The Other Einstein

This book evoked strong emotional response from me that I have to put it down from time to time. I have to keep reminding myself that most of it is fiction or as the author puts it: ” Whenever possible, in the overarching arc of the story—the dates, the places, the people—I attempted to stay as close to the facts as possible, taking necessary liberties for fictional purposes.

The book started with a hopeful and romantic take on Mileva’s days as a student in the university. It painted a world where social norms are being broken, particularly on women’s right for university education.

And for once, she was not alone in the journey as she met new female friends pursuing higher education.

“Friends did matter. Friends like these anyway, ones who were fiercely intelligent and similarly ambitious, who suffered through the same sort of ridicule and condemnation and survived, smiling. These friends didn’t take away my resolve to succeed as I’d feared. They made me stronger.”

They were not solely focused on studying as they also devoted some of their time playing music and exploring the mountains. It was a sisterhood that was meant to last… well it looked like one until Albert came along.

Mileva did try to take control of her emotions and hold on to her dreams even to the point of taking a semester off Zurich university. But, how she felt for Albert was different as this quote puts it:

“Izgoobio sam sye. These were the only words I could think of to describe how I felt at that moment. Roughly translated from the Serbian, they meant lost. Lost as in directions, lost from myself, lost to him.”

It was interesting to read how the relationship developed from acquaintances to intellectual equals then suddenly having Mileva as a shadow or almost like a house maid just tending to the needs of Albert and their sons.

I questioned most of her choices but I have to defer that they are all difficult ones. She was trying to hold on to a family even how dysfunctional her relationship is with Albert for her sons more than anyone else. It had to take a reunion with her close friend Helene and a meet-up with Madam Curie for her to recover some of self love and pride and walk away from the marriage. As Madam Curie pointed it:

“Remember my words, Mileva, when you withdraw into the deadening cycle of home. You and I are not so different except in the choices we’ve made. And remind yourself that a new choice is always possible.”

I am glad that in the end, she made a choice that restores a bit of dignity and love in herself. But as I tweeted after reading the book, they may have separated in the end but for me it is too late for all the scientific ambitions she had when she pursued her degree in Zurich.

As the author puts it:

“Her story was, in many ways, the story of many intelligent, educated women whose own aspirations were marginalized in favor of their spouses.”

A key element of the story that is subject of much debate is the extent of Mileva’s contribution to the papers published by Einstein that led him to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

After consulting google, I am still on the fence with this issue and no one can really say with 100% certainty the extent of participation Mileva had played in the authorship of the papers. On one hand, the articles painted an intelligent woman capable of handling herself on scientific discussions with other male students. Then, in some, it mentioned how she gave up her scientific dreams after marrying Albert.

Whatever it is, I agree that “the purpose of The Other Einstein is not to diminish Albert Einstein’s contribution to humanity and science but to share the humanity behind his scientific contributions. The Other Einstein aims to tell the story of a brilliant woman whose light has been lost in Albert’s enormous shadow—that of Mileva Marić.”

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Magemother: the complete series

Note: I bought the Magemother Series from Kindle as a set so I decided to post my review of the whole series rather than on a per book basis. The series is composed of three books and a bonus story.

I enjoyed the first book. I guess there is always excitement in a new world for me – a part of me has always been amazed at how authors are able to create a fantasy world with just their imagination. In particular, I was intrigued by Ninebridge, which serves as portal to other places in the kingdom.

In the first book, I also saw Brinley grow, including the doubts and questions she had as she explores Aberdeen and the other kingdoms. This was also the book where we met Habis, a character which I think deserves more side story. Even if she was not mentioned that much in the story, Habis is my sentimental favorite in this series given the extent of role she played in the series’ conclusion and of her transformation throughout the series.

The bonus Novella was also good. Though it is just a short read, it was able to tell a complete story. Though Tabitha is the definite star in this, this was also the novella where I felt Archibald deserves more than a few mentions. This novella is a definite must read as there are bits of information in it that are relevant with other books in the series.

The second book is when I started to struggle. As much as I loved Animus, the Mage of Wind, I just could not warm myself up to Hugo. Even if I try and remember his age in the story, sometimes I could not justify how conceited and entitled he was. I just felt like he was given more than he can chew as the Mage of Light and Darkness. I guess wanting something bad enough does not necessarily mean we are ready for it. And, for the task involved, I just felt he was too young.

For the last book, I felt it tried to wrap too many things up in a short amount of time; then, a lot of grand references and quotable quotes were added such that it was no longer relatable for me. I go back to my sentiment that Brinley, Hugo and Tabitha were just too young to assume the responsibilities thrust upon them. But, it was nice to see the mages together in action.

In summary, the series started ok for me, especially with the Magemother concept, but I struggled midway up to the end. The ending for me felt almost as if it was trying to be symbolic for something grander than what it should have been. Would I read it again? Probably not, especially the 2nd and 3rd books.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Cuckoo’s Calling was a wonderful read. The beauty in it is the continuous shift in my head as to the identity of the suspect based on the tidbits (i.e., information and evidence) being gathered by Cormoran Strike and her temporary secretary, Robin. And that grand reveal in the end was a surprise for me, I did not see that coming.

Prospectively, I am curious how this partnership between Cormoran and Robin will develop since I like how they are able to work together in this case. I felt like solving the case would not have been successful without one or the other.

There are also subplots involved that tell the story of Cormoran and Robin. I felt that the snippets were wonderfully woven into the narrative, such as a memory triggered by an expression or an event. It also humanizes the characters and presents opportunities for future narratives. Personally, I cannot wait for Matthew, Robin’s fiance, to meet Cormoran.

All in all, I am happy with this read and I could not wait to get my hands on the other books in the series.

My favorite quote from this book is:

People liked to talk; there were very few exceptions; the question was how you made them do it. Some, xxx, were amenable to alcohol; others liked a spotlight; and then there were those who merely needed proximity to another conscious human being. A subsection of humanity would become loquacious only on one favorite subject: it might be their own innocence or somebody else’s guilt; it might be their collection or pre-war biscuit tins; or it might, xxx, be the hopeless passion of a plain secretary.

Thank you to Amazon for putting the Kindle book on sale during their last anniversary! (Having a hard time locating this in our local bookstores)

Inside Out and Back Again

A quick heart warming read. The story was told using the voice of Ha, a young Vietnamese girl, who, together with her mom and three older brothers, fled her home country due to war and found herself in Alabama.

It is a very unfortunate circumstance and trying time, which you can feel through Ha's sentiments. Even if the book used verses instead of sentences, it was, for me, able to convey the emotions throughout their journey. And, after reading the author's note, the authenticity in the emotions was probably made possible since the author experienced first hand elements of Ha's journey. The author's own memories were used as an inspiration for the story.

Not much to say other than I am happy it ended in a hopeful note. I can let myself imagine happy endings for Ha, her mother and her brothers.

I am Malala

I have been on a reading slump lately mainly because of *cough* Everwing *cough* and inability to write a review for this book. I appreciated the book yet find myself unable to string words and phrases to summarize my thoughts about it. Part of it maybe is the awareness that the fight for equal rights on education is not yet over – not just in Pakistan but in other countries as well.

But for Malala, her message is clear:

I love my God. I thank my Allah. I talk to him all day. He is the greatest. By giving me this height to reach people, he has also given me great responsibilities. Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country—this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish. I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.

I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.

A lot can already be deduced from the book's title – I am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. The title is straight forward as I already got to know what she is fighting for and what happens near the end. The book then offers us a glimpse of her parents, childhood, environment and other elements that led to this wonderful story of courage during times of violence and uncertainties.

From my point of view, I would say his father was her primary influence.

My father would say to me, “Any organization which works for peace, I will join. If you want to resolve a dispute or come out from conflict, the very first thing is to speak the truth. If you have a headache and tell the doctor you have a stomachache, how can the doctor help? You must speak the truth. The truth will abolish fear.”

Though her mom may have provided strength through silence, it was his father that was also involved in various organizations and made public appearances.

As her journey continues in the international stage but away from her country, I am curious to see how this journey will end. Just a few hours back, I read she will be studying in Oxford. A lot of challenges remain and I do wish her well in her advocacies in life.

Let me end this with one of my favorite lines in the book:

We human beings don’t realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one knows how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.

Gratitude. Always.

Flawed

I am a fan of Cecelia Ahern. I started with Thanks for the Memories and I have not stopped since. 

Flawed, however, was a total turnaround story wise for her that I had to check if I got the author right. Don’t get me wrong, I also liked this book; but, the light feeling I usually have after reading Ahern’s books is not here in this one.

Flawed follows the life of Celestine North, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight simply for doing an act that is against the law but is the right thing to do. I don’t do spoilers but suffice to say that the absurdity of the reasoning got stuck with me that I breezed through the book in quite a short time. 

I just could not believe the consequences of Celestine’s simple act of compassion. It poses the question of “are you willing to do the right thing even if it is the hard choice?”. Some would just argue maybe it was not the right thing after all. But then again, thinking about it is different from actually doing it. I know that in every day, there are struggles in making the right call – especially if self preservation surfaces. 

I’ve learned that people aren’t cruel. Most people aren’t anyway, but people are strong on self-preservation. And if something doesn’t directly affect them, they don’t get involved.

Courage and strength – if only someone could have an endless supply of it.

I’ve learned that to be courageous is to feel fear within, every step of the way. Courage does not take over, it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take. It’s a battle or a dance as to whether to let it pervade. It takes courage to overcome, but it takes extreme fear to be courageous.

One thing Celestine has going for her though is the amazing support from her family. They stuck with her even with the additional challenges of having a Flawed person at the house – dad, mom, grand dad and even her sister. I honestly do not know how one person can survive a branding without a strong support system, especially with consequences that severe.
To end, I want to highlight this quote from her math teacher:

We see being Flawed as a strength, Celestine. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you never make a mistake, you’re never the wiser.

Totally agree. 

This book, however, has a sequel; so, as expected, it ends with a cliffhanger (good thing the Kindle version I bought had ten preview chapters).