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Thursday, October 02, 2003
Welcome back, Mister Pratchett. 

Title: Night Watch
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: Satire/Fantasy
This book is part of
The Discword Series
Practhett's an odd sort. No one can really make out what he's doing — perhaps because of the fact that he is, at the same time, both ubiquitous and cult — or perhaps because he's works are non-serious and humorous, and at the same time, deeply serious and profound. You can't really pin him down. He's either a sell-out or visionary; a hack or a genius; someone who's way past his prime in writing books, or someone who's only just beginning. We may never know.

I'm not a complete fan of Pratchett: his first and second book of the Discworld Series, ‘The Color of Magic’ and ‘the Light Fantastic’ tried too hard to be quirky and interesting, but he got the balance right in ‘Sourcery’ and ‘Equal Rites’. His books tend to be like Star Trek movies, except less predictable: it either is good, or slightly below average.

Pratchett has only gotten his world-building right in his last half-dozen or so books, but his characterizations usually were rock-solid: Granny Weatherwax remained Granny Weatherwax, Mustrum Ridcully remained as he was, and Rincewind's brand of cowardice sprinkled the series like the sandals abandoned by a too-fast sprinter. Characters rule, not the world. And so it goes with this book.

It's a Samuel Vimes book — the same crusty, world-weary, idealistic, contrary then-Captain-then-Commander-now-Duke of Ankh, but he isn't in the city of Ankh-Morpork any more. At least, not in the city we have known and loved in previous Discworld books: a city that is both a metropolis and cesspit, one that is perpetually falling apart, and yet manages to hold itself together. No, the city he finds himself in, due to a freak magical accident, is the old Ankh-Morpork: one that has less holding together-bits, and more falling-apart bits.

The man in charge of the city isn't the cold, calculating, brilliant Havelock Vetinari, but Lord Windle — a man so paranoid he'll tell you he'll eat the ninth slice of cake you cut, and then will gleefully snatch the fifth slice as you are cutting the cake. To top things off, Vimes realizes that his younger self — brash, naïve and occasionally idiotic — has just enlisted into the Night Watch, and severely needs guidance.

The good news is that Vimes gets to join the then-Night Watch, as John Keel, a hero that his younger self would learn to admire and learn from. The bad news is that the older Vimes knows that he won't live for more than a few days, if he continues on this course. So he decides to change things a little…

The change of location and tone is startling but also refershing: I was beginning to think that Pratchett was overpopulating his world with an assortment of characters, and thus painting himself into a corner. Ankh-Morpork of the years past is still essentially Ankh-Morpork, but gone are the dwarves, trolls and assorted minorities that peopled the city, and absent is the guiding hand of Lord Vetinari. There is, literally, nothing here for Vimes to get a hold of — his future wife is barely 16, and there is nowhere he can go to for succor. It's not as if Vimes hasn't been in this situation before — it could be argued that he's had it worse. But to complicate things more, there is a killer on the loose: one that has followed him back in time. Vimes realizes that he cannot leave until he has his quarry in custody.

I really recommend this book. Pratchett revisits characters we've known, and makes them younger: people like Nobby Nobbs, Mrs. Palm, Vimes' arch-nemesis Lord Ronald Rust, even the future Patrician himself. But Pratchett at his best doesn't merely write about his world, but tries to take a stab at satirising our world as well: from revolutions to governmental paranoia, to how riots and mobs work and form; nothing is spared.

This is, however, strictly a Vimes' book: none of his supporting characters from the previous books make an appearance — at least, not in forms we recognize. It's still a good read, and a must-read for Pratchett fans.

T-Boy  # 5:47 AM
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Wednesday, October 01, 2003
My First Review! 

Title: Regina's Song
Authors: David & Leigh Eddings
Genre: Psychological thriller
When a guy is famous for being a unique writer in the narrow genre of fantasy epics, it is not unusual to hesitate reading his attempt in a different genre. You just know all the usual things you love about David Eddings won't be in a psychological thriller. No funny sorcerors and no witty gods in this book. And how the hell would the Eddingses put irreverence into a serious book that Amazon.com put in the horror section?

Strangely enough, the married couple actually manage it. As you go through the book and get to know the characters, even if didn't know its author, you can tell that this book was written by Eddings. The characters of Regina's Song are distinctly Eddings'.

Regina and Renata are a pair of twins so identical, when one of them is raped and murdered and the other one goes mad, no one knows which twin died. Regina's Song is about the surviving twin, who wakes up after the murder of her twin sister with nearly complete amnesia. Yet, she immediately recognizes Mark, the narrator and protagonist of this story, who knew the twins since they were born.

Since the twin only remembers Mark, Mark takes on the responsibility of watching over the girl's mental recovery. The girl recovers enough to get out of the private mental house she was in, and starts getting nightmares, which makes Mark worry that she'll go right back into the mental house. Then to make it worse, Mark begins to suspect that there's a connection between the twin's nightmares and a series of murders....

The tone of the book is more serious and grittier than Eddings' fantasy epics. It's set around the 1990's, and is more realistic as well. Despite its realism, the Eddingses still put in a little magic, well-placed and very satisfying.

As I mentioned, the characters are what make the book an Eddings book. Despite the horror and intensity of their situation, the characters quip, and interact in such a manner that you'll want to laugh in the middle of intense worry and frustration.

The characters are diverse and hilarious. The conversations are fascinatingly witty. The plot, however, travels strangely. Traditionally, in a thriller, you expect the danger to build up slowly and climax into an ending. The Eddingses have chosen a unique path, however, and everyone gets out of physical danger somewhere just past the middle. Suddenly, you find yourself in the Eddingses' version of Ally McBeal and the sudden turnaround is a bit disconcerting.

All ends well, despite the momentary mental disturbance, and the ending is poignant. In short, I like the book. Better than Redemption of Althalus (a stand-alone fantasy, also by the Eddingses).

Having warned you about the sudden tone-change somewhere past the middle of the book, you should all now be able to enjoy the book without any disconcert. The twin is intriguingly engaging, and the other characters are witty, intelligent companions. This book proves that regardless of the genre, the Eddingses produce characters you always love eavesdropping on.

HANI  # 11:12 PM
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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
The Book Review Bloggers Meet @ The Book Swapping Event 
Book Review Bloggers Meet @ Book Swapping Event

Date: 18th Oct 2003, Saturday
Time: 11am? Or noon, or slightly after noon.
Venue: Dome KLCC? Has a nice sectioned area
Agenda:
1. Meet up, talk
2. Swap books
3. Coffee? Lunch? & more talk
4. Discuss how to improve The Book Review Blog
5. Lepas tu balik rumah je la baca buku, mmmkay.
(Anything else to add? Suggest?)


Hi, here are the details of The Book Review Bloggers Meet @ The Book Swapping Event . It's pretty flexible, invitation is open to anyone at all, not just book reviewers or book swappers, readers, non members, and even non bloggers are welcome :) Just remember to confirm your attendence so shall be able to estimate roughly how many people will be attending.

So far there are 6 bloggers who are offering 32 books to lend and are looking for at least 26 other books to borrow, go have a look now eh, am overwhelmed by the collection of books offered. Maybe something will strike your fancy?

Havent exactly figured out how the book swapping mechanism works, and am not too eager to free my books, completely either, so what I suggest is that book swapping occurs during this meet, but the returning of books would be entirely up to both parties. I think it's best swapping participants figure out the details with each other, or / and insert a slip of paper / 3M note / bookmark on all books as reminders. Or something.

And before I forget, thanks to the readers for your support and comments, and well done to all (!) reviewers for the past week(s), and to new members, welcome! Am looking forward to the meet, and before I leave for my next marathon assignment session let me do with some personal publicity first - I want Dave Barrys & Han Suyins :)

graceshu  # 8:30 PM
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Work: A Story of Experience, Louisa May Alcott 
Title: Work: A Story of Experience
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Genre: Literature - Classics
Rated: 9/10
Source: Project Gutenberg
I was looking for some ebooks to read on my Clie, and found this. The title is very catchy (for me, at least), and as a working woman myself, I think it's good to know what kind of of work experience Alcott conveyed through this book. It is very interesting to know that the challenges are somehow similar, although the required skills - sewing, babysitting, cooking and such- and also the positions available to women at that time - governess, servant, companion, seamstress - would not be as critical and crucial nowadays.

Christie, the main character in this story, is actually a very interesting one, although towards the end of the book, Christie is somehow portrayed as a too-good-to-be-true kind of girl.

It is also exciting how Alcott fabricated the whole thing, a balanced mixture of adventure and drama.
Somehow I can relate to Christie in her younger years, with her high level enthusiasm and adventurous approach to her life, and caring for others as well. Her determination made her what she is, and she's a very lucky girl indeed to experience all those - she led the kind of life that make you think: yeah, this person has lived to the fullest.

Fina Junaida  # 2:02 PM
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Monday, September 29, 2003
Not Without My Daughter - by Betty Mahmoody, William Hoffer  

Title: Not Without My Daughter
Author: Betty Mahmoody
Genre: Non Fiction
Rated: 9/10
I generally prefer non fiction, and it was the Han Suyins and Betty Mahmoodys that generally kept my hours on the porcelain throne worthy of the red marks on the generous folds of my (then) skinny behind, since my parents book shelf is always en route to any emergencies, and a good thick book within easy reach / grab, and so life was good, as long as always remembered to remove the said book(s) from the commodous area and back to its original dwelling.

But alas, this was not of my nature, my maid would at some point of the week take an entire stack of reading material out to sun to rid it of all contaminations.

Not Without My Daughter was one of the more worthy books that deserved my time and attention both in or outside commodous areas, it was lovingly dog eared and yellowed, with lines running crazily all across its paperback cover.

I slept with it beside my pillow, I dreamt abt Betty, finding out she was trapped in Iran, being lied to by her husband and his family, having her passport confiscated by her brother in law; Betty, plotting her escape from her tyrannous Iranian husband and his family; thought about her daughter Mathob and how she grew up, adapting to Iranian culture and learning how to be strong; about Iranian politics, religion and culture; about the courage and determination of one mother to get out of the hellhole alive with her daughter, whatever the cost; and about the people who befriended her and helped her out even risking their own lives for their freedom.
'You are here for the rest of your life. Do you understand? You are not leaving Iran. You are here until you die.'
This story is both gripping and intense, all the more because it's a true story, hollywooded here in 1991. Betty Mahmoody now lives again in Michigan with Mahtob and her two sons from her first marriage.

A worthy read indeed, I putting this one on the book swap list :)

graceshu  # 12:40 AM
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