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Friday, December 03, 2004
The Last Juror 
The Last Juror Posted by Hello

Some may say that John Grisham has departed from his old court tales when he came out with titles such as Skipping Christmas, Painted house and Bleachers. True it gave a breather in between heated court battles, screwball lawyers and brutal killings but his style and passion was always for the courtroom. The Last Juror details the chronicles of a Willie Traynor who decided to purchase the local county papers of a small town in Clanton. Things were tough at first but his first break came with the murder of Rhonda Kassellaw and soon the quiet town was abuzz with the impending trial of murder for Danny Padgitt who hails from a powerful family of sleazy reputation. Thus you journey through the life of Willie as he explores the small town life of rural America and Grisham lays his old fashion writings on the Mississippi Delta, the slavery days of blacks and whites where segregation was a way of life and as usual he cannot avoid the courtroom battles, this time focusing on the loop holed parole system of the past.

Readers of his other novels would note that this story is not about the court but more on Willie and more importantly his relationship with the Callie Ruffin and her family and they developed together. Also a change from his fast paced of A time to kill, he breezes through the Last Juror at a leisurely pace, leaving very slow reads and occurrences as years pass by in his novel. Impatient readers might want to give it a skip and if you're not comfortable with the writing style he employs in A Painted House, this might not be the book for you. But the character development, though slow is a good one, we see how Willie and his paper matures, how life in the Bible belt of America is and how small town America has changed with the development of sprawls and most heartfelt is how a small town black family manages to shine even with all odds against them. Maybe Grisham is putting too many elements in this book, opening too many angles and issues for the reader to address but I still enjoyed it. (Possible spoiler) It may be a bit predictable for the ending and even a bit of an anti-climax, you would most probably be able to guess what will happen in the end about three quarter of the way through.

Post edited by xXx for formatting.

Kervin  # 10:48 PM


Thursday, December 02, 2004
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 
Interpreter is a collection of nine short stories about life, the banality of human nature, and the stories that do happen in normal everyday life, if we look close enough. There's the couple who lost a baby and couldn't get things together again. There's the man who came to dinner every night and you never knew that you could miss him until he was gone. There's the poor stair sweeper taken for granted by a community who could do no wrong in their own eyes. What I love about her stories is that the situations are universal; the characters just happen to be Indian.

There's an ease and simplicity in the way she writes, and she has the ability to focus on the complexity of situations in life in a light, easy way. There's no Amy Tan-ness about her book. It's very much what you see is what you get, which is very refreshing. I can see why Jumpa Lahiri won the Pullitzer Price in 2000 for this.

Marita rates this book: 7 out of 10

Unknown  # 7:35 PM


Wednesday, December 01, 2004
I had such dreams... 
Babylon 5 - In the Beginning by Peter David.
Babylon 5 created by J. Michael Straczynski.

"I was there, at the dawn of the third age of mankind. It began in the Earth year 2257 with the founding of the last of the Babylon stations."

In 1993, a TV series with the title "Babylon 5" quietly debuted on TNT. It spread mainly via word of mouth, and soon garnered a huge following, being called "Some of the most intelligent science fiction on television" by Newsweek. It was certainly a thought provoking series, and nothing was ever quite was it seemed. Political intrigue, conspiracy, deceit, betrayal, honour, courage and bravery were dished out in liberal amounts.

A little history, for those of us who do not remember the series. Babylon 5 was a giant space station, located in neutral space, as a meeting point for all the races of the galaxy to trade and meet and parley. After the Human-Minbari war, the Babylon station was created as "the last great hope for peace". There certainly was a very interesting cast of characters, all of whom had a past, and some of whom were destined for greatness. The first three Babylon stations were destroyed during construction, and Babylon 4 disappeared from known space shortly after the station was commissioned.

During the course of the series, which ended after 5 seasons, several references were made to the history of the characters. Events such as 'The Battle of the Line" and the first contact between the Minbari and Humans. Characters such as Londo Mollari and G'Kar were seen interacting on the series like they had a past history between them, which they certainly had. The fact that Ambassador Delenn knew more about John Sheridan's past, commander of Babylon 5, then he did.

This book, as told in the first person by Londo Mollari, is a recollection of his experience as Alpha Centauri liaison to Earthdome, shortly before the first Human-Minbari contact. The book answers many questions raised in the series, and lays the groundwork for the political situation on Babylon 5 as told in the series. It tells of why and how the Human-Minbari War actually started, and more importantly, why it stopped at the Battle of the Line, on the eve of total Minbari victory of Humankind. It also gives some glimpses of the future of the characters, namely John Sheridan and Delenn, G'Kar and Londo.

Peter David has written a very good book, detailing a history of the characters and their relationships in the Babylon 5 series. The book is based on a screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski for the television movie. I liked this book, as it took me for a walk down memory lane, and brought back snippets of memory of a time when I was younger, and momentous things were happening in my life.

xXx  # 10:08 AM


Monday, November 29, 2004
The Unanointed by Laurene Chinn 
TITLE: The Unanointed
AUTHOR: Laurene Chinn
DATE READ: December 2, 2003
RATING: 8 out of 10

Sorry, not piccy for this book. It was published in 1958. I can't find any pictures of its cover online. It came without a dust jacket.

I picked this book up from a charity sale at the School for the Mentally Handicapped about a year ago.

Fascinating historical fiction about the people around King David from the Old Testament. People like Job, Abiathar, Reba. These are the people who were not in the spotlight in the bible. They get a mention, sure, but our attention is seldom drawn to their lot because they played minor parts in the larger picture. These are the “Unanointed” many who played crucial roles and helped paved his way to the throne at Jerusalem of old.

I have a personal interest in this type of story. Laurene Chinn weaves it like a pro. And for the first time, I saw it for what it must have been in the days of old. It really did set me thinking about history and the many characters whose lives are woven into the frabric of civilization.

Unknown  # 11:19 PM


Sunday, November 28, 2004
Iris Chang's passing 
Iris Chang 1968 - 2004
It came quite as a shock to me yesterday when I was surfing the blogs and chanced upon Akuma's to read about the passing of an author whom I've avidly followed. It's sudden as the news of her suicide eluded my reading in the local dailies on November 11th. I'm referring to Iris Chang, author of the books; The Chinese in America : A narrative history, The Rape of Nanking and Thread of the Silkworm. I've read two of her books and found them to be a fascinating research into China. As of now, her official web site is shutdown and is displaying a black background with her obituary.

The Rape of Nanking chronicles the Japanese military campaign to take Nanking from the Nationalists led by Chang Kai Sheik during WWII. After a long fought battle, the city was overtaken and the frustrated Japanese military, aiming to get revenge and to punish the citizens for their resistance carried out a spree of killing, looting and raping on its unarmed citizens. The Japanese government has never admitted to the event ever occurring and Iris's book set out to portray living accounts of the events that followed the fall of the city. Her book was well received and made known the atrocities that occurred to the effect that several off-spin accounts have been published since such as "The good German of Nanking" which tells about the accounts of a German officer, John Rabe that seek to help the citizens of Nanking during this brutal period as in the footsteps of "Schindler's List". It's not a pretty picture and the atrocities captured and narrated could send shivers down anyone's spine. Yet if it happened and was never owned up and forgotten to time, it's a sad fate to the countless Chinese in Nanking, the writing of this book brings about their plight and suffering and the hope that the perpetrators will one day be punished.

She also wrote about the Chinese diasporas in the Americas in 'The Chinese in America', how they were treated and how they overcame every hardship heaped upon them in the foreign land called 'gum san' or gold mountain as America was viewed by the Chinese. She charts the Chinese progress throughout the ages from the early railroad days where coolies helped built the Transcontinental railroad to the upcoming of Chinese surge in obtaining places in prestigious institutions of learning and the modern day success story of various Chinese American descendents. Her narrative about the effects of these immigrants who left behind families to find work in a foreign land and how this affected those living in China and the new comers who soon abandoned their ancestral home to call America their own is easy to read and is concise. How were they treated, how did they fare, how they have adapted and how they are at present. A whole cultural and historical experience of the Chinese that now has spread to the globe.

Her passing has been attributed to suicide with a gunshot to her head in her vehicle out in a lonely countryside. Before this, it was mentioned that she was suffering from depression but foul play has yet to be ruled out. For what it is worth, the literary world has lost a talented author and her passing will be noted. Her contributions in making known to the world about Nanking is her greatest legacy and will continue to fuel debate on the Japanese's role in Asia during WWII.

Iris Chang's home page
San Francisco chronicles
BBC News

Kervin  # 11:21 PM