Monthly Archives: August 2007

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Note: I used to write about books I read on my book site, but then I’m getting uncomfortable with a few functions (or lack thereof), and I’m so busy, or lazy, whatever you wanna call it, to fix it. So I’m trying this new format of writing about them on this blog. I’m still not sure whether it’s best. We’ll see.

Got this from: Joakim (borrowed)
Rating: 3 out of 5

I can’t get enough of Murakami. I read Norwegian Wood, this, and now continuing with The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

Interesting uncommon topic. About lesbian love. I told that to Joakim, he bought it soon after, finished it in one weekend, then lent it to me :).

Well, that’s about it really. Like Norwegian Wood, you can’t really summarize what’s in the book without giving too much away. In a few words, Norwegian Wood is about someone who loves a girl who has mental illness. Sputnik Sweetheart is about unreachable lesbian love, and the guy who loves this girl. Simple, yet complicated.

I don’t think this book is his best. It’s getting quite draggy at the end and going nowhere. Still, for me it was engaging in many ways. I’m a total sucker for Murakami now, so I’m biased. *rabbit-hopping happily to his next book*

Memorable Quotes

“Don’t pointless things have a place, too, in this far-from-perfect world? Remove everything pointless from an imperfect life and it’d lose even its imperfection” ~ pg 4

“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.” ~ pg 5

“What’s nurtured slowly grows well.” ~ pg 16

“The world’s crawling with stupid, innocent girls, and I’m just one of them, self-consciously chasing after dreams that’ll never come true.” ~ pg 55

“When did my youth slip away from me? I suddenly thought. It was over, wasn’t it?” ~ pg 86

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter

1st pass: Honestly, I’m reading it now mainly to know what the hype is all about. I know, it’s a bit late, it’s kind of old news, but somehow a few people around me recommended it almost at the same time. So let’s see what I can get ;>

2nd pass: Okay, finished reading it! Great book, but mostly also because I read it at the right time, so a lot of the things pretty much got into me.

The book is not about ways to be rich. It’s about to be financially smart, which I think is very important. Talk and discussion about money often makes people uncomfortable (which also happens to me at the beginning), but as soon as you get through that, you’d see that those feelings just come from fear and ignorance.

There’s no specific or technical ways to get started. It’s however a very inspirational book for you to get off your lazy bum and start to learn about all the things you might have ignored before, which often more important than technical blabber.

*start ad* Right now, I’m looking forward to read more books about finance and business, thanks to Rich Dad Poor Dad. *finish ad*

~Finished on 05 June 2005

Rating: 4 out of 5

Quotes

“God does not need to receive, but humans need to give.”

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

battle royaleBattle Royale is a controversial story about 44 ninth-grade Japanese students. They’re taken to a small isolated island, left individually with some survival items, one random weapon, and forced to kill each other until one winner remains.

It’s an allegory of what it means to survive in today’s “kill or be killed” world. If you could set apart the gory scenes, and concentrate on the characters and their interpersonal relationships, you would find that the book is much more than just a scary violent novel (said by a person that doesn’t like action, violence, and gore :).

I’ve watched the movie before reading the book, and in my opinion the book is far refined, detailed, and emotionally engaging. I’m drawn to the each character and feel for even the most “evil” ones.

I finished the book in 2 weeks. It is truly a page-turner. Even I had known who would die and live from the movie, I still read chapter by chapter anxiously, counting alive classmates, and couldn’t wait about what happened next.

~ Finished it on 21 September 2005

4 stars
1999 (Japanese), 2003 (English), 616 pp

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

thetimetravelerswifeThis is a story about Henry and Clare, who met when Clare was 6 and Henry was 36, and were married when Clare was 22 and Henry 30. Henry periodically finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. They can neither prevent or control the force.

I struggled to go through the first chapter or so, because it’s a bit confusing at first. The book is written as if it’s a big clipping of many events, with exact dates, whose point of view (Henry/Clare), and how old they are at that time. The book follows Clare’s timeline (thus the title).

I put this book down for about 2 months, because I caught up in other reading. After I started again, and up about a quarter, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s captivating, enthrilling, and totally unpredictable. I couldn’t guess what’s going to happen next.

In a few sentences, you may think the spirit of the story is somewhat closer to science fiction, but it’s really not. The time traveling is “just” the vessel. The topics covered are much wider, at times I felt things were a bit rushed. The author has so much to tell and yet so few pages.

At some parts, you want to be them. To be engaged in such romantic and unique accidents of nature. At other parts, you may cry. Because when reality eats you coldly, unavoidably, it’s so excruciating that you wish things were not true. It’s story about love and loss, hopes and hopelessness, miracle and reality, longing, uncontrollable divine forces, also real life problems of marriage, abandonment, parenthood, secrets, and cruelty of the world.

One of the finest book I have ever read. Very carefully constructed page by page. And I can say you may never find any book like this again. Truly rare. One of a kind.

5-stars
~ Finished it (roughly) on 8 September 2005

Quotes

“I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow.” ~ Henry

“Why is love intensified by absence?” ~ Clare

Award
Longlisted for 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

the little princeGot this book from Wai Ming, says it’s his favorite book of all time. It’s a kids book if you want to categorize it, but may give stronger resonance to adults. Its narrator is an adult who thinks he’s still a child inside. Something that I believe we all can relate once in a while :)

Enjoyed it. Wrote down some good quotes, but I lost the paper I had it on..

Lastly I can finally say that I have read a book by French author ;)

4 stars
~ Finished it (roughly) on 15 July 2007

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood

I’ve been following Room to Read for a while before they published this book. Such a good book for more insights about how things came to be.

John Wood himself fits my perfect image of a 20th century hero. He worked at Microsoft as the Marketing Director for Asia Pacific region when one day he took a long due vacation to Nepal, a trip that changed his life. A sentence from the head of school in the mountain, “Perhaps, Sir, you will someday come back with books”, took a profound and long lasting effect in his life, probably more that he could’ve imagined that time. In a year time he came back with books, delivering them with yaks to the kids who were so eager and excited. Not long after, he quit his job, left his luxurious expatriate life, girlfriend, and found Room to Read.

I went to one of Room to Read charity night in Singapore and heard the man himself. I can’t explain how, but I just totally get it when people say he’s a mixed of Donald Trump and Mother Teresa. He looks and feels genuine and kind. You cannot not love this guy. Have I told you he fits my perfect image of 20th century hero?

I admire and support John and his works. This book has done a great job in laying out everything from beginning, his personal thoughts, journey, and struggles. It’s hard to believe that all these started from one man. Whoever said that one man can do very little?

So far Room to Read have “opened 287 schools and established over 3,600 bi-lingual libraries and 110 new computer and language rooms, put more than 2.8 million books into the hands of eager young readers, and are funding long-term scholarships for 2,336 girls. Over 1,200,000 children now have access to enhanced educational infrastructure.” ~ taken from the mailing list signature

~Finished on 28 April 2007

Quotes

“This love of reading, learning, and exploring new worlds so predominates my memory of youth that I simply could not imagine a childhood without books.” ~ John Wood

“There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

“What good are savings if you can’t use them to fund your dreams?” ~ John Wood

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” ~ Thomas Edison

Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is an author from Colombia, so the book is originally in Spanish. Both my friends from Colombia and Spain recommended his other book (most famous), One Hundred Years of Solitude. Although I already have it on my shelf, I was kinda terrified of its ‘classic’ label and thickness, so I decided to start with his other (thinner) book.

This book easily attracted my attention just from the title. Bold, was my first impression. The story is.. unique, I would say. It is about a man who had lived all his life going from one woman’s bed to another, without love, until his 90th birthday, as the book starts, “The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.” Strong opening sentence is key! :)

It’s a thin book, but at times I struggled to continue. I’m guessing it’s because the author’s somehow odd style of laying out dialogs between the characters. You’ll know what I mean when you read it. I haven’t read that many books, but I never came across this kind of writing style. It could be common as classic, I’m not sure.

After a few of the other books on my to-read list, I would definitely move on to his best work, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Memories of My Melancholy Whores is a so-so start for Garcia Marquez, but I’m not giving him up just yet.

~Finished on 23 July 2007

Rating: 3 out of 5

Quotes

“Just as real events are forgotten, some that never were can be in our memories as if they had happened.”

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

the hundred secret senses - Amy TanThis is the 3rd book from Amy Tan, her first book that I read. It’s about Olivia, a half Chinese-American, that meets her half sister from China, Kwan.

A lot of stuff about ghosts, reincarnation, and basically all Chinese superstitions. There are two parallel stories going on, this life and previous life. Both’s equally interesting :)

What amazes me still is how the description of scene in the climax of story in China is so powerful. I had the picture so solid in my mind that even a year later, when I read The Opposite of Fate, in which Amy Tan explains that the scene is real, I knew exactly which one she means. Characters and plots are often strong in stories. But scenery? That’s pretty rare to me!

It’s a small village hidden in deep inland China, with path going up to a big old gate. Behind the cliff is a valley full of big rocks and thousands of caves all over the side of the mountains. That’s my attempt to describe it =D

4.5 stars
~ Finished it (roughly) on 30 January 2004

Award
Shortlisted for 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction

Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris

Joshua Harris’s second book (first being I Kissed Dating Goodbye). Whereas IKDG talks about single life, Boy Meets Girl talks about the next phase, when you actually meet someone and pursue marriage through biblical courtship.

I don’t know why I read the book. I knew I wasn’t gonna follow whatever things he’s trying to teach. But I read it with open mind, just to see what messages he’s trying to pull. I can totally see why he sees and does things in certain ways. Of course some of them make sense, although a lot are not practical. Again, like my comments on his first book, all those can only be done when you’re in certain confined environment in ideal situation (good church family, holy friends, supportive Christian parents). For the rest of us, it almost sounds like a tale that happens in land far far away.

I was also put off by his specification of God given gender roles where guys need to lead or initiate, while girls are supposed to be.. waiting..? rescued..? Which century are we living in again? I mean I like the conservative male roles up to some degree. But to say that leading is a role for men ONLY? So no female leaders? Well, okay, in ideal world, where it’s full of rainbow and unicorns, men may use his leader role to totally make the women all happy and protected. Which reminds me of another thing that put me off. He was mentioning about how females are supposed to be taken care of and protected by dominant male character. It can be her father, brother, brother-in-law, husband (after marriage), etc. Yeah, right. It’s like Middle East country concept perfected. There you can’t buy bread without a male escorting. In his world, female can’t make decision without a male’s nod.

Nevermind me. I’m a bit on the (other) extreme end ;). You should read the book, even if you just want to know the say of a perfect Christian. I finished the book in 2 days. Quick read.

~Finished on 02 February 2007

Rating: 3 out of 5

Quotes

“When you know in your heart that you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, forever can’t start soon enough.”

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

memoirs of a geisha

This book is so beautifully written. I almost cannot believe that the author is a man, because he sure could capture all that feminine sense.

For those who never got a really clear perspective on Geisha: They’re not prostitutes. (Well this I already knew before. But some people simply misunderstand.) In fact there are so many cultures behind this iconic Japanese profession that it truly needs a few books to properly discuss it to the world. This is also supported by the facts that there are many levels of Geisha and the close society of Japan.

Funny thing is, with the way the author writes, I thought it was a true story. I found all elements of the story were so strong and believable. At one point I even browsed the Internet to find the famous Geisha poster that was in the book to satisfy my curiousity. Then I found out, with many many others, that the story was actually fiction. I got so sad that time, the book almost lost half of the magic :)

But after I have realized the fact, I started to accept and really enjoyed it as a brilliant work of fiction. It’s beautiful from beginning til the end.

It has a happy ending too. At that point I could only smile to how it resembles a fairy tale. Too beautiful to be a true story :)

~ Finished it in November 2003

5 stars
1997, 448 pp

Memorable Quotes

“Young girls hope all sorts of foolish things. Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one.”

“We are pieces of clay that forever show the fingerprints of everyone who has touched them.”

“Sometimes we get through adversity only by imagining what the world might be like if our dreams should ever come true.”

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