Saturday, June 25, 2011

To: Whoever Reads This


I realised that I haven't posted for a few days, partly because I ran out of books (wait.... that may be almost the whole reason), and partly because I've been really busy/pre-occupied studying (I almost wrote reading..... OTL)

Just to let you guys know, I'll be having mid-years next week, and from there, it's a rush to the end (IB EXAMS O.O), which means my blog posts will probably decrease in frequency. I won't lie and say it'll stop til Nov 18, because there will probably be times when I have a whole lot of books to read and really want to share. But, well, it won't be very frequent.

I've been thinking of making a few changes to this blog too, it's not definite though (and I'm not talking about structural changes - I tried changing the blog skin once, and I'm still trying to figure out why it didn't work), I mean content wise. Well, it occurred to me (sometime after I ran out of topics), that to limit reviews to books is a little, well, limiting. Plus, some of the books I read, I don't think a lot of people will want to hear about (like why Japan's economy was such a miracle than such a failure. heh.) So, if there is anything interesting in the newspaper/magazines, I might, just MIGHT talk about it. (Being decisive is not my strong point).

And because I've been rather annoyed with these two things, I shall start ranting here (I've been short-tempered lately, though I keep trying, pray for me):

1. I was looking through some books (procrastinating is ... is... just is), and I saw some Pride and Prejudice Spin-offs/Sequels, where some people were slamming the book for changing the character. YET NO ONE TALKS ABOUT MURDER AT MANSFIELD THAT WAY. I think it's really indicative of the degeneration and state of society that people would praise characters that are clearly bad (though not to the extreme of evil). The humour arises from the fact that the author/reader (reader response theory?) has to adjust the character til they are conventionally good. Seems like the subconsciousness likes sin, but doesn't want to praise it in the open.

2. Tin Pei Ling made an intelligent comment on her facebook. About the DBSS houses (Design, Build, Sell Scheme if I remember correctly). Well, after that, I went to her facebook (I saw it on Yahoo! news) and well, it's not so bad. But there were a lot of annoyed/overly critical Singaporeans. I don't get it, it was a sensible comment and they're mad/annoyed with her?

And apparently, Nicole Seah broke the cooling-day rule too. I'm not sure about specifics but it seems that way. But it's weird. At first, Tin Pei Ling and Nicole Seah appeared to be on the same level, both of them immature. And I put Singaporean's slightly unthinking (I mean to say, it was instinctive) adoration of her hard to comprehend. I've said it before, she also cries and shouts, basically behaving like my 6yo brother. And I can't say I'm impressed with the NSP manifesto (WP is cool though).

But now, well, I'm not sure what to think. I'm politically apathetic, so I don't know if Nicole Seah did anything recently, but well, Tin Pei Ling did resign from her job, which is a step in the right direction (even though MPs are overpaid). But honestly, nothing I've seen in Nicole Seah inspires/elicits a sense of admiration. On the contrary, all the fawning by Singaporeans makes me very very suspicious. I have an almost anti-herd mentality. Sometimes (I did say I was indecisive).

As Phua Chu Kang would say "Wake up your idea". GE is over, it's time for cooler heads to prevail. And let's not have a militant netizen-population. I'm thankful our union(s) are not militant, let's not start on the net. And let's not be so 'anti-conventional' (which for some reason translates to anti-PAP) that we become 'conventional' by swinging all the way to the opposite end. It seems like being anti-PAP is the new convention.

That was cathartic.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fatal Lies by Frank Tallis

I read another murder mystery, but it was so much better than Murder at Mansfield Park. I suppose that sticking with the tried-and-tested books are the way to go. This is the second/third time I'm reading the Dr Liebermann series.

This time, the story revolves around a suspicious death in an all-boys military academy. A boy is found dead, of natural causes apparently, and the inspector Rheinhardt suspects it's foul play. The plot is interesting, as usual, and the ending was completely unexpected, considering that the book is quite long, which meant that lots of details were given away.

I really like the fact that since this book is set in Vienna, there are many references to food and music, although more so to music. The sub-plot, which was a one-time romance between Dr Liebermann and a new character, revolved quite a far bit around music. And to make things really cool, Dr Liebermann and Inspector Rheinhardt often practice music together: The doctor plays the piano and the Inspector sings.

So, a murder mystery with culture. Way cool.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Disappointed with Austen.... Rewrite (how can I be disappointed with Austen?)

Today, I decided to read Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd. I admit that I didn't even read the blurb, because I thought that anything Austen is good. However, I was wrong, and I'm going to disagree with all the reviews. This is why I don't like it:

All the Characters have changed. I don't mind changing plot (it's almost a given, and that's what actually makes it fun), changing background (if you need to stick the plot) - such as making Edmund Mrs Noris's son, but changing the characters of the characters? Then why do they have the same name? I understand if you want to make Mary Crawford the heroine, but why change her character to a good character? It's tantamount to writing a whole new book, but putting on familiar names. The characters did not resonate with me, or rather, they differed so widely from the original I couldn't find anything "Austen" about it.

Well, the language of the book does have the Regency era style, but it doesn't have the wit of Austen. Enough said.

I'm actually one of those few people who admire Fanny Price, for sticking to her convictions. Hearing her called "dreary and insipid" was, well, it made my blood boil. And even though the authoress did say she based the "new" character of Fanny's on a condemnation of Fanny as "a monster of complacency and pride, who under a cloak of cringing self-abasement dominates and gives meaning to the novel" by Kingsley Amis. Although "gives meaning to the novel" sounds like a pretty good compliment to me.

In fact, there was one character that reminded me of Fanny: Julia. That is so far off the mark it makes me shudder. I do, however, have to say that the re-write of Mrs Norris was masterfully done, and is just the kind of thing that I was looking for.

I can actually readsee my agitation right now. I didn't like the other characters because they were so clearly immoral. Perhaps for others, it's their 'worldliness' that makes them appealing, but not to me. I liked Fanny because she was a sympathetic model of Christian goodness (if I may go so far as to say). I admire her for the qualities others didn't: her patience ("insipid") and her morality ("dreary", most likely because of the play). The ironic thing is that the authoress unconsciously justified her characters by changing their characters. Which makes me wonder, why not make the selfish Mary the heroine the way she was? Or let the other characters stay the same? (Oh wait, she wanted Mary to end up with Edmund, so she had to make her worthy of him, not that his new character is as good as the old one)

Although, even the "new" Mary, whom I started mentally substituting for Fanny about halfway through the novel so I could read it, is still selfish. When she hears about Fanny missing, she actually feels regret that if Fanny ran away with anyone, it couldn't be her brother, because he "deserves" the money and so on. (I'm too lazy to dig up the other examples). So, still unlikable as ever.

My favourite character has got to be the brand new character introduced: Mr Maddox. Because I don't have to read him with the lens of prejudice, I can really enjoy how he works as a character.

And that's the biggest flaw of the novel. Granted, it's slow in the first half, but the plot gets much tighter and interesting once the body has been found. But I would have enjoyed it so much more if she just used a whole different set of names, since they're new characters, just use new names. It feels as though she's trying to hitch on Jane Austen's popularity to get a ready-made readership.

This post feels so bitter. I don't like it. But anyways, read this book only if you:
a. Don't like Fanny Price and don't mind huge character changes, or
b. Have never read Mansfield Park (seriously. This is a whole different story)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

74 Seaside Avenue by Debbie Macomber

I made time to read today (because I can only take so much math) and I finished the Debbie Macomber book I borrowed from the library. Although I was a bit hesitant about the Cedar Cove series (I started off reading the Blossom Street series), I have to admit, I'm liking the series more and more.

Set in a local community, it follows the path of quite a few individuals, who are connected in some way or the other. This story is about Teri and her husband Bobby, who is apparently a Chess celebrity. Threats made by a Russian competitor (and how it's solved) make up the bulk of the story, but there are many other tales woven in, some I recognised as the beginning of the next story: 8 Sandpiper Way.

The story is actually really well written. Many of the characters are more than middle-aged but they're portrayed so well, their lives (well, a lot is focused on their love lives) is interesting. I actually had a hard time sorting out their ages until I hear a clue, like about their grandchildren (a very big hint about their ages), that's how lively they are.

The only thing I "don't like" about this series (well, compared to blossom street), is the sheer number of characters. At first, there were too many characters to keep track off, and it gave me a little headache. But after a while, when I managed to place each character within the community, it became easier to remember what was going on.

So, read this, by all means, but if you prefer less complicated/confusing series, please read Blossom Street first(:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun

I haven't posted in quite some time, mostly cause I ran out of books (and partly because I'm supposed to be studying :p) but I went to the library on Saturday, and managed to borrow lots of books. I really adore the library whenever they give "promotions" such as letting you borrow twice as many books ^^ Although I really should cut down the number of books I read, since the opportunity cost of reading many books would be studying for my exams (Today was the day for Economics revision).

I thought I had read all the "The Cat Who..." Series by Lilian Jackson Braun, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found one book that I haven't read. While I've read more of her later books (which are set in Moose County), this book is just as good (From Wikipedia: It's the fourth in her series).

Anyway, this book talks about pottery and murder. Oh and food. Unlikely combinations, but mixed quite well. The book, like all the rest, is light-hearted (even though it's a whodunit) although the mystery was as good (but this series seems to be more about the characters than the mysteries). For The Cat Who Saw Red, one of the characters (new) was so unpleasant that it was rather obvious that he was the killer, although the way he disposed of the bodies was ... unexpected.

I'm actually not sure how to talk about this book. It's not very long, so if I say too much, I may unwittingly give away the whole plot. Hmm.... I think, I'll just say that this series really should be read, and end my post before it gets tedious to read(:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reflections of the Psalms and Carpe Jugulum

I finished two books today~ Haha, I think I read more when I'm stressed, must be some natural reaction :p

Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis,is unlike any Bible commentary/study that I've read before. But then again, I don't really read commentaries on a regular basis(: But, C.S Lewis being the genius he is (-Narnia!-) makes it really interesting. And I don't know why, but ever since I first noted the Chesterton influence on him, I've been seeing it quite a lot. Which is way cool. I wish I saw it earlier, then maybe I could have done my EE on something like "Intertextuality between C.S Lewis and G.K Chesterton". Of course, this would require me to actually narrow it down to two books. Now, I feel like doing a Literature degree, just so I can write a thesis on this. It'd probably be pure suicide though, since I'm quite terrible at literature.

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchet is "the first novel to feature Vampires". Which is really cool. Actually, Mark brought 3 books for me, but turns out I read 2 of them already. Sorry Mark! And it's quite cool (in a coincidental way), how this book was given to Mark's older brother by Aunty Florence. So in a way, this book "comes" from her too. Well, it's a small world.

Carpe Jugulum is a play on the phrase Carpe Diem (It is italicised because according to MONG, foreign words are supposed to be) or "Seize the Day", in this case, Jugulum = Jugular = Throat. So it means "Seize the throat", which makes sense, since it's a vampire story. I have this strange feeling that the story is very suited for analysis. If only I could have these sorts of books for course work.

Because I realise that I don't normally give summaries of the books I read, for some weird reason, Vampires have come to Lancre to 'take over' with their mind control (suddenly, I'm reminded, Professor X from X-Men. And I don't even read/watch the series). There are two, maybe three people who aren't affected: Agnes (because of Perdita, her inner-mean-girl self, making her immune) and Oats (who, due to all the books he reads, is in two minds over everything). And of course, Granny Weatherwax.

The main message of this book is about how everyone has to make a choice (ok, maybe it's not the main message, but it's one of the important ones), and the important thing is to be responsible for it. Of course, they take God out of the equation, which messes up their conclusion. But nothings perfect. So, I'll end with part of a quote from the book for you to ponder:

"only those with their feet on the rock can build castles in the air."