Novel Reactions: kaddish.com

After the first few chapters of kaddish.com, I did not know how to feel. I’d expected the book to tell the story of Larry’s misadventures over the 11-month mourning period for his father. So after the first part ended, and Larry came home, and that was that, I’d felt short-changed. I couldn’t make sense of it. Suddenly, Larry was Reb Shuli, teaching at the school. How? His (re)conversion from atheism felt rushed. What? Like it’s hard to convert your heart?

Eh, anyway, I read on. I’ve always been a fan of Nathan Englander’s writing, and I began to think that perhaps it may have been too easy or predictable for the story to have only been set over that period of time. Of course. We needed to make it all the way to a midlife crisis and see that some actions do have lasting consequences. And we needed to make up for our mistakes. What lengths do we go to make amends, and when do we call it a day?

Only remember, … if you don’t find what you need over there, in this life it’s permissible to forgive oneself too.

Nathan Englander, kaddish.com

No need to answer. I’ll just leave that here. Also, I haven’t come across a quote I liked that much in a while. I needed that.

Although the synopsis on the book jacket was a little misleading (i.e. the story was not about the 11-month mourning period, but then again, who told me it would be anyway?), the rest of the story flowed well. I liked the story. It was also funny in a different way… in an ‘omg no, don’t do that!’ kind of way. Man, what a character.

Novel Reactions: Radicalized

Wow, never has science fiction felt so real to me. Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized is a collection of four stories—all “what if?” scenarios people have probably thought to themselves at some point:

  • What if we take the internet of things too far?
  • What if our favorite superhero clashes with our justice system?
  • What if regular people finally crack?
  • What if the world goes into turmoil?

Of course, all of the stories stretch things (a little) too far, but, to be fair, they’re not too far from what we can imagine. All of the themes are current and familiar, and the social commentary is spot on: if these situations actually happened today, the stories in Radicalize portray potential reactions pretty well. How unfortunate.

The stories are longer than the typical short story, but each one can still be read in one sitting. I limited myself to one story each time I picked up this book because …well, it is a little chilling. Also, Cory Doctorow wrote the characters so well that, even if I didn’t love them, I understood them. Society can be crazy sometimes.

Radicalized is a very timely and worthwhile read, and I have super glad I picked it up at the bookstore. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, even to my friends who don’t really venture into sci-fi.

Novel Reactions: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

When I was in high school, my best friend lent me her copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I absolutely loved. I enjoyed the story, the writing, and the footnotes (!!!). I never quite found or read another book that I had enjoyed in the same way.

Fast forward to (approximately) ten years later: I found an e-book copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories and borrowed it from the library. Initially, I had only planned to read one story for my Short Bites segment (see entry here), but I enjoyed the first story so much that I decided to read on. And then I decided to finish the collection, reading a story every now and then.

There are eight stories in the collection. While I liked all of them, my favorites are the first (“The Ladies of Grace Adieu”) and the last (“John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”) stories.

The writing style is similar to that of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which shouldn’t be surprising as the short stories are set in the same world. The writing reminded me of reading the classics (the stories are set in 19th century England): the vibe is formal, the humor is not as forward, and the words are spelled differently than they are today. Given these, I feel the stories require more patience from the reader.

The stories read like fairy tales, and not all of the stories include characters from the book. The collection is a nice companion to the novel (but Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is one heck of a read with ~900 pages, so no pressure to read the book), and it talks about other forms of magic that weren’t really covered in the novel.

It’s a charming escape from reality.

HP TGR 2: Deathly Hallows

This is the final installment to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion and to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (Part 2).

Fittingly, I have just moved out of my apartment and have commenced my couch-surfing life. (My friends are letting me stay in their living rooms during my last week in San Francisco and they set me up with a Harry Potter themed airbed. They are amazing.) Leading up to the final steps of my move, I read Book 7 as fast as I could and successfully included it in the box that I was sending home. Phew.

Book 7 has a lot of things going on: the search for horcruxes; the legend of the Deathly Hallows; the mystery that is Albus Dumbledore; the truth about Severus Snape; the Battle of Hogwarts; and so on. What stood out to me were the expressions of familial love throughout the book. I think these moments were quite important, as it was this love that ultimately brought down Voldemort.

Continue reading “HP TGR 2: Deathly Hallows”

HP TGR 2: Half-Blood Prince

This is the sixth installment to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (or the second to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (Part 2).

Another ginormous book (but thinner than Book 5, which almost makes this book look quite thin), Book 6 was yet another great travel companion, which I took with me to coffee shops in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I actually breezed through this book—except when I took a break when I was 3/4 through because I didn’t want to relive the experience of reading about Dumbledore’s death, which I have never really recovered from.

Given that the Half-Blood Prince is a Slytherin, this (post) is a tribute to my Hogwarts house, Slytherin. I am not going to make excuses for the evil deeds of The Dark Lord here—nothing can ever justify his actions—however, I am going to talk about Slytherin-istic characteristics that I was not able to fully appreciate when I first read the series (and this book in high school) but that I do now.

There is a common misconception that all Slytherins are evil, especially because Voldemort came from this house. It also doesn’t help that Slytherins are snobby and tend to stick to their own. Whatever. Not everyone in the house is a blood-thirsty evil person, but people in this house are not known to be brave either. (Slytherin wasn’t known for his courage as Gryffindor was anyway.)

So I bring to light some Slytherins and their strengths. While not all of them are good, not all of them are entirely evil either. May we all appropriately appreciate the characteristics that makes one a Slytherin.

Continue reading “HP TGR 2: Half-Blood Prince”