Sunday, August 31, 2008

Twilight - mixed feelings

Stuck half way through Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and not sure if will continue. Though, I already have second book New Moon of the series in my hands!

It is partially enjoyable, but not as captivating as I thought it would.

Kind of a half cafe, de-cafe version of Judy Blume meets Anne Rice novel about a teen girl who falls in love with a vampire.

You can certainly tell that this is Meyer's first book as there are some really annoying things that should have been edited out.

For instance: The incessant and repetitive way we are told on every second page how Edward Cullen (the teen vampire whom main character falls in love with) is 'handsome, gorgeous, beautiful'. It really slows down the narrative and is not necessary.

We get it. He is one hot teen vampire - please move on.

I guess what is missing is any sense of subtleness, or even Buffy like irony, in the book. Overall, I find the characters a tad too shallow. There seems to be an emphasis on how important it is to be an attractive, beautiful, sexy vampire with pecs that show through your tight t-shirt (and yes that my fellow readers is almost an exact quotation).

After writing all this, I have made up my mind to not finish the book. Twilight should have been a fun peppy sort of read, but has instead become a bit of a labour of 'unlove'.

Maybe I'll just wait for the movie!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mid book rave: Eat Pray Love

Not even half way through but I want to rave about Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love.

Sometimes the rave reviews and hype surrounding a book leave you so disappointed when you actually get to read the book.

But not in this case - the raves are TRUE.

Gilbert writes in such a direct and engaging manner, what I describe as writing with a 'conversational force'. It feels like she is having a direct conversation with you and responding to your thoughts.

I love the fact that her writing is imbued with a certain self awareness (or in cultural theory speak: self reflexiveness) of how kooky her thoughts and feelings are to even herself.

There is a mixture of humour and humility in her writing. A rare combination that lifts this book above the generic 'here is what happened to me overseas' type of memoir.

Plus her writing on food - soooo funny! Here's an example of her reactions on finding the best pizza in Napoli:

"I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return."

Side bar:
My version of the book has a rave blurb by Minnie Driver - WTF?

Really strange as the other blurbs from Guardian, New York Times Book Review, Marie Claire (to be expected).

But Minnie Driver as the last blurb?? Also she says something so generic - "amazing and wonderful" - it makes me wonder whether her PR flack actually made it up.

Anyway, musing about this reminds me of this article on problematics of blurbing in the promotion of books.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Growing Up Asian in Australia

Borrowed Growing Up Asian in Australia from book buddy Tseenster.

Enjoyable read with some really moving and funny stories. I particularly liked:
  • Suni Badami - hilarious account of how Asian names cause so many problems.
  • Amy Choi - deeply moving account of how harsh we can be to our families in the pressure to assimilate.
  • Benjamin Law - funny, laugh out account of family holidays.
Overall it was a good read, but sometimes a bit patchy in terms of quality.

My biggest gripe is the 'Tall Poppies' section - interviews with 'well known' Asian Australian identities. I didn't think the Q&As added much to the book and in contrast with the deeply moving and personal stories such as Choi's, seemed a bit lame-o.

Plus, it was frustrating to hear from the same old 'faces' that are meant to represent 'successful' AAs ie. John So.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cool name, cool book

And the gold medal for best named author goes to: Fushia Dunlop - what a cool name!

What a cool book! I am eagerly awaiting my library to get a copy of Dunlop’s book: Shark's fin and Sichuan pepper : a sweet-sour memoir of eating in China.

It is on order – god I love my local library, it is sooo on the ball with its acquisition policy!

The NY Times review calls it: “an insightful, entertaining, scrupulously reported exploration of China’s foodways and a swashbuckling memoir studded with recipes.”

I just wanna read about all the weird and wonderful things she eats in China, like rabbits’ heads, turtles’ feet, goose intestines and of course a real yum cha gourmand’s must eat dish: duck tongues.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Perfumes: The Guide

Browsing through my overseas shipped copy of Perfumes: The Guide - the perfume bible by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.

I found out about this book because Chandler Burr wrote about Luca Turin in his book Emperor of Scent.

The Guide provides a star rating for each perfume. But it is Turin and Sanchez's short, sharp and often cutting comments that make it so enjoyable. Plus the fact that you can rate your 'nose' with the experts.

Here's some examples to wet your appetite:
Fragrance: CKIN2U Her (Calvin Klein) 1 star
OMG PU. Insanely strong fruit meets insanely strong amber. KTHXBYE.

Fragrance: CKIN2U His (Calvin Klein) 1 star

Hilarious - I had a laugh out loud moment when I read this!

As well as dissing some, they also give praise generously and with much wit.

Fragrance: Beyond Paradise (Men) Estee Lauder 5 stars
"Wear it and after a few hours you will find your daily life suffused by the same feeling of peace you get when you settle into an armchair after tidying your apartment from end to end."

Sounds like bliss for all us OCD inclined neat freaks. Needless to say, I will be getting some Beyond Paradise for myself.

Also see, Burr's latest review of Lauder's new Sensuous:
"Sensuous is the scent of Estée Lauder holding its breath."


I am so in love with fragrance writers such as Burr, Turin and Sanchez.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Eagerly awaited sequels

Have just got my hands on the Red Seas under Red Skies - Book 2 of the Gentlemen Bastard Sequence starring the wonderfully named Locke Lamora. (Has to be one of the best names out there)

YAY - the sequel arrived!!!

I read the first book of Scott Lynch's first book of his series, The Lies of Locke Lamora last year and have been so eagerly awaiting the second book for a while.

Lies was one of the most enjoyable books I have read for a while. The characters, especially Locke Lamora and his gang of 'Robin Hood' like conmen are so well drawn. It is a hard to describe the book, as is a mix of genres, sort of fantasy version of Robin Hood but based on medi-evil Venice.

Doesn't make sense? Trust me, read the book and it will.

Since it has been a while, I am actually re-reading Lies of Locke Lamora before I get to the second one. Sort of delayed, delayed gratification.

It is rare for me to re-read a book, but I've gotta say I am really finding it easier to get back into this book. Kinda like visiting old friend again.

I love it when you start a great book and it is the first of a trilogy or series.

Another one I am eagerly awaiting the second book of The Magister Trilogy - C.S. Friedman. The first book Feast of Souls was one of the most innovative and thrilling reads.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympics inspired fashion reading

Thought I'd get into the theme of things with the Olympics on - so this is my Beijing 08 inspired post.

Though this post not totally focused on a book, but about fashion and Olympics. Though there is a bit of connection since I'm reading Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre - Dana Thomas.

Eric Wilson's analysis of Beijing opening ceremony fashion is very funny and so spot on.

Wow - who would've connected the Aussie uniform (designed by my once upon a time employer Sportscraft) and Prada?

What can you say, but: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi;-)

And surprise, surprise the French are picked as one of the best dressed - tres stylish as always.

Though put a French man in K-mart clothes and he will still look much better than a American or Australian in designer wear - it's the attitude.

Though, though Wilson was a bit too harsh on Ralph Lauren's Team USA uniforms. After all the 'old world money' look is RL's main game.

Those poor Canadians, though at least they looked happy and proudly deluded.

Oh yeah, on the Deluxe : How Luxury Lost its Lustre - bit undecided so far.

Pros: The mapping out the history of luxury is done quite well. Nice juicy bit on what a truly horrible person madame Chanel was and how she was cleverly out played by the Wertheimers.

Cons: Very patchy read overall and at times frustratingly shallow analysis.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A gothic moment with Poe

Going through a gothic moment - just finished a couple of Edgar Alan Poe short stories from: Great short works of Edgar Allan Poe : poems, tales, criticism (edited with an introduction by G.R. Thompson.)

Some highlights include:
  • Tell Tale Heart
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The Black Cat
  • The Fall of the House of Usher
And his poem 'The Raven' - try not to be mesmirized:

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more."

Read the Tell Tale Heart online here.

I love the first person narrative and intensity of Poe's stories. They grab you instantly and leave you wanting so much more.

It has got me motivated and now revisiting Mathew Pearl's The Poe Shadow.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wish List

These are books I'm currently waiting for:
  • Stephenie Meyer: Twilight Series
  • Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, pray, love : one woman's search for everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia
  • Randy Pausch: The last lecture
  • Andrew Davidson: The Gargoyle
  • Brunonia Barry: The Lace Reader: A Novel

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nostalgia for the good ole days of tennis

Just finished in almost one complete go - The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship (Johnette Howard).

It made me so nostalgic for the good ‘ole days’ of tennis – players wore white and there was none of this flesh baring, over the top bling. OMG I’m turning conservative;-)

As I used to stay up late watching Wimbledon with Martina and Chrissie battling it, out the book was a fascinating read. Howard maps out the contrast between the playing styles of Martina and Evert, connecting them to broader reflections on American identity and politics.

Plus the start of the womens’ tour sounded like such a blast, with players sleeping over with family and friends, sharing pizza the night before matches against each other!

Martina sounded like a real hoot – there is this picture of her hugging a net post after winning one her first tournaments in US because she didn’t know anyone well enough to hug. Classic!

The last section was particularly moving account of their divergent paths – Evert to retirement (and of course now Greg Norman!) and Navratilova to still playing on the tour in doubles.