Women Unbound: a Book Challenge

women unbound challenge

November 2009 – November 2010

Straight from the Women Unbound challenge site:

Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’ The definition according to Merriam-Webster

the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender.

For nonfiction, this would include books on feminism, history books focused on women, biographies of women, memoirs (or travelogues) by women, essays by women and cultural books focused on women (body image, motherhood, etc.).

Obviously, any classic fiction written by a feminist is applicable. But where do we go from there? To speak generally, if the book takes a thoughtful look at the place of women in society, it will probably count.

Three levels of participation:

  • Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
  • Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
  • Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

Can’t pass up this one, can’t I? I’m excited!

As usual, I’m aiming low, so Philogynist level it is. But deep inside I hope to reach Bluestocking level.

I’m going to list books I’ve read that I think would be good for the challenge below. Some of them are from a few years back, so pardon me if the reviews are not as thoughtful or well written as what I have these days. As you would see, there was a point where I read so many women’s memoirs, though I don’t read them much lately. I hope to read more during this challenge.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop
: memoir of a woman who escaped polygamist
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi: glimpse of lives of Iranian women in graphic novel form
Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi: memoir of an Iranian woman
Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah: memoir of a woman from Hong Kong/China who had an evil stepmother
Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent: memoir of a woman who disguised herself as man for 18 months
Desert Flower and Desert Dawn by Waris Dirie: memoir of a Somalian woman who suffered female circumcision and went away to become International fashion model
Burned Alive by Souad: memoir of a woman from Palestine burned alive by her own brother because of outside-marriage pregnancy
Princess and Princess Sultana’s Daughter by Jean Sasson: memoir of a royal princess in Saudi Arabia
I Choose to Live by Sarbine Dardenne: memoir of a woman who survives a pedophile at 12
Lucky by Alice Sebold: memoir of the author’s survival from rape

The Color Purple by Alice Walker: all strong black women characters in oppressive time
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
: story of a Nigerian girl and her religious family
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: two stories, two Afghanistan women, paths meet
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote: a playgirl in New York 1940s
The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot: survival story of a woman abused as a child, in graphic novel form
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: black woman traveled back in time to meet her ancestors in slavery
Out by Natsuo Kirino
: four Japanese women work together to conceal a murder
The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan (and everything else by her): semi-biography of Tan’s Chinese mother
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: a white girl taken under the wings of four black women
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden: journey of a geisha

Check out Eva’s post for more book recommendation!

I do have a few books in mind for the challenge that I’d love to read, but you’ll just have to wait and see!

Are you joining?

Books I read for the challenge:


  1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: glimpse of women’s roles and social status in 1800s England. The marriage settlement was most interesting to me.
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: a few strong main female characters, mid and post WWII
  3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See: rich setting of 19th century China and the women
  4. Waiting by Ha Jin: for a glimpse into women’s lives in mid to late 1900s China
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: women’s lives in 1700s England
  6. Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki: graphic novel about being a chubby Japanese descendant gay girl in Canada
  7. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: female writer who doesn’t shy from the subject of sexuality
  8. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan: fantasy book centered around women and their problems
  9. Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang: short stories on women in Hong Kong and China 1940s

Dracula by Bram Stoker


*SPOILERS below* (Thought I’m not gonna bother to avoid spoilers this time)

I had the advantage of reading Dracula (or so I thought). I knew almost absolutely nothing about it, because I never watched the movie based on the book. Oh of course I knew he sucks blood. I knew there were Count Dracula, a castle, and a woman (women?). But that’s about it.

So I was quite excited to start the book with a bang. Dropped right off Count Dracula’s castle! Spooky, eerie, we’re meeting the Count in person, and the pace was just right! I was never left too long in suspension. I thought, this is great!

It went for 4 chapters (out of 27) before reader is transported to correspondence between two women, gossiping about their men and suitors. I was devastated! WHY are we here? There’s so much excitement back there in Transylvania! BRING ME BACK TO THE CASTLE! *rolling and wailing on the floor*

Then it went on and on and on and it never picked up the pace again.

I’m glad that I read it, because it’s the root of something that is part of our culture. For example, I just learned that Van Helsing is originated from Dracula. Before that I thought he was some sort of a super hero, like Fantastic Four.

The language was quite easy to read, which I was very happy about as well. Though sometimes the characters sounded funny to me. As in funny that made me chuckle. Imagine trapped in such situation and talk like “Oh, my God, what have we done to have this terror upon us!

So dramatic it’s funny.

The book is told via a collection of journals and letters by the main characters. And that probably what made it tedious for me. Today Lucy looks well. Next day. Today Lucy looks not so well. Next day. Today Lucy looks better. Next day. Today Lucy looks worse again.

Then after her death, everybody starts to call her “poor Lucy” like poor is her first name. Poor Lucy.

I lost the urge to finish it after a while because I could see the end from miles and miles away, the whole trip got kinda boring. I’ll say, compress chapter 5 to 26 to half, then it may work better. I’m not sure if it’s just me. I just felt very impatient throughout the whole book.

3 stars
1897, 444 pp

First line
Left Munich at 8.35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late.


I read Dracula in participation of Dueling Monsters Read-a-long hosted by Fizzy Thoughts for the month of October. (Gosh, October is such a busy month!) It’s a great closure to spooky October and the R.I.P. Challenge! I’m happy that I finished the book :)

Thanks for hosting softdrink! (wish I could just call you Fizzy) You can visit her site in the next couple of days for recap of everyone’s thoughts! (ETA: Fizzy’s wrap-up)

Also reviewed by
Liked it! — Fizzy Thoughts | Subliminal Intervention | Book-o-rama | su[shu]
Didn’t. — Rebecca Reads | Farm Lane Books Blog

R.I.P. IV (book #5), 1% Well-Read (book #8), Herding Cats II (book #1), 1001 Books Before You Die (book #26)

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon: Hour 24

24hrreadathonIt’s 10:27pm here in Sydney and I’m about to go to sleep (have to wake up at 6am). Like I wrote earlier, I couldn’t participate wholly this read-a-thon for various reasons. Thank you for everyone who has visited or dropped a comment. I felt a bit guilty that I didn’t update more often.

One of my various reasons though was a bookish one. I went to a charity book fair this afternoon with hubby and we brought back tons of books! I got 5 novels, but I’ll round that up for next week Mailbox Monday, along with 2 other books that came into my house earlier.

Whatever you did this weekend, hope it involved a great book ;)

Happy reading y’all!

ps: And of course, huge thanks to the wonderful hosts and cheerleaders. It was a huge undertaking! Great job you guys!

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon: Hour 11

readathonbuttonYes, I signed up for the 24 hour read-a-thon, but over the past week I wasn’t sure if I could participate, because there are so many things happening on the day! (not going over them because it would be too long) I may not be able to participate the whole 24 hours, but I’m reading, and I’m enjoying the activities. Yay!

As I knew I couldn’t read for the full 24 hours today, I started reading a bit more yesterday (Saturday my time, and today is Sunday).

I’m still reading Dracula, page 287 out of 444 (I don’t think I can finish it today).

I’ve finished American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

And for the past hour I’ve been reading Bayou by Jeremy Love (read online here). I can’t believe it’s all available online! I’ve been coveting this graphic novel since Nymeth’s review (or maybe even before that? I can’t remember). Anyway, so far it’s been excellent! Jeremy Love is sooo talented!
Tips: Read in full screen to get the most out of the pretty art!

This brings me to the mini-challenges. I got to find Bayou from Nymeth’s Time for Comics mini-challenge. She asked us to spend 10 minutes reading webcomic and I have spent almost an hour because it is so good. I guess I’m just a sucker for comics! From the list on her site, I’m familiar with Penny Arcade and xkcd as video game lovers and geeks should be. I am sure going to check out more later!

Oh another interesting mini-challenge (though I was late) is Where in the World is the Read-a-thon? ~! It’s so fun to see where everybody is around the world! I pinpointed myself and couldn’t believe there’s no participant from Australia! (There are even a couple from NZ) Where are you Aussies?

ps: I slept for the first 8 hours of read-a-thon. Well, I talked to hubby in the first hour, tried to read before sleep, and slept a sentence later.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire and the Musical!


Wicked is an imagined tale by Gregory Maguire about the world of Oz before Dorothy came, which mainly focuses on the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West, or who we know of in Wicked as Elphaba, Elphie. Born green to a very devoted priest and a wild mother, her life is never easy. She spends childhood in wild primitive side of the Oz, has little sister who needs so much attention, and lives in an oppressed country by the Wizard, to name a few. Elphaba always tries to be true to herself even though it means opposing authority.

Which brings us to the main question of the book. What is the root of evil? How does one become wicked? (If you ask me, I’d probably say, it depends which side you’re on.)

Elphaba meets her lot of long-life acquaintances at University (probably like most of us). There’s Galinda, who later becomes the Good Witch of the North, Madame Morrible the headmistress, Professor Dylamond – the Animal who later becomes a huge turn point in Elphie’s life, and a few other characters who are important to her at some point or another. There we also meet Nessarose, Elphie’s sister, who later becomes the Wicked Witch of the East.

In the world of Oz, there’s animal, and there’s Animal (with capital letter). Animal is claimed have soul and able to speak, while animal is otherwise. The resistance of the bad treatment of Animals is also a major topic in the book. Somewhat a great symbolism to mistreatment of people that are different from you. And don’t forget Elphaba. Treated different because of your skin color? Uum.. sounds familiar.

I admit I didn’t have high expectation at all when I started the book. In fact it was probably pretty low. I mean, it’s a spin-off of the Wizard of Oz. I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect such detailed world and complex storyline, injected with dozes of philosophy, theology, and politics. It discusses some deep stuff!

I liked the book though am not exactly jumping up and down eagerly to push the book to your face. I don’t think it’s the kind of book that invokes one’s passion (though I did experience stirred emotions here and there), but it’s well thought out, it’s neat and complex. I appreciate how it makes us think. And I’m quite amazed at Maguire’s skills to recreate world and characters that will stay with me for a long time.

Gregory MaguireMy criticism of the book, is probably the length. For instance, there’s one character that we invest so much time in, only to find that he doesn’t have major role to play further on in the story. Looking back I understand how he could be necessary, if only to iron out Elphaba and Galinda’s characters, but still I was baffled to find how minor his role further on.

My favorite imagined element by Maguire in Wicked is the famous glimmering shoes worn the Wicked Witch of the East, that were later taken by Dorothy. I thought the long history of how the Wicked Witch of the West got so obsessed with them was completely believable and touching. Just pure genius.

I mentioned earlier how this book is on the list of 2009 ALA Banned Books for sexual content. There is some nudity but I don’t recall overly explicit sexual scenes, apart from one performed by puppets (yes, really, but it’s quite morbid). Apart from that there are definitely some violence, extreme bullying, and murders (doh!). It’s most probably banned because ignorant people assume it’s a fluffy prequel of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written for children. It is NOT. Once again, it is NOT children book.

Recommended for people who don’t mind some twisted and dark fantasy with complex storyline.

4 stars
1995, 676 pp (Large Print)

First line
A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind’s forward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air.

Last line
“Not yet.”

Also reviewed by
Liked it! — Things Mean A Lot | Stella Matutina | Trish’s Reading Nook | DogEar Diary | katrina’s reads | Libri Touches | Ink Scrawl
Didn’t.The Magic Lasso | My Two Blessings (with spoilers)

Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Official site

R.I.P. IV (book #4)


Elphaba and Galinda

I’m so excited to be able to review both the book and the musical! The musical was the main reason for me to push Wicked to the top of my tbr pile. This could very well be the first and last time I could compare a book and its live musical!

I went to Wicked the Musical on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at Capitol Theater, Sydney. It went for about 2.5 hours. The building was wonderful and it worked perfectly with the theme of this musical as  it has that old and ancient feeling about it, yet romantic and cozy.

The stage was quite small relatively compared the ones I went to in Singapore, but again, worked perfectly as it felt intimate. The most prominent prop was the mechanic Clock of the Time Dragon at the top of the stage. Though it’s never built much into the story like in the book, it simply looks cool and has strong stage presence.

The story was changed a lot. The main characters and events were there, but a lot of side characters were cut and subplots changed. It concentrates heavily on the friendship between Elphaba and Galinda, rather than mainly Elphaba like the book.

I would even say that Galinda character completely stole the show! She was so funny and charming and the stage just shined every time she was out! I was completely mesmerized by Lucy Durack. The girl who played Elphaba was not Amanda Harrison as I expected (changed to Jemma Rix). I would never know if Elphaba character was just weaker by script, or by the person who played her.

I wasn’t upset by the plot changes. I think some of them were necessary to adapt to the musical. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was the change of the ending. I felt the happy ending was too forced. We all know the Wicked Witch of the West is killed by Dorothy. They should just have left it as that.

Wicked the Musical

The musical was a much happier version of the Wicked the book. There was more dialog than standard musical too, because of the complexity of the storyline (yes, even after it was cut and changed!). The costumes were excellent. Especially the part where they went to the Emerald City. Everything was shinning GREEN. Oh and I can go on and on. Needless to say, I absolutely loved the musical. Do see it if you get a chance.

Rating: 10/10

TSS: Borders 100 Favourite Books of All Time

Musing Mondays TSSbadge3

My first Musing Mondays! Yea I know it’s not Monday. So I’m making this a Sunday Salon post too. (Then I forgot to post it on Sunday, so it’s back to Monday now. Oh well, who’s taking note?)

This past week, Borders re-released it’s 100 Favourite Books of All Times. Do you vote in these kinds of polls when they arise? Do you look through the list, or seek out books featured?

The list is from Borders Australia and I somehow missed the poll. I love book lists I do! I can’t resist to go through each one and mark it, or whatever. It drives me mad though that My Sister’s Keeper is always on popular books list like this one (always near the top too). I read it and hated it. The one book from top 10 that I never heard of is Magician by Raymond E. Feist. Interesting.

Recently Angus & Robertson Australia has also just came out with their own 100 Top Stories. So that’s another list for you. I have the physical list and have marked the ones I read. It’s therapeutic.

Anyway, going back to Borders list, I’ve marked the ones I’ve read in bold, the ones I have on my physical self at home in orange, the ones I really want to read right now underlined, and the ones I’m never going to read in strike (that makes it a bit easier to weed through the list).

I’ve read 17 out of 100.

1. Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice
2. Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird
3. JRR Tolkien – Lord Of The Rings
4. Jodi Picoult – My Sister’s Keeper
5. Stephanie Meyer – Twilight Saga
6. JK Rowling – Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone
7. Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife
8. Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
9. George Orwell – 1984
10. Raymond E. Feist – Magician
11. Khaled Hosseini – A Thousand Splendid Suns
12. Paullina Simons – Bronze Horsemen
13. Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram
14. Margaret Mitchell – Gone With The Wind
15. Bryce Courtenay – Power of One
16. Dan Brown – The Da Vinci Code
17. Dan Brown – Angels & Demons
18. Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
19. Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
20. Tim Winton – Cloud Street
21. Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner
22. Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights
23. Arthur Golden – Memoirs of Geisha
24. LM Montgomery – Anne Of Green Gables
25. Joseph Heller – Catch-22
26. Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat Pray Love
27. Niv Mass Market Bible With Bible Guide – International Bible Society Staff and International Bible Society
28. JRR Tolkien – The Hobbit
29. Yann Martel – Life of Pi
30. AB Facey – Fortunate Life
31. Douglas Adams – The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
32. Lewis Carroll – Alice In Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass
33. Diana Gabaldon – Cross Stich
34. Rohinton Mistry – A Fine Balance
35. David Pelzar – A Child Called It
36. Li Cunxin – Mao’s Last Dancer
37. John Marsden – Tomorrow, When The War Began
38. Frank McCourt – Angela’s Ashes
39. Frank Herbert – Dune
40. JD Salinger – A Catcher In The Rye
41. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
42. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years Of Solitude
43. Bryce Courtenay – April Fool’s Day
44. Ken Follet – Pillars Of The Earth
45. Patrick Suskind – Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer
46. Matthew Reilly – Ice Station
47. Carlos Ruiz Zafon – The Shadow Of The Wind
48. Stephen Hawking – A Brief History Of Time
49. Christopher Paolini – Eragon
50. Louisa May Alcott – Little Women
51. Mitch Albom – Tuesdays With Morrie
52. Jane Austen – Persuasion
53. Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones
54. Ian McEwan – Atonement
55. Leo Tolstory – Anna Karenina
56. George Orwell – Animal Farm
57. Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange
58. Antoine de Saint Exupéry – The Little Prince
59. Roald Dahl – Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
60. CS Lewis – The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
61. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love In The Time Of Cholera
62. Bill Bryson – A Short History Of Nearly Everything
63. Fyodor Dostoevsky – Crime And Punishment
64. Anthony Bourke – Lion Called Christian
65. Arundhati Roy – The God Of Small Things
66. Paullina Simons – Tully
67. John Grisham – A Time To Kill
68. John Grogan – Marley & Me
69. Vikram Seth – A Suitable Boy
70. Alexandre Dumas – Count Of Monte Cristo
71. Neil Gaiman – American Gods
72. Cormac McCarthy – The Road
73. Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
74. Brendan Shanahan – In Turkey I Am Beautiful: Between Chaos And Madness In A Strange Land
75. Tim Winton – Breath
76. Bryce Courtenay – Jessica
77. Graeme Base – Animalia
78. Donna Tartt – The Secret History
79. Mario Puzo – The Godfather
80. Anne Rice – Interview With The Vampire
81. Steig Larrson – The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo
82. Stephen King – Stand
83. Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones’ Diary
84. Eckhart Tolle – New Earth
85. Matthew Reilly – Seven Ancient Wonders
86. Jung Chang – Wild Swans
87. Nicholas Sparks – The Notebook
88. Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho
89. David Eddings – Belgariad Vol. 1: Pawn Of Prophecy; Queen Of Sorcery; Magician’s Gambit
90. Louis De Bernieres – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
91. Melina Marchetta – Looking For Alibrandi
92. Celia Ahern – PS I Love You
93. John Irving – A Prayer For Owen Meany
94. Colleen McCullough – The Thorn Birds
95. John Kennedy Toole – A Confederacy Of Dunces
96. Terry Pratchett – Good Omens
97. Hunter S. Thompson – Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas
98. Joanne Harris – Chocolat
99. William Goldman – Princess Bride
100. Charles Dickens – Great Expectations

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and the Disney Movie

A Christmas Carol - Dickens

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their house pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,

One fine day I finished my book on the way to work and had nothing to read on the way back — serious problem, because one way trip took me almost an hour.

I was in panic mode for a while before I got an idea to print out a few pages of a free book from the net. I was looking for something short and could fit into any of my challenges. A Christmas Carol was pretty much the only one that sprang to mind (as a bonus it counts for at least three of my challenges!).Charles_Dickens

I read the first chapter and decided to continue the rest with audio-book performed by Patrick Stewart, as recommended by Sarah Miller. She said the audio book is abridged but it’s one of the best she ever listened to. Believe it or not, I had NEVER tried audio book before. About time. It worked perfectly since it’s short and Patrick Stewart delivered the atmosphere and mood very well.

Reading or listening however, I had a hard time not to picture it as comical. I watched the Disney adaption of it when I was small and that was the only version of A Christmas Carol that I knew for the longest time. It doesn’t help that the main character’s named Scrooge. For me any Scrooge is Scrooge McDuck, especially when he’s stingy and grumpy.

From this short story, I could tell that Dicken’s is not easy one to read. I found the use of the language or words were quite odd. Or maybe just old.

Mickeys Christmas Carol

I watched the Disney short of Mickey’s Christmas Carol after finishing the book and enjoyed it immensely. Who plays Ebeneizer Scrooge better than his namesake, Scrooge McDuck? He’s perfect! All the characters cast really well. Mickey as the poor clerk, Donald as the nephew (nephew! What a coincidence!), and Goofy as Marley – Scrooge’s dead partner (not generally scary, but Goofy can be anything if he wants to). Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant (from Mickey and the Beanstalk) as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and evil Pete as the Ghost of Christmas Future. Daisy Duck plays Scrooge’s youth love and Minnie Mouse as Mickey’s wife (with mini Mickey as Tiny Tim).

I imagine that if I read the story by itself, I may have not liked the fact that the moral lessons are too ‘in your face’. That’s why the cartoon works perfectly as the medium, because the whole thing is comical — the premise, the characters, the ghosts.

The short is nominated for Oscar in 1984 for Best Animated Short Film.

mickey's christmas carol

This book and movie would be my first entry for Disney Literature Challenge. Following Sarah’s lead, I’ll give my verdict for each battle.


Disney Literature Challenge Round 1

Disney vs. Dickens
on A Christmas Carol

*drum roll*




This time I can easily give my vote to Disney.

Please. No crying. There will be more battles to come!

Disney – 1 vs. Authors – 0

Book: 3.5 stars (1843, 88 pp)
Movie: 9/10 (1983, 26 min)

First line
Marley was dead: to begin with.

Last line
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Also reviewed by
Rebecca Reads
| Aneca’s World | Dreadlock Girl | Book Nut | Vulpes Libris | One Persons Journey Through A World of Books | Bobbi’s Book Nook |MariReads (audio book – Jim Dale) | at home with books (Mickey’s Christmas Carol) | 5 Minutes for Books (The Muppet Christmas Carol)

Did I miss yours?

ps: I’m going to save The Muppet Christmas Carol for this Christmas.

R.I.P. IV (book #3), (Another) 1% Well-Read (book #7), The Spice of Life (book #3), 1001 Books Before You Die (book #25), Disney Literature Challenge (book #1)

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