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Friday, May 21, 2004
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 
Having read it [but couldnt be arsed to write a review] myself and finding it absolutely brilliant, I'd reccommend it to anyone who has about 2 hrs to spare.

To Christopher, love is understood through criterias - s/he takes care of me, s/he cooks dinner for me, s/he takes me to the zoo, therefore, s/he loves me. Though we may have, at one time or another felt the little fluttering in our stomach and a kind of aching where our heart is (and those may very well be chemical reactions triggered by the brain, or stomach ulcer) love still needs to fulfil a few 'characteristics' for it to be considered as such. If a social service worker turns up in the home of a family, and finds that the children have been badly abused and neglected, will we say, "Oh, but they loved their kids"? No, we wont.
This book was reviwed by n1kki here.

graceshu  # 11:46 AM
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Wednesday, May 19, 2004
The Neverending Story 

Title: The Neverending Story
Author: Michael Ende,
translated by Ralph Manheim
I don't really get opportunities to read nowadays, so calling in sick for two days because of a bad flu could be called a blessing in disguise. The movie is very much a part of my childhood memory, and when I found the book at the MPH warehouse sale, going for a mere RM10, I just had to get it.

One of the coolest thing about this book is how each of the twenty-six chapters (excluding the prologue) starts with a letter of the alphabet. Oh you know the story already, really, it's almost Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, The Tenth Kingdom... You've read or seen it before, about that bored little boy from broken family who walks into an old curiosity shop, picks up strange looking book, starts to read the book and gets swept up into the story. It's that old, recycled, used-too-often theme that fortunately doesn't go wrong at all here.

Years and years ago I watched The Neverending Story for the first time at my neighbour's. I loved the name Atreyu so much that I used to go to bed hoping to wake up in Atreyu's arms. I loved the luckdragon Falkor, in the movie they made him look like a humongous white dog with a pearly pink and white scaled dragon's body, and I can still envisage the pretty little girl who played the Childlike Empress in the movie.

All these visions of the late Jonathan Brandis trying to save Fantastica in the second part of the movie helped me create more images to match the speed at which Ende has woven his plot. There are potholes here and there, of course,my memory is ailing you see, the show was so long ago... but the novel itself more than makes up for all these loose ends. The nature of the story guides the human imagination, so visualizing the sceneries in Fantastica comes easily.

You learn a great deal about rekindling that childhood lightheartedness, a whole load of moral values and how to 'live it right', so to speak. Ende's novel is a definite masterpiece, and Manheim's translation is amazingly native... you hardly realise the whole book was originally written in German.

minishorts  # 5:49 PM
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Monday, May 17, 2004
Curiosity 
curiosity book

Curiosity is written by Gerald Allen Wunsch and published by AuthorHouse and comes in a paperback format. The cover of the book is printed on full color glossy high quality cardboard. The pages of the books are printed on acid free "pulp-like" paper, and there seems to be some inconsistencies in the typeface (poor printing) as shown below. That's the most extreme example though...the fonts are mostly printed properly, unless you look too hard.

curiosity fontsI finished reading the book in less than an hour. It's not meant for my age group - Curiosity is a children's novel. However, I did learn something from the book. I did not know about the Underground Railroad (upon which this book is based) and how it ties in with the American Civil War, the slave trade and the revolution. That makes it iteresting reading - the book is based on historical accounts, so it's informational as well as readable.

The protagonists are two girls named Ginger Wanamaker and Irene Fong. The book goes out of the way to introduce cultural diversity, which isn't a bad thing.

curiosity chapter endThe best thing about this book is the "Choose your own adventure" type ending to certain chapters. This is illustrated in the photo above - the reader can flip to the back of the book to learn about real information.

This excerpt is about Wire Fox Terriers and contains interesting information about these dogs. The dog in the book is based on the author's own dog. There are a few situations that are based around the author's life and some characters are based on the people around him. My only gripe about the footnotes is that it only appears in the first few chapters and tapers off towards the end of the book.

curiosity wire fox terrierThe content of the book is interesting - it slips themes of racial tolerance and historical accounts in the fictional story. I imagine that some parents would want a book like this for their children. It manages to keep the reader interested in the adventures of the protagonists while telling a historical narrative and indirectly promotes cultural tolerance. The other good thing about it is that there's a list of web sites at the end of the book for people who wants to read further into the Underground Railroad.

I would prefer to rate a book by the "Whether I'll buy it or not" criteria instead of giving arbitrary scores. Would I buy Curiosity? No, but hear me out. It's coz I'm not in the target audience and my reading interests lie elsewhere. I just bought The Road of Excess: A History of Writers on Drugs and The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs from Amazon, so the subject matter of books I like is not exactly a big secret.

curiosity book backThe better question to ask is "Would I buy Curiosity for my kids?" I would.

I started reading at a very early age and I fully expect my children to surpass me so I'll recommend this for children aged 5 and below. I hope that my progeny would understand the themes this book goes into before that age, since children are supposed to be faster, stronger, better than their parents and I had understood complex themes when I was 7. I should note that the book is suggested for children aged 9 - 12 though.

The Amazon list price is US$ 11.45 (RM 43.51), which is a bit steep for Malaysians due to the currency conversion, but it'll be fine for countries with a more robust currency.

Thanks to Martha Wunsch and AuthorHouse [authorhouse.com] for the free review copy.

This review is written by Huai Bin [sixthseal.com].

graceshu  # 9:46 AM
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