Monday, November 15, 2010

Tales out of the Kebaya Closet

Book Title: Kebaya Tales

Author: Lee Su Kim

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Ratings: ****'

Tadaima!!! I'm back after being on hiatus for a while. School had been hectic, as always. Anyway, this time I'm using the free time I have to do a little review on a book by one of my favorite Malaysian author. The first time I heard about this book was from the author/my lecturer at university, Dr. Lee Su Kim herself. I was in the middle of looking for a short story to do an assignment on another subject and this book is exactly the type that I was looking for. So, I grabbed the opportunity to be the first (in my school, I guess) to buy the book and get my assignment done immediately. The first story that captured my eyes was "The Goddess and the Japanese Officer". Obviously anything that has the synonym equals to -Japan- will never be missed by me. So I thought this story would be the right one for my assignment until I flipped the pages and found another story; "The Courtesan from Gion". For someone who had dedicated her life to anything that is Japan-ish, I should know that Gion is a place in Kyoto, and I am right. I fell in love with the story instantly, really, no exaggeration there. Where in the world can you find a story that associate Malaya during the colonial time and espionage together? I don't think so (if there is, I've never heard of it). And using that particular short story, I proudly handed in my assignment and now waiting to see how was I graded on it.

My favorite short story in the book - The Courtesan from Gion

Moving on to the rest of the stories, there are a total of thirteen short stories in Kebaya Tales in which all of them are accentuated with the Baba Nyonya (Straits Chinese) or Peranakan essence. The stories are filled with family values, humor as well as angst in them. It sounds like a very interesting book, isn't it? I'm reviewing this book through the point of view of a fan as well as a reader. What I like most about this book is the creativity that it brought forth. Other than being filled by exciting short stories, the pages are also decorated with colorful pictures of the author's Peranakan heritage such as the kebaya, pantun Nyonya and pictures of the author's family members. Every cent of money I spent on this book was well worth it. Other than that, I love the fact that there are a lot of facts and events that I think the readers could relate with themselves. In the story "The Bachelor from Balik Pulau" for instance, tells about a matchmaking gone wrong between a spinster and a crooked bachelor. The story reminds me of my aunt, who is never married even until now. Well, she didn't have this kind of hilarious fate, but still, it makes you wonder if its ever going to happen to someone you know one day. Another one is "A Promise is a Promise", where the character who was pregnant gave birth to a dark skinned baby after she was surprised by a chettiar. Something like this was claimed to happened to a lot of people. My sister-in-law, during her pregnancy went to UK for a conference. When her son is born, people were surprised that he looked a lot like anak Mat Salleh when both of his parents are without a doubt Malay. So we concluded that my sister-in-law was 'terkenan' by the white people while she was in UK. There are a lot of other things that I could relate to, like "The Breadman's bicycle" story. Well, when I was young, there was no such thing as the breadman's bicycle, but there was the breadman's 'motorcycle' making rounds in my neighborhood in every late afternoon. It really brought back memories of my childhood days.

I am not one to talk when it comes to language used in writing because I am still learning and trying to be more proficient in English. Nevertheless, as a reader, I found this book really easy to read and understand. I think the story is pretty clear cut, no mind-boggling metaphors or riddles that I need to figure out to understand the plot.

A sneak peek into Kebaya Tales

Ok, so I'm done talking about the things I like about Kebaya Tales, now its time for a few things that I think could be improvised. First of all is the use of terms in other languages. I have no complaints with the use of terms from Malay, Chinese and Baba Nonya, but there are times when I don't understand what it means. I'm
really glad that some of it came with translation however, there are some words that didn't, for example 'Fatt sun keng...Chan hai ow huit lor'. Now, I could just easily ask my Chinese friends what does it means, but I think it would be much better if the book has a simple glossary at the back. I would also like to praise the effort done for the two stories with Japanese backgrounds. Although I am not an expert in Japanese culture and language, from what I know the facts in the stories are pretty accurate to me. However, there is a slight mistake in a few of the spellings. I know Japanese people are very nice when it comes to people who are trying to learn their language. Anything that sound Japanese enough to them are considered correct, but, I think it would be much better if the spellings are correct as well.

One of the things that is very special about this book is the effort of spreading the Baba Nyonya culture to the readers. As a reader, I see this as something very unique and different. Nonetheless, I think a little bit more of different culture should be mixed into the stories. I could see there are a few non-Peranakan characters in the book but most of them play minor parts . From my point of view, if there is a little bit more mixture of other ethnics in the stories, the readers who come from different ethnic groups could relate themselves more to the events in this book. I'm not promoting the 1Malaysia concept for sure, but from my own reading experience, this book would capture me a lot more if there is a much better balance among the ethnics mentioned.

Autographed by the author herself, Dr. Lee Su Kim to me and my sister ^_^

All in all, I think this book is a good read. I have to admit, books of Malaysian writers are rarely my type, but this one is the first in my collection and the best so far. If you are bored of the old collection of short stories ever published, try something more refreshing like Kebaya Tales. It's truly one of a kind.

A/N: The book is copyrighted by the author and publisher. The review and the pictures taken using my camera are copyrighted to me ;3

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A very long letter in the form of a book...

Title: Stolen - a letter to my captor

Author: Lucy Christopher

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Hello again! it's been more than a month since I last posted something here (its not that somebody's counting though >.<) Anyway this time, instead of reviewing on my beloved anime I decided to do a review on a very nice book which I stumbled upon when I went to the bookstore ^^.

So, as described, the book title is Stolen - a letter to my captor written by Lucy Christopher. The genre was mystery/thriller, although I have no idea which part of it was mysterious or even thrilling. Anyway, this story was written in the point of view of Gemma Toombs, a sixteen year old teenager from London who was kidnapped at the airport when she was on vacation with her parents. She was taken from the Bangkok airport to Australia under her consciousness since she was drugged by her abductor, Tyler MacFarlane.

When she woke up, Gemma found out that she was taken to a middle of nowhere in an Australian desert where Ty, (what the guy introduced himself to Gemma earlier at the airport) had built with his own hands a wooden cabin which he had planned to live there with gemma for the rest of their lives. Of course as any other sane person would do is to freak out and struggled to get away from the kidnapper. Gemma tried to escape countless times but was futile.

Gemma was not some random girl to Ty. He had known her since he was ten only Gemma doesn't remember about their encounters. Ty had been there, almost like her guardian angel (or just plain stalker). Until one night, a friend of Gemma who had a crush on her planned to rape her but was scared away by Ty. That was when he decided he needed to save Gemma from all the city dangers and dragged her to the outbacks.

It was hell, trapped in the vast land of nothing but red sand and heat but eventually, Gemma got used to it and she got used to Ty. She got to know him better and the reason of his actions. Still, Gemma preferred being in her usual environment. Tyler agreed that if in four months she still doesn't feel at home he'll take her back. The story takes a turn when one day after Gemma was bitten by a snake and in order to save her life, Ty took her back to civilization risking his own neck to the authorities. She was safe, he turned himself in and Gemma struggled with her feelings. Life without Ty in the city will never be the same.

It was all written in a letter (the whole book to be exact) beginning from the time they met at the airport until the last alphabet that Gemma wrote while waiting for the trial in which she held the power either to help release Ty from the conviction or to return to her old life.

Overall, I think this is a very good book. 90% of the setting was in the Australian Outback. The author took me into the scenery in detail. The red sand, the heat, the desert life and also how feelings developed between the main characters. I like the way it was written in different perspective than most other books usually have.

The author was telling us to broaden our horizon. Sometimes being in our comfort zone is not the best thing and love make people do irrational things. This novel is suitable for teenagers who is looking for their own identity. Gemma will grow up and thank Ty for giving her the opportunity to see the world with better eyes.

A/N: One of the rarest book that able to make me cry.

disclaimer: Credits to the author ^^

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Tick on My To-Do List

This semester I'm taking a subject on Interpersonal Skills and Leadership which require us (me and my group mates) to make a poster of our Idol. We decided to take Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's 4th Prime Minister as our model (actually, I'm the one who made that choice for them since I respected him so much and I was a little bit of a pushover in that decision). Anyway, they all agree and the problem solved. So last Saturday, August 1st, Tun Dr. Mahathir attended a forum as a speaker that was held in the National University of Malaysia (UKM) where I was in. I took the opportunity to get more information as well as snatch a few photos for my group project (since I had a morning class that day and I was nearby DECTAR). Here's what I and my parner-in-crime managed to capture ^^v

Details of the forum

I like this pic coz it matches the background ^^

Tun Dr. Mahathir was really friendly though the people were pushy and impatient

I managed to get an autograph from him ^^v it was hectic and I didn't even get to shake his hand but it was all worth it ^___^

I had always been a big fan of him since I was a little girl and a chance of meeting him is not something an ordinary person like me can get everyday. Seeing him in person is one of my dream and it had came true. I will treasure the moment forever and of course put that signature in a frame ^^!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Letters from the Past

I went to my dad's house yesterday to pick up my stuff that he brought back here. Since he's retiring next week and had to move out from the quarters he lived, I have to gather my stuff before he throw them out with other unnecessary things.

The most important thing number 1. is a box full of soft toys that my oneesan and I had collected since we were toddlers. We couldn't give it away since each of them had their story behind it ^^v. Box number 2 is my collection of junks. People may see it as junks, but for me they were all the memories of my younger days.

When I opened the box earlier this afternoon, I saw a tin box inside where I had kept my most cherished item in my life - some letters that my friends sent to me when I was living far away from them.

There are only 6 letters, but they have kept me going all the while when I was struggling alone at a new place

This was from my first best friend ^^v she was the one who made me realize how wonderful the world of anime is

This was from the same person. She would've made a great mangaka. Check out her blog - krrow.blogspot ^^v!

This one is from my one and only best guy friend! I owed him a lot. Even now still ^^v

Haha! This is the longest letter I have ever received! This came from my second best friend (because I met her later than my first one!) She drew a lot of chibi characters inside. -sigh- maybe I only meant to write and not to draw as well as they did >.<

All of these letters were sent to me about 4 years ago, when I was in my final year of high school. I cried, I laughed, I felt envious yet I felt relieved knowing that I'm still at the back of their mind. At that time, I was having trouble adapting to the new place, the new life and their letters - word by word had drove me strong to face the day after the other.

Those letters from the past really meant to me and I can never throw them away even if they turn into pieces of junks.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More Than Just a Butler...

Title: Kuroshitsuji

Creator: Toboso Yana

Genre: Supernatural

My Rating: ****"

Set in the Victorian Era in London, Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) is a story of 12 years old Ciel Phantomhive who made a contract with a demon to serve and protect him until he fulfilled his mission as an exchange for his soul. He named the demon Sebastian Michaelis who posed as his butler. On the surface, Sebastian act as a perfect butler with no flaws at all in carrying his duties. His job includes waking Ciel up in the morning, dress him up, tying his shoelaces, prepare breakfast and so on until he put him to bed at night. Behind the scene, he's more to Ciel's bodyguard since in reality, the Phantomhive family served the Queen as the 'eye' of the underground world.

Ciel Phantomhive and Sebastian Michaelis

As the Queen's 'dog', Ciel devoted his full loyalty towards the royalty despite the fact that his parents were killed by the Queen's people. Ciel and Sebastian took on villains from the underground world (underground world here means mafias, drug dealers and so on, not the other underground world where demon dwells) as ordered by the Queen and he slowly meet his purpose which is finding the truth about the misfortune that fallen onto his family.

Sebastian and Ciel in disguise in order to find out the identity of a possible 'Jack the Ripper' that terrorize London

This anime is a must watch!!! Although some facts (if you're obsessed with Sebastian) are hard to bear, this anime is no doubt one of the best I've seen. [Spoiler Alert!!!] First of all, from the beginning its already set that this anime wont have a happy ending because it is already stated that the contract between Ciel and Sebastian will be over once Ciel get his revenge therefore will surrender his soul to be devoured by the demon in disguise, Sebastian. Putting that aside, the whole story itself is wonderful and no one will get bored with the ongoing suspense and humor. I always like to give compliments to the minor characters because they too, play important roles in making this such an amazing anime. The 4 additional employees of the Phantomhive family; Bard the cook who always burn down the kitchen, Meirin the klutz maid, Vinny the cute gardener with extra powerful strength and chibi Tanaka-san sure cracked me up with their quirks.

"Akumade shitsuji desukara..."

There are some points that I'm not fond of (it doesn't have anything to do with the anime, its just that my taste is hard to satisfy). Of course I would prefer a sweet ending (I have to admit, that I cried - who wouldn't when a cute 13 years old boy's soul are eaten?!). Even though its just an anime, you can feel the emotions. By the way, be prepared to hate the main villain (in my case, I dont hate the alter-ego; I love bad guys after all! KYAA!!!). All in all, I have a very good time watching this. There's only 24 episodes, so it can be finished in half a day. Get ready with some tissues or a handkerchief if you're super sensitive when you watch the ending ^^v

"I'm one hell of a butler..."

disclaimer: thanks to the mangaka who created this wonderful masterpiece. I don't own anything except for the first picture!

p/s: reviews are only for leisure purpose and to fill my free time. thanks for reading and do leave your comments ^^v

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Tennis Supremacy

Title: Tennis no Oujisama (The Prince of Tennis)

Creator: Konomi Takeshi

Genre: Shounen/Sports/School/Comedy

My Rating: ****

TeniPuri (short version of Tennis Prince) basically progressed around Echizen Ryoma, a first year who attended the Seishun Gakuen (Seigaku) and joined the tennis club. To make the short story long (hehehe), his father, Echizen Nanjirou was a tennis pro who suddenly disappear from the tennis world. Ryoma's dream at the beginning of the anime was to beat his own father (who he had never won against). After the experience he went through with the Seigaku team and the memories he built with them, Ryoma finally found a new dream, which is to be the best player in the world.

Seigaku regulars before the captain, Tezuka Kunimitsu injured his left shoulder

top left: Echizen Ryoma, Momoshiro Takeshi a.k.a momochan, Kikumaru Eiji, Fuji Syusuke

below left: Kawamura Takashi, Kaidoh Kaoru, VC. Oishi Syuichirou, Capt. Tezuka Kunimitsu

Happy Times ^^v

This anime had been aired a very long time ago but I never get the chance to watch it until now. I finished 178 episodes in a week! Just imagine how torturing it would be if I were to follow the television airtime. The anime was very nice and good for people who took tennis. But it doesn't mean that those who doesn't like tennis shouldn't watch this. Though most of the times they were talking about tennis, the humor and the plot are very good too. What's more, the characters differs in their personalities which create a unique atmosphere in the anime.

Ryoma and Tezuka Buchou (Japanese for Captain) are somewhat similar in their coldness but Tezuka is mature and very grown up while Ryoma is a bit childish and reckless. There's Inui, who's like a mad scientist always creating bizarre drinks such as Aozu and Akazu. Fuku Buchou (Vice Captain) Oishi as the members put it, the 'okaasan' or mother of the Seigaku team. He worries about the team member's welfare all the time. Kikumaru Eiji is the only one who I think suited the image of a 15 years old school boy. He has cute ways of saying words for example saying "mango, mango" when apologizing (it sounds almost like 'gomen, gomen' when saying it backwards - gomen is sorry in Japanese) and he ends his sentence with 'nyaa' most of the times ( he's portrayed as a cat in the chibi version). Kawamura Takashi is a very peculiar character. I wonder if a person like him exist. When he holds a racket (it also works with badminton racket if if I'm not mistaken) his gentle personality changed and he shout English words like 'burning', 'baby', and 'come on'. Kaidoh Kaoru and Momoshiro Takeshi are rivals from the start. The two will fight whenever fire sparks between them. Kaidoh makes snake-like sound 'fshuu' when he breathes which is hillarious but gave me goosebumps at the beginning (snakes are not my thing). Momo-chan is the closest to Ryoma since they have the same hobby- eating. Lastly, the tennis prodigy, Fuji Syusuke. He appears as an elegant and mysterious person, even the other regulars having hard time figuring him out. He loves drinking Inui's special juice but after having a taste of Aozu, he collapse which was a big surprise to the others. In one of the episodes, he admitted that despite he likes drinking Inui's juice, he loves watching people suffer more.

From left: Tezuka, Fuji, Kaidoh, Kawamura, Oishi, Kikumaru, Momoshiro & Inui

On Skateboard: Duh, Echizen Ryoma

I dont have much complain about this anime but for from the looks of it, only Ryoma and Eiji looked their age (bear in mind that they are junior high schoolers). Tezuka looked and acted as if he's at least 17 years old. Same with the other third years. And some minor characters who are also junior high schoolers even looked like old men (ie. Kabaji from Hyoutei Gakuen). Some tennis techniques are 'out of this world' but I don't want to say more than I have coz I don't play tennis. So all in all, I'm pretty satisfied with this anime. It cracked me up, made me sobbed, and kept me going till the last episode. Banzai for the creator ^^v!

Disclaimer: Do not own anything except the words in length ^^v

p/s: reviews are for leisure purpose only. Thanks for reading and please leave your comments!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Puss in Mailbox

It's embarrassing, but I reached my goal

Don't laugh but this is not a joke to me. Today, my mom left the door open and my kitties got out then went into the elevator. She managed to catch one of them but the other went missing (and where am I when all this happen? I was still in bed). I searched high and low all over this 9 floor apartment where we live. After I went crazy looking for my 2 and half months old Moko, I resorted to what my sister told me to do - make a poster. So I did. the result was like the above. Why are there 3 different positions? Position 1 is to show that he's wearing a red collar. Position 2 is a full shot of his body and position 3 is supposed to be his face (but its hard to see 'cause his face is 'pitch' black! muahaha)

My sister told me to include a reward, which I though was unnecessary (come on, it wont hurt to do something without wanting a reward in return). So, the story continued as I went to look for it once again. I bumped into two girls, who're looking for their cat as well. We went on the 'adventure' together but no luck. I left it all to fate and went back home hoping that someone will call me if they see my cat.

As I was surfing the net (after not feeling like doing so for a while), my mobile phone (which was always by my side) gave a very (VERY) short rang. It was an unknown number and its was only a missed call. I had my hope high. I gave the number a call, but terminate it after a couple of rings because I thought it could be a prank call from some kids who saw my missing cat poster. The same number called again and I picked it up. It was music to my ears when the person calling said that he spotted my cat. I told him to hang on to it while I rushed to the scene.

When he said 'mailbox', I thought that my cat had wandered around the parking basement and got tired then rested at the corner where the mailbox were. I never expected that my cat would be IN the MAILBOX!!! Relieved + surprised, the two gentlemen who informed me about my cat tried to pick the mailbox (there's around 50 mailboxes there - its an apartment, what do you expect?). I told them I'd go check whether there's anyone home (based on the address on the mailbox - the person lives at the same floor as I am) but no luck. The 2 gentlemen walked away as I thanked them. Though my cat was still TRAPPED in the MAILBOX, I dont think I should vandalize someone else's property (though who's SMART idea was it to put a CAT in a MAILBOX!!!)

I decided to wait for the owner of the mailbox. It was somewhat embarrassing standing by the wall when my cat is wailing while people were going in and out of the elevator (he's been trapped there without food or water for more than SIX hours, who wouldn't?!). I can't just stand and wait. The structure of the mailbox were kind of loose so I can pull the steel out to make some room for my cat to go through. He's wasn't being co-operative with me. Then I found out that he could move from one mailbox to another (some space for him to slip into the mailbox beside).

I got him out from the second mailbox from the left at the bottom row

Is it really true that black cat means bad luck? I think mine is a pretty lucky one. He slipped into a mailbox which the one on top was unlocked. So now, more space for him to go through. I pulled out the loose structure of the mailbox adding the space from the unlocked one above, I pulled him out with my other hand. It was hard, and I almost gave up because I didn't want to hurt him. I gave him instructions (in Japanese - but I doubt he would understand even if its in English) and OUT he goes!! I was thinking a little bit punishment would be a good reminder, but I was so happy that I hugged him instead (that cat is reaaaallly lucky I didn't wrap him in my wrath).

Home Sweet Home

So, that was the end of The Advanture of Puss in Mailbox. I don't think I'd let ANY of them to go out for a day of adventure EVER again!

p/s: the person who locked Moko in the mailbox was lucky he didn't leave him any thank you 'gift' ^^v