Posted on: Tuesday, January 2, 2018 @ 1:47 PM | 0 comment(s)
What I read in 2017:
Happy new year! 2017 sure came and went in the blink of an eye.
This year was supposed to be my year of mostly freedom, since I only had two classes in the first semester to complete before graduation, and then the rest of the year was for myself to rest, relax and prepare postgrad applications. Because I assumed 2017 would be the year for myself, and that I’d have more time than ever this year, I chose to set a larger reading goal of 45 books. SURELY, I thought, SURELY I could read 45 books in the midst of my freedom.
…guess how I did?
As usual. Once again, for the sixth consecutive year over all six years I’ve attempted a reading goal. And in the one year where technically, logically I should have the highest chance of success. Moreover, this year, I actually read THE LEAST books in a year than ever before. Oh, the bitter irony.
Well, anyway, let’s talk about the books. In 2017, I read a measly 24 books out of my desired 45.
1. The Lonely Polygamist – Brady Udall
2. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling
3. The Scarlet Pimpernel – Emmuska Orczy
4. Naomi – Junichiro Tanizaki
5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. A Perfect Crime – A Yi
7. The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami
8. The truth about love – Josephine Hart
9. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
10. Lust, Caution and Other Stories – Eileen Chang
11. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
12. Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson
13. The Reconstructionist – Josephine Hart
14. Laurinda – Alice Pung*
15. Five Star Billionaire – Tash Aw
16. Life in Outer Space – Melissa Keil*
17. The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
18. Liar – Justine Larbalestier*
19. Revenge – Yoko Ogawa
20. The Wangs vs. the World – Jade Chang
21. Daisy Miller – Henry James
22. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
23. The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
24. The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
No real stand-out books this year. There were a fair amount of decent and solid reads, but looking over this list, I can’t honestly say there were any exceptionally strong books for me this year.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was laughable at best. I refuse to see it as a canonical sequel because I find it so lacking and inadequate compared to the quality of the original series. The new characters- the new generation and the children of the original cast- are the strongest point but they are unfortunately neglected and underdeveloped in favour of pursuing a ludicrous and unforgivably stupid storyline.
Life in Outer Space was the worst book I read this year, if not one of the worst I have had the misfortune to come across. I let out my anger by writing a mean review already, so all I have to say is that it is shallow, juvenile, embarrassing and basically a terrible waste of paper. Very disappointing.
The Screwtape Letters was quite enjoyable to read. I knew it was theological commentary presented in the form of a fable or a parody, but it actually went more in depth than expected, and really brought up all the complex feelings and struggles of living as a Christian, and addressed the delicate and hard-to-explain dangers and inclines towards sin.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle was intriguing in its dark concept and execution, it creates the atmosphere of isolation, victimization and danger well. The Importance of Being Earnest is good, simple fun.
I’d have to say The Reconstructionist and Revenge were the better books I read this year. The Reconstructionist was a strangely slow-paced story, but somewhat fascinating in that it created a feeling of discomfort underneath, and kept you digging and thinking about the secrets and the truth behind the narrator. There was also something strangely soft and poetic about the language and atmosphere it created, even in the final reveals- it felt like a distant fairy tale or dream and I think it was this atmosphere that stuck with me in the end.
Revenge is an amazing collection of short stories, and each one is so well-constructed, and all of them are tightly and carefully woven together. This is one of the strongest short story collections I have read, and it is definitely the best Yoko Ogawa work I have read. Hotel Iris wasn’t that impressive and The Housekeeper and the Professor was an absolute bore. But Revenge was great in that it brings multiple perspectives and a varied cast of interesting characters together, with the constant mystery hanging over your head. It gives you a sense of unrest and discomfort, and the language reeks of sinister thoughts and doings. With the complicated connection and relationship between each story and character, it also has high reread value, so I’d like to come back to it in a few years with a fresh and deeper analysis.
So that’s all for 2017.
For 2018, I’m adjusting my reading goal to a hopefully achievable 35. Let’s see if after seven years, I might finally complete it!
I’ve also been going through some personal tough times right now since the end of last year, but since I don’t like to write about my personal feelings, I’d like to persevere in my own way and come out of it when and if God so desires. I know I’ll get through it and I know I will be okay in the near future. So whether it be reading, or in other areas of my life, I’m hoping that next year I’ll have made it through and in 2018 I can tell you all about it with a smile.
Until then I guess! (Still don’t like blogging, so you are only ever guaranteed this one yearly post that is mainly about books)
Hope you all have a happy new year in 2018!
Posted on: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 @ 12:20 AM | 0 comment(s)
my complicated relationship with creative pursuits.
Recently on twitter, I was asked to share some facts about myself and I took the chance to finally lay out how I feel towards my two often conflicting passions of writing and art. It was good for me to recount and sort through this complicated history and see it all succinctly explained in within 140 character limits, so I thought I'd post it here too.
It seems that I've really had a long complicated journey chasing my passions and it will probably continue in this way into the future. I don't know, it's still hard to analyze myself and how I feel and what I'm like as a person. What do I really like to do, what do I prefer, what am I most compelled to do, what can't I give up. The only thing I know for sure is that as complex as my relationship with writing and art is, I can't give them up, or rather, they won't give me up. I'll probably keep writing and drawing and telling stories and battling this conflicting relationship to the very end.
(It also seems that I really do like writing things in lists. Short and to the point twitter has been good for someone like me who doesn't particularly enjoy writing proper blog posts.)
Posted on: Monday, April 3, 2017 @ 10:42 PM | 0 comment(s)
a really long work process.
Recently, I finally finished an illustration (of my beloved boyband haha) that I've been working on for an incredibly long time.
I've always sketched and drawn lineart directly onto my watercolour paper, so it obviously meant all the changes, errors and subsequent erasing affected the quality of my paper when I finally started painting. So it was really about time that I improved my work process, and sketched and finalized the lineart before transferring it. Since I changed up my work process a bit and made full use of my lightbox this time, I thought I'd take some photos along the way.
Here are some scans of the picture across its four separate stages: rough layout, rough sketch (blue pencil) with lineart, final lineart and final colour.
I could really feel the difference in my final lineart, like it was much cleaner and more deliberate, but adding an extra step really prolongs the work process and the extra time took quite a toll on my patience. However, I did enjoy that I can sketch and make changes with a lot more freedom when I draft and create the lineart on plain paper first. That being said, even with a lightbox, it's not particularly easy to trace the lineart onto the final paper because my watercolour paper is quite thick and the original lineart's become more messy (in exchange for freedom). So in conclusion, it seems that creating lineart will still remain the most cumbersome and painful part of the painting process for me.
The final product as well, is far from what I imagined and I struggled a lot with the scanning and colour correction at the end. I feel like although I'm never at a loss for ideas and images that I want to bring to life, I'm often faced with the frustrating reality of not having the ability to truly create what I want. That's always really frustrating, but I've been improving at being quick to accept that this is the best I can do at the moment, and I will get better next time. So rather than dwelling on my own criticism and inabilities, I want to believe that this was another learning opportunity and that I can improve from it.
This year, since I only have a few classes before I graduate, I'm really hoping that I can dedicate a lot of time to drawing and improving my art. I'll also hopefully be tabling at two cons this year, and that's always really exciting and motivating for me. Since I'm planning to go into postgrad in the future, I think that the free time I have this year will be the best and maybe the last opportunity for me to put so much time and effort into my art. So for the rest of 2017, I'll keep doing my best for as long as I can!!
Posted on: Sunday, January 8, 2017 @ 10:32 PM | 0 comment(s)
What I read in 2016:
Happy new year!
Before I knew it, another year was over. I’m still not sure what this blog is for, since I really don’t think I like blogging much. That’s why it will remain this mostly empty page with occasional spouts of nonsense and contemplation as I feel like it.
This year I was super determined to FINALLY HIT MY READING GOAL FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!! I kept the same goal as last year, a pretty reasonable 40. BUT I STILL COULDN’T DO IT!! Actually, early in the year I was doing really well, I was going at a very good pace and was a few books ahead. And I was thinking, wow! This is actually working? Maybe after 4 years of failure, I’ll finally reach my reading goal for the first time!! But alas, it wasn’t to be.
My reading stopped entirely at August, when my honours workload and thesis started to hit hard. The next few months were thesis-writing hell and I basically wanted to die the whole time until the thesis was due and I still wanted to die for like the next week afterwards. Anyway, I didn’t get to resume my reading till November, but by then it was too late to catch up. I spent most of December in Japan too, so not much reading happening while I was busy having fun and trying to erase the traumatising honours year from my mind hahaha. So in the end, I ended up with only 30 books for the year of 2016.
Favourite and stand-out books for the year are bolded and Australian authors marked with an asterisk. There were also a few solid books this year that I thought had admirable qualities, but did not quite hit “favourite or stand-out”. I’ll comment on those a little later, but for now, here are the 30 books I read in 2016:
Overall comments and ramblings:
Other Words for Love was a cute and decent book and held my interest, but in the end felt a bit lacking, as it didn’t seem to really drive the point home and was a bit shaky in certain parts. What stood out to me the most though, was that the writing voice was very solid. The first-person narrator voice was subtle and nuanced in just the right way to evoke enough sympathy yet also maintain a good distance. It didn’t feel heavy or forceful, and it didn’t seem presumptuous or self-centred as if forcing the reader to sympathise with the protagonist, which I think is a common danger in first-person writing. I also thought that the family dynamics and the relationships between the characters were really well done, the tension and hidden bitterness within each conversation and action was very well portrayed.
I was really interested in the legendary trashy book Flowers in the Attic, so I had to give it a go this year. In the end, it was honestly an easy read and quite enjoyable in that trashy kind of way. I can see why it has a legendary status, because the plotline is honestly so farfetched and reaching, but that’s exactly what makes it dramatic and fun to read. It’s basically all cheap thrills, disbelief and slight horror in the progression of events and so it’s very readable. It’s no amazing piece of literature and it won’t impact you deeply in any way, but it is definitely readable and fun.
I also feel like I need to say something about Ten Mile River. The plot and characters were very raw and hard-hitting, which I liked, and the language and speech used in the book really added to that. To me, there’s something poignant and tragic in this story, although it doesn’t quite seem to own that, and it just sort of floats awkwardly there in the end.
The worst books of the year were The Perfume Collector and The Chaperone. It makes me feel angry just thinking about them. Taipei was also incredibly hard to get through. Books that I had high expectations for based on plotline and reception but ultimately dissappointed me were Our Happy Time and Forgive me, Leonard Peacock.
My favourite book of the year was definitely Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X. Even though I’ve read a fair share of Japanese crime fiction, this one stands out because of how differently it’s structured. It’s fascinating because from the beginning, the reader sees and follows the suspects’ perspective rather than the detective’s. This crime novel works backwards in that we know the crime and how it occurred, but what we don’t know until the very end is how the crime is hidden. Furthermore, the characters embroiled in the crime are all unique and well-crafted, they’re interesting and have clear personalities, instincts and intentions. And even while the reveal occurs, The Devotion of Suspect X adds extra depth into why suspect X acts the way they do, and it’s honestly a bit heartbreaking and leaves an impression long after you close the book. And that kind of “a bit heartbreaking and leaves an impression” is exactly the type of story I love to read!!
Anyway, 2017 is going to be my year of freedom (somewhat)! (To be honest, any year after that horrible honours torture will feel like freedom haha) Apart from my final undergrad courses and some clinical experience, I’ll have a lot more time on my hands this year so I’m going to aim a little higher for 45 books this time! Tune in next year to see if I finally manage to hit my reading goal or if I will be met with failure again hahaha! !
I wish you all a wonderful 2017 and hope you all have many great books to read this year that are a little bit heartbreaking and leave you with an impression afterwards! :’)
Posted on: Saturday, March 26, 2016 @ 1:39 PM | 0 comment(s)
My favourite things
Jesus, church, Tehillah, Arashi, Ohno Satoshi, the Australian Open, Andy Murray, Oreo McFlurries, meaningful conversations, Australian young adult fiction, the book of Ecclesiastes, airports, Hong Kong, train rides, libraries, collecting CDs, writing stories, people-watching, youth ministry, Fullkawa Honpo, watercolours, utaite covers of Vocaloid songs, hoarding packaging materials, writing lists.