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Saturday, September 20, 2003
Book Swapping Event 
Interested? Or help spread the news!

graceshu  # 8:10 PM
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NetSlaves: True Tales of Working The Web 

Title
NetSlaves: True Tales of
Working The Web
Authors
Bill Lessard & Steve Baldwin
Publisher
McGraw Hill
Keywords
Digital Economy,
New Media, Internet Culture
If you've worked for a dot-com company before and have had the unfortunate experience of being retrenched earlier than you can say 'oh no I made a mistake', or worst, get your first paycheck, this book may bring back some painful memory. Or you may start out reading it with vengeance and end up counting your lucky stars that somebody out there has had it much worst than you.

NetSlaves starts off with writer Bill Lessard narrating his experience of being ticked off by a headhunter for having had, on average, one job per year for the past seven years.

"You don't understand. I'm in the Internet business. Everything's very unstable. The last place I worked merged and laid everybody off; the place before that went out of business and place before that..."

"You can say whatever you want but facts are facts. No reasonable company would hire you with such a spotty resume..."

Like most people, this headhunter had simply bought into the hype then that if you work in the Internet business, you're a 20-something year old with at least a million dollar IPO. Anything less means you're an abject loser.

So, determined to set the record straight, Lessard and co-author Steve Baldwin, set out on a year-long journey to interview as many people as they could find who were willing to share their personal experiences of working in the Net industry. The culmination of the journey is this book, which is best described as a collection of real-life accounts of the gruelling hours, chaotic management, insurmountable pressures, and paranoia-inducing stresses faced by the women and men on the e-business frontiers. In the authors' own words, this book is a living proof that the Internet is not your conventional employer.

The material is easy to read as both authors come from a media background and know how to play around with words. Instead of using techie jargons, they use interesting terms such as The New Media Caste System to describe the hierarchy present in a typical Internet company. At the bottom of the rung are the "garbagemen" -- the guys who have to get the server up and running when it crashes, who have to rush to help the digital morons who can't figure out how to open their e-mail. At the other extreme end are the "robber barons" -- the guys who get the mind-blowing wealth and are depicted as a greedy bunch of executives incapable of running the show. In between, there are the Fry Cooks, CyberCops, porno spammers, code-packers and moles, among others. The manner in which the material is written borders on the satirical with mentions of many of the leading companies and people in the industry. Pseudonyms are used however but more for humour than for disguise. See if you can guess which character is Bill Gates and which companies represent Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Netscape, IBM, AOL, and Yahoo!

I'll give this 6/10. If you've always been wondering what it was like to be working for a dot-com during the height of the Internet Gold Rush, this book is for you. Might also be useful for fresh graduates contemplating on what to do next, though be warned: you may end up more discouraged than motivated.

Enia  # 11:42 AM
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Friday, September 19, 2003
The Satanic Verses 
This is going to be something different on the go. This will actually be the review of a book that I never had a chance to read, thanks to Ayatollah Khomeini. It makes so curious to find out what is causing riots over some country, books burning and a death hunt worth millions of dollars. I even dreamnt of reading it. A book that make the public eyeing you while you are reading, according to friend at Seattle. Nevertheless a book that changes the author's life, Salman Rushdie himself.

The only chance I get to know about this book is from the reviews available online.

In one of the review, it stated that In issuing his decree against Salmon Rushdie and his book, The Satanic Verses, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini drew worldwide attention to a novel that otherwise might have gone largely unnoticed by many people. It is Khomeini who helped make The Satanic Verses a bestseller.

Another one stated that What we have in The Satanic Verses is an author who intimates the barest critique of liberalism, staying as near to conservatism as possible without straying too far into the realm of advocating theoretical or actual neo-Fabian violence.

Even the thoughts of wanting to read it, obviously did not get any much approval from a close friend. He was only caught muttering, "No I would not read it, I would not read it", like in a trance. But how do you judge a book without reading it, let alone condemning it? I believe one day I will get the chance to read it though, even if it means risking my life. (or go abroad..he he).

We shall wait and see. Before that, anyone by chance own this book, or read it before?

Vlad  # 5:27 PM
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Thursday, September 18, 2003
The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster  

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 9/10
Before J.K. Rowling, there was Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Norton Juster.

Before Harry Potter, there was The Magic Faraway Tree, James and The Giant Peach, and The Phantom Tollbooth.

If you like stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you will like The Phantom Tollbooth. If you like linguistics literature and a lot of word play, you will absolutely love this book!

I just decided I'd shift the end of my review to make it my introduction... but yeah. Have you read this story? About a boy called Milo who 'didn't know what to do with himself - not just sometimes, but always' and who remarked to himself one day,
"It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time"
That one day he just rattles along thoughts like that as he makes his way home and upon reaching home, he sees geniune turnpike tollbooth sitting in his room, waiting to be assembled and addressed to him. And Milo, having nothing better to do, sits into his little toy-car and pays the tollbooth where he crosses over the fantasy Kingdom of Wisdom. Having nothing better to do, he finds himself in a whole lotta *read: FUN* adventures as he volunteers to rescue the banished princesses, Rhyme and Reason from the Castle in the Air. On the way he passes expectations, gets sidelined as he arrives in the Doldrums, and then arrives in Dictionopolis where he gets jailed and meets a Which. There are other interesting places in the Kingdom of Wisdom that Milo visits, and accompanied by the watchdog Tock and the Humbug, Milo gradually learns a few valuable lessons about life as well.

And so do the readers. The adventures of Milo in the Kingdom of Wisdom also becomes our little adventure as we cross the tollbooth turn-pike and chug into the land Beyond Expectations (that's chapter 2, btw). Jules Feiffer's illustrations (found across all versions of this book) do help in energizing and waking up the child in you... and well, this is one of the very huge reasons why I still love reading Children's Fiction.

One Genuine Cool Book. If I may say. Go get one. Costs only RM 13.90 at your nearest MPH.

minishorts  # 10:53 PM
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Explaining Hitler: The Search of the Origins of His Evil. 
The book that took me longest to read was this particular book by Ron Rosenbaum entitled above. The confusion arises when a couple of people debated over what happened more than 50 years ago. The book about the most feared ruler of Europe.

Jean Bethke Elshtain started the review with, Books such as Rosenbaum's remind us that we cannot let our alertness slacken if there is truly to be no repetition of what happened fifty years ago ." Another reviewer of the book, Deane Rink begin the review with Is the deceased soul of Der Fuehrer sitting in some Valkyrie heaven and laughing at us more mortals, who still, fifty years after the end of World War II, try to comprehend the enormity of his evil and the twisted motivations behind it? .

For me it was a little too much twist and complication, we are talking about people who appeared years after the Nazi regime, who begin to question and explain Hitler in their own theory.

They have said that Hitler was staunch Christian in his earlier life, building the extreme hatred over 'The people of the Devil', but invertedly questioned the antiquity of Christianity later in his glorious days. Some argued that her grandmother had his bastard father with an unknown Jewish man, which Hitler only adopted his surname 'Hitler' from an uncle. He was so disturbed that he even flatten the land of his anchestor, making it dissapear from the map we know now.

The book also discussed his sexuality, his disturbed thoughts and of course what makes him different from other ruler. His relationship with his own niece, and the still unsolved murder of the niece. I mean who would have dared to question him back then?

It also showed how he took over media. Why there was nothing much articles about him being the big bad wolf left now? Probably it is because anti-Nazi writers have been murdered and articles burnt to the ground by his Gestapo army.

His death was also argued, some stating that he did not die the soldier's way, that is to have a gun in the mouth and shoot the brains out. They argued that he had cyanide in one of his tooth, which he has bitten before pulling the trigger. The cyanide spreads so fast, he died before even feeling the gun shot. He shot all his children and wife, so that later on, they would not be tortured of his deeds, before he did his own. A loving man still I believe.



After all this is just a book, and more importantly just arguments of a person who had long dead. It should not be taken so seriously, or perhaps I were not when they argued over his one testicle. Nevertheless his autobiography could be read in his book, "Mein Kampf", where he pours out what he wants people to know.

I guess even the cute baby face he had could not be believed. Somehow it is still mystery, how he turned into a monster. Maybe only the people then know, maybe that's why he never actually won the election for the Presidential chair.

Vlad  # 10:22 AM
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Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Memnoch the Devil 
Memnoch the Devil, the final installment of the Vampire Chronicles from Anne Rice. This book really differ from the other Vampire Chronicles that we would have read. The Lestat we know from the movies or the books that we have read, the cool, slick and charismatic vampire, that we have always imagined, could turn out to be a little dissapointment here. Memnoch the Devil, mostly projects Lestat as a lost soul, whimpering and whining softie, who feels like suddenly lost all his glory as the immortal.

Once an influential vampire, could have all his fans start running away because of this installment. A vampire who have religious conflict, by mean what is religion to a vampire? A tale of depression, anxiety and the only choice between God and Devil.

The earlier of the book saw Lestat being stalked by a creature, a dark shadow throughout the read. A creature even Lestat is unaware of, a creature even Lestat could not sense with his vampire sense. But what I like most is how Memnoch introduced himself. To paraphrase it, "I like to be called Memnoch, be it any other name that man and Him had gave me, be it Satan, Mephistopheles or the Devil, I would like you to call me Memnoch". Standing huge, with four legs with the feature of a goat, dark in colour and whispering like a snake.

The book brought Lestat face to face with God, which I believe Anne Rice could be teasing Him, when it showed God, subtlely begging Lestat to be on his side. Memnoch explaining the 13 revelation of life, almost sounding like the Holy Bible on how God created life after Adam and Eve. How Memnoch and his fleet of fallen angels were disgusted at the thoughts that God created a lifeform so similar to them, the angels. How Memnoch dragged Lestat to the very Cruxifician day, to see Jesus hanging on the cross, to unveil Veronica's veil to disclose the real face of the evil.

The book is like a nightmare for a vampire. Lestat in tears, losing an eye, so weak, gone are his glorious days. I should say this is not a read for those who are sensitive in religious issue. Maybe this is a book which reveals that being a vampire is not that cool anymore, where you will have a price to pay.

I would say, "Give in to your dark cravings, not to man made speculations on life". Don't have to hate me, educate me. * Ghoulish laughter*

Vlad  # 6:26 PM
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Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein 
When I first read this book I found it unrealistic and a bit appalling (you'll find out why when you read it). It's of the sci-fi genre, but highly unrealistic in some parts. I prefer believable sci-fi (Gibson), which some might argue takes the mickey out of the genre itself.

Ok, the protagonist in the book, Micheal Valentine is a result of a failed manned mission to Mars, where he was raised by Martians and then comes back to Earth not knowing anyhting about it's people, cultures and even women (sex!). Hence, the title. Even though he's supposed to be "alien," he steals the limelight as the most human person in the book, IMHO.

He starts to learn much under the guidance and protection of Jabal Harshaw, an author and his pretty little nurses who take Valentine under their wing. Valentine then forms a sort of 60's free love society where everyone sleeps with everyone, has the ritual of water sharing and become water brothers like they did on planet Mars.

Basically Valentine wants everyone to get along and live happily, which makes sense to him through these water brother rituals because, humans are in essence hedonists by nature. But of course like all other "Messiah" or special people, all good things have a vicious line drawn in between, as we are all pillaging little humans who want harmony but simply cannot stop our incessant need for conflict and chaos.

However, the author does slip some lovely gems into the book through his characters:

"If God hated flesh, why did He make so much of it? God is no sissy. He made the Grand Canyon and comets coursing through the sky and cyclones and stallions and earthquakes—can a God who can do all that turn around and practically wet His pants just because some little sheila leans over a mite and a man catches sight of a tit?"

"There was one field in which man was unsurpassed; he showed unlimited ingenuity in devising bigger and more efficient ways to kill off, enslave, harass, and in all ways make an unbearable nuisance of himself to himself."

"A desire not to butt into other people's business is eighty percent of all human wisdom."

So there you have dear readers, not it's up to you and whether you deicde you want to grok or not?

* I have the book if anyone wants to read, first person who wants it can comment here, and I will find a way of giving you the book, also please return it. It has special sentimental value :)

meesh  # 10:40 AM
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Week 2 At The Book Review Blog 
Hi, its been two weeks since the conception of TBRB :D To all reviewers and readers - thanks for your continous support and to all newcomers - welcome to the community!

This week has been rather slow (busy), I havent been keeping track of who are the newer contributors, but where book reviews were concerned, we've had -

Thanks guys for sharing them with us! We're certainly looking fwd to more of all these!

And coming up next - I hear (from a Burung Enggak) we're having quite a bit of Neil Gaiman - Coraline, American Gods, Good Omens [co-authored withTerry Pratchett], Tom Baker The Boy Who Kicked Pigs (Ooops!), and as well as some others many interesting reviews :D A little bird (brown sparrow) also told me of a joint effort on reviewing English classical literature. Then, there was this bird (crow, 2 months old, black) who told me that a Micheal Chabon might be coming up, so look out for this space for more surprises!

There are just so much more books than we actually know of - and this book review blog / community aims to expose more and more of all that via mutual edification between bloggers. Our resident Ox puts it quite nicely :)
when you look into the sky at night and you see stars, remember each is as big as our sun. think of all the books out there, and each has a whole universe inside.
Once again I invite members of the online community, bloggers or not, to join us in this reviews of books - as contributors, or to discuss, provide feedback, suggestions, opinions, as this blogging-review project depends entirely on the response and support given by the online community :) If you wish to enquire more, please feel free to send an e-mail , or just drop a line at the comments box :)

And ummmh.. please take this as an personal invitation mmmmkay?

graceshu  # 4:25 AM
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Monday, September 15, 2003
The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and other Stories - Tim Burton 

Title
The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy
and Other Stories
Author
Tim Burton
Heheh. Finally I'm able to sit down and write a review, but not before I apologise profusely to Grace and the others for the horrible horrible delay. Ahem. It's my first review, so forgive any mistakes and other such flaws.

I have to warn though, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy is not for everyone. It's a personal glimpse into the artist that is Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow), and also into some of our commonest fears. The book is a collection of 23 short stories and poems by Burton about children who do not fit in..because they're shaped strangely or are just plain weird. Even their parents hate them and in one case, eventually eat one of them (I'll leave it to you to figure out who).

There's the story of Stain Boy (one of my favourites) who leaves a greasy stain wherever he is, Robot Boy (the result of a liason with a kitchen appliance), Junk Girl and many more. Macabre as they may be, these stories have an enduring, universal message: that being accepted may be the dearest thing to get in the world. It's difficult enough being different without having to live with the cruelty some of us are capable of. The stories inside may disgust you, make you angry or even sad. But underneath the grotesque exteriors lie a simple plea for acceptance, one that for some of us, is as normal as a breath of air.

I'd recommend this highly to anyone willing to look outside of the box, for a little while. Tim Burton's world may be scary and he may leave an unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth, but the trip just might be worth it. Coming up soon: Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Tom Baker's The Boy Who Kicked Pigs.

Embiggened!  # 11:32 PM
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Hunter of the Light ~ Risa Aratyr 

Title
Hunter of the Light
Author
Risa Aratyr
Think I bought this book about 3 yrs back in the local bookstore. One of the few books in the Fantasy/SF section that is not written by Eddings, Feist, Brooks and other common fantasy authors. Bought the book because of the beautiful front cover which sadly looks rather worn out by now. I do usually take better care of my books but sometimes, one does make the occasional mistake of not holding it properly. Sad to say that there are 3 missing pages. Sigh.

The setting is in Ireland or rather Éirinn as it was known during pagan times. Not an easy read compared to modern day fantasy books but still a lot easier to skim through compared to Tolkien. Surprisingly, when I borrowed this book to a Tolkien lover, she couldn't quite understand the story. Oh well. Probably because of all the Gaelic words strewn throughout the book.

The story is centered around the Hunter and the White Stag. The hunt must be completed before the sunrise of Beltaine Day. No one knows who the Hunter is and the White Stag is a very elusive creature. Imagine having to chase down a speedy animal across the plains and mountains of a beautiful scenic island.

At the same time, another story is centered around the Hunter who happens to be a bard as well. For he must find a cure for Roisin Dubh, beautiful and yet doomed to be an ugly hag for the rest of her life. At the same time, he is bounded by geias and yet manages to be the great hero at the end of the day.

The book is well written with the author tantalizing one's mind with the story. Not revealing too much in the beginning but it clicks all together once one get into the middle of the book. She describes how Ireland would have looked like centuries ago. Similar to the landscape in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, she also provides a glossary for Gaelic names and places used in the book.

With this, I end this review with a poem found in the book :
Let me go, gentle Lady, The Stag calls and I must be away.
Ochone, mo mhúirnín, but stay awhile more. Come, listen to the pipers play.
Sweet Goddess, open the gates of Brugh na Morna. My geis urges me be gone.
And so it will an hour from now. Refresh yourself from my cup, Blackthorn. My maidens will sing ere long.
Giver of Gifts, Blessed Áine, grant me release that I might seek my heart's desire!
Your heart's desire? Why, go then, and seek it.
But be not amazed, Conall mac na Caillí, if Áine knows the desires of the heart better than does the Hunter of Éirinn

Wena Tan  # 9:23 PM
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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: Gabriel Garci­a Marquez
Translator:Gregory Rabassa
Genre: Fiction
The picture of the book cover here doesn't look like the one I bought at MPH (a green cover), but it'll do. This book has been raved about by lots of literature geeks and critics (google it and you'll see), but the only quote I can recall off the top of my head is "a milestone in Spanish literature" but I think I'm paraphrasing, and I don't remember the source.

If and when you do decide to satisfy your curiousity, you'll probably note the family tree given before the story begins. Usually maps and family trees etc can easily be ignored, but not in this case. The Spanish in this story have a habit of naming all their children after fathers, brothers and cousins, so confusion is guaranteed. What I did was to copy the family tree down on a piece of paper to use as a bookmark (back it with the material from an old exercise book cover if you tend to be rough), and believe me, this helps a lot.

The story is a superb narrative, chronicling the lives of the Buendia family for a century. They love each other, bitch about each other, and fight each other, in their South American jungle settlement. The back of the book calls it a "magical" story, where it is "part exotic paradise, part nightmare" and "a fantastic world of miracles and mirages." As cheesily preposterous as this sounds, I assure you that it's all truth. It's difficult to start reading it, yes, but once you find your pacing it's nearly impossible to stop.

Marquez has the talent to tell a story with fantastical dream-like twists and turns, but you catch yourself after each one and as impossible as you know it is, you can actually convince yourself that it could happen. Have you ever encountered one of those books? It actually, momentarily, altered my perception of reality. For example, one girl floats away into the sky, and although it's surprising, it actually seems to make sense in the context of the story. No, really.

The family spans a few generations and flits from sibling to sibling. To keep us sane, Marquez gives us Ursula, who stays with the reader and the events from the beginning to the end of the book despite its constant changes. She is the wife of Jose Arcadio Buendia, and the mother of three children. They start the story. The last in the dynasty, Aureliano Buendi­a ends it. There is an encoded book with secrets that lay hidden for years, and he is the one who unlocks it and unravels its mysteries.

I can't really write more, because as it is, the family tree and the marriages already give bits of the story away before it's even started. But it's definitely, most definitely, worth your time.

dizzyfirefly  # 3:06 PM
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Sunday, September 14, 2003
Shirley - Charlotte Bronte 

Title: Shirley
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genre: Classical English Lit.
Rating: 8.5/10
My mom loved english classic literature, and I'd been influenced at a young age. We had a lot of classics in my house, and perhaps almost 60% of them were of Penguin Popular Classics - a promotion of sorts - each book starts at RM5.90 at the local MPH.

One of my favorite women writers was Charlotte Bronte, the last of the three Bronte sisters to live the late 19th century - and also with the more notable works of Jane Eyre and Villette, Shirley was written under the shadow of grief caused by the deaths of her beloved sisters. Set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars it was the work that stands apart from her others as the most socially aware. As such, in her own words, it was intended to be :D

as romantic as Monday morning.

Well, it does has its romance - but not quite your Jane Eyre, I'd say. The story revolves around two women (portrayed after her own relationship with her sister, Emily Bronte - read Wuthering Heights), Shirley and Catherine two good friends, friendships, the men they love, relationship, and how these women are challenged by their somewhat surroundings - giving a new meaning to feminism - even at the 19th century.

The first few chapters were rather hard to read, and it can get rather slow in some places, and sometimes even somewhat dry, even had some French in it. A rather difficult and intense, serious read, not something you'd attempt in the middle of a bog, or while traveling in a bumpy windy rainy ride up Cameron Highlands in the back seat - lose focus and you'll either forget the story, or have a few excretious misses.

Unlike other Bronte books, this is somewhat less popular, but it's a bit of Jane Eyre, Villette, and even slightly Wuthering Heights in its olde English of thys and thees , depiction of characters, use of adjectives, flow of events, somewhat endearingly written conversations, imaginative use of hyphens in sentences - but yeah, with political / economic / religious undertones of Yorkshire, Fieldhead Hollow.

Still very much a good read if you have the time to pore over this 666 paged paperback - would impress the girls if you knew half of the luverly words here too.

Egg  # 8:43 PM
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Uncle Bob Talks With My Digestive System 

Title: Uncle Bob Talks With
My Digestive System
Author: Bob Devine
Genre: Kids, Educational
Publisher: Chariot Books
My father bought this book from The Doulos Ship when I was a kid. Its a book about Mortimer Mouth, Sylvester Stomach, and Irene Intestine. Uncle Bob is this man with a perpetual smile who talks to each of them and then we kids [on the tape] go oooh ahhh and wowow I didnt know that! It has nice illustrations and cutesy looking stomachs and intestines.

Heres another quote where he talks to Irene Intestine

Irene, is it you who makes that ergle, ergle sound inside me?

Oh, Uncle Bob, that's embaressing. Yes, that's me. You're hearing my muscles squeeze and mix my digestive juices with your food.


Yeah, and it's really educational too. You learn Form 3 level stuff from science like navel, pretty bright pink, it's pretty neat to be here and talk with the kids about their bodies, peritoneum, membrane, lubricated, villi, duodenum, and esophagus. And look at what kind of kids who read this book turned out to be? Neat eh? No storyline though you get to imagine stuff. Like how your food is actually processed by nice pink little sacks who smile and grin at you and have hands.

They also have the Uncle Bob Talks with My Respiratory System, Circulatory System, and Central Nervous System. Reccomended for ages 9-12; but if you're bored it doesnt really matter how old you are.

graceshu  # 6:18 PM
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