Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Reading Corner: The Last Concubine


Sachi's story, life as the last concubine of the last shogun entwined with the one of the important parts of Japan's history--period of changing into modern Japan in terms of politics. Lesley Downer did a good job in bringing out Sachi's character and how she progressed from time to time. Downer gave me a clear picture of the historical framework at that time, no doubt that she did in-depth research on this. Some of the important characters are not fictional though. She illustrated people of different castes, in particular their way of living and the way they present themselves. The women's palace in the great city of Edo (now known as Tokyo) is well described, in particular the women who lived in it. Love is described in the world that the word 'love' does not exist.  

I can't deny that I was very absorbed into the story while reading. I admire the courage and strong character that the women have. The women in the palace are trained to be skillful warrior so as they can defend themselves when there is no men around to protect them. Well, martial arts is never out of date.  

This book is highly recommended for its intriguing story and a good lesson on traditional Japanese culture. 

Below are some of the beautiful poems appeared in the book that interest me.
Tsui ni yuku
Michi to wa kanete
Kikishikado
Kino kyo to wa
Omowazarishi o 

[That it is a road
Which some day we all travel
I had heard before,
But I never thought that today
Would bring that far tomorrow.]


Yumeji ni wa
Ashi mo yasumezu
Kayoedo mo
Utsutsu ni hitome
Mishi goto wa arazu.

[On the path of dreams
My feet never rest
As they run to you:
But such visions cannot match
One walking glimpse of you
yourself.]

Completed on 6th February 2012. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

Reading Corner: The Island


It's simple title and plain cover might turn you off in the first place. Nevertheless, The Island (ISBN: 0 7553 0951 0) has won Victoria Hislop the ''Newcomer of the Year'' Award at the Galaxy British Book Awards in 2007, also selected as Richard & Judy's summer read. She did a good research on leprosy and the community affected. The story is well-engaged with the history of this disease. It starts off with Alexis Fielding, a British girl who is curious about her roots, particularly her mother, Sofia's past. Her determination brings her to Spinalonga which housed the former leper community in Greece. This book has the usual family sagas and love affairs which we usually see in soap operas. However, Hislop illustrated it well with twists and turns alongside with traditional Cretan life and culture, also bringing out the severity of the lepers' lives.

This book gave me an insight of people who suffered from leprosy and the community revolved around them. The so-called 'unclean' reminds me of people who are infected with HIV today. As usual, people will have lots of misconceptions on the disease, especially the way the disease is transmitted, which in turn caused the sufferers to be unwanted. 

Later I found out on internet that The Island is adopted as television series, first broadcasted in Greece and became the most successful series ever broadcast in Greece itself: To Nisi.

Completed on 3rd February 2012. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Reading Corner: The Harmony Silk Factory


The novel is compiled by three segments. Each narrated by different person associated with Johnny Lim: his son, Jasper; his wife, Snow and his good friend, Peter Wormwood. Aw is a good story-teller in which he present the story in different nostalgic ways. The life of Johnny Lim, however remained as a mystery. The story revolves around the period when the communists, British and Japanese invaded Malaya. It is an interesting piece to me, as a Malaysian to understand more about behind-the-scenes of our history. Besides, the setting of this story is in Perak, my birth state and I went along with the story without any difficulties. I like Snow's part the most. Her part of story, especially her feelings is quite twisting. The Harmony Silk Factory  (ISBN: 0-00-720451-5) has won the Whitbread Book Awards for First Novel Award and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Worth a read.

Completed on 21st January 2012.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

What I had in 2011?

I'm late by almost a month. Perhaps not, if it's lunar calendar. I never did any yearly reflections in my blog. I came across lots of reflections and resolutions in the beginning of every year. There's a post from Zen Habits which I'm quite impressed: How to Have the Best Year of Your Life (without Setting a Single Goal). I had experiences in setting goals and ended up forgetting about it even before half a year passes.

I can't really recall what I did in the past year. I remember I was having summer break in the beginning of the year. I did the usual chinese new year cookies baking on my own, most of the time. Celebrated chinese new year in Sitiawan in our new home. Did some part-time jobs. End of February was the time my second semester of studies started. My 21st birthday was celebrated with family one day before I went back to Miri.

Second semester in Curtin, met new intake of Geology students. Their batch was much bigger than us. Working with some of them for our presentations can strengthen our bonding indeed. It was such a busy semester although most of the subjects were basics. Endless tests but still able to have fun searching myself in Geology. First time knowing more about rocks. Glad that finally knew what were we doing during field trip, unlike my first semester which I practically blindly copying answers for most of the questions in the worksheet. The sun in Miri can burn us but I still love field trips.

I guess I will never be as free as my third semester for the rest of my studies in Curtin. Had only 3 subjects. It was a great semester although I wasted lots of time. Attended classes with all the Geology students in Curtin in the same semester was fun. It was great to get to know seniors and learning from them. I'm glad to enroll in Year 3 unit, otherwise I wouldn't be able to understand a single thing when I attend the conference later on. Had a fun Brazilian Italian lecturer but I wished his lectures could be more interesting, capiche?

Countless trips with family: Penang, Genting, parts of Sitiawan, Ipoh, Miri (Niah and Mulu). I enjoyed to the fullest, especially FOOD. It was a shame that I didn't know Miri well in the sense that I reside in Miri longer than any of my family members. We drove around Miri to almost all the attractions during my family visit for a week. All the beaches in Miri are beautiful except for the water. It was after such a long time since I exercised and we went hiking to Niah Cave. 8 km in and out was really tiring. Nothing much special about Niah Cave, perhaps the guano? Mulu Caves were quite impressive except for the rain. We practically can't avoid rain as it's a tropical RAINforest area. Limestone formations are awesome! It would be great to have one of my lecturers with us to explain in detail about all. And not to forget, it was my first time to try bat's meat. Tasted like old chicken.

Trips with friends were awesome too, particularly FOOD TRIPS. Went to Malacca for food, twice! I never get tired of food. What I like about Malaysia is the FOOD. And in this year, did some crazy jogging at the beach early in the morning with Winnie. I'm very sure that I really love beaches.

Had 4 educational trips. I was a little disappointed that we didn't have field trip for Geology 102. Geology 101 field trip was quite a basic one, learnt how to draw the outcrops and explain them. Hopped from one place to another throughout the day under the scorching sun was not too bad after all. IGME field trip was quite an unusual one. We get to use the equipments (to apply the geophysical methods). I guess we all had fun at Luak Bay. My group was the one looking at all other groups playing the Treasure & Trash game. Palaeontology field trip & BBQ at Tusan Beach led by Dr Dominique was a good learning experience for me. Finally, at least learnt how to identify fossils at the beach. After the semester ended, I went on to UTM in Johor to attend Oil & Gas Technology Exhibition and Conference. I'm exposed to various technologies of different companies in the industry. Participated in a quiz competition and it was a good experience for newbies like us. After all, geology students tend to lose out a little as lots of the questions were about engineering. It was an awesome experience to meet people from different countries: Indonesia, China, Thai, Australia and other parts of Malaysia.

Most spontaneous thing that happened this year was my trip to the UK. Sis and I took a flight in early Dec to the UK. We had trips around the UK: London, the Lake District and etc etc. She went back to Malaysia on new year's eve and from then on, I travel alone most of the time. Sometimes, I can't believe that I travel solo, so soon. I always had the dream to travel solo but didn't have much courage to do so, even traveling in Malaysia itself. It was and it still is, and also will be a great experience to travel alone.

Before the year ended, we had gathering at aunt's house. We both had our friends gathered around and enjoyed the New Year's Eve fireworks in London. The fireworks were really impressive! We watched it from the window and through the tv as well. Such a wonderful feeling, able to meet my friends even in the UK!

2012 will be an awesome year! Happy Chinese New Year!

P.S. I just noticed that I turned my blog into a reading blog without conscious. Summarise what I did in one post shouldn't be the right thing. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Reading Corner: Say It Like Obama



A book of speech by Shel Leanne. Say It Like Obama is a good tool to get ideas of the art and power of speech. Shel Leanne shows you how Obama's presentation techniques can inspire people of all levels. This book is highly recommend to those who needs/wants to be inspired and motivated.

Below are the phrases that might be familiar to you:
"Yes we can."
"Change we can believe in."
"There is something happening."
"Our moment is now."

Completed on 19th July 2011.

Reading Corner: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time


It was the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year and the 2004 Best Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book. A simple yet intelligent piece of writing by Mark Haddon (ISBN: 1-4000-7783-4).
The story begins with Christopher's discovery of the corpse of his neighbour's dog, Wellington. The story revolves around the investigation of the death of dog by Christopher. The world of autistic people is shown by the author where this story is told in the first-person perspective. This is the part that I find this book interesting.

Completed on 19th September 2011. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Reading Corner: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan



It's an autobiography of Lily. Girls in the olden days are worthless. Lily's fate changed when a local matchmaker brought her family a life-changing news: if the little girl's feet are bound perfectly, she will have a life that every girl would be envious of. Subsequently, she started a special relationship with another girl, Snow Flower. Both of them underwent footbinding, learning nu shu (women's secret writing) and other skills to prepare for the marriage in the coming years. Once again, Lisa See exposed the other part of Chinese culture to me and in particular, the inner realm of women in the past with her beautiful writing skills. As Lily and I (and Snow Flower but she's quite different from Lily is some ways) shared the same zodiac (horse), I found much similarities in us. Lily is practical, her feet set firmly on the ground whereas Snow Flower attempts to fly over the constrictions of women's lives in the 19th century in order to be free. Perhaps it's so-called the distinctive traits of (female) horses. I'm also impressed and highly interested in the art of nu shu.

Highly recommended!

Quote from Entertainment Weekly:
You can relish See's extraordinary novel as a meticulously researched account of women's lives in nineteenth-century China. But you can also savour See's marvellous narrative as a timeless portrait of a contentious, full-blooded female friendship, one that includes, over several decades, envy, betrayal, erotic love and deep-seated loyalty. 
Excerpt from Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (ISBN-13 9780747582922):
We say one thing and do another. We feel one way; then our hearts open in another direction. We see one thing but don't understand that blinders hinder our vision. We prod along a well-loved path and then see a road, an alleyway, a river that tempts us...

Completed on 3rd of October 2011. 

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Reading Corner: Shanghai Girls



Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (ISBN: 9781400067114) is about two modern sisters, Pearl and May of different personalities and traits. They shared challenges, sorrows, happiness and secrets. Lisa See exhibits the sorrows of life of Chinese immigrants in the United States and how they overcome the challenges in order to protect/gain citizenship. Apart from that, she too displayed the contrasts between western and eastern (Chinese) cultures and beliefs. This flawless novel gave me a real picture of what actually happened during that era and complex feelings that the people had. At all times during my reading, it never fails to remind me of my sister and I. Highly recommended although the ending is a little hanging.

There's an except towards the end of the novel which summarizes the intimacy of the two sisters:
We hug, but there are no tears. For every awful thing that's been said and done, she is my sister. Parents die, daughters grow up and marry out, but sisters are for life. She is the only person left in the world who shares my memories of our childhood, our parents, our Shanghai, our struggles, our sorrows, and, yes, even our moments of happiness and triumph. My sister is the one person who truly knows me, as I know her. The last thing May says to me is "When our hair is white, we'll still have our sister love."


Completed on 28th September 2011.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Reading Corner: Hector and the Search for Happiness



I was at first attracted by it's lovely cover design and book title: Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord (ISBN: 0143118390, 9780143118398).

Are you happy with your life now? What makes you happy and what not?

Hector is a psychiatrist who loves to observe people. He started his little project of searching for the formula or secret for happiness during his travel to other countries. People of different walks of life gave him different perspective on happiness. And finally, he complied a list of his findings.

Here's the list of lessons from Hector (François Lelord 2010): 
Lesson no. 1: Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
Lesson no. 2: Happiness often comes when least expected.
Lesson no. 3: Many people see happiness only in their future.
Lesson no. 4: Many people think that happiness comes from having more power or more money.
Lesson no. 5: Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
Lesson no. 6: Happiness is a long walk in the mountains. 
Lesson no. 7: It's a mistake to think that happiness is the goal.
Lesson no. 8: Happiness is being with the people you love.
Lesson no. 8b: Unhappiness is being separated from the people you love.
Lesson no. 9: Happiness is knowing your family lacks for nothing.
Lesson no. 10: Happiness is doing a job you love.
Lesson no. 11: Happiness is having a home and a garden of your own.
Lesson no. 12: It's harder to be happy in a country run by bad people. 
Lesson no. 13: Happiness is feeling useful to others.
Lesson no. 14: Happiness is to be loved for exactly who you are.
Lesson no. 15: Happiness comes when you feel truly alive.
Lesson no. 16: Happiness is knowing how to celebrate.
Lesson no. 17: Happiness is caring about the happiness of those you love.
Lesson no. 18: Happiness could be the freedom to love more than one woman at the same time.
Lesson no. 19: The sun and the sea make everybody happy.
Lesson no. 20: Happiness is a certain way of seeing things.
Lesson no. 21: Rivalry poisons happiness.
Lesson no. 22: Woman care more than men about making others happy.
Lesson no. 23: Happiness means making sure that those around you are happy?

This book is simple to understand and the essence of it is the lessons which might make you start thinking of your own definition of happiness. Perhaps this international bestseller is a good guide for anyone who feels aimless in life.

Completed on 9th September 2011.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Reading Corner: A Pale View of Hills


Another master storyteller, Kazuo Ishiguro never failed to capture my attention. It's my first time reading his book, and so happen A Pale View of Hills is the first novel by him. This novel won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. The story revolves around a middle-aged Japanese lady, Etsuko who lives in England. There are some memories reflections in between and lies with mysteries, demonstrating differences between generations and cultural diversity. Simple language though the lines can be multilayered.

Completed on 17th June 2011.

Reading Corner: Soul Mountain



A book by Nobel Prize winner, Gao Xingjian. It wasn't an easy book to read at the beginning. However, you'll find it more appealing when you familiarize with his style of writing. You'll discover and re-discover the chinese ethnics culture and ideologies, both past and present. His style of story-telling blends well with metaphors, beautifully written. Highly recommended to one who prefers unusual style of pieces.

Completed on 14th July 2011.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

To: Hun Yen (2)

借助你回信的热度,我的blog也因此起死回生。

说真的,我还在学习怎么当朋友。他和她教会我把心胸敞开--和朋友谈心。我才是幸运的那位。

wish-to-do-list不怎么成功,只是压抑许久的食欲满足了。就算现在世界末日,也死而无憾 *choi*。2012快到了。虽然不相信世界末日会那么快到来,但已经开始在人生中的must-do-list增加项目了。我发觉list当中有很多刺激的项目,你应该也有兴趣。

不过话说回来,倒是有个朋友时不时会把我扯入一些疯狂又刺激的事情;一些这辈子不可能,也不会想到去做的事情,哪怕是一些琐事。这位朋友,也该谢谢他让我有比一般人更精彩的故事。

我们都年少过。
不,我们还年少。该疯狂的时候就去疯狂!

花边新闻总有,每次从东马回来必定有update。只是纯粹的关心,因为总是最后一个知道。朋友们:要是要从我这里得到最新的花边新闻,抱歉了。人脉不广?

Read between the lines太考功夫了。越有挑战性的,我们似乎越喜欢。明知道难以捉摸,却越陷越深。

阅读和睡觉也是一种幸福。我们还能有多少享福的时间?