eh?

Anyway, this little blog is not just gonna be about books, but also movies, toys and almost anything I can get my grubby little hands on. Er... that doesn't sound very appealing, I know.

Oh dear, not getting off to a good start, am I?