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.

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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.

Book Review

Book Review: The Dark Arena by Mario Puzo

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Sometimes I wanna fight like hell against everything around me, but I don’t know what to fight. It seems like I can’t get out of a straight line to a trap.

The Dark Arena is the first novel by the renowned crime novelist Mario Puzo published in 1955. Set in post World War II Germany, the book is told in the third person narrative and evolves around the life of Walter Mosca, an American G.I. who fell in love with a German girl.

The novel started at the end of the World War II where we find our protagonist, Walter on his way back home to America. Once home, he’s gone restless and thought that he would rather be back in Germany where all the ruins, faces and memories from the now-over war is everywhere. Soon, he decided to go back in Germany and once he reached Bremen, he went and look for Hella, a girl he met during the war and the reason he is back in the land of the enemy.

Together, Hella and Walter tried to live a harmonious life as a couple in a society where a relationship like theirs is considered a taboo. They made each day count, all along waiting for the wedding ban for American-German couple to be lifted. Though the book ended tragically, Walter and Hella’s union gave birth to a wonderful son.

The book speaks with a grim tone, someone who have gone through a war just like Walter could only have. It depicts the distorted view the world had during the war and how people struggle to move on with their lives even after the war is over.

I’ve always been drawn to books/stories related to the World War II because I find the emotions, insights and overall theme to have a deep and profound meaning. With this book, there are varying emotions thrown in but the story lacked in depth. The only thing I liked about it is the fact that Puzo was able to conjure up a character so cruel that you’d think how brave it was for a writer to come up with such an idea – to offer an awfully detestable main character to the readers.

I found it boring as the events in the book didn’t get me going and there’s not much to look forward to. I kept on waiting on every chapter for a cliffhanger, or something that would spice up the story but there were none. I’d give it a poor 2 out of 5 stars for I find the plot quite shallow and a bit meaningless. I love Mario Puzo for the brilliant job he’s done with The Godfather, but this novel was a “meh”.  I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone I know. If you want to experience the real Mario Puzo greatness, go grab a copy of The Godfather.

Book Review

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.

The Martian is a science fiction novel written by American novelist Andy Weir that was published in 2011. The book follows the adventure of a stranded astronaut in Mars in the year 2035 and how he managed to survive 549 sols (Martian day) alone.

Mark Watney is part of NASA’s crewed mission named Ares 3 that sends astronauts to Mars for exploration. Ares 3’s mission failed when on Sol 6, their landing area, Acidalia Planitia was hit by a dust storm which resulted to their evacuation. In this evacuation, only five out of the original six crews of Ares 3 were able to successfully board and launch the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) into space leaving behind one crew member -Mark Watney. This was brought about by Watney’s injury that left him unconscious which then led his crew members to believe him dead.

Watney then woke up to the realization that he is stranded in Mars ALONE and that he is fucked up! He spent the next days -err, sols coming up with various plans on how he will survive life on Mars. Along the way, he came up with solutions such as planting crops (from their mission’s stock) to feed him and fixing communication devices so he can talk to Earth. NASA on the other hand, later on found out that Watney is still alive in Mars and so this started their mission to bring him home alive. Through the combined efforts of the geniuses from NASA and resourcefulness of Watney, he was able to get home after 549 challenging, life-threatening solar days in Mars.

The book was largely written in the form of Watney’s Log or journal entries in Mars and through a third person narrative for Earth-related scenarios. It’s quite a book for geeks as contents of it could get way too “technical” with all the terms the author used to describe how Watney performed certain experiments to stay alive. A good example of this was when he decided to produce water in Mars for his crops. PRODUCE. WATER. IN. MARS!

I liked it for its wit and humor and how it was able to engage me still, in spite of all the technical/scientific phrases used to almost distract me. I like books with a fast-pace storytelling, and though The Martian seemed to stumble over Watney’s experiments here and there, I thought that his story is quite on the fast side in general.  What I didn’t like though, is how it got to a point where the cycle of Watney finding out something’s wrong and fixing it in the end became too repetitive. I also didn’t like how on some parts of it, I felt like I was reading the journal of a nerd, bragging about his latest science project while trying to sound funny.

I’d rate this book 4 out of 5 stars for I felt that it was a very well thought-out book. I like how the story is firm to the plot and no other distracting thoughts or events were strewn to it. I thought it is quite an educational read in some ways for people like me that have forgotten all about their Chemistry and Physics background (if there are any).

Book · Book Review

Book Review: Silence by Shūsaku Endō

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“It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.”

Silence is a historical fiction novel written by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō published in 1966. Set in 17th century Japan, it follows the story of missionaries from Portugal and the suffering they have both experienced and witnessed in the hands of Japanese officials. The first part was written in the form of letter correspondence from the protagonist and later on in the third person narrative.

Christianity was not something openly embraced by Japanese in 1630s. In spite of this adversity, a number of missionaries from Portugal still come to Japan to strengthen the Christian faith among the believers. A Portuguese Jesuit named Fr. Sebastian Rodrigues and his companion Fr. Francisco Garrpe sailed to Japan to fulfill this mission and to confirm the news that their mentor, a Jesuit priest in Japan named Christovao Ferreira has apostatized.

Upon reaching Japan, they have witnessed how discreet Japanese Christians are in their faith and worshiping God. They had to hide any sign that could give them away as practicing Christians to government officials and civilians alike. Rodrigues witnessed  brutality and torture of all sorts done to groups of Christian peasants that were caught practicing the religion. These tortures have all led to their eventual deaths. He himself was starved and imprisoned, while his companion Garrpe died of drowning trying to save Christians that were wrapped in woven mats then thrown in to the ocean to die. In all these hardships, he had often wondered and questioned why is God silent? Why did he remained silent in all of this?

Rodrigues later met his mentor Ferreira who had confirmed he’d apostatized and is now living under a Japanese name. He convinced Rodrigues to apostatized so these peasants’ sufferings will end. It was also implicated by his captors that because of Rodrigues, people are suffering and dying, so he better renounce his faith, else, these sufferings will continue.

This book is a story of one’s faith and how will it endure physical torture and humiliation. When faced with life-threatening situation, how will your faith affect your actions? I liked how it showed stories of sacrifices that were truly inspiring and insights from Rodrigues that speaks to my heart, and more importantly, to me as a Christian. This book gave me a sense of admiration for one’s faith and its ability to endure hardship.

I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars rating for its “straight to the point” storytelling and thorough narrative. In summary, this book was not a “heavy” read for it conveys the message in one go. You won’t find conflicting events in the plot or in the build-up of characters, and so this was an easy read for me.

I liked how at the end of the book, Rodrigues had contemplated his anguish over God’s silence and have made him realized that God was not silent, He suffered with him. He is not alone for God was with him. It’s a message enough to inspire all of us Christians (and non-Christians), that in the midst of all our sufferings, God is always with us.

May we all find the courage we found in Rodrigues, to preach the word of God even if He may have been silent.