41. Ball of Fire

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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.

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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.

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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.

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40. On The Road

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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.

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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.

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Book 14: Why I hate Canadians

Courtesy of Goodreads

Title: Why I Hate Canadians

Author: Will Ferguson

Genre: History, Canada, Humour

Summary: 

Ferguson steps off the plane back onto his native soil of Canada, after years of being an expat in Japan, he is bedazzled, bewildered and bemused by his homeland. So he writes a book about. Several, actually. This is one of those gems.

Edition: Douglas & McIntyre, 2007, paperback, 336 pages.

Eaten Thru On: August 8, 2014

Thoughts:

I was part of the same programme that took Ferguson to Japan. I stayed for one year, he stayed for an eternity. Big difference. But I felt some of the same sentiments he did whilst over there and as I stepped off the plane back onto Canadian soil. Albeit, I didn’t write a book about it, nor did I delve as deep into Canadian history and issues as he obsessively did in Japan, but Japan made me more Canadian than Canada did. So this book was relatable on that scale.

I also shared much of Ferguson’s opinions on the variety of issues that he touched in the book. I especially enjoyed his rant on Quebec separatism. It was delightful and we are very much on the same page.

This is the kind of history book I thoroughly enjoy and I dare anyone who likes history to differ. Ferguson combines facts with his honest and unwavering voice, and infuses it all with his sarcastic, good humour. He makes a strong case for Canadian history, rejecting the common perception that it is dull and short (aka. my perception up until I read this book). He entertains. He is brutally honest, and he makes you laugh. It is not a comprehensive history of Canada. It is a book on issues that he is passionate and vocal about. As we all know, someone who writes with passion, ends up with a well-written, hilarious, enthralling non-fiction. Or at least, that’s the Ferguson equation.

Favourite Passages:

“Canada’s intense preoccupation with American reminds me of nothing so much as those old black-and-white 1940s flicks where the heroine beats her fists on the man’s chest, sobbing “I hate you, I hate you, I hate, I hate you,” only to collapse into his embrace. Let’s face it, America is sexy. It is exciting, dangerous, crass, brash and violent. The problem is not that America is screwing us daily –which they are– but that they never send flowers or call afterwards. They barely remember our name. “See you around, doll. Here,” as they toss us a coin, “buy yourself something nice.” It is intercourse without foreplay, when all we needed was a little respect. (Cue the sobbing, chest-beating litany of “I hate you’s.”)” Page 153

“Could Canadians have chosen a less inspiring emblem? The Russians have a bear, the Americans a bald eagle, the British a lion rampant–and Canada? Canada has a beaver…we got stuck with a 30-kilogram, bucktoothed rodent whose most heroic trait is that thinks to slap his tail to warn his buddies before he runs away…here is a creature that lives in Canada and does not have the good sense to hibernate during the winter. Instead, beavers stock up on branches and tree bark and huddle inside their lodges until Spring, when they reappear–fat as ever–blinking into the sunlight and stretching. Sound familiar? Just add bear and cable TV to the equation and you have the average Canadian approach to winter survival. ” Page 226

“Hyphens identify us: on the left is our private story, on the right side is our public story. Together they encompass who we are, and as a nation our point of contact lies in our common denominator. A Hungarian-Canadian and an Irish-Canadian share neither Hungary or Ireland. But they do share Canada. In any adjective-noun arrangement, the noun takes precedence, whether it be radical-Canadian, urban-Canadian, or Dutch-Canadian.” Page 284

I could go on. I could just put the entire book here, but that would contain its own legality issues which I don’t want to deal with now, or ever.

Final Verdict: 4.5/5 beavers

Recommended For: Anyone even slightly interested in the upmost North American continent or just anyone looking for some laughs and an honest read.

Next Target: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

39. Missing Books

I am back in my homeland, and by that I mean Canada. It’s been a crazy month, once again, because my family has been hosting three of my cousins who came to visit from China.

We generously showered them with the beauties that Vancouver had to offer, and then we took them on a 10-day camp trip which ended in our tents being flooded by the sudden and completely outrageous torrential rain of the great, dry city of Calgary.

Did I say dry? Yes, apparently, it only rains three days a year, and we were so fortunate that we caught two of those days, on our two-day stopover there. There were a ton of confusion, frustration and cursing but in the end, we ended up warm and safe in a rather sketchy motel. But we were all dry. That was our main focus.

My cousins are departing tomorrow and the house will finally be void of the rattle and clatter of having three boys under the roof, which means, I will be absent no longer! Prepare for the roll out of regularly-timed posts once more.

Of course, the first few will centre around books. I am, after all, hopelessly in love with them. So here we go!

I don’t write reviews for all the books I devour. This has led to a few missing books in my 30-books challenge. I’ve dug. I’ve ventured into the darkness. I’ve swam through oceans of pages. I’ve found them and some of my thoughts that got lost along with them. (OK. Honestly, I just looked on my Goodreads page, but I wanted to feel epic today)

Courtesy of Goodreads

Book 10: A Short Guide to a Happy Life  by Anna Quindlen

Edition: Kindle

Very short indeed. I breezed through this one within the hour I started it. Don’t have a strong memory of it, which probably means it didn’t offer all that much. Quindlen referred a lot to her own life, which was a nice touch. But other than that, it was forgettable.

3/5 happy lives.

Courtesy of Goodreads

Book 11: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Edition: Kindle

This is the sequel to Anna and the French Kiss but I didn’t get nearly as gushy and fangirl-esque with this one as I did with its predecessor. In fact, the characters and the storyline enthralled me so not at all, that I gave it a 2/5. One thing I did like was Lola’s style. Flamboyant. Daring. Fierce. But if I were starting this series out, I wouldn’t go pass Anna.

2/5 polka dots.

Courtesy of Goodreads

Book 13: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Edition: Kindle

I was confused from beginning to end. I never was a big fan of philosophy so I presume that is mainly why I did not enjoy this book as much as some of my more philosophically-minded comrades. I very much enjoyed the glimpses of history about the Czech Republic and the politics of the time of WWII and the Cold War. I also did love Kundera’s piece on everything happening only once, and therefore it changes the weight of lives. The chapters in which Kundera simply delves into ideas, concepts and philosophical anecdotes were fantastic. The thoughts were laid out as they were. However, when he used the characters to illustrate some grand philosophical concept, I was lost. All that infidelity, the blind and foolish (to me) love, etc. did not appeal to me. I never did like a cheater, and I could never sympathize with one, so I had little compassion for the characters which stained the quality of my enjoyment.

3/5 lives.

That’s all for now.

Happy reading!

Book 12: World War Z

Courtesy of Goodreads

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Author: Max Brooks

Genre: Sci-fi, fantasy, horror

Summary: 

Born out of a 12-year-old boy in the village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, the virus spread like ink in water across the world and nearly decimated all of human population and wiped out humanity as we know it. Max Brooks, in the wreckage that began from Patient Zero, to the Great Panic, and finally to full-out war, traveled across the world to collect individual testimony from men, women and children who witnessed, experienced and was submerged in the war against the undead, in an attempt to capture the horror, desperation, bravery and humanity in the war and of its survivors.

Eaten Thru On: July 2, 2014

Thoughts:

What a page-turner. It had me shivering in fear and dread for its entirety.

I’m not one for zombie-themed anything, books, movies, series. No, I’m not a fan of the Walking Dead and I’ve never seen Zombieland or Shane of the Dead. The closest I’ve gotten to this genre was the feel-good film, Warm Bodies. Even then, I was grossed out and half covering my eyes in fear.

So I was surprised when I voluntarily picked up this book. A friend of mine had recommended it, passing it off as more a journalist-type compilation of personal testaments rather than zombie book. I thought it was just a ruse to get me into the genre. A year later, here I was, unable to put it down once I picked it up.

My friend was right. It really was most about the personal accounts, the individual stories that came out of a war-torn world. The zombies formed merely a backdrop. If I didn’t know any better, I thought I’d picked up a book of stories from a real world. I read this book over the course of two and a half days, and when I reemerged from it, for a moment, I believed I was still in that world. The accounts are written in a brilliantly realistic manner, integrating real world events and conditions. They came from a whole array of believable characters from all over the world in different professions and roles, ranging from military personnel to civilians and businessmen. It gave a well-rounded depiction of what was happening. Let’s you the reader, put everything together into a complete picture with just a tinge of great journalism in the mix.

Although these characters are not interconnected on a personal level, and their stories fragmented in a way that presented a variety of perspectives from different personalities, they carried the entire plot along extremely well. You felt the initial shock and confusion of what was happening. You felt the slow descent into madness and chaos. You felt the desperation and misery at the bottom. You saw no light, until you rose up with humanity and fought back. You saw the end approach, “the beginning of the end” as was well-put in the book. And finally, you saw the tail of the catastrophe. You would release that breath you didn’t know you’ve holding since the undead began to rise.

Gripping. Ferocious. And an absolute delight to read.

If you are like me, and don’t like the undead but do love a fantastic read, please, give this book a shot. It will blow your mind.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5 Zacks

Recommended for: zombie fanatics, sci-fi lovers, journalist aspirers, and those who love a good journal-esque read

Next Potential Target: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

38. Summertime Sadness

After a two-month hiatus, I have finally regained free time, a flood of it. This last extended period of absence has been jam-packed by a graduating thesis, its defence, last-minute travels, packing, bureaucratic lines, family, heartbreaking dinners and goodbye drinks. My sincerest apologies for being so tied up with life to blog about it. But I’m back!

It has been a whirlwind of activities and time well wasted. I have acquired a great deal of experiences, not least of which is how to properly write and complete a thesis which should help me survive London. On personal matters, I have had to say goodbye to a few wonderful people I’ve come to cherish in my life. As is with my last departure from Japan only a year ago, this one was no less filled with tears. And even though I will be seeing a majority of my fellow classmates again this coming September in London, it does nothing to soften the blow of farewells.I’ve never been good with goodbyes, so instead, I’ll commemorate.

Here’s to all the incredible people I’ve encountered in Beijing, and above all, to all the dearest (and enduring I hope) friendships I’ve been able to cultivate there. I’ll remember our lunches together and our coffees afterwards in the garden, our miserable study sessions at the Bridge and the library, our panic attacks (mostly mine and your calm, assuring presence) during those final days of thesis, our days in the sun and the smog-less air, our travels together, and our nights watching movies and munching on fried chicken, or dancing away until sunrise. And if we never meet again, if our contact fades with time, I don’t regret one single second we spent together, physically or over technology. You have made this year in China comically bearable and unforgettable. I wish you nothing but happiness in your future. I sincerely hope we will meet again someday.

I’ll always be happy to hear from you.

So keep me posted.

37. A Story Somewhere

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There is this bulging, pulsing, growing yearning inside me. It expands a little more every time I arrive at the end of an amazing book, every time I read or hear or watch something about an author I look up to, every time I lay my hands on a freshly acquired piece of literature.

It is the urge to pen my own story.

But it is a mess up there in the literary, creative part of my brain. There are partial, undefined, crippled blobs and pieces of plots and story lines shooting off in every direction, smashing into each other, entangling the entire space into a spiderweb-like pandemonium. Some spin off into the dark, never to be seen again. Others in such a primordial state, I don’t even know if they will ever develop into anything substantial. And then there are those that spiral so out of control it doesn’t even make any human sense.

There are characters with half-formed faces and bodies, with one-and-a-half arms flailing about, and hopping on one leg, blindly trying to find the other missing parts of them. They have immature, flat, underdeveloped personalities. Their hair and eye colours undergo continuous, nonstop metamorphosis, flip-flopping between black, brown, blond, red, pink, blue, green, and otherworldly shades. They fight each other like two hungry alpha lions over the last gazelle on Earth, punching others in the gut, screaming at the top of their lungs, creating a mess on the walls with crayons of every imaginable colour.

Then there are the landscapes. One minute it’s a sprawling metropolis of bustling cars and busy people, and the next it’s some terrain filled with gurgling, flesh-eating trees and winged pandas and pigs. There are wide-open spaces of distant mountains and never-ending grasslands. There are houses filled with antiques and strange sounds and an attic that contains infinite possibilities.

Finally, there are the words. Those mischievous, conniving, sly, elusive blocks of letters that are the keys to locking down all this mess as well as my Achilles’ Heel. They are their own brand of creative hell. They are never there when I need them, especially those more bombastic, high-minded vocabulary like cantankerous or phantasmagoria. Instead of being at the ready, they leave my outreached hands empty and me, desperately gasping for air. They are like supersonic fast little rug-rats. One minute they are sitting innocently and adorably on that baby chair with a big toothy grin. You turn around for a split second and the next minute their giggles dissolve with the distance they’ve gained from you.

So all I can do is endure nights of restless tossing and turning, and days of endless glazed looks out the window, daydreaming about that one magnificent day when I would emerge victorious, from putting the final touches to my story, a complete work of fiction that encompasses all of who I am and what I believe in, characters and landscapes that blossomed from the deepest recesses of my mind, a legacy born from my own time, sweat and tears.

A tale that is all my own.