Book 17: The Silver Linings Playbook

Courtesy of Goodreads

Title: The Silver Linings Playbook

Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mental Illness

Summary: What the back cover says

“Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him — the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective”

Edition: Sarah Crichton Books, Paperback, 289 Pages

Eaten Thru On: 12:15am August 27, 2014


Thoughts:

This felt like a grown-up version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I absolutely relished the experience, as short as it was (since I tore through it like I did The Perks). It was an easy and enjoyable read. The vocabulary was simple but don’t let that fool you into thinking its content is as well. There were times I was taken aback by the sudden drop into the dark depths of a mind plagued by ghosts and suppressed memories.

I loved having that first-person narrative. Pat sounding like a 10-year-old most of the time, his obsession with Nikki, his repetition of his nice-vs-right mantra, his incomprehension over tragic endings, his sensitivity over jokes about pills and mental illnesses, his hurt over not being trusted, these all created a very human image of what it’s like to live with a mental illness.

I adored Tiffany, but maybe that’s because I broke one of my cardinal rules of not watching the movie before reading the book. Plus, even if I didn’t do that, the cover kind of ruins it all by having half of Jennifer Lawrence’s face on it. I am huge JLaw fan so I might be very biased toward Tiffanny because I have JLaw in my mind every time the character comes up in the book. Or perhaps, the story of her past in that letter she wrote was the only point in the book that triggered tears.

I re-watched the movie after finishing this book. I understand they made it a much more feel-good version than what was in the book, but my goodness do I like the movie version of Pat’s dad way better. I didn’t like the book version of him one bit. I hated the emotional abuse he put the mother through. I hated the way he treated Pat. I hated the Eagles because of him. I just genuinely did not like him as a person. There were no redeeming qualities about the man, not even the emotions at the wedding or the sports newspaper on the stairs could save him from my strong dislike. But I was also frustrated with the mom for not standing up for herself. Yes, she tried, but she also crumbled faster than a wall of sand. Cliff, on the other hand, I loved as well as the 50 Indians of the Asian Invasion. Jake, Scott, and even the fat men, they were fantastic.

Ultimately, I just really liked the human light Quick shed on mental illness. He didn’t make it the focal point. He didn’t let it overwhelm the story. He didn’t fill it with tragedy so you would pity the characters. It was a story about a guy, and his family and friends, and a girl. Quick made Pat and Tiffany quirky and strange in some ways and their lives ordinarily extraordinary. It’s a heartwarming, funny, sailor-mouthed story with honest emotions and silver linings.


Favourite Passages:

“Because he has never been married and he has never lost someone like Nikki and he is not trying to improve his life at all, because he doesn’t even feel the war that goes on in my chest every single f*cking day–the chemical explosions that light up my skull like the Fourth of July and the awful needs and impulses” Page 109

“You look like a retarded snake! you are supposed to crawl with your arms–not slither and wiggle or whatever the f*ck you are doing down there.” Page 192

 

” “Why can’t I just wear a shirt?”

“Does the sun wear a shirt?”

The sun does not wear yellow tights either, but I do not say so.” Page 198

 

“The possibility of miracles happening keeps a lot of people moving forward.” Page 234


Final Verdict: 4/5 silver linings

Recommended For: anyone who enjoyed The Perks, the movie, anyone who wants a nice, quick read.

Next Target: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

 

43. Ten Books

A wonderful friend of mine tagged me on Facebook to list ten books that have become a part of me. I have never done tags before, and now I can say that I have.

Although the one rule to this tag is to not put too much thought into it and just list the books that comes to mind, I found it rather difficult not to at least give it a good ten minutes. These are, after all, the books that have influenced my perception, my outlook on life, and changed the creatures that inhabit my world. However, I promise, Miranda, I only spent ten minutes on it…

And realized how woefully under-read I am.

I did splurge a lot more minutes on the format and composition of my response, but can you blame me? I bow to the power of lists! As per usual, all photos are courtesy of the fantastical inventory of Goodreads.

So here they are, the ten life-changers in no particular order of magnitude of presence:

1. 1984 by George Orwell. (The one that got me hooked on the genre of dystopia)

 

2. Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang

3. And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

5. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. (A friend sent me this when I was having severe doubts and worries about going to China. This has been read and re-read ever since and every time, it has brought me comfort in a foreign place when I felt dangerously lonely and lost)

6. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. (First book I ever read in English)

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

8. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

9. The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran (I cannot begin to tell you the great impact these short stories have had on me. My heart still violently aches and breaks for these women and the many, many more whose stories never made it to the published world. Plus, this book was a gift from my mother, making it that much more special.)

10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Now! Who are my ten victims? Only Facebook can tell.

Book 16: Factory Girls

Courtesy of Goodreads

Title: Factory Girls, From Village to City in a Changing China

Author: Leslie T. Chang

Genre: Non-fiction, China, History, Biography, Sociology

Summary: What Goodreads say

“An eye-opening and previously untold story, Factory Girls is the first look into the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China.

China has 130 million migrant workers—the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for theWall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta.

As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life—a world where nearly everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place. Throughout this riveting portrait, Chang also interweaves the story of her own family’s migrations, within China and to the West, providing historical and personal frames of reference for her investigation.

A book of global significance that provides new insight into China,Factory Girls demonstrates how the mass movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and transforming Chinese society, much as immigration to America’s shores remade our own country a century ago.”

Edition: Spiegel & Grau , 2009 Paperback, 431 Pages

Eaten Thru: August 24, 2014


Thoughts:

There is something great in such a human story. I study international relations and I’ve studied China for a few years now. I know what all the numbers and statistics say about that country. I’ve lived there and witnessed it firsthand. But it’s one thing to say that it is home to the biggest human migration in history and something completely different once you get down to the individual level, which is so often bypassed, especially in a country that champions collectivism and the power of the masses (ironic in light of its autocratic political system), and puts little to no value on the individual.

Chang puts on the pages honest stories, no spin, no heavy political leanings, and no detail too small to record. I very much enjoyed her interweaving her own family history into the mix. It brings home just how personal and intimate this book is. All the cultural nuances and personal anecdotes, it made me shake my head and chuckle, laugh out loud at times. Ultimately they chased away the loneliness I sometimes harbour around some of my own strange beliefs and values that do not fit with the environment and culture I live in.

I am a million miles away from these migrant girls in the book, physically and financially. I never had to toil one day in my whole life in a factory, on an assembly line, or live in a 8-person dorm room. By all appearances, I shouldn’t relate to their realities. But I do, very much so. I was so taken by Chunming and Min and all the girls that were scattered across those 400 pages. I sympathized with their struggles, their migration, and their rural roots. But above all, I empathized with their stories, their worries that are so painfully Chinese at times, their girlish quirks, their dreams of love and marriage, their despair and their hopes. It was all so deeply human.

If you think there is nothing for you in this book, if you have absolutely zero interest in China, all the more reason to pick it up and at least give the first few pages a shot. It may be a book about rural migrant women in the megacities of China, every aspect of which might be a million miles away from where you are and where you’ve been in life, but when you make that connection to these girls, when you begin to empathize, it makes it all the more transforming. Our ability to imagine and to empathize, and our capacity for compassion and understanding, how extraordinarily human! No matter how different our circumstances, our cultures, our lives, our worlds are, there is always that one factor which intertwines us all and makes all of our stories connect.


Favourite Passages:

“The stories of migrant women shared certain features. The arrival in the city was blurry and confused and often involved being tricked in some way…it was easy to lose yourself in the factory, where there were hundreds of girls with identical backgrounds: born in the village, badly educated, and poor. You had to believe that you mattered even though you were one among millions.” Page 55

Square and Round was a perversion of an American self-help book. It did not urge people to discover themselves, or to be honest about their failings and in their relationships. It did not try to change its readers. Instead it taught them how to do better what they already knew so well: pettiness, materialism, envy, competition, flattery, and subterfuge…Square and Round was essentially a point-by-point rejection of the virtues Chinese tradition had preached for two thousand years.” Page 196-198

“He preferred to talk about them in parts: their eyeballs, their hands, their brains. But people as a whole did not make sense to him. They were inefficient…people basically didn’t work–it was as if their creator had used first-rate parts but then botched the assembly.” Page 264

“As people entered the main concourse, they instinctively broke into a run: being Chinese has conditioned them to know that there will never be enough of anything.” Page 275

“Nobody on earth generates trash faster than the traveling Chinese.”

“On that last winter night, when armed men boarded his train and stabbed him with bayonets, all that learning and effort was rendered useless. It had been the crudest type of force: against such weapons, a man’s idealism meant nothing.” Page 382.


Final Verdict: 4/5

Recommended For: Anyone who likes a human story and of course, anyone with an interest in the intricacies of the transformation that is taking China by storm.

Next Target: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

42. Five dangers of becoming a bibliophile

10533446_10152208016206891_2455669842779259640_n

  1. Drowning. With nearly 130 million books in the world, it’s a small wonder bibliophiles are still alive and breathing instead of buried under a landslide of even 1/100 of that many books. At the moment, I have only a few dozen books sitting in front of me, but I can still feel my eyes wander at times, sneaking a peek here and there at the potential love affairs while still involved with the open pages in my hands. Sometimes, I would walk into a collection so great and dedicated that my breath would catch in my throat and I’d go slightly red from the breathtaking-ness of its grandeur. Which leads to my second point…

  2. Indecision. Life-crippling indecision. When one book closes, a hundred others open and jump up at you, with covers hoping, begging, screaming to be flipped open (kind of like those rare and exotic volumes in the Restricted Section of the magical Hogwarts Library). Some of them are just so irresistible that you have to possess it, which leads to…

  3. Poverty. There is an inability of bibliophiles to walk out of a bookstore without at least purchasing one item. Usually, we are balancing a good, solid dozen. Our bags may be heavy with paper, but our wallets are as light as feather. Our bank accounts are nearly non-existent.

  4. Anti-socialization. We like to read in the sun, in the rain, on cloudy days, on stormy or clear nights. We like to read at the library, the coffee shop, the park, on the bus, in the local bar, on a random bench we found, at the bus stop, on the curb, basically anywhere and everywhere at any time. We don’t usually intend to appear anti-social, in fact, we probably would love to engage you in a conversation. Just, don’t talk about the weather or how you don’t read. Please.

  5. Joy. Overwhelming, never-ending, heart-bursting happiness. We could have the worst possible day, come home and one look at those delicious, beautiful books on the shelves would pull us right back out of our own tragedies, and into the mind-spinning, heart-pounding, body-numbing, comforting tragicomedies of characters and personalities. One look at those intricate covers and fantastical stories and we are home.

So what are you waiting for? Join the club! That perfect book, it’s out there, patiently, quietly and sweetly waiting for you.

Happy discovering!

Book 15: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Courtesy of Goodreads

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Author: Maria Semple

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Humour

Summary:

Bee’s mother Bernadette, is infamous in town for being strange, quirky, opinionated, and aloof. Then one day, Bernadette disappears and Bee begins her search for the mother she deeply loves. By meticulously compiling and sorting through emails, correspondences, news articles, and other forms of writing, a picture of Bernadette, who she was, who she became, and more importantly, where she is, emerges.

Edition: Little, Brown and Company, 2012, paperback, 330 pages

Eaten Thru On: 11:56pm, August 10, 2014

Thoughts:

Little Bee reminds me so much of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Her intelligence, her courage, her fire. If these two girls ever met, I’m almost certain they would be the best of friends. This immediately drew me to Bee, the adorable detective behind all the letters, emails, and pieces of evidence she’s meticulously collected and took a magnifying glass to.

Which brings me to the way this novel is laid out: a sea of written documents of all kinds with Bee’s voice penetrating through them here and there. I loved it. At first, the story jumped around a lot, from one storyline to another. But as it progressed, all the lines came together nicely and everything revealed their purpose. I enjoyed slowly learning about Bernadette’s past, seeing Bee’s personality and fierceness emerge, the very adult problems that weaved its way in, and ultimately, experiencing the strength and love within a family.

A sweet, shocking, and funny story with a strong, ambitious, and wonderfully witty narrator.

Final Verdict: 4/5 Bees

Recommended For: beach days, mystery-newbies, and a light read between heavy-weights.

Next Target: Factory Girls by Leslie Chang, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

41. Ball of Fire

10408502_10152168474531891_1738281719948364235_n

Sometimes, the sky would weave together white cotton in splendid shapes and sizes, which would allow the playful sun to conduct a game of hide and seek, or perform charades across the canvass of mountains, forests and patchy river works.

10547464_10152168491821891_3531445052609051626_n

On cold mornings, you could almost hear the woods shiver in warmth and sigh in contentment when they receive the attention of the sun. They would shake off the night’s dewy company in anticipation for daylight. The wind would bring around the music and all the forests would dance to greet the new day.

The trees would stretch and reach to the heavens in order to nab just a second more of that glorious ephemeral golden breeze. It’s like coffee to their good mornings.

10446679_10152168500636891_3079328644776842604_n

The droplets of gold would trickle down through the leaves and branches, to be cast upon even the smallest of dandelions and newborns. Into the turquoise snaking around, over and under, creating a necklace of blue diamonds worthy of this legendary beauty.

13907_10152174300726891_9154659632178598639_n (1)

40. On The Road

10606203_10152168486411891_4805223618314568301_n

The mountains raise their majestic barren heads only to be subverted by the group effort of the thousands upon thousands of pine trees. And as the road curved to meet its destination, the two would compete for the highest honour of being part of the celestial blue. Wave upon wave of green would crash upon the shores of the mountain base, conquering some while barely scratching the rims of others.

For a moment the trees seem to have claimed victory, but as we moved onward, the glacier giants would reemerge to challenge the hegemony of the masses.

10537126_10152168492346891_8452537151383940689_n

Finally, the rivers of ice and turquoise would cut through both to form a bond, washing away the envy and greed, flowing from the tallest rocky peaks down to touch the lowest of branches, shaping the mountaintops and breathing life into the pines.

There is now harmony.

Stone giants and leafy soldiers at peace with one another, coexisting to create this beautiful paradise beyond words.

10543614_10152168502651891_8985603374359126586_n