Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book Blogger Hop: 24/8/12- 30/8/12

Book Blogger Hop

Welcome to Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-books. This week's question is;

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

My answer: 

Blogging allows me to be creative and to escape from the everyday routine. It is something I do just because I'm passionate about it. It has also helped me to write better and put my ideas together. I can proudly say that I too belong to world wide web, not just in my presence in Facebook but for my presence in a much sought after websites, the world of books n book blogs. 

The other favourite things about blogging is I get to have a say on the books I read, why I love them or hate them and be critical of the works of fiction. It makes me appreciate the effort of writers and makes me hope that someday I too would call myself a writer of fiction and not just a writer of blogs. 

So what's your favourite thing about blogging? Do drop me a comment and happy hopping.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: Remarkable Creatures

Title     : Remarkable creatures
Author : Tracy Chevalier
Genre  :  Historical fiction

First sentence reads: Lightening has struck me all my life.

Rating: 5/5

I just finished reading three books by Tracy Chevalier and decided to write the review of Remarkable Creatures first. Why? Because it was so very different and unique. The first sentence was so tantalizing and hooked me to know why Mary felt the way that she did. The thought of a girl to have discovered something significant that changed the way scientific community thought of evolution and extinction was inspirational.

Set in early nineteenth century, this story tells the extraordinary tale of a simple girl born in the seaside town of Lyme Regis in England and that of the intelligent spinster Elizabeth Philpot. Mary Anning was struck by lightening when she was a baby. She is not only unusual in the sense of being struck by lightening and surviving it but also because she has the eye for finding fossils which her coastal town is famed for.

Lyme's beach were brimming with fossils but only a serious fossil hunter with an eye for hidden treasures could extract them out from the clay soil. Mary and her brother Joe collect fossils found on the beach and cliff side of beach between Lyme and Charmouth to be sold in their curie stall to supplement the family income. The people of Lyme Regis were not fond of those fossil hunters or people who collect curies. Thus Mary was a loner and found her solace in fishing ammonites and gryphaea out of muddy beach sand.

Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster who has resigned to the fate of never finding the one, relishes in intelligent pursuits. She and her two other sisters relocated to Lyme Regis after their brother gets married and takes up their family home for his new life. Elizabeth who initially resisted leaving London is enchanted by the quiet Lyme Regis town and the prospect of starting a new hobby in the curious fossils she found in the beach.

Despite their age difference, Mary and Elizabeth become fast friends in their passion for finding fossils. The quiet life of Mary and Elizabeth  takes a sharp turn when Mary uncovers a huge fossil in the cliff by her home. That was the beginning of many more discovery which not only elevated Mary's reputation as a fossil hunter but it also created a buzz in the scientific community on the origin of earth and possibility of extinction of god's creatures. Together Mary and Elizabeth ride the turbulent waves evoked by Mary's fossil of unknown creature, riding into the cusps of new hope, of times where woman were not accepted into scientific community and of forbidden love.

I enjoyed every bits of this story. The story was narrated by both Mary and Eliabeth and I appreciated the author for allowing us to get into both their minds. The narrators were lovable enough, though there were flawed in their own ways yet they redeem themselves in putting their friendship and passion for fossils above all. The setting of the story, Lyme Regis was interesting to read about. The story was beautifully written, with a delicious mixture of various tones, at time serious, at times quickening the pulse and definitely with a little humor. I felt like coming back from a long beach holiday after closing the book and each time I look at a seashell I would remember Mary Anning and the ever loyal Elizabeth. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a historical fiction with a interesting scientific discovery.

Favourite quotations

I have long noted that people tend to lead with one particular feature, a part of the face or body. My brother john for instance leads with his eyebrows. It is not just that they form prminent tufts above his eyes, but they are the part of his face that moves the most. - Elizabeth Philpot

To me looking for curies is like looking for four-leaf clover; its not how hard you look, but how something will appear different. My eyes will brush over a patch of clover, and I'll see 3,3,3,3,4,3,3. The four leaves just pop out at me. Same with curies. - Mary Anning

We say very little, for we do not need to. We are silent together, each in her own world, knowing the other is just at her back.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book Review: The Red Queen

Title: The Red Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical fiction

First sentence reads: the light of the open sky is brilliant after the darkness of the inner rooms.

Rating: 4.5/5

Now I know the reason behind Phillipa Gregory's bestsellers, history comes alive in her writing. It was an engrossing read and it took me two days to finish the book.

Margaret Beaufort is a pious child born into the House of Lancaster. The house that was ruling England at that time under Kind Henry IV. A child who thinks she is born to fulfill a certain destiny, a calling and that is to be the queen of England and to sign her name as Margaret Regina.

She is sent off by her mother to be married to the Tudor house, with Edmund of Wales. She gives birth to a son, whom she names Henry after the King. Good times were fast changing for the Lancaster house when the King falls into a long spell of madness and the queen Margaret of Anjou is threatened by the presence of  the house of York. Margaret falls further into troubled times when her husband and guardian Edmund dies in battle, leaving her with her son and protective brother-in-law jasper. 

Praying hard to know that there's more to her life than just re-marrying, she determines to put her son on the throne. Guided by the believe that her house is the sole true ruler of England and her religiousness Margaret plans the plot to guide her son to the throne regardless of any obstacles. 

I found Margaret determinations and ambition fascinating. She is a courageous woman, a woman who knows she is on the  path of righteousness and glory for herself and her house. Her numerous failures were humorous at times and just proves that this is one woman who waits for the right time to shine. It was a brilliant story and though Margaret may not be right all the time, the readers would tend to stick with her cause and see how far she would go to make her dream come true. The other characters in the novel were equally fascinating to read about, the cowardly second husband, Margaret's 3rd husband, nicknamed the fox, who's loyalty is nonexistent and pledges his support to the winning side always and also Jasper the battle hardened brother-in-law.

Favourite quotes

~ I am not yet ten years old; but I have saints' knees. This has got to count for something, whatever my old lady governess may say to my mother about excessive and theatrical devotion. I have saints' knees. ~

~ She raises her eyebrows at my ringing emphasis. 'They wont like it', she says, and she goes out of the room to tell my brother-in-law Jasper that the girl is being stuborn and will not name her son for her dead husband, but has chosen her own name for him and will not be dissuaded. 
I lie back against the pillows again and close my eyes. my boy will be Henry Tudor, whatever anyone says.

~ 'King Richard may appear to be my master, but don't forget your son and his ambitions, and he is only one step from the throne this morning, and my beloved stepson as always.'
'But which side are you on?' I demand in frustration, as his men mount their horses and raise his banner.
'The winning side,' he says with a short laugh, and thumps his chest in a salute to me, like a soldier and is gone. ~

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - 4th August 2012

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Below are the photos I snapped when I went for a holiday in Mabul Island, Sabah. An island known for its proximity to the splendid diving and snorkeling spot, near to Sipadan (one of the best in the world). My stay at Mabul Island  was made memorable by the picture perfect island, the humble and friendly people and also the amazing underwater creatures. The island was so far remote from the hustle and bustle of city life that time basically stood still. Hope you like the pictures posted below: 

A boat ashore at the shoreline near Sipadan Water Village

This is the lodge that I stayed for the night in Mabul Island, perched above crystal clear green water =)

Tranquility that's hard to describe, thus a snapshot to remind me of that very moment and place that was picture perfect

Plenty of corals and fish 

Sun set observed from our lodge, Billabong scuba

More pictures are in my newly started travel blog, Happy Saturday to all.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Post


Yet another week has passed by. What did I accomplish this week? Two reviews, which is a feat considering how slow I am to write reviews =). I'm pretty much excited about my upcoming trip to Semporna (the coastal town in the state of Sabah, Malaysia). One more day to go and I'll be on my way to my island getaway. Ill post all about it next week. 

Yesterday I had a fun outing with my friends. We went to Ampang Lookout Point to enjoy the splendid view of entire KL city. Alas, the topmost lookout point was closed due to some safety issues. We made a u-turn and headed to the next best thing, a mini lookout point just a few meters away giving us an equally fantastic view. There were plenty of stalls selling burgers and fried noodles and fried rice. Pictures are below, captured using my humble phone camera.

  Dusk is falling gently, painting the sky above KL city in the softest pink, peach and blue.

 Sequential snapshot as darkness descends over KL city, seen miles away on Ampang Lookout Point. Awesome!!!!! The tree is sort of a distraction, but a beautiful distraction nonetheless. =)  

After the good food and the great view of the city, my friends then dragged me off to karaoke. I am not a good singer but I belted out some hits with as much gusto as possible, songs like My heart will go on, We are young (sang only the chorus =p ), when you say nothing at all and love you like a love song. My it was fun. After the tiring but fun Saturday, today I relaxed at home with my laptop. There's some problem with my blogger, as sentences are highlighted without me doing them. Hope it'll be fine after a while. I'll be back after a week's time. Happy Sunday to all and have a nice week.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Book Review: The Postmistress

Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
Genre: Literary fiction
First sentence reads: There were years after it happened, after i'd returned from the town and came back here to the busy blank of the city, when some comment would be tossed off about the Second world war and how it had gone-some idiotic remark about clarity and purpose-and I'd resist the urge to stub out my cigarette and bring the dinner party to a staisfying halt.
Rating: 3/5

The Postmistress is a story set in the times of Second World War seen through the eyes of three different women, each affected beyond their comprehension. The postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts, Iris James, Franklin's new resident Emma Trask and war correspondent Frankie Bard arethe narrators in this elegant story.

Iris believes in the integrity of the postal system and believes that she has to keep order and let the system move without a hitch. But one day she does the unthinkable, she reads a letter and keeps it from its rightful owner. Emma on the other hand is a girl with emotional baggage, who comes with heavy hopes of finding an anchor in the life of the man she is to marry, Will Fitch, the doctor in the town of Franklin. Whereas, Frankie Brad is the war correspondent who braves the bombs raining down on London skies every night to bring news of the war front to the people abroad in United States.  The story moves languorously and without urgency and explores the livelihood of the three women. It is told in alternating narration by the three women and that was refreshing to read. It tells the tale of two world existing in the same dimension, one facing the horrors of the war and the other blissfully ignorant of war. Emma and Iris know the war only though the voice of Frankie Bard and Frankie is living right in the middle of it.

Though the title of the book is The Postmistress, the story itself doesn't actually focus on Iris alone but more on Frankie. Its hard for me to say which one of the three women that I liked. I found it hard to warm up to them. Furthermore, certain parts of the book lacked the power to convince me and I wished the author had focused some attention on Will Fitch as his character was not as well developed as the rest and thus It was hard to feel the pain that Emma felt.

I found the first half of the book more compelling and interesting but had to force myself to read the second half just to know how it ends and unfortunately there were no surprises and I lost the eagerness to read it.
I noticed that this book had some rave reviews and also some average reviews. My opinion is that, I did not enjoy this book as much but I loved the beautiful writing and prose by the author. If you are looking to read stories revolving around second world war, I would suggest Daniel Steel's Echoes and Tatiana De Rosnay's Sarah's key
Favourite quotes

~They walked along, and under the silent morning sky, she imagines she could pull Time like taffy, stretching it longer and longer between her hands until the finest point had been reached, the point just before breaking, and she could live there.~

~Petal after white petal opened slowly from her heart and started reaching up and out. Some stories dont get told. Some stories you hold on to. To stand and watch and hold it in your arms was not cowardice. To look straight at the beast and feel its breath on your flanks and not turn-one could carry the world that way.~

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book review: Cat's eye

Title: Cat's eye

Author: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Literary fiction

First sentence reads: Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimension of space.

Rating: 4/5

I've been wanting to read a book by Atwood and I finally did it. This is my first Margaret Atwood's book. The story somewhat seems like a biography. Elaine is an established painter who is about to open her retrospective exhibition in her hometown, Toronto. At this particular time in Toronto which was her home while growing up, she reminiscence her childhood, her constant travel from place to place with her entomologist dad and her friends Grace, Cordelia and Carol. Her relationship with her three girlfriends was tumultuous, full of secrets with plenty of childhood dilemma. Atwood alternates between Elaines past and present. Her relationship with her brother was delightful to read.

Its hard to sum up the book as it sorts of flows and is actually a story of Elaine's travel through her memory. It doesn't move too fast and at the same time does not drag on. The author has a wonderful way with words, and its gives so much pleasure to the reader. She does use a lot of adjectives and my I loved it. Though she has the tendency to end sentences abruptly or put lots of short phrases and repeated sentences I did not really mind as each character, each scene came to life with her vivid description. It also brought to life a time long gone, a generation of people and their simple way of life long diminished from the  current world. 

The only problem I had with this book is Elaines preoccupation with her friend Cordelia. I did not really understand why she lingered most on the memories of cordelia. why she misses her much. I did not warm up to Cordelia's character.

I read this book continuously and when I was not reading, I was thinking about the characters and the story. Overall I really enjoyed it and would recommend it for those who love biography like fiction with beautiful prose.

Favourite quotes

~The sun sets in long, chilly, lingering sunset, flamingo pink, then salmon, then the improbable vibrant red of Mercurochrome.~

~We are silent, considering shortfalls. There's not much time left, for us to become what we once intended. Jon had potential, but its not a word that can used comfortable any longer. Potential has shelf life.~

~He has a look of amazing brilliance, as if at any minute his head will light up and become transparent, disclosing a huge brightly coloured brain inside.~