Archive for the “Books” Category

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- The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides

yeah, he hit the nail on the head. that’s me, exactly.

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the girl is turning five in a week’s time.

you know that cliche where the little rich girl asks her doting daddy for a pony for her birthday?

well, she hasn’t asked us for a real pony, of course – just some plastic ones, with bright colourful bodies and manes, some with wings and unicorn horns, and little tattoos on their flanks called ‘cutie marks’.

yes, she’s mad about these long-haired ponies. to think i used to play with the older versions when i was a kid back in the 80s. but you know, the animated series now have so much more… sophisticated and complex themes and characters, and i was surprised she’d picked up crazy-sounding things like ‘elements of harmony’ and ‘fight discord’ just from watching the shows. man, i sure did NOT have such vocabulary when i was four…

anyway, i found these simple books going at 3 for $10 recently and thought they were just the right reading level for her – and sure enough, she picked them up and rattled right off, with just a little bit of help.

yeah, you’ll have ponies for your birthday.

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found the girl at the sofa making her Barbie dolls prance around while animating imagined dialogues between them.

“i want you to play with me,” she demanded upon my arrival.

so i picked up one skimpily-clothed doll and turned on my inner Barbie. “hiiiii, i’m Barbieee…”

“noo, her name is Tecna.”
“… Techna? *blinks* what kind of a name is Tecna??”
“her name is Tecna because her special power is Technology.” (this, explained to me matter-of-factly, while i exploded in mirth at the fact that she said ‘Technology’ in the most ‘macam-paham’ of manner.)
“her super power is Technology?!! *splutters*”
“yes. and she has a friend, her name is Musa (pronounced very pronouncedly as ‘Miu-za’).”
“Miuza??”
“yes. her special power is Music.” (well, but of course.)

she then proceeded to educate me, in feverish seriousness, about the wondrous world of Winx – these candy-coloured, rainbow-sparkled teen-ish fairies, all of whom apparently, at some points in time, have romantic entanglements with boys and relationship ups and downs, in between err, saving worlds. i think.

i don’t know if this early exposure to and fascination with BGR perpetuates a girl’s predisposition to precocity and sensitivity to social dynamics, but she does show particular understanding of and interest in concepts like ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ and ‘breaking up’ (again, thanks, taylor swift). well, even more than her brother does, for sure.

sure, they both generally go “eeww!” and vehemently deny when we suggest they like somebody of the opposite sex, and would cover their eyes should there be a potential ‘kissing’ scene on the screen (even in cartoons). but the difference is, the girl will cringe even more AND blush and go all shy at the same time, whereas the boy is less reactive, like ‘whatevs, gross’. i can’t tell you how stereotypical they are as far as gender differences go.

so back to my lesson on Winx. from the bits of her excitable chatter i gathered something about the fairies coming together to live in the ocean (at which point i sought clarification on whether the mermaids minded this transgression into their territory, to which i was informed that the mermaids were in fact the ocean’s “gatekeepers” – say whuut…); some “evil” guy called Tritannus (i do not want to know what his special power is); something called Dragon Fire (i don’t suppose that has to do with bad breath); another fairy called Stella who likes “fashion” and wants to be a “fashion designer” (i wonder if her last name is McCartney)… and the prattle went on and on. i tried a few times to interject with questions but got her frustrated at my sheer ignorance, which was very funny and made me laugh even more, which in turn made her even madder haha ha! i should call her Angstyna.

anyway, speaking of things that make the kids go “eeww” yet still delight them, here’s one of their favourite picture books, Spells by Emily Gravett. why do they like it? because there’s an illustration of a man’s bare bum in it.

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i swear from the moment they first opened up this page till now after repeated reading (and flipping – this book is brilliant, btw; it plays on the concept of magic ‘spells’ and ‘spelling’, and actually teaches them to blend letters to form funny words as a romantically-inclined frog blunders his way through various incantations), this princely pale derriere never fails to (butt)crack them up. i don’t know what it is about behinds but they make children go crazy, it’s practically perverted. in fact, if ever i were to write a children’s book and ensure it becomes wildly successful, all i need to do is insert a drawing of a man’s bottom in it somewhere, just for shit and giggles (literally).

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kinokuniya’s price: $25.95
bookdepository price: $18.17

it’s a no-brainer, really.

the very hungry zombie

(zombie joke not intended.)

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more john green lovin’. (who knew a writer could be so… verbose?) (and so… funny?!)

“would you ever date a girl more intelligent than yourself?”
“yes in fact i married one.” (she’s the ‘yeti’ btw.)

awesome.

more of his (and his brother hank’s) vlogs: http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers

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the girl asked, out of the blue (and i mean really randomly), if she could read to me her brother’s old Peter & Jane books (which were happily collecting dust on the bookshelf), and i said suuuuuure, by all means.

and so she skipped away, found books 1a & b, breezed through them, then moved on to 2a & b, and well… i guess i’m pleased as peach but not too surprised, because she’s already picked up on reading for a while now. some sight words, some phonic attempts – and i thank god above she’s saving me from shelling out any money for reading classes (unlike her brother at her age).

yes, yes, rule #1 in parenting: ‘thou shalt not compare among siblings’. i don’t consciously mean to, but it’s fascinating to observe their differences; if anything, it reinforces my theories on boys vs girls/first child vs second child – that they each pick up certain skills at different rates.

this was aniq reading book 1b at 4 years 11 months:

this is auni reading book 2b at 4 years 9 months:

their differences in pace, flow, intonation, diction, and even focus, are quite interesting. well, TO ME anyway.

but otherwise, by golly, ‘peter and jane’ is STILL, like, THE MOST INSUFFERABLE READ EVER. :D

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if getting my tearducts to work overtime was one of my new year’s resolution, i’d say i’m doing pretty well so far.

ever since the new year:

1) i teared up when a character died in the movie, Les Miserables. (my behind wanted to cry too at the length of the show.)
2) i teared up when a character died in the tv series, Downton Abbey. (this, my current obsession!)
3) i possibly created an olympic-sized pool of tears when a character died in the book, The Fault In Our Stars. (john green. is. brilliant.)

seriously. i could be having some existential meltdown. or i could be pms-ing. the truth is, i get… emotionally invested in fictitious characters more easily than in reality.

it’s quite ridiculous, really. i’m perfectly capable of distancing myself from sad or upsetting situations in real life, but get all worked up when something happens not in direct relation to me. i suppose it’s a defense mechanism or something.

anyway, i have more to gush about downton abbey; i’m working on the post. meanwhile, it’s the second day of the year and the first day of school for many little children here. no, i did not get teary at all. i was more than happy to shoo them out of the house after a month and a half of school break.

have a great first day in school, all ye young 'uns!

see? they were also happy. so deliriously happy, at 6.50 in the morning.

ok, speaking of happy kids, i did tear up again today – one last time, i promise – but this time not because anyone died. these kids are very much alive and real, and they’re like TOTES ADORBS (i’m sure everybody’s seen their original video singing superbass and their appearance on ellen), and there isn’t a reason to tear up at all watching them, really, but i don’t know, their innocent squeals of pure, unadulterated delight and wonderment at everything that’s happening to them, and knowing that their wishes came true, beyond their wildest girly imaginations – it made me all fuzzy.

(ok, now i’m quite sure i’m pms-ing. crazy hormones…)

(the fact that they’re british makes them even more supercute. then again, i’m a biased anglophile. did i mention downton abbey already? OMG, LOVE.)

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one of my someday-i-wish-i-coulds: open up a quaint little bookstore like this. ok, i’ll be happy enough to at least work in one. ring up the cash register or do inventory or packing or maybe just write on those blackboard signages. REALLY. (anyone…?)

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(now you know the REAL reason why i do it ha ha.)

hey i haven’t talked much about our book finds lately. well, on our last trip to the library, i whooped in delight when i pulled these out from the shelves – all recently released in 2012, shiny, crisp and new. “score!” i thought. oh the little things that bring me joy these days…

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graeme base is the author and illustrator of this BRILLIANT picture book called ‘Animalia which i found on bookdepository and totally LOVED. if you know me at all, you’d know my absolute adoration for all things alliterative (see what i did there!). and this book perfectly combines alphabets and alliteration with beautiful illustrations that will have you practically devouring each page with your eyes. I KID YOU NOT. ok, so anyway, yeah, graeme base, awesome illustrator, and with our recent fascination with pachyderms, ‘Little Elephants‘ was pretty apt.

oliver jeffers, whom i’ve gushed about before, has a new book out, ‘This Moose Belongs To Me‘, which has won the irish book awards children’s book of the year 2012. well, basically, you cannot go wrong with oliver jeffers – his stories are funny and heartwarming in a quirky way, and the illustrations and seemingly precocious characters’ innocence have a way of playing up to a kid’s (and adult’s) sense of irony.

jon klassen’s ‘This Is Not My Hat‘ is kinda like a spin-off from his first book, ‘I Want My Hat Back’, and both are just as funny! if you like stories with a wry sense of humour (like we do), this one’s for you. i love looking at the kids’ face when a story like this unfolds itself, and they figure out themselves what happened at the end. your kid will either: a) widen their eyes and hang their mouth open with gruesome realisation, or b) widen their eyes and grin with macabre delight. or both haha. the words are sparse and easy enough for auni to read aloud (with some assistance), and the illustrations move the story along with some suspense. (trivia: he was the art director for one of U2′s music videos – see if you can spot ‘hats’ and ‘klassen’ in there somewhere, heh.)

as for me, i have my “score!” moments at the library each time too, but i do still indulge myself, especially when i have a hard time finding the titles i really want there.

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(NO I WILL NOT WATCH THE MOVE FIRST even though it has the awesome hermione granger emma watson in it.)

anyway, my Goodreads challenge to myself was to finish reading 100 (non-picture) books this year, and i’m like 29 books short – BUT there are still 12 more days to the end of the year so… i’m going to be optimistic and err, keep trying.

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of all things, this is how she chooses to imitate me: in bed, late at night, with book (she even found a bookmark somewhere – macam paham, i tell you).

this. me. exactly. sigh.

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she’s got my night-owl genes, she does. keep this up, she’ll also get my blind-as-a-bat genes.

go sleep already, fer pete’s sake, it’s almost midnight!

i guess in this case, the late bird catches the bookworm.

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was happily reading a book to the kids at bedtime when i turned to this page and a loud gasp escaped from the pits of my inner editor. call me fussy, a stickler, a grammar nazi or plain anal, whatever, but it’s a published children’s book which demands high standards! (unlike, you know, blogs.) so yeah, i felt… hmph, indignant.

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(although an editor friend tells me to twist my brain and switch off my ‘pedantic editorial mechanism’ – whuttt, noooo! ha ha.)

ps: don’t worry, the kids think i’m crazy too.

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am always pleased to find out that we can loan up to 12 books per person at the library. this time, the loan-12-books period is up till 31st jan 2013, so knock yourselves out, people. /publicserviceannouncement

(ps: i should really get myself a trolley.)

now here’s a cheesy joke i found among the aisles today:
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ha ha.

anyway, the kids have lately been repeatedly watching Diary of A Wimpy Kid – i do get the appeal of the book (it’s actually pretty funny), but personally i find the movie too juvenile and, to use a juvenile colloquialism, ‘lame’ (then again, i am not the target audience).

today, the moment i fetched the boy from school, he excitedly whipped open his bag to show me a ‘diary’ he’d started on, and insisted i read it while i drove.

ok, so it’s two pages (three, if you count the cover illustration), and clearly ‘inspired’ by the Diary of A Wimpy Kid.

here’s Diary of The Zombie Kid:

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(ho boy.)

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(One day, the Zombie Kid came out of his grave and wrote his diary. He saw an alive girl, he feels hungry so he went to eat her up.)

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(After he eat the girl, he went back to his grave. He watched tv.)

well, two pages, that’s as far as the ‘diary’ went. i told him the zombie pretty much sounds like a normal kid. i should probably be alarmed at his (still) atrocious spelling and writing (and the gory nature of his subject), but the daddy and i had such a right good chortle at this together, i thought heck, it couldn’t be all that bad.

i’m going to have to charge him high editing fees if he ever goes into publishing, though.

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i had yet another ‘fashion’ struggle with the girl while getting ready for the birthday party last weekend. it was a ‘boy’ party and the theme was ‘football’, and as you may know, i take themes quite seriously. the daddies and the denizen of boy cousins had no problem with this, obviously, football jerseys being the number one wardrobe must-haves for every Mat in the universe.

luckily, the girl is currently into jeans, so that was half the battle won. (something about the flowers or glitters on the hems/waists/pockets of the pairs i got her, but still, jeans! when previously she’d want nothing but skirts.)

but, she’d insisted on wearing it with one of her pink t-shirts, in particular, the polka-dotted one. (yes, like mummy, she too is in a polka-phase.) i showed her a blue shirt instead, and she went ball-istic (pardon the pun). it took some reasoning, that it was a boy’s party, and everyone will be wearing boy colours or football shirts, and if it were a girl’s party, she can wear all the pink she wants, and we should respect the party host’s wishes. (ok, so i exaggerated; i just wanted to have it my way.)

anyway, she eventually saw my (admittedly twisted) logic, and allowed herself to be donned in an old football jersey that used to be her brother’s. yeah, that’ll do.

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(meanwhile, i wore a dress. a polka-dotted one. just pretend i adhered to the theme by imagining that’s what a soccer mum would wear, ok? i mean, football jerseys on hana = end of the world as we know it!)

now, please don’t think that i’m always so mean as to oppress the girl in her sartorial preferences. i’m not very good at dressing girls up in the first place, like so many fashionista mummies out there, but i do respect her wishes enough to buy what i know she’ll like. sure, i do sneak in a green shirt or a brown dress among my pink and purple purchases for her, in the hopes of tricking her into them when the occasion arises. i just want to give her… alternatives, you know?

she’s onto me though, so she’s taken to getting ready herself – from showering, to choosing her outfits, to matching her shoes. (well, that last part’s not too hard seeing as her favourite pair IS pink and purple.) and that’s fine; she generally has a good sense of coordination – which is more than i can say for her brother, who incidentally DESPISES jeans, and has a habit of pulling out the first shirt and pair of berms from the pile, never mind that the colours don’t even go together, argghhh).

anyway, there’s this new Olivia book i’d been waiting to get my hands on that i thought we could relate to, and last week, the girl plucked it right out of the library bookshelf, all shiny and new, to show to me. i was SO delighted (she has a knack for picking picture books i’ll like).

titled Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, it features our favourite porcine protagonist pondering over her identity and sense of individualism. it has Olivia’s trademark streaks of red amongst the pages and classical reference to her artistic proclivities (this time, modern dance). and of course, of her being all dramatic (those of you with little girls, you know how it is).

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while the issue of individualism vs conformism may not be something little girls are wont to grapple with (Olivia is quite the precocious example), here it gives them a bit of a think, while at the same time allowing them to marvel at the beautiful and exotic alternatives out there waiting for them, if they only dare to imagine it. (auni’s quite taken by the india and china princesses. i’d googled and showed pictures of tribal african women wearing neck rings and she draws a clear line on that one!)

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(THAT’S WHAT I KEEP SAYING.)

whether she imagines herself to be a princess or pro-footballer or permaisuri-melayu-terakhir (or in this case, eshan’s dayang ha ha – man, check out that iron grip on the Barbie doll; he’s got them all wrapped around his little fingers, literally), i guess the important thing is that she’s using her imagination. hopefully, for bigger things to come.

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“It’s strange how we always want other people to feel what we feel. It must be a basic human drive. Misery loves company, right? Or when you see a movie that you love, don’t you want to drag all your favourite friends to see it as well? Because it’s only good the second time if it’s the first time for somebody else – as if their experience somehow resonates inside of you. The power of shared experiences. Maybe it’s a way to remind ourselves that on some level we’re all connected.”

- ‘Bruiser‘, Neal Shusterman

Bruiser

omg this was such a brilliant read, i love this author (ever since i was blown away by the chilling Unwind)! i brought it for the ride into JB yesterday and finished it the same night, it’s that good. it’s about this boy, written from four points of views, who can’t help but absorb your scars, cuts, bruises, even your emotional pains, the moment he starts caring about you. is that necessarily a good thing for you, to be dulled of the senses that make you essentially human? funny, sad, disturbing, intense, tragic, beautifully written – and because i want others to feel what i feel, i’m sharing this with you fellow readers, and hope to enthuse over it with someone.

yes, the power of shared experiences.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

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as for the JB trip, do you know what i look for now at the supermarkets? their damn cheap flour! at less than RM1.50 for a 1kg packet of all-purpose flour, the sign says ‘limited to a maximum of 6 packets per person’. which is so wartime-rationing, it’s endearing. anyway, i’m just an amateur ‘baker’ prone to making recipe mistakes and not at all discerning of flour quality at this point, so cheap basic ingredients for my ongoing (sometimes failed) kitchen experiments suit my purpose, thank you very much. 1Malaysia!

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it's Bookaburra time!

dropped by Forum to meet up with our dear Denise, did some Where The Wild Things Are crafts (those cut-outs of Max and the wild things are just adorbs!), and she’d kept two mini pumpkins (also totes adorbs!) for my wild things to paint.

and hey if you’re Julia Donaldson fans (like us), you might want to fork out a bit for the stage adaptations of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom at next year’s Kidsfest. :)

now… anybody knows what i can cook/bake with two mini pumpkins?? (no, i’m not talking about the kids.)

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was lazily watching tv with the kids last night, some cooking show with a perfectly-groomed blonde lady coolly giving instructions while sauteeing and cooing away at how yummy her dish is turning out, and remarked enviously out loud, “how come i don’t look like that when i cook, so pretty…”

the boy replied, ever so nonchalantly, “it’s okay, as long as the food tastes nice, doesn’t matter.” if anything, he’s got his pragmatic attitude from his father.

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i still haven’t had enough of that peanut butter smell coming from the oven and i had another half a pack of semi-sweet Hershey chocolate chips, so…. you know what happened. turned out these muffins didn’t taste as sweet as they ought to be (i blame the recipe!), so i think i should always keep stock of a tub of vanilla ice-cream for moments that require it as a complement, such as this.

well, off to the supermarket (again)!

#nextread #ilovebookdepository!
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i know we don’t celebrate halloween, but i do like the colourful decorations and candies that come out during this time of the year. i’d finger the packets of chocolate eyeballs and skeleton gummies at the supermarkets, and entertain the thought of doling them out to trick-or-treating kids in costumes eating them. (but remember kids, orange and black are fine only as halloween decor colours, NOT for weddings, ok?)

in the spirit of things, i’ve picked out picture books for them from the library related to ghouls and ghosts. there are plenty of children’s books in this theme that are macabre yet funny, and not at all scary. there was this one, our favourite, about a zombie looking for love, and tries to woo girls by literally giving away a heart and a diamond ring with a severed finger attached to it. zombies are just adorable, aren’t they?

anyway, told the husband i’m going for the Haunted Library trail with a girlfriend, and he, knowing how i always squirm and vanish into thin air whenever anyone starts telling ghost stories, doesn’t believe i’ll go through with it. but this year is all about firsts and doing things i never thought i’d do, so i’ll take it as a challenge. in the words of one barney stinson, “challenge accepted!”

(i mean, how scary can it be? right…?)

graveyard shift

#currentread
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