Sunday, November 30, 2008


From the book:
July 1954. An island off the coast of Maine. Ann Grant- a 25 year-old New York career girl- is a bridesmaid at her best friend’s lavish wedding. Also present is a man named Harris Arden, whom Ann has never met...

After three marriages and five children, Ann Lord lies dying in an upstairs bedroom of a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. What comes to her, eclipsing a stream of doctor’s visits and friends stopping by and grown children overheard whispering from the next room, is a rush of memories from a weekend 40 years ago in Maine, when she fell in love with a passion that even now throws a shadow onto the rest of her life. In Evening, Susan Minot gives us a novel of spellbinding power on the nature of memory and love.

My two cents worth:
“Let’s just say that you won’t see the leaves change this year” was Dr Baker’s honest answer to how long Ann had left in the world. As she lies dying from cancer with little time left in the world, heavily medicated and rarely lucid, her mind goes back in time from one memory to another of how her life was spent.

Her most significant memory was from 40 years ago, over one weekend in Maine at her best friend’s wedding, where she found and lost her true love. In between, her memory also jumps to her three other husbands who she could not love to the fullest owing to the memory of the man she met that one weekend at the wedding.

It can be quite confusing to read the book at times as the story is told from a perspective of a delirious woman on her death bed. The memories get jumbled up and you may have to read certain parts twice just to be sure if it was from the past or present. Despite the confusion, the book brings out the highs and lows of Ann’s life which in reality we could all relate to in our own lives.

The book had a realistic feel to it- how children are affected by a parent’s illness; their plans to move forward; an ailing woman on her death bed who reflects on the significance of her life. Evening touches on life and death, love and loss and is a beautiful novel to read.

The movie:
I’ve been wanting to catch this movie for the longest time but decided to hold it off until I finished the book. With a bit of free time over the weekend, I managed to get my hands on the DVD, sat myself down on the sofa and dedicated my full attention to the movie.

One cannot help but feel star struck with the list of cast for the movie which included Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Toni Collete and Natasha Richardson. Even with the star studded cast, unfortunately the movie came across flat and did not highlight the different characters as the book did. The movie also had moments that were dragging (to be honest I dozed off at one point).

For those who have not read the book, the movie might be acceptable. But for those who have read the book, you will find that the storyline had changed drastically to fit the screens. However, the movie did successfully carry the essence of the book which still touched on life and death, love and loss.

Verdict: Both the book and the movie are draggy but the book had more depth in terms of storyline and character. So book wins again.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Anyone who knows me well enough would know that I have been raving about the Twilight saga for the longest time and that I’ve been impatiently waiting for the movie. Well it finally arrived in Malaysia last week and luckily I had invites to the preview and was one of the first people in Malaysia who saw it.

I’m probably not giving the movie a fair review seeing that Malaysian authorities have a habit of editing every single thing they deem as offensive. Yes, can you believe they edited some parts of Twilight???? There was nothing sexual or violent about the movie at all for God’s sakes! Urghhhhh... am so getting myself a DVD.

Well first off, I’ve mentioned before in my previous blog that I thought Orlando Bloom would have made a better Edward Cullen but of course I don’t think he would take on such roles. I had my doubts about Pattison playing the role in the beginning but he turned out ok. In fact he outdid my expectations in terms of acting just that I felt he didn’t cut it in terms of looks or my visualization of how EC should look like. Kristin Steward played her role well and Bella’s character was as annoying on screen as she was in the book (...I’m just jealous).

As an ardent fan of the book, I had high expectations for the movie but somehow it came across as B Grade. The chemistry between Edward and Bella which was the winning point of the book came out somewhat corny in the movie. Overall, the movie depicted the book’s storyline almost to perfection and is an ok movie to watch, just not remarkable.

I also felt that the scripting was weak and some of the clever banter between the characters that were really funny from the book was not prevalent in the movie which would probably have made the movie better.

Plus can I just add that the part of the movie depicting how some of the Cullens became vampires looked really stupid. In those scenes, it should have been scary but it turned out funny instead.

Anyway, I bumped into someone as I exited the cinema and she told me she loved the movie; I suppose it’s a fair review from a person who has not yet read the book. But for a fan, I left slightly disappointed.

Btw, I lead my boyfriend to believe that this was a true vampire movie (he wouldn’t have gone to the cinema with me if I said otherwise). No doubt he was expecting darkness, violence and gore ala Blade. Little did he know it was not all about vampires but more about romance *chuckles*. Anyway sorry for misleading you, at least you didn’t snore at the cinema baby.

Verdict: Book wins hands down, so read it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Five People You Meet In Heaven


Part melodrama and part parable, Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven weaves together three stories, all told about the same man: 83-year-old Eddie, the head maintenance person at Ruby Point Amusement Park. As the novel opens, readers are told that Eddie, unsuspecting, is only minutes away from death as he goes about his typical business at the park. Albom then traces Eddie's world through his tragic final moments, his funeral, and the ensuing days as friends clean out his apartment and adjust to life without him. In alternating sections, Albom flashes back to Eddie's birthdays, telling his life story as a kind of progress report over candles and cake each year. And in the third and last thread of the novel, Albom follows Eddie into heaven where the maintenance man sequentially encounters five pivotal figures from his life (a la A Christmas Carol). Each person has been waiting for him in heaven, and, as Albom reveals, each life (and death) was woven into Eddie's own in ways he never suspected. Each soul has a story to tell, a secret to reveal, and a lesson to share. Through them Eddie understands the meaning of his own life even as his arrival brings closure to theirs.
Albom takes a big risk with the novel; such a story can easily veer into the saccharine and preachy, and this one does in moments. But, for the most part, Albom's telling remains poignant and is occasionally profound. Even with its flaws, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a small, pure, and simple book that will find good company on a shelf next to It's A Wonderful Life. --Patrick O'Kelley
My two cents worth:
I’ve always liked Albom’s simplistic style of writing with the ability to deliver strong messages across to the readers. Like his other books that I’ve read, The Five People You Meet in Heaven also succeeds to pull at the heart strings.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven begins with an introduction of the main character Eddie who lives in solitude after the death of his wife. The only human contact being his colleagues at Ruby Pier where he heads Maintenance.
Eddie losses his life in a freak accident and encounters five people in heaven that proceeds to teach him lessons in life. The people that he encounters; some strangers and some he knew have all significantly affected his life, with or without his awareness of their significance at that point.
The underlying theme of the book is that we are all connected to each other. Each decision we make in life will affect another person whether it is someone you know or a complete stranger and this message is strongly delivered from the five different people he meets in the afterlife. Other messages that came across is the importance of sacrifice, forgiveness, love and life itself.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven is poignant and provides important lessons that would make a reader reflect on what’s important in life after reading the book. I love the messages that came from the book but I found the storyline not as engaging as his other books. To date, Tuesdays With Morrie still remains my personal favourite from Albom.


I thought this quote would be a nice follow-up to my previous review of "The No Asshole Rule":
“The toes you are stepping on today may well be attached to the ass you need to kiss tomorrow”

Friday, November 14, 2008

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

From the book:
In a landmark article published in the esteemed Harvard Business Review, Stanford University professor Robert I. Sutton addressed a taboo topic that affects every workplace: employees who are insensitive to their colleagues... corporate bullies... bosses who just don’t get it- the kind of people who make you exclaim in exasperation, “What an asshole!”
Now in a definitive book that addresses this growing problem, Sutton shows you how you can work with unsavoury people- without becoming one of them yourself...

My two cents worth:
Please excuse my language but I’m kinda enjoying writing this review.
Let’s start with the correct definition of Asshole in this context: It’s not fair to call every person that pisses you off in the office an Asshole. A person who deserves such a grand title has to have a habit of aiming his/her venom at people who are less powerful and leaving the victim feeling oppressed, humiliated, de-energized and belittled, basically making them feel worst about him or herself. I bet you have someone in mind already right? (I do and I’ll definitely tell you about my experience later)

In The No Asshole Rule, Sutton provides recommendations on how the rule can be implemented successfully into an organization that is serious about changing its culture for the better. Allow me to state this clearly again, this book is suitable for organizations or top influential decision makers that are serious about changing its culture but if you are happy with the ‘pro Asshole’ rule in your organization then don’t bother but the book may give you some useful insights on the pro’s and con’s of keeping to this rule.

Included in the book are case studies and research on the effects of allowing Assholes to run wild in an organization. It de-motivates employees, diminishes productivity, causes low self-esteem, increases turnover and lo and behold: IT WILL AFFECT YOUR COST and in some cases PROFITS. (You don’t really need a book to tell you that do you? The increase in turnover alone is a waste of resources because you would constantly need to interview new people to come on board)

Victims of Assholism (he he... there is no such word of course just bear with me here) will also find this book useful as it provides tips on how to survive these nasty people. If you have worked in an organization, chances are you’ll be lucky enough to come across an Asshole at least once in your lifetime so the tips are quite handy. It also provides a self test to see if you yourself are a certified Asshole. (Phew! My results say that I’m not an Asshole but I do admit that I can be a ‘temporary Asshole’ at times... I’m only human)
I found this book’s content based on common sense but what makes the book insightful is the case studies and research presented on how a ‘pro Asshole’ rule can effect an organization and its employees. The No Asshole Rule is not one of those business books that can put you to sleep within minutes. It’s definitely a good read and I definitely had a trill saying the word Asshole so many times in a day. (I don’t swear a lot so I take this opportunity with open arms)
For more information visit Bob Sutton’s blog on other useful organizational tips.

My story:
I’m writing to share my experience of what working with a mean spirited person can do to your overall well being and how best to survive. I once had a boss that was so vile that I nick named my tormentor '666'. I was hired because of my past achievements and strategic background in growing a business, but when I came on board none of these qualities were utilized.

My comments were constantly ignored during meetings, when in rare occasions my opinion was sought I would be shot down for giving such a stupid idea (only for the idea to be presented again at an opportune moment for 666 to take credit). 666 constantly berated me and as if it was not enough to torture me from 9-5 Mondays to Friday’s, 666 would call me up over the weekends just to taunt me on matters that were not even under my portfolio and always made sure to point out that I was the most incompetent and dumbest person in the world before hanging up. In other words 666 was CRAZY!
I’m described by my closest friends to be a person who is emotionally strong, seldom do I let unjustified comment bother me. But even the strongest person can fall prey to breakdown if the psychological abuse is provided in little doses consistently. Most of my other colleagues suffer the same torment but they’ve all noticed that I seemed to be her favourite subject of abuse.
There was little that we could do to overcome this challenge because despite being mean spirited, 666 was considered a treasure to the company. I hate to admit this but 666 produced results, was efficient and very hard working. The only flaw was that 666’s leadership qualities were based on fear. Because of 666’s leadership style, people feared making mistakes and even the nicest people were quick to point fingers to save their own skin...myself included; thus resulting in the lack of trust amongst peers.
The stresses of working in such an environment can cause sleepless nights; I had nightmares related to work, I was constantly afraid of being humiliated, constantly questioning my own abilities and worst I began to project the same attitude as 666. I was so stressed out that my relationship with my boyfriend and my parents became rocky. I was always snapping at them, imagine that, snapping at people I love the most. This was when I was also diagnosed with severe acid reflux and was once rushed to the hospital at 5 am in the morning.
I could tell you countless stories of 666’s evil ways but what I’d rather do is concentrate on ways to keep your sanity intact while working with such a person. My suggestion for those who are suffering the same predicament; LEAVE- life is too short and you do not deserve the abuse no matter how incompetent you are. We all have our strengths that can be useful contribution to an organization and there are always ways to improve your weaknesses.

Not long after I joined, I made a decision to leave the company but couldn’t do it immediately as I wanted to be very careful with my next employment selection. If you’d like my recommendation on how to survived such an environment, here’s what I did:
  1. Avoid contact as much as possible. Use the email or phone rather than face to face contact.
  2. Remind yourself of your positive attributes every day. This kept my confidence intact whenever I questioned if 666’s baseless accusations were true. It helps if you remind yourself of the things you’ve achieved in life.
  3. Make jokes of the horrors you have experience so that you don’t take the verbal abuse personally. For example, every time 666 said something nasty, I’d joke and tell myself that 666 was only doing this because I’m smarter or prettier or whatever that would tickle my funny bone.
  4. Don’t show emotion- Always act professionally when a nasty comment is given. Don’t give any indication that their comments are getting to you. Ignore them and trust me your indifference will annoy them more. All they want from their action is a sense of power and they will only be satisfied if you show them your weaknesses. If you act indifferent, they know they can't bully you and eventually they will leave you alone.
  5. If you need to talk it over, confide in a friend. Trust me, you’ll feel better once you’ve let it all out and you’ll realize that you’ve just wasted energy on a useless cause.
  6. If your achievement at work is non-existent, find other ways to have a sense of accomplishment like re-decorating your house or take part in activities. Even a simple thing like re-organizing your bank statements will give you a sense of achievement.
  7. Keep yourself busy and don’t mull over the comments too much, take it with a pinch of salt but be realistic. If you’ve made a mistake, take the point constructively, learn from it then move on. One of my colleagues started going to the gym and he mentioned that running on the treadmill helped him shed all the pent up anger he kept inside.
  8. Don’t look at the experience negatively; you actually learn a lot from Assholes as they can be a benchmark of who you DO NOT want to be in life.
  9. Finally, if you’ve done all the above and many more and still feel abused then my only advise is LEAVE. Seriously life is too short to spend it with people who generate negative energy.

Other reading recommendations that could help:
  • Dealing with People You Can’t Stand by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Graveyard Book

From the book:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Well, he would be perfectly normal is he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of the ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more.
But it is in the land of the living that real dangers lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
A deliciously dark masterwork by bestselling author Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by award-winning Dave McKean.

My two cents worth:
I first came across Neil Gaiman’s name through the movie Stardust (excellent movie, definitely my all time favourite). Since then I’ve read one or two of his books and have enjoyed them tremendously. The Graveyard Book is no exception. I truly admire Gaiman’s imaginative abilities and his talent for putting it down creatively on paper.
It didn’t hit me that the book was channelling Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book until I read the credits at the end. In Jungle Book the orphan was raised by occupants of the jungle whereas in The Graveyard Book, Nobody Owens or Bod is raised by occupants of the graveyard. It’s a book targeted to children, but adults who love adventures can definitely enjoy the book too.

Growing up in the graveyard gave Bod fascinating adventures among the dead as well as the living and the illustrations by Dave Mckean makes the stories come alive. To quote Patrick Ness’s review title on Gaiman’s latest work published in The Guardian UK “Neil Gaiman’s tales from the crypt are a deathly delight”, that about sums up my thoughts on the book.

Final thoughts: I think The Graveyard Book has great movie potential (yup me thinks it’s that gud) and I reckon Tim Burton can make it happen if he chose it as his next project. Anybody know how I can get this message across to Mr. Burton?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The 2009- 100+ Reading Challenge

Yes... it’s that time of the year where you start thinking about what you want to do for the coming New Year. Instead of starting with my personal resolutions for 2009 (which is still the same from like ten years ago, so I don’t have to bother really) I’m starting with a book challenge hosted by J. Kaye’s Book Blog.

What’s great about this challenge is that you don’t have to decide on your books ahead of time. You can add or subtract from your list during the year.

If you don't own a blog, don't despair. You can still sign up for the challenge in Yahoo Groups.

Happy Reading Everybody!

  1. An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever Given
  2. Confessions of a Fallen Angel
  3. Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland
  4. Power is the Great Motivator
  5. The Book Thief
  6. Love Letters of Great Men
  7. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  8. Northanger Abbey
  9. Juggling Elephants
  10. Burning Bright
  11. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  12.  The Hound of the Baskervilles
  13. The Necklace
  14. The Ambitious Guest
  15. Inkheart
  16. The Time Traveler's Wife
  17. Who Moved My Cheese?
  18. The Elephant's Child
  19. Veronika Decides to Die
  20. Philosophy: A Graphic Guide to the History of Thinking
  21. The Book of Lost Things
  22. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
  23. The Rocking Horse Winner
  24. Kira-Kira
  25. The Three Incestuous Sisters
  26. The Traveler
  27. The Cellist of Sarajevo
  28. The Gashlycrumb Tinies
  29. Early American Advertising
  30. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  31. A Child Called 'It'
  32. Memories of My Melancholy Whores
  33. Three Cups of Tea
  34. City of Thieves
  35. Coraline
  36. Rod Sterling's The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33
  37. Rod Sterling's The Twilight Zone: The After Hours
  38. A Game of Thrones
  39. Dead Until Dark
  40. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rodrick Rules
  41. Living Dead in Dallas
  42. Quotations of David Ogilvy
  43. Club Dead
  44. Dead to the World
  45. Dead as a Doornail
  46. The Forest of Hands & Teeth
  47. Three Shadows
  48. Fahrenheit 451
  49. Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite
  50. Mr. Toppit
  51. Zombie Blondes
  52. Vampire Diaries
  53. Kenny & the Dragon
  54. Ariel
  55. Definitely Dead
  56. I, Coriander
  57. The Vampire Diaries, The Fury & Dark Reunion
  58. Odd & The Frost Giants

The Two Mrs Robinsons

From the book:
Twenty-something Anna lives with Oliver Robinson and their three-year-old son Charlie. Juggling work and motherhood, she couldn’t be happier. Or could she? Oliver is still married to his first wife, Eve, mother of his two teenage children, a dominant figure who insists on making her presence felt and whose constant demands soak up their time and income.
Just as it seems the two Mrs Robinsons will never see eye to eye, a terrible tragedy leaves them both shattered. Forced to pull together through their shared loss, will they be able to put their differences aside for the sake of their children...?

My two cents worth:
I love a good family drama. At home, one of the channels that I’m addicted to is Hallmark, so you can understand my reasons for picking up this book.
The Two Mrs Robinsons is a story about picking up the pieces after the death of a loved one. The circumstances which had brought the two Mrs Robinsons together are filled with hatred, jealousy, grief, acceptance, understanding, love and joy.
I thought there were too many things happening in the book with too many people involved but it was still a good book to read. The story is filled with realistic challenges, more on an emotional and financial level which pushes Anna and Eve together trying to move forward in life.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Just Who Will You Be? Big Questions. Little Book. Answers Within.

From the book:
“I’ve learned that asking ourselves not just what we want to be, but who we want to be is important at every stage of our lives, not just when we’re starting out in the world. That’s because in a way, we’re starting out fresh in the world every single day”

Just Who Will You Be? is a candid, heartfelt, and inspirational book for seekers of all ages. Inspired by a speech she gave, Maria Shriver’s message is that what you do in your life isn’t what matters. It’s who you are. It’s an important lesson that will appeal to you anyone of any age looking for a life of meaning.
In her own life, Shriver always walked straight down her own distinctive path, achieving her childhood goal of becoming an “award-winning network newswoman Maria Shriver.” But when her husband was elected California’s Governor and she suddenly had to leave her job at NBC News, Maria was thrown for a loop. Right about then, her nephew asked her to speak at his high school graduation. She resisted, wondering how she could possibly give advice to kids when she was feeling so lost herself. But in the end she relented and decided to dig down and dig deep, and the result is this little jewel.
Just Who Will You Be? reminds us that the answers to many of life’s questions lie within-and that we’re all works in progress. That means it’s never too late to become the person you want to be.
Now the question for you is this:

My two cents worth:
If I were Maria Shriver I’d question what I’d want to be next too. I mean just look at her background and personal achievements:

-Good family background- connected to the Kennedy’s and comes from a family of high achievers; her father Sargent Shriver founded the Peace Corps and her mother founded the Special Olympics...sheesh how do you top that?
- Good personal achievement- award winning anchor woman for NBC, established author, a wife and a mother. She also has fame, fortune, beauty, smarts and of course she is the First Lady of the State of California, married to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or better known to me as The Terminator.
- Good circle of friends – best friends with Oprah... yes, THE life guru herself Ms Oprah Winfrey...
Really what is there to achieve in life after all that?
I suppose being in Oprah’s circle of friends has its benefits because that’s when I first came to know about the book. Oprah interviewed Maria Shriver on her show a long time ago and also spoke to people who raved about how profound the book was and how it has helped them to make positive changes in their lives. I’ve been wanting to read Just Who Will You Be? for quite a while now but never got around to it until recently. In all honesty, I felt that the book was overhyped. It wasn’t profound as the message she delivered is not new, something that I have come across from somewhere else before. I also found the content to be a bit fluffy with Shriver outlining her background and achievements, her anxiety over the speech she was invited to do, her conversations with her kids, family etc.
Upon saying that, I do however agree with the core message of this book. In the first page of the book Shriver made a statement to her daughter “I’m still a work in progress, and I’m writing my next act now” which I strongly agree and is something that I try to practice myself. As we move forward in life, there is a need for us to constantly re-evaluate ourselves to become better people and live richer lives. The vision we set ten years or months or even days ago, may not work for us today. As the circumstances and environment around us change, there is also a need to relook at our outlook and what we want for ourselves in life.
At the end of the book, Shriver recommended that we come up with a List of Ten Things I Pledge to Myself which I feel is a good habit to pick up. I’ve been practising something similar for about five years or so now and I feel that it helps me visualize who I am or who I want to be in life. It also helps you to define yourself based on your own expectations. Like Shriver, I am also a work in progress and am always looking for ways to better myself in any way possible. In addition to what Shriver has recommended, I think it also helps to read the pledge daily at the start of each day.
If you like reading motivational/self help books, I’d also like to recommend reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey that provides a chapter or two of recommendations on the importance of personal vision using a principle-centred approach.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Host

From the book:
Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy that takes over the minds of human hosts. Most of humanity has succumbed. When Melanie- one of the last remaining humans- is captured, she is certain it is her end.
Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, probes her thoughts to discover her whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she is tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous search for the man they both love.
My two cents worth:
Although The Host is classified as a science fiction novel, it touches more on human relationships and behaviour at its best and its worst. Wanderer an alien who has lived in eight different planets came to Earth and was given Melanie’s body to live out her ninth life. As Melanie’s will was so strong, Wanderer was not able to take full control of the body especially her mind and became unwillingly pulled into Melanie’s human desires.
The book had a slow start and the dialogue can be confusing in the beginning. As both Wanderer and Melanie begin to communicate with each other you sometimes miss out who was saying what to whom. But as you move forward in the book, it gets better once you understand the characters a bit more and the storyline becomes interesting. When Wanderer meets the human resistance and lives with them she begins to form a strong bond to the group which gave her the opportunity to experience humanly feelings of love, hate, anger, doubt and every other feeling that can only be experienced by human beings. She also began to appreciate the importance of relationships which she has never experienced in any of her previous lives.

There’s definitely romance in the storyline. One body with two minds, Melanie and Wanderer’s of course with Jared and Ian respectively. So you can imagine the drama of two men fighting for one person’s attention; pretty exciting, funny at times and definitely different.

I didn’t particularly like or dislike any of the characters from the book, although sometimes I felt Wanderer’s character can be a tad similar to Bella and Ian like Edward from the Twilight series. Wanderer had the “I need to be protected cause I’m too soft and fragile” syndrome while Ian had the “I need to protect her cause she can hurt herself” syndrome (I also wondered if Ian had ever dreamt of becoming a weightlifter pre-alien apocalypse period because he seems to have a liking to carry Wanderer from one cave room to another in her weak or abused moments. Seriously, read it and tell me what you think).

The beauty of the book is that it appreciates the complexities of human nature and behaviour. Overall, I liked the book but it was predictable. I predicted that the ending would be a happy one for the characters involved and true enough it ended as I suspected. It was an enjoyable read nonetheless with a good combination of humour, romance and drama in true Myers’s style. Don’t be turned off by the size and the number of pages in the book, it’s relatively easy to read and I managed to finish it within 2 to 3 days tops. Good book overall.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wear Sunscreen: A Primer for Real Life

From the book:
Mary Schmich’s timeless advice was delivered in the newspaper and, through a twist of fate, became a phenomenon. Now the “Wear Sunscreen” video is a YouTube hit seen by millions of viewers.
It all began with a column titled “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young,” an imagined graduation speech, written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. Posted on the Internet, Schmich’s column quickly became an international sensation. Friends emailed it to friends, the media picked up on it, and a star is born. There was only one problem: Everyone thought the column was an actual commencement address given by author Kurt Vonnegut.
Eventually, Mary Schmich was correctly identified as the author and her clever, poignant column became a best-selling gift book and a Billboard hit song from director Baz Luhrmann.
My two cents worth:
I recently served my last day of employment with a company that I’ve been attached to for a while. When it was nearing time for me to leave, my team came up to me and presented me with a book written by Mary Schmich called Wear Sunscreen and as they presented this, they sang a tune from Baz Luhrmann’s musical version inspired by the same essay. I believe the reaction they were seeking for was recognition to the book or the tune. Unfortunately, all I could give them was a smile and a blank stare. Horrified that I was not familiar to either the tune (sorry guys but you sang a bad tune, I really didn't recognize the music at that point) or the book, one of my colleagues picked up a pillow from my seat and started hitting me with it a couple of times while he wails in disappointment (seriously, he actually did this) “How can you not hear about Wear Sunscreen????”... I’m sure you can imagine my confusion as I wondered what the big deal was.

I was then given a quick educational lecture on Mary Schmich’s phenomenal work. Wear Sunscreen was a popular motivational piece sometime in the 90’s... (That explains it! How the hell was I supposed to remember every forwarded email that I’ve read in the 90’s when I can’t even remember what I read yesterday???) Anyway, it was so popular that Baz Luhrmann, a popular Australian film director, screen writer and producer created a music video based on the full text of Wear THAT I've heard before especially if you grew up in the 90’s, you'd definitely be familiar with this tune.

As for the book, it takes only about five minutes to finish it. As I read it, I vaguely remember coming across the article or maybe it was just my brain giving false information as I desperately search my memory on whether I’ve actually read this essay before. Anyway, whether I’ve read it or not is not important. What is important is that the advice provided in Wear Sunscreen is inspirational and charming. It’s funny and can be a quick ‘pick-up’ for down moments in life. Schmich has provided very sound and useful advice and a great reminder on what is really important in life and Luhrmann brought the essay alive with the music video.

I also went on YouTube to refresh my memory on Baz Luhrmann’s version and I’m attaching the video here. I’m sure you’ll appreciate this music video too once you’ve seen it. It’s definitely a beautiful and motivational piece. Enjoy...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ALI- No Black Tie, 31 October

I have a confession: I’m not the best neighbour to have in my community. I live right smack in the city, five minutes walking distance to No Black Tie and if I remember correctly, I’ve only been there maybe five times. That averages out to one visit a year since I moved into the area but I have to make mention that I’ve enjoyed every visit made.
For those who do not know what No Black Tie is, I would describe it as a cultural hub that houses budding and experienced artist alike to showcase their talents and for both the talented and untalented (such as myself) to appreciate their gift.

A couple of weeks back a friend of mine who is musically inclined herself and socializes among the talented, invited me for an evening of entertainment at No Black Tie. Only upon arrival at the venue did I find out that No Black Tie was celebrating its tenth year anniversary and had arranged a line of outstanding local and international performances throughout the whole week. The night I was there we were entertained by a Brazilian performer Valtinho Anastacio as well as a local band called ALI.

As I had prior engagements earlier in the evening, I only arrived towards the end of the first set performed by Valtinho Anastacio. I managed to catch his version of Mas Que Nada and immediately regretted not being able to arrive earlier and witness the full show.
The second set featured a local band called ALI. While ALI was performing, I wondered why I’ve never heard of them before. FYI, ALI is a collaboration of two of the most talented and well known icons from the music industry; Roslan Aziz and Muklis Nor. I recently visited Roslan Aziz’s blog and only then found out that they had just recently launched their album sometime last August through the web. So the album is fairly new in the market and I’m not that backdated after all. Thank God, for a minute there I thought I lived under a huge rock.
They entertained us with a few of their songs from the latest album and I have to say, it would be a disappointment if they didn’t perform well with such a strong and talented partnership, so obviously they were GREAT! I especially love the upbeat song Nonterro which I found had some similarities to Hijau. Not suprising since the duo were responsible for the development of Hijau to begin with. Plus, whilst ALI was performing, Valtinho Anastacio actually went up on stage and joined in the performance. The combination was powerful and the performance seemed naturally coordinated despite its spontaneity.

Anyways, I’d highly recommend that you check out the album especially songs like Benar and Bebas. If I’m not mistaken it’s not out on CD format yet but you can access the music via the blog site. If you’d like to know more about ALI, then check them out at

Btw, to my neglected neighbour, No Black Tie - Happy Tenth Anniversary! Thanks for a great night of entertainment and truly hope that there will be many more to come.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Gargoyle

From the official website:
The nameless and beautiful narrator of The Gargoyle is driving along a dark road when he is dazzled by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned. He is now a monster. His life is over.

But it is only just beginning: one day, Marianne Engel, a wild and bewitching sculptress of gargoyles, walks into his room and reveals that they were once lovers in Medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly burned mercenary, and she, a nun and a scribe, nursed him back to health in the famed monetary of Engelthal. As she spins her tale, Scheherazade-fashion, and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life- and, finally, to love.
The Gargoyle is an extraordinary novel that will take you on a wild and original journey. It will have you believing in love, in miracles and in redemption.
My two cents worth:
First of all, I'd like to vote Canongate’s edition of The Gargoyle with best book cover of the year, hands down. That was what attracted me to the book when I first set my eyes on it. My colleague carried the book into the office one day like it was the latest fashion accessory of the season (FYI, he’s the type that can carry a stinking trash can and make it look like the latest thing in fashion). It also didn’t help that he was raving about the book being ‘unputdownable’. I just had to have it.
Shortly after, I called every bookstore in town to get my hands on the same edition. Luckily for me, Times Bookstore had ONE copy of the edition that I badly wanted. By the weekend, it was my hip fashion accessory, well the bookworm’s version of a hip accessory when I carry it that is (unfortunately unlike my colleague, I’m far from fashion savvy).
The plus point other than the beautiful cover, you wonder? It was an amazing read, so it’s not just pretty on the outside. I have yet to come across a book that combines unspeakable or shall I say taboo subject matters and romance rolled into one. I thought it was excellent for a first novel, the author’s story telling methods were unique. It was well researched and brought a sense of realism to the character’s suffering as a severe burn victim. I also found the tone and language used suitable for the cynical and intelligent main character. Plus, the character and plot development was revealed in a pace that I was comfortable with and I found the storytelling style mesmerizing.

The story goes- after an accident caused by drug induced hallucinations the main character was terribly burned and disfigured. Whilst recovering in the hospital, a lady called Marianne Engel whom he had never met before visits him and tells him that they knew each other from 700 hundred years ago. Intriguing? Yes but NOT until she starts telling stories from the past which really kept me up till late at night, impatiently turning the pages while the clock strikes another full hour without my much needed beauty sleep. The gothic tales of romance spanning centuries were beautifully told, gives it an epic feel and makes it memorable.

I love the first line from the book, “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.” which you can only truly appreciate once you’ve read the book. The Gargoyle is original, unlike any novel that I’ve ever read (and I’m open to any recommendations of other books that might carry a similar feel). Definitely a recommended read.
Kudos to Andrew Davidson for such a grand first novel and kudos to the marketing team; I found the book design and website to be consistent and reflects The Gargoyle’s style perfectly.

For more information, visit the official website at
Related Posts with Thumbnails