This has taken a back burner as well because of my rewrite and moving. I plan on taking a few months away from anything writing when I’m done, and focus on getting some quality reading under my belt.
April 26, 2018: Book Recommendation
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication: April 9, 2007 (1st edition on May 26, 2006)
Page Number: 352
Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants which was adapted into a movie in 2011. This was her third novel. It was initially turned down by her original publisher so for all writers out there, keep writing and submitting your work. I remember this book being incredibly easy to read, making it a fast read. It’s a triad love story: between two different people, between entertainers and their animals, and among the various entertainers. It goes back and forth in time between the young and old Jacob Janowski with the primary focus on his life while in the circus. It is here where he connects with many people in the Benzini Brothers circus, most notably August and Marlena. Jacob’s connection and love for animals is obvious as his original career path was veterinarian work. There is brief touching on animal cruelty in circuses although not done in an overly graphic way. I won’t spoil the ending, but this was written to satisfy the reader first and a close second the writer. You can read between the lines. This was a book Gruen had fun writing.
March 27, 2018: Book Recommendation
Publication: June 5, 2007 (1st edition in 2002)
Page Number: 544 pages
Jeffrey Eugenides wrote Middlesex after The Virgin Suicides, which the latter was adapted into a movie in 1999. This is his second novel out of three novels and two short stories compilations written so far. Eugenides is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton. Middlesex is about being born one way, but not wanting to be that person later, and making the changes necessary to be comfortable in your skin. The protagonist, Calliope Stephanides, exposes family secrets everyone else wants to keep hidden long after they had left their home country. The story traverses back and forth from a tiny village in Asia Minor to Detroit, Michigan, highlighting immigration ordeals, and the study of sexual norms and practices. It is also partly a coming of age story because where Calliope started is vastly different from where she was by book’s end, and partly neutral referencing of political events happening around her during this growth period in America. Despite it being a little thicker book, it is rich in content and well written.
March 27, 2018: Book Recommendation
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication: August 25, 2009 Original edition
Page Number: 315 pages
Contrary to the title of this book, Freakonomics is not so much a book about economics as it is about sociological phenomena discussed by an economist, Levitt, and Dubner, musician and writer who was story editor at The New York Times Magazine. There is an updated and revised version of this book published in 2006 due to the embellishment of one of their sources. Despite this flaw which they corrected, it’s a type of book where many leapt into bookstores or ordered online because it is written for the reader to understand. Freakonomics includes interesting topics from cheating in school, real-estate, KKK, drug dealing, abortion legalization, parenting, and naming children. The authors make comparisons throughout the booking, often incorporating how it relates to criminology data and trends. I read this quite a while ago, meaning I was one of those who ran to the bookstore, but now it is time for me to invest some of my time on SuperFreakonomics, and re-watch the documentary.
March 17, 2018: Book Recommendation: Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Publication: January 15, 1999 (Reprint edition)
Page Number: 288 pages
If you don’t know who bell hooks (pen name) is, hopefully you will soon find out. Her knowledge of class, race, gender, and culture is found in many of her earlier books. This book is different in that it is a memoir about her love for writing and how she manages other desires in her life around writing. There is discussion of childhood events that shaped what she wrote about as an adult, and how it influenced her personally. You often write what you know while allowing your inner spark to guide you when things become dark. Wounds of Passion served as a method to review her life when it was written in 1997, as well as take stock of the positive changes and stunted growth she saw between individuals and in society. She will not be the first or last person to have a critical eye. If you want to read honest words, this is the book for you, keeping in mind memoirs are subjective.
March 17, 2018: Two Children Book Recommendations
I’ve become acquainted with children’s books again. These are two books that caught my eye as I was browsing the shelves. There are about as many selections for children as there are for each kind of subject of adult books. I have read both of them. Eventually, I will be parting ways as they are intended for someone else.
You Are My Best Friend is the story of a Tyrannosaurus who likes to bring misery to other dinosaurs. His life changes when he meets an Elasmosaurus. Because I wasn’t paying complete attention, this is the second book in the series, but still highly recommended.
The Antlered Ship is beautifully illustrated by the Fan Brothers. This story is about a fox named Marco who is joined by other animals to find adventure. They meet other animals including some not so friendly along the way. This is also a book about friendship.
February 28: Book Recommendation
The Bell Jar
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Publication: 2005 First Edition
Page Number: 288
Plath’s noteworthy book goes without saying, and she remains one of the best creative minds that could have gone much further. The Bell Jar is her only novel written, notably semi-autobiographical, and was first published in 1963 under a different name. It was first published in the United States in 1971. Her book explores the experiences, thoughts, frustrations, and dreams of Esther Greenwood. She views her life much from a place of darkness where she tries to stand under as much light as possible. It is sometimes forced by herself. You get the sense Esther does things she is not fully certain about, and when all is said and done, there is even more confusion and self-loathing at the end of her internship days. There is a naiveté about her as much as conviction. She wonders if she will ever feel good enough and be better than she is currently. Esther’s beginning is full of uncertainty, the middle has disappointment, and the end was nothing what she imagined. While this is often cited as a book about mental illness, as Plath suffered from bipolar, it should also be remembered for the way she wrote it: honestly and brutally. It was basically written from her bleeding and broken heart as tragic as that sounds.
February 12, 2018: Book Recommendation
Denis Leary: And Your Point is What???
Yes, this guy. You know the guy. Or, maybe someone like him. Denis Leary is passionate about the FDNY and COMEDY. This I know for sure. While the book I’m recommending didn’t win any awards for prose, you read this book for its humor. It didn’t come without criticism as it received backlash for his autism commentary. Not everyone likes a blunt person. He speaks from his jaded heart. He doesn’t apologize for it. He goes along his merry way or should I say his sarcastic way. Why We Suck has a successor called Why We Don’t Suck that focuses much on the political climate of today. The bottom line is he writes and you can’t fault a person for being truthful to his own life.
His show, Rescue Me, had accolades, but it too was not without criticism. It aired on FX from 2004 to 2011. Even though the show has ended, it’s one that continues to be relevant. It touches upon just about everything. It’s realistic in many respects. The show’s center is on Tommy Gavin, played by Denis Leary, and how he juggles his often crumbling personal with his professional life. The writing allows you to get invested in the characters, and each episode leaves you wanting more. It pushes beyond comfortable boundaries so if you can get past the swearing (easy for me to do) and the writing (controversial dialogue and experiences), this show is for you.
February 9, 2018: Book Recommendation
I haven’t read this type of book for a while. Readers either liked it because of its informative nature about narcissism and the focus of both narcissist and those looking at them. Others found it difficult to read because its subject matter includes psychological theories and concepts. Despite it being a small, compact book, don’t expect to speedily read through it. Sure, you can, but you’re going to miss important knowledge along the way. Remember this is an essay dealing with subject matter that is hard to quantify, but often easy to objectify by the layperson.
Narcissism has become a notion with characteristics of being a very bad thing, and while it has existed for a long time and before social media came onto the scene, the author posits those critical of the narcissist maybe as much to blame as the narcissist. Kristin Dombek takes us into her view of the impacts of narcissism, and how it’s seepage into humanity throughout the generations has led to a sort of panic of today. Everyone has something to say about it and everyone is on some level a narcissist.
Mental disorders have been written and removed from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). One day it might declassify narcissism as a mental disorder, but for now it is here to stay. Dombek includes past studies about narcissism, and how some psychological experts sought to fit it into neat pockets. She discusses millennial born individuals and the stereotypes of their laziness and materialism. There is also discussion about serial killers and how we put them onto an island by themselves. We have become great at dividing people: us versus them.
It doesn’t matter so much where you stand on the narcissism spectrum, but that you realize everyone has a place on it. We can overly embrace it under certain circumstances or totally ignore it when it’s undesirable. We operate and conduct ourselves with others often based on our upbringing, but it never hurts to explore further by opening your eyes to other viewpoints. If nothing else, this book offers insight into the struggle of viewing ourselves and others as objectively as possible.
January 13, 2018: Book Recommendation
I thought this would be a good time to recommend a book that also reminds me back to the days when I was in school. Trust me when I say it is a good read. I wouldn’t be recommending Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire otherwise. It is edited by Sonia Shah, prefaced by Yuri Kochiyama, and forewarded by Karin Aguilar-San Juan. This anthology speaks of Asian American women who have something to say and in a way that won’t make you uncomfortable if you keep an open mind. It’s good to go out of your comfort zone once in a while. It takes guts to come out of your shell, be unapologetic for your views that you strongly believe are right, and not waver under pressure. You need a thick ass skin to withstand the pressure and criticism in today’s world.
The feminist movement, particularly in the United States, is rather complicated and varied within the ranks back then and now. It was as varied as the two major political parties in the U.S. today and so on down the path to reach the blue or red body of water. I imagine the independents have a body of white water. Individual minority women were left on the wayside to fend for themselves in the United States, as many disenfranchised groups are, and the Asians were no exception. This book speaks of the importance of being aware that just because something isn’t around you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. While we all won’t find the massive amount of inspiration and passion needed to go out to protest or volunteer whenever there’s a major incident or situation that occurs, you will gain a better understanding of the lives of Asian American women, and some of the perils they face year after year.
Social, political, racial, economic, and personal questions are asked and topics are discussed with answers providing an Asian narrative that for all intents and purposes is always relevant. This book is an interest of mine for the fact I’m an Asian American that could very well have not left South Korea. I’m a bit of an enigma, and will touch upon this in a future post. It serves as as reminder for everyone including myself to stand up and speak from the heart, rooted in truth as we know it, but being mindful of how we might affect others with our words. We all deserve equality without sacrificing our integrity. I wonder how, as a collective whole, we ever got to be in this place of such ugliness where some people think it is okay to post ANYTHING on social media platforms. Yet, it has also exposed the ugliness from all pockets of society that we may not want to see. We all deserve to not live in fear. There’s always something wrong when certain individuals have to support themselves in such vile ways, and an equally uglier world where those similar in social stratification get caught up in this wheel of inequality demanding others to denigrate themselves.
In conclusion, this book is meant to give you a little push to exploring women who often have to navigate a world where people label and stereotype them on a consistent basis whether aware of it or not. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen to other women or men because it does, but what is necessary to state is this: the deeply rooted beliefs about Asian women just didn’t begin last year. Education is truly important for everyone including Asians themselves. The genesis of anything is equally important as exploring what is necessary to not repeat the same rhetoric over and over, and this book was and continues to be a good start. It’s much easier to praise something on a blog versus taking action about something on the streets, so in that respect, I thank those women and men who take the streets for worthy causes that support others instead of dividing people. Every little thing every person does that helps instead of harms is a part of what life is about so keep keeping on because we all need someone to lean on and a reminder at one point or another.
January 7, 2018: Book Recommendations
My mom gave me The Four Agreements, then I bought The Mastery of Love, and still need to read The Fifth Agreement. I can, obviously, only comment on the first two books. They are a fast read in the sense they are short and font is fairly big, but it takes longer to really digest the information. I should make the time to read them again because it allows you to slow down your mind in a fast moving world. You have to be aware of your surroundings for survival, but not everything is a competition in life. It will help you reset, refocus, if you will.
The Four Agreements offers a way to get outside of your head, gain insight about yourself and others, and find the things that make you happy in life so you are living a sustainable, positive life. With all the doing and going, this book isn’t going to solve all your problems. I saw it a stepping stone to make your life a little easier, at least mentally. While you might not agree with all of his philosophy, I do recommend it.
The Mastery of Love focuses on the inner workings of relationships, including your relationship with yourself. They are complex for most of us and sometimes bitterly so and not just romantically. You will not find easy fixes in this book either, but you will gain knowledge and perspective if you read it. This is all I have to say about this author and his books. Check out the links below to learn more or buy them on Amazon. I know I look forward to reading The Fifth Agreement this year.
December 3, 2017: Book Recommendation
I’m finally done with this book to give it a proper recommendation and review. This book has gotten mixed reviews, as do most things, but I’d say it is worthy enough. The content isn’t so much about Patton’s military accomplishments or failures, but about how Patton himself viewed himself during them. It’s about the psychological make up of Patton. It’s not surprising he was a proponent of bathing in as many turbulent waters as possible. The short time he lived on this planet might have been a blessing, as he wasn’t very in tune to the inner working of himself, in particular his emotions. His abrasive personality and tough bravado was partly due to his belief system: you must be ready for war at any time.
He took pride in training his men as much as when he led them into battle. He found his courage and reason for living in war. Where many ran away from it, he jumped feet first into the dangerous areas, and only retreated when he felt that he was still not afraid of dying. One might say he lived his life recklessly. He believed he was born great and was the reincarnation of many past men involved in battle. He kept a journal religiously or as the writer, Alan Axelrod, a diary. In it you see the other side of him, someone who was fragile and sensitive to criticism.
The author does some jumping with Patton’s timeline. It might be seen as jarring. For example, at one point he is talking about him alive, and then soon after he’s talking about him dead. He believes Patton to be the greatest general ever to have lived, which some might argue. I don’t have that much knowledge with comparing generals to say if he was or wasn’t, but the fact he had such a hard time controlling his temper, it would be logical to think others would come before him. This doesn’t diminish his natural ability to see fresh solutions and make difficult decisions during stressful times.
This book basically focuses on his Army path to stardom, ultimately landing at Lieutenant General, and then ultimately dying in a freak accident in 1945 although some speculate it was deliberate. He was 60 years old and buried at Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg City.
A Soldier’s Burial
by George S. Patton
Not midst the chanting of the Requiem Hymn,
Nor with the solemn ritual of prayer,
Neath misty shadows from the oriel glass,
And dreamy perfume of the incensed air,
Was he interred;
But the subtle stillness after fight,
And the half light between the night and the day,
We dragged his body all besmeared with mud,
And dropped if, clod-like back into the clay.
Yet who shall say that he was not content,
Or missed the prayers, or drone of chanting choir,
He who had heard all day the Battle Hymn
Sung on all sides by a thousand throats of fire.
What painted glass can lovelier shadows cost
Than those the evening skies shall ever shed,
While mingled with their light, Red Battle’s Sun
Completes in magic colors o’er our dead
The flag for which they died.
December 3, 2017: Book Recommendation
If you want to read what happens to roughly the other 50% of an animal after it dies, then this is the book for you. It’s a short book of only 99 pages, but there’s a lot of information in it. I’m not going to go on an environmental rant about how you should not eat meat and get up in your space for not recycling. It’s up to you to decide what your contributions will or will not be in your lifetime. We’re not built to think the same way for a reason.
It includes a comprehensive list of animal ingredients and possibly derived animal ingredients. These are the words you can’t pronounce and spell by heart. It discusses vegan nutrients and alternatives, as well highlights basic nutrition and origins of vegetarianism. It goes into moderate depth of alcoholic beverages. German beers seem to take the top prize as most are vegan. It offers animal organization contact information, cruelty free products, and recommended literature.
Bottom line, this book is a reference manual. It goes beyond the act of killing an animal. It isn’t even a book about animal rights, not outright, and don’t think it’s preachy. I definitely don’t abide by completely vegan standards in what I eat or use. Some of the information can be mind boggling. Vegan jewelry? Labeled non-dairy when it is? Animal blood found in items you wouldn’t think? If you want to a book to browse when you have a little bit of free time here and there, this is the one for you. It jogs your brain and educating yourself is half the battle. Do what you can with what you have, and enjoy if you get a copy of it.
It’s amazing what you find when you go to a bookstore. I picked up a book and thought this looks familiar. I wasn’t 100% sure if I had read it. I had to give it a few seconds to digest and come up with the answer. I came to an understanding of two things. One, I did read this book. Two, I should have remembered it.
Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal focuses on Edward Arnold Chapman, a British double agent, whose troubled personal life was about as convoluted as his professional life. He was a career criminal and was not a stranger to prison before he became a spy. He was eventually able to gain freedom by offering his services to the Nazis. He began working as a German spy during World War II. His German handler code named him Fritz, and once making connection with the MI5, he also became a British spy with the code name Zigzag.
It is here where the author, Ben Macintyre, continues shedding light on Chapman’s days and nights as a double agent. He zigzags his way between his two radically different lives, always keeping his stories straight even with his two wives, but he would later be forced out. The medal earning German spy had become a liability for the British, and were not willing to take anymore risks. He delved back into crime, and died in the latter half of the 1990’s.
Macintyre was able to write about Zigzag as MI5 declassified Chapman’s files ten years after his death in 1997. So in the vein of Mission Impossible, the book is available to read, should you choose to accept it.
I’m recommending authors where the book was their first novel. Are there signs pointing to a newly minted author versus one in the middle or end of their career? Who knows? They are now published authors and that is all that matters (sort of). I will say if you are looking for something where you have to take notes on who is what and what is not, these books are NOT for you. They are predictable in some sense, but yet I wanted to keep reading both.
In a dark, dark wood is written by Ruth Ware and the 354 pages went by fairly quickly once I devoted time to it. Once I got past the setting of England, Nora’s invitation to the hen party, and her eventual acceptance to the party, the wheels started to move faster. The book did an adequate job switching between the past and present, meaning it did not overly focus on one or the other, and served its purpose. The characters had enough depth to them that they felt three-dimensional and by the end of the story it was satisfactorily wrapped up with a few loose strings, but that was intentional (I believe). I consider this an easy read book like Water for Elephants.
Reese Witherspoon is adapting this into a movie and feel it could definitely come alive on the screen although it must be done in the right way. The author faltered with some of her scenes especially near the end. Ware should have extended the last scene of Nora and Clare because that was the reason the story was written in the first place. What transpired prematurely ended between them, and if she dug a little deeper into her creativity well, I believe it could have been stronger. I will say the scariest part for me was the psychological make up of the characters Clare and Flo, which I’m not sure what was intended, compared to what actions any of them took. I will say enough information was given for why certain things happened, and that is why I’m recommending this book.
This Burns My Heart is written by Samuel Park and the 322 pages contains a love story set in South Korea. The story weaves between the 1960s when there was rapid change after Postwar Korea to the more current time of today. It focuses on the role of women, often having to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of their husbands and children, and how they navigate in this culture with strict rules. The characters of Soo Ja, her husband Min, and an acquaintance from her youth, Yul, were equally developed to satisfaction.
Soo Ja, the main character, is married to a man who loved her in his own way, and yet that was not enough. She bore a child named Hana. Her story continues and the ridicule she is forced to endure. How do you find your strength when you are married to someone who treats you poorly, where his family treats you even worse, and you are the one ultimately holding everyone together? The interactions and dialogue between Soo Ja and Min were the best parts of this book and the interactions and dialogue with her in-laws came a close second.
I would have preferred Hana to be a little less helpless during some scenes, but now looking back if she had acted in a different way it might have not seemed as realistic. There was too much usage of Hana’s name when Soo Ja spoke to her daughter and detracted away from certain scenes in my opinion. I enjoyed the ending because there was proper closure to the main characters and most everything came full circle. This book edged out the other one by a few hairs, but again I recommend them both as first novels because let us face it, it takes quite a bit effort and time to write any novel.
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother is 295 page book reinforcing that certain people follow their pursuits even when they don’t adhere to the standards of family. James McBride, the product of interracial marriage, is the “half White” and “half Black” author of this book who grappled with his identity as a child living in the 1960s. He tells the story of his mother’s plight growing up in the South, Virginia, in a Jewish family, and the hardships of not following Judaism set by her father who was abusive and racist. She was eventually disowned by her father. She moved to Harlem and married James’ father, Dennis McBride, and had more children than you can count on both fingers. Her religion was most important to her as she converted to Christianity, but she fiercely protected and guided her children with firm hands. This book is not only a tribute, but a statement of who James McBride is today. Although his plight growing up in Harlem, New York and Wilmington, Delaware, he had the intelligence to ask the right questions of his multiracial and multicultural roots. It led to him being who is today, realistic of the social world around him, but cognizant of his ancestors’ contributions on both sides.
Some believe you don’t write about yourself until you’ve established yourself as a writer. These same people say to be cautious using yourself as a character because it’s easy to get too involved and not be as objective as possible. Some people dare not to follow this advice and do their own thing. Jeannette Winterson is one of them.
Her first book is basically an autobiographical story, relating to her childhood and exploration of her sexuality and religious influences. It won the Whitbread Award for a First Novel in 1985 and commend her for viewing this book as all inclusive, as she said, “I’ve never understood why straight fiction is supposed to be for everyone, but anything with a gay character or that includes gay experience is only for queers.”
She continues to do her own thing, and not apologize for it. In 2014 Winterson was chastised for killing a rabbit who ate her herbs. She posted the cut up meat on Twitter and later the rabbit meat in a pot of stew, as well as the rabbit innards that her cat ate sitting on a plate. She received backlash from her followers, strangers, and animal rights activists. Some vowed never to read her books again. Would I rather have had her not kill the rabbit that ate her herbs? Yes. Did this stop me from recommending one of her books? No. I will probably buy more of her books. Yes. The choice is always ours.
I had recommended this book before in a previous blog before I even finished it, but I don’t think I had shared it on my Facebook or LinkedIn page at the time so here it goes again. This is one of those books where you don’t judge a book by its cover or subject matter. I find espionage a highly interesting phenomenon, but computer espionage? Come on? How interesting could it really be? It sounds rather boring. I’m sure it is in most cases, but it is quite interesting when you have the right person writing about it.
Cliff Stoll infuses the right amount of factual information with his own personal quirks and hesitancy. You will see this when he is dealing with the FBI, CIA, and NSA. His lifestyle of sewing quilts and making homemade milkshakes when he was not being a systems administrator was in direct contradiction to the later relationships he formed with the “spooks.” You couldn’t have picked a more unique person to unravel this story piece by piece even if you tried. It is a page turner, and I mean this sincerely. You will doubly enjoy it if you are into non-fiction thriller/mystery.
Stoll doesn’t mince his words, but still you know he has a kind heart within him. He comments on certain things that seem unrelated to the hacker, but it does serve a purpose in the long run. This book is as relevant as ever given our current political times. I won’t spoil the ending, but I wasn’t too surprised that certain things happened the way they did. This was as much a cat and mouse game as it was a catalyst for things to come in the computer world and in his own personal life. I will conclude with the message of fixing the smaller problems is usually adequate, but sometimes it isn’t, and when it isn’t enough, watch out because who knows what will appear.
April 18, 2017: Book Recommendation
It’s been a long time since I was awed at a writer’s technique and word usage. The sentences seemed to jump off the page for me when I read The Dress Lodger. They got a lot of distance and hit my face each time as if they were saying, “read me, read me!” Sheri Holman weaves the characters of this story tightly onto the streets of Sunderland, England as if they were alive. You realize they belong there, all of them, even Gustine to claim their due. I’m not even sure if I could emulate her writing style even as a writing exercise. She is that superb in her description, dialogue, and humor. I want to read it again just to absorb her talent for crafting a great story about doctors, cadavers, pottery workers, babies, and drunken men. Holman writes in such a way where she transports you back to the 1800’s with all the characters; and when the story ends, you reluctantly leave with time well spent.