Books Of 2011

These are my most favoured books of last year (yes, it includes – what most of you would consider - a children’s book but really I don’t care.. a good read is a good read). I enjoyed these books thoroughly.

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Okay, Amazon rates this book as suitable for those aged 10 and up. Since I  too belong way up there demographically, I figure I am entitled to read this book without rasa malu. After all, my teenage girls, wife and I are huge fans of Percy Jackson series. And this is the second book in Heroes Of Olympus series, which in turn is a spin-off of Percy Jackson series.

The verdict: I absolutely adored this book! In fact, it’s such a page turner and I think is so much better than the Lost Hero (that’s the first book in the series, by the way). The Son of Neptune reunites readers with old friends and introduces them to a whole new cast of characters. Rick Riordan is a master at balancing just the right amount of seriousness and levity in every situation, and with page-turning adventure, witty dialogue, and fun, fascinating characters, this book is a must-read for any fan of myths and fables. 

Hail Riordan!!!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

We (Asma and I) kind of stumbled onto this book when we both registered with Goodreads late last year and this book won both Best Young Adult book and Best Overall Book of 2011 on Goodreads as voted by the members

Then one fine day, we found this book at Kino and of course we brought it back home. Asma read it first and told me that she thinks I might not like it. Well, she thought wrong. I too can stomach dystopian novels, you know and of course I’m a fan of Hunger Games too. So why not?

The Verdict: Divergent is a thrill ride.  It is a wonderful dystopia-based story filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance. I can’t wait for the sequel, Insurgent, due out May 2012.

If there’s one thing that I don’t like about this whole Divergent thing is that its author Veronica Roth is only 22 year old???!!! So not fair, how can a person that young write this great. Am so dengki.

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

I have been a fan of Lord Archer sudah lama since I started reading his earlier novels when I was in college still. In fact I very much preferred his earlier works like Kane and Abel, The Prodigal Daughter and many more so much so I kind of not really enjoying his more recent works.

Until, of course, when Only Time Will Tell landed on my lap, that is. This introductory novel in Archer’s ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Verdict: This is Jeffrey Archer at his best. This is a solid storytelling, with bold characters, a world-wide setting, and a story that has enough twists, turns, and sneaky heart-stoppers to definitely merit the label "page turner."


Last year, I am also very pleased to note, I stumbled upon good Bahasa Malaysia fictions too. These three are my favorites:

Pecah by Khairulnizam Bakeri

Awal 2011, sebuah publishing house tempatan, Fixi, muncul tiba-tiba dengan novel-novel urbannya yang thrilling. Di antara buku terawal yang diterbitkan ialah Pecah.

The Verdict: Sekali lagi saya menjadi cemburu amat kerana Khairulnizam Bakeri berjaya menghasilkan sebuah karya yang exciting. Its about a gang of robbers headed by Herman manages to steal money from a bank in Shah Alam. But one of them gets shot, and has to be sent to hospital. In the same hospital, an old man from a nursing home, Bakar, is being treated. These two stories are connected in a way that is slowly revealed, via flashbacks to Bakar's violent past in the cabarets of Singapore and Penang. A fantastic first effort by Khairulnizam, indeed.

Dendam by Affifuddin Omar

As a young journalist in the 90s, I’ve covered assignments graced by the then deputy finance minister Datuk Affifuddin Omar. Only after this title came out did I realise that the good minister is also an accomplished writer. In fact, Dendam is his sixth novel.

The Verdict: A fast paced business thriller that’s been cleverly intertwined with the country’s various political turn of events. Both my wife Yan and I have had a field day trying to figure out the real characters that are being loosely “immortalized” in this wonderful novel. Pada kami, ini Dendam adalah satu hasil usaha yang amat bijak.

Kerana Terpaksa by Ilham Kalsom

The only unputdownable book of 2011 for me and this coming from me who can’t stand Ombak Rindu the movie (oh how I hate that movie!!). Saya memang tersangat jarang membaca novel Melayu genre kisah cinta sebegini. Pernah cuba dengan buku-buku lain tapi mampu setakat dua tiga muka surat sahaja.

Okay, it has nothing to do with the fact that the author Ilham Kalsom (or Elviza Michelle, nama sebenar) is my friend. But I must confess that I finished this book in one sitting which is a big deal really.

So tak payah tanyalah pasal verdict saya ya. Apappun, Ilham Kalsom awal-awal lagi sudah memohon maaf bahawa karya sulongnya ini bukan sempurna. Namun ia digarap penuh menarik.

Anyway, I shot her an email soon after I completed the book and I would like to share our short Q&A with you guys…

1. Cover buku itu dipilih siapa ya? Ada significant ke ia? Isn't that Venice (instead of Paris)?
Ilham: It is Venice. I set part of the story in Paris but I guess the young graphic designer didn't know the difference between Paris & Venice. Epic fail! I have no say on the cover design and the outlook of the book, it is all publisher's prerogative. 

2. Kenapa guna nama Ilham Kalsom? Siapa Ilham Kalsom sebenarnya?
Ilham: Every author in Buku Prima and Karangkraf use a pen name, they suggested I have one too. I like 'Kalsom' for no specific reason. But 'Ilham' is given by the editor who insisted I should have 2 names. 'Ilham' is a bit self descriptive if you ask me. 

3. Berapa lama you menulis Kerana Terpaksa?
Ilham: About 2-3 years. Started way before that but I peram the manuscript because I was scared shitless. 

4. And are the characters and the story line based on any real life characters? (kalau ya, pengsan kan ada orang mcm Raja Habibah di alam nyata).
Ilham: Suria, Tengku Haizal and Raja Habibah are based on real characters. But the ending isn't the same, Suria and Tg Haizal didn't end up together. Suria is still single while Haizal is divorced. I guess too much pain have tortured them for so long, they couldn't pick up where they left off. Perhaps someday they will. 

5. When can we expect your next masterpiece??? soon I hope... Go Ilham!
Ilham: Next book not so soon. At the rate I'm going it will take another couple of years. Aku sungguh lembab.

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