Andrea Hirata

My 2015 in Books

It’s that time of the year again! Here’s a brief review of all the books I read in 2015:

1. Crazy Rich series by Kevin Kwan
It consists of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Crazy Rich Girlfriend”. It talks about these super duper rich Asian families that compete with each other, who’s richer than who. I don’t know if I should call this a guilty pleasure, because it’s just pleasure, living vicariously through these Richie Riches. The characters are a bit flat, but I don’t mind, because in the end what matters is the extravaganza and the lavish way they spend money. It’s pretty much a mild social commentary on rich Singaporeans and Chinese. The most interesting part is, Kevin Kwan actually visited the expensive places for research. I hope the royalty pays him well.

2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I was looking for a light and simple novel to read, so why not a teen romance? This book was referred a lot in pop sites, it was a natural choice. I guess the story is not bad. How Park and Eleanor came to fall in love with each other is not convincing enough though.

3. Delirium series by Lauren Oliver
It consists of “Delirium”, “Pandemonium”, and “Requiem”. Again, I was missing some good YA action and desperate to read a good one. I’d been seeing this series in a lot of places, so I decided to read it. It has everything a YA story usually has, but the whole fighting-for-love thing falls a bit cheesy for me. It’s not as epic as I hoped it would be.

4. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt
I love this book to bits, not only because I’m a Google fangirl, but it also offers new perspective on how to run a company effectively. Of course, they only could get away with it, because they have a lot of resources in Google, but we still can learn a thing or two from them, especially on breakthrough recruitment method.

5. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Overall, it’s an ok book. It’s sweet, because on the surface it’s about books and bookstores, but not much so. There’s also a touch of technology (ie. Google) on their quest to decipher centuries old codes hidden in books.

6. Koala Kumal (Dirty Koala) by Raditya Dika
I’ve always read his book. I used to think he had interesting insights. But this latest release of his is a disappointing one. It’s loaded with heteronormativity and homophobia, and there’s even one line straight out of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” without any credit or mention. I wonder if his books have always been this way, but I wasn’t critical enough to notice them. Too lazy to reread his old books now.

7. Malay Sketches by Alfian Sa’at
Have I told you that I collect local books from every country I visit? This one is from Singapore. It’s written by a Malay Singaporean, and it’s basically a whole book of social commentary on the sistemic racism experienced by the Malays in Singapore. It’s sharp, but not vulgar. I became an instant fan.

8. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
It took me a long time to finish this book. I don’t get what the story is. I understand the plot, but I can’t comprehend what it’s trying to say.

9. Please Look After Mom by Kyungsook Shin
Another addition in my books-around-the-world collection. This one is from South Korea. It’s about this Korean family whose mother suddenly went missing. They went all over Seoul to look for her. From this book, I got to peek how a child is raised in Korea and what’s expected of them. There’s some similarities to family values in Indonesia.

10. Ayah (Father) by Andrea Hirata
The book I waited for so long. It’s still about residents of Gantong, Belitong. It’s still very much in the style of Hirata’s, but the overall story didn’t touch me the way his previous books did. Is it because it’s not about Ikal? Hirata talked about new characters this time, and what it means to be a father. But somehow, it feels like a Belitong version of Forrest Gump, only it’s more poetic.

11. Pines by Blake Crouch
I watched Wayward Pines because M. Night Shyamalan was producing it. The series itself was draggy, but the concept intrigued me enough to look for the book. It’s definitely a mindboggling one. When you start reading, you’re not sure if it’s a mystery, horror, crime, scifi, or other. It’s definitely a chilling one. At least once or twice it’ll scare you a bit.

12. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This one is a teenage romance with substance. It mainly talks about depression, without the sugarcoating. Niven wrote it like is, that depression is not romantic, it’s an illness, and it needs medication. I guess it’s a depressing story. I had a lot of things to wonder about when I finished the book.

13. Bumi (Earth) series by Tere Liye
It consists of “Bumi (Earth)” and “Bulan (Moon)”. The next sequel is not out yet. I had no idea who Tere Liye was, but a lot of his books were displayed in Gramedia. Bumi got my eye because the cover looked like a proper fantasy novel, and the synopsis was great. The main character is a girl called Raib who can disappear. The witty part is, ‘raib’ means ‘disappear’ in Indonesian. Of course I bought it immediately. I’m always ready to appreciate Indonesian fantasy novels. As it turns out, Tere Liye is not that good of a storyteller. His writing is not bad, good command of Indonesian, but his story has plotholes played by flat characters. It’s obvious he doesn’t read that many good books.

14. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
I read this because it won Best Novel in all prestigious science fiction awards. It was that hard to believe. As soon as I finished it, I no longer questioned why it was Best Novel everywhere. Russell Letson wrote in in Locus that this is not an entry level science fiction. I can’t help but agree with him. I think I only understood what’s going on in the middle of the book. Reading it took quite a concentration, but it paid off.

15. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
It consists of “City of Bones”, “City of Ashes”, “City of Glass”, “City of Fallen Angels”, “City of Lost Souls”, “City of Heavenly Fire”. I became a fan of this series quickly. Quickly. After browsing titles after titles, I finally found a great YA series. It’s pure YA: romance, adventure, epic worldbuilding, and magic. Cassandra Clare did her research extremely well, and it shows in her worldbuilding. Everything is solid. Clary is also a strong and smart female heroine, whose priority is not only about boys. Too bad the movie was bad. But good lord Godfrey Gao is HOT. They’re now making a TV series out of it called “Shadowhunters” and I can’t wait for it. Harry Shum, Jr.’s in it as Magnus!

16. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
This is the prequel to The Mortal Instruments, set in the Victorian era. I’m not a fan of the era. I find it not colorful enough. Needles to say, the book bored me, even though it was filled with familiar characters. I haven’t been interested to read the sequel yet.

17. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. It’s a psychological thriller all right, but in a deeper kind of way, because it’s essentially about marriage.

18. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso
Business books are much better than self-help ones. Amoruso’s journey until she became a billionaire is an inspiring one. She did everything, hands on, neck deep in her own business. Her value is clear. She could see what she wanted and she made sure that her employees see it too.

19. Eve: Memoirs of An International Sex Worker by Annika Cleeve
I thought this memoir would be steamy, but it’s not. It actually talks about sex as a commodity. I found it to be quite humbling. Especially when Cleeve compared herself (a prostitute) with girls who flirt with guys to get free drinks. She called that kind of girls ‘gin & tonic hooker’.

20. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
The last installment of the Peculiar Children series! We got to know more about the universe and why their talents are different. I’m satisfied with the ending, and of course, the collection of vintage pictures. I can’t wait to see Asa Butterfield starring in the film, made by Tim Burton!

21. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Amy, my hero! This memoir of hers is so fun, I wonder why I found Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” not as entertaining. I got to learn a thing or two from Amy’s writing. But the biggest service this book did me was encouraging me to watch Parks & Recreation. Yup, I’ve finished all 7 seasons of the series and I LOVE IT. Ugh some people are just so talented and write really well. ;;

22. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
This memoir pissed me off a bit. She’s only older than me by a few years and I don’t like her telling me what to do, acting like she’s figured it out, when we’re all still in this together. Besides, if you read closely, there aren’t that many experiences in this book. She wrote the same stories over and over again, but from different angles with different names. If you watch Girls, it’s basically the live action of this book. There’s a lot of her in that series. And nope, I really don’t like Hannah Horvath. She’s an ungrateful, spoiled brat.

23. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
I read the first 2 books, “The Eye of the World” and “The Great Hunt”. I finally got to read it! It’s a must read classic in the SFF genre, but I never had the energy to order the book online. Suddenly, I found the first book on sale, and it was only $3! After reading the first book, I found the second book at the same place for the same price! I think I was meant to read this epic adventure. Each book is at least 600 pages long and I finished both in a heartbeat. It’s that good! There’s a lot of magic and worldbuilding here, carried by many, distinct characters. There are 14 books in this series by the way. An endless adventure!

24. Bencana di Planet Poa (Disaster in Planet of Poa) by Djokolelono
It’s the first book in “Penjelajah Antariksa (Space Explorers)” series. I was so excited when I found the books in Gramedia. I didn’t know we have a scifi series here? And it was written in the 80s too! They reprinted the series and the book design is amazing. They put a lot of thought in it, and it shows on each chapter’s title illustration. The story itself has a lot of plotholes though, as many Indonesian books do, but I appreciate the scifi spirit.

The list above does not include all the mangas and graphic novels I read in 2015 though. I read a lot of them, Sandman, Ender’s Game, Master Keaton, etc. I also reread Orson Scott Card’s Shadow series, which I already discussed in last year’s review. And somehow the books did not appear on my Goodreads’ 2015 reading list. Is it because it’s a reread? And finally, time for my personal award!

– Best Book of the Year: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt
– Worst Book of the Year: Bulan by Tere Liye
– Best Fantasy Book of the Year: The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
– Worst Fantasy Book of the Year: Bulan by Tere Liye
– Most Recommended Book: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
– Most Recommended Collection: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
– Most Overrated: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
– Most Underrated: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
– Most Favorite: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

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An Intimate Evening with Andrea Hirata

@america hosted a literature night yesterday. They invited Andrea Hirata to speak and share his writing experiences. Of course I went there. The event started at 7 and I arrived ten minutes late to Pacific Place, cos it took an hour-ish to get there from my office with Transjakarta.

The event was opened by Silvy Young, the cultural atache to the US embassy if I’m not mistaken. She explained how important education was for them so they wanted to help our education too. Thus Andrea Hirata was invited, cos his New York-published book, The Rainbow Troop, mainly discussed the topic of education.

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Hirata still looked the same as when I saw him for the first time seven years ago. Dressed modestly in black, he talked about his experiences without too many honorifics. He joked a lot too. He believed that in many ways, writing can’t be taught. So his intention that evening was to share, not to teach.

He shared his story of getting a scholarship to attend the International Writing Program in University of Iowa. At the same time then, his short story, Dry Season, was published in the Washington Square Review, and how it brought him to his New York publishing deal. He talked about The Rainbow Troop that has been translated into many languages. He talked about his love for jazz and his 6-dvd collection of a rockumentary ‘The History of American Music’ (or something). Eventually, he also talked about winning the New York Book Festival and why he thought he won it.

He asked the foreign experts of why he won and his conclusion was it’s because his story is so simple. He admitted that he’s a storyteller and so he wants to tell a story as simple as possible. He categorized writers into 3 types: the story-minded, the writing-minded, and the storyteller. He suggested writers to decide what they are first before putting their stories into words. At most, writers would only be two types. Some writers tried to be all types and they failed. Except Umberto Eco, he said. Ah, I smiled at that. I myself never got past the first chapter of The Name of the Rose.

Time flew that evening, there was only an oppportunity for one question. Virra urged me to ask a question, but I struggled finding the right one. Sure, I had questions regarding the books, but I’d rather find out about them from his future books (new one coming out in May, but it’s not Ayah). Besides, Hirata was so proud of his achievement, and it made me uncomfortable a little. I found out that I didn’t want to get intimate with him after all. Let him be the author I’ve thought he is.

The talkshow was quite fun. There was a reading from Vanessa Reksodiputro and acoustic performances by Meda and Andrea Hirata. Meda’s voice is the bomb, you should check her out. At the end of the discussion, there was a quiz with free books from Periplus as gifts. Of course I volunteered. Hirata wanted us to continue his sentence into a story. I turned it into the only story I thought of, about an old friend who doesn’t remember me anymore.

I was so excited to get the Periplus bag. I thought I’d get the English version of Laskar Pelangi, but I got Isabel Allende’s latest book instead, Ripper (released this year). But I have to be honest here, the Periplus bag excited me more. I’ve been colecting practical canvas bags xD

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The show ended and people rushed to take pictures with Hirata. I was also lining up for it. I wanted to ask him if he remembered me from seven years ago (of course he wouldn’t). I was a freshman and my days were full of lectures and seminars. But when I heard that Hirata would talk in the next campus, I ran there immediately. Lost the picture now, but I asked for his autograph and discussed the upcoming Laskar Pelangi movie a bit. That’s how I want to remember him. Therefore, I got out of line and left him with his still-many fans. We’ll talk when I become a published author myself.

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Writing Progress

Hello there! Turns out the phone reception is fine over here. And it’s been a lot of fun in Sawarna. Very relaxing. Sticking to the plan, I’m catching up with my writing here. Got ten pages on my notebook so far, which is a good progress considering I’ve left this manuscript for a few months. I’ve finally passed the halfway mark. I hope I can finish this next month at the latest.

As I’m writing the story, I’ve begun to realize that it’s true: you write what you read. I’ve been taking a few books as references. Marisha Pessl’s “Night Film” has taught me a lot about writing impersonal and distant characters, much like Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings”. Andrea Hirata’s style has also influenced me so much in terms of flow and inserts, especially in making sure things go light and fun. And lastly, this one’s come as a surprise, I’m referencing Gol A Gong’s “Balada Si Roy” to help me with male perspectives. I’m aware that Roy as a character is very hyperbolic and overdramatic, but I think he makes a great learning material.

I hope when I got home and retype what I’ve written, I’ll have reached the 20k-word mark. My target is 33k words, 100 pages. Who knows writing could be so mundanely administrative? Often I find myself writing useless stuff just to fatten up the word count. I’m gonna need one hell of an editing.

Meanwhile, I also have to finish Chenpionships when I get home. I’ve reached the minimum word count requirement, but my story is still far from finished. I don’t know how I’m gonna get this done by the end of January. Wish me luck!

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Book(s) That I Wish More People Would’ve Read

Day 24 of the 30-day book challenge

Actually, the books I read are pretty mainstream in their respective genres. However, fantasy/sci-fi isn’t really mainstream here in Indonesia. So when I say people (see title), I mostly refer to Indonesians. Here goes:

– Cinta di Dalam Gelas and Sebelas Patriot, both by Andrea Hirata
– A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
– Abarat by Clive Barker
– Gadjah Mada the series by Langit Kresna Hariadi
– Kisah Lainnya by Ariel Uki Lukman Reza David
– His Dark Material the series by Philip Pullman
– Nibiru & Ksatria Atlantis by Tasaro GK
– All of Lemony Snicket’s books
– Animorphs by K. A. Applegate
– Skellig by David Almond
– All of Sekar Ayu Asmara’s books

I can’t think of what else right now.

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