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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Mondays #17: Emotion by The Bee Gees

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hari Raya & Sacrifice

Miles apart but always in my heart.

I have done many things that I am not proud of in my life (and some that I am downright ashamed of). On this blessed day, I ask for forgiveness from those I have wronged and Mercy from Allah s.w.t. Keep me on Your path and if I am weak, give me strength. If I stray, give me guidance. Help me remember my blessings and good fortune so that I do not forget to be thankful. Truly, there is no sacrifice bigger than those we make for the ones we love. Selamat Hari Raya.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Standard 1 entrance exam- Irsyad

Night before- not nervous at all

Last Sunday, Yousof went to his first ever interview. It was for the Standard 1 entrance exam at Sekolah Agama Irsyad. He was, of course, totally relaxed about it. Since Educare IIUM doesn't have a standardized test system like other kindergartens, he did not really grasp the concept of exams yet.

On the way there- still not nervous

I was nervous. Not because I am adamant about him attending this school, but simply because all tests give me butterflies. As for the school, if he does get accepted, it will be good for him to have solid foundations in Islamic knowledge as well as regular academic pursuits. If he does not get accepted, he can still be his best at a regular government school. Most important is good support and encouragement. 

Finally here- slightly nervous

The school itself looked pretty much like any other regular primary school. To be honest, when I heard it was a private school, I was imagining more of an International School vibe with state of the art facilities. It is not. I guess, Islamic private schools have a tendency to be even more run-down compared to other schools. However, it was not shabby, or a horror story like most would believe. It seemed alot like my old school. 

He was the first student called out for the oral test. From my vantage point outside the classroom, I saw that he was able to answer the teacher's questions, and read the papers he was given. They quizzed him in Malay, English and basic Arabic. The written exam also included Mathematics.

Interview -Nervous!

He was very happy with himself after finishing. So, I am happy for him. Whichever school he goes to, I hope he can be the best and achieve his full potential InsyaAllah.


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