I Know This Much is True

I surprised myself with this one since this is not the kind of book I usually read. I even had doubts whether I would finish it. But 30% (I use Kindle) into the book and I decided to push through. 

What I liked about the book is how invested I could get with Dominick.  I read about his past hurts, misfortunes and struggles then journeyed with him in his road to “renovation.”  

Renovate your life, the old myths say, and the universe is yours – Dominick Birdsey

He was not dealt with the best set of circumstances and I felt for him as I read through the book.  I, at times, even had to put down the book since the anger and grief can be overwhelming. In some ways, I shared the same thoughts with Dominick as (a) he tried to go through his grandfather’s story – what was the point of learning about all this pride, self righteousness and arrogance, (b) he tried to deal with his family – schizoprenic twin brother, secret filled family and unknown father, and (c) he tried to navigate his personal life – divorce, death of first born child and career.  

But what are stories if not the mirrors we hold up to our fears?

By the end of it, I was rooting for him to find the strength and support to tie loose ends and just live on, which I was glad that he managed eventually in time. I guess there is something about inner resilience of individuals that can be very inspiring, especially for Dominick who has entertained the thoughts of suicide at one point.

Embedded throughout this book was the anger felt by Dominick and how he was able to eventually able to manage it with the help of professionals (i.e., shrink). He was able to navigate his past and reconcile with his present. This is more ably put by Dr. Patel as:

Life is not a series of isolated ponds and puddles; life is this river you see below, before you. It flows from the past through the present on its way to the future.

But my biggest takeaway is how growing up can lead to a lot of eureka moments, which are actually glaring realities but takes time to sink in. As Ray puts it, “things get clearer when you get older”. Some of my favorite quotes in this book are as follows:

Love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness – Dominick Birdsey

To be human is to be humble. What choice is there, really? Let none of us attempt God’s work. – Father Guglielmo

Would it not be futile for you to make such a command? To assume that the river would ignore its inevitable course and bend to your wishes? You are limited, my friend, in what you can and cannot control, as are we all. If you are to become healthy, you must acknowledge the indeluctability of your brother’s course. Acknowledge your limitations in directing it, Dominick. And that will free you. That will help to make you well. – Dr. Patel

Be humble and forgive. Then, peace of mind follows.

The Bookshop on the Corner

The opening lines of Jenny Colgan’s message to the readers adequately captures what this book was all about:

Because this book is about reading and books, and how these things can change your life, always, I would argue, for the better. It’s also about what it feels like to move and start over (something I’ve done quite a lot in my life), and the effect that where we choose to live has on how we feel; and can falling in love in real life be like falling in love in stories, xxx

This book builds a good case for anyone to try and pick up a book… somewhere out there is a book that would peak and suit your interests – may it be a children story book, a series about cowboys and aliens, an end of the world apocalyptic novel or simply the bestsellers (either fiction or non-fiction).

There was a universe inside every human being every bit as big as the universe outside them. Books were the best way Nina knew—apart from, sometimes, music—to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe with the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between the two worlds.

If only Nina, the protagonist, can talk to us; finding those books would have been easy. Scattered in the story are anecdotes on how she was able to touch the lives of various characters just by finding the right books.

But the key takeaway for me of the story is how readers actually need to manage real life.

Some people buried their fears in food, she knew, and some in booze, and some in planning elaborate engagements and weddings and other life events that took up every spare moment of their time in case unpleasant thoughts intruded. But for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book. Books had been her solace when she was sad, her friends when she was lonely. They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down. Yet much as she disputed the fact, it was time to admit that books were not real life.

As much as we want it to be, books are not real life. 

I am not arguing against reading books.  I could personally attest on its value in helping me cope with whatever struggles I was facing. However, this book reminds us that there is still real life out there to manage and how complicated it will be if we mix our literary journeys with reality.

“It’s not about fricking romantic picnics and moonlit walks and storybook stuff! This is real life.

To end, I really liked this book. It was a refreshing feature of various contrasts – urban versus rural living and reality versus “storybook stuff”.  There were some parts I wish were not included but overall well told. 

Nina got very lucky with her friends, acquaintances that became friends (and lovers), and timing.  A lot of things could have gone wrong but Nina had her happy-ever-after after all. 

Now, back to real life I go.

Beginning of Everything 

Admittedly, the main reason why this book got my attention is due to its cover. The rollercoaster was a curious thing to see in a book. I picked it up and after reading the comments decided to give it a try.

At times, I had regrets while reading – it may be the confusing references or things I could not really relate to (e.g., debate, various authors quoted, panopticon, etc). But I am glad I continued on since what I liked about this book are the emotions and interaction amongst the characters. There is a confused cheerleader, grieving sister, tentative mom, left out best friend, broken teen, ineffective teacher, and even an intelligent dog. Though not all elements were mapped and introduced, for me there was enough information to go around that allows me to relate to the characters.  It is always tricky to start at the middle of a story but this book for me was able to execute it well.

As usual, I am trying to stay away from spoilers. 

Did I enjoy this? Yes, especially on parts where I felt it did not venture towards being too intellectual. Would I read it again? Maybe but not anytime soon.

Favorite quotes:

“The way I figured it, keeping quiet was safe. Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many.” – Ezra

“but I discovered a long time ago that the smarter you are, the more tempting it is to just let people imagine you. We move through each other’s lives like ghosts, leaving behind haunting memories of people who never existed. The popular jock. The mysterious new girl. But we’re the ones who choose, in the end, how people see us.” – Cassidy

And a few more quotes on growing up:

“I wondered what things became when you no longer needed them, and I wondered what the future would hold once we’d gotten past our personal tragedies and proven them ultimately survivable.” – Ezra

“But we had plenty of time for youthful indecision, both apart and together, for limping into the future past the unforgettable ash heaps of our histories.” – Ezra

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child builds on what is familiar and presents to the readers what happens after the epilogue of the last book.  Without giving anything away, it exhibits strength in having family and friends.  There is the father-son dynamics for the Malfoys and the Potters and the unlikely friendship of their sons.  A lot of Doctor Who moments as well in this one.  However, a surprise character appears in the story, which I found hard to believe.  I may need to review the seven books again if that was plausible.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful read.  Maybe someday I can go to London and watch how it plays out on the stage… though from what I have been reading it will take considerable time since the tickets are always sold out.

Thank you JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne for another story.  Now, will wait for the Newt Scamander movie.  I have already pre-ordered the screenplay due to be delivered on November 2016.

Favorite quotes:

“DUMBLEDORE: Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

Harry to his son Albus Severus (talking about Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape

“HARRY: They were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what – those flaws almost made them greater.”

Book:  Special Rehearsal Edition Script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child via Pottermore/Amazon

Tao of Pooh

imageWithin each of us, there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore and a Pooh.  For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit.  Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results.  But that accomplishes nothing.  If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh.  As if from far away, it calls us with the voice of a child’s mind.  It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.

But the adult is not the highest state of development.  The end of the cycle is is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing Child.

I first read this book way back in college.  I loved it to the point that it even appeared in my yearbook as the answer to the question “What book changed your life?”:

Yearbook_TaoofPooh

After finishing this book in 2007, I tried looking for the other book “The Te of Piglet” but I could not find it in our local bookstores.

Years passed.

Luckily, when I remembered the 2nd book, there was also an opportunity to buy it from the US.  I grabbed the chance and even got myself a new copy of the “Tao of Pooh.” So, here I am creating a post in my cyber pensieve about one of my favorite books.

Tao of Pooh talks about Taoism concepts illustrated or explained through the interactions, characteristic and adventures of Pooh and his friends.

When you discard arrogance, complexity and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is fun

It starts with a description of a painting that exhibits three schools of thought and then went through each of the Taoism concepts of P’u (the uncarved block), Wu Wei (literal: without doing, causing or making) and Tz’u (caring or compassion).

The book then examined each of the characters’ main attribute to highlight some points:

  • Rabbit – cleverness
  • Owl – knowledge for the sake of looking knowledgeable
  • Eeyore – knowledge for the sake of complaining
  • Tigger – unaware of limitations

Once you face and understand your limitations, you can work with them, instead of having them work against you and get in your way, which is what they do when you ignore them, whether you realize it or not.  And then you will find that, in many cases, your limitations can be your strengths

Stories and teachings outside the Hundred Acre Wood were also in the book to further expound on some concepts.  It even used a Christopher Robin’s door sign to share this message:

The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple:  you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.

It used the Bisy Backson (which reads as Busy, Back Soon) note to present the story of someone being so busy that they end up wasting time instead of saving it.  NOTE TO SELF: I must remember to not be the same as a Bisy Backson, or else this may ring true:

A way of life that keeps saying, “around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place – happy and good – and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way.

My favorite part of the book is how it emphasizes the importance of recognizing and understanding one’s inner nature.

What we need to do is recognize inner nature and work with things as they are.  When we don’t we get into trouble

The way of self-reliance starts with recognizing who we are, what we’ve got to work with and what works best for us.

Doing so, will allow us to be the special person we all are:

The first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own inner nature and not lose sight of it.  For within the ugly duckling is the swan, inside the bouncy Tigger is the rescuer who knows the way, and in each of us is something special that we need to keep.

Over all, this book is a great short read (158 pages) full of substance.  nth time around, still one of my favorites.

Thank you to the calm, still and reflective bear Winnie the Pooh for being just is and showing the way.

Next stop:  Te of Piglet

Additional Tales from Oz Part 3

Finally done with the e-book (Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)!

The last three stories were all great stories, which makes the end of the book bittersweet.  I will definitely miss the land of Oz, especially the stories loaded with innocence and heart.  It reminded me why I am consistently drawn towards children’s stories.

Title:  The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz is probably one of the quirkier characters (well there are loads of them) out of Oz.  He is one of the first characters Dorothy met in the land of Oz and has been a consistent presence throughout the stories.  So it was only fitting that he gets a story dedicated to him. In this one, the readers finally get to answer: why was the Witch angry at Nick Chopper? who was the tinsmith that helped him? is he the only one of his kind in the land of Oz? All these questions were answered with the usual sense of love, fun and adventure.  Not to mention I got to explore other areas in the land of Oz and meet a new set of characters – Woot the Wanderer, Mrs. Yoop, Ku-Klip and Nimmie Amee.

My favorite quote from this book:

“We are not to blame for what cannot be helped; so let us push bravely ahead and see what may be seen” – Scarecrow

Title:  The Magic of Oz

Ozma’s birthday party causes a bit of pressure to our usual characters – Dorothy, Wizard of Oz, Captain Bill and Trot – to come up with a special gift.  Given how much they all love Ozma, they go the extra mile to come up with an idea and then execute it.  The problem is that Ruggedo (the Old Nome King) finds a way to cause mischief and almost derails their plans.  With a bit of luck, wit and magic, our characters were able to hurdle all the challenges and complete their special gifts to Ozma.

Personally, I thought the Magic Flower was so beautiful (thank you imagination!) and would indeed be a beautiful addition to the Palace of Oz.

My favorite quote from this book:

“A home of any sort should be beautiful to those who live in it, and should not be intended to please strangers” – Lonesome Duck

Title:  Glinda of Oz

Ozma and Dorothy find themselves in trouble as they got trapped underwater with a bit of unknown magic.  Glinda saves the day with her powerful skills and help from other wonderful characters in Oz – the usual suspects and the three Magic Adepts, Ervic the Skeezer and Red Reera.  Biggest surprise was in the end where it was Dorothy that plays a major role in solving their trouble and restoring peace and order once again in the wonderful land of Oz.

My favorite quote from this book:

“I’m glad I don’t know everything, Dorothy, and that there still are things both in nature and in wit for me to marvel at.” – Princess Ozma

Again, I will definitely miss the land of Oz.  But, I feel that am ready and curious enough to move on to my next book adventure.

To end, thank you L. Frank Baum for the wonderful Oz stories!

Additional Tales from Oz Part 2

In my continuing attempt to finish the Ultimate Collection of the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, I brought my Kindle in my recent Tubbataha/Palawan trip.  Living on a boat for 5 days, I used Oz as an escape from the heat and physical exhaustion.  Fortunately enough, the three succeeding books I finished featured my favorite elements from the Oz stories.  It was just simple storytelling with lots of fun, heart and soul.

Title:  The Scarecrow of Oz

This story explores a country under the rule of Oz but separated from it by treacherous mountains.  It covers three phases interwoven beautifully by the author.  I got to know Captain Bill and Trot, who eventually gets to live in the magical land of Oz.  Then, it shifted to Jinxland ruled by The Wicked King.  Pon is a very nice kid and got the dream ending he deserves.  And then of course, I got to meet the wonderful people of Oz once more to deliver justice and ensure that love and peace continue to reign within its boundaries.

My favorite quote in this book is:

“But nobody can stay alive without getting into danger sometimes, and danger doesn’t mean getting hurt Captain; it only means we might get hurt.  So I guess we’ll have to take the risk.” – Trot

Title:  Rinkitink in Oz

This story had a strong plot with lots of interesting sub plots, which makes it a great read.  I got to meet a simple family trying to live an honourable and honest life in the Kingdom of Regos and Coregos.  I also revisited King Kaliko, who has taken over the rule from the Nome king.  King Rinkitink and Bilbil the Goat’s back stories are also included in the mix.

But the core plot remains on the destruction and eventual restoration of the peaceful island of Pingaree.  The Island of Pingaree is a new Kingdom slightly outside Oz since it is separated by the Nonestic Ocean.  It is very lucky to have the three magical pearls and great set of rulers – King Kitticut, Queen Garee and the hero of the story, Prince Pinga.

I have two favorite quotes from this book:

“This is the way to get ideas:  never to let adverse circumstances discourage you, but to believe there is a way out of every difficulty, which may be found by earnest thought.” – On Prince Pinga facing the challenges set by King Kaliko

“The beauty of life is its sudden changes.  No one knows what is going to happen next, and so we are constantly being surprised and entertained.  The many ups and downs should not discourage us, for if we are down, we know that a change is coming and we will go up again.” – King Rinkitink

Title:  The Lost Princess of Oz

Yes, the title was very catchy and puzzling especially since it is consistent throughout the book how powerful Ozma is.  But the story did use it as an anchor and it was so heartwarming (albeit expected) to see the support from her kingdom and the various friends she met along the way.  There is a lot of nostalgia in this one as almost every hero from the series and additional stories lent their support in the quest to find Ozma.  The quest was even made harder since the regular elements used – The Magic Picture and Great Book of Records – were also gone from Oz.  I also found Ugu the Shoemaker a surprising and unlikely villain of the story.  My favorite new character from this book was definitely the Big Lavender Bear and the Pink Little Bear.  I was glad they offered their assistance in the quest.

“To be individual, my friends, to be different from others, is the only way to become distinguished from the common herd.  Let us be glad, therefore, that we differ from one another in form and in disposition.  Variety is the spice of life, and we are various enough to enjoy one another’s society; so let us be content.” – Cowardly Lion

Sometimes I wonder if I am already too old for these stories.  But as Frank L. Baum puts it in his letter to readers in the succeeding book:  “my books are intended for all those whose hearts are young, no matter what their ages may be.” I guess that explains a lot.

 

Currently reading:  Ultimate collection of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (E-book) (79% completed)