Monday, August 31, 2015

Colouring Books for Adults

I’m loving this new craze of colouring books for adults. I'm sure these books have been around for a while but I've just made the discovery about a month ago. 

I’m not an artistic person but I’ve always had a set of colour pencils with me. I know it sounds weird but I use it to colour my Moleskine notebook which I use as my daily planner. When I’m planning my day I use colours to identify meetings, to-do list, urgent or non- urgent matters etc. I’ve always found colouring an enjoyable activity, sort of a de-stresser when I list out my often long and always URGENT to do list.

So, when they started selling the colouring books at MPH I got myself two copies. These are not the books that I wanted but since it’s my first time trying this out I got the ones that interested me the most amongst the pile available at the book store. These are the two copies I got for myself.

I haven’t done much colouring as I’ve been pretty busy lately but this activity is quite enjoyable to do with the kids. The kids have their own set of colouring books and colour pencils and we coloured our books together. Though I have to say the kids need a little bit more practice when it comes to colouring their books… 

I hope I’ll be able to have more time to spend on my colouring books soon but I’m doing it bit by bit every night. This is my first attempt which is still a work in progress:

Are you into colouring? Share with me your work in progress, I’d love to know what you are coloring right now. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review: Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Written by: Neil Gaiman
Designed by: Chip Kidd
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow

Publishers Summary:

This book is a reprint of Neil Gaiman’s speech to the graduates of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in May 2012. In his speech, he shares a bit of his experience and how he succeeded as a writer. The nineteen minutes speech also covered his thoughts on creativity, bravery and strength. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ Speech is not a normal book, the speech is printed in stylish graphic design by renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd.


I absolutely love this book. One because it was so bright, colourful and beautifully crafted by Chip Kidd that it was really pleasing to read. Two, though Gaiman’s speech was specifically targeted to art graduates I felt that there were a few pointers that anyone regardless of age can take as good advise in order for them to succeed in what they do.

There are two quotes that I love from this book. The first:

“I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work”

I totally agree with this. I hold the same principle and believe that one should have passion in what they do then only will they enjoy the work.

The second quote I like from Gaiman’s speech was on why people will still get work, they don’t have to be perfect but at least good in one of these three things and people would re-hire them regardless.

“1. Their work is good,
2. and because they are easy to get along with,
3. and because they deliver the work on time.
And you don’t even need all three.
Two out of three is fine.”

I have much respect for Gaiman and have always thought of him as a very talented writer. I have enjoyed all of the books I've read from Gaiman so far. This book opened up my eyes to the fact that even though he is a great writer, he too faced challenges, made mistakes and faced failures in his journey to success.

This book will take less than one hour to read. It’s definitely a keeper on my book shelf for the insightful content as well as the colourful style it was presented in. I gave it a 5 over 5 in Goodreads.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book review: A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Written by: Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by: Axel Scheffler
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Authors Summary:
“Wise old man, won’t you help me, please?
My house is a squash and a squeeze.”
This was my first book, published in 1993, but it started its life earlier still, as a song which I wrote for children’s television. There is also a Big Book, a board book, a Braille edition, a Let’s Read edition, a 20th anniversary edition with early drawings from Axel’s sketchbook and audio version with Imelda Staunton, Steven Pacey and Julia which includes both story and song (I sing the part of the little old lady!)
A Squash and a Squeeze features in a Scamp play called Tiddler and other Terrific Tales which frequently tours the UK. For performing details visit
"a bit of a classic… a goat on the bed and a cow on the table tapping out a jig? My readers collapsed in heaps, and then had to have it read again. And again."  Vivian French in The Guardian.

The kids and I are exploring a lot of Julia Donaldson’s books this year. So far the boys’ favourite is The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. We have these in both paperback and audiobooks formats. Whenever we travel in the car, the kids will definitely want to hear either one of these books. I think my eldest has even memorized the whole Gruffalo book by now.

A squash and a squeeze is a simple story of a woman who thought her house was too small and had asked the advice of a wise old man. The old man then had asked the woman to bring one animal after another into her house and then take the animals out again one by one. It was not until all the animals were out of her house did the old woman realized that her house was not small after all.

I really liked this book. The story has a nice rhyme to it and I quite enjoyed reading it to the boys. The illustrations were colourful and bright and the kids loved asking about the animals. However, the kids didn’t seem to be as engaged with the story as much as they were with The Gruffalo or Room on the Broom. I’ve tried reading this book to them a couple of times already but they were just not interested in the story but were more inquisitive on the animals. Maybe stories of little old ladies don’t appeal to them? Oh dear...

Regardless of how the kids reacted to the book, I personally think this was an enjoyable book to read.

In the author’s website, Donaldson mentioned that this book started off as a song for a children’s television show. So I googled and got a video of it on YouTube of the song which is sung by none other than the author herself. I’m going to try sharing the video with the kids instead and see if the kids will like the video better.

We have a couple more books from Julia Donaldson which I haven’t started reading to the kids yet but I really like her work so far. I gave this book a 3 over 5 in Goodreads.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I've outgrown my blog

When I started my blog in 2008, the purpose was to review and write about the books I’ve read and engage with other book bloggers. It took me a while to find a name for the blog but after some brainstorming and checking with friends on their opinions, I decided on Ulat Buku in the City.

It’s pretty obvious my current blog name was inspired by my favourite show at that point of time, Sex and the City. I was single and living in a high rise apartment right smack in KL city. Ulat Buku means book worm in my native language Bahasa Malaysia. Book worm + living in the city = Ulat Buku in the City. It's not the most creative blog name but hey I loved it and it reflected well on who I was back then. I also created a twitter account to support the blog @msulatbuku.

In sum, the blog name, look, feel and content quite suited me at that point in my life.

However as individuals, we change and evolve as we grow (older? wiser? I’m not sure which to use to be honest LOL) and looking at the blog now I somehow feel that it does not reflect the person I am today.

I’m not a consistent blogger obviously but I love my blog site. I love writing and at this juncture in my life when I do find the time to write, I would really like to write about more than just the books I read. I want to expand my content to also include my experiences at home, my family and some thoughts on my profession as a marketing communications consultant.

On Twitter, I have stopped using the @msulatbuku handle for quite a while now and started tweeting @tashmusa instead. I don’t know why but I just felt that the @msulatbuku handle seems a bit childish now and like my blog, not reflective of the person I am today.

I know for a fact that I want to keep this blog site. I’m too lazy to start all over again with a new blog site. In fact, a couple of years ago I experimented with a new blog site at Wordpress and that did not turn out well for me.

The question that I am asking myself is do I re-invent and rebrand this site? Should I? To be honest, I have not decided. I am still mulling over this but I’m leaning towards re-naming the site simply as Natasha Musa’s Blog, that way however I evolve in the future, the writing and content is from me and reflective of who I am. BUT... I'm finding it hard to let go of Ulat Buku in the City due to sentimental reasons. 

If you are a blogger and you are reading this, have you ever gone through such transition? What did you do? I hope you can share your thoughts and advice on what happened when you outgrew you blog. Drop me a note, I’d love to hear your opinion. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Life begins at 40

Life begins at 40.

At least that’s what they say.

I celebrated my 40th birthday in January this year. To be honest, I was quite hyped when my birthday came about. I have some friends who would mope and say that they get depressed leaving their 30’s behind. Me, I was actually looking forward to it and am pretty proud that I have reached 40 quite gracefully (or at least… I think I have).

Whilst I am very happy with my life, I have to be realistic and honest about my physical state. I am very unhealthy and am often stressed out juggling the responsibilities of building a career and managing and caring for my family. Like most working mums, I think I got overwhelmed with my responsibilities at work and at home that I often forget to put some time aside for myself. Anyway, overall I felt shitty physically. I am tired all day, I have low energy, I suffer from migraines quite often and also from back pains consistently. 

A couple of months ago, I went for a medical check-up for insurance purposes and the doctor told me I had early signs of diabetes. My father’s family have all suffered from diabetes. I’ve known that I had a high chance of getting diabetes seeing that it is a hereditary disease but I guess I was hoping that it might skip me completely. This news really got me to stop and think: If I’m unhealthy now how will I be when I am 50, 60 or 70- if God willing I live that long?

Reflecting back on how I’ve lived my life so far; I never did care much for my health. I never exercised. Rarely took vitamin supplements. Never monitored the food I ate. I work too much. I slept too little. I smoke too much.

Time for change

At the time I was reflecting my unhealthy physical state, I came across this article on my Facebook timeline “How to get a muscular body after 40?” - an article written by Gert Louw. Gerts article showed how he was at the age of 40 and how he is now at 51. He decided to make a change because he was suffering from so many health problems at the age of 40. I was honestly impressed with his transformation. Yes, I am fully aware that his website was written for men but I was inspired by his story nevertheless. 

Anyway, reading Gert's story sort of motivated me to start exercising and eating better. My objective is not to gain a muscular body at the age of 50 like Gert obviously but I would really love to be fit and not feel like dying when I go up ten steps of stairs. I want to stop feeling tired and lethargic all the time.

What I got from reading his article was if he can do it at 40, then damn it I can do it too.

The new regime

So for the past two months, I have been taking baby steps to change my lifestyle. I wanted to take things slow cause I’m one that can get excited with something new easily and also feel demotivated and drop a project instantly when I get bored especially when it comes to exercising. This was what I have done since June:

Step 1: Medical check up

By luck, I found a doctor who practised holistic healing and went to consult him. I briefed him on my health history, concerns and what I wanted to achieve. We also discussed about my current meal intake. The two hour plus consultation also included a blood test which helped him to diagnose what was lacking in my body.

From my visit with the doctor, he had recommended a very detailed meal plan for me and also recommended some vitamin supplements I should take to improve my health.

Step 2: Healthier meal plan

The first two weeks of going through the new meal plan was tough and expensive! Who knew eating organic food like brown rice, fruits and juicing could cost so much. I suffered from more migraines than usual and my eczema really got worst but the doctor did say that it will be a normal side effect from changing my diet plan and the new supplement intake. His exact word were “Be prepared to feel worst, before you feel better”. To be honest, after a month – my husband  did say I looked much better, my skin felt softer and I did feel a slight improvement in my energy levels.

I am unfortunately not following through the diet plan fully at this point of time but I do take the vitamin supplements religiously. Like I said, baby steps. I will change my diet plan slowly but surely.

I am also planning to do a more detailed health check but after looking through the packages offered on hospital websites I found it to be very expensive. So I’m saving up for that and hopefully will do a full medical by year end.

Step 3: Exercise

Ok. I hate exercising. I really do. But when you want to lead a healthier lifestyle I guess one must just persevere.

In the past, when I have had a sudden inspiration to get healthy, I’d join a gym or yoga classes. Historically, these things never did turn out well for me. I’d drop the classes and continued paying without attending any of them. So this time around, I decided to exercise from home and not spend a single cent on instructors or classes.

I decided to do two things: Yoga and indoor cycling. The plan was to wake up earlier in the morning and spend just 10 minutes a day to do my exercises. I would alternate the exercise: yoga one day and indoor cycling the next.

Yoga at home

The beauty about this day and age is that there are so many YouTube video that can guide you for your exercises. All you need to do is research and choose one to do as part of your exercise regime.

The first week, I did yoga following this video as a guide. Its 10 minutes of yoga stretches without getting out of bed! That’s how lazy I am! Lol.

I think I did this for about two weeks. Now, I am following this video for my 15 minute yoga in the mornings instead.

Indoor cycling
My husband bought an indoor cycling machine some years back. We use it mostly to hang stuff. Really…. The handles are handy that way. 

Anyway, I thought that I should make use of the machine in the mornings instead of using it to hang my handbags in the recreation room. On days that I don’t do yoga, I switch on my audiobook and cycle for ten minutes. 

This is my second month of exercise and I have increased my cycling time to 15 minutes.

There are days when I say “Screw it, I’m going back to bed” but most mornings in the past one month plus I do wake up looking forward to do the exercises. I’ve been chronicling my exercises on twitter. I don’t know why but I think announcing to the world that I am exercising and making a slow change in my life helped to motivate me somewhat.

As I mentioned earlier, I am currently in my second month of exercising. I definitely feel the difference. I still feel lethargic sometimes but its not as bad as before. To be honest, I think I love this new lifestyle of mine.

Last week I added this video – 10 minute No Equipment Home Workout, Full Body – as part of my exercise regime on days I don’t do yoga or indoor cycling. This one is tough but so far I quite enjoy trying to do the exercises.

So, this is me at 40. I’m trying to change for the betterment of my health. I remember reading somewhere that it takes 30 days to change a habit. If this is true then I hope this new habit of living life healthier remains consistent in my life. I’d like to live healthy and grow old enough to meet my grandchildren one day.

I’ve decided to use this blog to chronicle my success or failure in following through this journey of living life healthier. If you happen to read this, wish me luck and a word of encouragement would definitely help. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Audiobook Review: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Written by: Dean Koontz
Narrated by: David Aaron Baker
Length: 10 hours and 33 minutes
Series: Odd Thomas, Book 1
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio

Publisher's Summary:
"The dead don't talk. I don't know why." But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.
Maybe he has a gift, maybe it's a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd's otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo's sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it's different.
A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world's worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd's deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15. 
Today is August 14.
In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock 'n' Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere.

A couple of years ago, I saw a movie called Odd Thomas. It was a good movie with a very sad ending that made me cry buckets. After watching the movie a couple of times, I suddenly wondered if it was an adaptation from a book. So I googled and found out that it was an adaptation from a book of the same title authored by Dean Koontz. To be honest, I was pretty shocked that I knew nothing about this book. Why? Because in my late teens and early adulthood I thought I had read everything from this author. Dean Koontz was my favorite author during that time and I assumed that I had read everything and I really mean EVERYTHING from him.

Anyway, back to my thoughts on this book. I loved it. I think the movie adaptation also did justice to the book.

I really do admire Odd’s character. At times I feel sorry for him especially when the book reveals a little bit about his parents and his upbringing but I love him for how he decided to live his life independently and in pure simplicity despite all that he had gone through in his young life. I love the relationship he has with the people around him especially with his soulmate Stormy.

I’m a big Dean Koontz fan and honestly I am biased. This book could do no wrong for me. The storyline was excellent and the pacing was good. The audiobook production was also excellent. The narrator’s voice and depiction of Odd’s character is perfect. Truth: I cried at the end despite knowing fully well how it ended as it was similar to the movie.

I definitely will read the rest of the series and see how life turns out for Odd and his little troupe in the little town of Pico Mundo.

I gave this a 4 over 5 rating on Goodreads.

Audiobook Review: Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin

Written by: Charles Martin
Narrated by: Andrew Peterson
Length: 9 hours and 15 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Oasis Audio

When paramedics find a malnourished 6-year-old boy near a burning car that holds a dead woman, they wonder who he is – and why he won’t talk. Chase, a small-town journalist who was raised by foster parents, is assigned to cover the story and investigate the boy’s identity. But will his search unearth long-buried emotions – and answers to his own history?


The first few pages starts with intense drama. A 6 year old boy is being abused by whom we can only assume is his mother in a car, parked in the middle of the railway track with an oncoming train headed their way. 

The story follows through in the aftermath of a tragedy, when the boy is found wondering, not willing to utter a word to anyone and Chase Walker, a local reporter is put to task to investigate on the boy’s background. The journey leads to a story of self-discovery, the test of family bonds and a secret that is finally revealed after being hidden for so long.

This book is definitely the best book I’ve listened to in 2013. Hands down.

This novel has strong and memorable characters. The development of each character from the first page until the last is absolutely amazing. Unc, who is Chase’s foster father, is my absolute favourite character in this book, followed by Chase and Tommye. Unc’s relationship with Chase as a foster father is admirable. Though Unc is known to sometimes utter things that only he can understand; spoke many words of wisdom in the book. Listening to audiobooks while driving means that I am not able to jot down notes of quotes from Unc which is really sad but trust me some of Unc’s words are profound.

Chasing Fireflies is paced well. Characters and storyline is revealed at just the right time and the storyline is engaging which actually made me want to take longer drives. Shamelessly, I’ll admit tearing a number of times while listening to this book on my drive to work.

This book is about the importance of family relationships and the quest in search for the truth. It is a beautiful novel that is filled with emotions, strong family bonds and a revelation that is quite unexpected at the end.

My hats off to Andrew Peterson, the narrator of the audiobook. Not only did he read the story well, he manages to read each character differently and bring each and every character to life and made the listening experience even more worthwhile.

I absolutely LOVE this book. I loved it so much that I gave it a 5 over 5 on Goodreads.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Audiobook Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Written by: Melissa Marr
Narrated by: Alyssa Bresnahan
Length:10 hours and 9 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: HarperAudio

Aislinn has the third eye and is able to see faeries. Unfortunately, Aislinn’s mother was killed by faeries when she was young. Because of this she has been trained by her grandmother to hide her gift in order to protect her from the evil faeries.

She lives her life by a set of strict rules outlined by her grandmother. And these rules have kept her safe, until now. Suddenly, none of the rules apply anymore as she is stalked by Keenan, the faery Summer King. Keenan is after Aislinn as he believes that she could be ‘THE' Summer Queen and help release him from his mother’s evil powers.

The review:

Ok. This was not an exceptionally great book but I quite enjoyed it.

It offered a different take on how I normally see faeries. I always thought that faeries were like Tinkerbell from Peter Pan… Eh. Wait a minute. Is Tinkerbell a faerie even? Ok whatever…. Anyway you catch my drift, faeries: small creatures, a bit mischievous but overall good supernatural beings with wings attached to them.

My absolute favourite character in this book is…. drum roll please… SETH! (I’m so predictable right?) He’s the perfect guy (well, maybe a bit too perfect thus the reason why he only exists as a fictional character). I love him because he was:

  • Patiently waiting for Aislinn (I mean the guy did wait for 7 whole damn months before he told her he was in love with her)
  • Supportive (Did not call Aislinn crazy when she told him about her gift plus he even went all out and did research to find out more about the fairies)
  • Cool, outgoing, good in bed and apparently the man can cook (two thumbs up from me on this point more than the previous points).

Keenan on the other hand I find a tad annoying. I won’t comment on the female characters cause … well, none of the characters had a huge impact on me.

Overall the storyline was ok. I quite enjoyed it mostly though I thought some parts was like… huh? For example: when grandma met Keenan.

Storyline revolves mainly around Aislinn (duhhh… she is the main character Tasha!). But seriously, its Aislinn wondering what’s happening, Aislinn pissed off at Keenan, Aislinn wondering what to do with Seth and Aislinn having to decide whether she would take up the challenge handed to her by the faeries. That about sums up the story. Sorry for the spoiler.

I heard this on audiobook and thought the narration was great though the narrator’s voice seemed a bit too mature for Aislinn.

Good book but not great. Enjoyable nonetheless because of the different take on faeries plus I do love Seth tremendously in this book. I gave it a 3 over 5 on Goodreads.

*Side note:

After writing this post, I did a quick Google search on fairies vs faeries. I’ve always spelt it as fairies and wanted to know what the difference was. Turns out there IS a difference between fairies & faeries. My perception on fairies (like Tinkerbell) is right and Marr’s depiction of faeries is not new or different after all. 

Hah! I learn something new everyday. Lets see if I can make any use of this information in real life. 
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