Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review - June 2008

This month's review list was supposed to be Part Six of Twelve, but as we look back we notice we've only done parts One and Two. Whatever. This is now Part Three.

We'll start with the updated booklist from February, then dissect the ones we finally managed to read, and publish the new updated booklist separately.
  1. A Cloistered War - Maisie Duncan
  2. A History of Malaysia - Barbara Watson Andaya & Leonard Andaya
  3. A History of Modern Indonesia - M.C. Ricklefs
  4. A History of Selangor - J. M. Gullick
  5. A Map of the World - Jane Hamilton
  6. A Place Where The Sea Remembers - Sandra Benitez
  7. A Point of Light - Zhou Mei
  8. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
  9. A Tagore Reader - Amiya Chakravarty
  10. A Will For Freedom - Romen Bose
  11. Abraham's Promise - Philip Jeyaretnam
  12. Agnes Smedley - J.R. & S.R. MacKinnon
  13. Anthology of Japanese Literature - Donald Keene
  14. Art & Fear - David Bayles & Ted Orland
  15. Asian Labour In The Japanese Wartime Empire - Paul H. Kratoska, Ed.
  16. Baba Nonnie Goes To War - Ron Mitchell
  17. Bang Bang in Ampang - Norman Cleaveland
  18. Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers - Vendela Vida, Ed.
  19. Between Two Oceans - Murfett, Miskic, Farrell, & Chiang
  20. Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
  21. Buffalo Gals - Ursula K. LeGuin
  22. Burglars can't be Choosers - Lawrence Block
  23. Busman's Honeymoon - Dorothy Sayers
  24. Captives of Shanghai - David H. & Gretchen G. Grover
  25. Chandranath - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  26. Chinese Blue and White - Ann Frank
  27. Chinese Customs - Henri Dore
  28. Clay Walls - Kim Ronyoung
  29. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
  30. Dictionary of the Khazars - Milorad Pavic
  31. Early Views of Indonesia/Pemandangan Indonesia di Masa Lampau - Annabel Teh Gallop
  32. Encyclopedia of China - Dorothy Perkins
  33. Fantasies of the Six Dynasties - Tsai Chih Chung
  34. Faster - James Gleick
  35. Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
  36. Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman
  37. From Pacific War to Merdeka - James Wong Wing On
  38. Fu Lu Shou - Jeffrey Seow
  39. Gaudy Night - Dorothy Sayers
  40. Golden Boy and Other Stories from Burma - Saw Wai Lwyn Moe
  41. Golden Gate - Vikram Seth
  42. Glory - Vladimir Nabokov
  43. Have His Carcase - Dorothy Sayers
  44. How I Adore You - Mark Pritchard
  45. How To Write A Damn Good Novel - James N. Frey
  46. In Pursuit of Mountain Rats - Anthony Short
  47. In The Grip of a Crisis - Rudy Mosbergen
  48. In the Midst of Death - Lawrence Block
  49. Kempeitai, Japan's Dreaded Military Police - Raymond Lamont-Brown
  50. Kempei Tai: The Japanese Secret Service Then And Now - Richard Deacon
  51. Kim - Rudyard Kipling
  52. Krait: The Fishing Boat That Went To War - Lynette Ramsay Silver
  53. Kranji - Romen Bose
  54. Labour Unrest in Malaya - Tai Yuen
  55. Lest We Forget - Alice M. Coleman & Joyce E. Williams
  56. Life As The River Flows - Agnes Khoo
  57. Living Hell - Goh Chor Boon
  58. Malay Folk Beliefs - Mohd Taib Osman
  59. Malaya and Singapore During the Japanese Occupation - Paul H. Kratoska, Ed.
  60. Malaysia - R. Emerson
  61. Modern Japan, A Historical Survey - Hane Mikiso
  62. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
  63. Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy Sayers
  64. Night Butterfly - Tan Guan Heng
  65. No Cowardly Past - James Puthucheary
  66. Old Filth - Jane Gardam
  67. Operation Matador - Ong Chit Chung
  68. Orlando - Virginia Woolf
  69. Outwitting the Gestapo - Aubrac
  70. Palli Samaj (The Homecoming) - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  71. Power Politics - Arundhati Roy
  72. Prehistory of the Indo-Malayan Archipelago - Peter Bellwood
  73. Red Star Over Malaya - Cheah Boon Kheng
  74. Revolt in Paradise - K'tut Tantri
  75. Rhymes of Li Yu Tsai - Chao Shu Li
  76. Robert van Gulik - Janwillem van de Wetering
  77. Rosie - Anne Lamott
  78. Rouge of the North - Chang Ai Ling
  79. Shanghai Refuge, A Memoir of the WWII Jewish Ghetto - Ernest G. Heppner
  80. Shantung Compound - Langdon Gilkey
  81. Singapore & The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao
  82. Sisters and Strangers (Women in the Shanghai Cotton Mills) - Honig
  83. Sisters in the Resistance - Margaret Collins Weitz
  84. Soldiers Alive - Ishikawa Tatsuzo
  85. Strange Tales of Liao Zhai - Tsai Chih Chung
  86. Strangers Always A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai - Rena Krasno
  87. Strong Poison - Dorothy Sayers
  88. Taming the Wind of Desire - Carol Laderman
  89. Tao Te Ching - Ursula K. LeGuin
  90. That Fellow Kanda - AUPE
  91. The Age of Diminished Expectations - Paul Krugman
  92. The Areas of My Expertise - John Hodgman
  93. The Art of Fiction - John Gardner
  94. The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera
  95. The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama
  96. The Bafut Beagles - Gerald Durrell
  97. The Beatitudes - Lyn LeJeune
  98. The Book of Tea - Okakura Kazuko
  99. The Brooklyn Follies - Paul Auster
  100. The Burglar In The Library - Lawrence Block
  101. The Burglar In The Rye - Lawrence Block
  102. The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling - Lawrence Block
  103. The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
  104. The Crippled Tree - Han Suyin
  105. The Death of Woman Wang - Jonathan D. Spence
  106. The Demon-Haunted World - Carl Sagan
  107. The Double Tenth Trial - C. Sleeman, S.C. Sillein, Eds.
  108. The End of the War - Romen Bose
  109. The Family: They Fuck You Up - Granta
  110. The Gift - Lewis Hyde
  111. The Grand Guignol - Mel Gordon
  112. The Life of an Amorous Woman - Saikaku Ihara
  113. The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki
  114. The Malay Archipelago - Alfred Russell Wallace
  115. The Malayan Union Controversy, 1942-1948 - Albert Lau
  116. The Marquis - A Tale of Syonan-To - E.J.H. Corner
  117. The Nanking Massacre - Katsuichi Honda
  118. The Nine Tailors - Dorothy Sayers
  119. The Origins of The Second World War in Asia and the Pacific - Akira Iriye
  120. The Other Side of War - Zainab Salbi, Ed.
  121. The Pacific War - Ienaga Saburo
  122. The Plague - Albert Camus
  123. The Price of Peace - Foong Choon Hon, Ed.
  124. The Rape of Nanking - Iris Chang
  125. The Sabahan: The Life and Death of Tun Fuad Stephens - P.J. Granville-Edge
  126. The Singapore Grip - J.G. Farrell
  127. The Sins of the Fathers - Lawrence Block
  128. The Situation and The Story - Vivian Gornick
  129. The Tin Drum - Gunther Grass
  130. The Unabomber Manifesto - Ted Kaczynski
  131. The War in Malaya - A.E. Percival
  132. The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler
  133. The World of the Shining Prince - Ivan Morris
  134. Three Came Home - Agnes Newton Keith
  135. To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
  136. Tokyo Rose - Masayo Duus
  137. Totto-chan - Kuroyanagi Tetsuko
  138. Travels in Siam - Henri Mouhot
  139. Tripmaster Monkey His Fake Book - Maxine Hong Kingston
  140. Vietnamese Traditional Water Puppetry - Nguyen Huy Hong
  141. War & Memory in Malaysia & Singapore - P. Lim Pui Huen, Diana Wong, Eds.
  142. Woman of the Inner Sea - Thomas Kenneally
  143. Women in the Holocaust - Dalia Ofer, Lenore J. Weitzman, Eds.
  144. Women of China - Bobby Siu
  145. Women, Outcastes, Peasants & Rebels - Kalpana Bardhan
  146. Writers' Workshop in a Book - Cheuse and Alvarez
  147. Writing Fiction - A.B. Guthrie, Jr.
  148. Writing Past Dark - Bonnie Friedman
  149. You'll Die in Singapore - Charles McCormac
  150. Your Memory: A User's Guide - Alan Baddeley
  151. A Choice of Evils - Meira Chand
  152. Force 136:Story of A Resistance Fighter in WWII - Tan Chong Tee
  153. King Rat - James Clavell
  154. Murder on the Verandah - Eric Lawlor
  155. No Dram of Mercy - Sybil Kathigasu
  156. Rehearsal for War - Ban Kah Choon, Yap Hong Kuan
  157. Singa, Lion of Malaya - Gurchan Singh
  158. Singapore The Pregnable Fortress - Peter Elphick
  159. Sinister Twilight - Noel Barber
  160. Sold For Silver - Janet Lim
  161. Syonan - My Story (The Japanese Occupation of Singapore) - Mamoru Shinozaki
  162. The Fall of Shanghai - Noel Barber
  163. The Jungle is Neutral - F. Spencer Chapman
  164. The War Of The Running Dogs - Noel Barber
  165. You'll Never Get Off The Island - Keith Wilson
The books in fuschia I have already read but need to re-read for a current book project.

Out of that enormous number here are the pitiful few we managed to read between the first of February and today:

  1. A Cloistered War - Maisie Duncan

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Excellent read for those interested in the Second World War as it played out in the Pacific. Told by a Eurasian boarder at the CHIJ convent in Singapore, it includes details about the author's life after the war as well.
    Reread? For research purposes maybe.

  2. A Map of the World - Jane Hamilton

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. The subject matter, although deeply disturbing, is not my normal choice of reading fare. The book describes the death of a child (not the protagonist's) and the effect that it has on various people involved. I tend to avoid books about children because they, generally speaking, are just way outside my experience and I don't have any interest in the subject. Plus they tend to be cloying and sentimental, on the whole. And this book is very much about children and mothers and fathers and the like. Nevertheless, the author held my interest for every damned page. A good read, and, as I said before deeply disturbing.
    Reread? Maybe.

  3. A Tagore Reader - Amiya Chakravarty

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This is a very accessible collection of Tagore's essays, short stories, speeches, plays, poems, and extracts from various of his longer works for readers who cannot avail themselves of the original. Although I would have preferred a less eclectic mix, I cannot fault the editor, who has done a noble job throughout. Excellent. I wish there were such a compilation in the original language (which, luckily, I can read).
    Reread? Maybe, time permitting.

  4. Abraham's Promise - Philip Jeyaretnam

    Borrowed? Gift.
    Recommended? Given that the author has all kinds of prestigious academic attachments to his name, I was expecting a much better caliber of book. It's hard to feel any sympathy for the protagonist, who comes off as a really unlikable doddering ancient self-obsessed prick, quite frankly. The writer also throws in various characters along the way but leaves them too ill-limned to allow any real understanding of them or their motivations, self-knowledge, influence upon the protagonist. Sadly, the gay theme has been added as an afterthought, rather like an attempt to dress up an overcooked fowl with a heavy sauce.
    Reread? No. If I could take back the hours spent on reading it the first time, I'd be happy.

  5. Buffalo Gals - Ursula K. LeGuin

    Borrowed? Gift.
    Recommended? I've always been very fond of LeGuin's writing. This little collection of short stories and poems does not disappoint, although I liked Catwings better.
    Reread? Some day, some day.

  6. Burglars can't be Choosers - Lawrence Block

    Borrowed? Yes. Blame the S-person. Retro me, Satanas!

    Recommended? Lawrence Block is a find for me, and quite the treat. This is one of his books in which the protagonist is a professional burglar who runs a bookstore on the side. Delightfully witty dialogue and an intriguing mystery with less blood and guts and more smarts. Read it if you're into mysteries, lesbians, smart women, bookstores, or burglars.
    Reread? Not really unless I need some tips on clever dialogue.

  7. Busman's Honeymoon - Dorothy Sayers

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. Dorothy Sayers is probably one of the best mystery writers that ever lived. The breadth and depth of her knowledge on various arcane subjects (campanology? Yes, campanology!), and Peter Wimsey is, in this particular novel, new-wedded Lord to his bride and Lady, Harriet Vane. Wonderfully unsoppily entertaining.
    Reread? Well, yes. But not till some of the other inhabitants of this damned list have met their due.

  8. Faster - James Gleick

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Probably not. Although the writer makes an interesting case for his argument of an artificially hastened tempo to modern life, he's really not saying anything most of us don't already know and feel pretty resentful about. But do give it to your country cousins if they're particularly out of touch.

  9. Gaudy Night - Dorothy Sayers

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Sayers explores a murder set among the scholars of a women's college and makes some astute observations on the psychological background of a poison-pen who attempts murder. The redoubtable Harriet Vane finds she must call on Lord Peter Wimsey's assistance in solving a mystery, and finds a whole new side of Lord Peter to explore, in addition to mystery and motives therefor.
    Reread? Like I said, already, not till my list has shrunken somewhat.

  10. Have His Carcase - Dorothy Sayers

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Yes. Sayers is always worth reading. In this particular story, she employs an interesting twist which we all "could have thought of" if only we had.
    Reread? Yada yada yada.

  11. In the Midst of Death - Lawrence Block

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Yes.
    Reread? Probably Not.

  12. Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy Sayers

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Only to Sayers aficionados who don't care overly much for the lovely Harriet Vane. Sayers worked in advertising in her early years, although the stuff she talks about in this novel belongs to the early days of the industry. This is not one of her best, having become rather dated due to changing ideas about advertising, morality, and murder.
    Reread? Probably not.

  13. Old Filth - Jane Gardam

    Borrowed? We're not naming the responsible party. Ever.
    Recommended? Highly. Although there's plenty there to annoy anyone who found imperialism and the raj unpalatable, there's also a great deal of charm and insight into the life of Sir Edward Feathers, otherwise known as Old Filth (Failed in London, Try Hongkong).
    Reread? Maybe.

  14. Rouge of the North - Chang Ai Ling

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. I now understand why Ms. Chang commanded such a following once. In this beautiful novel, she brings to life a China now long gone, peopled with colourful characters and language and exposes the mystery of the human heart. Was the butterfly dreaming he was an Emperor, or vice versa? Beautifully written and well worth reading.
    Reread? Only ten thousand books to go.

  15. Strong Poison - Dorothy Sayers

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This is the first of the Lord Peter Wimsey murder mysteries in which Miss Harriet Vane appears. It's not Sayers' best work, but is still highly readable and enjoyable, and liable to fill one with appreciation for Sayers' skill in creating a romance in a murder mystery without any trace of revoltingly cloying emotion. As always, the dialogue of the Dowager Duchess of Denver is believably witty and highly entertaining. And though many accuse Sayers of having fallen in love with her own character, Lord Peter Wimsey is just the sort of feller to inspire such feelings in most female hearts.
    Reread? Probably, for the dialogue, if nothing else.

  16. Tao Te Ching - Ursula K. LeGuin

    Borrowed? Yes. A different, but nevertheless unnameable, maledictor.
    Recommended? No. I really wish Western writers would not attempt to explain Eastern spiritualism. Haven't they ever heard the old saw, "That which can be explained is not the X," where X may be replaced with any spirituality of Eastern flavour that one chooses? Perhaps that's just my own prejudice, but I did not find this work particularly enlightening. Especially since Blofeld's definitive translation is probably closer to the original, though not without its detractors. In the event, I read it.
    Reread? No.

  17. The Age of Diminished Expectations - Paul Krugman

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For students of the economic history of the 1990s; economists; historians; and the like. Krugman is an excellent writer and possesses a clarity that is very helpful to one without a PhD in Economics.
    Reread? No.

  18. The Burglar In The Library - Lawrence Block

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Yes. It's good.
    Reread? Not likely.

  19. The Burglar In The Rye - Lawrence Block

    Borrowed? I'm not telling.
    Recommended? Yes. Block is witty, funny, and his mysteries are well-constructed, with more depth and character(s?) than one expects from this genre.
    Reread? Ten thousand, we say.

  20. The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling - Lawrence Block

    Borrowed? She-Who-Must-Remain-Unnamed (But Obeyed).
    Recommended? Oh, yes.
    Reread? Not likely. Same odds as previous book

  21. The Grand Guignol - Mel Gordon

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This is an interesting little book on the history of horror theater. It's pretty niche reading, and not for the weak of stomach. That said, it's fascinating for theater buffs, horror movie fans, and, of course, the sick and twisted.
    Reread? Not likely.

  22. The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. This is a stately, beautifully written novel of life in pre-War Japan and the fall of a once-powerful family. Tanizaki is an observant writer. The novel flows rather like an Ozu film, slow, graceful, full of symbolism. Sad, yet enjoyable.
    Reread? Not likely.

  23. The Marquis - A Tale of Syonan-To - E.J.H. Corner

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For scientists, anti-war activists, historians, Japanophiles, and their ilk. Corner was a botanist living in Singapore and Malaya around the time WWII broke out. He was fortunate to encounter several Japanese scientists and the Last Lord of the Tokugawa line who saw their mission as the preservation of scientific records rather than the imposition of Japanese imperialistic ambitions. If science held sway in the world, what could we not hope for? No wonder the superstitious, ignorant, and stupid oppose it.
    Reread? For research purposes only, I promise (Bah!).

  24. The Nine Tailors - Dorothy Sayers

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This is one of Sayers' best in that it displays her astonishing knowledge of such an arcane subject as campanology (bell-ringing). The prose is rich with description of the foggy, waterlogged lands in which she spent her early life. A great read, for the interested.
    Reread? Well, yes, but not till after ten thousand more books have been des-, as it were, patched.

  25. The Sins of the Fathers - Lawrence Block

    Borrowed? From that unnameable person who is my fondestly adored reading and writing partner.
    Recommended? Yes and yes again, although the subject is rather disturbing.
    Reread? Not likely.

  26. Vietnamese Traditional Water Puppetry - Nguyen Huy Hong

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? To those interested in the arts, culture, history, drama, Vietnam, puppetry, and the like. Rather technical but a thoroughly enjoyable book. It made me want to fly to Vietnam, gimpy leg and all, just to witness a performance.
    Reread? Not likely.

  27. Woman of the Inner Sea - Thomas Kenneally

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Kenneally is an excellent writer, of that there is no doubt. This is an interesting, odd novel. For one thing, he obscures the tragedy that befell his protagonist to an incomprehensible extent. Perhaps that's for reasons of pace, but I found it a tad frustrating. Still, it's well worth reading, and richly evocative of Australian culture, history, politics, and the like, as well as the age-old themes of love and loss and pain, universal values.
    Reread? Not likely.

  28. Writing Fiction - A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A good starting point for writers. Concise.
    Reread? Regularly, I'm sure.


Ms. Manitoba said...

I'm dying to meet this
"She Who Cannot Be Named But Must Be Obeyed" ... she sounds like an interesting beast.

Ms. Manitoba said...

Hey, Art and Fear isn't listed ... I thought you read that in the last couple of months? Maybe you have it reviewed in a previous list? I really wanted to see your comments ... maybe I'll go digging in the archives ... off I go ...

ThePoliticalCat said...

Yah, I think it's either January or Feb. I read it before and then reread it on my trip.