Thursday, December 30, 2010

A_Bookaholic Interviews Author of Tokyo Vice, Jake Adelstein

Once again, thanks to Pansing, I got a copy of Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice. It was an eye-opening read for me. If you're interested in knowing about the organized crime that are going on in Tokyo, you must go grab a copy. I'm honoured too, to be given the opportunity to 'interview' the author himself, via email. The interview briefly touches on his personal life, his persistence in seeking for justice and the lessons learnt from his experience.

Q: Just out of curiosity, who drew your Twitter portrait?
A: That was done by Mari Kurisato. She did several and I’m very happy with them all. This is my favorite.

Q: How much time do you spend writing everyday?
A: I spend about three to four hours writing every day. Sometimes more. I spend two hours a day reading about organized crime (yakuza) history and news and staying on top of current events in Japan.

Q: What do you do when you’re free?
A: I’m a workaholic so I don’t really have many hobbies. I take Aikido and would like to continue with Wing Chun. I spend time with the kids when I’m back in the United States, reading books with them, playing board games, drawing. I spend a lot of time socializing with cops and crooks and seedy journalists. I don’t know where my social life and private life end anymore.

Q: From the time you started till today, what do you think has changed in regards to the way human trafficking cases are handled in Japan?
A: The Japanese government enforces the human trafficking laws, the police are proactive and have even reached out to Polaris Project Japan to ask us for information on good cases. We worked together with the police shutting down a network of paedophiles and child porn producers this years and it was a successful collaborative effort. Immigration is better about checking visas and making sure women who are doomed to be trafficked don’t get into the country in the first place.

Still, Japan is very bad about sheltering or giving refugee status to HT victims and domestic human trafficking is swept under the table. Many Japanese young girls, often runaways end up as sexual slaves in the industry, through coercion, blackmail, or debt. The number of domestic cases where the human trafficking laws should be applied and aren’t are numerous and the number of domestic cases where those laws were used is about two or three in the last four years.

The “intern” system as it is now is being manipulated by anti-social forces, is a human trafficking operation, in the labor trafficking sense, not the sex trafficking. That system needs a massive rehaul or a real watch-dog.

Q: Please tell us a little bit more about your blog, JSRC.
A: www.japansubculture.com Of Japan Subculture Research Center is a website focussing on the underbelly and hidden dangers of Japanese society. We’re trying to expand to cover popular Japanese culture a little more but we’re heavily focussed on illuminating the readers about the nature of organized crime in Japan and crime in general in the country and how it all work.

Q: Why do you still keep doing this? It can get so depressing.
A: Because at the end of the day, I feel that’s my civic duty. It’s also what I know best. If everyone runs away from the dark forces of the world, pretty soon the dark forces are running the world. I like Japan. I’m a permanent resident here. I want it to be a better place to live for everyone. “Better to light a single candle than curse the darkness a thousand times.”

Q: There were many survival tips given to you throughout your years as a crime reporter. Which ones do you find useful till today? How so?
A: Learn to know whom you can trust and who you can’t. Be paranoid but control it as well. When you can’t tell your friends from your enemies you’re lost. Keep your word but don’t expect people to keep theirs. Try and see how a course of action might end, and then plan backwards. Face the door when you sit down. Don’t walk down dark alleys on a rainy day.
You can’t make enemies out of everyone. Even in the yakuza, there are some people I would consider friends. There are some good guys in the group—they sort of stumbled their way in to that world and can’t get out.

The golden rules still apply: write the truth and protect your sources by any means possible. Protect your sources and they may someday repay the favor.

Q: What’s the toughest lesson learnt?
A: There are some things that can’t be ever fixed. One bad decision, made in a split-second can cost someone his or her entire life. You may have to spend the rest of your own life atoning for it.

The other equally tough lesson is that very often evil is rewarded and good is punished, lies triumph over truth, and justice is not served. The laws of karma don’t seem to apply in this world.

However, there is a certain peace of mind in knowing that you’ve kept your code of honour, as best you can, even when others do not reciprocate. However to be told that you are 義理堅い(girigatai) or honorable, is a good feeling. It’s good to be trusted by some people. It’s empowering when people have faith in you.

It’s hard to say really what the toughest lesson is after all. There have been many of them. I guess the toughest lesson to learn is that in order to protect the people you care about, sometime you have to do awful things and make deals with people you don’t like very much. Sometimes, the enemy of our enemy is indeed our friend.

Q: What would you have done differently if you were given a chance to change your past?
A: I would have called Hamaya-san and talked with her. I would never have asked Helena to help out on the human trafficking study. I just wouldn’t have brought it up with her. There’s not much else I would change. I should have found a way to fix my marriage but I can’t really imagine it working out any other way. At least my kids don’t hate me and their mother is beginning to forgive me.

Q: Is life better for you now that you and your family have moved to the U.S?
A: Better in many ways but still most of my research and work is in Japan. I’d like to bring them back here but can’t afford to do it and with some unresolved issues with a certain ex-crime boss and the people that followed him---I don’t feel it’s safe to bring them back. I live a nomad like existence.

Q: How do you seek solace?
A: I meditate. I take care of Mochizuki-san and his family. I watch out for my friends. I help when asked and even before I’m asked and I work for the Polaris Project pro bono and I give what I can to the people in my life who need something.

Q: What’s your next book about?
A: The Last Yakuza: A lifetime in the Japanese underworld is the biography of one yakuza boss, who’s mother was American, and through his life, I hope to trace the rise and fall of the yakuza in Japan over the last thirty years.

Thank you for your time, Jake.

You can find him on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

World Book Night 2011!!!

I really think this is suuuper cool! Saw this on the internet. Check this out:

World Book Night
represents the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland.

On Saturday, 5 March 2011, two days after World Book Day, with the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day, the BBC and RTE, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

The book give-away will comprise 40,000 copies of each of the 25 carefully selected titles, to be given away by 20,000 ‘givers’, who will each distribute 48 copies of their chosen title to whomever they choose on World Book Night. The remaining books will be distributed by World Book Night itself in places that might otherwise be difficult to reach, such as prisons and hospitals.

Read more here.

Want to be part of this great event?? Check out their website! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's a Book by Lane Smith

Title/Author: It's a Book/Lane Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
No. of pages: 26
ISBN 13: 978-1-59643-606-0

In a nutshell
With digital revolution carrying us forward, will our future generation recognise a book? In It's a Book, the jackass is a 'tech-freak' fella who couldn't recognise a book, and gets all curious when seeing the monkey holding one. He asks things like 'Can it text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-Fi? Tweet?' and annoyed the hell outta the monkey who he keeps telling the jackass 'It's a book' again and again.

What I liked
Two words. Sweet. Delightful. Arghhh...I must add another one. Funny! Another one. Wonderrrrful! In only 26 pages, it captured my heart. Loved the monkey and the jackass and oooh the little mouse! :D

I not only loved the very, simple, straight-forward, funny story, but also the beautiful illustrations. It says so much, so simply! I loved how the little changes in the monkey's facial expression made so much difference in his mood and feelings. Not to mention also the series of picture when the jackass was reading the book. Great choice of colours, font type and size too!

This book would make an almost-perfect children's book, if not for the word 'jackass' and how it's used.

Great for...
Anyone who loves reading! Probably a Christmas gift for a bookaholic? ;)

I'm still not sure if I'd recommend this book to children though. The last sentence, 'It's a book, Jackass' sounds kinda harsh...I mean, how are you going to read that to a child?

Oh yeah, it has a video too! I've posted it on my blog before. You can view it here or search it on youtube. It's just as entertaining. But nothing beats reading it from a book of course ;)

My verdict? Perfect 5!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

Title/Author: Tokyo Vice/Jake Adelstein
Publisher: Pantheon Books
No. of pages: 328
ISBN 13: 978-0-307-37879-8

In a nutshell
(Edited from the book flap) At nineteen, Jake Adelstein started his life as a journalist at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. For 12 years of 48-hour workweeks, he ventures deep into the Yakuza underworld where murder, corruption and human trafficking are as common as ramen noodles and sake. In Tokyo Vice, Adelstein tells his riveting journey that brought him from getting into a martial-arts battle with a senior editor to meeting face-to-face with Japan's most feared yakuza boss.

What I liked
Tokyo Vice is a very informative, engaging and enlightening read. It is definitely an eye opener for me. If I had read this before I go to Tokyo, I'd have viewed Roponggi differently.

Using his sense of humour and thoroughness Adelstein gives a detailed tour of the Japanese underworld, and introduces the ins and outs of the Yakuza's organised crimes. At times, I imagined myself being in his position; on one hand feeling damn cool to be able to have the experience of knowing some yakuza, high ranking officers and getting 'special' passes to some of the privileged clubs, while on the other hand, feeling helpless when knowing I'm only this tiny individual, risking my life, trying to make a difference when there's no one else I could possibly trust.

There are 3 parts in this book - his experience as a rookie in part 1, meeting yakuza in part 2, and finally learning and discovering how the police and yakuza work in part 3. I was drawn to particularly 2 chapters in this book - one is the chapter on Lucie Blackman in part 2 and the other on human traficking in part 3. It all started when Adelstein was working on the Lucie Blackman case (told in 'Whatever Happened to Lucie Blackman?') that he received a tip off from Helena, an Australian woman, who worked in a sex club, that there was alot of human traficking going on in Tokyo.

Being the dedicated and passionate journalist he is, he reports and researches everything he could to bring justice to the victims of human trafficking. Reading it, you could feel his frustration, anger and disappointment. 'I tried to convince the cops that they should be arresting the traffickers for kidnapping, rape, asssault, and any other charges that were possible, but the cops would tell me, "In order to do that we'd need evidence and these women are poor witnesses because they don't understand Japanese and can't give solid testimony. In addition to this, they have been working illegally in Japan, which is a crime, and they have to be deported. Once they're deported, it's hard to build a criminal case."'

Imagine, working on cases like that, then getting to know the victims, and knowing that the laws won't change no matter how hard you try...it is and can be very depressing especially when there's no one you could talk to, no outlet for you to release your frustration...

I was also appalled when I read about the realities of the 'sex business' in 'Welcome to Kabukicho'. See if these details shock you:
1) As long as it's not straight intercourse, a store or shop can offer any kind of sexual service the customer wants. In other words, there is no punishment for being a prostitute or sleeping with one.
2) There are half-nude young women who prepare beef dishes at your table in a no-panty shabu-shabu restaurant. They'd flirt with you while you eat.
3) It's illegal to sell pornography, but it's legal to get an actual blow job.
and...there are more...

There are many other chapters which got me close to tearing my hair out such as The Perfect Manual of Suicide, The Emperor of Loan Sharks, and the final three chapters. You got to read it to find out why. Hint: It's about the Goto-gumi. Yeah, it's all over the internet on what happened, but to know the details, you gotta read it. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Tokyo is not much of a wonderland after all huh. Well, maybe depends how you view 'Wonderland'.

My verdict? 4/5

Great job, Adelstein!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Radiance by Alyson Noel

Title/Author: Radiance/Alyson Noel
Publisher: Macmillan
No. of pages: 183
ISBN 13: 978-0-330-52691-3

In a nutshell
Riley Bloom crossed the bridge into the afterlife following a car crash - with her parents and beloved dog, Buttercup. In her afterlife, she has been assigned a job as a Soul Catcher, with Bodhi as her guide. Her first assignment takes her back to earth, where she must find the Radiant Boy, a spirit who doesn't want to move on.

What I liked
The only thing I liked about Radiance is probably Riley Bloom and Buttercup. Riley is a strong character; confident, outspoken and spunky. And I liked Buttercup, the timid dog,for his name and he seems rather adorable especially when he closes his eyes to shut out some 'evil' sights.

And I think, that's about it.

What I didn't quite like...
I hate doing this part, but I want to be honest with my reviews. Well, overall, I didn't quite like Radiance. (Dear author, if you're reading this, please forgive me. I know writing is a tough job!) So. Here goes.

There weren't any focus; no weight. The characters (except Riley), the plot and settings, felt like they were written without much purpose, like they were skimmed through, hence not giving it enough depth. Everything was given equal attention. The was no pull factor to keep me going. The only factor that pulled me through was that it's a thin book.

There were too much stuff (the parents, the school, the students, Aurora and gang) in the beginning and too little at the end (the Radiant Boy and Mom's story had hardly any depth). I felt that there should be more focus on Riley's assignment and training, and her journey to maturity. (For example, how she gradually changes the way she looks at things, etc. In Radiance, it felt as though she changed in a blink of an eye).

There were too many words wasted on Riley's thoughts. Some were just repetition - same message different words, which can get pretty annoying. It came to the point where I said, 'Get on with the story, please!'

Oh and the cover - the girl at the front, hardly looked like Riley. This girl looked the opposite of what was described of Riley in the book. I do like the 'look' of Here & Now though (If that's where Riley is on the cover).

I do wonder though, what 'Summerland' is all about. It was mentioned sporadically throughout the book but there were hardly anything really concrete about it.

There were however, a thing or two that a teenager could learn from here - about hope and about us being connected - that "everything is made up of energy, our bodies, our thoughts, everything."

Note: This is a YA read.

My verdict? 2.5/5

Sunday, October 31, 2010

AMAAAAZING BOOKMARKS!!!

Calling all bookmark collectors and those who fancy bookish accessories! This is super duper cool I wanna share it with all of you! Check out these awesome, amazing bookmarks!!! More here!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Title/Author: Fight Club/Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: Vintage
No. of pages: 352
ISBN 13: 9780099552154
Price: RM29.90

In a nutshell
I’ve seen Fight Club. I loved it. I’ve also just read the book. Loved it too. Even dreamt about being in Fight Club with Pitt and Norton last night! Haha yes, for real, ok :P So. Everyone knows about fight club and the story.

What I liked about it
It’s fast paced, very graphic and oh yes, very bloody too but bearable, unlike the movie (the sound effects kinda made it more brutal and intense). The story is also quite dark and a little twisted.

The frequent change of scenes lent the story a pace that kept me on my toes – with my hands flipping the pages, and my mind jumping from scene to scene almost every second, there was no way my mind could wander even for a second! And to already know that the narrator and Tyler are the same person made the story even more fascinating. (Should've read the book first before the movie. Wonder how I'd have reacted to find out only later that they're of the same person. WICKEDDD!!!)

I loved the words that came out of “Tyler’s” mouth. I have many, many favourite quotes in Fight Club. Let me share some of them (which are quite ‘Zen’ I think):
"It's only after you've lost everything," Tyler says, "that you're free to do anything."
"If you don't know what you want," the doorman said, "you end up with a lot you don't." ~Chapter 5
This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom. ~Chapter 2

I think Fight Club is more than just a bunch of men fighting each other. It’s about self worthiness. ("Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer.... Maybe self-destruction is the answer.") These men, who come from all walks of life, gather and fight at a basement, to feel their existence in life. Fight Club makes them feel 'alive'. (Pain is pleasure?)

“You aren't alive anywhere like you're alive at fight club....Fight club isn't about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn't about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything. There's grunting and noise at fight club like at the gym, but fight club isn't about looking good. There's hysterical shouting in tongues like at church, and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved." ~Chapter 6


As Fight Club members increased, Tyler created Project Mayhem, which by the way, according to the author, “is based on the Portland Cacophony Society, which I used to do more of. They get together and pull these enormous pranks. They're international now, almost every major city has a cacophony society and they pull huge pranks and jokes and stunts.”

Maybe this is some sort of a 'masculine' outlet for men to release their stress, like women and retail therapy...hmmm hey should we have like a Cat Fight Club? haha

Book Bite
According to the author, Fight Club started off as a 7-pager and a first real story he ever sold; because Palahniuk was told b y his writing teacher that a short story is about 7 pages. This section is in Chapter 6. To make the short story into a book, he added stories from his friends.

And what inspired Fight Club? In an interview Palahniuk said this, “Fight Club had its genesis while I was working at Freightliner. I had been on vacation and I had gotten into a really terrible fight. When I came back on Monday from vacation, I was just so wiped out. Nobody would acknowledge just how terrible I looked, because it seemed nobody wanted to know what I did in my spare time. I thought that if you looked bad enough, you could do anything because nobody will ever call you on it. It was that day I started writing the Fight Club.”

At the same time, he'd also seen a TV programme about how street gangs were really young men raised without fathers, trying to help one another become men. These men gave orders and challenges, and imposed rules and discipline.

My verdict? 4/5

Friday, October 22, 2010

Drawing Blood by Scarfe

Title/Author: Drawing Blood/Scarfe
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
No. of pages: 352
ISBN 10: 0 316 72952 3
Price: RM59.90 (Discounted price)

In a nutshell
(I'm just gonna take it from the book flap) This is Scarfe's first collected volume of his work for twenty years, with amusing and poignant anecdotes to present the drawings and other works that have established him as one of our foremost cultural commentators. Artist, stage designer, political cartoonist and satirist, Gerald Scarfe has given us some of the most famous and controversial images of the twentieth century. He has worked with an eclectic mix of English and American icons: from Pink Floyd to Disney, Private Eye to Time magazine, the English National Ballet to Peter Hall, the New Yorker to the Sunday Times.

What I liked
Firstly, his introduction. It's a must-read if you've not heard of him before. You'll learn how Scarfe who was asthmatic, found his voice and style when he decided to leave Royal College of Art for freelance. It was after several stints that he began to realise his strength - making a comment and offering an opinion in his work.

Secondly, I admire his art and creativity. He not only draws, he sculpts too! Is he a man of many talents or what! Not to mention also, his audacity to be crude in his craft which many include people in the public office. As someone said, when readers opened their cosy Daily Mail in the morning and saw a Scarfe, it was as though the family dog had just shat on the breakfast table.

"In general, the people I draw don't react to my drawings. Most of them are figures in public office and perhaps feel it's beneath their dignity to respond. But I think some of them enjoy it, and it's probably better to be portrayed as a dung beetle than not to be mentioned at all. It means they've arrived and are people of 'note'." (the drawings are very very offensive and grotesque, mind you. I don't think our urrrmmm local urrrmmm 'scene' would allow such to even go to print! hah)

Scarfe said, "I had become well known, not for inventing a cartoon character, like Disney had for Mickey Mouse or Schulz for Charlie Brown, but for a view of life and attitude of mind."

I don't usually buy coffee table books due to its size and weight, but I just couldn't resist myself when I saw this fiery red cover book staring right back at me from the shelf. And for its price at RM59.90, how can I say no? LOL

I'm also the sort who like to see where artists draw their inspiration from and learn a thing or two about what makes them tick (the artists). I especially like what Scarfe said about caricature: "Caricature is the art of disassembling the face and other physical aspects of a person and rebuilding those elements, often in stylised, exaggerated form, in an attempt to reveal their true character. This technique is used not only in the world of cartoons but also in that of 'fine art'."

This is why I love all sorts of books! I learn new stuff in almost every sentence :D But I have more questions based on that last quote...I'm thinking of asking our very own Zunar....Anyone know how can I get in touch with him? (Btw, Zunar, I think YOU ROCK! Bought one of your books! My hubby and I shared some laughs hehe)

What I didn't quite like
Its weight. But yeah, it's a coffee table book, what can I expect right haha :P

My verdict? 4/5 (This is purely based on entertainment value because I know nuts about art :P)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title/Author: Eat Pray Love/Elizabeth Gilbert
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
No. of pages: 349
ISBN 13: 9780747589358
Price: RM10.00 (Discounted price)

In a nutshell
The whole world knows what Eat Pray Love is all about, so I'm going to skip this bit. Ok. Maybe a short description. It's mainly about Liz going on a self-discovery journey that revolves around the Pursuit of Pleasure (in Eat, the first part of the book), followed by Pursuit of Devotion (Pray) and Pursuit of Balance (Love).

What I liked
My favourite parts were 'Eat' and 'Love' maybe because I could relate to them. In Eat, I realised that I must/should live my life to the full because I live only once! I'd do my best in everything I do, try everything at least once, travel; just make myself happy! I mean, its only when you're happy that you can spread happiness right?

In Pray, I find the spinning engine theory her friend Sean, whom she met at the Ashram, shared with her was pretty interesting. He said to find peace, imagine the universe is a great spinning engine and that you want to stay near the core of it - right in the hub of the wheel, not the edges where you get distracted. The hub of calmness is your heart, where God resides within you. Just keep coming back there and you'll always find peace. I could relate to that; I love the 'quiet moments' I share with God each time I go to church especially after receiving the Holy Eucharist and when I let my mind rest. Sometimes I speak with him, but these days I just focus on Him.

Another part (in Love) that struck me (that made me cry, to be exact) was about Wayan, where she wanted to get the most out of Liz's good intentions to help her build a new, bigger, more comfortable home. She wanted Liz to raise more money for her to build a much much bigger home to not only run her current business, but to also build a 'nice fancy hotel' there. I was appalled by it. How could someone do that? I was fuming in anger as I read this, until Felipe said this to Liz (felt almost like he was telling me!),

"Don't get angry about it, whatever happens. If you get angry, you'll lose her, and that would be a pity, because she's a marvelous person and she loves you. This is her survival tactic, just accept that. You must not think that she's not a good person, or that she and the kids don't honestly need your help. But you cannot let her take advantage of you."

Felipe's message kind of changed my perception. Almost immediately, it made me empathise with Wayan and the negative energy left me. I think we all must know when to draw the line, because there are people out there who'd take advantage of kind, generous souls. We can't blame anyone, because to some, it's their way of surviving, or it's just how they are.

What kept me hooked to her story was also the the way she told it. Her sense of humour, intelligence, acute observations, and most of all, her honesty. I feel that she's the sort who could add humour to everything she experiences; whether good or bad. She's also not afraid of showing the world who and what she is. It's really not easy writing a story where you have to be truthful to yourself as it'd mean you'd have to open your closet of skeletons to the world too.

What I found intriguing was, every part of her journey had a closing before she moved on to the next phase. It felt as though this entire journey had been planned just for her.

There are many quotes that I liked. These are some:
"It is better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly."
"I have good idea, for if you meet some person from different religion and ge want to make argument about God. My idea is, you listen to everything this man say about God. Never argue with him. Best thing to say is, 'I agree with you.' Then you go home, pray what you want. This is my idea for people to have peace about religion."


And....my favourite phrase definitely has to be "pretty power"! (Hail Ketut!!! hehe)

Although I do wonder...
Is self-discovery really all about journeying out on your own? Well, maybe for someone who could afford to do so...If not, I think it can be done internally as well, probably by meditating in your own room, or reading, or talking with God, write,...But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

What I felt
On Pray. I thought certain parts were a little draggy (I skipped a few pages). Maybe she was trying to live up yo that '36 tales' idea she had thought out for this book...

Book bite
Gilbert strung these 108 tales and divided them into 3 sections about Italy, India and Indonesia; i.e. there are 36 tales in each section. She was 36 when she wrote this and it also goes along with the structure of a japa mala (a string of beads, something like a rosary) that is strung with 108 beads, the number held to be most auspicious, a perfect three-digit multiple of three, its components adding up to nine, which is three threes. And three is the number that represents supreme balance. (As explained in her Introduction)

And Richard from Texas has recently passed away *sob*

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with Dr. Rob Yeung

Thank you Odelia from Pansing for arranging this interview for me :)
To those of you who haven't heard of Dr. Rob Yeung, he's a British psychologist, business speaker, and management author. He was recently in Singapore to promote his latest book, The Extra One Per Cent. I asked him about what got him into psychology and his experience in putting this book together.

Have you always wanted to do psychology? Why? What do you enjoy most about it?
When I was at school, I studied physical sciences including physics, chemistry and biology. I thought I would become a chemist or a biochemist. It was only by chance that I did some reading about psychology and at the last minute changed my mind to study psychology.
When I started reading about psychology, I thought it was just this amazing topic. It really resonated with me as I've always been a curious person, I've always enjoyed figuring people out, so when I found out there was actually a discipline, a subject I could study at university
that allowed me to learn more about people's minds and their motivations, I was hooked.

What I enjoy most about psychology is that to me the human mind is the final frontier. We know so much about the physical world and we've even sent missions to other planets. But we are still only just beginning to scratch the surface of how the mind works and understanding why people are the way they are. Psychologists are answering new questions every day, but as fast as we answer old questions, we encounter new questions, which is both frustrating and exciting.

Whom have you always inspired to be? Why?
My thoughts on the person I want to become have changed over the years. So when I left university, I started out working for a big American management consultancy and my goal was to become successful in terms of climbing the career ladder, becoming a partner in the firm, and having status and prestige as well as the material wealth that goes with it. But over the years, and especially as I've met more successful people who define success not just in terms of financial success but also family success and relationship success and all sorts of other factors, I've changed my goals. So now I aspire to be a balanced, rounded individual. My career is now just one aspect of my life. My family and friends are a big chunk of my life now, as is my health, but also I want to have some fun in my life too.

What inspired The Extra One Per Cent?
I was frustrated that I couldn't find a book on success that I wanted to read. I've been hugely influenced in recent years by books such as Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and Malcolm Gladwell's books such as Outliers and The Tipping Point. These books tell stories based on factual evidence and research. Another influence has been Richard Wiseman's 59 Seconds. Again, they all base their recommendations on research, so that's what I wanted to do on the topic of success. I feel that too many books on success are based on the author's own experiences and opinions about what makes people successful. I wanted my book to be different so I base it on research in the same way as the Freakonomics guys but I also went out and did interviews with dozens of successful people from entrepreneurs and senior figures in large businesses to leaders in charities and so on.

Who should read it?
I wanted to make the book as accessible as possible to everyone. So you can read the book if you enjoy a good detective story and just want to read about how researchers have gone about trying to identify the traits that lead to success. But you can also read the book if you want to improve yourself too. It's not just about financial success though. I talk about the need for what I call a 'balanced vision' of success, of thinking about your relationships, parenting, and being a good citizen.

Was it difficult to decide what to include in the book?
I didn't have any specific difficulties deciding what to include or not because it was a very organic process. I just did the research and interviews and let the book take its own shape. I initially wrote a proposal to my publisher with an outline of what I thought the 10 chapters would be about. But as I did my research and began interviewing successful people, the shape of the book changed. So in the end I had only 8 chapters, and actually only about 5 or 6 of the chapters turned out to cover the material that I thought would be important. Some of the eventual content that ended up in the book did surprise me, especially on the topic of Citizenship, which is about ethics, integrity and being not only a good citizen in your community but also a steward of the planet.

Among all that is mentioned in your book, which one do you think is the most difficult for one to put into action? Why?
I don't think that anything in the book is difficult to put into practice in the sense that calculus is difficult. None of the recommendations require a lot of brain power. However, the recommendations are difficult in the sense that we sometimes know what we should do, but don't always do it because we forget or think we know better. For example, we all know that we shouldn't eat too much fat or salt in our diet and that we need to exercise more. We all know that we shouldn't drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes at all. But we often continue to do things that are bad for us. In the same way, there are techniques in the book that can help us to have more successful relationships with other people, whether that's business customers and colleagues or family and friends. The difficulty is only in remembering to use the technique and not to think that we can get away without using them.

In the process of writing this book, what did you discover about yourself? Were there any aha moments? Please tell us about it.
In my work as a corporate psychologist, I've been interviewing successful people for over a decade. Even though I only started to write the book a couple of years ago, these interviews have shaped my personal views of success hugely. One of the biggest revelations is that money really doesn't buy happiness. There's one piece of research in which psychologists went and interviewed people who had not just millions of US dollars, but over a hundred million US dollars in wealth. So these were really rich people. However, the psychologists found that one-third of these multimillionaires were actually /less/ happy than the average person who earned only a fraction that they did. Early in my career, things like wealth and status mattered a lot more to me. The more interviews I did in researching The Extra One Per Cent, the more it changed my personal views of what I wanted to achieve and do with my life.

What do you think is your best accomplishment? Why?
Gosh, that depends on how you define an accomplishment, of course! One of my personal highlights was presenting a TV show for the BBC. The BBC was looking for someone who has a lot of experience about careers and job hunting to present a TV show called 'Who Would Hire You?' I got the gig and had to learn how to become a TV presenter. The show was a success as they then commissioned a second series called 'How To Get Your Dream Job' and I learned so much about working with the media but I also had a huge amount of fun. There's not a lot of people who can say they've been the lead presenter of their own TV show!

But then I also think that books such as The Extra One Per Cent are a huge accomplishment for me. I trained as a psychologist, not as a writer. I've worked really hard at learning how to write in more interesting ways, in how to interview people like a journalist, and how to weave their stories with the research. So I'm hoping that my next biggest accomplishment will be to get lots of emails from readers telling me how they found this book useful and helpful in their own lives.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Yeung!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sky Burial by Xinran

Title/Author: Sky Burial/Xinran
Publisher: Random House Canada
No. of pages: 206
ISBN 10: 0-679-31360-5
Price: RM20.00 (Discounted price. Hardcover)

In a nutshell
Xinran received a phone call from a listener of her programme asking her to meet a woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet to China. Xinran made a trip and met Shu Wen who recounted the story of her 30-year odyssey in Tibet.

After being married for only a few months, Shu Wen's husband joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of China and Tibet. Shortly after he left, she was told that he had been killed, and was not given any other details. She decided to join a milia unit going to Tibet to find out if he was really dead and if he was, how and why he died. Her search seemed endless, nevertheless she was adamant in finding the truth.

What I liked
Yes. I've finally read Sky Burial, and I loved it as much as I loved Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother. I already knew the ending, but it didn't matter, because what made the story so stunning was the journey of Shu Wen; her search for love - how much and what it meant to her. Xinran's narration was so powerful that I could feel all of Shu Wen's emotions; her anxiety, pain and suffering, even her joy of finding true friendship.

What makes this story even more meaningful is that it made me realise how important it is to understand one another, without being judgmental. It's amazing to see how Tibet changed Shu Wen in a span of 30 years. Tibet changed her immensely. So in tuned was she with the Tibetans and their way of life that her act, mannerisms, thoughts and looks gradually reflected that of one. When she bumped into a group of Chinese people, they were shocked to learn she was Chinese. Then she immediately felt how the Chinese viewed the Tibetans and vice versa.

Once again, Xinran wrote a fantastic, compelling story on love. True love that knows no limits or boundaries. Love that gave Shu Wen the strength to endure the impossible, conquer the unknown and survive the toughest conditions of Tibet.

Xinran had indeed successfully recreated Shu Wen's story based on a two-day long conversation.

Sky Burial or A Year in Tibet?
A friend of mine asked me if I preferred Sky Burial or A Year in Tibet. It's quite a tough question to answer, to be honest. I don't think I can compare them. But if I had to choose between the two, I personally prefer Sky Burial. One, because it has a clearer theme and focus, and has a flow. Two, because I prefer Xinran's writing style. (I may be biased as I've only read one of Sun's books so far). Xinran's Sky Burial was a page turner for me and it brought tears to my eyes (so did her other book).

As for A Year in Tibet, it felt quite 'diary-like' for me as Sun recorded her observations and things that she couldn't film for her documentary. In each chapter, I learn something new about Tibet in quite a straight forward manner - their festivals/celebrations, costumes, the way they cook their food, terms (there's a glossary behind), beliefs, thoughts and opinions, why they can be so forgiving, etc. Sun even quoted from reference books in almost all her chapters in order to strengthen a certain point. However, she also offered her own point of view.

There were also political nuances in this A Year in Tibet, which I can't comment because I don't know much about the conflict between the Chinese and Tibetans. But I can say, Sun is very bold (it was difficult getting their opinions/thoughts esp with the Chinese and Tibetans conflict. but I guess her studies about Tibet and its people helped) and patient. Gaining their trust was quite a task, especially because she's Chinese.

That said, I'm glad I read A Year in Tibet first, as it gave me more details of the Tibetans' lives as compared to Sky Burial. So when I read Sky Burial, it was 'easier' for me to comprehend the Tibetans' way of life, and what makes them such generous and forgiving people.

My verdict? 4/5

Friday, September 24, 2010

Everything Asian by Sung J. Woo

Title/Author: Everything Asian/Sung J. Woo
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
No. of pages: 328
ISBN 13: 978-0-312-53885-9
Price: RM49.90

In a nutshell

David Kim, his fifteen-year-old sister and mom arrived in New Jersey a month ago to be with his dad whom he's meeting for the first time in five years. He's finding it hard to cope, his sister is feeling miserable and his mom isn't exactly happy, either. To top it all, he had to help out at his dad's gift shop, East Meet West, and he can't speak a word of English.

Welcome to the 'wonderful' world of David Kim.

What I liked
David's dysfunctional family kept me hooked. Here, we have a dad who tries so hard to please his son, a mom who's feeling lost and empty, a miserable sister whose mood swings from one end to the other, David who despises his dad and gets terribly annoyed when he calls him 'my good son', but gets jealous when his dad starts to shower his attention to a new kid on the block. Each of them tries hard to adapt to their new surroundings, like inviting one of the merchants of Peddlars Town, Ted and his family over for dinner to practice their English on them, eating American food and picking out English names.

The story moves very 'smoothly' from chapter to chapter, each portraying a different character. Through these vignettes, we get to learn a little bit more about the other merchants at Peddlars Town. As the story progresses, we'll be let into the dark secrets of the family members that test the strength of their relationships, especially that of David's family.

Other characters that I was particularly drawn to were Ted and his son. When Ted found out his son, cross dresses, he did the same too and managed to convince his wife that he did so because of his son, so that he could 'see what it was like...'

Everything Asian central themes are love, acceptance and forgiveness. Overall to me, this would make a good, pleasant weekend read. One that would go perfectly with a cup of ice lemon tea :)

What could have been better
In the beginning, I wasn't quite comfortable with the switching of POVs, from first to third-person, but after awhile, I got the hang of it. I believe the author's intention was to make the stories the other characters more personal, and to let us see David and his family from their point of view. But I feel that the story would be stronger if the author were to use David and/his family's voice, since the story mainly revolves around them and how they're coping with the American's way of life.

The sudden flashbacks and coming back to present can also be quite distracting sometimes.

My verdict? 3.5/5

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Year in Tibet by Sun Shuyun

Title/Author: A Year in Tibet/Sun Shuyun
Publisher: Harper Perennial
No. of pages: 246
ISBN 13: 978-0-00-726512-1
Price: RM19.90 (Discounted price)

In a nutshell
The idea of writing this book came about when Sun Shuyun was asked to direct a documentary series about a year in the life of ordinary Tibetans. So, the author and her crew spent a year in a remote town in the Tibetan mountain area and followed a shaman, a village doctor, a junior Party official, a hotel manager, a rickshaw driver, a builder and two monks through their ups and downs.

What I liked
I liked the lessons I learnt from the Tibetans - from their lives, their thoughts and perceptions. Despite oppression and their struggles of trying to live between continuity and modernization, they embrace challenges with grace and kindness. They are the kind of people who are able to give generously and expect nothing in return. They are such forgiving souls and seem to live like their surroundings - calm and peaceful. One thing's for sure, the Tibetans are god-fearing people.

If I recall correctly, they recite their mantras a few hundred times per day. They believe god exists everywhere - trees, flowers, crops, animals, house (present in the 4 corners of the roof), storage god in the cupboards - well, you name it, there's a god for it; even one over your shoulder and one under your armpit! These beliefs seemed to stem from the story of how Buddhism came to Tibet. There was a fight between demons and god, and victory went to Padmasambhava (Padam), a great Indian master who 'fought off' the assailant purely by meditation.

I was also shocked to learn that in Tibet, it is common for brothers to share a wife! This tradition started when the land was given back to farmers in the economic reform in the 1980s. In this story, all 3 brothers share a wife in the same household (because with polyandry, the land is not divided among the brothers). So who decides to sleep with who and when? Dondan, the middle brother said that such problem doesn't exist. "You just need to use your head," he said.

The Tibetans rely on a shaman for almost everything, even matchmaking. Upon the shaman's approval, a wedding will be arranged, which will also be determined by the shaman. The girl will only be told a day before her wedding that she's getting married to a man she doesn't even know.

Sky burial is a common funerary practice in Tibet. The dead body is being fed to the vultures. When only the bones remained, they are then cut into pieces and given to crows after the vultures have departed. As cruel as this may sound, it's natural for the Tibetans to do so because "Giving is in Tibetans' nature, in life or in death. The vulture only eats dead things. We cannot let it go hungry while we bury or cremate our dead. That would be cruel."

There were also many beautiful pictures in the middle of the book that served as a great visual aid. You'd be able to see almost all the characters portrayed in this book, and the colourful festivals celebrated by the Tibetans.

A Year in Tibet is definitely an eye opener for me. I've never been so intrigued by the Tibetans and their culture until today. In case you'd like to know, this story is not based on the documentary directed by Sun, but it is more of her personal experience and observations during her 1 year stay with the Tibetans.

This would be an enlightening read for those who have not been to Tibet and have always been intrigued by the least known people on the planet.

My verdict? 3.5/5

FREE E-BOOK!!

New Malaysian Essays 3, edited by Yin Shao Loong
ISBN: 9789834484552
Pages: 89 (e-book)
Layout & Typesetting: Liza Manshoor (Eclectic Design)
Cover: Teck Hee

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Sole Edition: September 2010

Thanks to Amir Muhammad, we can have this book for FRRRREEE! More about the book/to download the book, click here

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Japanese Mind by Roger J. Davies & Osamu Ikeno

Title/Author: The Japanese Mind/Edited by Roger J. Davies & Osamu Ikeno
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
No. of pages: 270
ISBN 13: 978-0-8048-3295-3

In a nutshell
The Japanese Mind is a collection of 28 essays that offer readers an overview of contemporary Japanese culture. These essays were written over a period of several years by students a Ehime University in Matsyama Japan. They offer an informative, accessible look at the values, attitudes, behaviour patterns, and communication styles of modern Japan.

The book includes in-depth discussions of key concepts such as Bigaku (the Japanese sense of beauty), Bushido (the way of the warrior), Chinmoku (silence in Japanese communication) and Gambari (Japanese patience and determination). In each chapter, it contains a set of questions that would provide invaluable discussions among readers.

What I liked
My hubby bought this book for me when we were in Japan and I am truly happy he did because I thoroughly enjoyed it :) One of the reasons is because ever since my visit to Tokyo, I've fallen in love with the place, its culture and people.

One of my favourite chapters in The Japanese Mind is Chinmoku: Silence in Japanese Communication. In Japan, silence is much more common and is of longer duration than in Western countries, because it is believed the truth lies only in the inner realm as symbolically located in the heart or belly. Thus a man of a few words is trusted more than a man of many words.

Someone who is vocal or insists on his/her opinion before a group has reached an agreement is seen as selfish, and to show off their ability or knowledge openly makes a bad impression on others in Japan, and such people are considered impolite and immature. (**gasp!!**)

What I found interesting was when I read this: "...in a train, if people recognize that someone is being molested, they may not say anything to help the victim, because they are afraid of disapproval for their forward behavior, or simply because they are apathetic. In short, silence also means defiance and indifference in Japanese life."

And in Japan, couples often 'communicate' by nonverbal means, and silence is generally an accepted part of the relationship.

This is certainly complex and confusing to me, because personally, I don't think 'silence' is an effective way to communicate. We are not individuals who can read people's minds. Also, I don't see how silence can strengthen a relationship between a couple. I can't imagine trying to communicate with someone who's silent most of the time and I'd have to guess if he/she is agreeing or disagreeing with me. Silence is golden yes, only when used appropriately. Not most of the time! I'd go maaad! AND keeping silent when you know/see something unlawful being done?

And this is just one of the concepts; there are many others which made me question its sensibility, which is what I liked about this book. And the discussion questions are really good too. For example, in this chapter, we have questions such as, "Do you think that the concept of chinmoku contributes to the rising number of cases of teenage and adult violence in Japan? Discuss this with reference to the case in Niigata of the nine-year-old-girl who was held captive in her kidnapper's home for nine years."

This book is exhaustive, yet simple to understand. You can read the chapters in any order, as each topic is discussed separately, although there are some issues that overlap among the selections, but many are dealt with from slightly different perspectives. There's also a glossary to help you out if you get lost in all the Japanese terms and concepts.

Great for anyone who's interested to know more about the Japanese mind. This will also be a more interesting read if you have a Japanese friend/colleague to discuss these topics with, because according to the editor, many of these concepts remain controversial within Japanese society and are debatable among the Japanese themselves. I can see why...

My verdict? 4/5

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's a Book by Lane Smith (Video)

I so so so lurrrve this video I saw on Facebook and thought I'd share it with you too.

Fun for Kids in Malaysia by Lydia Teh

Title/Author: Fun for Kids in Malaysia/Lydia Teh
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
No. of pages: 360
ISBN 13: 978-983-3845-48-4
Price: RM29.90

In a nutshell
So. You have a bunch of hyperactive kids who become even more hyperactive during weekends and school holidays. What do you do? No no no. Turn off Astro. Whip out Fun for Kids in Malaysia and get the entire family outta the house, and explore Malaysia.

This guidebook lists a wide range of activities for your children to indulge in and new places for them to explore in this country. Travel from the northern region right to the southern region of Malaysia and have a great holiday.

What I liked
My first thought was, 'Are there that many places for kids to go to in Malaysia?' Go through the 'Contents' section and you'll find out that there are indeed many places to go to and fun activities to do around Malaysia. At the start of each section, there are 'fast facts' about the state. Then it tells you how to get there and how to get around the area (e.g. what buses to take, or if you could take taxis/rented cars/trains and so on).

Then there's a list of fun activities that they could do while they're there. Let them be Robin Hood for a day and sign them up for archery and horse-riding, or send them off to the golf course with Dad; or if they love art, encourage them to explore their creativity in arts and crafts classes, cooking, or maybe even pottery courses. If you want undistracted shopping, there are professional babysitters who offer 'drop and shop' services in some of the shopping centres.

The 'most happening' or rather the hype of activities featured in this book is KL/Selangor. So if you happened to be living in this area, you might want to check it out and make full use of it for the coming holidays :)

You'd also find beautiful illustrations and pretty amusing quotes throughout the pages. Some of my favourites were 'In primitive society, when native tribes beat the ground with clubs and yell, it was called witchcraft; today, in civilised society, it is called golf. ~Anonymous' and 'Avoid fruits and nuts. You are what you eat. ~Jim Davis (I had a good laugh at this one haha)

This is a helpful and informative guide book that comes complete with contact numbers, websites and email addresses. It'd come in handy for parents who are always at wits end when it comes to planning for the holidays :)

It'd be better if...
An index would probably make it more user and reader-friendly.

Thank you Marshall Cavendish for the book. Fun for Kids in Malaysia is now available in all major bookstores. For more information, kindly email meili@my.marshallcavendish.com.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Found in Malaysia (The Nut Graph)

Title/Author: Found in Malaysia/The Nut Graph
Publisher: ZI Publications
No. of pages: 211
ISBN 13: 978-967-5266-13-3
Price: RM45

In a nutshell
If not for Shanon Shah who came up with this idea and Jacqueline Ann Surin who loved it and for everyone else at The Nut Graph, Found in Malaysia wouldn't be born. So hats off to this group of very passionate journalists for this great piece of work.

Found in Malaysia is a compilation of 50 meticulously selected interviews from the news and analysis website, The Nut Graph, each interviewee sharing their opinions and views on what it means to be a pendatang, the issues they struggle with the most as a Malaysian, and how much they think Malaysia has changed throughout the years. Since 8 January 2009, The Nut Graph team has accumulated almost 80 interviews that include well-known Malaysian public figures, including politicians, corporate figures, social activists, artists and entertainers. Of 80 interviews, publisher ZI Publications chose 50 to be featured in this book.

What I liked
There are just so, so many interviews that I liked in this compilation, I just don't know which ones I'd like to highlight. These stories are such eye openers. Some are candid and inspiring, some share different views of understanding a culture, some highlighting issues of gender, sexual and our political diversity.

One very common topic that touched me the most is the answers given by most of them when asked about our differences in race and religion.

One of the interviews which I liked was Ramli Ibrahim's. I like this part where he said, 'And I think the Malays have always been in between the entrepreneurial races, you know with the Chinese on one side and so on. The latter came from continents where life is more competitive and difficult. That is why indentured labourers came because the Malays were not interested, "Why should we?" And it was the bloody British who wanted to plant this and dig that [up] for their own consumption. So it's difficult now to make a shift to being tough, because it is against the grain. But it can be done.'

We're all born and brought up differently, each with our own strengths and weaknesses, no matter our race or religion. That's what makes us unique. And I think we should learn to accept and respect our differences instead of feeling inferior because of it. Plus, why keep harping on our differences? We're all Malaysians aren't we? Malaysians who 'don't have one particular root. We are Indian, Chinese, Arab, Javanese, Bugis, English, we are a bit of everything. We're not like Persians who go back 6,000 years, we're not like the Greeks. So it's very difficult to place us as a nation, as a people,' said Bernice Chauly, a poet, photgrapher, filmmaker and writer.

Reading these interviews made me realise, we Malaysians, have a myriad of experiences to share due to our differences - we are one rich and diverse society, which we could and should use to our advantage. As Jerome Kugan, the media manager for Annexe Gallery at Central Market, aptly said it, 'In a way, we're kind of lucky to have so much to draw upon. All these stories we have as a people, it's a gold mine. I just hope that religious fervour, neofeudalist intrigues and economic barbarism don't tear it apart before it has a chance.'

Human rights lawyer and activist Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who recently won the Bindmans Law and Campaigning award for his work on human rights, said this, 'The kind of society we have, strictly speaking, should be really one of the model societies in the world. Where else can you find a society that, although we have all been brought together, we have not all melted into each other? We still have our heritage, we still have our culture.'

Despite our differences in views and opinions, we share one thing in common - the vision of the ideal Malaysia - one that is peaceful, united and able to embrace diversity. Like most Malaysians interviewed here, I long for the ideal Malaysia...

I hope these interviews would inspire you as much as they've inspired me.

Happy Merdeka to all.

Thank you ZI Publications for this book. Love the design, the way you compiled the interviews, and definitely the paper material. Publishing a book is not an easy task, what more one that is of good quality, and I think you guys have done a marvelous job.

My verdict? Perfect 5. This would also make a good Merdeka read.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tapai by Hishamuddin Rais

Title/Author: Tapai/Hishamuddin Rais
Publisher:
ZI Publications
No. of pages: 266
ISBN 13: 978-967-5266-11-9

In a nutshell
Tapai is a collection of 40 stories of Rais's adventures in less ventured, non-typical touristy places, in search for delectable food and free alcohol. Said he, "As a seasoned traveller, I prefer to eat and drink well than to pay expensively for snoring." It's difficult to summarise Tapai in a nutshell, as this book is about alot of things - yes, food as its main idea, but it also carries various meanings beyond food.

Tapai brings you from the nondescript streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to soup kitchens in Tokyo, Japan; from celebrating Christmas in Bangladesh to meeting the Darai of the band that accompanied the raising of the Jalur Gemilang on Merdeka Day. Yep, this book is not just about Rais satisfying his gastronomic desires, but it's also a collection of Rais's experience with food and culture from all over the world.

What I liked
The author's wit, honesty, sharp observations, humour and sensitivity made this collection of stories such a joy to read. He draws his experience from his travels and pens them down vividly. I learnt a whole great deal about authentic Malay food more than ever before. It was after reading 'The Man from Belacan' that I found out, belacan-making was that tedious! It took this lady, Mak Cik Rajiah, with guidance from her mom, a couple of years to perfect this art! Oh and not to mention my learning of tapai in 'Sign of the yeast'. My first encounter with tapai was last year in one of the Ramadhan bazaars. Because I've never seen it before, it caught my attention. Without hesitating, I got one for myself, not knowing at all what's in it. I do remember asking the abang, if I could eat it right away or if i have to pre-heat it or cook it before consuming it, and I remember liking it. Now, thanks to Rais, I have now a deeper appreciation of tapai. (If only I could taste an authentically-made one!) Did you know that there are certain rituals that must be followed when making tapai? *wink*

In 'Wedding bawls', Rais also tell us about the long-forgotten Malay food and traditions pre and while Raya - like Hari membantai "that has been subverted by 'daging kotak', imported beef from India", the vanishing of the announcement by the Penyimpan Mohor Raja-Raja Melayu - and the 'gotong royong' that takes place for kenduri kahwin (weddings) that has been replaced by a new culture - the caterer (You'd be able to get their name cards on the table you're sitting at).

I had a somewhat different dining experience in Tokyo though. Rais mentioned Tokyo diners are "dead silent" but the places I dined at, they were mostly quite a talkative bunch. I guess it depends on which district of Tokyo you're in? If I'm right, the "legendary pasar ikan of Tokyo" the author was talking about is called Tsukiji. (Which makes me wonder...why is its name not mentioned?) One thing though, from what I gathered, it's rude to eat while you walk. There are signs in some of their food stalls which 'suggest' you to eat while standing/sitting in front their stall.

Rais's stories make me want to explore every part of Malaysia to try every food he has tasted. Now, if someone could tell me where can I try a plate of mee pisang and a cup of janda pulang....and what's this gulai lemak tempoyak lampan jawa that Rais wrote so fondly of??

PLUS, can someone tell me exactly where this 'restaurant with no name' is? I'd really want to try some Acehnese food!

What could have been better
Some of the pictures were kinda small! :( Such a pity, really....and...it'd help if there's a glossary. This is such a great book for non Malaysians to read too.

My verdict: 4/5
**Burp** Full & satisfied!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Case of The Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Title/Author: The Case of The Missing Servant/Tarquin Hall
Publisher:
Arrow Books
No. of pages: 312
ISBN 13: 978-0-099-52523-3

In a nutshell
The Case of The Missing Servant is set in the modern day India, smack right in Delhi and Rajasthan. It is a very complex detective story, with many suspects and in-between cases, mishaps and shenanigans, because “It is certainly not straightforward locating one missing female in a population of one billion plus personages,” said Vish Puri, the portly, persistent Punjabi detective and proud founder of Most Private Investigators Ltd., the owner of 14 Sandown caps, and a fan of fiery chillies.


He gets an assignment which stirred his humdrum case of matrimonial investigations. A lawyer gets accused of killing his maidservant who goes only by the name of Mary. He denies killing her. Puri believes him, even his servant, Jaya says “He is a good man.” to which his son attested, “He never broke one law in his entire life.”

However, justice and evidence weren't on his side.

What I liked
Vish Puri. Definitely Vish Puri! This portly detective is so likeable it's hard not to love him and his antics. Not to mention also, his irritating and vainglorious crew – feisty Facecream, tech-genius Flush and sharp-witted Tubelight and his compliant driver, Handbrake. (Don't you just love their nicknames? LOL) And oh ya, and his indomitable Mummy-ji too :)

Oh and guess what investigation methods he uses?? *wink* Creatively fusing 2000-year old Indian investigation methods with modern techniques, he creates this unique communications room which is equipped with a multi-deck sound system that’d play appropriate background noise according to the type of call received! He also has 9 telephone lines for incoming calls from the various cases he handles, and a very special personal costume designer who helps him with his disguises.

What I didn't quite like
Hmm...nothing much, really...

My verdict? 4/5
Best enjoyed with a cup of hot choco on a beautiful weekend ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blockade Billy by Stephen King

Title/Author: Blockade Billy/Stephen King
Publisher:
Hodder & Stoughton
No. of pages:
132
ISBN 13:
978-1-444-71619-1

In a nutshell

William ‘Blockade Billy’ Blakely, a player from Davenport Cornhuskers, a minor league team in Iowa, was asked to replace a catcher for New Jersey Titans until a suitable replacement could be found. Billy "wasn’t exactly right in the top story”, as Granny described. He had a tendency to refer to himself in third person and echo back what others said. The players thought him a little bit odd too, but like Granny, they all took a liking to him, even the arrogant, competitive pitcher Danny ‘Doo’ Dusen, who later referred to Billy as his lucky charm.

Billy became an overnight sensation with his uncanny ability to ‘block the plate’, that is to tag runners trying to score. However, beneath all that charm and talent, Billy hides a secret in his past, ‘a secret darker than any pill or injection that might cause a scandal in sports today’. Granny noticed something very peculiar about Billy – a Band-Aid wrapped around his second finger with bearing no discernible cuts and players who meet him at the plate would end up wounded. But players and coaches cast such concerns aside, simply because, as Granny put it, “That kid was the real thing, crazy or not.”

What I liked/didn't quite like...
Loved the cover. Loved the illustration! As for the story,...I couldn’t quite follow at first, as I got lost in the many baseball terms. I might not have turned the pages if not for the funny, foul-mouthed raconteur, Granny. The suspense was built very slowly, the characters quite one-dimensional. The pace only started to pick up towards the end when Joe DiPunno, the manager, received a call – the call that ended Billy’s career, the one that made him the first and only player to have his existence completely removed from the record books.

King’s writing doesn’t disappoint, that’s for sure. However, this would probably be a better read if you were a fan of the sport, as you’d be able to appreciate the game and its lingo. If you need a quick read while waiting for a friend who’s famous for their tardiness, then this might do it. The book is short and ends with King’s signature sinister twist (maybe not sinister enough to some). Some of his fans said this is worth the read and to be kept with their King collection, but some were utterly disappointed.

As for me, I’m not sure how long this ‘awful’ story (not saying I’m a sadist who’d love one, but I was really expecting more from King) will last in my memory but it sure won’t be as memorable as Green Mile, or Carrie, or It.

My verdict? 3/5

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is it time to slow our reading down?

Do you tend to scan a text or really read it? (I know someone who reads every word when reading a book! :) You know who you are *wink*) When was the last time you allowed the words from a book/text and your thought sink in? 'Cuz you see...seems like technology has kinda made us 'lazy' readers (not liking to read lengthy articles and generally just skimming/scanning it) and...well...'stupider' (kinda)

This is what I found...
"According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts."

and...

"If you want the deep experience of a book, if you want to internalise it, to mix an author's ideas with your own and make it a more personal experience, you have to read it slowly," says Ottowa-based John Miedema, author of Slow Reading (2009)."

but...

"Some academics vehemently disagree, however. One literature professor, Pierre Bayard, notoriously wrote a book about how readers can form valid opinions about texts they have only skimmed – or even not read at all. "It's possible to have a passionate conversation about a book that one has not read, including, perhaps especially, with someone else who has not read it," he says in How to Talk About Books that You Haven't Read (2007), before suggesting that such bluffing is even "at the heart of a creative process".

What's your take on this? Please click here to read the rest of it. (Yes, I've read the entire text :P)

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