Archive | Books RSS feed for this section

Strawberry Hills forever

21 Mar

Phew! It’s been an overwhelming couple of weeks at work, but I had a day off today. (A whole day off! Er, if you don’t count working till 2 am this morning. Which, let’s not for these purposes. Whole day off!!) So Cephas and I went to Strawberry Hill House!

20140323_165521

Strawberry Hill House is basically a troll house. As in, Horace Walpole was totally trolling via the medium of architecture. This is the only conclusion I can come to about a house that has wallpaper that is meant to make the walls look like they are made of carved Gothick stone.

(The walls don’t look like they’re made of stone. What they do look like is super cheesy!)

Horace Walpole also had a tiny pretty room dedicated solely to fanart of his novel The Mysterious Mother. I wish I was rich enough to build a room dedicated to fanart of my work. I mean, it would be empty, but still, it would be such an optimistic thing to have.

Pictures under the cut!

[...]

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

19 Feb

In pre-WW2 Malaya, Anglo-Chinese Philip Hutton befriends Japanese aikijutsu master Hayato Endo. It doesn’t turn out well.

Surprise feature of this book: it’s a reincarnation story!

Probably won’t read Garden of Evening Mists as I understand it’s in a fairly similar vein, only with Japanese gardens instead of martial arts, and Cameron Highlands instead of Penang.

May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969, by Kua Kia Soong

27 Jan

This is going to be a very short blog post because I am too scared to comment on this book at length! I was a bit surprised to be able to find it in MPH tbh.

This is definitely a piece of polemic, as various people have pointed out on GoodReads. I am not 100% sure about some of the conclusions drawn, if only because some of the extracts Kua quotes do not seem to say what he thinks they say. Sometimes he will say, “The following telegram from a foreign correspondent shows X“, and the quote doesn’t seem to show X at all, but X + uncertainty, or even Y. I’m with the GoodReads reviewer who says it would’ve worked better if the reader was given the opportunity to read the documents themselves and draw their own conclusions, with only so much external commentary as was required to provide context.

Still, at least I know more now than I did before! Felt very katak di bawah tempurung while reading some of it.

I promise I will be starting on the novels that I claimed would be part of my Kempen Baca Buku Buatan Malaysia soon. Starting tomorrow! My first book will be Tan Twan Eng’s Gift of Rain, i.e. the one that didn’t get shortlisted for the Booker.

Hidup Bagaikan Sungai Mengalir oleh Agnes Khoo

22 Jan

Kicking off my New Year’s resolution reading project (tag: Kempen Baca Buku Buatan Malaysia) with Hidup Bagaikan Sungai Mengalir, or Life as the River Flows, by Singaporean historian Agnes Khoo. I have decided this book counts for Kempen purposes even though it’s not fiction, not in English, and not on my original list. So whatz? I make the rules here!

Wah, this book literally took me 4 years to read lor. I remember talking about it on Dreamwidth when I first bought it at a NGO fundraising annual dinner in KL. It’s not that it’s not interesting! It’s a collection of interviews with 16 female guerrilla fighters involved in the Communist anti-colonial movement in Malaysia and Singapore from the 1930s to 1989. It would be hard for it not to be interesting! I think my slowness was partly because, its being oral history and about several different people, there wasn’t really an overarching narrative arc to stop me being distracted by other things. But the main reason is ‘cos it’s in Malay and I read so much slower in Malay. /o\

(The dumb thing is the original book is in English and I just bought it in translation because I felt like I should work on my BM. But what is really dumb is that on the same visit home I bought A. Samad Said’s Salina in English. Eh what lah you. /o\)

Anyway, I’m really glad I read this, and may buy the English-language version as well, for ease of future reference! It’s a fascinating part of history that people still don’t talk about, about people who are misrepresented (where they aren’t forgotten) to this day.

Observations:

[...]

I have a lot of L. M. Montgomery feels

14 Jan

As you may have seen if you follow my Twitter account, I have been reeling from Mary Henley Rubio’s biography of L. M. Montgomery, Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. And I quoted this story on Twitter, but you don’t really get the full effect, and I love it so much that I want to reproduce it here.

This is a footnote from the biography, where Rubio talks about giving a copy of LMM’s journals to Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro:

When I handed Alice Munro a gift copy of the first volume of The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery, Volume 1, at the Ginger Press Bookstore in Owen Sound, Ontario, in late 1985, she looked at it for only a second to see what it was, and then, without missing a beat or without making any identifying reference to Emily of New Moon, she responded by quoting the end of the novel: “I am going to write a diary that it may be published when I die.”

I had a moment of intense geeking out over this, especially as Rubio’s book traces the decline of Montgomery’s critical reputation in the later stage of her career. Modernism was on the rise and apparently Toronto was full of sexist asshole male critics. >:(

[...]

New Year’s resolution: catch up on my reading of Malaysian writers in English

31 Dec

I have decided that next year must be the year I catch up with my reading of Malaysian writers in English. My focus will be on novels — preferably ones I can find easily in the UK to start with (though I’ll try to pick up any I can’t find here on my trip home). I won’t bind myself to reading all the books listed below, but I’ll read at least one book per author.

Recommendations welcome! My list not many Malay authors lor, ‘cos most of the ones I can think of off the top of my head write in Malay rather than English. But obvs I’d be happy to add more.

Read

Yangsze Choo, The Ghost Bride

Preeta Samarasan, Evening is the Whole Day

Shamini Flint, Inspector Singh series (two books, anyway! Aiya counted la.)

[...]

Favourite comfort reads and a new favourite recipe

22 Dec

Anonymous asked about favorite comfort reads, or favorite recipes.

Favourite comfort reads (a non-comprehensive list)

I’m going to specify titles ‘cos it’s interesting to think about which specific books by these authors I like best for comfort reading, but in most cases the authors’ entire oeuvres fall under the heading of “comfort reading” for me.

  • L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. LMM is probably my #1 comfort read of all time actually. OF ALL TIME!
  • Patrick O’Brian, HMS Surprise
  • Georgette Heyer, Cotillion
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes
  • Jean Webster, Dear Enemy
  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • P. G. Wodehouse, Psmith books (cheating and naming all of them because I can’t remember which instalment is my favourite)

Oddly enough I don’t feel Terry Pratchett really belongs on the list, though I rate him higher than several of these authors in certain respects. I feel like Discworld really shaped my worldview, and showed me that it was possible for books to be genre and silly and fun but also serious and clever – but for whatever reason I don’t seem to have that deep emotional attachment to the books anymore. I still like and value them, but it’s like I’ve taken from them what I need, and don’t need them anymore.

Well, I say that, but if I were to embark upon a reread doubtless the feelings would return!

Incidentally nearly all the books/authors I name above I came to at around age 10-12, which is probably why they have stuck with me. The only two exceptions are O’Brian and Heyer, whom I discovered at around 16-18.

A favourite recipe

DIY chilli “pan mee”

[...]

Why I love White Boots by Noel Streatfeild

21 Dec

skygiants: books from your childhood that made you happier when you reread them as an adult!

I think probably what you mean is books that I like even better as an adult than I did as a kid, and I am not sure the book I am going to talk about is a correct answer, because I absolutely loved Noel Streatfeild’s White Boots as a kid. But it was the first book to come to mind, so I am going to talk about it anyway!

White Boots is about Harriet Johnson, a quiet kid from a poor, boisterous family who picks up skating to strengthen her “cotton woolish” legs after an illness. She meets Lalla Moore, whose figure skater celebrity parents died when she was a baby, and who is being brought up by an ambitious aunt to be a skating champion. Lalla gives Harriet a chance to skate, but Harriet and her family give Lalla a chance to be an ordinary kid.

[...]