Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Ghost Writer, previously published as the The Ghost

by Robert Harris

took 3 days of September

A book is almost always interesting,if you can read it anywhere. Either that or it has some very raunchy scenes.
Well The Ghostwriter is certainly from the former. The story is about a ghostwriter, someone who writes on other people's behalf, mostly autobigraphies, who landed a job writing Memoirs for Britain's ex-Prime Minister. Unperturbed by the mysterious death of the previous ghostwriter, the protagonist took the job and it was not long before the mysteries and dark secret surfaces and he began to question his decision.
Uuu..scary, isn't it.

I am not fond of thriller,most of all.And the cliche secret blablabla mumbo-jumbo would normally turn me off but being the fact that the book was turned into a movie, I flicked the pages and gave the book a chance. Plus Ewan McGregor was on the cover(which almost means instant buy). Master Jedi, I am happy to see you.

The book proves to be entertaining from the start regardless of my impression above. The story was fast and there was hardly any lull or part where the book slowed down. I think the writer tried to show the writer was in a hurry,which succeeds, correspond to the end. I even had to look into the book to see the name of the main protagonist, the ghostwriter,which I can still not find. The book even doesn't emphasize the characters details that much, which I think is important for a thriller in order to keep the pace.

The book is full action. Not action in which there's lots of fighting but rather the pace. If I were to make a metaphor, it's like you're hosting a party where you see all the events and has lots of things on your hand but when asked to describe it afterwards you will say, "It's like a party." In a way the book is deceptively simple. There is a bit of twist in the end but other than that there is nothing mind-boggling. However that is not to say the book is not what it is, a fine story telling, but I would categorize it as a light read.

Language is easy enough and the jokes although are not wide apart, are not to hard to understand as most British jokes are. I wouldn't think any young readers would read this book but if they do be advised that it has some tiny adult scenes. Really tiny, nothing to compare to my previous post, Empress Orchid. Other than that I would recommend this to anyone, anytime

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Empress Orchid

by Anchee Min


The story is told from a person view of the last Empress in the Chinese history. The language is a bit simple for a fictional autobiography. Caution in recommendation is suggested for young readers though.

The premise of the story is how a woman who came from a very unlikely background reached high status in life after overcoming difficulties after difficulties. Sounds familiar? I thought so after reading the blurb on the back, which reminds me of the Memoirs of a Geisha. I was at the Borders when I read a few pages and thought the book is interesting enough. To my disappointment the book prove to fall a bit short of my expectation.

The story starts by telling how Orchid's father died and how the family was thrown into hardship. The beginning was told realistically with stark details such as "our family was not poor but I knew that my neighbour ate worms for breakfast". The story continues but after a while I sensed something amiss. I was expecting to read a book that is similar to Memoirs of a Geisha but that is where the difference is. Although the book has similar storyline, this story lacks the metaphors that is widely used in the Memoirs of a Geisha. It is told in somewhat a direct way. The writer did try at parts of the story but it doesn't seem so smooth.

Much part of the story is about how Orchid longs for the Emperor affection and how the whole kingdom bows to the Sun of the Son, another name for the ruler of China. These depiction of Orchid and how the people behave quite puzzled me as they seem to think that the Emperor was no mere mortal being. I agree and respect that is their culture and certain scene in the book reminds me of what used to be told about our own monarchy in the past. However the part where Orchid tells her pain of being ignored by her husband icks me, but perhaps that is the nature of a woman.

The story then picks up itself at the last quarter where Hsien Feng, the Emperor, died hence leaving Orchid to fend herself and her son from the greedy advisers and danger. This part of the story tells the cunningness of Orchid and her will to protect themselves. However just as the action and conspiracy began to thicken, the book deviate into telling the feeling of the widowed Orchid for a general. The book suddenly ends there, with a conclusion that the general loves her too, and a hint that they somehow continue their affair secretly.

So the book language is a bit lacking in its beauty but I guess the writer did try her best to reconstruct history into a novel without adding too much. It is said at the end that the characters are all real but if you have any intention of learning the history of China seriously, I don't think a novel would be a good place to start. All in all I am a bit disappointed with this book and hard to recommend this to anyone. If you want a suggestion, you should already know what my answer would be. It's plastered all over this post. ;)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mandela's Way; Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage

by Richard Stengel

7-27 July, 2010. 245 pages.
What took so long for me was because I kept postponing and only reading it between waiting time for KTM and LRT etc. Though if read continuously I assume it would take around 4-5 hours.
Language is easy to understand with a few difficult words aptly used, without actually interfering with the flow of reading. Fonts are big and easy to read, which is a good thing for a semi-biography.

Like what is written on the title, the book is about "lessons" that the writer, Richard Stengel, understood after spending three years in the company of the ex-leader of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. This book is not a biography of him, rather insights into his characteristic and way of thinking.

If to put it bluntly, the "lessons" are all mostly known to us or even regularly preached by parents, teachers and others. However I personally feel that the book really managed to convey its message solely because the person that the book is modeled upon really practices it. Lesson no 13 for example, "Quitting is leading too", where Nelson Mandela resign from the office after around 5 years of service. This is not something easily done for let us imagine if we were to be elected as the prime minister, would we really relinquish the title when the time comes. Well, he did. And that makes all the sense for the book.

Truthfully before reading the book I only have a vague knowledge(now only slightly better) of the history and situation of South Africa. I did watch "Invictus", a film about how Nelson Mandela used rugby to unite the country, but other than that what I knew about apartheid was that it is abolished and the system abused the natives. This book fortunately fills the gap, as the writer narrates a "lesson" by referring to Mandela's action in some part of his life, which thankfully helps readers like me(or you) to understand his background and also the history of the country.

All in all, it's a good book despite quite short but the messages came across quite clearly I think due to the subject of the book. Thank you to person who gave me this book, for I wouldn't read if I were to choose it myself. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jonathan Strange &Mr Norrell

by Susanne Clarke
5-12 April 2010, 1006 pages.
One thousand pages in one week, though I assume the time taken is only around three hours if read continuously.
The language borders on a bit difficult.
However don't be discouraged  by the above, as the book is worth the length.

The story revolves around two magicians, Norrell and his pupil Strange, who were destined to bring magic back to England, Based in the Napoleon(Victorian?) Era, the book follows the magics, opinions and differences between these two magician in their attempt to restore magic back to its glory of the Aureate Era.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Flatland - A Romance Of Many Dimensions

by Edwin A. Abbott
Read between 28/3/10-3/4/2010
It took me a week although if it is read continuously, the 82 pages wouldn't take more than 4 hours.

A very interesting book, one that can be inferred from the unique title.
Language is a bit hard but all in all, a fun read.

The story tells from the first person view of a square; his life in Flatland, the community and civilization in Flatland and all it's history.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Earthsea Quartet

by Ursula K. Le Guin
read between 26/2/2010-18/3/2010
The books are made of four individual stories in the saga and I stopped for quite a while after the 3rd book. However I assume each book takes 10 hours to be finished, since I managed to read half of the 2nd book(The Tombs of Atuan) on a 6 hours ICE-train journey.

An excellent fantasy read with interesting concept of magic. Very dynamic characters and the plots are more driven by them..
A bit difficult on the language, not recommended for casual readers.

The book is set in Earthsea, a world where the lands are made of islands (hence the name) and magic is widely used. The story starts with the introduction of Ged and follows his journey becoming Archmage and Dragonlord and his travels across Earthsea
through evil times as the 'balance' of magic has been disturbed.