Wednesday, 30 June 2021

[MPOV] The Vagina Monologues

My rating: 4/5
Goodreads rating: 3.87/5
Published: January 1st, 1996
Author: Eve Ensler
Genre: non-fiction, feminism, plays

Synopsis from Goodreads:
I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues...At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn't stop them. Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one's ever asked them before.

Another pick for June's #bookspin #bookspinbingo with letter E or F (Eve Ensler)

I have always been curious about this book, mainly due to it's outrageous title, The Vagina Monologues, as though vagina could talk LOL! Anyway, the Asian upbringing in me was taken back a little whilst reading it, a bit of a culture shock kinda way, but after a while I get used to it. 

This book is based on real women's stories, their experiences and their monologues compiled by the author. The sharing of their discovery of their vagina, be it sexual or intimate, was quite profound and I am surprised that there are such support groups for this! Of course, only in the USA and not in Malaysia lah! Their stories were quite frank and straightforward that I could feel their anxiety or sadness or pain. 
I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting...
Aside from the vagina monologues, it's also about Female Empowerment or Girl Power. This is where violence against women came into view with the V-Day Movement. There are some sharing of such related stories too.
Eve Ensler, also known mononymously as V, is an American playwright, performer, feminist and activist. She is on a mission among so many other great and powerful women to help women accept their bodies.
The author credits her past marriage, rehab and therapy with helping her work through issues. A woman in progress, she pointedly never uses the word ''overcome''.
When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury and terrorise women, you destroy the essential life energy in the planet.

If you like reading on feminism or the likes then this would be up your alley. If you are curious like me, you must read with an open mind and not closed up rigid. Overall, this is an eye-opening read for me which made me love myself more.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

[MPOV] My Brilliant Friend (Book 1 of the Neapolitan Novels)

My rating: 3/5
Goodreads rating: 3.97/5
Published: September 25th, 2012
Author: Elena Ferrante
Translator: Ann Goldstein
Genre: women's fiction, Italian literature

My Brilliant Friend is the first book in Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s world-acclaimed quartet of Neapolitan novels, which documents the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo. It was originally published in 2011.

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante's inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.

This is my pick for June's Book Challenge:
1. TBNT Book Challenge: A translated book OR written by a non native-English speaker
2. Book Spin / Book Spin Bingo: letters E and F (Elena Ferrante)

This is book one of the Neapolitan Novels quartet by Elena Ferrante. The story revolves around Lena and her neighbourhood, especially on her love and hate friendship with Lila. This book is about her childhood and adolescence, narrated in her point of view where she has typed it down into her computer. Here she shares her story from the day she met Lila, how their friendship progressed and eventually blossomed into the best buds they are today. 

This is not the first and I guess it will not be the last where a translated book got me nowhere. I'm not sure if it is due to the translation or what nots but I just couldn't get into the story, just couldn't grasp it nor resonate with it. It was hard for me to wear Lena's shoes and view it all through her eyes. I could imagined her speaking though with her slang. 

In the chapter of their childhood, there is quite a few reference of husband beating wife and children, brothers beating sisters, arguments between neighbours and drunken men fighting in this poor neighbourhood. It is similar to some of the TV series or movies I have watched hence I was able to relate here. Btw, this has been made into a TV series which I have yet to catch.

Lena does has a competitive streak which elevates her jealousy towards Lila and always wanting to be a step better though feeling inferior always. Both are relatively good in their studies but Lila had to stop schooling and started working for her family. However, she still goes to the library to read more. Lena does missed their friendship when Lila slowly distanced away from her then, leaving Lena to move on without her.

During their adolescence, Lila has blossomed into a beautiful young lady and all the legit bachelors came knocking on her door. Lena, however, became plumpier and not as pretty as Lila in her own view, which led to her being more inferior and lack of confidence, hiding like a shadow behind Lila but she still strives to be good in her studies. When Lila continues to befriend her again, Lena was happy to have her best friend back though with a kind of resentment at times or envy in another!

It is a complicated kind of friendship with many characters and subplots that were thrown in to make this poor neighbourhood dramatically alive. Through it all, I got confused, passionless, at times interested and a little intrigued. I do want to enjoy this acclaimed novel by Elena Ferrante but it is somehow not my cup of tea though I have persevered to finish it. It did reminds me of J.K Rowling's Casual Vacancy with a similar kind of scenario but of a different pace that I have DNF it. 

The author chose to write it like a screenplay, a memory play to be precise, with Lena reminiscing of her past with Lila and typing it into the computer. It did feels like a drama on TV but with the main character narrating the whole drama from her point of view only and the remaining characters are there to supply the drama with more chaos and friction, just like an actual TV drama. I guess I'm not in favour of such prose as such I got lost in translation, so to speak. I've speed read through just so I could finished and know how it ends instead of DNF it.

As this is book 1, the ending has a slight cliffhanger so you would need to have book 2 ready so as not to stop suddenly, like me now LOL! If you like melodramatic kinda novel like a telenovela then this quartet should be up your alley. Lena is like many of us, booknerds or not, who are insecure of ourselves, lack of confidence with the inferiority complex hence it is easily relatable on this point.
''They won't touch me, because I'm ugly and I don't have my period,'' she said, ''but with you they might. If anything happens, tell me.''

I looked at her in confusion. We were almost thirteen, we knew nothing about institutions, laws, justice. I went home. I realized that with those last words she had admitted that I was important to her, and I was happy.

Whereas Lila, starting in March, at sixteen, would have a husband and within a year, at seventeen, a child, and then another, and another, and another. I felt I was a shadow, I wept in despair. 

"Not for you: you're my brilliant friend, you have to be the best of all, boys and girls." - Raffaella Cerullo 

Friday, 4 June 2021

[Crochet] Spring Celebration CAL

This is definitely a way overdue post.

I have joined a Spring Celebration Crochet Along on Instagram in March-April and it was a mistake as I didn't have much time to actually do to complete it all. TBH, I should have thought it out before joining it. I've only managed to make 2 out of 11 designs! If only I have more time to do at least half of it but I couldn't... sad but true...

It was a stringent CAL with a tight timeline where those interested would have to follow the specially created Instagram account which would be closed to public when the registration ends. Then over a period of time, each design will have half of it's pattern published. Once we have finished that first half as required, we will have to Insta-story it so that the respective designers will add us into another special Instagram account which is private where the remaining half is published. If we missed the boat then we will have to buy the pattern in order to finish it if we want. Tedious right? Well, it can't be helped as to protect the respective designer's wellbeing. 

Anyway, it was a joy to complete this 2 designs. It was not as complicated but I just needed more time (I can only crochet at night about 2 to 3 hours). Thank you so much to the organizer and designers for this awesome platform! Here are my finished dolls...

Neo the Elephant by Alison @kornflakestew.co.uk

Immy the Lamb by Lucia Forthmann Crochet

Friday, 28 May 2021

[MPOV] Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

My rating: 4/5
Goodreads rating: 3.83/5
Published: December 7th, 2004
Author: Rebecca Wells
Genre: Women's fiction, contemporary, Southern

When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she's directed, her mother gets described as a "tap-dancing child abuser." Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.

I'm reading this for May's book challenges below:
1. TBNT Book Challenge: A Bildungsroman (coming of age story) OR exploring relationships & family issues
2. Book Spin / Book Spin Bingo: letters B and R (Rebecca Wells)
My mother is not the Holy Lady, she thought. My mother's love is not perfect. My mother's love is good enough. My lover's love is good enough. Maybe I am good enough.
All the while reading this book, I somehow envisioned Jessica Lange as Vivi. I recently got to know there was a movie based on this book but the actress acted as Vivi was a different one. Am not sure if I will watch it yet. Anyway, back to this awesome book. This is one book which I would loved to be in! The story, the writing, the pact, the everything are so deep yet with so much feels!

The past: Vivi grew up seeking her mother's love and father's approval but her mother, Buggy, was a devout Christian who couldn't tolerate Vivi's wild behavior. Her parents were always arguing due to their different faith and believe. Vivi was also beaten by her own father. Hence after she got married, her husband was rarely home to help her raising their 4 children, she vent her anger on the children with Sidda getting the brunt of it. Vivi finally succumbed to depression and had a huge mental breakdown.

The future: Sidda is having a nervous breakdown and wanted to delay her marriage. Her reason was purely due to her relationship with her family. She idolized her mother, Vivi, and her best friends. As their past is a blur to her, she hopes to find out their secrets and resolved her insecurities once and for all so that she could move on with her life.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood is a story of awakening, family and friends... the relationship of 3 generations of women... the ups, the meltdowns all correlated to one another. From Buggy to Vivi, from Vivi to Sidda, it truly is a cycle from one woman's experience to another. The journey one experienced, so eventful and adventurous, I am envious of it all! On the other hand, it sure proves as relevant even now as most of the time we rarely discussed our feelings, our state of mind to each other or anyone. Mental health is real!

I won't divulge much but I can't help getting over those emotional chaos after reading this book! Definitely having a book hangover now LOL! I do find it is well written, easily absorbed and the way Rebecca Well plots the story is up my alley. If you are looking for a family oriented read with lots to think about, you should give this book a try.
Them that know don't tell; and them that tell don't know. For Siddalee Walker, the need to understand had passed, at least for the moment. All that was left was love and wonder.
Some new words for me:
Equipoise - balance of forces or interests

Vetiver - a fragrant extract or essential oil obtained from the root of an Indian grass, used in perfumery and aromatherapy

Genuflect - lower one's body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect

Pissoir - a public urinal

Whippoorwill - a North and Central American nightjar with a distinctive call

Emphysema - a lung disease which results in shortness of breath due to over-swelling of the alveoli

Monday, 24 May 2021

Amok: Cover Reveal

What is Amok?

Amok is a new novel by Anna Tan, a talented Malaysian author based in Penang, which will be released on 24th June 2021. I had the opportunity to read the e-ARC of this awesome novel recently! Finally, the cover reveal is here! It sure looks as awesome as the novel itself!

You can read my full review here:

Amok: e-ARC review

What is faith, except hope in desperation?

All Putera Mikal wants is to gain the Amok Strength, the supernatural power granted by Kudus to the Mahan royal family. No matter how religiously Mikal keeps his vows, Kudus still denies him the Strength—whilst his father, Sultan Simson, flaunts the Strength despite his blatant defiance of the Temple and the priests’ visions of coming doom.

Then the prophecies come true.

Taken captive, Mikal must find a way to liberate his people and restore his throne in Maha—and the key to this is the Amok Strength. But what does it take to gain Kudus’ favour?


If you are interested, you can order from the Pre-order links here:

For Malaysia Only: Paperback (signed copies) preorder price: RM35 [Full price: RM45]

Signed Paperbacks: https://teaspoonpublishing.com.my/shop/amok-paperback/ 

For the rest of the world: Ebook preorder price: USD2.99 / RM12.00 [Full price: USD4.99 / RM20]

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amok-Absolution-Book-Anna-Tan-ebook/dp/B08YXQKPN7/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Tan grew up in Malaysia, the country that is not Singapore. She is interested in Malay/Nusantara and Chinese legends and folklore in exploring the intersection of language, culture, and faith. 

Anna has an MA in Creative Writing: The Novel under a Chevening scholarship and is the President of the Malaysian Writers Society. She can be found tweeting as @natzers and forgetting to update annatsp.com.

Where to find Anna online:

Website: https://annatsp.com

Instagram: http://instagram.com/annatsp

Facebook: http://facebook.com/annatansp

Twitter: http://twitter.com/natzers

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!

So, we are now in another lockdown, MCO 3.0, from today to 7/6/2021! I wonder if it will continue or ends on 7/6/2021. Anyway, tomorrow is Hari Raya Aidilfitri! Another festivity in the new normal where we can't celebrate with open houses hence no visitations nor travelling. It's been more than a year and yet COVID-19 is still growing earnestly whilst the actual vaccine to fully curb it has yet to be developed. Lets just pray and hope that it will eventually dissipate soon like the Spanish Flu.

Selamat Hari Raya to all my Muslim friends and family! Remember to always mask up, wash or sanitize your hands and social distancing! Maaf zahir dan batin!
Picture Googled!

If you are looking for 4 ply face masks, you can drop an email to nycnatnook@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

[Cross-stitch] Patterns from MiRu Makes

Over the past 2 weeks, I've been busy stitching 2 cross-stitch patterns! Both from MiRu Makes, one I've purchased for Mother's Day and the other one is a free pattern which I've decided to stitch for sis' birthday. 

It was a seamless contactless purchase, everything online via email and WhatsApp except for the free pattern which was available on their Instagram. I've enjoyed stitching from their fuss-free pattern which was so easy to understand! Not only that, it is small hence less stressful to stitch too.

Unfortunately, I've finished stitching and hooped this Mother's Day piece when MCO 3.0 has started so I could not gift it to mom for Mother's Day! So it will have to wait until the lockdown has been lifted. 

As for the free pattern, it's a Bubble Tea piece which is suitable for sis since she's a bubble tea fanatic! It will have to be a belated gift too since traveling is still not allowed due to the pandemic. Thankfully as I have not decided to hoop or frame it as yet...

MiRu Makes is founded by a couple of cool moms who designed all the lovely patterns which are mostly based on Malaysian heritage. This is a shout out for them in my effort to support local arts and crafts. For more details or other patterns, you can check out their Facebook page and purchase directly from them as per link below:

MiRu Makes - Home | Facebook

If you like to browse and feel, Fabric Fanatics at Summit USJ Mall do carry their kits in store.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

[MPOV] What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

My rating: 3/5
Goodreads rating: 3.85/5
Published: October 20th, 2009
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Genre: non-fiction, psychology, sociology, social science, economics

What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?

In the past decade, Malcolm Gladwell has written three books that have radically changed how we understand our world and ourselves: The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. Now, in What the Dog Saw, he brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from The New Yorker over the same period.

Here you'll find the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling creations of pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and why it was that employers in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate. 

I have picked this book based on April challenges for the below:
1. TBNT Book Challenge: A book with an animal on the cover
2. Bookspin / Bookspin Bingo: letters G and M (Malcolm Gladwell)

To be honest, I've come across many rave reviews of this author. Hence my expectation is definitely high for this book. I do agree, it was well written with a straightforward prose, definitely getting the message over with lots of details and examples. The author definitely did his homework thoroughly which is why he could explain it quite accurately. However the habitual paraphrasing the story with elaborated examples is a little over daunting for me which in turn kinda bored me a little especially when it isn't my cup of tea. I guess reading it as a short story on a weekly basis differed to reading it in a book where all the short stories are. His style of writing is very prominent as such.

Anyway, there are a few which I've enjoyed, in fact eye opening for me like:
  1. True Colors
  2. John Rock's Error
  3. What the Dog Saw
  4. The Picture Problem
  5. Something Borrowed
  6. Late Bloomers
  7. Dangerous Minds
  8. Troublemakers
These stories resonate with me and I could relate to it or have interest in it. The others were more business like with more conundrums that is more for the serious minded LOL! Anyway, if you like varieties then this book is definitely for you. It is actually a great mind boggling filled with facts kinda read!

Here are some interesting facts, there were more but I've reduced it to this 4:
There are five known fundamental tastes in the human palate:
Salty, sweet sour butter and umami

When a woman is on the Pill, however, no egg is released, because the Pill suppresses ovulation. The fluxes of estrogen and progestin that cause the lining of the uterus to grow are dramatically reduced, because the Pill slows down the ovaries.

The problem of interval tumors explains why the overwhelming majority of breast-cancer experts insist that women in the critical 50 - 69 age group get regular mammograms.

Choking is about thinking too much. Panic is about thinking too little.

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