Jan-March Wrap Up, April-June Target

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I set up a reading challenge for myself in the beginning of January, with the plan to keep my readings on track. And well, it didn’t end up so good.

This is my goal:
2 award winning books (which could also be 1001 books)
2 1001 books (which could also be award winning books)
2 books from bookcrossers

This is what I achieved:
1) The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
2) Atonement by Ian McEwan (1001 and award-winning book)
3) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
4) The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
5) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (award-winning book)
6) My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (bookcrosser’s/ray book)

So I guess I achieved half of my target. Conclusively, the two award winning books took me much longer than expected to read (about 5-6 weeks for Atonement alone!).
I guess that’s why they’re award-winners. (-_- ‘)
And American literature is easy read (compared to British). No 1 and 6 just proved that.

Anyway, let’s move on to the next 3 months!

Since I’m in Harry Potter’s frenzy *grin*, I’ll let myself read 3 of the Potter’s books!
On top of that I’ll read another 2 award-winning or 1001 books, and maybe 1-2 more books from bookcrosser or for fun.

That’s it. None too ambitious. :)

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper: A Novel

This is the third Picoult’s book that I read. Like usual, it’s easy quick reading, dealing with difficult issues. In this title, we get to know Fitzgerald family, who has a son, a sick daughter, and Anna, the last daughter who was born for the purpose to be a genetic match for her sister. When she’s thirteen, she sued her parents for medical emancipation (means she has the last word for any medical decisions involving her body).

Great idea, but I’m not sure if the author has written it well. The book switch point of views around several characters, sometimes I forgot whose thoughts I was reading. At the end I don’t feel any empathy for any of them. Somehow the author wanted to make all the characters goody-goody, they became extremely boring. Basically everybody is good, everybody has good reasons why they’re “bad”, everybody hurts inside, everybody deserves to do “crazy” things because of all the pain they bury inside. Everybody from the mom, dad, brother, sick sister, suing sister, lawyer, guardian ad litem. Yawn.

From the first chapter, I could guess how it would end. Either Kate (the sick sister) dies before the trial ends, or Anna wins the trial and gives her kidney to Kate anyway. Although it ended with a bit of twist, the rest of the other stuff was predictable. [spoiler]I almost gagged when Anna says in court that she did it for Kate, because that’s what Kate wants. Great. Another miss goody-two-shoes.[/spoiler]

I don’t know why I keep reading Picoult’s book. Her formula is getting old for me. I hate how she often ends a paragraph with a made-up dramatic moment. It’s sooo soap-opera like. I like how she always picks up interesting contentious issues (which is the reason why I read her books), but she could’ve written them better!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb
Again, interesting subject matter. Could’ve been written a lot better. Characters are boring and some unbelievable. Picoult managed to make a truly great idea into a mediocre book.

First line

In my first memory, I am three years old and I am trying to kill my sister.

Last line

I take her with me, wherever I go.

Quote

“Kids don’t stay where they’re supposed to. You turn around and find her not in the bedroom but hiding in a closet; you turn around and see she’s not three but thirteen. Parenting is really just a matter of tracking, of hoping your kids do not get so far ahead you can no longer see their next moves.” ~ Brian, p147

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road (Oprah's Book Club)

The Road is awarded Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007, James Tait Black Prize in 2006, and a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

I was sorely disappointed with this book. I read it by the recommendation of a colleague, and many other people who quoted that this was their best book of the year. What I found was a book that left me all cold, and to be honest, bored. There are a lot of repetitions, from storyline (walk, cold, find food, sleep in cold, walk some more, repeat) to use of words (dark, gray, ash, black, silence, cold, repeat). The author also omitted a lot of punctuations for god knows why.

The setting is post-apocalyptic world. Survived a father and his son (and some other people they met along the way). Why it happened and why they survived are never explained. The author instead described this apocalyptic world endlessly and repeatedly, using repeated words over and over. I got all excited every time someone talked, but the spikes went away all too quickly, because there was nothing much ever happened.

The book is short, but I couldn’t finish it quickly because at several points it could be too depressing, and depressingly boring. At several points it literally bored me to tears. The book can’t even be considered as philosophical (something people might expect from topics like post-apocalyptic world). There’s little discussion about anything. It’s just full of plain hard facts, very descriptive novel. The only thing that I assume made it standout among all others is the fact that the author picked a unique subject matter. It could’ve been a very good book had it been developed more or differently. This one though, left me all flat, didn’t stir me one bit.

Ratings: 3 out of 5
Interesting subject matter. It has a lot of potential to be a very good book, but falls short for me.

terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb

First line
When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.

Last line
In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

Quotes
“You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.” ~ p12

Discussion at bookcrossing forum

Some Moron Hacked My Site

As you can see, someone thinks it’s very funny to keep hacking my site and mess up the css style, which I don’t know how to fix or don’t have time to unless I scrap away the whole thing and start again. I’ve done this twice. And this moron did it again. I don’t know what I should do now. I don’t want to keep cleaning things up only to be messed again the next day. I may have to close everything down for a while and wait til it’s cool off. Yea they might’ve won. ARE YOU HAPPY STUPID HACKER? WHAT DID I DO TO YOU?

Update 15/03/08 After some discussions in the forum and digging around, I may have found the culprit, although I’m not sure if I’ve deleted all the harmful files. But my site was at least fixed. On the other hand, I received hundreds and hundreds of misdirected bounce emails. Someone sent emails on my behalf and these people bounced the emails to ME. It’s almost like the hacker got angry because I deleted his stupid files in my server, then he went bananas.

The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Woman_in_the_DunesOkay I forgot that I’ve read this book too, somewhere between Atonement and Harry Potter. I was quite struggling to continue at several points of the book. It started strong, then it went downhill, got more boring and more boring, picked up a bit, then all flat again. I mean I really wanted to like this book, really. But I just didn’t. I blamed the translation. Or the all symbolic things I couldn’t help feeling that I missed their true meanings or intentions. After all this is quite an old book, written post-war. There’s probably some historic things that I don’t have the knowledge about to truly appreciate this piece of literature.

I also didn’t like the inner thoughts of the main character. He’s a pretty boring guy. And when he started talking about psychological veneral disease, I thought I totally lost him. I kind of like the ending though, when some of my friends don’t. (spoiler ahead, highlight to see) The way I see it, he was suffering before because he felt that he was forced to stay. But now he has the option to leave. Now he feels like he chooses to stay. So he stays. Because there’s little reason for him to go out of his comfort zone. He’s been staying there for years. Most people don’t like changes. They like regular life with routines. I guess that’s what the digging of sand symbolizes. Most people just do whatever they need to do, day by day, without knowing exactly why. Without questioning if there’s another way. It’s just one way of life. It’s almost too troublesome to change a maintained way of life and find your own.

Right after the book, I went to look for the movie. It was made into a black and white movie in 1965, and nominated for Best foreign language film at Academy Awards. I actually liked the movie. It was much less boring, and quite pretty even, with all the shots of the sand and its movement.

Notice that the woman is never named throughout the entire book/film. I wonder what this signifies?

Ratings: 2.5 out of 5
terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb
Barely adequate for being a good book. Starts strong, all goes downhill after a couple of chapters. Okay ending. There could’ve been some incomprehensible symbolic things.

Also reviewed by
third-story window

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Just finished the first Potter book today. Yeah I know, I’m probably years late reading it, but hey, better late than never right?

Surprisingly (or not surprisingly) I really enjoyed it. Like most avid readers, I was a bit skeptical about the whole Potter’s phenomenon. Well, if anything, I think the book is really enjoyable, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

For all the praises for Rowling for being imaginative, I was a bit surprised on how stereotypical some things are in the book. Like the smart hardworking girl, the popular boy who’s good at a popular sport, the sidekick for some humor, the sport that’s pretty much about chasing a ball between 2 teams, the old wise school head, the strict old female teacher, etc. But I’d forgiver her for all the rest of fun surprising elements here and there :).

It definitely makes me want to watch the movie again. I think I would enjoy it more now. (I probably didn’t catch some of the story elements when I watched it years ago – without reading the book first.) On a side note, I did start to read the first Potter book in Indonesian language many years ago, before it got so famous. But that time the translation annoyed me so much, I stopped after a couple of chapters. I still have the Indonesian book somewhere at my parents’ house.

Thanks to my colleague Jowy, who offered to lend me the whole series of Harry Potter :D. I think I will read Harry Potter every other book, so I wouldn’t miss the other great books ;). My target is to read up til the right series before the last Harry Potter movie comes out.

Ratings: 4 out of 5
Enjoyable. Quite excellent for its genre and target audience :)

I’m trying out a new rating system, stolen from arukiyomi:
terrible » poor » mediocre » okay » good » very good » excellent » superb

First line
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Last line
I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer …

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