If you were to judge the Malaysian reading community from the nominees for this year’s The Star-Popular Readers’ Choice Awards (RCA), you might assume that local readers are split into two camps: the Lovers and the Adventurers. That’s because most of the nominated books this year are either love stories set in realistic settings, or suspenseful tales set in otherworldly places!
If you’re a Lover, you might enjoy Sonia Mael’s Don’t Forget To Remember, a bittersweet tale of cross-culture passion. There’s also The Library Of Sighs, by Wong Ming Yook, which chronicles love in its many shapes and forms. Or you can check out Arthur T.Y. Foo’s Snow Phoenix And Me, which tells of the relationship between an artist and an assassin in old Shanghai.
If your taste is in Adventure, on the other hand, you can venture deep within the darkness of Taman Negara with Nick Fuller’s Wild Things, or travel the mystical world of Iban gods and spirits in Golda Mowe’s Iban Journey. Or risk entering the sinister places of Julya Oui’s Here Be Nightmares and face the prospect of never sleeping again.
Even if you’re one of those sit-on-the-fence types, no worries, because some of the nominated titles combine these classes. Tunku Halim’s A Malaysian Restaurant In London, for example, is a tale of love and healing set among mysterious mystical Malaysian meals.
Whether you love adventure or are adventurous about love, you can vote for your favourite local books in the awards’ “Read to Vote, Vote to Win” component, which rewards you for reading and voting.
The RCA’s nominees are chosen from last year’s bestselling fiction and nonfiction titles in Popular and Harris bookstores nationwide. And the winners will be decided by you when you vote for your favourite titles.
By sending in your votes for your top three favourite titles in the fiction and nonfiction categories (that’s six choices all together), you will be in the running for prizes such as a RM50 Popular gift voucher and a free one-year Popular membership card.
So how do you vote for your picks during this period? There are two ways: 1) Cut out and fill in the form you see on the left on this page and follow its submission instructions; the forms are also available in all Popular and Harris bookstores nationwide (note that there is no limit to the number of forms you can send in); 2) vote online by visiting either popular.com.my, bookfestmalaysia.com or facebook.com/BookfestMalaysia.
Winners will be announced on July 2, at the Plenary Theatre, Level 3, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Do come and join the ceremony to support not only your favourite authors but also our local publishing industry.
To help you exercise your vote wisely, here are brief descriptions of the 10 nominees in the fiction category. We’ll publish synopses of the nonfiction nominees soon.
Also note that 19 of the 20 nominated titles are available at a 20% discount from now until July 31 in all Popular and Harris bookstores nationwide (Sunday Starters: Reflections On Life will be sold at its nett price).
Here Be Nightmares
By Julya Oui
Walk into a convent where Sister Mary Angele starts to grow horns. Catch Mina telling her sister she was a victim of inter-species rape. And hear how Manny’s phobia for garden snails is linked to a childhood crime. Here be not only nightmares but also monsters in this deliciously creepy anthology.
Julya Oui is an author and a screenwriter. She has written numerous TV movie and animation scripts, features films, and has published three short horror story collections. This book, her second, was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.
Don’t Forget To Remember
By Sonia Mael
Ari, a young Malayan student wins a Colombo Plan Scholarship to study in Australia. Jeremy is a post-graduate student in the same university. When they meet, sparks fly – but racial and cultural differences and a conniving mother keep them apart.
Sonia Mael was a teacher for 15 years. Like her heroine Ari, she was awarded a Colombo Plan Scholarship to pursue her tertiary education in Australia. She took up writing after the loss of her husband of 40 years in 2007 and does not plan to stop writing any time soon.
By Nick Fuller
It was supposed to be an enjoyable trek through Taman Negara. Nine foreigners wind their way through the dangerous forest. Led by the increasingly secretive guide, Rahim, they soon find themselves embroiled in personal conflicts. And then people begin to die.
Nick Fuller arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Britain in 2011 with his wife Kate. After 12 years in recruitment, and inspired by the Malaysian jungle, he packed it all in and started to write. Now fully occupied with his young daughter Freya, Fuller writes when she sleeps, he says.
Edited by Zen Cho
This is cyberpunk as you’ve never seen it before: with a Malaysia twist. Science fiction is all about outrageous ideas after all – like nice Malay girls breaking the rules. Like censorship. And moral policing. All the stuff of fiction, obviously.
Zen Cho is the author of the Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad, and editor of the anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia, both published by Buku Fixi. She has been nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Pushcart Prize, and honour-listed for the Carl Brandon Society Awards.
A Malaysian Restaurant In London
By Tunku Halim
A child goes missing. On a hill stands a huge banyan tree. A restaurant opened by three brothers has unusual effects on its guests. What connects all these mysteries is a haunting tale of love and healing told in a story that moves from London to Seville, and then to Malaysia 30 years later.
Tunku Halim is the author of the bestselling collection Horror Stories, which won the Readers’ Choice Award for Fiction in 2015. His latest novels are Last Breath and A Malaysian Restaurant In London.
By Rozlan Mohd Noor
In the run-up to the general election, the Board – that, unbeknownst to the people, is the real power in the nation – feels that the country is under threat. It seems that, as a Malaysia Day gift to the nation, some draconian laws were abolished, and that does not sit well with the Board. It engages a shadowy trio called MAC (Maestro, Architect, Choreographer) to bring back the “GODs”.
Rozlan Mohd Noor’s novel 21 Immortals: Inspector Mislan And The Yee Sang Murders was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Best First Book Award. Since then he has written two more Inspector Mislan novels. He also published the crime thriller Bayu (The Wind) and a Malay novel entitled Infantisid.
The Library Of Sighs
By Wong Ming Yook
Love, the force that sustains life, holds up the pages of this book of short stories. A librarian’s practical affection for her new assistant; a young woman coming to terms with the fact that her mother doesn’t love her; two wives struggling with the memory of an unfaithful and bigamous husband; and more.
Wong Ming Yook is a former literature lecturer at Universiti Malaya. The Library Of Sighs is her second collection of short stories following her debut collection, In The Courtyard Of The Sun, which was published in 2014.
Snow Phoenix And Me
By Arthur T.Y. Foo
She's a poor artist; he’s a notorious assassin. Yet they share a chemistry they cannot deny and a love they cannot ignore. Believing that love can fix anything, they begin a new life amidst all the chaos in old Shanghai. Yet fate has other plans.
Arthur T. Y. Foo is a two-time Readers’ Choice Awards nominee (2013 and 2014). The author from Ipoh also wrote The Resurrection and the Natasha series.
By Golda Mowe
Follow Iban traveller Nuing as he experiences the hidden world of Iban spirits and gods on his quest to find a way to defeat an army of “Antu Gerasi”, hell-bent on revenge. Iban Journey is a work of fantasy fiction based on the folklore and superstitions of the Iban.
Golda Mowe was born and raised in Sarawak to an Iban mother and Melanau father. She was always interested in the culture and traditions of Borneo’s indigenous people, which led her to writing. She is now living in Sibu, where she expends large portions of her time researching ideas for books and short stories.
Bits Of Heaven
By Aishah Madadiy
Akeed Yahya is a PhD student at Ohio University. His objective in life is to discover the authentic essence of virtues through his involvement in watchdog journalism. He has two traits he cannot simply brush aside: a tender solicitude and persistent inquisitive nature. These traits drive him to the Middle East to contend with some hard-truths about Egypt’s conflict and the aftermath of the Iraq War.
Aishah Madadiy is an aspiring philosopher who writes books, and is deeply interested in the discussion of ethics and epistemology.
The Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards are a precursor to BookFest@Malaysia 2016 which will take place from July 2 to 10 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Look out for more information on the region’s biggest book event in these pages soon. Star Media Group Bhd is a media partner of BookFest@Malaysia 2016.