Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Books I Want To Read In March

Books to read in March:

1. Selected Stories by Katherine Mansfield
2. Selected Stories by Virginia Woolf
3. Selected Stories by James Joyce
4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
5. Preloved by Shirley Marr
6. Ake by Wole Soyinka

Have you read any of these titles? 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice by Wilkie Collins

First published in 1876, The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins was a supernatural novel. Despite the title, most of the events in the book did not exactly happened at the hotel. Instead, it chronicled the journey of Montbarry's relatives as they finally went to the hotel and uncovered a terrible secret.

I'll start by talking about the less than tasteful aspect of the novel. Agnes Lockwood, the jilted lover, was everything that was expected of a gentlewoman of that time ("...but I am only a woman, and you must not expect too much from me."); she honestly bored me to death and I did not even care for her. I also did not understand her devotion for the scoundrel who jilted her. Agnes was definitely suffering from a case misplaced affection. She was even angry at anyone who dared to badmouth (spoke the truth about) Lord Montbarry. That was laughable after what Montbary had done to her. 

Since the events set in Victorian era, a woman didn't have much future prospect especially one of middle class like Agnes. Her future was mentioned as destroyed after jilted by Montbarry, unless she managed to find a husband, which was considered as almost unlikely because of her age (late twenties). Another example can be taken from the case of Mrs. Ferrari, who was Agnes' former maid. She was abused by her husband, whom, through Agnes' help, managed to land a job with Montbarry. Despite the abuses inflicted to her, she always justified his actions and actually thought him a saint after his death. This made me bristle with indignation.

Anyhow, I still enjoy the mystery even though the author kinda spoiled everything to us readers by his constant foreshadowing and mention of destiny and upcoming. The Countess who was supposed to be the wicked villain with no redeeming quality came off as the most interesting character of the whole. In fact, she was the saving grace of this short novel, in my opinion. Her guilty conscience and the circumstances that led to her ruin were well developed. She probably would have had a different fate if she was not attached to her brother as well as married to someone horrible like Lord Montbarry.

I used to like The Haunted Hotel a lot more when I first read it. I found that the story was fascinating and the unexplained supernatural occurrences to be justified as not everything has answer to it. Upon rereading however, my feeling changed for reasons stated above. The book rating went from 4 stars into mere 2 stars, cause you know, even if it's bad, it's still Collins!

Have you read The Haunted Hotel or any novel by Wilkie Collins?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

MBTI Personality Tag

I got this tag from my friend, Zell @ zellkrism. For the record, I am an INTP.


1-What makes you angry?
Injustice, double standards, stinky mouth & feet

2-What do you like/dislike most about people?
I like smart, witty, and logical people. Actually, as long as people are kind-hearted, I feel obliged to like them because it is the polite mannered.

I dislike dumb, unthinking, people. I hate it when people answered me with a lazy “No idea.”

3-Do you like animals? why?
Total indifferent. I recently acquired a cat though and I feel really fond and proud of him.

4-What do you like most about the favorite people in your life?
I like that they leave me alone and do not force me to participate in their activities or pressure me into liking what they like. We generally leave each other alone and yet still able to talk about a wide variety of subjects when reunited. 

5-What do you like/dislike most about yourself?
I like my aloofness. It secures me from unwanted attention as people are quick to judge me as reserve, snobbish and shy. I also like that I generally don’t care about people business (unless it interests me—which is rare).

Sometimes I take things too seriously and I dislike that. It makes me feel vulnerable.

6-Do you care about being fashionable? why/why not?
No. I just don’t care. 

7-Do you prefer to fit in or stand out?
Depends on wherever I’m most comfortable.

8-What activities do you enjoy?
Reading, thinking, analysing, dreaming. For rigorous activities, I like walking and hiking because they provide me alone time to do more thinking; alone because none of my family and friends like long distant walking and hiking.

9-What makes you feel secure?
Having my family, money and alone time.

10-Do you like being in a relationship? Why/why not?
I do. He filled in the right space in my life and completed the circle of my family and friends. He provides me with the type of support that is different from those given by my family and friends. More importantly he is smart and successful thus inspiring me to be a better person as a whole. I know myself enough to know I won’t respect a partner who is less knowledgeable than I am.

11-What do you love and why? Could be people, things, places, etc...
I love myself, my family (my cat included) and knowledge.

12-What do you spend the most time thinking about?
Myself and ways to improve my mind.

13-How much have you changed over the years? Who were you as a child?
My outlook and the way I perceive the world change as I read and experience more. Fundamentally though, I’m still the same person; always strive to better myself and feel like an outsider wherever I am. 

So, that's it. Feel free to do the tag.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

A timeless classic. I went into this thinking that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would be something that is deranged and unintelligible. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. It turned out to be an excellent children book, simply written, with a lot mishap and excitement to keep the story going. I think I would've enjoyed this book more if I had read it when I was a child.

Throughout the reading, I was struck by how the characters—Tin Woodman, Lion, and Scarecrow—had low self-esteem. Each wanted something that, in my opinion, they already had. Tin Woodman wanted a heart, and yet he appeared to be the most kind-hearted and sensitive of the four. For someone who was heartless, the Tin Woodman constantly burst into tears if sorrow and regret. Scarecrow wanted a brain when he was the brainiest of the gang and always came up with plans that helped them to overcome their obstacles. On the other hand, the Lion who called himself a coward kept putting his life in the front line to protect his friends from the coming perils.  This was extremely contradictory. I kept hoping they would realize this and accept themselves for who they are but the illusion of having courage/heart/brain were too instill in them that they didn’t believe they would be happy without it.

I also liked the incorporation of puns in the text. They got me chuckled a few times. For example, when Oz removed the Scarecrow’s head and filled it with a measure of bran, he then announced that the Scarecrow will be a great man, for he (Oz) had given the Scarecrow a lot of bran-new brains. The Lion’s “That proof that he is sharp.” further alluded to the pins and needles needed to support the Scarecrow new bran-filled head.

One thing I didn't like, or uncomfortable with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was that it was littered with violence and horrific deaths. The Tin Woodman cut down the wolves’ heads (forty wolves, if I’m not mistaken) in one night, and not feeling a bit of remorse. While the wolves did come to cause them harm, for someone who was as sensitive as the Woodman, I’d expected a less display of savagery. He also cut down trees with no regards whatsoever to them. I was frankly shocked by this. The Tin Woodman’s origin was also grotesque. Cutting down each part of his body one after another and replaced them with tin, that must be extremely painful.

I don’t have much to say about Dorothy. She seemed rather flat character, with a singular goal on her mind. However, she was also the only one who was happy with her lot and recognized her friends’ worth despite their low self-value. Oz definitely was the most interesting character in the story even though he only appeared sporadically in the book. He seemed like an ingenious man who made the best of his situation. He tried his best to help people too regardless of his limitation. So, I, like Dorothy, had learned quite a few lessons from this tale. 

*All original illustrations by William Wallace Denslow.

What is your favourite children classics?

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Written in 1859, A Tale of Two Cities was published in weekly installments in Dickens’s own journal, All The Year Round. It left its mark on my reading history as the first Dickens that I’d read. They did say this was the less “Dickesian” of all Dickens’ books though. I had tried Great Expectation last year but gave up after 10 pages. So, let’s get on with the review, shall we?

The first 70% of A Tale of Two Cities was a build-up to the climax. While written as a story of the French Revolution, Dickens also explored the human emotions, reactions and interactions with each other. These very humane traits are what have been defining us for ages past and still is. Human suffering doesn’t merely happen during the French Revolution, it has happened long before, is still happening amd potentially will persist for as long as violence and inequity continue to flourish.. Just look at the daily news. Dickens delivered all these by writing alternately from the sides of the Manette, the Evremonde, the Defarges, the Crunchers, Mr. Stryver, Sydney Carton and Mr. Jarvis Lorry. The most interesting story among these was definitely the Defarges whom we can see from miles away would definitely play pivotal role in the revolution. There were lots of foreshadowing in the novel and it was chilling because you know things are going wrong and it is only getting worst. 

Once the revolution started, I confessed I can’t put the book down! I actually cheered out loud once the people finally fought for their rights. However, their leaders—The Defarges, the Jacques, The Vengeance—soon abused their power. They became exactly like the people they’d overthrown; not caring on who they punished and murdered. The customary machinery of oppression—prisons, detention without trial, inequality, the abuse of power, complacency, and arrogance—which originally gave rise to the political revolution were again used to suppress the people. Once La Guillotine was erected, they easily sent away aristocrats and poor innocent peasants alike to the national razor. And far from being merciful to their fellow creatures, the people even invented the mad dance of “Carmagnole” to celebrate the death or the release of the prisoner. This further symbolized the chaos and violence of the crowd. Even Dr. Manette’s position as a former prisoner of Bastilles and respected physician in the middle of the revolution was not enough to overturn the cruel, vile Revolutionary Tribunal.

Despite the dark hours, Dickens inserted moral theme to remind us that only kindliness and virtues brought peace in life. This was evident in his writing of Lucie as an angel—nurturing people with true love and inspiring them to do good in return; in Dr. Manette’s ability to heal and look beyond the past affliction; in Miss Pross’ determination to not back down and fought her way through hardship; in Mr. Lorry’s loyalty to the people he loved; in Darnay’s perseverance through bleak time; and in Sydney Carton who gave his all for the best thing in his life, thus leading him to show the best of him—his comforting of the poor seamstress. I admit I sobbed at this.

Note I: All featured illustrations are by Frederick Barnard from the 1872 edition. 
Note II: On the preface, Dickens wrote that he first conceived the main idea of this story was when he was acting with his children and frieds, in Wilkie Collins’s The Frozen Deep. You bet that’s going to be on my to-be-acquired-pronto shelf.

Have you read A Tale of Two Cities or any book by Charles Dickens?