Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reading's Healing Powers...

Does reading really help one out of depression? Early this year, I posted an article about reading out of depression - where the writer wrote about how Saul Bellow's Herzog helped her out of depression. She said, "....I was able momentarily to forget my own problems and lose myself completely in the richly detailed and beautifully rendered world of the novel."

Emma Thompson, an English actress, also sought refuge in reading. She claimed that she was "saved" by immersing herself in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

I'm sure there are many of us who find reading therapeutic. I'm one of them *wink* Anyway, did you know there's this term called 'Bibliotherapy'? It's an expressive therapy that uses an individual's relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. The Wikipedia explains,

"The basic concept behind bibliotherapy is that reading is a healing experience. It was applied to both general practice medical care, especially after WWII, because the soldiers had a lot of time on their hands while recuperating. Also, the soldiers felt that reading was healing and helpful. In psychiatric institutions bibliotherapeutic groups flourished during this time.

The books kept the patients busy, and they seemed to be good for their general sense of well being for a variety of reasons. Bibliotherapy can give children the confidence they need to deal with anything that come their way. It also gives parents an opportunity to discuss it with their children and find out what is going on.

I think most of us are already instinctively practicing it. We just don't think of it that way. Good lah, this means, I am getting therapy almost every day haha Hey, but not so when reading know, stuff about wars, abortion of babies, etc Those are definitely not therapeutic! :P

What about you? Do you find reading therapeutic?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran

Title/Author: Message from an Unknown Mother/Xinran Publisher: Chatto & Windus
No. of pages: 212

ISBN: 978-0-701-

In a nutshell
Ever wondered why there are so many orphaned girls in China? Why many were given away for adoption? They have been adopted overseas, by around 120,000 families in 27 countries, but some others have suffered a worse fate. Just today, as I was about to complete my review of Xinran’s Message from an Unknown Mother, I came across this appalling headline: China Hospital Dumps 21 Babies as Medical Waste into River. This atrocity never ends.

In China, it is known that most families are to have only one or two children, preferably sons, and abandoning, killing or aborting girl babies are common. In the West, many believe that it’s the ‘one-child’ policy that is responsible for unwanted girls, but from her research in the last 20 years, Xinran began to discover, there’s more to that. In a typical Chinese culture, the males have a higher status in the family especially for the agriculture areas, and in the tax system set from the 200 BC, if you have one more boy, you could have one more piece of land from local authorities. But if you have a daughter, you either have a small share (in some areas), or nothing at all. This system is still being practiced in the countryside.

The stories
These 10 chapters unlocked the stories that have been kept hidden in the hearts and minds of many mothers in China, mothers who had to part with their girl babies even before they had a chance to embrace them in their arms. Mothers who had people telling them, “It’s not a child, if it was, we’d be looking after it, wouldn’t we?” And this baby would later be
dropped alive into a slop pail and ‘taken away’. Some, if ‘lucky’ enough, will be given away for adoption, or left at train stations in the hope that someone would give them a better life, or be placed at orphanages. But before 1990, the Chinese orphanages were places society had forgotten, and sending the girl babies to the orphanages is the same as giving them a death sentence.

These stories are specially written to tell the daughters of these mothers, that they have been and are still loved. Tears welled up in my eyes when I read this in Xinran’s ‘Foreword’:

“At a talk I gave at the International Book Fair in Melbourne, Australia, in 2002, someone asked me: ‘Xinran, what is your dream?’

I said: ‘To be a daughter.’

There was uproar from the audience of several hundred people. ‘But you were born, so you must be someone’s daughter!’

‘In a biological sense, yes,’ I responded. ‘But I was born into a traditional culture, I experienced brutal political upheavals as a child, and my mother and I lived in times which did not consider bonds of family affection important. The result is there’s not a single occasion I can remember when my mother said she loved me, or even hugged me.’

After the meeting, I found a line of silver-haired women standing waiting for me by the car which was to take me back to my hotel. They were there, they said, to give me my mother’s embrace. One by one they came up to me, put their arms around me, and kissed my forehead…”

These heart-rending stories made me realise how extremely fortunate I am to be given a life and to be loved. And thank you, Xinran for lending your voice to the biological and adoptive mothers. Thank you for letting their daughters know that they are still loved or have always been loved. Last but not least, thank you for setting up Mother Bridge of Love.

To note
Have a box of tissue with you. Don’t read it at night if you want a good night’s sleep. To mothers-to-be, if you can, please do not read this. It’s too painful and sad. And to mothers out there, wherever you are, I salute you.

Verdict: 4/5

Monday, March 29, 2010

South Park on Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye (FUNNY!)

Oh my goodness, this is extreeeeeeeeeeemely funny! The gang was assigned to read 'The Catcher In The Rye' for school. They got super excited about reading it when Mr. Garrison told them, "It has some very risque parts and strong vulgar language. And in fact many schools across the country still ban this book because it's thought to be so inappropriate." And they wanted to read the entire book there and then. (You know, it has the same effect on me when 'so-and-so' started confiscating some books from our local bookstores. That's why I went out to get 'Where Is Justice'" And I'm glad I did! :D)

Here are the clips :)

And their reaction after reading the book LOL!

Have you read 'The Catcher in The Rye' before? Do you think it was controversial? Too vulgar? Or you share the same sentiment as the kids of South Park?

South Park image from Google Images

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

Title/Author: The Vagina Monologues/Eve Ensler
Publisher: Villard Books
No. of pages: 223
ISBN: 0-345-49860-1

In a nutshell

The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler, which has been staged internationally. Every monologue relates to the female's 'down there'. No. Sorry. Vagina. There you go, Ensler. I said it :P There's sex, love, rape, masturbation, orgasm, the various names of the vagina, etc. There are sections where Ensler asked questions like, "If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?", and "If your vagina could talk, what would it say, in two words?" and "What does a vagina smell like?"

What I liked and didn't quite like
When Ensler asked a six-year-old girl some of the questions above, and "What's special about your vagina?" to which the little girl answered, "Somewhere deep inside it I know it has a really really smart brain." (Now I know why we're the smarter species. We have 2 brains! haha :P)

The Vagina Monologues has reached out to millions of women and has received both positive and negative reviews. Some thought the monologues played a negative perception of sexuality and has an anti-male bias. Some thought they were life-changing.

I did like some of the monologues. Some of them do make a great stage play, as you can view from the many youtube videos. (A Malaysian version of The Vagina Monologues, was staged in KL, in January 2002) However, they didn't help me view 'me' in a different light, or made me respect my body even more. Purely because I don't see how by loving your vagina, by knowing or understanding this part of your body, can help you gain some sort of 'revelation'. There are so many other ways to learn how to gain respect.

First, you need to learn to love and respect yourself, as a woman. Loving yourself means taking care of what makes you, you. When you do so, you'd automatically treat your entire body well (vagina included of course); you'd give it proper TLC. Go for a Brazilian wax if you want to, as long as it makes you feel good about yourself! (A woman in TVM doesn't think so though. She talks about it in 'Hair'. She said "It felt like it was on fire." Maybe she didn't go to a professional.) Second, know your rights as a woman and don't be afraid to be say "No" or turn away requests that would ruin your self esteem. Only when you respect yourself, that you'd gain respect.

But we're all created differently, hence we learn things differently. If these monologues have helped changed lives of millions of women and 'gives voice to real women's deepest fantasies and fears, guaranteeing that no one who reads it will ever look at a woman's body, or think of sex, in quite the same way again.', then I'm all for what Ensler's doing. (I guess, controversy does sell and creates an impact, huh)

That said, this is one of the performances I liked. I thought this lady did an amazing job! (Recording isn't really clear though)

Verdict: 2.7/5

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Books Make Great Gifts!

Do you think books make great gifts? I DO! And so do these celebrities :) Do you share the same opinion as them? Hear what they have to say. My favourites are Jon Stewart's and Maya Angelou's ;)

I usually give books as gifts to all those near and dear to me (Unless they tell me not to haha)! Because I think a good book can make a difference in one's life! When I buy a book for a friend, I either buy them a favourite book of mine, or a book I think they'd enjoy or a book they could learn something from.

These are some of those which I can remember:
1) Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: to a friend who was struggling with a divorce.
2) Horseradish by Lemony Snicket: A book that I enjoyed reading and thought he might like it too
3) Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah: to a friend who loves family drama and thought the best are the HK drama series, until she read this book.
4) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: to someone who feels she's alone in this world.

What about you? Do you tend to give books as gifts too?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anna Karenina Pure Rubbish???

That's shocking, isn't it? Wait till you read the rest:

In a tale as old as time, here is a short list of classic books and other literary works that were originally attacked by critics and subsequently given bad reviews.

* A Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakeaspeare - performed in London in 1662.
"The most stupid ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life."
- Samuel Pepys, Diary.

* Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift - 1726.
"..evidence of a diseased mind and a lacerated heart."
- John Dunlop, 'The History of Fiction', 1814.

* Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert - 1857.
"Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer."
- Le Figaro.

* Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - 1877.
"Sentimental Rubbish"
- The Odessa Courier.

* The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald - 1925.
"What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only."
- New York Herald Tribune.

* Catch-22 - Joseph Heller - 1961.
"Heller wallows in his own laughter... and the sort of antic behaviour the children fall into when they know they are losing our attention."
- Whitey Balliett, New Yorker.

So, whatever you do, don't be disheartened if you receive harsh comments. Everyone has their own opinion, and everyone is different :) Learn to take it on the chin and move on!

Got it from here: Fun Facts & Trivia: Books
Image from: MPL

Something that happened on the way down from the Christ

I came across this post and thought of sharing it with you...I wonder what would have happened if the incident took place here LOL

The famous Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Rio de Janeiro was somewhat smaller than I had expected. (But then again, this is true of all the iconic structures I was introduced to first in pictures, such as the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower or the Kaabah.) But it is undergoing extensive renovation, which makes the statue more interesting. The main point of the trip up the mountain, however, was the spectacular view of the city at magic hour, as well as the invisible line of the Atlantic sprawl meeting the sky. My mobile phone camera won't do any of that justice, so I will leave you with the statue instead:

On the way down the Corvocado mountain, the train (which was the last of the day; it was almost 7pm and dark) shuddered to an unscheduled halt. We were surrounded only by jungle, but the train was packed with people, mostly Brazilian. And this is what happened: complete strangers started ... talking to one another. People turned around in their seats, got up, gestured to those a few rows back to include them. Within five minutes, the carriage was rocking with the sound of conversation and laughter. I don't know what they were talking about but no one seemed to be complaining about the delay, at least not in a sour way. I think this was the positive energy that caused the train to then start moving again.

If they had done what a different sort of crowd, in a different country, would have done (groan, whine, flip out their handphones, connect iPods to their ears, avoid looking at others, pretend to sleep), the train would have been stuck longer. And it would have felt that way, too.

Post and Picture by: Amir Muhammad

Learning a New Language (FUNNY!)

Received this from a friend via email. This guy wrote a super short story using numbers 1-10, then from 10 back to 1. It's HILARIOUS! hahaha

TO NOTE: Malaysians and Singaporeans will find it easier to understand :)

1 day I go 2 climb a 3 outside a house to peep. But the couple saw me, so I panic and 4 down. The man rushed out and wanted to 5 with me. I ran until I fell 6 and threw up. So I go into 7-eleven and grabbed some 8 to throw at him. Then I took a 9 and try to stab at him. 10 God he run away.

10 I put the 9 back and pay for the 8 and left 7-eleven. Next day I called my boss and told him I was 6. He said 5 , tomorrow also no need to come back 4 work. He also asked me to go climb a 3 and jump down! I don't understand. I am so nice 2 him but I don't know what he 1.

One day I go to climb a tree outside a house to peep. But the couple saw me, so I panic and fall down. The man rushed out and wanted to fight with me. I ran until I fell sick and threw up. So I go into 7-eleven and grabbed some eggs to throw at him. Then I took a knife and try to stab at him. Thank God he run away.

Then I put the knife back and pay for the eggs and left 7-eleven. Next day I called my boss and told him I was sick. He said fine, tomorrow also no need to come back for work. He also asked me to go climb a tree and jump down! I don't understand. I am so nice to him but I don't know what he want.

Image from:

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

Title/Author: The Girl Who Could Fly/Victoria Forester
Publisher: Square Fish
No. of pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0-312-60238-3

In a nutshell
Read ‘The Girl Who Could Fly’ and you' get X-Men, the TV series, Heroes and probably, some of ‘Glee’ (without the singing) all in one book. Piper McCloud was born to fly, and being brought up in a small town like Lowland County, Piper’s parents, Betty and Joe McCloud, thought it was best they send her away to a ‘special’ school led by Dr. Hellion who promised that people like Piper will be in good hands.

Although Piper missed her parents terribly, she grew to like the school as she met people who are ‘different’, just like her –there’s Conrad’s exceptional intelligence, Lily who’s telekinetic, the Mustafa twins who can create their own weather and Smitty who has X-ray vision; she slept on a bed that was more comfortable than the one at home; ate food that was personalised and catered to her liking, and she was Dr. Hellion’s favourite student.

But soon, Piper realised things weren’t what they seemed and she must let the others know about it. She must get them out of the school. But how? And would the other students believe her?

What I liked:
Piper’s wise personal findings like when had this epiphany about cows, and said:
‘And then I got to thinking that if each of them cows got feelings, then they can have a purpose no different from us folks. Which got me to thinking about our purpose. And I realized that a person should get a handle on their purpose in this life if they aim to do something about it.’

And this, when she was trying to improve her new-found talent – flying:
‘Raw talent only gets you so far in this old world and the rest is a whole lot of practice, persistence, and perspiration.’

I especially liked this in one of Piper’s conversation with Conrad:
‘… they’ve got an incredibly comfortable bed and their thoughts stretch only as far as their next meal and how good the food will be, and for the most part they are given anything and everything they ask for. So they figure, why fight it? Without actually realizing it, they’ve sold themselves out for a cushy bed and a raging food addiction.’

Doesn’t that feel familiar? We have a house to live in, great food; we are so much better than other countries that are at war, people who are still struggling for independence and struggling to stay alive everyday. Plus, we are so much better than we were years before (At least that’s what they want us to believe. But seriously, are we?). I’m sure we know better than to just sit around, be indulged in all these little ‘luxuries’ and play a deaf ear and blind eye to the painful truth, right? Yes la, GO REGISTER AND VOTE.

Ok, I digressed :P Overall, the book is quite an entertaining read if you have a few hours to kill; like say, if you want to complete reading a book in a long flight.

This story basically teaches about family, friendship and not being afraid to be different. (and maybe a little about politics haha)

To note:
Hmm… It’s hard to say if this is a ‘safe’ read for teens or not. There are some pretty ‘harsh’ words like, ‘Let’s see a retard do this, you old bat,’ and ‘If we’re caught, I’ll electrocute you till you’re black and crispy.’

But okay I guess, if you’re fine with letting your kid know that life isn’t a bed of roses.

Image taken from:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Popular's Price Tag Problem Rectified!

Ok I think Popular either realised their mistake or someone pointed out to them, as the price tag problem on the recipe book Yum Yum has been rectified. Checked it today at their Ikano sales.

Side note:
Came across a piece of news in our local papers, The Star, today about appointing Michelle Yeoh as our reading ambassador to encourage reading. A reading ambassador to encourage reading??? I find this amusing HAHhaha I mean, a reading ambassador??? What's that? Also, don't they have any other more effective ways of reaching out to the people to encourage reading? Like making our national library MORE ACCESSIBLE??? Or lowering the prices of books??

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Day The TV Died

Here it is, my first Saturday Night Story story!

"The Day The TV Died" is a story about a couple whose TV broke down a few days before CNY eve and the drama that unfolded when they were told that they won't be getting their new TV delivered on time

It was two days before Chinese New Year Eve, that our 10 year-old, second hand television, acted up again, and man, were we furious, as we were half way through watching ‘Shutter’ on DVD! First, my husband tapped and thumped to revive it. Usually, that worked. But this time, even as we caressed and cajoled, it didn’t react! Not even a flicker of hope! Instead it gave us a blank, black screen, leaving us agonised and tortured in suspense.

“Arggh! What do we do now?! Stupid, old TV. Of all days, today! And nearing CNY somemore. Damn suay lor!” I let out my frustration. “What to do. Angry also no use. Have to buy a new set lah,” my husband, responded in his usual, calm manner. Nothing gets on his nerves easily. Even I.

Since we wanted to get a new set of TV as soon as possible, my husband decided to purchase one from a ‘reliable’ store. The ever-thorough husband of mine did an ever-thorough research online about TVs and decided on Sharp. So out we went to the ‘reliable’ store. After clinching a good deal and with the promise that the store staff would deliver the TV to us on CNY eve, we left the store, happy as larks.


While having our CNY eve dinner, my handphone rang. It was the TV people, telling us that they’d be arriving earlier than 8pm. I told them that we won’t be at home and to come at 8pm instead, if not, any time after 8pm would be fine. They agreed to come by at 8pm.

We rushed through dinner, and managed to be home on time. Once again, my handphone rang. This time, the salesman told me they couldn’t make it and would have to postpone it. If we want it by tomorrow, we would have to come by their shop to pick it up. In my very rojak Cantonese, I reprimanded the salesman, “We drove all the way from PD after our CNY eve dinner to be home for the TV, and now you tell us you can’t deliver it tonight, and we have to get it from your store tomorrow?! Don’t be ridiculous! I can’t accept this. I want to speak to your manager. Give me his number.” Very reluctantly, he gave the number to me.

I dialled the boss’s number and gave him my piece of mind. After checking with his staff, he called me and told me he has arranged for a delivery and they should reach our home at about 11pm or so.

At about 10.30pm, my husband heard a car engine rumbling right outside our house. He peeked through the curtains and told me it was the ‘TV people’. I was petrified and was perspiring profusely. My palms were wet. I told my husband of my concern.

“Dear. I scolded them like mad just now. What if they come in and rob us ah? Or they bring in knives with them? How? How??”

My husband, said very flippantly, “Ah, ya lah. Who ask you so hero just now. Scold them so loud somemore haha Now you scared,” and buzzed the gate open.

“Aiyoh! Why you so fast open the gate!” My idea of grabbing a knife from the kitchen crushed. Hurriedly, I took my handphone instead and searched for our Homeguard Security number.

When the TV guys appeared, I dared not look at them, but I had no choice as they had to stand in front of me to fix the TV onto our TV stand. To my horror, one of them was the sales guy I reprimanded over the phone. There and then, I wished I had Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility.

The two of them reminded me of those underground HK gangsters who go around knocking on doors asking for ‘protection money’. One was tall, looked tough as steel, and had long dark hair tied in a ponytail. The other was short and smaller in size, but the long cut across his right eye gave him a ruthless look. They didn’t utter a word while working, or maybe they were conversing telepathically. They could probably hear my loud-beating heart in this deafening silence.

Those 20 minutes felt like 20 hours. When they were done, they just stood there facing us, as though indicating that we should now test it out. My husband, who seemed to understand their very bizarre ‘language’, tested the channels and sound system. I sat there, not moving an inch, hoping to be invisible. My husband’s sudden ‘OK’ almost made me jumped out of my seat.

The two men nodded at each other, then the tall guy reached into his pocket. I panicked and stared at my husband with a I-told-you-they-gonna-rob-us! look. I had no reasons to doubt that; first, because of how I reprimanded the short guy, and second, because just 2 weeks ago, there was an attempted robbery in our neighbourhood. Ignoring my husband’s hand signals that asked me to calm down, I pressed the ‘call’ button on my handphone.

Just when someone answered my call, the TV guy took out of his pocket, a white piece of paper. Unfolding it, he revealed, what seemed to me, an invoice.

Yes, an invoice. I was shocked and relieved at the same time. I saw my husband trying to contain his laugh.

“Halo? Halo? Homeguard Security,” the person on the other line startled me. “Sorry, salah nombor (wrong number),” I said and quickly hung up.

My husband signed the invoice and the men left. Still, no words exchanged between them. After they left, my husband couldn’t help chuckling. “Dear, you really need to learn how to not over react lah!”

“No, I didn’t over react. I was just taking precaution,” I stood my ground.

“Ok…Whatever makes you happy,” he said, smiling all the way to the kitchen.

Moral of the story: Be kind to everyone if you don't want your conscience to eat you up haha

TV image: Author's own
Phone image: Google image

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Popular Book Fair Not That Fair

Okay, if you’re planning to go to the recent Popular Book Fair, please be very wary of the prices, because some of the prices weren't correct, maybe due to human error, I'm not sure, because my mom spotted it and she only mentioned it to me when we came home.

My mom told me one of the cookbooks (Yum Yum) was priced at RM15, and a 20% discount was given, so the book was RM12 after discount. She remembered paying lesser than RM12 for this book, but wasn’t quite sure. When we came home, she double-checked and realised, that the price should be RM10 (printed on the book itself, as shown in the picture. Yeah, it's really blur coz the print is small), not RM15 (as stated on Popular's price tag on the book). This has happened before when my mom bought a female magazine, and Popular tagged it at RM8, when it should be lower (as printed on the magazine, but my mom didn't notice it. If I recall correctly, this happened a few years back), and gave a 20% discount.

I'm just putting this up just so you know. I would bring it up to the management if I were to go there again and if the error has not been corrected. If you've experienced the same thing, please let me know? Thanks!

Cool Handmade and Readymade Bookmarks! :)

I lurrrrve bookmarks! And fell in love with these when I saw them on youtube! Gonna make one of them myself! haha

A braided bookmark

A great personalised gift!

With some creativity, I think you can make this too!


Monday, March 15, 2010

The World's Top 10 Bookstores!

I saw this on and thought you book lovers might love this too! :)

Top shelves

Every booklover has their favourite shop, and while it's true that many independents have been driven out of business by online sales and supermarket bestsellers, you still don't have to look too hard to find one that's thriving. To prove it, Sean Dodson chooses the 10 bookshops from around the world which he considers to be the fairest of them all

1) Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht
What does a city do with an 800-year-old church with no congregation? Well, it could make like the Dutch and convert it into a temple of books. The old Dominican church in Maastricht was being used for bicycle storage not long ago, but thanks to a radical refurbishment by Dutch architects Merkx + Girod it has been turned into what could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all time. The Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, which opened just before Christmas, retains the character and charm of the old church, while being fitted with a minimalist and modern interior design that overcomes any suggestion of fustiness. From the images you can find on the web you can see that it is a bookshop made in heaven.

2) El Ateneo in Buenos Aires
All the world's a page at El Ateneo, a bookshop converted from an old theatre in downtown Buenos Aires. As you can see from this photomontage the El Ateneo has retained its former splendour, with high painted ceiling, original balconies and ornate carvings intact. Even the crimson stage curtains remain part of the show. Comfy chairs are scattered throughout, the stage is utilised as a reading area and café, and even better, the former theatre boxes are used as tiny reading rooms.

3) Livraria Lello in Porto
Proving that purpose-built bookshops can be every bit as beautiful as converted buildings, the divine Livraria Lello in Porto has been selling books in the most salubrious of settings since 1881. Featuring a staircase to heaven and beautifully intricate wooden panels and columns (see for yourself with these gorgeous 360-degree views), stained glass ceilings and books - lots of lovely books.

4) Secret Headquarters comic bookstore in Los Angeles
A mere profiterole to the fabulous layer cakes of Porto and Buenos Aires, but the Secret Headquarters more than holds its own. Nestled in the creative cluster of Silver Lake, just east of Hollywood, this boutique store offers a sophisticated alternative to most of its rivals and has a reputation for being one of the neatest, friendliest comic stores anywhere. Canadian science fiction author Cory Doctorow rates it as the finest in the world.

5) Borders in Glasgow
The might of the Michigan-based megastore may make a lot of independent booksellers fearful, but few book lovers can fail to be beguiled by the neo-classical architecture of its behemoth Glasgow branch. Originally designed by Archibald Elliot in 1827 for the Royal Bank, Borders has occupied a prime spot on Royal Exchange Square since the millennium and won over many of the city's book lovers. People reading on the steps outside have become as much a feature of Glasgow as the traffic cone on the head of Wellington's statue. Well, almost. Would have been higher on my list if the aesthetic magnificence of the building had in any way been matched by the interior.

6) Scarthin's in the Peak District
Of course, others might prefer the altogether more earthy beauty of a shop like Scarthin Books in the Peak District. Scarthin's has been selling new and second-hand books since the mid-1970s. It has rooms full of new and old books, a delightful café and what can best be described as a small exhibition of curiosities on the first floor. It is a bookshop so beloved, that it advertises local guest and farmhouses on its websites where devotees can stay overnight.

7) Posada in Brussels
Located in a dear old house near St Magdalen's church in Brussels, Posada Books is as famous for its pretty interior as it is for its collection of new and second-hand art books. Has a remarkable collection of exhibition catalogues, which goes back to the beginning of the last century, and holds occasional exhibitions too.

8) El Péndulo in Mexico
The Polanco branch of Pendulo in Mexico City has long been known as one of the best ways to beat the heat in the largest city in the world. Although it only has a small English language section, its open architecture populated with several trees makes for an excellent afternoon's escape. In honesty, as popular for its excellent cafe as it is its books.

9) Keibunsya in Kyoto
If you love bookshops even where you can't read the language, then Keibunsya in Kyoto needs to be on your list too. Some say it's the lighting, others the well-proportioned panels around the walls. Or perhaps it's the little galleries embedded in the bookshelves. Most agree it's just the quiet dignity of the place that's hard to beat. Lots of pretty Japanese art books to marvel at and a few English language ones as well.

10) Hatchards in London
Although the bookshop of Cambridge University is technically the oldest bookshop in Britain, Hatchards of Piccadilly, which has been trading since 1797, is definitely the most aristocratic. Not only does it boast three royal warrants, meaning it supplies books to Her Majesty, it has counted Disraeli, Wilde and Byron among its regulars. Today it retains the spirit of days past, with an interior described by one follower as "reminiscent of being inside a rambling old house, with six floors of small rooms all linked together curling around a central staircase."

Image credits:
1) Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht:
El Ateneo in Buenos Aires:
7) Posada Bookstore:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Coffee Break with Ellen Whyte, Author of Katz Tales

Hi Ellen. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to have an interview with you. You’ve written 10 books to date. Which one do you enjoy most writing? Why?
Hey this is fun! My first email blogger interview…. Oh boy that question is a tough one. Writing Tales is like keeping a diary or talking to my family because it’s all “everyday cat stuff” and I’m so chuffed at how many people like it that it is one of my faves. BUT, Logomania takes so much work that I am proud of the amount of effort it represents. And then again, I love Ollie the Orang Utan because he is fun. In fact, I’m going to try and refurbish Ollie. He didn’t really have a chance first time round; it’s time he got a break.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Writing is a compulsion; I get twitchy if I don’t write. Reading is the same for me. I usually have 3 or 4 books on the go at the same time.

What or who inspired Katz Tales?
My cats! I thought people might enjoy upbeat friendly stories about cats. It took years to sell the column, but Sharifah Intan from the Weekender Star took a chance on me – and it worked!

Out of curiosity. Why ‘Katz’ and not ‘Cats’?
I wanted to make sure it was easy to Google, and also easy to copyright.

After reading ‘Naming a Cat is a Serious Business’, it seemed to me so far that most of the feline friends in your stories got their names from the colours of their fur – Au’s because of his golden coat, Target’s too, because of the spot on his fur, same goes for Snow and Tam. I came across an article recently, which said that a pet’s name tells a lot about their owner. Do you think it’s true and that it applies to cats as well?
Definitely! It’s like people naming their kids. Some go for something pretty sounding, some hold to tradition, some choose odd names…. I know of cats who are called Duke and Princess, which I think says a lot about the way their human protectors feel about their pets.

You’re right about Au and Target. Scoop was named for being “scooped” out of the house; and also as a sly poke at the business of writing.

Usually I go for more people names. I once had a cat in Scotland called Oscar because he was so super clever (after Oscar Wilde, the playwright), and when my bro and I were little we had Hercules and Hermes, both black cats, who were named by my brother Ian who was going through a Greek phase. The cat we just rehoused I called Boris because he looks Russian, and my brother had a cat in Spain called Tanya, because she looked really sexy and he always thought Tanya was a sexy girl’s name. So Au and Target are a bit of an anomaly. Hmmmm, interesting!

I find it hard getting over Scoop’s death, missing him in the stories after his death. It must have been really hard for Tom, you and Au then. How long did it take you to get over it?
I still think of him every day, and I see him sitting on his box in front of the window in our bedroom when I walk by. Sometimes I hear his yargle-yargle-YOWEL!!! Which was his way of saying, “Hey, I’m back from my walk! Wake up and let me tell you all about it. It was GREAT!” in the middle of the night. So he’s still with me. But I do miss hearing his rusty purr.

Do you read your stories to Au and Target? If yes, how do they respond to it?
No, but I talk through ideas with them. And Target lies on my keyboard while I work. He is very good at pushing the F1 button if he thinks I’m stuck.

Let’s say there’s only one bowl of cats biscuits left, and there’s no way you could rush out and get more of it. Scoop, Bones, Au and Target are famished, whom would you give it to?

We never run short on biscuits! We run out of bread, of butter, of potatoes, and of rice, but we ALWAYS have a stack of cat biscuits and cat food in the cupboard. But if we ever ran short, we’d order chicken from the hawker centre. I think Au has them on speed dial anyway.

What are you working on at the moment?
A romance novel, the second Logomania book, a reworking of Ollie, and a story about dogs for Dog Talk.

All the best to you and your upcoming books, Ellen! :)

Katz Tales by Ellen Whyte

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
No. of pages: 200
ISBN: 978-967-3035-64-9
Price: RM28.00

In a nutshell
Join Scoop, Bones, Au and Target on their adventures and witness their paw-raising cat fights, learn to interpret their meows and growls, know when to give them treats and be rewarded with free deliveries of rodents, and be charmed by their big, round, adorable eyes that help them get away with almost anything. Their mischievous antics and brainy, well-thought-of tricks would tickle you to the bone! And... they have taught me my first cat lesson: you can’t outsmart a cat.

You could also learn a thing or two about cats in Katz Tales’ Part 2 Cat FAQs. Learn from how you can toilet train your cat, to how to keep your cats off the furniture, what to do when your cat’s upset, and how to have catty chats with your cats!

What I liked

Even for a non-cat lover, I find it hard not to fall in love with indomitable Scoop, low-key Au and shy Target after getting to know them in Katz Tales. One of my favourite stories in Katz Tales is ‘Scoop Fakes an Illness’, where he tricked Ellen into giving him extra treats by ‘extending’ his illness and how he tried to pretend that she had not seen anything. Having read that story to my husband, he chuckled.

My favourite tale of Au is ‘Big Brother’ when he dealt with street fighter Yow Yow who was about to attack little Target, and saved him from what seemed like a possible, ruthless catfight. This is one of my favourite passages:

“Au took immediate advantage of the situation to demand a treat but rather generously shared it with Target. They spent the rest of the day together, with Target looking at his big protector worshipfully.
Au is pretending nothing has happened but if you look closely you can see he’s smiling. Au is having a good day.”

That's Au and Target enjoying each other's company

And Target, oh, Target. How I loved the shy, sentimental Target. I felt so sorry for him in ‘The Big Snip’. In order to keep him away from danger, he had to be neutered. It must have been tough for him having to fast for eight to 10 hours before the operation. But thankfully, Target, being the strong survivor he is, survived the operation and recovered rather quickly.

Besides the stories, I loved how Ellen narrated them. She not only managed to tell her cats’ tales so charmingly, but to also weave in some ‘know-hows’ into the passages, indirectly educating a non-cat lover like me and showing me that cats are just as adorable and loveable as dogs.

There are so many more of these fascinating, amusing tales in Katz Tales and I’m sure somehow, these feline fuzzies of Ellen’s will also find a place in your heart, as they have in mine.

To note
Even after reading 40 tales of Scoop, Bones, Au and Target, I can bet, you still won’t have enough of them *smile* Don't say I didn't warn you! *wink*

As luck would have it, I had had the honour of having an email interview with the author of Katz Tales, Ellen Whyte!

Pictures courtesy of Ellen Whyte. For more of them, go to:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid by Lemony Snicket

Publisher: HarperCollins
No. of pages: 176
ISBN: 978-006-1240-06-5
Verdict: 4/5

In a nutshell
The bitter truth about life is that it's tough, rough and unfair. And who best to reveal these truths in hard, cold, words, but Lemony Snicket himself? If you've always loved the way he wrote his books, then you might like this too.

This book is divided into 13 topics - Home, Family, School, Work, Entertainment, Literature, Travel, Emotional Health, Affairs of the Heart, A Life of Mystery, The Mystery of Life, An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does and Miscellaneous, and wrote quotes based on these topics. Something like what you read in fortune cookies.

As usual, Snicket didn't steer from his normal satirical self. So you'd pretty know what to expect if you've read his stuff before.

What I liked
Some of them were quite smart, and some, pretty amusing. These are some of my favourites:

On Literature:
"No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don't read is often as important as what you read."

On Travel:
"There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing yourself."

On Entertainment:
"It is one of life's bitterest truths that bedtime so often arrives just when things are getting interesting." (Yeah, especially when reading a good book or when a great show is about to start on TV!)

On Family:
"Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them."

The 2nd last topic which has a very long title :P
"There are some who go through life with a shadow hanging over them, particularly if they live in a building which has long, wide awnings. (KAKAKAKAKAKA :P)

"It is unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is the one who is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right. Right?

There are quite a few that I like in Miscelleanous. You gotta read it! Some are pretty smart and funny! :) But some are quite urm...well, just skip 'em :P

To note
If you're into Tony Robbins's stuff or books of similar nature, then I suggest you stay far from this, unless you got tired of those stuff, and you're in dire need of something light and entertaining to read :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Popular Book Fair!!

Heya bookaholics! Time to check out Popular's book fair! :)
(Click on the poster to view a larger image)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where Is Justice?

Recently, some books in Malaysia, namely ‘Where Is Justice’, ‘1Funny Malaysia’, ‘Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Thing Vol. 2’ (I looked for this book in most major bookstores, and I could only find the first volume) have been confiscated. Thank God I was able to purchase the first two titles.

I’m writing from the point of view of a person who has been ignoring politics her whole life. I have never once voted. I’m one of those who strongly believe that ‘ignorance is bliss’. Thanks to ‘Where Is Justice?’ I realised my selfishness is one of the many reasons my country is still stuck in this political turmoil and I feel utterly shameful by it.

The book started with Teoh Beng Hock’s case, one of the many cases that raised innumerable issues and unanswered questions. Teoh was a 30-year-old assistant to Selangor Executive Councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah and was a witness in an investigation on his boss Ean Yong, who was alleged to have spent RM2, 400 on Merdeka flags in 2008, but to have never taken delivery of the flags. On 15th July, the MACC raided the offices of Ean Yong and Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lau Weng San, confiscated Teoh’s laptop and took him for questioning which started from 8.45pm on the 15th July to the next day at 1.35pm. On that same day, Teoh was found dead on the fifth floor of a building extension of Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam, Malaysia. They said he had fallen to his death because he couldn’t handle the stress of being interrogated (then later said he was stressed because he had insufficient funds for his wedding), even though it was proven by Thai pathologist, Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunand, who has three decades and 10, 000 autopsies worth of experience, that there was an 80% chance Teoh had been murdered.

Some issues and questions raised in this case were: why was his lawyer not allowed to be present during the interrogation? It was said he was released at 3.45am, but why was his hand phone still with MACC when it should have been returned to him since he has been released? Why would Teoh want to commit suicide on the eve of his wedding?

Next was the case of A. Kugan, an alleged carjacker who collapsed and died while in police custody on 20th January 2009. An absurd case, I must say. First, how could one die while in police custody? An initial post-mortem suggested he had died of fluid in his lungs, but his body showed bruises and wounds. Even the Health Ministry confirmed he was tortured! Second, months after his death, police found no evidence that he was involved in any car thefts; hence they cleared all charges against him. In other words, he died innocently. Third, the person who had beaten Kugan with a rubber hose couldn’t be charged because “There is no evidence that the deceased suffered instant death. Instead, the deceased died four days after the alleged beating.” I found this utterly preposterous.

Altantuya Shaariibuu was murdered in Shah Alam in October 2006 by the bodyguards of then Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Altantuya’s body was blown into pieces by C-4 explosives that were attached to her body. She was allegedly introduced to Abdul Razak Baginda, a defense analyst from the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre think-tank, by then DPM, Najib Tun Razak, and had a relationship with him. They first met in 2004 and their relationship ended in August 2005. She reportedly had worked as Abdul Razak’s translator on a deal he was brokering for the Malaysian government to buy submarines from France and wanted her commission of USD500,000 when the deal was closed.

This case is a mysterious one. These issues beg to be answered. As laid out by Kim Quek in his article, “Altantuya’s killing: Who gave the order?” how could the bodyguards (Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar) act without instructions from their superior? And Baginda is not even their superior. Also, what’s their motive of killing Altantuya when they don’t even know her? Why are Musa Safri (the one who sent Azilah to Razak) and Najib not brought into questioning since Musa reports to Najib?

The last of the major case in this book is that of the former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, who was beaten, brutalised and abused in police custody. The book closes with stories and cases of other men and women who died under the custody and protection of Malaysia government.

After reading all these cases, I begin to wonder, WHERE IS JUSTICE??? Are we going to let more victims die in vain?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


hahahaha exactly how I would react should anyone 'ill-treats' my books!


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