This is the official blog of Winna Efendi, author of several bestselling Indonesian novels.

Minggu, 24 Februari 2013

(film) From Up on Poppy Hill and Whisper of the Heart by Studio Ghibli


I'm a fan of young adult films done right, and these two are the perfect examples of why I love both YA movies and animation. I've been a huge fan of anime for years, but have just recently discovered the magic that is Studio Ghibli.

Their first film that I watched was Ponyo, and loved it despite the fantastical bits. When I felt a bit mellow and would like something heartwarming, simple without the supernatural elements, I went for either these two gems or Makoto Shinkai's 5 CM per second. I wouldn't compare Hayao Miyazaki with Makoto Shinkai, because they are as different as night and day, but that does not mean I don't enjoy their films equally.

The plot (From Up on Poppy Hill): Umi is the caretaker of a boarding house overlooking the port, and she raises flags as messages to seamen to stay safe, as once taught by her sailor father who died at the sea. One day she meets Shun, a member of the school newspaper club, and together with their friends, they try to save their old clubhouse from being demolished by the school chairman.

The plot (Whisper of the Heart): Shizuku is a bookworm, and she's surprised to find that most of the books she checks out has already been read by another student named Seiji. Both of them meet and grow close, and she's left wondering about her dream when he has already gone to pursue his as a violin maker. She decides to test her talent in writing a story based on the Baron, a cat figurine she finds in Seiji's grandfather's antique shop.

From Up on Poppy Hill and Whisper of the Heart are so heartbreakingly honest and real they just tug at your heartstrings. Both have unusually unique family background and a little side story about family life, also a simple teen romance with signs of a budding first love. There are bits of Japanese traditions and lives everywhere, it's so wonderful to watch. The colors are bright and vivid, the artwork clean and lovely, the voices done right, with suitable accompanying music. Both are rather slow paced, but anime about everyday life usually does that - take things slowly, and you don't realize you've fallen in love with it until the credits roll.

Both also have strong, mature teen characters. Both Umi and Shizuku are your average teenager, but as Umi is reliable, sensible and responsible, and Shizuku are often sullen, sometimes lazy about homework and chores, they are at core the teenagers we all once were, or are. They have strong minds and express their opinions well, the communications with their peers, family members and loved ones are not one-sided that might express misunderstanding, but very much real and interactive. They say what they feel, and they fight for what they believe is important. I admire the relationships in both films, and am very pleasantly surprised when Shizuku's parents allow her to do what she thinks is right, even if that means temporarily abandoning her studies and possibly not continuing school.

I might have slightly a bit more fondness for From Up on Poppy Hill because of the school spirit and the strong characters I find in both Umi and Shun. Everything's just done in the right proportions, and I can't help but wish there are more films such as this one. The stories are meaningful, even though they were made decades earlier, they still carry relevance in today's era.

I'm currently marathoning my way through the rest of Studio Ghibli films, but these two are definitely top of my list.

Jumat, 22 Februari 2013

25 Hours of Bookdepository Madness

I'm a regular and a huge fan of Bookdepository.co.uk, this online bookstore with free shipping all around the world. Competitive prices, great bargains, friendly and quick service, and lots of wonderful books available (almost all books I need to find are available here at decent prices). I've been through about 3 or 4 of their 24 hours deals, in which they have 500 copies of bargain books at fantastic prices, limited and when it's gone it's gone. So far I've got a range of books during that sale, my favorites being Santa's journal, Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck, and a couple of others. They usually make great gifts too, especially for kids, and they offer various genres so Moms, Dads, kids, teens, adults and those with scientific minds or business ideas usually get some good ones along the way.

So imagine my surprise and utter happiness when they announce they're having 100 books during 25 hours, 1 book every 15 minutes, 100 copies per offer. I stayed up till the first one ran, and was glued in place for hours in front of the laptop till the last one finished.

What I did not expected: the books sold out under a minute.

OK, there were only 100 copies, and some were signed, rare copies. Wonderful! The thing is, when I checked out the book was usually already gone. Sob.

The books I wanted and missed because either I was sleeping, missed it when working or doing something else, was wandering around in the mall in the morning or doing errands, or simply because I was not fast enough and my Internet connection didn't help:

- The Living: this dystopian book by a Russian author, and I've put it on my wishlist for ages. I placed my order but someone beat me to the last copy.

- The Grunts in Trouble

- Phillip Roth's the Four Tales. SIGNED!!!!! Illustrated! Hardback! My connection was really poor at the time.

- A new edition of Wizard of Oz. I missed it by a couple of minutes.
- Classic Fairy Tales.

- Little Brother by Cary Doctorow.

- The Gingerbread House: was searching for more info and suddenly it was gone.
- A poetry book from When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple.
- Ian McEwan's Solar
- A boxed set the Horologicon and Etymologicon
- Salman Rushdie's signed The Flame of Life

I was prone to getting books I had no intention of reading just because they were priced at 3 bucks.. but I did get something in the end and was lucky enough to catch the final offer:

Maggie Stievwater's boxed set of Linger, Shiver, and Forever! Yay! I've been wanting one for ages. It was also the 100th and final book offer. I say save the best for last!

So did you join in the fun? What did you get?

Kamis, 21 Februari 2013

(book) My Kind of Girl by Buddhadeva Bose


A modern-day Bengali Decameron, My Kind of Girl is a sensitive and vibrant novella containing four disarming accounts of unrequited love. In a railway station one bleak December night, four strangers from different walks of life - a contractor, a government bureaucrat, a writer, and a doctor - face an overnight delay. The sight of a young loving couple prompts them to reflect on and share with each other their own experiences of the vagaries of the human heart in a story cycle that is in turn melancholy, playful, wise and heart-wrenching. The tales reveal each traveler's inner landscape.


I love this book. The premise is intriguing and after years of just putting it on my wishlist, I finally ordered and bought it.

With clean but sophisticated prose (I'm reading the translated version), the author manages to convey four people's love stories in such a simplistic way. I enjoy reading each story and the meaning in them, what love means to each person and how their love story begins, then ends. My favorite is the first and second stories, and my least favorite is the fourth but somehow the last one contains more sorrow and meaning than the rest.

There are tragic first loves, death, marriage, matchmaking, family, stolen glances, misunderstandings, and a happy love story as well. It gives insight into the lives of people in India in that era, as well as their customs, which is a pleasure to read about.

The ending is quiet, nothing dramatic but it gives us a long pause to think about the whole book. Somehow it is more perfect that way.

I'm not sure about the rest of the author's books, but I think I'll seek them out and give them a try.

Rabu, 20 Februari 2013

(movie) Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below

I have always loved a good animation and I watched Makoto Shinkai's 5 CM per second a couple of years ago (loved it, by the way). So when this one got released, I immediately ordered the DVD.

image taken from fukachansmemoir.blogspot.com

The heroine of the film is Asuna, a lonely 14 year old girl whose father has died and left her a radio as a memento, and an overworked mother who comes home late every night. One day she hears strange music from the radio as she sits in her favorite spot in the mountain. Then she meets a strange bear-like creature and is saved by Shin, a boy claiming he comes from a place called Agartha. They form a friendship, and after giving her a blessing in the form of a kiss in the forehead, he disappears. Asuna sets out to discover more about Agartha, a place known to be down below the earth, with a portal to be opened with a crystal, and a place full of old wisdom and knowledge that people have been looking for it to ressurect the dead.

The artwork is wonderful and detailed, as always. Nature has always been part of Makoto Shinkai's films, and the beauty of this film is extraordinary. There are unimaginable creatures and a world so unique we just wish we could explore it further. Agartha is strange and amazing, with guardians that reside there once humans no longer need them. There is also his characteristic galaxy and sky filled with illuminated colors, which is a pleasure to the eyes.

Character wise, I feel that Shin and Asuna's friendship is a bit brief and has not been deep enough. His character is also not fleshed out and I do not understand his reasons for wanting to get out of Agartha, and why he disappears. I also wish we can be shown a family background to get a better glimpse of his motivations.

The pace is rather slow, but I've grown used to it after watching 5 CM per second. It feels less rushed that way, as if allowing the viewer to enjoy the lavish details and the luxurious colors.

Overall, I do enjoy this one although it's not my favorite. I love the soundtrack, the premise, the story, and the ending :) such a bittersweet, lovely movie.

image taken from fanart.tv

Senin, 11 Februari 2013

(movie) the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After reading Sister, I followed up with this thriller movie, just for kicks, and because I was in the mood for something grim and dark. This movie's the perfect follow up for the night.

Mikael Blomvist, a journalist, has just lost his finances and reputation when he failes to uncover a corrupt businessman's misdeeds, and accepts a job from Vanger, a tycoon looking for clues in the disappearance of his great niece Harriet. Blomvist gets help from a young hacker Lisbeth Salander, and in turn uncover something more behind the mystery.

This movie, like the book (although I haven't had the chance to read it yet), deal with mature themes such as explicit sex, rape, and murders. I find that it is often a little terrifying, but necessary for the movie. I like how bad-ass the main leading lady is, because I'm so used to meek sidekicks that do almost nothing except throw a little punch or add a clever line here and there. I love Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version, and Rooney Mara is also breathtaking and damn credible in this one. She owns the character and manages to make her both vulnerable and strong with a flip of a coin.

I've always loved Daniel Craig, and he's a wonderful Blomvist, but I have to say he's overshadowed by the other characters. I'm also glad they take out some parts of the book for the movie and focuses only on what's essential. 

The mystery is wonderfully explored, then solved. I like that there is hardly any shocking scenes that are meant to create cheap suspense out of the audience, but rolls smoothly to make us as the viewer participate in it with the characters. The music is also far from distasteful, I find it a bit odd that they use classical piano and instrumental to accompany several scenes, but in the end I think they fit nicely.

I'm not sure whether the second installment will be released soon, and I'm feeling a little bittersweet about the ending (although it's perfect, actually). But I think I might give the book a try.

Review: 4 out of 5 stars

(book) Sister by Rosamund Lupton


When her mom calls to tell her that Tess, her younger sister, is missing, Bee returns home to London on the first flight. She expects to find Tess and give her the usual lecture, the bossy big sister scolding her flighty baby sister for taking off without letting anyone know her plans. Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered. Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess’s apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister’s life—and all its secrets.

Though her family and the police see a grieving sister in denial, unwilling to accept the facts, Bee uncovers the affair Tess was having with a married man and the pregnancy that resulted, and her difficulty with a stalker who may have crossed the line when Tess refused his advances. Tess was also participating in an experimental medical trial that might have gone very wrong. As a determined Bee gives her statement to the lead investigator, her story reveals a predator who got away with murder—and an obsession that may cost Bee her own life.

A thrilling story of fierce love between siblings, Sister is a suspenseful and accomplished debut with a stunning twist.


Oh, Sister, how I loved you so.

This is my first Rosamund Lupton read as I bought two of her published books simultaneously, because 1. I knew I was going to love it. 2. I didn't want to wait if I loved the first and hadn't bought the second. 3. Both were luckily on sale in Bookdepository and I got both half price.

I felt like reading something contemporary, set in English, with an air of mystery. It's beautiful - Lupton's prose is so solid, sophisticated and fluid. Conversations flow like raw emotions, often hidden but stripped bare in narration. The mystery is the main plot, but also not the main plot, if that makes sense, because the center of the story is a sisterly connection and love and family, instead of who abducts Tess and is she murdered kind of questions.

I love Tess, and I love Beatrice. Each is so individual, distinct and well developed. I love the little arcs of relationships in the book too, between mother and child, father and child, friends, neighbors, lovers. I liken the experience of reading this to peeling the skin of our favorite fruit, we never really know what's inside, but we know we're going to love it and be in for a savory taste.

I love the writing style. It's the first time I really enjoy a good mystery, because I love it when the writing style is deep and thoughtful instead of just quick pacing and a good puzzle solving mystery. It reminds me of Maggie O'Farrel's After You'd Gone, both have similar feels and almost a similar theme (though not exactly sisterly, but it centers on family and the characters are a bit similar).

I'm a little disappointed by the twist in the ending, but I can understand how it adds a layer of depth to the story as a whole. I'm also a bit bothered by the slow pacing, but I savor the experience of reading it too much that in the end I just don't want the book to ever end.

I look forward to read Afterwards. Oh, the cover is also so lovely, a splash of red and black on a white background. I like the theme going on in both books in terms of cover design.

(book) Just One Day by Gayle Forman


A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.


I'm not a big fan of Gayle Forman's debut novel If I Stay, despite the rave reviews and the bittersweet story. But I have to admit it is what makes her famous and unique - the bittersweetness in her books. This one's no exception.

What I admire about the author is that she always manages to create layered, damaged and real characters. Each has his or her own quirks and flaws, and something that makes the character so readily unforgettable and authentic. Allyson's voice is strong throughout the book, and even though I am a believer in fate and serendipity, I am not entirely sure about the 'just one day' soulmate concept here, as well as the little coincidences that sometimes seem make-believe. But Allyson makes me believe that there is such a thing as that, and that she's experienced it herself. This makes me finally just decide to go along for the ride.

I slowly warm up to the book. The first half is a little slow and tedious, but as soon as we get to the second part, everything speeds up and we get to see interesting characters: the Shakespeare class professor, Dee, Allyson's roommates, and the people she meets along the way. It gets interesting and the hunt for someone she doesn't really have much clues about intrigues me as if I were looking for that person too.

The heartbreak - I can just feel it. Feel it ruin me too, as much as it ruins Allyson. I don't really like Willem as the main male protagonist, but I hope I'll warm up to him in the second book as it's told through his point of view.

Let me see.. I don't know what it is exactly that makes me buy every single Gayle Forman book as I don't always relate to the characters, but it must be some kind of magic that the author has. Till now I still have no idea why, but I will keep reading her books till I find out what it is.

Jumat, 01 Februari 2013

Refrain the movie (casting update)

Hai teman-teman semua,

Seperti yang pernah kushare tahun lalu, novel Refrain akan diadaptasi ke layar lebar. Rights untuk pembuatan film tersebut ada di tangan Maxima Pictures selaku production house, dengan mas Haqi Achmad sebagai penulis skenario dan mas Fajar Nugros sebagai sutradara.

Sejauh ini, casting sedang berlangsung dan yang sudah terpilih adalah Maudy Ayunda sebagai Niki, dan Afgansyah Reza sebagai Nata. Sisanya masih sedang dipertimbangkan. Kabarnya, syuting akan berjalan di bulan Februari, dengan tanggal rilis mudah-mudahan di tahun ini.

Great news, right? I'm excited, what about you?

Untuk casting news, updates dan semua tentang film Refrain bisa follow Twitter @FilmRefrain. Untuk saran pemain dan usulan lainnya silakan dimention ke sana juga.

Sedikit yang perlu kujelaskan... ada dua cara pengadaptasian novel ke layar lebar. Yang pertama adalah dengan menjual rights dari novel tersebut agar bisa diadaptasi jadi film. Dalam kasus pertama ini, sang penulis tidak terlibat secara langsung dalam proses pembuatan film maupun aspek-aspek seperti syuting, poster, tanggal rilis, casting, soundtrack, dan lain-lain. Tentunya, penulis novel, sutradara, produser dan penulis skenario juga berdiskusi mengenai beberapa hal, tapi keputusan final berada di tangan pemegang rights film yaitu production house. Alternatif kedua adalah, penulis turut andil dalam setiap aspek pembuatan film, bisa juga menjadi produser film, sutradara, atau yang menulis skenarionya. Dalam kasus ini, penulis mungkin punya suara untuk memutuskan beberapa hal, sesuai porsi dan posisinya.

Untuk film Refrain, kami menggunakan cara pertama. So I'm not writing the script and choosing the casts, tapi saya sungguh percaya setiap pihak yang terlibat berusaha yang terbaik untuk menjadikan Refrain the movie film yang bagus dari segala segi. Setiap dari kami berusaha sebisa mungkin agar Refrain dapat diadaptasikan dengan baik dari format novel menjadi format film.

Dari yang saya tahu juga pelajari secara otodidak, proses pengadaptasian buku ke film juga tak mudah. Imajinasi pembaca tentunya bisa sama atau berbeda dengan yang nantinya diangkat di film, baik dari segi setting, pemain, dan masih banyak lagi. Idealisme ini bisa menyebabkan sisi positif atau negatif, rasa senang dan puas atau kecewa. Semua itu saya rasa sangat wajar, karena pembaca pun punya impian dan idealisme sendiri agar filmnya bisa sesuai dengan bukunya. Dari segi adegan, tentunya akan ada yang perlu diubah, ditambahkan, dihapus. Akan ada hal yang tidak sama dengan buku, sedangkan bagian yang mendukung akan tetap ada. Film adalah media yang sama sekali berbeda dengan buku. Film (setidaknya yang mainstream) biasanya membutuhkan sisi dramatik untuk menjaga perhatian penonton supaya tidak bosan. Film membiarkan segala sesuatunya bercerita, karena tidak memiliki narasi setting, deskripsi fisik dan benda, dan lain-lain. Jadi saya yakin dan memaklumi bahwa buku dan filmnya tidak akan 100% sama persis.

Sebagai penulis novelnya, saya pribadi tidak punya rasa kecewa dengan aspek apa pun dari film Refrain yang sedang diproses. Saya belum menonton filmnya, I will see the movie with no assumptions, no judgements and no expectations. Saya yakin apa pun yang terjadi, semua pastilah telah memberikan komitmen 100%, sama seperti saya menumpahkan hati dan keringat dalam menulis novelnya :) sebelum filmnya tayang, marilah kita sama-sama memberikan dukungan, dan menikmati proses ini sampai waktunya tiba dan kita semua bisa menyaksikan karakter-karakter kesayangan di layar lebar.

I truly believe that. Last but not least, terima kasih untuk dukungan teman-teman semua. I'm very grateful.