We Love Tiong Bahru by Urban Sketchers Singapore

Want to see inside? There’s a link to a PDF sample on the publisher’s page for We Love Tiong Bahru.

Thus far, Urban Sketchers Singapore and Epigram Books have produced books of sketches of:

  1. Toa Payoh (November 2012)
  2. Tiong Bahru (February 2013)
  3. Bedok (April 2013)
  4. Queenstown (September 2013)
  5. Katong (April 2014)
  6. Little India (Sept 2014)
  7. Chinatown (May 2015)
  8. Geylang Serai (January 2016)
  9. Serangoon Gardens (January 2017)

The first two are sold out at the publisher.

When and Why I Read We Love Tiong Bahru

This is an attractive locally-produced book.

Genre: non-fiction (art)
Date started / date finished:  12-Jun-18 to 12-Jun-18
Length: 96 pages
ISBN: 9789810736255 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2013

Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle

I believe I read Many Waters once previously (it’s not in my records, which go back to 1999), but I don’t think I liked it then either.

Yes, that’s Noah’s ark on the front. Sandy and Dennys, the twin younger brothers of Meg Murray, the central character of A Wrinkle in Time, accidentally travel back in time to the days before the Biblical flood, a time when people were shorter, and angels, fallen angels, and mythical creatures roamed the scorching desert.

The twins both fall for the same local girl, but apart from mild feelings of envy, their coming-of-age story mostly seems to involve recovering from sunburn while waiting for God to send the inevitable flood, hoping that a way home will eventually present itself—which it does, as you know if you’ve read A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

When and Why I Read Many Waters

First, there was just A Wrinkle in Time. Then it had a companion book, A Wind in the Door. Later, there was a follow-up book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, set a decade later, and the three were marketed as a trilogy. This fourth book actually happens between books two and three of what was marketed as a quartet. Lately a fifth book is being said to belong to the series, but I think of the series as 3+1 at the very most.

Genre: fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 30-May-2018 / 03-Jun-2018
Length: 310
ISBN: 0440227704
Originally published in: 1986
Amazon link: Many Waters

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the third book in what is sometimes called L’Engle’s Time Quartet, is a bit like Cloud Atlas in how people and their actions are connected across large expanses of time.

Charles Wallace Murray, a precocious child who is saved by his older sister Meg in A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, is a teenager in this book. Watched over telepathically by his sister, he rides the unicorn Gaudior to different eras and mentally inhabits a series of people. By influencing their decisions for good, and using an ancient Irish Christian prayer taught to him by his sister’s mother-in-law, he hopes to avert the nuclear apocalypse that is likely to be kicked off by an insane South American dictator whose Welsh ancestors migrated from the American town where the Murrays live.

I remember being confused by A Swiftly Tilting Planet when I was younger, but even as an adult I found the plot hard to follow. The bits I remembered best were about the unicorn (which is invariably shown on the cover).

See below for a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book as well as specific comments on what I liked and didn’t like about the book.

Continue reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

In the first half of A Wind in the Door, the companion to the Newberry Medal–winner A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murray hones her powers of discernment with moral support from a somewhat conceited conglomeration of dragons (which is invariably shown on the cover). It’s memorably gratifying when Meg recognizes the inner goodness in her little brother’s mediocre school principal, but when she does, there’s still, alas, a whole third of the book left!

The finale takes place in a sub-microscopic realm that’s hard to picture and introduces a new character who’s hard to care about, even though he’s somehow the key to winning the climactic battle between good and evil. Good luck ever turning this one into a movie, Disney.

When and Why I Read A Wind in the Door

When I recently read A Wrinkle in Time, some scenes seemed missing. I assume they are in the sequel.

Genre: Fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 29-May-2018 / 29-May-2018
Length: 203
ISBN: 044098761X
Originally published in: 1973
Amazon link: A Wind in the Door

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (again)

A Wrinkle in Time is undoubtedly a strange children’s novel, but well worth reading, no less now than fifty years ago.

When and Why I Read A Wrinkle in Time

I just read this book recently, but then I read a whole lot of other things before I had the chance to read the books that follow it, so I’m just starting over.

Genre: Fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 27-May-2018 / 29-May-2018
Length: 198
ISBN: 0440998050
Originally published in: 1962
Amazon link: A Wrinkle in Time

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

A Room with a View was the Hungry Hundred Book Club book for May. The group leader, Rachel, started off the discussion at the well-attended meetup with an interesting question:

Is A Room with a View primarily a love story, a coming-of-age story, or social commentary?

Since the book has elements of all three, the answer to the question says as much about the reader’s perspective as it does about the book itself. How much people enjoyed the book depended very much on what they thought it was trying to do and what they thought it did well, thus the question served not only to kick off the discussion but also to guide and shape it.

At the end of the discussion, we rated the book. It garnered perhaps only one rating of five stars, but many of three or three-and-a-half or four, as well as a couple of very low ratings (0.5 and 2). The reason for the less-than-spectacular average rating seemed to be that Forster was undeniably good, yet didn’t measure up to other writers.

During the discussion, someone mentioned a Guardian article based on a lecture by Zadie Smith on the fiction of E.M. Forster. The article compares Forster’s work to Austen’s.

Forster ushered in a new era for the English comic novel, one that includes the necessary recognition that the great majority of us are not like an Austen protagonist, would rather not understand ourselves, because it is easier and less dangerous.

Zadie Smith, in pointing out this message in Forster’s work, is saying in part that what Forster was doing was different from what others were doing, and that he was good at it. I agree.

See below for my opinion on whether A Room with a View is a love story, coming-of-age story, or social commentary and what I got out of it. (If you’ve never read the book or watched the movie, note that this post gives away the ending.)

Continue reading A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

The Fugitive by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

I enjoyed this short, out-of-print book more than I necessarily expected to. It got off to a slow start, especially for such a short novel, but it gave me lots of food for thought.

The Fugitive was written by a highly regarded Indonesian nationalist. In writing about the book, I learned that the author’s name, though in three parts, is not a first, middle, and last name with the family name last. It’s just a name. He is referred to as “Pramoedya” (which is also spelled “Pramudya”) or just “Pram”.

Read more about the book in my Backlist books post about The Fugitive at Asian Books Blog.

When and Why I Read The Fugitive

I am reading this Indonesian novel for my Backlist books column at Asian Books Blog.

Genre: Fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished: 17-Apr-2018 / 23-Apr-2018
Length: 171
ISBN: 0688086985
Originally published in: 1950/1990
Amazon link: The Fugitive

The Movie Book

Reading The Movie Book, I got the strong impression that, regardless of its genre, every movie I like is basically the same movie: an uplifting story with a conventional structure, an admirable main character, and an upbeat conclusion. This book, in contrast, expresses appreciation of many kinds of movie, seemingly few of them cheerful.

Still, some of my personal favorites are considered great cinema; I am a fan of the quite historic Wizard of Oz, for example. In contrast, although intellectually I understand that Blade Runner is a classic, I found it largely unpleasant to watch. Oldboy was much worse. Those are two hours of my life I really wish I could get back.

Lesson learnt. Watching “good” movies—or even “important” movies—as if movies can be measured on a universal scale is not a recipe for enjoyment. Taste is personal.

Here’s an interactive list of the 116 movies featured in the book. (It doesn’t list the 88 honorable mentions described briefly at the back of the book, but this post does.) Among them are some movies I have not seen that I would like to see—some that I think I would actually enjoy (e.g., Singin’ in the Rain) and others that are not my cup of tea but would be interesting and give me a stronger grounding in the history of film (e.g., King Kong).

When and Why I Read The Movie Book

I like books. I like movies. I like checklists. Surely I will enjoy a book that consists of a checklist of movies.

Genre: non-fiction (reference; film)
Date started / date finished: 02-Apr-2018 / 17-Apr-2018
Length: 343 pages
ISBN: 9780241188026
Originally published in: 2015
Amazon link: The Movie Book

Not out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay (thoughts on postcolonial literature)

I posted some background information and opinions on Not Out of Hate in a post about the book on Asian Books Blog.

This post explains why I chose this Burmese novel to feature in my Backlist books column, even though I didn’t start out with the intent to study Southeast Asian postcolonial literature.

Continue reading Not out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay (thoughts on postcolonial literature)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I re-read this familiar classic in preparation for seeing the 2018 movie adaptation.

When and Why I Read A Wrinkle in Time

My site keeps getting 404 hits for an image of this book that I uploaded years ago. It’s because of the movie, I’m sure.

Genre: Fiction (children’s fantasy)
Date started / date finished: 12-Mar-2018 / 15-Mar-2018
Length: 198
ISBN: 0440998050
Originally published in: 1962
Amazon link: A Wrinkle in Time