Book Review

Book Review: Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

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There’s nothing good about being ordinary. People don’t respect you for it. People run after people who are different, who have confidence in their own taste, who don’t run with the herd. There is nothing gained by giving in to the pressures of group vulgarity.

Fear of Flying is a 1973 novel by American poet and novelist, Erica Jong. Set in Europe, the book was written in the first person narrative through the voice of the protagonist, Isadora Wing. It tells mainly her story and how she struggles to find her place in a world where a woman’s place was already pre-determined by most of what people think is and should be.

Isadora and her husband flew to Vienna to attend an event for psychoanalysts and there she met Adrian, an Englishman she found herself so attracted with. Adrian felt the same attraction and offered Isadora to run away and live a “care-free” life with him, one that sounded appealing to her. After hesitating between choosing to stay with his husband or to elope with Adrian, she chose the latter and together, they travel all over Europe.

More than the infidelity depicted in the novel, the heart of it all is Isadora and how she grew up to be this woman who find it hard to put a definition to love, or to life in general. She felt trapped in a marriage that for her, had lost its glory. She felt like people around her (family & friends) have been dictating her all her life. She felt like she is not living her life to the fullest.

It tells how Isadora finds it offending to go with the flow and be ordinary just like everyone else. Though there is nothing wrong with being ordinary, she believes that there is a far more greater purpose in life for her than to just simply get married, be a housewife and a mother eventually. She didn’t share that same domestic sentiment as with the majority of the female population (at that time) felt.

I loved how Erica Jong have bravely talked about these things that a typical woman is too scared to even think about. I loved how she values the individuality of Isadora and made an adventure with her struggle to find and embrace it wholeheartedly. I loved how she showed Isadora’s stubbornness and insistence to be known as her own person and not as somebody’s wife or somebody’s daughter. I loved how she openly talked about the realities of a married life and how people get through all these hurdles.

I loved this book for the message it conveyed to its women readers that it’s OK to want more and give more to yourself. I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars rating for I thought that the plot and characters were elaborately written. It easily became one of my favorite books of all time.

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Travel

A load of Hong Kong!

I’ve read somewhere in the internet that once a year, you should go somewhere you haven’t been to. Well, it sure does sound like a plan, and with all the stress from work and our daily lives, why not indeed go somewhere you haven’t been and unwind or just simply wander. September this year, my boyfriend and I went on a quick holiday trip to one of the most populated countries, (one of the liveliest too!) in the world – Hong Kong!

We only had 4 days total including our flights to and from Singapore to explore Hong Kong. That was actually the challenge here! Ha! Our flight from SG is at 10 in the morning on a Saturday, arriving around 2pm at HKG. Upon arrival, we had a quick late lunch and head on to Hong Kong Disneyland for some photo op with the famous Disneyland arch (?). Whatever, the welcome arch thingy you see on their parks, that’s it!

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We didn’t go inside the park because 1.) it’s expensive (not practical!) 2.) we didn’t have much time 3.) we’ve been on a Disneyland Park and we weren’t THAT impressed seeing it’s generally for kids! And so, after Disneyland, we went to find our Airbnb place located at Mong Kok.

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On our second day, we went to Won Tai Sin Temple, Chi Lin Nunnery, Hing Fat Flower Market and Yuen Po Street Bird Market. Our place is located near an MTR station so transportation was not a problem on our part.

This was in Won Tai Sin Temple, it’s quite crowded the day we went there. Mostly Chinese tourists (maybe even locals) are everywhere praying, taking photos and just about doing any tourist-y things they do for fun.

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This was in Chi Lin Nunnery, a very quiet Buddhist temple complex in Kowloon. Selfie sticks are not allowed in this place, and being the “basic tourist” in me, it definitely bummed me out. But hey, what did your Mother ever tell you about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, right?! So, it’s all good!

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After Chi Lin Nunnery we went to have our lunch in a more urban area in Kowloon. Hong Kong is famous for its Beef Brisket dishes -you can choose between Beef Brisket Noodles or Rice meal. It’s actually one of the many things I will never forget about HK, its tender, tasty beef brisket.

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After we had our lunch, we went to Hing Fat Flower Market which is just a walking distance from the place where we had our lunch. I personally liked this area because every way you turn, you will see flowers everywhere! They sell different kinds of flowers and potted plants too.

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These are my favorites (photo below) but I didn’t know what they’re called. :/ Can someone please tell me what they’re called?

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We only have two days (in essence) to go around Hong Kong and savor what the country has to offer. We felt we had to hit as many birds as possible in one stone (I mean day!) and yes, it’s my segue to the next place we went to on our 2nd day – Yuen Po Street Bird Market! Tweet!

I didn’t know that people in Hong Kong likes birds this much! In this place, they sell quite a few variety of breeds of birds, bird cages (photo below), bird foods and all sorts of stuffs essential to birds.

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At night, we went to one of the famous night markets in Mong Kok and found out what the hype is all about!

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There were a lot of colorful neon signs of all shapes and sizes and that makes the area more lively! Also, there were street performers on various areas that ranges from singers (mostly), to dancers and acrobats like the one shown in the below photo.

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Food is mainly the thing that I will always remember of Hong Kong. In night markets, you will always find a food stall selling street foods that are mainly pork intestines, pork liver as well as the usual meatballs, siew mai on sticks and the likes.

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On our 3rd and considered last day of exploring, we went to the Peak and sailed on the famed Aqua Luna at night.

As I’ve emphasized earlier on, I love anything food-related in Hong Kong. Also, I love breakfasts and breakfast food! One thing I’ve read online that we should not miss when in HK is their traditional breakfast meal that consists of a hot coffee or milk tea (MY PERSONAL FAVE IN THE WORLD!), macaroni noodles with strips of ham, a slice of pork or sausage and a toast. The combination could vary, but for me, the hot milk tea is always a must!

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So, moving on. After breakfast, we went to the Lower Peak Tram Terminus to ride the famous Peak Tram that would take us to the Victoria Peak. The tram looked like this and the ride took us about 10 minutes (I guess?!) before we reached the Peak.

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This is the Victoria Peak. From this vantage point, you will see the famed skyscrapers of Hong Kong as well as the Victoria Harbor. It will also give you the opportunity to see the mountainous side of Hong Kong .

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To end our quick yet sweet escape to Hong Kong, we took an hour ride on this vintage-looking junk boat that sails from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central and back.

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The package we bought online included a complimentary drinks per person. Nothing beats the view of Victoria Harbor and the sun setting behind. Plus, you’re holding a cold beer in one hand and your beau’s in the other. What more can you ask for?

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To sum up our Hong Kong adventure I’d say that four days is not enough as there are more other things and places we could’ve visited. Also, it’s important that you consider the season you are going to in Hong Kong as it could get too hot and humid on some months (September included!). It’s better to go in mid-December to February as those are considered winter season. In terms of food, you could never go wrong as they offer a wide variety of choices from street foods to fine dining. Transportation is workable and easy to navigate, so it’s an easy peasy on that aspect.

In general, I loved Hong Kong for its noise and lively ambiance found in its modern city and street life. If given a chance, I’d definitely come back to this captivating place!

Book Review

Book Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

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Who knows, perhaps the will to please leads people to crime as often as evil or greed does. People want to fit in and do well, and they do indescribably stupid things because of it.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth installment in the Millenium Series written by Swedish journalist and writer, David Lagercrantz. Set in Sweden, this action-packed book is a continuation of the crime-solving adventures of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.

The book introduced a renowned Swedish scientist named Frans Balder who have invented an A.I. that could make remarkable breakthrough in the field of science and technology. Seeing how promising this invention is, a certain underground group went after him that led him to his untimely death. Hours before he was murdered, he called Blomkvist with the intent of disclosing useful information he knows and about his invention. As Blomkvist got more and more involved with the investigation, he got in touch with Salander and together, they were to unravel other more disturbing truths behind the murder of Balder.

It’s quite a lengthy read to begin with, but with Lagercrantz writing, I was able to finish this book without getting bored. Though there were a few objection about the publication of this book, I could say it has given enough justice for Lisbeth’s comeback in the literary scene. Having read the trilogy (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) I can personally say that Larsson’s (author of the first three books) and Lagercrantz’s writing are of the same tone. The characters from the trilogy were able to maintain their significance in the story and in the lives of Blomkvist and Salander. Also, the plot was presented in an engaging way.

I’d rate it a 3 out of 5 stars because although I liked the book (the plot and everything was A-OK), I just felt that instead of re-living the story of the girl with the dragon tattoo, they could have introduced a new heroine and let Salander’s mystery be preserved with Larsson’s passing. I thought we could at least give it to Larsson to rest in peace and know that he owns the rights to Salander solely. But then again, this is just me. What do I know, right?!

Book Review

Book Review: Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord

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“But, in reality, being unhappy might also teach him something about happiness.”

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a novel written by French writer Francois Lelord in 2002 and translated in to English in 2010. Set in various unnamed cities in the world, this is a story of a man named Hector whose profession took him to an adventure that would widen his horizon and understanding to that one thing his patient have been looking for: HAPPINESS.

This is a short novel written in the third person narrative that tells the story of a psychiatrist named Hector and his search for happiness. Hector have had quite a few patients and though he’s treated a few, he still finds some patients suffering with unhappiness that lies deeper into their own being. They may have a good life, with loving families and stable jobs but they still go to Hector for help. He realized he can’t help them all with his limited knowledge of happiness and so he embarked on an adventure that took him to cities in Asia, Africa and America.

We all want happiness in life and this is the reason I see why this book has sold over two million copies worldwide. The title being about the search for happiness, I’m sure readers won’t think twice of grabbing a copy. Plus, it’s just a 240 page-book, so why not, right?! On the other hand, I personally find this book a bit of a shallow read as the story itself goes on a rather straight line with obvious conclusion at the end. The lessons that Hector has learned throughout his journey are sure worth remembering but I feel that these are the only thing that kept me reading this book. I thought the writer could have focused more on complex experiences of the characters that would lead Hector to lessons about happiness. Complex background stories/experiences could have given the lessons a deeper meaning to them.

I’d rate it a 2 out of 5 stars. I thought the book was written a bit bland that I lost interest around the 2nd half.

Book Review

Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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But my secret is: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.

Why Not Me? is the second New York Times best-selling memoir written by American actress, comedienne and writer Mindy Kaling. Preceded by her first book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), this book focused more on the success she’s gained over the years, how hard she worked for it and how she keeps herself grounded amidst all the fame.

In this book, Mindy shared some of her life experiences that have both tickled and touched my emotions. She’s written lengthy chapters dedicated to special people (ehemB.J. Novak-hem!) in her life and how they play big roles in it. She wrote about her work and how she juggles being the writer, executive producer and main star in a TV show with her name on it! Generally, the book is about the *real* life of a middle-aged successful woman and how she balance things from her love life, work life, her diet, and everything in between.

I might be a bit bias because I love Mindy Kaling so this review might be all about “I JUST LOVE HER TO DEATH”! I love her character in The Office (my all-time fave) and loved her even more when I found out that she also writes/directs some episodes for the show. This book is essential to all the girls out there who have ever doubted (still do!) their abilities and who immaculately feel the pressure from the society to fit in a certain mold. Mindy never fail to make me laugh and inspire all at the same time. I love that she continue to be an image of an independent woman who is not afraid to face her flaws and flaunt them, if needed.

I love how she’s repeatedly pointed out in this book that HARD WORK PAYS! If I would sum this book up, it would have to be “How Mindy Kaling Worked Hard For Everything She Got Now And Why You Should Too”. I believe it’s important to earn the things you have in your life through hard work and she is a living example to that. She’s also written that no matter how good you have it, it’s cool to want more. See? The tone of this review is all “I love her blah blah..”

I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars for no matter how I love Mindy, I felt that this book was just a mere continuation of her first memoir. I felt that the stories she’s written here were  extensions of the first book. In spite of it all, I still love her to death! She will forever be one of my favorite persons in Hollywood.

Book Review

Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

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Doubt is the pinprick in the life raft.” She stepped close and we hugged. I could feel her trembling ever so slightly. She wasn’t bulletproof. I knew then that my shaky faith in myself was starting to dig a hole in hers, and Emma’s confidence was what held everything together. It was the life raft.

Library of Souls is the third installment from Ransom Riggs’ widely known book series of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. It was preceded by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City respectively. Published in 2015, it was narrated through the perspective of the main character, Jacob Portman and set in London, Siberia and various locations (fiction and real) through different time and era.

In this third and final book of Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children, Jacob and Emma found themselves in modern England where they must find their peculiar friends abducted by Caul (an evil man who has captured all the ymbrynes including Miss Peregrine) and his league of wights. The story immediately picked up where Hollow City ended and through the help of various characters (mostly peculiars) they met along the way, Jacob and Emma were able to find the rest of their friends and save them. Before they were able to succeed in saving the peculiars, Jacob had to go through Caul’s greedy hands and led him to the Library of Souls where Caul forced him to use his peculiarity in fulfilling Caul’s life-long desire of acquiring the most powerful soul in all of peculiardom.

Bentham, brother to Miss Peregrine and Caul, had concocted a recipe that would collapse the library. This was the key for Miss Peregrine, the ymbrynes and the peculiar children to escape Caul and his greed for power. After escaping the collapsing library and the life-threatening events that Caul has led them all, the peculiars were able to save other peculiars in Caul’s tower and settle in safely at Bentham’s house.

The book ended with Jacob going back to his parents instead of staying in Miss Peregrine’s loop with Emma and all his peculiar friends.

Having read the first two books in the series, I can say that Library of Souls was able to end the series in a satisfying note. The story was able to hold firm to its core theme and I loved how the characters, especially Jacob have matured in a span of few days that he stayed with peculiars and hollows alike. I loved that it showed how characters grew out of their childish fear and learn to fight not only for themselves but for others as well.

I’d rate this 3 out of 5 stars for I thought that Ransom Riggs could have let the peculiars explore greater heights in terms of adventure and fighting not just hollows and wights. I thought that since they were peculiar children, it would have been more engaging if their peculiarity were showcased more in the book.

Book Review

Book Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions & Disturbances is a collection of short stories by the master storyteller Neil Gaiman published in 2015. The book consisted of 24 short stories and poems of various themes and backgrounds. This is the third collection of short fiction from Gaiman following Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things.

I will try to describe the stories that were remarkable enough to me, in three to five words:

  • “The Thing About Cassandra” – Made-up girlfriend
  • “Orange” – Alien abduction. Family.
  • “A Calendar Of Tales” – Year-round Stories
  • “The Case Of Death And Honey” – Sherlock Holmes’ eastern adventure.
  • “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” – Sad Fan-boy memoir.
  • “Click-Clack The Rattlebag” – Novel/Movie-Worthy.
  • “Nothing O’Clock” – Doctor Who. Bow ties.
  • “Diamonds And Pearls: A Fairy Tale” – Good > Bad. Diamonds > Frogs .
  • “The Sleeper And The Spindle” – Snow White saves the day.
  • “Black Dog” – Shadow Moon. Murder.

This would have to be the first book I’ve read that’s made of short stories instead of a full length novel. I was delighted (as expected!) with this book and each story kept me wanting for more. I was particularly thrilled with the Doctor Who bit entitled “Nothing O’clock” as I used to watch the series a few years back. I also liked “Black Dog” which is an American Gods story with Shadow Moon in it.

On the downside, I wasn’t quite impressed with the poems. It felt weird reading them but what the hell, it’s Neil Gaiman so I can move on from that! I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars rating. This could be because I’d still prefer a novel over short stories collection on any day but I’d recommend it to anyone travelling abroad with long hours of flight ahead for it will surely keep you entertained and can while away the hours.