It was not that thick but halfway through it, I had to put it aside. I would not say the narration was bad. It just had the tendency to wander off to...moreIt was not that thick but halfway through it, I had to put it aside. I would not say the narration was bad. It just had the tendency to wander off to other things, so you got not only about coffee and its rival tea but also Napoleon, Sufism, goat and apple berries, Starbucks, capitalism in America, Monsanto… And oh yes, don’t forget St Helena.
The author’s main concerns in this book (in my slightly blighted opinion) were the high dependency of caffeine in the American community, and the spread of capitalism: highly caffeinated and badly tasting Robusta coffee bean instead of high quality Arabica bean and worse than that, the coming of even more caffeinated instant coffee… And even worse than all those were the curse the coffee brought to most of the countries in South America which grew and exported its beans. Kind of like the curse oil brought to countries like Iraq, Iran and Sudan – they owned the oil but they never got rich; somebody else did.
It was ironic that the reason I read this book was because I wanted to start drinking coffee. I loved the smell of roasted coffee beans and as I loved micro-history even more, I thought I might as well find out where this delightful drink came from. Turned out its past was not in any way delightful. I am really, really glad I read and finished this book. (less)
I think the works up to the post-war were the best. I particularly adored Charles Keene’s and George de Maurier’s detailed drawings, the much latter F...moreI think the works up to the post-war were the best. I particularly adored Charles Keene’s and George de Maurier’s detailed drawings, the much latter Fougasse’s (Kenneth Bird) wit and William Augustus Sillence's unique style of using canvas-grained papers.
There were a number of cartoons which humour I did not get, not being British, but the rest could be understood by anyone who understands English. Very witty.(less)
This is complimentary to the television series Victorian Farm and if you love the series then you will love this book. But as a stand alone it reads m...moreThis is complimentary to the television series Victorian Farm and if you love the series then you will love this book. But as a stand alone it reads more like a text book. It is not detailed enough as to be sufficient for those with academic interest in the Victorian Era but not quite introductory either. It was arranged in the way as to invoke one’s curiosity so that after we shut the book we may start to look for other books that can explain more about what we have already found out.
Loved this book and the series was among the most interesting series that I ever watched (and certainly a thousand times better than those crappy reality television programmmes about singer and what-nots). (less)
Hugh Williams was a nationalist or patriotic, to say the least. He had pride in his Britain and stated it out clearly and this book was written as an...moreHugh Williams was a nationalist or patriotic, to say the least. He had pride in his Britain and stated it out clearly and this book was written as an ‘alternative’ to the plenty criticism out there about British colonialism etc. I did not agree with everything he said but he wrote very well; his narration was coherent, his descriptions of battles fought was vivid and he spiced up the whole thing with bits of personal reminiscent that were neither too little they stood out like a sore thumb and made you wonder why the heck he told us about himself, nor too much they drove you up the wall. So whatever, I loved this book.(less)
The first book was more amazing and the writing style of this book was not up to the scratch as previously done, but that improved after some times. I...moreThe first book was more amazing and the writing style of this book was not up to the scratch as previously done, but that improved after some times. I just hoped there was a competent enough editor. I caught six mistakes, mostly in spelling Sonja's name.(less)
You know a book is written for you when you picked it up from the shelf and you read a bit of it, you felt so attached to it you wanted to start at on...moreYou know a book is written for you when you picked it up from the shelf and you read a bit of it, you felt so attached to it you wanted to start at once. It was my fault for not getting any glimpse inside this book first before decided to read it because simply, this book was not meant for me. The writing was dry and I was perturbed by the switching in the style of writing between reports of true real-life incidents and detective-novel-like narration. I tried to give it a second chance but it simply did not work, so good-bye.(less)
If I were to judge this book based on literary value, the most I would give was three stars. The style of writing was simple and light-hearted, but to...moreIf I were to judge this book based on literary value, the most I would give was three stars. The style of writing was simple and light-hearted, but too simple and easygoing to be called great. Good maybe, but not great. For non-English speakers who want to try reading English fiction, you can start from this. And, oh yeah, the editor deserve a good spanking for letting some obvious mistakes went unnoticed (but just a spanking; the only editor that should be slapped or even killed is Hilal Asyraf's).
The story was written based on the real life story of the writer’s uncle – a young man with a bright future whose whole body saved his head, neck and elbows was paralysed after he met an accident. The event took place in 1948 but the writer pushed back to 1955 (If I was not mistaken) to make the story in line with the independence of Sudan. A poor attempt I had to say, very far from Khalid Housseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.
So why four stars? Well, they are for the messages carried by this book. The whole Abuzeid family were only Muslims by name – they drank wine, went to watch belly-dances, swindled money – but the writer was clever in hinting that that was not how Muslims really supposed to act: she created a character called Ustaz Badr, a poor teacher from Egypt who had to go through a lot of hardships but continued to live according to the Quran in the best way possible. Ustaz Badr was not perfect, for some times his temper did get the better of him, but the way he reminded himself about his mistakes and explained why God caused misery was very motivational.
Non-Muslim readers might found Ustaz Badr’s ‘philosophy’ rather hard to comprehend though, but as Muslim, he brought tears to my eyes. [In other words, the four stars were for Badr.](less)
Not as good as Dame Agatha's detective novels and quite full of romance (Dame Agatha wrote romance too, so, yeah no surprise there), but I like it non...moreNot as good as Dame Agatha's detective novels and quite full of romance (Dame Agatha wrote romance too, so, yeah no surprise there), but I like it nonetheless. At least the short stories here were not written in the imitation of Sir Arthur Conan's Sherlock Holmes, as in the earlier Hercule Poirot's short stories. Oh, and I like the last story because it is the only one with no romance and the outcome is beyond my expectation. All in all, Parker Pyne, to me, is a very likeable character.(less)
What should you expect but a lot of pictures? This is a book on architecture after all.
This book concentrated on libraries in renovation or had been r...moreWhat should you expect but a lot of pictures? This is a book on architecture after all.
This book concentrated on libraries in renovation or had been renovated or still in plan. Fancy. Library is no longer a place only for reading - it must provide facilities such as internet service. And yes, tourist attraction! Imagine reading in a library built on top of a hill facing the sea. I won’t be reading. (less)
**spoiler alert** ‘The Court of Chancery was established during the reign of Richard II, and by the time Dickens was writing Bleak House had become a...more**spoiler alert** ‘The Court of Chancery was established during the reign of Richard II, and by the time Dickens was writing Bleak House had become a byword for inefficiency and delay, although reform began in 1852 with the Court of Chancery Act. The ‘causes’ addressed had to do with wills and trusts. Chancery was not governed by Common Law, written in statues, but Equity, shaped by legal precedents. Thus both the legal matters and proceedings of Chancery were inherently backward-looking. While disputed properties were ‘in Chancery’, they remained financially inaccessible to possible beneficiaries, for the Court’s costs were the first to be met out of any available funds. The presiding judge was the Lord Chancellor. He decided cases without a jury, entirely on the basis of written evidence presented by lawyers. Though disputants might visit the court, it would not ‘recognise’ them. Instead they would have to put their case through a solicitor, who would in turn ‘instruct’ or hire a barrister to appear for or ‘represent’ them. Clerks dealt with the paperwork before mechanical means of reproduction by ‘engrossing’ or copying material with quill pens in a special style called ‘law-hand’ on parchment ‘skins’ cut to ‘Chancery folio’ size, with a standard number of words per page. Documents were tied with red tape or green ‘ferret’ (string) and carried in red or blue bags by solicitors or barristers. They were distinguished both by robes (silk for the highest ‘Queen’s Counsel’) and wigs, made of horsehair. The Lord Chancellor wore gold-laced robes, and sat enthroned in scarlet.’
Ada Clare and Richard Carstone were the heir and heiress of a property which was in the Chancery under the name Jarndyce and Jarndyce, and Esther Summerson was an orphan who was provided for by John Jarndyce. The story came into being when Mr Jarndyce brought Ada, Richard and Esther to live in his house, the Bleak House. It revolved around the suit which seemed to be dragging on forever, and also Esther’s real identity and a past she did not know.
As to be expected from Dickens, the characters were numerous. Sometimes I lost track of who was who and wrongly mistaken Mr A as Mr B and Mr B as Mr C. Characters that appeared in the beginning of the story died in the middle and characters that appeared out of nowhere, when I thought it was impossible to insert another character when the story had progressed so far, lasted until the end. But character development was Dickens’ strength and each of the man, woman and boy he created has his and her own personality.
Esther Summerson was a compassionate lady, whose humility did not disgust me (some novelists often pushed such quality too far to my liking) and her monologue gave a sweet tang to this otherwise grim story of lawsuits and death. Lady Dedlock was a haughty lady but her strong and imposing personality made it impossible for me to hate me. Krook was an interesting character, nicknamed Lord Chancellor for living near the Chancery, collecting junks of everything in his shop and always trying to teach himself how to read. He died of spontaneous combustion, seemingly putting a stop to the search of Esther’s pass but it was his collection of old papers that brought the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit to an end. Richard was a man of the most flighty personality, never knowing for sure where he should settle down and finally deciding to put his hope on the suit, which brought him to a sad end. Then there were Mr Turveydrop and his ‘Deportment’, Mrs Rouncewell the faithful housekeeper of the Dedlock household, Mr Smallweed whose temper and greed was really wild despite being an invalid and Mr Tulkinghorn, a lawyer of very tantalising presence, and charming Allan Woodcourt. Mr Bucket was open to your judgment: whether he was good or bad, depended on how you saw him. But I found his traits which definitely mingled with his role as a police inspector, as attracting my attention. And Harold Skimpole and his childishness irritated me the most that every time he appeared with his uncaring and irresponsible way, I felt like wrangling someone to death.
In this book, Dickens openly criticised some people’s passion for helping people who were miles away but at the same time, did not care a thing about those under the same roof as them. Mrs Jellyby was eager to do something for the unfortunates at Borrioboola, Africa but her house was a racket of filth and mess and her children were dirty and uncared for. Pity her husband who lost his gaiety from bachelor time and had to find comfort by leaning against walls. There was another woman (could not find her name since she appeared only briefly) who made every one of her sons contribute the little pocket money she gave them into philanthropy.
It is interesting to notice that there were two things Dickens purposely did not explain in this story. First, the spontaneous combustion which he dismissed as ‘the less the court understands all this, the more the court likes it’. Second, Jarndyce and Jarndyce itself which was said to have drag on for so long no one alive could tell how it started in the first place.
The ending was acceptably good but the loss and search of Lady Dedlock spanned for three chapters only to end with three words: cold and dead. There was a bit of Jane Eyre in this when Esther decided to marry her guardian, John Jarndyce who was way older than her. Well, while Dickens criticised Jane Austen, he actually read the Bronte’s. But Esther ended up marrying Allan Woodcourt instead so the similarity ended there. The part I liked the most was the Chancery suit. It finally ended but all the value the property had had been fully absorbed into the cost. Richard’s effort came to a waste. It must also be noted that only certain characters had their ending mentioned.
One last thing, there seemed to by symbolism of the decline of aristocracy and the rise of the newer middle-class (merchants, manufacturers, bankers). Lord Dedlock declined with his poor health which got poorer after his wife’s death and along with it was the Dedlock house itself which got fewer and fewer visitors and more and more shut up. At the same time, Rouncewell the ironsmith who had been mentioned as starting to put a hand into politics, built more factories and presumably, became more prosperous. But Dickens did not state whether or not he approved of this development. He only similarised the factory chimneys with the tower of Babel which the Bible said, was built by the Babylonians to reach the sky and defy God. (less)
If there is a star lower than one star (for I HATE THIS BOOK), I will give it to this book. How could you write about Prophet Muhammad s.a.w like that...moreIf there is a star lower than one star (for I HATE THIS BOOK), I will give it to this book. How could you write about Prophet Muhammad s.a.w like that? Without using eligible sources but your imagination to spice up your story.
I could not even bring myself to finish this book.(less)
To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never...moreTo be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting. [e. e. cummings] (less)
The writer is from Adelaide so I can easily imagine what she writes. I guess that is the main attraction for me, but it is not a bad book so even if s...moreThe writer is from Adelaide so I can easily imagine what she writes. I guess that is the main attraction for me, but it is not a bad book so even if she is from the Antarctic I will still read it.
I have always wondered if the cashiers are ever sick of saying "Hi, how are you?" to every single customers that go to the counters. Turns out, they do.(less)