Friday, December 30, 2011

The Jane Austen Book Club by karen Joy Fowler

Basic plot

A group of Jane Austen book lovers gather together to discuss her works and in the process find that life is not as straightforward as Miss Austen wrote it to be. If only though, it was. Jocelyn, Sylvia, Prudie, Allegra, Bernadette and Grigg do not really have alot in common with each other other than their taste in books but they find their monthly gatherings a welcome respite from their own complicated lives.

What I liked about this book

The characters have very interesting lives which serve as sub-plots to the story. The quaint and quirky flashbacks through their lives in essence are more the core of the book than the actual book club itself. The reader is able to understand how each character became the person they area and how different their personal perspectives are on Miss Austen and life in general. The concise summary of all of Jane Austen's books which are mentioned found at the back of the book was very helpful, especially for someone like my since I have only read Miss Austen's Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility.

What I disliked about the book

I would have to say, the actual book club discussions themselves. Strangely enough,  people discussing books does not a fascinating read make. It also bugged me that I could not gauge how old these people actually were and had no way of matching them to the people on the cover which depicted the actors from the movie (based on the book) even after finishing the book. Perhaps that was not the book's fault ;)

A quote I liked from the book
She closed her eyes, which made them disappear but not usefully so.

And since it is a Jane Austen book club:
"The mere habit of learning to love is the thing."- Jane Austen 1775-1817

Rating: 3.5

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Visiting Baby Sarah


Last Sunday, I dropped by to see my good friend Hanim and her new baby, Sarah. It was my first time at their gorgeous home and first time meeting the rest of her family too. We had a nice time just chatting away and munching on delicious chicken pies and cupcakes. I can't wait to bring my kids along for a play-date next time. *Hint* Hint* (Fishing for another invite haha).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cik Jil & Karido - The love story

Last Friday night ... (no this is not the Katy Perry song) ... a dear friend got married. Even though, I have only known her for less than 3 years, Zil is of course one of the UKM Wondergirls. A little nickname I coined for the small group of postgrad students studying with me at UKM (Still in present tense since I have yet to go for my viva). As a group we've not only spent a lot of time with each other (most of it eating..hehe) but we've also been through tough times together, so I consider each one of them my sisters. 

The first time we heard about Khalid ... we found out that Zil was not single and not available. Khalid was far away though, in Japan. So mostly Khalid or Karido as we liked to call him was merely a name on Zil's lips and a smile each time she opened her laptop.

The first time we met Khalid ... he dropped by with Zil at one of our lunch outings at Ani Sup Utara. That time, H1N1 was rampant so he was wearing a face mask. Truly a strange way to be introduced to a group of talkative women. Understandably he didn't talk much.

The first time we really got to know Khalid ... was at their engagement ceremony. He was so friendly and cheerful (of course) that day. Joking with all of us. Yup, Khalid was one of us now. He was bound by promise to our Zil.

And so, on 23/12/11 (also Khalid's birthday- smart move, so he will never forget) ..we saw our beautiful sister Zil transform into a ravishing princess and married to her Prince Charming. They will make a wonderful couple, Zil with her beauty and kind heart, with Khalid who is truly a really nice guy. I wish them all the best.

Congratulations Zil & Khalid. May your lives be filled with love ever after.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Unions and reunions

Earlier this month my friend from med school Dilla got married. It was a gorgeous event held at Dewan Jubli Perak Kuantan. The bride and groom were ravishing and the food was great. Everybody looked really happy especially all her friends. It was a sort of mini reunion for us since it has been a long time since that many of us had been able to gather in the same place at the same time. I think we took more pictures of ourselves than of the happy couple. So if any of the other guests were wondering what all the hullabaloo was about, it was just a bunch of 30(+) year old doctors remembering the joys of friendship and being 20 again. Hehe.

I think only after 20+ pictures somebody had the smart idea to have the wedding/stage as a backdrop instead of the curtains haha.

Congratulations to Dilla & Redha. 
May your lives be filled with joy, laughter and love.

PS: It was great seeing all of you. I have missed you all very much. Hope we'll all get a chance to get together again soon.

All pics credited to Ayeen :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Lights of Alborada by Gianni Riotta

Basic plot

Nino Manes escaped his prisoner of war camp in Texas to reach his village in Italy. He had a wedding to stop. Clutching a letter from his sweetheart telling him that she intends to wed their English teacher in forty days time, he risks his life to prevent this. After all, what is life without love? Joined by the unlikeliest of traveling companions, a fake American lieutenant and a waif-like prostitute, his impossible quest is fraught with daring escapes from Military Police, bounty hunters, land mines and even ferocious wild beasts. 

What I liked about this story

I must admit that reading the synopsis made me buy the book. The die-hard romantic in me could not resist such a tragic story of enduring true love. The author has a lovely way of describing people, places and emotions that verges on poetic. The characters are likeable, especially the enigmatic and charming lieutenant.

What I disliked about this story

As with most authors who dwell on descriptions, sometimes, the pace of the book fell short, slightly dragging it's heels. I was also not keen as to the fate of the characters, personally, I would have taken the story in another direction. 

A quote I liked from this book

The daring route that lets you overtake yourself when you have lost your past, and accept rebirth in life's uncertainty. Humble and close to those around you.

Rating: 3.5

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bye bye Birdie

Before the BIG snip (with Usu)

It's been a rough week. Last Sunday my eldest son, Yousof went for circumcision. At six years old he was one of the younger ones there. When we arrived at Klinik Al-Amin, he was given number 70 (the last one for the day). As we waited for his turn, I think I was more nervous than him. When I asked him if he was worried he replied "Tak takut sebab Upin & Ipin kata macam kena gigit kerengga je (I'm not scared because Upin & Ipin [cartoon characters] said it's just like an ant bite)". When it was his turn, he bravely went in by himself (no parents allowed) and came out 15 minutes later smiling. He said he didn't feel anything and just kept his eyes closed the whole time. 

Didn't hurt at all

It was only later in the car ride home that he started to feel the pain. This was because the local anaesthetic that they had given had worn off and the painkiller that he took had not set in yet. That evening and throughout the night, I felt more helpless than I have ever felt. It was heart-breaking to see him in pain. I had done all I could to ease his pain including adding another analgesic but being a child, the pain continued to bother him. So I simply stayed by his side, comforting him and coaxing him to sleep. Toilet trips and dressing the wound was a nightmare too. For the first 3 days the swelling at his glans penis (front part) was very obvious and did not recede. By the 4th day the swelling subsided but was replaced by a black discolouration of the whole area. With very minimal experience in wound healing after such a procedure I consulted my lecturers (Dr Emad, Dr Saad, Mr Salleh), also getting input from my parents, Dr Wahab and even went to visit the clinic again. Finally, I am reassured that this whole traumatic experience is just part of the healing process.

NOW it hurts!

I have learned two very important lessons throughout this. Firstly, there is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain (worse yet when you are the one who has to grit your teeth and inflict the pain - cleaning/dressing the wound properly so it does not get infected). Secondly, as a doctor (or anyone with a medical background), it can sometimes be difficult to be truly objective with the ones we love. It is easy to be either of 2 extremes, too complacent or too anxious. We tend to miss things or let them pass because we think we've seen worse or we know exactly what is going on, or we tend to over-analyze and jump straight to morbid worse case scenarios because of all the things we've learned and seen.

I am thankful to so many people for helping me get through this week, frazzled but sane. To my brother Izzat, my sis-in-law Zila & Umairah- thank you for coming down to Kuantan and giving us moral support that weekend. To Mr Salleh, Dr Emad, Dr Saad, Dr Wahab and Dr Naznin- thank you for your input and much needed second opinions. To Dr Norsidah & Dr Yusoff- thank you for lightening my load by covering for me at the Kulliyyah. To my parents- thank you for coming to Kuantan and always being there to support me when I need you the most.

I am hopeful that when it's Hamzah's turn, it will be plain sailing.

My turn next?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A family weekend

What did you guys get up to over the long weekend? My parents and my brother came down to Kuantan and we had a really lovely time. My brother, his wife and his daughter are over in Peninsula Malaysia for a couple of weeks for a holiday (SCHOOL holidays!), so the kids got to spend time with their cute little cousin.

On Saturday, everybody headed of to the Kulliyyah of Science Auditorium. It was a big day. Yousof's Graduation Ceremony. Yup, my six year old got to get up on stage and receive a scroll before I did. It was a bit of a rush getting everyone ready and out of the door that I forgot to bring the most important thing of all, my phone. I was a bit a crushed because I was unable to tweet or instagram the event live but it was too late to go back home to get it. Thankfully, my brother brought his compact digital camera so I did manage to snap a few pictures. Unfortunately, he did not bring the cable and I do not own a memory card reader so we weren't able to transfer the pictures. So the ones I have are pictures of the official pictures the kids had taken and pictures "borrowed" from other people's FBs. InsyaAllah will post the other pics later. Of course, no trip to Kuantan is complete without a trip to Ani Ikan Bakar Petai, so that night we had a scrumptious dinner there despite the many issues with service. Not many pictures there either, I was too busy eating hehe.

On Sunday, we planned to go to Gambang water park because the weather was still nice and sunny. Unfortunately about a few thousand other people had the same idea. After being stuck in a 3 km crawl, we got there only to find people had been waiting hours just to even get a ticket. In the end we ended up in Teluk Chempedak, where the kids had a great time under the scorching sun. 

On Monday we took a trip to Pekan and had a short tour of the town, stopping at the Pekan Jeti. Not many pictures here because Hamzah decided that this was the perfect moment to fall fast asleep. So I had to babysit him while the other took a short stroll. 

All in all it was an amazing weekend because we just spent some good quality family time. Everybody has already left for KL today, so it's back to the normal routine for us. I am so very thankful for my family, even though we live apart, I hope that we are always close at heart.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz

Basic plot

Slim MacKenzie may be only 17 years old but he is no ordinary teenager. For one thing, Slim MacKenzie is not even his real name. The world as seen through his twilight eyes is far different than that seen by "normal" people because Slim is not normal. Blessed with the gift of premonition, he is also cursed. Not only can he sense the gory fates of those around him, Slim can also see the evil that lies beneath. Slim can see goblins. Murderous, evil, vile creatures that to anyone else might look like his Uncle Denton, the town sheriff or that cute girl next door. What does a boy do when he seems to be the only only one who can see demons who are out to destroy the human race? Run away and join the carnival, of course, where at least, the freaks are real.

What I liked about this book

Firstly, this book is in no way related to the more famous "Twilight" series. Dean Koontz does have a vivid imagination when it comes to the macabre. The story of how evil can live and passed unnoticed was intricately developed. The second half of the book was a lot more enjoyable due to it's faster pace and had a much better sense of direction. Strangely, the quirky afterword by the author was also one of my favourite parts of the book.

What I disliked about this book

The first half of the book was a bit slow for me. It was of course necessary to tell the background story, introduce the characters and their motivations but the book did not really get into gear until the second half. I am glad that I ploughed through it. Perhaps, if he had condensed the first half into 1 or 2 chapters and quickly jumped into the second half, this would be a far more favourable review.

A quote I liked from the book

You travel light when you're wanted for murder. The only heavy things you carry are memories, fear and loneliness.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, November 18, 2011

Writing, eating and driving

I just came back from a 2 day Scientific Writing workshop held at the Grand Seasons Hotel by the Pharmacology Department, UKM. It was great to be able to see all the post-graduates again. The two days were quite eventful even though not many papers were actually submitted by the end of the workshop.

Although everybody came with their journal drafts, 2 days was not enough to get the papers publication ready. Though it was a great chance to have uninterrupted and focused time in front of the computer. Hopefully for those of us who did not manage to submit papers, we will manage to do so in the next month.

The other highlight was (of course) the food. Although, I have to say that the morning and evening tea dishes were not what I expected from such a big hotel (nuggets?). All the food was nice (especially since it was free), with the second day's lunch buffet far surpassing the first. 

It was also a time for car trouble as my Mum's Satria went beserk when the horn refused to stop blaring continuously unless I twisted the ignition key. Imagine driving with only my left hand, manouvering the 5 levels of multilevel-parking (those ramp turns were murder) and parking the car, with only one hand. My dear friend Sharlina had much bigger car trouble as sadly she met with a rough fender-bender whilst on the way to the hotel. 

One good car event did take place though, finally, my Stream is home.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

Basic plot

"Nanny" is a NYU senior who loves working with children and when she lands a part-time job as nanny to 4 year old Grayer, it seems like a perfect fit. What she didn't count on was that her job description would include basically parenting Grayer and being at the beck and call of his frigid, uptight, snobby and constantly busy-with -doing-nothing mother Mrs X. She soon finds out despite sacrificing her time, patience and sanity to care for their son, she is in fact almost invisible and dispensable to both Mrs X and the often absent Mr X. Even nannies have a tipping point, don't they?

What I liked about the book

First of all, I have actually seen bits and pieces of the movie starring Scarlett Johansson. When I saw that this book was less then RM 10 at BookXcess, I added it to my basket. It was quite a good read, humorous in a modern slightly cynical way. I enjoyed reading the unbelievable situations that Nanny often found herself in. The idea of naming the main characters Nanny, Mr X and Mrs X even, H.H (Harvard Hottie who lives on the 11th floor) is very original and quaint. The way the main characters uses her intelligence to tackle her little charge is often heartwarming and the bond between them genuinely speaks to the reader. The authors managed to capture the chaos of juggling too many tasks, an inconsiderate employer, living in the big city and struggling to find the boundaries of being involved in the lives of strangers exceptionally well.

What I disliked about the book

At times, I felt as if the scenarios were a bit contrived. I found that supporting characters (other than Nanny, Mrs X, Grayer) appeared slightly one-dimensional at times, even the main love interest. I think this is probably one of those rare cases where the book came more alive in the hands of a good screenwriter. 

A quote I liked from the book

Raising your child is hard work! Which you would know if you ever did it for more than five minutes at a time!

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Basic plot

Jack's world seems small now that he is 5 years old. As it should since his world only measures 11 feet by 11 feet. The only people who are real are Jack, his Ma and Old Nick who comes once in a while to make the bed creak. Jack isn't even sure if Old Nick is real since his Ma makes him hide in Wardrobe every time the man shows up. Trees, people, dogs and aeroplanes are only on TV like Dora and Bob the Builder. Soon, Jack learns that the world is much bigger than he imagined and the reason why his Ma is too sad to play sometimes. Outside does exist, the problem is, how do they escape the Room?

What I liked about this book

This book was a gift from my good friend Dr Yati (a dedicated supporter of this book experiment). Just reading the blurb on the back had me hooked. The story is told very simply and honestly, an innocent's child view of a horror beyond comprehension. The reader sees life through his untainted eyes as he slowly pieces together that the life he has known since birth is a prison built by a monster in human form. I found myself rooting for Jack and his Ma throughout the story, teetering between tears and laughter at Jack's perspectives, new discoveries and adventures. Most of all, I liked the fact that the book finished as it did, to give the readers a sense of journey and closure. One of the best books I have read in a long time. Thank you Yati.

What I disliked about this book

There is not much to dislike about this book except it would have given me immense satisfaction if the villain had been dealt with in a more deserving way (read: castration, tortured etc). Even so, this does not detract from the story at all.

A quote I liked from the book

He reminds me of nothing but himself.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

As the crow flies by Jeffrey Archer

Basic plot

Charlie Trumper was born and raised, a barrow boy from the East End. Wanting nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, he soon finds that life is more than about selling fruit and vegetables on the corner. When the world finds itself at war, Charlie is compelled to be at the front-line where he meets Guy Trentham who would later become the bane of his existence. Charlie returns to the East End to fulfill his grandfather's dream of owning a shop that sells everything. With the help of Becky Salmon, the annoying baker's daughter who grew up to be the love of his life, Charlie proves that determination and honest hard-work makes any dream achievable. 

What I liked about this story

Jeffrey Archer has an incredible ability to write stories that span decades and yet allows the reader to walk with his characters every step of the way. Character development was superb in both the solid main characters and the colourful supporting cast. The storyline flowed smoothly even with the multi-person self narratives thrown in at the beginning of each section, which so often in other books leads to confusion and interruptions to the story. A very good read indeed.

What I disliked about the story

As with most books that I enjoy, I would have liked to add my own tweaks to the plot. Perhaps a happier ending, or a more satisfactorily gory fate for the villain. This is in no way a critique since, for me to feel like I want to change the story shows the extent of my investment in these fictional characters. Thus said, I still think the ending could have been  little different.
A quote I like from the book

It seems to begin with no one was willing to admit I belonged to anyone.

Rating: 4.5/5


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