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)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WAREHOUSE SALESSSSS!!!! :D

Yes! Another one by Pay Less! Who's goingggg???? ;)

PAY LESS BOOKS' Warehouse Sales @ 3K SUBANG JAYA

Venue: Hotel Hall, 3K Inn, Jalan SS13/1, Subang Jaya.

(GPS Coordinates: N 03.06819°, E 101.59369°)

Date: 23 - 25 July 2010 (Friday - Sunday)

Time: 10.00 am - 7.00 pm

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rojak by Amir Muhammad

Title/Author: Rojak/Amir Muhammad
Publisher: ZI Publications
No. of pages: 314
ISBN 13: 978-967-5266-10-2

In a nutshell
Rojak is a collection of very short fictional stories (63 altogether, plus the extended versions), all of which tell of Malaysia and its culture. The author quoted our beloved late Yasmin Ahmad, saying "What is a nation without the stories it tells itself?" I couldn't agree more! (We miss you, Yasmin...)

What I liked...
Definitely the cover design and colour, the illustrations (I thought Liza and Chin Yew did a great job!) that make the stories come alive, and definitely, the humour! There were many that I liked. My top favourites are 'Lipstick Babi' (first read it in City of Shared Stories Kuala Lumpur), 'Correspondence' (Both versions talk about the common junk mails we receive that offer a large some of money by some unknown sender. I don't remember laughing so hard reading a story!), 'Dorm Horror Story' (reminded me of the other version I was told before! LOL) and 'Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat' (They sure can rap! ROFL!). Then there are heart-warming such as 'The Beef' and 'Mosque Slippers'. I love the twists and irony (I hope I used the correct term here) in most of these stories especially 'DVD' (yes, about pirated DVDs) and 'Honesty'! I also liked what the author did with 'The IC Code', 'Banana' and 'Apple'.

The thing I admire about the author his ability to craft these stories in such a way that they allow us readers to kind of ponder on some of the current issues that are happening/have happened here in Malaysia (such as religion, race, and politics), while keeping it light and entertaining. Oh yeah, there's quite a fair bit on sex too haha

Thank you, Amir Muhammad for writing these stories (love those typical Malaysian slang you added in there) and thank you ZI Publications for publishing Rojak!

It'd be better if...
there was a glossary provided (would be useful for the non-Malaysian readers). It'd be awesome if the book is also available (or will be available) in paperback, because it's such a great book to be carried around (hardcover makes it heavy lah... :( ) and read whenever we need to kill time. (The cover would definitely grab attention! :))

My verdict? 4/5

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

Title/Author: Funny Boy/Shyam Selvadurai
Publisher: Vintage
No. of pages: 314
ISBN 13: 978-009-9459-21-7

In a nutshell
The story is set in the seventies, during the tumultuous times of Sri Lanka, when the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and its Hindu Tamil minority were at war (Sri Lankan Civil War). It's basically a novel in 6 short stories, told in chronological order (Pigs Can't Fly; Radha Aunty; See No Evil, Hear No Evil; Small Choices; The Best School of All and Riot Journal: An Epilogue), that revolves around a young Tamil boy's life growing up in Sri Lanka while confronting his own sexuality. The novel also explores other themes such as love, acceptance, relationships, racism and politics (I particularly liked this in See No Evil, Hear No Evil (p138) when Arjie's mother found out her lover had been killed:

'"We must do something," she said, breaking the silence. "We can't just sit by and act as if nothing has happened." She looked at me. "But where does one turn when the police and the government are the offenders?"'

A this one (pg143) struck a chord.
"What has this country come to, where a man can be murdered and nothing must be done?" she cried. "The problem is that no one cares any more. People only look out for themselves."

What I liked
I loved Pigs Can't Fly the most, where Arjie's voice (at the age of 7) was captured best - his personality, innocence and confusion were clear and strong; it's hard not to feel for him and love him. Oh and I definitely love the nicknames the author had chosen for some of his characters like Arjie's brother, Diggy (it's funny when you find out why), Her Fatness (oh, I love her too. She's one helluva character!), Black Tie and Angel of Death.

It wasn't just his narrating skills that captivated me but also his ability to capture Arjie's voice as he grew older, when he slowly realises the hard truths about love, marriage and the social conflicts that surround him.

Using his characters, he also discussed some of the controversial issues with utmost honesty, especially when Arjie's mother was trying to persuade her husband to migrate to Canada, the narrow escapes at night from the Tamil Tigers, and the brutality and horror of Sri Lanka's civil war.

I also enjoyed The Best School of All, reading about Black Tie (who 'belongs to the old school that believes you can beat knowledge into a student') and what he thinks he had to do to save the school. It was also in this chapter that Arjie began his journey of discovering (and accepting) his true self:

'Before getting up, I lay listening to the sound of the birds in the guava tree outside my window. The moment I had waited for since Friday night was finally here. Soon Shehan would arrive, and after that anything was possible. I was excited but also scared.'

What could have been done better
One thing though...I felt that the author 'held back' a little and was very brief in narrating Arjie's first sexual encounter - it sort of didn't leave an impact as it should have, seeing that it was his first. And in See No Evil, Hear No Evil, it didn't feel complete...Can't really tell exactly what, but I feel that Amma's (Arjie's mom) feelings and conflicts weren't thoroughly explored. It felt to me like, 'So okay, he's (Amma's lover) dead, so now, I'll move on to my husband and family.' It's as though the author just touched the surface and left its 'anticipated' complexities hanging.

Overall, it was a great read! I'd recommended it to everyone :)

My verdict? 4/5

Book bite: Funny Boy won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Cinnamon Gardens (1998). He currently lives in Toronto with his partner Andrew Champion.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From And How To Use Them by Ellen Whyte

Title/Author: Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From And How To Use Them/Ellen Whyte
Publisher: MPH Publishing
No. of pages: 314
ISBN 13: 978-967-5222-47-4
Price: RM32.90

In a nutshell
Like its title, in Logomania, you'll find out 'where common (and uncommon ones too, I find) phrases come from and how to use them'. The book is divided into chapters linked by common imagery. For example, in , 'Happy New Year', you'd find expressions celebrating things new, and in 'Bear hugs and bear markets', you'd find expressions related to the bear. (By the way, did you know 'the bear' is a nickname for Russia? *wink*)

What I liked
It's very reader-friendly. Not only it's divided into interesting chapters, you can easily find the words and expressions in the 'Index'! :) For each expression, is an example of how you can use them.

This is one of my favourites: bee in my bonnet, which I'd use it this way:
"I have a bee in my bonnet about reading so I have books so new they're still in the shopping bags!"

Definition in Logomania:
"To have a bee in one's bonnet is to be preoccupied or obsessed with something. Also, to be a little bit scary."

Where is it derived from?
"Bonnet was synonym for hat from the 14th century, and in 1513, Elizabethans were using the phrase having their head full of bees. By 1845, the current phrase was coined, possibly because the alliteration is so appealing."


There are many others, and some cool ones such as 'Adam and Eve', 'Brahmsed' and 'Dog' (which means telephone, feet, or a very bad racing horse. Yep! :D)

Imagine a conversation going something like this:
A: Would you Adam and Eve it? It's only 4pm and he's brahmsed!
B: Yeah! Look at him! **Sigh** He must have put his bet on a dog and lost everything in his wallet!

(Can you figure out what 'Adam and Eve' and 'brahmsed' mean? ;))

Logomania is great for...
people who love the English language and who are crazy about words (by the way, 'Logomania' means being crazy about words). It can also be a great ice breaker topic (just pick a few examples from the book) with people who are interested in the language as much as you! For example, I like this one: 'Did you know that the term 'chop chop' (hurry up) originated from a Chinese word?'

Book bite: Ellen Whyte is also the author of 'Katz Tales'.

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