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Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Date read: 3 – 14 April 2018.

I got this book during a bookstore promotion. I have been meaning to read this classic and now I have finally got the opportunity.

Usual warning applies, spoilers ahead. Although… for this book, even if you knew the plot or how things turns out, you could always enjoy it. That’s how much entertaining this book is. At least for me.

My notes:

  1. Atticus is always right.
    I don’t know how he does it. He is a role model for parents. I wish I could follow his way someday if I have kids (which I doubt gonna happen :P). Nowadays there are so many parenting advice available, people preaching over their social media and even though the points they are highlighting are right but the tones.. dear God, so condescending. Atticus set an example simply by doing and did not go around telling other people how to raise their kids.

  2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here
    At some point of this book, I was afraid that I would not like it. We are peeping the lives of Maycomb people through a little girl’s eyes. A very smart girl but still a kid nonetheless and it limits us only to glimpses about the meaty case in the background. I was afraid that it would end up like a book by Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which tells the stories in similar way but does it from the first page to last without ever telling us what the hot event in the background once. It was a newer book but I have read that one first. I rated Patrick Ness’ book as 5 but it’s not a writing style that I’d like to read twice in 5 or maybe 20 years. Fortunately with To Kill a Mockingbird, as pages goes by, it gets better, we are getting a good seat in the court, and we have the luxury to fully understand what is going on.

  3. Well maybe…
    When I said ‘fully understand’, it comes with the little stars that are terms and conditions. For me, it was having internet and previous readers with all their questions (and answers!) and buddy read (read this book together with a good friend of mine). The limited perception, especially the end part of this book, sometimes gave me a blurry scene and I needed to consult both internet and friend for confirmation. It’s not a bad thing because a) the portion is good. If it’s too much I think I would get lost. b) Scout is a wonderful narrator. She is sincere, intelligent, and can think for herself.

  4. People of Maycomb
    They are perfect, not in a sense that they are successful, beautiful, kind-hearted, and all of the good adjectives people. They are perfect for the story. They are so perfect that I wanted to hate them but I can’t. They are instruments that makes this story sings. They are the one of many reasons why I close this book with a satisfying sigh.

  5. The other reasons
    I applaud the courage to bring up racial issue that was still happening in the time of publication. (Yes, the fight is not over yet but our days are clearly better than the 1960s and before). Perhaps it is wise to choose telling the story from a child’s perspective because they are still pure.

    I laughed so many times reading this book, I got my heart broken when Dill cried at the court (what a gentle soul), I admired Jem, Atticus, and Cal, I was entertained again and again by Scout’s dictions and determinations. I was glad she was brought up so well that in the end she reminded her father not to kill a mockingbird.

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

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Written by Elfira Y S

April 15th, 2018 at 8:01 pm

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Review: The Songs of Distant Earth

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The Songs of Distant EarthThe Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Date read: 27 January – 4 February 2018

I picked this book as an introduction to Sir Arthur C Clarke because a) It is not a series b) Wiki says that it’s the author’s favourite. I had high expectation and honestly a little bit scared that I would be a convert, that I would prefer him than my current favourite of the big three, Isaac Asimov (I haven’t read any of Heinlein’s books).

And I was no traitor. Until half of the book I was the loyal Asimov fan. It was not bad, it just seemed ordinary. It made me wonder whether I should have gone with his other book.

Starting the second half, I started to appreciate the way the story was told. If it was a drawing, i think it would be a dotted picture. There’s a tiny gap between chapters which I find enjoyable.

One part of the story told about how most men would abandon religion in 2400ish because the great good it had done being eclipsed by greater evils. Now I’m wondering if there’s any sf works that portrays good thing about religion in the space travel time. Because I only remember the religious extremist group in second book of Honor Harrington series. I have read The Left Hand of Darkness, would there be some there? I don’t remember, should reread the book.

Coming to the end, really, it is only near the end of the book I realize that I love many things in this book:

  • how the story could be told in form of imaginative dialogue to the dead wife
  • the idea of how human grow as a race where there’s no God introduced from the beginning (the Talassan are very peaceful)
  • the idea of meeting fellow human from another centuries through indirect time travel
  • the heartbreaking end that seems really appropriate

Though I’m not a convert, my love for Clarke had grown to a four star and a promise to read his other books.

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Written by Elfira Y S

February 9th, 2018 at 10:00 pm

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Review: This Is The Way The World Ends

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This Is the Way the World EndsThis Is the Way the World Ends by James K. Morrow My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my Big Bad Wolf’s haul. No special reason on why I chose to read this book first. If there must be one, it could be the title. If there must be two reasons, it could be that I’d like to get to know more new-to-me authors this year.

Date read: 9 – 27 January 2018

Anyway, here is my notes on this book:

  • The beginning is very funny. Usually I feel a bit bored reading the introduction part but I think Morrow knows how to entertain the readers while building the story.
  • I notice the further unto the story it gets more serious. It doesn’t lose its humor but it’s like I was offered another focus, another things to enjoy. At some points it even raises interesting points for debates and discussion if you want to.
  • I love the idea of unadmitted future and invalidated past. And I love the trial. Awesome ideas.
  • Towards the end, I feel like it could stop at several points and called it the end and I would feel it’s finished. Depending on where it stops, I would feel triumph, sad, more sad, weird, face-palming, and devastated. I think this is the part where I decided to rate this book 4 (instead of 5).
  • I feel like I’m missing something in the epilogue because I’m not familiar with Notradamus.

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Written by Elfira Y S

January 29th, 2018 at 9:51 pm

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Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book because Book Depository offered where-have-you-been-10%-discount and this book is a classic and they have made this into a TV series with a pretty good rating.

Date Read: 21 – 31 December 2017

My notes (full of spoilers ahead):

  • I love how this book limits how we perceive a dystopian system, only through the handmaid’s eyes and later by the “colder” perception of historians.
  • I wish to know the timeline of when the Gilead was formed. Offred was only 35 years old at the time and the “normal” days were like a very distant past. How did it happen so fast?
  • When Offred felt terrified and realized how powerful the government was, I can’t help but remember 1984 by George Orwell. I didn’t intend to compare but there’s an instant thought that Big Brother is scarier, maybe because there’s horrifying torture happened before the character accepted the Big Brother.
  • When the historian presented who they thought was Offred’s Commander, I was quite surprised that the options are one of Gilead architects. When Offred described him in her story, he didn’t seem that “evil”, just someone who did their job very well. And how the Commander treated Offred, with the Scrabble, magazines, and taking her to the club, what was that? Did he not know his idea helped build a horrible system which he himself did not like its implementation? Or did he just miss parts of the past and since he had power, he might as well enjoy it? Did the historian guess incorrectly? Maybe they were not Offred’s Commander.
  • The sentences are so well written that makes me want to read more Atwood’s books.

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Written by Elfira Y S

January 1st, 2018 at 7:09 am

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Review: The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling

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The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sci-Fi Indonesia group in Goodreads chose Ted Chiang’s works for buddy read this month. So far Ted Chiang has only written short stories or novelettes. The group chose 3 of them and this one here is not in the list. Those 3 are The Merchant and The Alchemist’s Gates, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, and Stories of Your Life and Others (which will be coming to theater soon). I only have read Merchant and Lifecycle so far because both are available in the wonderful world of internet. Stories is still on the way to my shelf.

And I can’t help it, I’m hooked, I’m thirsty for more Ted Chiang’s works so I find anything I can find fast. The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling is available on Subterranean Online.

This story is about how how human keep history, the truth of their story. It takes place in two periods with quite some years between them.

One in far (?) future where mankind have managed to invent a device to wear and capture every seconds of our life with feature to search and view past digital memories, called Remem (me: because you will always “remember” everything). One in the opposite direction of time, where a young man named Jijingi from an African tribe, the Tiv tribe, learned to read and write for the first time from their fellow human from Europe.

Things I remember from The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling:

    • Ted Chiang’s works reminds me of Isaac Asimov a bit. That bit is that both of them have one clear topic/idea and then present it from various points of view in such a satisfying way.
    • I never thought about how it is to learn to read. I understand the frustration of not being able to read in other languages but I don’t really remember the transition from being illiterate to being able to recognize the alphabets and later understand words, sentences, and stories. My childhood amnesia robs me of the chance to hold dear that memory. But Ted Chiang offers it in the story of a Tiv young man who got curious in the paper and the “drawing” in it and had the missionary teach him to read and write.
    • What makes me really want to remember how it was like when learning to read/write is when reading about Jijingi slowly understanding about the usage of space. How he at first didn’t get why we separate words with space because we surely don’t stop speaking for each words when speaking.
    • Also, when he first wondered why Moseby, the missionary, needed to write down his preach, why not just talk? I never question that. As far as I can remember, writing down what we want to say before we say it (especially in important events like presentation and such) is clearly useful.
    • But that brings me to the other story. If I have a chance to use Remem and play the video of my younger years, will I find different truth? Will I actually see myself ever ask a friend or a teacher about why it’s good to write before speaking? I say most certainly not! I’m quite sure.
    • The Dad in the other story also has that same level of certainty. It is a fact for him that her daughter once accused him as the reason the Mom left. Guess what he found when he played with Remem? The truth, of course.
    • By the time I read that part, I feel like I’m forced to stop and notice the title. Well, of course. Then, comes this quote:
On the one side are the truths of fact, on the other the truth of the writer’s feeling, and where the two coincide cannot be decided by any outside authority in advance.
  • And when I start admiring the usefulness of Remem and, exactly like the Dad, push down my skepticism and favor one truth over the other, the Tiv way surfaces and argues differently. And I can’t, I can’t say that they are wrong.
Our language has two words for what in your language is called ‘true.’ There is what’s right, mimi, and what’s precise, vough. In a dispute the principals say what they consider right; they speak mimi. The witnesses, however, are sworn to say precisely what happened; they speak vough. When Sabe has heard what happened can he decide what action is mimi for everyone.
  • I don’t believe that this is a novella! It’s so rich! I read others commented that Ted Chiang’s ideas are so awesome that they don’t care about plot or character and that’s also the reason he hasn’t produced any writing longer than novella (yet). Yes, I guess that’s true.
  • I enjoy the Merchant, I enjoy Lifecycle but this one is my favorite so far.

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Written by Elfira Y S

September 23rd, 2016 at 5:00 pm

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Review: Railsea

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Railsea Railsea by China Miéville My rating: 4 of 5 stars

List of things that I remember from Railsea:

  • Lesson learned: I should choose the ebook version for my next Mieville book so that the dictionary is just one or two click away.
  • It was not until the fifth chapter that I could adapt to Mieville’s writing style. The out-of-my-range vocabulary is one of the reason but I’m not sure it’s the only reason.
  • What kept me going is that somehow even with that limitation, the words translate into a beautiful 2D Japanese anime style in my mind. The world is portrayed in mostly brown colour (even if it doesn’t fit the actual description in the book because I misunderstand it or something :P). So I kept on following Sham’s mind & journey.
  • & I’m glad I did. The sixth chapter is my favorite. I can understand why he had the urge to save the bird & then cause his train mates to chase him. The dull & lost feeling Sam had leads into this one scene where he just felt enough & submitted to his instinct. Grab the bird & run! Oh, it was beautiful.
  • The word “philosophy” in this book makes me wonder. I never see the word used this way and I like it. The captains of the train usually have a philosophy and it most likely means a certain creature, an archenemy, that they will hunt earnestly.
  • I very much enjoy the “rest” chapters, the one page chapters placed between longer ones. They are usually written slightly out of story but still related, like a little footnote but in form of a short chapter & they complete the story, you know, like why there is only ampersand (&) sign in the story.
  • I didn’t expect the story at the end, the one isolated town at the end of the railsea, with their own myth. I’m not sure why after how long it is, years, centuries, epochs, the factory-town people do not venture outside. I don’t understand why they keep believing outside people will pay their debt. I imagine their area is quite small, nobody ever want to see what’s out there? Even if there’s angel guarding the bridge. Wait, did any of them even have the chance to see the bridge? Poor people.

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Written by Elfira Y S

September 22nd, 2016 at 12:03 pm

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Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was in a reading slump, had been for several months, when I picked this book. This latest English translation Murakami novel was not my first attempt to get me back to finishing this year reading challenge. I had tried several books but only this one I could finish.

My review may contain spoilers.


I still enjoy Murakami’s work. Although Colorless (the whole title is just too long :P) is not on my top 3 Murakami books, his fiction and non-fiction (I’m halfway reading — have been for more than a year — his autobiography, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) have always this peaceful nuance, at least to my mind. Does anybody else feel this way too?

When I started turning on page one, I knew only part of the big story. Tsukuru Tazaki is the main character who has four close friends from high school who all have color as part of their name. You know, like having friends called Danny Blue or Jack Black.

They were black, blue, red, white and Tsukuru Tazaki. The only one without color, the colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

I tend to shut out any information about books that I might have interest to read so I missed the next part of the synopsis which is that when they are in college, those “color” friends of Tsukuru Tazaki suddenly cut their relationships with him. Without explanation.


If I took time to read the whole synopsis, I think I’d read this book. sooner. But that part of ther story became apparent quite early and that was actually the reason I got hooked and could not stop reading. Because I wanted to know how he would deal with losing big part of his life.

Ok, I don’t really remember how exactly Murakami paints how painful it is for Tsukuru Tazaki but I remember that I got it and it’s heart wrenching.

When he couldn’t stand the pain, he distanced himself from his body and, from a nearby, painless spot, observed Tsukuru Tazaki enduring the agony. If he concentrated really hard, it wasn’t impossible.


And after months, Tsukuru Tazaki survived. He could move on and continue with his life. He’s getting better. But the baggage remained heavy and with him until he was thirty something.

Honestly around this part, the more pages I turned, the less I could relate myself to this introvert main character and finally I disengaged and just enjoyed the story.

Perhaps I actually still put myself in his shoes, became numb just like him. He lived but not really lived.


And I guess many people live that way, with unresolved issues that they  thought they had put behind them. Until for some, at one point they just couldn’t run away anymore. For Tsukuru Tazaki, it took about almost 20 years to arrive at that point.

It was because of a woman. I am not sure I approve (who am I?). It’s just that I could not feel what makes this woman so special. Sure, he liked her more than any of her previous girls (which not even have their names mentioned), but I just could not grasp the reason.

Is it a translation issue? If I knew Japanese, would I appreciate more how Murakami grant this woman her right to push Tsukuru Tazaki out of his misery?


And as it is with almost all Murakami works that I have read, most of the characters are well off. Financially they seem never to have problem. They almost always are all good in their job. Or they do not possess desire for worldly things, they are content with what they get (but still able to travel around the world or locally but for a very long time).

Can you smell envy? Ha.

Anyway, when the past started to unravel itself, Tsukuru Tazaki (and I) found that it’s not only him that has been hurting. The reason behind his alienation was horrifying and I’d understand why it had to happen.

If only they care to explain to Tazaki sooner. Can you imagine for almost twenty years you thought that you were being treated unfairly and not knowing that it was for the greater good? I mean Tazaki would definitely feel better if he knew! Maybe not right away, but twenty years is a very long time.

I know, I know. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ok, I’ll stop quoting Ecclesiastes 3.


There’s the fifth “color” friend of Tsukuru Tazaki. He appeared in Tazaki’s college years, I think, as a filler. Appropriately named as grey, mixture of black and white.

For me this character serves as an emphasis that all color person will eventually leave Tazaki. He just (at that time felt that he) did not deserve them. Although he’s a filler, I think his story was craftily put by Murakami-sensei.

All Good Things Come To An End

Reading this novel makes me think growing up suck. Somewhere along the way, terrible things happen and it gets harder and harder to be happy (or maybe it’s just me? Ungrateful spoiled human being).

What might come across as being happy could actually be acceptance of how life has broken us all. Be that as it may, I’m glad that Murakami chose a happy ending.

Tsukuru Tazaki, hesitant at first, started giving his past another look. Though it’s not a comfortable journey, the closure is enabling him to free his soul and change him.

He was one who believed he was as colorless as his name, one who just accepted whatever life had thrown him, who just went with the flow. In the end he started to have a will to fight, to not just let go what could be a precious thing to him, to once again, really live.

In the end, all is good.

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Written by Elfira Y S

October 4th, 2014 at 9:08 pm

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Review: Cloud Atlas

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Cloud Atlas Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


It’s beautifully written and if it was a map, a treasure map, to my eyes it would have so many X letters in it.

Though I’ve been avoiding spoilers from the movie and reviews, I knew there was going to be multiple characters with different stories from different period of time. And I think (Sir) David Mitchell has taken it as an opportunity to show his mastership of a true wordsmith through his characters, plots, and the weave and thread that make it as one whole story.

List of things that I remember from Cloud Atlas:

  • This sentence from the first page of the book: “If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote, that one may there resort unchallenged by an Englishman, ’tis not down on any map I ever saw.”
  • Robert Frobisher character. I watched the movie, right after finishing the book. They change him and his story in the movie (that’s understandable though) but I will always prefer the book version of this young composer. I’m having difficulties to explain why I like this character but if I can take a guess maybe it’s because I want to be like him. I want to write letters (or email/blog ) like the way he did. I want to deal with life like the way he viewed and dealt with whatever life had thrown him. But uhm not that one particular preference of his, mind you. And not definitely that one decision of his.
  • It’s rich. Well, given that it has 6 mini story lines in it, we might expect that. But things can go wrong with author having too many stories in his head. It could be delicious of course, like one of those desserts or meals that has all our favorite stuffs in it. So delicious but unhealthy. Cloud Atlas is delicious and healthy, perfect portion.
  • David Mitchell slips explanation about what this book is about.  He did a remarkable job at showing part of “show, don’t tell” but he also had an amazing “tell”, a very neat one. Someday if I reread this book I hope I would find another tell. From this first reading I remember a part when Frobisher told Sixsmith about the Cloud Atlas sextet that he was working on.
Spent the fortnight gone in the music room, reworking my year’s fragments into a “sextet for overlapping soloists”: piano, clarinet, ‘cello, flute, oboe, and violin, each in its own language of key, scale, and color.
  • I adore different language styles each main character uses in Cloud Atlas with exception of Timothy Cavendish. Reading his first part revoked me a headache. Even Zachry’s overly-abundant usage of single quote did not offend me as much as Cavendish’s narration haha, don’t know why.

Aaah, it’s one satisfying read. I borrow this book from a friend and will certainly get myself a copy for a reread.


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Written by Elfira Y S

February 23rd, 2014 at 6:24 pm

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Review: Tears of the Giraffe

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Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I borrowed it from Adhit. I chose this book from his list because I wanted something light and fresh. Fresh means that I haven’t read the synopsis or anything that can lead me to knowing what the book is all about.

I got something fresh indeed. The book introduces me to Botswana through the eyes of Mma Ramotswe, Mr. J.L.B Matekoni and several other characters. It is not a pure detective story because it mixes the case with personal life of the lady detective and people around her. That, I think, is one of the difference with the other novel books in which the detective does not seem to have a life outside solving cases after cases.

Though that point makes this book closer to reality, I still don’t know where I stand on the pure heart of good people of Botswana. The good people seem flawless, kind-hearted, and polite even in their mind. It could be that I am one who’s corrupted, can easily get selfish thoughts creeping in my mind. It could be that the Botswana’s good values are deeply rooted in the heart of her people. Of that, I’d like to know more.

I actually wanted to go to the Book Depository and ordered all thirteen books in this series after reading about 20 pages. But I am aware I can be impulsive so I decided to wait until I have finished reading. And now that I have, I’m happily waiting for four books of these series flying home to my shelve. :D

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Written by Elfira Y S

September 29th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

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Gone With The Wind, Part 2

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I actually read the 9 chapters in part 2 faster than part 1 and this post has been sitting as a draft for a week! But first, thanks again to mbak Fanda at Fanda Classiclit blog for hosting this read along. I’ve enjoyed reading the update posts of other participants and I’m guessing this read along will not be the last on my reading life.


Spoiler alert~

Written by Elfira Y S

September 29th, 2012 at 11:30 am

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