End of Banned Book Challenge 2009

banned book challenge logo

I joined Banned Book Challenge 2009 by Pelham Public Library in March and it ended on 30th June 2009.

I vowed to read 2 books and managed to read 4. So yes I’m happy with myself :)

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (finished 03/09, rating 5/5)
  2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (finished 04/09, rating 4.5/5)
  3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (finished 04/09, rating 4/5)
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (finished 04/09, rating 4.5/5)

I loved all the books I read for this challenge! Surely some have better ratings than others, but really, all in all, they’re a very good bunch.

Sunday Salon: A Day At Book Club TV Show

Jennifer ByrneMarieke HardyJason Steger
Jennifer Byrne, Marieke Hardy, Jason Steger

I invited myself over to the shooting of First Tuesday Book Club in Sydney last Friday. The idea to be an audience in a TV show is quite exciting since it’s something I had never experienced before.

First thing I noticed when I arrived at the waiting room was that the other people were all old and white (by old I mean retirement age and by white I mean, well, Caucasian). I was wondering if they’re exactly the group of audience that the show’s targeting. Being young and non-white I felt somewhat out of place. But after sitting in there was one lady next to me who was quite chatty so it was nice that we got to talk. She said she came with her (real) book club. What a nice outing for a book club!

The producer of the show then mentioned things like how we should spontaneously laugh when things are funny and spontaneously clap our hands especially at the beginning, the end of the show and the introduction of the guests.  So we practiced our spontaneous claps a couple of times. She made a note that we should keep going while she’s still clapping. Lovely. Almost like what I imagined happens at TV studio.

They were shooting 2 episodes that day. First was a special edition of show that discusses books around certain topic, which this time was titled Monsters and Bloodsuckers! After the recent popular books such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Twilight, it was a good time to discuss how the “monsters” like vampires and werewolves came to be, why people read books that scare them. Of course discussion about scary books can’t be had without including Frankenstein and Dracula — Frankenstein being the first original monster in hundreds of years.

At the panel we had Jennifer Byrne, Will Elliott and Tara Moss, Catherine Jinks and Leigh Blackmore. I admit, I especially wanted to see Tara Moss, whose blog I occassionally read. Tara was looking gorgeous with high heels and model body. Too bad I sat at an angle where I could only see the side of her face throughout the entire shooting.

For the second episode we had the ‘usual’ book club, featuring The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa and The Collector by John Fowles. Talking about gorgeous,  the regular panelist Marieke Hardy was looking amazing with her vampirish outfit, blood red hair ornament, and blood red high shoes; also Jason Steger whose smile I’m always fond of — he always looks so endearing! For guests we had Eddie Perfect (Perfect? What a name!) and Sophie Gee.

I particularly found it quite interesting that minutes to seconds before shooting there’s always a team of make-up artists who “touched up” the panel already seated on the stage — brushed the clothes here and there, put a bit more lip gloss, a bit more hair spray, tamed that naughty strands of hair, brushed the oil off faces, rolled leftover lints off the black shirts; while the panel chatted with each other and seemed oblivious to the parade going on them. It looked comical.

It was a fine day. The whole thing probably took around 3 hours with half an hour break in between. I hope to do this again in the future. You know, if I ever have a free midday again.

The episode will be shown on Tuesday the 7th of July 2009 10pm at ABC 2. Or you can view it on First Tuesday Book Club website.

The books for next month (August) are Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and something else that I can’t remember. I’m interested to read along Middlesex. It’s about time!

The Sunday Salon.com

The Dream King Challenge

The Dream King Challenge

1 January 2009 – 31 December 2009

The Dream King Challenge is hosted by Jessi @ casual dread. I have unofficially joined this challenge a while ago, but must have forgotten to post about it. I had never read Neil Gaiman’s before this year, and I thought this year should be the year. He’s so popular especially among bloggers and I told myself I had to read at least a few of his books to know what they’re like and join the frenzy.

There are levels of participation:

  • Neophyte: Read one work and watch one movie
  • Acolyte: Read three works and watch one movie
  • Devotee: Read six works and watch one movie
  • Zealot: Read twelve works and watch one movie

Half a year has passed and I’ve read three of his books so I’m in good stand to run for Devotee. Now the movie requirement is hard. I know Coraline has just come out recently, but I missed it and I don’t know if I can watch it before the end of the year. We’ll see.

My list of books:

  1. The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (read 03/09, 3.5 stars)
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (read 03/09, 4 stars)
  3. The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman (read 06/09, 3.5 stars)


Coraline (watched 09/09, Rating: 7.5/10)

Update 11 Oct 09

I mentioned about the possibility to go for Devotee level, but I think I would stop right now and declare this challenge complete for the Acolyte level. Hope to read more Neil Gaiman’s, but I’ll save them for next year or after.

Mailbox Monday – Three Very Very Different Books

Mailbox Monday on Tuesday… I totally forgot to post this yesterday. Anyhoo,

I got three books into my house last week and they couldn’t be more different!

Morning Breaks in the ElevatorFirst is Morning Breaks in the Elevator by Lemn Sissay which is the random book I got from being the first 100 members at Meet at the Gate. I had a flip through to find that it’s a collection of poetry. I’m not sure what to think about it because I’m never really into poetry. But hey who knows what will happen in the future.

xxxHolic Vol 1Second is xxxHolic Vol 1 by CLAMP, a manga which I received from Tanabata [her review of xxxHolic here]. I’m quite excited because I haven’t read CLAMP’s for ages. I used to read almost all of their books when I was a teenager, so I can’t wait to see if I will still enjoy their work as much.

The Naked ChefThe last one is a cookbook. In fact, the very first cookbook I’ve ever bought! It’s The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. In the past few months I have totally fallen in love with the cute chef. I’ve watched him on DVDs and podcasts and now it’s time to get into his books. Especially when they’re on sale at my favorite bookshop ;)

So what have you got into your house last week? Have you been good or bad? ;)

Please visit Marcia @ the Printed Page to see what everybody else had this week!

Sunday Salon: Once Upon a Time III Challenge Completed!

Once Upon a Time III

I read 12 books for Once Upon a Time III challenge! Granted, 9 of them are graphic novels while only 3 are novels, but still I’d say it’s pretty good :).

I have definitely completed Quest the First that required us to read 5 books that could be fantasy, fairy tale, folklore or mythology. Quest the Second required us to read at least 1 book from each categories. It was really tricky because I have no idea what could be considered folklore or mythology fiction books. I think there is a very small pool of those that you can pick out of. Some people classified The Sandman as folklore or mythology. I guess you can if you wanna push it. But I don’t want to (push it) so I just let it go.

So the books are:

  1. Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham (reviewed 26/03/09, rating 4.5/5, fairy tale)
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (reviewed 29/03/09, rating 4/5, fantasy)
  3. Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (reviewed 12/04/09, rating 4/5, fairy tale)
  4. Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna (reviewed 17/04/09, rating 3.5/5, fantasy)
  5. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (reviewed 27/04/09, rating 4.5/5, fairy tale)
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (reviewed 01/05/09, rating 4.5/5, fantasy)
  7. Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (reviewed 20/05/09, rating 5/5, fantasy)
  8. Bone Vol 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith (reviewed 03/06/09, rating 4.5/5, fantasy)
  9. Bone Vol 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith (reviewed 04/06/09, rating 4/5, fantasy)
  10. Bone Vol 5: Rock Jaw Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith (reviewed 05/06/09, rating 5/5, fantasy)
  11. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (reviewed 13/06/09, rating 5/5, fantasy)
  12. The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman (reviewed 21/06/09, rating 3.5/5, fantasy)

My favorites would be the two by Shaun Tan. I was happy with Fables and Bone series as well. And of course I loved the last Harry Potter and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. I also have to mention The Graveyard Book as the first Neil Gaiman’s novel that I read. The rests are so-so.

Thanks Carl for hosting such an awesome challenge! I would join again in a heartbeat!

The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman vol 2: The Doll's House by Neil GaimanGory. Gruesome. Eerie. Made me sick to my stomach.

I know now why Neil Gaiman no longer writes such sick stories. Because it’s going to scare his kids to death. (If they can first sneak in to get the book and understand the perversity.)

Having said that, I kept reading. Perhaps I do like sick stories once in a while.

Sick bastard keeps a little kid like an animal in the basement and a convention of ‘collectors’ (and by collectors, they mean serial killers. Guess what they collect.) are a couple of examples of what you should expect.

The ones I especially enjoyed was Part One: Tales in the Sand, in which it tells the story of a woman that Morpheus falls in love with; and Part Four: Men of Good Fortune, in which it tells the story of Morpheus’s possibly only friend, a man that was made immortal who he meets every 100 years. But looks like both stories don’t really relate to the mainline story of the series. Mmh.

I’m not a fan of the illustrations. Or the coloring of to be exact. It looks very old style with the bright pink, blue, purple, and yellow colors. If Morpheus wasn’t drawn based on Neil Gaiman himself, I’d eat my hat. They look freakin’ similar.

1989-1990, 256 pp

Also reviewed by

The Wertzone (nice summary) | casual dread

My review of The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

Disgrace - J. M. CoetzeeA professor at a reputable University one day impulsively sleeps with a young girl who’s also his student. The events that follow push him to resign and temporarily leave the town. He goes to visit his daughter in rural South Africa. More unfortunate events befall to both that bring them to question everything– the issue of safety, power play, their stand in the country, shame and disgrace.

Contrary to my thoughts before reading the book, it is hardly about the outcast professor and his student than him and his daughter. In fact the daughter fills at least half the book, because the farm where she lives is where the problem of racism occurs, which I think is the major topic of the book: racial tension in South Africa– the problem between them who are “of this earth” and them the others–ones with Western heritage or the Whites.

As most racism, it usually occurs in more ‘uneducated’ places by ‘uneducated’ people. Not in the city where everybody is supposed to be smart and sophisticated, no. It happens in the corners of the town, in back suburbs, behind bushes and shadows. I should know. I experienced extreme racism for many years of my teenage life — the problem that is unconsciously stuck with you to the bone, the matter of ‘my people’ against ‘your people’ — all too familiar elements that made me queasy.

I can’t remember when I first associated award winner with ‘hard to read’, but Coetzee wrote in straightforward style that is easy to read, though not necessarily easy to digest. I particularly don’t care much about Byron and Teresa, the 18th century British poet and his lover, who are featured often in the book. Coetzee is also fond of symbolism. Stray dogs are used throughout (including the cover), though I sometimes failed to understand the meaning, especially at the very end.

David and his daughter Lucy have many arguments that present most of the opposing ideas in the book: old and new generation, male and female, rural and city, the conflicting races.

I can’t run my life according to whether or not you like what I do. Not any more. You behave as if everything I do is part of the story of your life. You are the main character, I am a minor character who doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through. Well, contrary to what you think, people are not divided into major and minor. I am not minor. I have a life of my own, just as important to me as yours is to you, and in my life I am the one who makes the decisions.” ~ Lucy, p198

Disgrace is the theme of the book. I think at the end acceptance is the solution.

I would recommend it for people who would like to read thought-provoking book that touches uncomfortable issues. It’s also a pretty short book so it won’t take a lot of your time if you’d like to try Coetzee.

4.5 stars
1999, 220 pp


Note: Apparently Coetzee emigrated to Adelaide, Australia in 2002. [source] No wonder he made appearances during previous Writers’ Festival here.

First line
For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.

Last line
‘Yes, I am giving him up.’

That is what whores are for, after all: to put up with the ecstasies of the unlovely.” ~ David Lurie, p44

1999 The Man Booker Prize
2000 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize – Best Book
2003 Nobel Prize for Literature (the author)

Also reviewed by

Everyday I Write the Book | The Critical Lass | Incurable Logophilia | caribousmom | Out of the Blue | Ink and Vellum | Books for Breakfast

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