I read the Da Vinci Code first. You could call me a fashion victim if you like. After successfully ignoring the book for months every time I pass by tI read the Da Vinci Code first. You could call me a fashion victim if you like. After successfully ignoring the book for months every time I pass by the pile in Kinokuniya, I gave up. I bought one and read it. I wasn't impressed, to be honest. I know the book is a hit which really get people to write... several more books on related topics. These books could quickly be a genre on its own.
I was told that the book should read together with Angels and Demons which is sort of a prequel to the Da Vinci Code. I dutifully followed the advice. Again, I wasn't impressed.
So I decided to review the two books together.
Why wasn't I impressed? I thought the writing style is boring and exaggerated: the most, the biggest, the most famous, one of the best in the world, etc, etc pepper the pages. I encounter these superlatives in almost all instances relating to the protagonists. After a few chapter, I felt ill. This kind of talk is too 'George W. Bush' (Axes of Evil? Silly terminology)
The chapter division is also too Hollywood: chapters end in suspense. There are two story lines which in the end, merge into a conclusion. One is clear cut and straight forward the other is shrouded in mystery. The most implausible character is the culprit. S/He does it because of some personal disappointment. What is this? A ready made script?
Despite all that, I have to hand it to Dan Brown for brilliantly collecting the factual data and weave them through fiction. That, needless to say, requires a lot of meticulous understanding of the subjects and brilliant imagination. However, the topics themselves are rather old and tired: Destroying the Church? Evil science vs. the Church? Catholic church some more. Perhaps it's time we leave the Vatican in peace.
I have no problem with good vs. evil story line as long as there are enough fresh ideas and new perspectives. Take the hugely successful Harry Potter series for example. It's a simple good vs. evil, a typical boarding school story in the manner of Enid Blyton but presented in such novelty that when flipping the pages, one have to read twice to really appreciate fully the wonderful new perspectives.
To put it bluntly, I've had enough of Dan Brown. He's boring.
Another disappointment is, the Da Vinci Code is about to be made into a movie but they've chosen Tom Hank as Robert Langdon. Give me a break! Harrison Ford makes more sense. ...more
Tedious & tiresome. To think that this book was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize for fiction is sad. Some examples:
- cliched: "screamed white heatTedious & tiresome. To think that this book was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize for fiction is sad. Some examples:
- cliched: "screamed white heat, red blood"? (pp. 7) - typical: yes yes, Islam is bad. The motherland (where ever these immigrants come from) is better and purer. We get it. Anything new? - pretentious: do people really imagine their mothers turn into monsters with wide mouth and long, sharp teeth threatening to swallow them before they faint? The usual enveloping blackness isn't dramatic enough, is it? - artificially coy: it's typical of modern novel. Say making love, having sex, or something similar but making babies? - jarring: On a same flow, without any indication, Ali can switch from talking about her lover, Karim in London to her father labourer's in Dhaka. Intention? Unknown. - illogical: the sister writes to Nazneen in broken English. It's distracting and often incomprehensible. But more importantly, why? Is the sister practicing English? But readers are given the impression that Nazneen's English is not even good (denied English classes, managing only market vocabulary, etc). So why would the sister write in broken English instead of fluent Bangla which should be translated to proper English? - long-winded: Ali loves to use images and plots which don't push the story and have no purpose. Eg: the exorcism story, litany of soap brands available in the UK and ALL of Chanu's complaints. - description overload: every scene is described whether it's relevant or not.
I was first interested in this book when I read about how the writer, a young, financial consultant Marisha Pessl managed to get her book published. SI was first interested in this book when I read about how the writer, a young, financial consultant Marisha Pessl managed to get her book published. She went through the list of literary agents until she found one (or more) who was willing to publish her work. In subsequent articles, I was very curious on how a finance geek like myself (only to find out later that she's always been an English grad so I don't know how she ended up at PWC) could compile 600 plus pages of novel in an Excel spreadsheet.
I was bombarded by good reviews of this book from the Washington Post to the New York times, calling her the literary genius, comparing her novel to Lolita, etc. I, too, fell for the pink and green, embossed cover despite my profound lack of understanding on the meaning of the title.
It was a mistake believing in this clever marketing ploy. The book is horrid. It's about a clever geek, Blue van Meer and his father who moves from town to town due to his father's lectures in different universities. It's about a murder of a favourite and enchanting film teacher which Blue determines to solve. It's about life of a teenager who doesn't fit anywhere and her father's mysterious past.
Allow me to divulge that the most exciting and emphasized plot in this book happens only in the last 1/4 of the book. Prior to that, there are just jumbles of clues leading to the murder embedded in a mess of unrelated sub plots and very, very irritating brackets containing title and publication year of a book. She likes to pick up a situation and refer it to a book. Undoubtedly to show off that she reads a lot of books.
One thing I have to give is that, Pessl uses very unique and unusual imagery to describe an otherwise very plain situation. But often times, she overloads this technique by using excessively winding metaphor. The metaphor, the long-winded description, the deviation from the main plot and the unnecessary quotations make the book extremely and unjustifiably long.
Simply said, it was a pain to read. And what is it about the pretentious quiz/exam in the last chapter? In the end, I still don't know why the teacher is dead....more
**spoiler alert** This book is a hand-me-down from a friend. I expected a lot of delicious descriptions of the Chinese cuisine and wouldn't have minde**spoiler alert** This book is a hand-me-down from a friend. I expected a lot of delicious descriptions of the Chinese cuisine and wouldn't have minded some cheesy love stories or jaded west-sees-east view of China in between, as described by the back cover, as long as they're not too ridiculous. In the end, with apology to the friend who gave me this book, I can't stand it.
1. The characters are as deep as a shallow fish tank. Sam, who grows up in America and has a Jewish mother, suddenly kowtows to his three, unrelated uncles the 'Chinese family' way? No conflict? No talk-back even once? How does he control his emotions? With a light switch which is turned-off the moment he steps into Beijing?
2. The plot is predictable. The heroine, Maggie, falls in love with the hero, Sam, after a lot of 'sensitive' and 'respectful' tugs of emotions. (Spoiler alert: but then, it's not much of a spoiler given such cheesy predictability). I knew from page one that they'd sleep together.
3. The sisterhood-between-women theme is simply ridiculous. That Chinese woman sleeps with Maggie's husband, possibly producing a love child. She even has the gall to sue Maggie for her dead husband's estate under paternity suit. Yet upon meeting her, Maggie immediately feels protective towards her. Why not go for a threesome while they're at it? (The last idea is a man's, not mine).
4. I understand that, for the story to work, there must be some background, real or otherwise. While the fictional ancient book of "The Last Chinese Chef", supposedly written by Sam's grandfather, is enjoyable enough, the Children's Treaty is not. The author fantasizes that Chinese kids born to a US citizen have the rights to claim parental support in the US. Come on! Let's get the trade issues and Treasury Bills sorted out first, shall we? I know it's fiction but a little dose of reality, particularly of existing events (such as the diplomatic climate between the US and China which has never been particularly warm), makes stories more believable and the author appearing smarter.
5. The writing style reeks pretension. The author has an irritating habit of sneaking Chinese phrases in English conversation. Trust me, a Chinese girl with clipped British accent will try with all her might to speak English all the time without sneaking in phrases like 'ni fang xin ba' and then translating it literally to 'rest your heart'. And must every Chinese phrases, italicized no less, be followed by its English translation? 'Zou Ba', let's go. 'Wo ye shi', me too. It's distracting and, have I mentioned, pretentious? No self-respecting Chinese speaks that way.
This book is clearly aimed at the American audience where the heroine is so kind and angelic (rather like Janet De Neefe's Fragrant Rice), the foreign culture so romantic, the hero/ine's culture so uncouth, the hero sensitive, etc with a few exotic phrases and recipes thrown in. Speaking of the hero, why must Sam the cook be Jewish and Chinese? Why can't he be all Chinese? Why Jewish? It's easier for the American audience to accept a hero of mixed heritage, I guess.
Food section is not disappointing, though. It is mouth-watering with very detailed, knowledgeable descriptions. But again, I can't help but feel it's targeted for people who do not know much about Chinese food and its related cultures. For more insight about Chinese Food (or at least a fraction of it), Fuschia Dunlop books are highly recommended, particularly her autobiography. To my knowledge, she's the only yang ren, foreigner, who can write about Chinese food and culture with love and respect and not with veiled condescension or target audience in mind. ...more
Like so many, I thought it was a book about food. Paris, Gertrude Stein, Vietnamese cook. What's not to like? I find review excerpts on the back coverLike so many, I thought it was a book about food. Paris, Gertrude Stein, Vietnamese cook. What's not to like? I find review excerpts on the back cover misleading as it is full of food-related phrases such as: "... cooks up a story of..."; "...writes about food... "; "... to be savoured...", "A rich, poetic feast..."; "... different foodstuffs... so articulately and emotively described."
Instead of food - there are some but not very exciting - it's about the personal and sexual battle of the cook, who is not very interesting either. He strikes me as a whiny man with a touch of Oedipus' complex, endlessly looking for 'protectors' while pretending to be silent and strong.
The book is pretentious, lengthy, yet empty. It took me a page to realize that I was reading about the San Francisco earthquake. There is such a metaphor and adjective overload that the story is buried. While other reviewers deem the novel sensuous, I think it's just flabby....more
I suppose this book needs no further introduction to the Indonesian audience. So let me be brief.
The good: - proper use of Indonesian language, a raritI suppose this book needs no further introduction to the Indonesian audience. So let me be brief.
The good: - proper use of Indonesian language, a rarity nowadays - descriptive and detailed story-telling, also a rarity - funny, with unexpected and unusual metaphors.
The bad: - pretentious. Must he quote all sorts of Latin names and English words just to describe a quiet afternoon with birds and butterfly in a school yard? Must he go on and on about Mahar's masterpieces whose greatness escape me?
- confusing & often illogical timeline. Often times, it's not clear how old the kids are when events take place. Description of the things these kids can do seem to be beyond their age which makes me wonder about...
- exaggerated events. How old were they when the school won the Independence Day's parade and the Cerdas Cermat? How can the sole, young teacher cover all those topics (often beyond secondary school level) and being so poor, where do they (Lintang, particularly) obtain all the reading material or knowledge without TV, library, or radio?
- patronizingly religious. It takes a genuine effort on my side to ignore it.
- shallow plot: it's bad against good: PN and the rich are bad, greedy, stupid and will eventually be doomed. The poor is resilient, clever, strong and therefore will succeed. Islam is good, and paranormal activities are evil. I thought this is an intellectual novel, not a sinetron plot or a Palin's speech (oops!).
- too many useless sub-arches. Must he went on and on about Harriot just to describe his stupid first love with the owner of a dainty, smooth hand with perfect manicure? Do we need to get into such detail describing the pretentiously named Societeit de Limpai's trip to see Tuk Bayan Tula so that the two lazy bones can pass their exams?
- abrupt ending. The end of "Laskar Pelangi" happened when Lintang's card was dealt with and then the story fast forward twelve years later. It wasn't explained what contributed to Tripani's downfall, for example. Just a description (with another annoying little arch about Ikal and his niece). I think it's just a lazy handling again.
The verdict: I started off with high hopes but in the end, I was disappointed. It was engaging then it was pretentious and long. It was funny then it became preachy. It was clever then it got lazy. This book started off with a lot of potential. If told as a straight forward biography, ala Life in Shanghai, Angela's Ashes or others which simply tell a story of growing up in an era, with simple, to the point language, this book will be much more enjoyable. However, the author choose to romanticize his (self-assessed) heroic childhood and produce this pretentious and mediocre book instead. ...more
I used to like Keyes but have not read her books since Watermelon and Sushi for Beginners. Either I've moved away from chicklit or this book is reallyI used to like Keyes but have not read her books since Watermelon and Sushi for Beginners. Either I've moved away from chicklit or this book is really not good. The characters are flat, whiny, and annoying. They're spineless in the face of their (unimportant) problems. Gemma is perpetually angry with her best friend for stealing her boyfriend (who doesn't even love her). Lily, the thief, is perpetually afraid of retribution for her deeds (when she technically didn't steal the guy). And Jojo, described as Jessica Rabbit with Hillary Clinton's brain, is just a pathetic home wrecker. To pad the pages, there are stories of Gemma's dad running away for a year with a girl four-year older than Gemma and behind-the-scenes in writing and publishing.
I remember Keyes being hilarious but the jokes in this book seem appropriate for the young twenties although the characters are well into their thirties.
Too bad. I think I won't read her anymore. ...more
I thought it was nice and engaging. The first third, when she handled the news of her husband's death, was especially touching. It was downhill from tI thought it was nice and engaging. The first third, when she handled the news of her husband's death, was especially touching. It was downhill from there. The ending was such a cliche it was disappointing. Plot-wise, it was so similar to Harrison Ford's movie, Random Hearts, about a spouse who died (in the book's case the husband, the pilot) in a plane crash. The other spouse (in this case the wife) discovers that the husband leads a double life. ...more
When I discovered that the movie was based on an award winning short story which was first published in the New Yorker, I was intrigued. So I bought tWhen I discovered that the movie was based on an award winning short story which was first published in the New Yorker, I was intrigued. So I bought this edition which is published as a movie tie-in.
The written form sorts of explain of some aspects of the movie which I find confusing such as what happened to Jack Twist in the end. Brokeback Mountain is perhaps the only readable story in this collection. Brokeback Mountain the story is bare and gritty as the movie is lush and tender. I applaud Ang Lee for sticking true to the story and yet improving it tremendously into a pictorial poetry.
The rest of the stories are incomprehensible to me because they are written in 'cowboy-speak'. I have trouble understanding the manner of speaking. Some of the story flows are also disjointed. One story 55 miles to the gas pump is only three paragraphs, reads like a children's writing, and has no ending. Lack of conclusion is very common in this collection.
I do wonder whether I cannot enjoy the book because I am not an American and therefore cannot imagine the sceneries and the conditions. Beware also that everything in this book is gruesome and painful and hopeless. Reading this book seriously altered my mood.
Peeking into Amazon UK, I note a mixed review of either a five or a one. There's no middle ground. Upon scrutiny, I notice that a lot of those who have given five are actually talking about the story "Brokeback Mountain" and not necessarily about the other stories.
I must say finishing this book is painful. When the book arrived, I jumped straight into Brokeback Mountain and found it agreeable. This is probably the first time that I find a movie better than the book it is based on. I put it away for quite a little while before picking it up again to finish with the same stoicism one has while going to a dentist. But I did it....more
I read the book's review in NYT and picked it up due to its intriguing story about a painter from Shanghai's golden era who used to be a prostitute. WI read the book's review in NYT and picked it up due to its intriguing story about a painter from Shanghai's golden era who used to be a prostitute. While it is a work of fiction, the story is based on the real life painter Pan Yu Liang who is famous for her beautiful nude paintings which combine both the western and chinese painting styles.
At 14 and orphaned, she was sold to a brother by her uncle. She then attracted the attention of a wealthy official who made her his mistress. He also encouraged her to pursue her passion of painting. She defied the norm by winning a place to study art in the Shanghai Art School and won scholarships to Europe. She left China when her art was under attack for indecency: she painted nude women, western-style, and often used herself as a model.
I didn't expect much as I understand it's a no-brainer perfect for my beach holiday but the story is too superficial. While the description of her days in the brothel is horrifying, the central question posed on the book, can a prostitute escape her past (or something similar), was not answered in the end. The story went on and on about her angelic saviour, the wealthy government official, and the exotic whims of artists who suffered for his or her arts. The writer's padding of the already known facts was thin and typical. It is a pity, really, because Pan's life story is fascinating which may be better told in a form of biography....more
A strange tale about a man's obsession on his wife's past. It's interesting at times (the part where he left his wife to be with his mistress was partA strange tale about a man's obsession on his wife's past. It's interesting at times (the part where he left his wife to be with his mistress was particularly emotional in its coldness) but I can't really get the obsession. I finished reading it only because it's from Barnes. ...more