Monday, June 28, 2010

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint

Title/Author: Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder/Shamini Flint
Publisher: Piatkus
No. of pages: 295
ISBN 13: 978-0-7499-2975-6

In a nutshell
Inspector Singh from Singapore has been sent to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to solve the murder of a Malaysian heir, Alan Lee. His ex-wife, Chelsea Liew is on death row for for this murder, but she swears she didn't do it and Inspector Singh thinks so too. However, he couldn't find any other suspects who have a stronger motive that hers: Alan was taking her kids away from her and he was having an affair.

What I liked
Making the murder of a Chinese-turned-Muslim as its main story is a tricky one, especially when it touches other sensitive issues in Malaysia as well. But Flint managed to weave in the political and racial issues in Malaysia very carefully. She chose them very wisely too. A great eye opener to those who aren't familiar with the 'Malaysian culture' or what's happening in the country at the moment.

For example: "'...Maybe she bribed the police to let her out?" She added as an afterhought in case this should reflect badly on her brother, "Malaysian police, I mean. Singapore police cannot bribe, also.'"

"...The Chinese woman across the fence said, 'My son says very easy one to bribe when you are caught in a speed trap.'

This sentiment drew no censure from the policeman's sister. 'Ya, you are right, but speeding...murder, different, lah!'"

She also brought in some Malaysian culture into her story, while sometimes comparing it to Singapore's. One that I particularly liked was about the cars in Malaysia (p.191) and how true this is!

"'A tiny island, the government was desperate that Singapore should not turn into a parking lot, so it invested in public transport and kept cars expensive. As a result, cars had real value and owners looked after them."

"In Malaysia, Singh guessed, there were no such incentives. So old men ferried their extended families around in beat-up vans with six or seven kids hanging out of the windows and waving to the other cars. Salesmen drove ancient run-arounds. Thirty-year-old Mercedes Benz doubled up as taxis. Motorbikes weaved in and out of traffic. Small cars with 500cc engines, basically motorbikes with a body, raced along the fast lane at murderous speeds.'"

And I liked the twist at the end - the unexpected murderer ;)

What could have been done better
The flow of the story. It didn't feel like it flowed smoothly. I'm not an expert in this field; just sharing it from a reader's point of view. Also at times, I find the pace a little uneven - some parts were a little draggy and information was stretched in one page or a few paragraphs, and I couldn't feel like I was part of the story, causing me to turn a few pages, asking myself, 'how long is this gonna be??'. The pace did pick up a little from page 100 onwards.

Some of the conversations felt 'stilted'. I find the Malaysian slang in certain parts were 'forced' into them.

The book cover and font type were abit 'misleading' (?). Judging from the cover and title, I was expecting something funny (probably some shenanigans the Inspector got himself into or something like that). I thought I was the only one who was expecting such, until my bro and a few of my friends who saw me with it, asked me if it was funny. Book covers and font type do kinda 'prepare' the reader in anticipating the tone of the story.

My verdict? 3/5

Book bite: Inspector Singh's next exciting adventures: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul and Singapore School of Villainy.

Thanks for the book Pansing! :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka

Title/Author: The Rice Mother/Rani Manicka
Publisher: Sceptre
No. of pages: 468
ISBN 10: 0340823887

In a nutshell
"In this house, our Rice Mother is your grandmother. She is the keeper of dreams. Look careafully and you will see, she sits on her wooden throne holding all our hopes and dreams in her strong hands, big and small, yours and mine. The years will not diminish her."

Those words, describe indomitable Lakshmi, who left her family when she was 14, and moved from Ceylon to Kuantan with her new husband, Ayah, who's twice her age. She gave birth to a child every year until she is 19. Lakshmi survived the nightmare of the Japanese invasion by sheer determination, but her family bore deep scars and inturn inflicted those wounds on the next generation.

This novel, spanning a period of 85 years over 4 generations, chronicles her life (mainly) and her family's. This spellbinding novel is a page turner.

What I liked
The pace, the flow, the shape, the tone. Everything! Every page, every word, is a gem. The voice she lent to each character (whom each told their story), is so real. Their emotions, so raw and tender. It felt like these stories, kept so close to their hearts, that when unlocked, felt like opening old wounds; it has to be done gently.

Her ability to capture the conflict of human emotions with so much honesty, I felt, was simply amazing, especially when dealing with selfishness and righteousness.
This is when Lakshmi found out her best friend, Mui Tsai, has been breastfeeding her child. (p.60)
"Where was the harm if she fed my baby? My breasts remained parched and hers rich and plentiful for many weeks to come. So it was Mui Tsai's small, undeveloped breasts that Anna's little pink mouth suckled. It is a strange thing, motherhood. It gives and takes away so much. I should have been grateful but I wasn't. Even though I did not say anything I wasn't big enough to let the matter pass.

I built a low wall between us."

Was Lakshmi wrong in doing so? Was it Mui Tsai's fault in the first place?

One of my favourite characters is Ayah. I fell in love with him when Lakshmi described him here (p.39):
"My husband was solicitous to a degree that made me want to scream. He would worriedly enquire after me every morning and every night, and wait for my answer expectantly as if I might say something other than, 'I'm just fine.' For nine months it never crossed his mind not to ask worriedly and wait expectantly for my reply. He refused to let me walk to the market and would insist on going himself."

I loved how it was narrated. So simple, yet it says so much. It had showed not only her husband's love for her, but hers for him as well.

The paragraphs were long, but the story telling was so smooth that you'd just want to read more. Not a word wasted! And I loved how she depicted the different cultures, superstitions and beliefs. It showed that she respected each of them and not merely writing it for the sake of writing it.

Yes, this is a very sad and dark story. Be prepared to love the imperfections of its characters. Be prepared to be crushed. Be prepared to cry. Be prepared for the shocking truths and ugly pictures that'd haunt you.

My verdict? 4.5/5
If you've not read this book, please go get a copy. This one's a keeper (unless you're not one who likes family drama). Another title added to my list of all-time fav reads:
1) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2) Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
3) The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka

Book bite: Rani's mother is the core inspiration for whom she says that 'My library was in my mother's head.' Her mother's dinner time stories are the backbone of the stories of her novels.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Friend Picks...

Title/Author: A Little Princess/Frances Hodgson Burnett
ISBN (13): 978-0064401876

Xiao Wei talks about a book she loves dearly, and has read over and over again.

What's it about?
“A Little Princess” is a magical story filled with beautiful imaginations and whimsical fantasies, hope, love and courage, despite the cold hard realities of London in the early 1900’s. The protagonist of the story is Sara Crewe, the beloved, pampered, the only daughter of a rich Captain who dotes on her and sends her off to boarding school in London.

She’s one of the elite (a la Gossip Girl) with her fashionable dresses, jewellery and dolls, despite her being only 10 or 11 at that time, so everybody calls her Princess Sara. Misfortune befalls upon her on her 11th birthday when her dad dies of a sudden ailment, leaving her as penniless as a pauper. Enter the villain – Miss. Minchin the schoolmistress, who banishes poor Sara into the attic, strips her of all her belongings and student status and shows Sara no mercy.

What I liked
The beauty of the story lies in Sara’s fantastic imagination – she “transforms” the attic into the place of her dreams, as she tries to face each day with optimism, showing the strength and will of a child beyond her years. I can’t remember how many times I’ve reread it, during meals, before bedtime, in the car… until the cover’s all wrinkled and the pages all yellow. I especially loved the beautiful and classic prose, in which I could immerse myself for hours and dream that I could be in that beautiful place which Princess Sara created.

Book Bite: Did you know... "A Little Princess is a 1904 children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a revised and expanded version of Burnett's 1888 serialized novel entitled 'Sara Crewe': or, 'What happened at Miss Minchin's boarding school', which was published in St. Nicholas Magazine.

According to Burnett, she discovered that she had missed out a great deal of things when writing the novella. She had been composing a play based on the story when she found out a lot of characters she had missed. The publisher asked her to publish a new, revised story of the novella, producing the novel." (from wikipedia)

Thanks so much for sharing with us your favourite read Xiao Wei! :)

If you'd like to share yours too, please feel free to drop me an email at hookedonbookz@gmail.com! :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

What do you think of book trailers?

Have you seen any book trailers lately? I've seen quite a few - Gaiman's Instructions, and Nicholl's One Day (didn't like this). And lately, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters hehe Seems like book trailers "are now an essential part of any marketing campaign for a big-hitting new novel.

They've only been around for a short time – the first one was for Christine Feehan's paranormal romance novel Dark Symphony in 2003 – but they have just acquired the ultimate seal of pop-cultural approval: their own awards ceremony.


The US publisher Melville House held the inaugural Moby awards recently for the best – and worst – in the book trailer industry, held in true awards-style with a glittering red carpet evening at a New York hotel." Read the rest here.

Yep, you read that right. Book trailers and awards ceremony! Not sure if this will merely be a fad or something that'd last for a long while, but I'd enjoy it while it lasts heh ;P But seriously, what's the point of a book trailer? Will anyone purchase a book purely based on a good trailer? I'm not the sorta person who judges a movie by its trailer...so in this case, the same applies for me. But, I think it's something quite fun to produce! ;)

So, bought any book recently based purely on a trailer? Do you think it'd affect a purchase at all?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CALLING ALL TWILIGHT FANS!!!

Wanna own The Twilight Saga poster?? Or an exclusive Twilight box set and get special movie screening passes? You can! Just click on the image below and find out how ;)

If you can't see the larger version of this image, the details are as follow:

1) Get a FREE The Twilight Saga: Eclipse movie poster with every purchase of Eclipse book only from 12 June 2010 onwards. (While stock last)

2) With every purchase of 'Eclipse' book, customer can participate in contest and stand a chance to win Complimentary passes for special movie screening(for TPC members only). From 12 June till 27 June 2010

How to participate?
Step 1: Fill in your name, IC/Passport number, TPC number (if available),
contact number, address, email and questions on the contest form
Step 2:
Option 1: Download contest form from www.timesbookstores.com.my and email the contest form with your sales receipt to timesbookstores@tpg.com.my
Option 2: Drop your contest form with your sales receipt attached at the assigned drop-box located at cashier counters at Times bookstores located at Klang Valley.

* Movie screening on 6 July 2010, 9.00pm at GSC, Pavilion KL

How to redeem?
Step 1: TPC members to purchase an 'Eclipse' book from 1 – 30 June 2010 at any Times bookstores at Klang Valley.
Step 2: To redeem at Member’s Lounge, Times bookstores, level 6, Pavilion KL, on 3 July 2010, 11.00am

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Title/Author: The Virgin Suicides/Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Bloomsbury
No. of pages: 249
ISBN: 978-0747560593
Price: RM36.50

In a nutshell
This story, set in the 1970s, is mainly about the mysterious Lisbon girls (Cecelia, 13; Lux, 14; Bonnie, 15; Mary, 16; Therese, 17) who decided to take their own lives and how their suicides affected their small suburban community. Their story is narrated a year after their suicides, by the Lisbon-girls-obsessed guys who had nothing better to do than to 'stalk' and 'spy' on them (even after their death, "Collecting everything we could of theirs, the Lisbon girls wouldn't leave our minds.").

Cecelia committed suicide, and the rest followed a year after. Nobody knew exactly why; you'd read some analysis of what may have caused the suicides (p176 and in some other pages as well), but you'll never get a definite answer, which to me, is exhilarating. (I'd like to think that it's probably because of the strict and over-protective Catholic parents, and the fact that they don't have a life besides the one at home.) I mean, the story seems to be leading you somewhere, but you end up being nowhere!

This story is dark, grim and depressing. To be honest, it felt kinda 'hollow'. I felt I hardly knew any of the girls, besides the fact that they looked alike ("They were short, round-buttocked in denim, with roundish cheeks that recalled that same dorsal softness.") and that they are in dire need to be in touch with the world. (read: a social life). Plot was flat (not sure if I used this adjective correctly here) and there were hardly any interesting characters. The only reason that kept me going, was Eugenides' writing.

What I liked
You can't deny the fact that Eugenides writes beautifully. These are some of my favourite passages:
"We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn't fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.

This was after all the girls have committed suicide, and they became the talk of the town.
"Knowing the rest of the city accepted the news as gospel only demoralized us further. Outsiders, in our opinion, had no right to refer to Cecelia as "the crazy one," because they hadn't earned their shorthand by a long distillation of firsthand knowledge. For the first time we symphatized with the President because we saw how wildly our sphere of influence was misrepresented by those in no position to know what was going on. Even our parents seemed to agree more an dmore with the television version of things, listening to the reporters' inanities as though they could tell us the truth about our own lives."

And...the ending...very, very sad...
"The essences of the suicides consisted not of sadness or mystery but simple selfishness. The girls took into their own hands decisions better left to God. They became too powerful to live among us, too self-centred, too visionary, too blind. What lingered after them was not life, which always overcomes natural death, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself." (It's too long for me to type it all here...but the whole paragraph is beautiful...in a sad kinda way...)

What I might like better
The movie. Saw the trailer, loved the style. Might download it one day.

My verdict: 3/5
I hate to say this, but, (to all fans of Eugenides, please don't kill me) I am utterly disappointed :(( (am probably one of the few who are!) I was really expecting a lot from Eugenides, especially after reading Middlesex (which I've read 2 1/2 times :P and I rarely read a book more than once!) READ Middlesex! PLEEEEEEEEEASE!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So, It's TRUE!

Remember my review on One Day by David Nicholls? And I mentioned that it'd probably be made into a movie?? The rumours were true!!

Got it from here:
After announcing numerous projects in development, Random House Films has greenlit a project, with the film adaptation of David Nicholls' One Day going into production on July 12. The film unit, formed between RH and Focus Features, has a number of projects in the development stage--including an adaptation of Beth Raymer's Lay the Favorite (Spiegel & Grau) and Arthur Phillips' The Song Is You (Random House)--but, so far, only the partnership's launch feature, the adaptation of Reservation Road, has made it to the screen.

One Day
will be co-financed by the British film unit Film4 and the feature stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe); it's being directed by Lone Scherfing (An Education). Nicholls also wrote the screenplay for the project, which follows 20 years in the lives of a British couple that meet on the day of their college graduation in 1988, and the book is being published by Vintage in trade paper on June 15. The film adaptation is scheduled to release in 2011. PW noted in its review that the work always seemed Hollywood-bound, that while the "maudlin ending aren't ideal for a book, they'll play in the multiplex."

Doubt I'll be watching it. But if my hubby drags me along,....then, no choice haha :P

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Title/Author: And Then There Were None/Agatha Christie
Publisher: Fontana
No. of pages: 221
ISBN: 978-0312979478

In a nutshell
A whodunit story that would keep you on tenterhooks until the end. You might have seen something similar to this in a movie before, but you know, nothing beats reading! 10 people from all walks of life, have been invited to an island called Nigger Island. And all 10 of them have somehow caused the death of another person in their lives.

Then...in the island, this happens:
Ten nigger boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little nigger sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.

So the little rhyme continues until....'and then there were None.' The incidents that happened in the island followed the rhyme to the tee. The mystery here is this: If there were only 10 of them on the island and all 10 of them were murdered, who killed them?

What I liked
The suspense and the well-planned plot definitely! Ok, I don't mean to say I'm a good 'detective' or whatever, but I was right about the murderer at first (yes, bunnyslave, I WAS!!! :p) until...h(s)he got murdered too! That pissed me off, really haha OK, I'm probably not the only one who felt that way :P But well, that's the whole idea of this book. To keep the suspense right to the very end, then...PROVE YOU WRONG! heh!

The pace was right in every chapter. Nothing too long, nothing too short. And the moment you think you've got it all figured out, bham! There she goes again, proving you wrong!

To Note
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT TURN TO THE LAST PAGE until you're there. And...DO NOT READ IT AT NIGHT! Not because it's 'haunting', but because it keeps you awake and you'd have problems stopping.

My verdict? 4/5

Book bite: The book has also been published and filmed under the title, 'Ten Little Indians'. This is in fact, Christie's best selling novel with 100 millions sales to date! It has been adapted into several plays, films and even, a video game!

Thanks bunnyslave, for this great gift and recommendation! :) **hugggz**

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Friend Picks....

Sky Burial by Xinran!
ISBN: 978-0385515481

Lai Peen is a great fan of Xinran's works...and this is one of her favourite reads....

What's it about?:
Shu Wen spent many years looking for her lost husband after he disappeared in Tibet. She faced many difficulties in the wild mountains of Tibet but after spending more than 40 years there, she finally discovered that her husband had indeed died. She accepted the truth and went home to her province. Some people may think she was foolish to spend so many years looking for her husband in a region she knew nothing about, but I think the strength of her character is certainly admirable. I also find this story fascinating because it describes and explains the Tibetan cultural practice of ‘sky burial’.

What I liked:
The character I admire most in this novel is Shu Wen. I think she was very brave. It is not easy to leave your home to go to a strange land and live there for so many years. She did all this because of her love for her husband and her belief that he was still alive. She’s indeed the epitome of strength, determination and love.

What I'd change:
In Tibetan culture, when a person dies, his body is chopped into small pieces and fed to the birds high up on the mountain. If I could change one part of the story, it’d be the ending. I’d like Shu Wen to find her husband still alive. Then, they could return to their homeland together, or even remain in Tibet. However, this is a true story and not all true stories have happy endings. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Tibetan culture and sad love stories.

Thanks so much for sharing with us your favourite read, Lai Peen! :) **hugz** If you'd like to share yours too, please feel free to drop me an email at hookedonbookz@gmail.com! :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Coffee Break with local author, Yvonne Lee

Hi Yvonne. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to have an interview with you. How are you and what have you been up to lately?
You’re welcome! Currently, I’m in the midst of getting my third book ready for printing.

Could you tell us more about your new book please?
My third book, Madness Aboard! the sequel to The Sky is Crazy, is a collection of humorous and real stories from my experience working as a flight stewardess with an international airline. This third book (my second book is a collection of essays on matters close to the women’s heart, of beauty and vanity, called Vanity Drive: The Vagaries of one Woman’s Vanity, also by Marshall Cavendish) continues to unravel the hilarious and sometimes bizarre happenings that took place in the stratosphere. Aviophobics, lecherous old coots, a passenger on a fart fest, troublemakers and other eccentrics are the worse kinds of passengers that all fly girls and boys had seen.

Among the books you’ve written, which one you enjoyed writing most? Why?
All my three books are special to me. My airline stories-based books certainly brought back the pleasant reminiscences of my airline days and are a favourite with those who want to know what life is like being the cabin crew. On the other hand, Vanity Drive is equally special because it had allowed me the soul-searching experience on matters revolving body image, physical attraction, beauty, vanity and coming to term with growing older, getting white hair and embracing the fact that one’s boobs will eventually stare southward! It explores the myriad vagaries of vanity and contains rather intimate anecdotes on how women and beauty concerns are inseparable.

The most challenging book has to be the soon-to be-out Madness Aboard! When The Sky is Crazy first came out and I was interviewed in many magazines and newspapers, some detractors undermined me by saying it was just my pretty face that made the media favour me. So, despite my busy schedule (3 kids and a day job), I pushed myself to come out with this because I don’t want to be labelled as a flash-in-a-pan author.

My book had been highlighted in over 40 different publications and some felt that it’s my ‘ex-stewardess factor’ that gave me the advantage. For that, I made it a point not to stop at one book, as that’s the tendency with some local authors. Yet, the reality remains that, as my family grew bigger (I had my youngest baby the same year my second book came out), as my business expanded, I found it harder to write.

But I made time to continue writing and my latest book Madness Aboard! was written during the most busy times of my life---a new baby after a gap of ten years (!). I remember days when I would even scribble a paragraph on a note pad while seated inside a car, braving through heavy traffic congestion on the road. My book is like another child, but one nurtured only after time spent with my real children. After they had all gone to bed, I would crawl out of the bed to tend to my ‘book child’.

Have you always wanted to write a book? If yes, what triggered the idea? If not, what/who inspired it?
Not really. Ten years ago, I never knew I'd be writing books. I had started out from a bored housewife who contributed ad hoc articles and letters to the local papers. One of my contributions touched on my experience working as a stewardess with an international airline. Some friends who read it commented that I should write more of my flying days. The rest is history. I’m glad the editors at The Star newspaper allowed me the opportunities to write for the lifestyle sections and that advantage made my approach with a publisher like Marshall Cavendish easier, I think…

What experiences have you gained as an air stewardess, which have made you who you are today?
What I value the most is my ability to plan out things and the persistence to materialise them, thanks to what I picked up from my flying days. When your whole month activities are determined by a block of flight schedules, you learn to seize the day and prioritise matters. For the air crew, time management is very crucial, more so if you’re the go-getter kind.

Who are your favourite authors and why?
My favourite authors…hmmmm…There are quite a number but I really enjoy humour writers that contribute for Traveler Tales series of books, on top of authors like Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, Anne Lamott and Elliot Hester. I also love books written by journalists like Mitch Albom, John Grogan and Mary Roach. Hey, why all the foreign names?? Yes, I also support local authors. My favourite local writers are Alexandra Wong, Lydia Teh, Petra Gimbad, Dina Zaman, to name a few.

Do you have any peculiar writing habits? If yes, what are they?
Peculiar writing habit? Must tell ah? I like to smell on minyak cap kapak every time I write. The familiar smell is very comforting whenever I needed to get into the groove of crafting words. Oh, I mostly write after the entire household is asleep.

What’s your cure for a writer’s block?
Yes, I do hit the writer’s block sometimes. When it happens, I just need to lay off my work for a while and start reading other books voraciously. When I feel relaxed, the words swim back to me again.

When you’re not writing, what do you do?
When I’m not writing, I’m just an ordinary working mum of three kids. I pick the kids from school, rush out for grocery, prepare the family meals and then go to work in the evening (I run a music school with my husband and schedule my classes on most nights). I try my best to find time, a minute here and there, to read daily. I have this habit of tearing magazine and newspaper sheets, fold and keep them in my bag. In between waiting for my piano students or waiting for my kids to come out from school, I read.

Yvonne's tips to aspiring writers...
My advice to those who feel that they can only write after their children became grown-ups or after they had retired is, you don’t need to wait that long. If you really want to write, you can start today. Just spend fifteen minutes a day but keep it constant and before you knew it, voila, you have a book in hand!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book-staircase! :D

Look at these staircases! Don't you wish you can have them in your homes??? Wouldn't it be awesome if we could?! Then, you'll always have space for any amount of books! We can keep 'em in book racks, tables, beneath your bed...floor,...now we have...STAIRCASE!! :D


THANKS for the pics LAI PEEN! :)

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