All posts by ahundredornothing

The Catcher In the Rye by J.D Salinger

Rating: 4/5

The Catcher in the Rye is the summation of the teenage experience. Isolation, social awkwardness, academic pursuit, lost and found love as well as finding life’s purpose is cynically narrated by Holden Caulfield. Despite being a drop out, Caulfield tries to lead an idealistic life of what he thinks an adult should and could be. His ever cynical and honestly, immature comments, does make this book one you either love or hate. 

At first, I was honestly annoyed at Caulfield. His immaturity conveyed through narration irked me. However, I took the bull by the horns, determined to finish this 140 page novel which had made it to almost every single “Books you must read before you die” lists. By the end of the novel, I was softened. Caulfield’s story was merely the apex of a bildungsroman without potential hope for a better future or proper understanding of his past. The book’s central story of a boy growing up and finding his place in society resonated with me.

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.” -Holden Caulfield

Upon reflection of what he’d want to do for the rest of his life, this was Caulfield’s response (part of the reason for the book’s title). While some of us may not have a word for what we want to do for the rest of our lives, we do have an expression for what it is. The book also reminds of us that we can keep running from our failures and past, but they’ll catch up with us eventually. 

Since the book has a pretty ambiguous ending on Caulfield’s future, it feels as if J.D Salinger reminds the future is all grey. We don’t know where we’re going and when. But we do know its the lessons we learn in our teenage years and henceforth which will carry us through in this nebulous and exciting life.

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Have A Little Faith – Mitch Albom

Rating: 6/5

“And, as is often the case with faith, I thought I was being asked a favor, when in fact I was being given one.”

Okay this is my favourite Mitch Albom book to date haha. This is a TRUE story (well true stories actually cause there are two stories in one) and it’s basically it’s about 2 different people Mitch Albom met – a pastor and a rabbi and how they have impacted his life. I guess this book is particularly special to me cause Mitch talks about how he grew up as a Jew in a synagogue and how his faith wasn’t that strong – like y’know when you grow up with something, your identity is kinda forged for you already.  With funny anecdotes about his experience with faith as a kid, exchanges with his rabbi (someone who seems so holy and possibly unreal before Mitch got to know him better), extracts from the rabbi’s sermon, how Mitch starts to explore his faith along with getting to know his rabbi better after being asked to write his eulogy upon his death and Mitch learning more about a local pastor with an extremely tragic past who is probably the least likely candidate who’d become a pastor, this masterpiece is heartwarming, relevant and thought-provoking.

 

(I cried at the eulogy bit HAHA)

 

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Rating:4/5

If you’re agnostic, atheist or belong to a non-Abrahamic religion, DO NOT gloss over this post just yet. I know I might as well put up a post reviewing the bible. But fear not, author A.J.Jacobs is agnostic. Intriguing, no?

Jacobs is a New Yorker, seeking an understanding of religion in a secular world. N.B. I say religion and not God. Ethnically Jewish, Jacobs is on a discovery journey of his culture and history. In trying to explore the less popular laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Jacobs’ journal brings about much laughs and thought provoking reflection. To amp up the funny, Jacobs takes the laws of the bible literally (e.g. Stoning adulterers and avoiding women during their monthly cycles). Balancing the funny are his encounters with religious leaders, the religious and the secular, be it in the form of family, friends or perfect strangers. The relationships forged are spiced with religious forethought and can have pretty surprising and heartwarming effects. His actions help believers and non-believers question the inherent value of religious tradition and why some still stick on. Is there room for such odd beliefs in the modern world? Is tradition and law a subset of religion, and religion, God?

In this hilarious and moving recount, I cannot help but reflect on this community I have been born, raised and free-willingly accepted. Whether you’re reading this book for laughs or entertainment, I promise there is a takeaway from this honest journal. 

And can we take some time to appreciate the beard. You should read this book because, of

  1. Jacobs’ dedication to grow a whole year’s worth of facial hair. Hello dedication.
  2. Jacobs lives in NYC. Think awkward stares which accompany the unsaid, “Is he a terrorist?”

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Honest and funny, Amy Chua definitely captures the essence of Asian parenting: wanting nothing but the best for your child. By giving them the best and expecting the best. In this mother-knows-best memoir, Chua dictates the joys and struggles of parenthood. Chua’s eyebrow raising disciplinary action provides humor as well as reflection. Looking back, I don’t think I would have stuck with the piano if not for my mother practically sitting me down at 5.30 p.m. everyday. Chua’s extreme parenting doesn’t seem all too bad in my humble (double) Asian opinion.

Much of her daughters’ success is attributed to Chua’s own socio-economic prosperity. Could her daughters be so successful had it not been for their parents wealth? Therein lies another question, what happens to the rest of society who have no such luck? Will such amounts of gumption like Chua’s suffice in producing prodigy children?

Whilst Chua is no master of words, she makes a point in elaborating divergent effects of Western and Asian parenting. An easy and entertaining read, this memoir of victory cries and personal struggle is thought provoking. In my limited understanding of the girl child born in the year of the tiger, Amy Chua is not a family curse, but a totem to look up to.

The Book Of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

Rating: 4/5

Haha reviewing a book i recently re read by one of my favorite authors in the world! Okay lemme first explain why I love Cecelia Ahern so much haha. Her writing style is normally a mixture of magical elements and realism. I like how her books remind us all that magic/miracles exist in our everyday lives. 🙂 I guess people classify her books as chic lit but I kinda beg to differ, cause her books differ in the way that they include raw emotions and are a little philosophical. Basically, it’s a cross between chic lit and Mitch Albomish style. Her books focuses on both plot AND character development. For me at least, it’s a food for thought writing style. Another thing I like about Cecelia Ahern is the endings of her books. They’re not exactly all happily ever afters but not a complete tragedy (I read this book which killed a whole family in the car crash WTHECK) – it’s more like a satisfying ending. This is a quote from her as to why she includes the magical element in her books : ‘It’s important to me to keep balance in all aspects in my books whether that’s darkness and light, comedy and sadness and also with the magical element. I can only make the magic work if what the character is going through and their emotions are utterly raw and real. I think you can take the readers anywhere in fiction if they believe in the character’s journey and most importantly if they can identify with their emotions.’

Okay moving on to the book, The Book Of Tomorrow focuses largely on the main character, Tamara, and her physical and emotional journey (HAHA STEVENS) to cope with the loss of her father who committed suicide. I honestly love this character cause she’s damn snarky but actually she’s pretty vulnerable on the inside. She lives in the moment and doesn’t really care about the consequences of her actions on other’s lives etc. So one day, she discovers this book which writes itself and tells her what tomorrow brings. With her entire life turned upside down, Tamara is forced to confront the reality of tomorrow. I think this book is one of Cecelia Ahern’s most action packed books, what’s with mysteries, creepy characters (okay just one creep) and journeys all mixed together. A good read (: To further convince y’all, lemme end off a quote from the book.

“As the rain falls and the sun shines, they grow, grow, grow; minds so open, they go through life aware and accepting, seeing light where there’s dark, seeing possibility in dead ends, tasting victory as others spit out failure, questioning where others accept. Just a little less jaded, a little less cynical.”

Solar by Ian McEwan

Plot: A tubby man named Michael Beard, is a Nobel Prize Laureate for Physics. His 5th marriage is falling apart because of his wife’s affair. In the chaos of his pathetic love life, or dare I say, lust life, Beard is researching on global warming. He does this not in the name of science, but to sustain his reputation as a Nobel Prize Laureate.

Comments: I atone for even trying to get past the first 100 pages. I was confused as to whether I was reading a love novel, a physics textbook or a man’s inner struggle. Along the way, I lost focus and was introduced to Jesus, a man not the Messiah. Despite the elegant prose, I failed to sense the humor that McEwan had tried to pull through in tying in fact with fiction. The novel was not my cup of tea, mainly because of the extensive scientific jargon and the lack of proper plot development in either Beard’s love life or career from the get go. To be fair, there is awareness of McEwan’s extensive research on climate change and there are sporadic moments of comedy in Beard’s avarice filled life. I recommend this novel for those interested in physics, climate change and lazy, fat men.

Rating: Since I couldn’t bear to finish the book, I shall not put a number to it.

The Unknown Error of Our Lives – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

 

Plot: 4/5

Language: 4/5

Summary: In 9 short stories, Divakaruni masterfully narrates the lives of individual Indian women; a widow, a wife, a lover, a sister, a daughter. These Indian women are thrust into the American culture of liberalism.  Needless to say, there is a battle of cultures, beliefs and most certainly will. The short stories do not always provide a happy ending for each woman. The author provokes a response from readers through their plight as the women struggle to reconcile culture, hopes and dreams and past and present.

The prose is eloquent and artistic. Although it tends toward much description and may thus be a turn off for some, the cultural references and rich imagery do add to greater understanding of the text as a whole.

This piece of migratory literature is compelling as it elucidates the painful yet hopeful rewards of change.

Review: Divakaruni may be no Catherine Lim or Adeline Yen Ma, but she is a master at what she does. Her literary prowess and her ability to chronicle poignant moments in the lives of not just women, but Indian women is spectacular. This may not be a tear jerking book, but it does beckon one to question the role of women in a patriarchal society. Although these women have to some extent been subsumed into American culture, there is a longing for home; its familiarity, its rich values and also its archaic and perhaps obsolete superstitions and ideals in the liberal and modern world. This book was not wholly a page turner because of the extravagant language (but I guess it’s inherent for Asian authors), but it did make me think “What is/are the unknown error(s) of my life?” The struggle of the women is not because of the error in their lives, but rather the could have/should have/would haves, which the author divulges as she take us on a journey into their psyche and interpersonal lives.

Moral of the story: “It is not the eyes that are blind, but the hearts” The Koran

The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Hey guys!

HAHA i guess i’m gonna start the ball rolling. No rules, just remember to include title + author and sign off! 

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Author: Mitch Albom

Rating: 4.8/5

 

This book is about how Eddie, a lonely war veteran, dies and arrives in heaven. I really like this book cause the author’s idea of heaven is really intriguing- heaven isn’t just a static place like a palace made of gold with singing angels, halos and harps. According to the author, heaven is a place where five people will stand in line to explain your earthly life to you – the significance, morals and life lessons you’ve somehow missed. These people range from loved ones to random strangers you think you have no connection with; in actual fact, all these five people have contributed to the major changes in your life. I love how this book’s language is really simple, when I borrowed it, I was like woah this does not resemble an adult book at all. (cause the words on each page are not microscopic like most adult books but yes I found it in the adult section HAHA) But despite the simple language, it’s a real ‘food for thought’ kinda book. I mean it’s rare that I’d actually reread some paragraphs/lines to try to get a more analytical viewpoint. But I did. I like the idea of how people’s lives are inter-connected and this book has done an excellent job of showing how we are all intricately bound to one another 🙂 I guess the only downside is how it seems a little messy? Cause you get flashes of Eddie’s life and you have to piece them together yourself! But i guess it’s a narrative technique (HAHA stevens) and the resolution is great 🙂 So yeah, highly recommended read. Especially for long train rides. I couldn’t have survived from bradell to bukit panjang if it wasn’t for this.

x

Char