Monthly Archives: January 2010

Calling Pride and Prejudice First Timers

Pride and Prejudice

Are you one of the few people left who have NOT read Pride and Prejudice?

I’m going to read it in the month of February (what with Valentine and all), with David and uncertainprinciples, and I thought I extend the invitation, just in case there are some of you who feel like you always want to read it but are not sure when, and feel pretty lonely because everybody else seems to have read it 16 times since they were 12. I have never read a Jane Austen myself, so this would be my first.

Just for fun, I worked out a schedule. But if you’re reading in rabbit speed, you can hop away and leave the turtles behind :)

week 1: chapter 1-17 (finish by 7 Feb)
week 2: chapter 18-34 (finish by 14 Feb)
week 3: chapter 35-47 (finish by 21 Feb)
week 4: chapter 48-61 (finish by 28 Feb)

My copy is 352 pp, so each week is about 88 pages. I don’t plan to post updates in between, unless I have something to say (also because in week 3 and 4, I’ll be going back to the land where Internet is ancient and mindbogglingly irritating). I will post my thoughts some time in the first week of March. If you read the book and post any thoughts on it between now and then, I would love it if you come back and leave a link to yours. Who knows, we may trigger some interesting discussions.

Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyōza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki

Oishinbo (美味しんぼ, lit. “The Gourmet”) is a long-running cooking manga published between 1983 and 2008, but only in 2009 it is published in English in thematic compilation volumes, which includes: Japanese Cuisine, Sake, Ramen & Gyôza, Fish, Sushi & Sashimi, Vegetables, The Joy of Rice, and Izakaya: Pub Food (7 volumes so far). Thematic compilation means it contains “best of the best” and does not follow the original manga chronological order. There are a few minor storylines that jump forward and back. But I guess in the big picture of things, it does not matter that much, because the food is really the central of excitement here!

I saw some of the volumes at Sydney Japan Foundation Library and picked the Ramen volume out of whim, since I LOVE Ramen.

If you think you don’t like ramen, well, let me tell you, you just have not eaten the good one. Believe me, I know! I used to think I only liked dry or fried noodle, not soup noodle. But then one day, I tasted the BEST RAMEN EVER (I absolutely do not exaggerate). With one sip of the soup, I could hear the birds chirping and see the sun rise in dramatic scene.

It was divine.

The broth, the noodle, the soya egg, the roast pork. Cooked to perfection.

I never look back ever since. It is my mission in life to constantly look for a perfect ramen.

In this volume of Oishinbo, you’d find many people go very serious over a bowl of ramen. Who could blame them?

ramen

Look at the soupy goodness.

(Photo from actual ramen that I ate)

Apart from ramen, there are also gyōza (dumpling) episodes. Being a huge foodie that I am, it was fascinating to learn so much from a manga. There are many comparisons to Chinese food (chūka ryori), since many Japanese food are originated from Chinese food. There are history of Japan and China relationship, making of noodles, miso, bonito, kurobuta (black pig), the sauces, and more.

The food names are all in Japanese and there are notes at the back of the book that explain everything, which is exactly the way I like it (notes at the bottom of the pages would be more convenient, but some of them are obviously too long). I hate it when they translate food items to English. Not only on food, the notes also explain cultural elements that may not be obvious to foreigners, for example sempai-kōhai (senior-junior) relationship.

One interesting note is about how the word used for the title is not “ramen” in Japanese, but rather chūka soba, or Chinese noodles. Although the term chūka soba can be used interchangeably as a name for ramen, it also refers specifically to the noodles themselves, which are Chinese in origin. Because “ramen” is the name by which almost all Westerners know the dish, that’s what they’ve decided to use in Oishinbo.

I have fallen in love with the series, so I’ll continue reading the others. Highly recommended if you’re interested to learn more about Japanese food and culture, in a fun way at that.

4.5 stars
2009, 272 pp

Challenges
Japanese Literature 3 (book #4), Graphic Novels 2010 (book #1)

I love Japanese cooking shows. They make everything so dramatic. Have you watched Iron Chef? You should watch Iron Chef. It’s the most exciting cooking show ever. The Japanese one, not the US remake one (though the latter is not so bad). For anime, Yakitake!! Japan is very fun series about a boy whose dream is to become a bread master. I kept wanting to eat bread the whole time I watched it. When I was small, I used to watch Cooking Master Boy (or I think that’s what it was). I love to watch the reactions of the people eating the food. I think that’s how I learned to be excited about food.

This is my last book for Japanese Literature Challenge 3, which ends today. I’m going to post my wrap-up tomorrow. So see you then!

Short Saturday: Murakami, Borges, and Babel

In Short Saturday I will journal my journey to find 5-star quality short stories, whose virtual trophy right now is only held by Truman Capote for A Christmas Memory. Unlike my book reviews, I will talk more about my thoughts and what I learn, why I choose the story and how I come upon it. Unlike books, I’m willing to take more risk for shorts, because they are.. well.. short, so I won’t waste too much time if I don’t like them. Expect to see a lot of trash and hopefully, some gems. As it is now, I am not a fan of short stories. Dare I say, yet? But hey, like people say, it’s all about the journey, not destination.

on seeing the 100% perfect girl

As you know, if you read the header above, I’ve been talking about Capote‘s A Christmas Memory like a broken radio. But from last week conversations in the comments, I just remembered that there was another short story that blew me away with the same magic! It was recommended by a friend IRL years ago and I read it online. I have probably read it a couple of times by now, which is unheard of for me.

It is none other than:

On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning by Haruki Murakami

which you can read in full online (thank you, steph tai). It is available at more sites, but I love that particular one, because of the illustration and the way the text is put together. Tips: if it appears too small on your browser, press Ctrl + (plus sign) until it gets to the right size.

Please read it too. You’ll fall in love with it. I promise.

This short story is included in his short story collection Elephant Vanishes, which I sadly do not own, and it is not available at my libraries. Another of his short in the collection called Sleep was recommended by Rob (link to Rob’s review), which he rated 5 stars, and is “about an insomniac wife who gets into a habit of reading literature all night”. That sounds amazing! I have to get hold of the book.


Last week, I roamed around my library and found this lovely anthology called In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians, Edited by Michael Cart.

In the StacksThe cover looks very plain, but really, shorts about libraries and librarians?! How enticing is that? And look at the big names inside! Italo Calvino, Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Babel, Lorrie Moore, Francine Prose, Alice Munro, Ray Bradbury, Jorge Luis Borges, and more!

This morning I went straight to:

The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges

“The universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps an infinite, number of hexagonal galleries, with enormous ventilation shafts in the middle, encircled by very low railings.”

The Library of Babel is a universe of books, the world where people are born and live, where every book ever written in every possible language resides.

Knowing how famous it was, I was quite surprised to find how short it was! However, while the premise can’t be more amazing, I found the writing was rather hard to get into. The translation maybe? Borges was Argentinian, it was translated from Spanish. It did feel like reminiscence of Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. It also bothered me that he mentioned alphabet has 22 letters. Does Spanish have only 22 letters?

It deserves a re-read. But for now, I’ll rate it

4 stars

Some of you may wonder what happened to My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead. I had to return it to the library. (Library!) I’ll borrow it and continue again later, because there are more that I want to read. Isaac Babel‘s story is one of them. So when I saw In the Stacks also has his short (a different one) in it, I jumped into it.

The Public Library by Isaac Babel

With mere 3 pages long, this must be the shortest of shorts I’ve read so far. But it’s a nice complement after The Library of Babel. The Public Library shows a glimpse of a public library, its attendants and regular visitors.

“You can feel straightaway that the book reigns supreme here. All the people who work in the library have entered in communion with The Book, with life at second-hand, and have themselves become, as it were, a mere reflection of the living.”

I liked the writing, and I’ll watch out for more Babel in the future. (Just realized the author shares last name with Borges’s short… Coincidence?)

4 stars

I mentioned Lorrie Moore last week and am excited to find she also has a short in the anthology titled Community Life. I’ll save that for next week ;)

Okay, I’m gonna have breakfast now. I woke up, read the 2 shorts and wrote this post first thing in the morning. Argh, what am I doing?! I haven’t even had tea or something!

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

People often started their reviews by saying this book so-and-so made them cry. That doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t cry for a book.

Little did I know that I would begin my review now by saying this book made me cry! And not just a tear or two, but more like weeping for 5 minutes. At least TWO times! The last time I cried because of a book was probably The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I read in 2004.

Charlie was born retarded. He lives his entire life with not much more than broken memories and haziness. But Charlie wants to be smart. He knows he’s lacking something and that he wants that something so he can be like everybody else. One day an opportunity arrives. A research facility needs a human guinea pig. If the experiment is successful, Charlie would become.. normal, though of course, there’s a chance that it might fail. Charlie doesn’t care. He’s going to do anything to be smarter.

I have a little confession to make. For me, it’s very important to be smart. As a kid I was obsessed with IQ tests. I started doing them since I was three. I knew I wasn’t a genius, but my IQ was high enough to be, say, the highest in class, and in general, to get away with a lot of things. Some people might be the funny one, the pretty one, the talkative one, the kind one. But me, I need to be the smart one. Most of the time this thought lays deep at my subconscious mind, but at certain times when I feel my brain fails me big time, I could get pretty depressed, and the worms are out in the open. What if I’m just not that smart? What would I be? WHAT IF? –I would heap on my despair, sink in my misery.

I could relate with Charlie in many ways. I always feel the need to be smart. I understand how the little child in us always needs to get our parents’ approval. Look at me Ma! I am smart! I am somebody!

Boy, did I cry!

The book is told in a series of Charlie’s personal journal, so we could see how he progresses and gets smarter, then later finds out how things were never what he thought they were when he lived in his blurry state.

You know how sometimes even a good book slows its pace at some parts? It never happened with this book. The pace was good from beginning til end. Every page was a joy to read. Not only that, it’s packed with emotional punch. One thing for sure, I would never see a “slow” person the same way ever again.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. To anybody! I love you Daniel Keyes! Thank you for your contribution to this world! (sorry, that just gushed out of me) I can’t believe my first two books of the year were so 5 stars! I have a good feeling for this year.Daniel Keyes


1966, 216 pp

First line
Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on.

Awards
1966 Nebula Award for Best Novel

Quotes

“.. Miss Kinnian says dont worry spelling is not suppose to make sence.” ~ p24

“Now I understand one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.” ~ p50

Challenges
Book Awards IV (book #2), Read the Book See the Movie (book #1)

Also reviewed by
Loved it! — Farm Lane Books Blog | Savidge Reads | Novel Insight | Reading Matters
Not quite. — Books for Breakfast

charlyCharly (1968)

I had reservation about watching the movie, because the book was just SO good. There’s no way the movie can even compare. But I saw Cliff Robertson won Oscar for Best Actor in 1969 for the film, so I gave it a chance.

Well, I was right. It’s not horrible, but it’s nothing compared to the book. In the movie we lose a lot of Charlie’s inner thoughts, which are the main point of the book. A lot of his external and internal conflicts were cut as well, leaving mainly his love interest.

I would give the movie a pass.

Rating: 6/10

Apart from my reading challenges, I read the book (and watch the movie) to participate on Carl’s Sci Fi Experience 2010 (run in the month of January and February). Are you participating? You still have time if you want to! :)

After Flowers for Algernon I definitely have a lot more confidence in trying the Sci-Fi genre. A few years ago I told the person who gave me the book that “I don’t read science fiction.” But when we discussed some books that we’ve read, I mentioned The Time Traveller’s Wife and Kindred. He quickly pointed out that I do read sci-fi. Sci-fi does not mean all outer-space and machines. I agree that we really shouldn’t pigeon-hole books into a certain genre, and avoid them as a result. Imagine what great books that we could be missing out! I do plan to read more of what is called sci-fi books in the future. Nebula and Hugo award winners would be a great start. At the moment I’m thinking Stranger in a Strange Land.

Can you think of any books that you are passionate about that fall into the sci-fi genre?

Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge

1 January 2010 – 31 December 2010

You do know that I need to join this challenge, right? Comparing book and its movie adaptation is really my thing. In 2009, I did that with:

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  2. The Color Purple
  3. Silk
  4. A Christmas Carol
  5. Wicked (not a movie, but with its musical)
  6. Dracula + movie (separate post)
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince + movie (separate post)
  8. Intimacy (uum didn’t finish the movie because it was so bad..)

In 2008, I read the books and see the movies for The Woman in the Dunes, Atonement, Harry Potter 1-5, The Kite Runner, Wuthering Heights, Lolita, and Persepolis. Then in separate years, Memoirs of a Geisha, Battle Royale, The Joy Luck Club, A Walk to Remember. (I don’t link to the book reviews because I think I just started incorporating movie comparison regularly in 2008.) Really, the options are endless!

Therefore I’m quite confident that I can complete the Saturday Movie Marathon level, which requires four books/movies. Easy peasy :)

I know that I’ll be watching The Road and Burton’s Alice in Wonderland this year. Possibly The Reader, The Lovely Bones, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button–all of which I have read. Disgrace and The Secret Life of Bees piqued my interest too (books read). Hopefully I can squeeze in The Revolutionary Road and The Remains of the Day (books not yet read).

What pair would you recommend? I’m all ears!

The pair I did for the challenge:

  1. Flowers for Algernon (reviewed 01/10)
  2. The Road (reviewed 03/10)
  3. The Good Earth (reviewed 03/10)
  4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (reviewed 06/10)
  5. To Kill A Mockingbird (reviewed 06/10)
  6. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (reviewed 10/10)
  7. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (reviewed 11/10)
  8. The Remains of the Day (reviewed 12/10)

Reviews Jan/Feb | May/Jun/Jul | Aug/Sep

Did Something Change?

A Better Place, by Mee

Something did! I changed the theme AND my blog title! If you forget, my blog title used to be Books of Mee, but after some consideration, I’ve decided to change it to something more mee (sorry, couldn’t resist :).

I would change my header image every once in a while. Figured my thousands of pictures sitting on my laptop needs a better treatment. A bit of limelight won’t hurt. You know, a couple of weeks of fame is all they’re gonna get.

There might be a few more things I want to change, some cleaning here and there. But overall, I’m quite happy with what I have right now. Thanks to some elves who gave me encouragements. You know who you are! :D

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