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Book 19: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

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Title: Lean In: Women, Work and The Will To Lead

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Genre: Non-fiction, Feminism, Leadership

Summary: Sandberg combines her personal experience with hard data and in-depth research to offer practical advice to women on how to build a satisfying career and family,  lead in their workplace, and inspire others to become trail-blazers, whilst cutting into gender issues, providing historical context and current progress on female leadership, women’s rights and equality. She recounts her own struggles in choosing what’s right for her, her career and her family. A mix of theory and practicality, delivered with humour and simple language, Sandberg has produced a call for action and a guidebook for individual growth.

Eaten Thru On: October 4, 2013

Thoughts: 

Sheryl is an intelligent, highly-successful, accomplished woman and she is one of Fortune‘s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, so I thought it was valuable to hear what she had to say.

She espoused quite a bit of what I already know about workplace gender bias and in-marriage gender imbalance. There were parts, like the asking-for-something-with-a-smile part which, for me, was a little too complex to manoeuvre in real life. If women had to tip-toe so carefully in their attempts to advance in their careers, it feels more like an obstacle in the way of feminism rather than sound advice. Or maybe I’m just naive in thinking the obstacle course is less complicated than it really is.

However, she did point out many small, everyday occurrences that diminished the power of women, such as not sitting at the table at meetings, or being afraid to over-step the time limit of a Q&A session and ask their questions. To me, those were pretty surprising to read because I was unaware of their effects due to their smallness in the grand scheme of things.

I loved how it didn’t feel like she was preaching from a pedestal. She talked a lot about her own mistakes, faults and weaknesses. Her personal anecdotes helped rein in the data and research down to an individual, relatable level. She was realistic in her advice and calls for action, in that she offered actual, concrete steps on how to achieve progress. Also, her passion in this subject definitely showed through her words and I am all for people who are passionate about positive things.

Reading through her experience and advice has helped me feel empowered and more knowledgeable on what kind of demands I need to make in my future career and what kind of man I should marry and how a healthy, balanced family should look like. It gave me guidelines on how to stand up for myself, not just as a woman but as a human being. For such a quick and easy read, this book packs a pretty powerful punch of inspiration.

Final Verdict: 3/5

Best Enjoyed: With a pen and paper, so you could soak in some really good advice.

Next Bookworming Adventure: Undecided because I am currently engaged in some serious literary polygamy.

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Update: Hiatus

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Wow, it’s been more than a month since my last blog blip.

My most nerdy bookish apologies!

It’s been quite hectic around here, what with my moving from Japan back to Vancouver and now I’m in China for the year.

It’s been quite the month, and a little more.

Unfortunately, I’ve got nothing in terms of book reviews because I’m trying to sink my wisdom-teeth-lacking-mouth into the thick, megaton giant that is Isaacson’s Steve Jobs. On top of which, I’m starting grad studies in a few days. So this…should be fun!

I promise, I will get a review up in September! Goodreads is once again, naggingly reminding me that I’m a book behind…

Busy bookworm, out for now.

Book 18: The Hobbit (By J.R.R. Tolkein)

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Title: The Hobbit

Author: J.R.R. Tolkein

Genre: Epic Fantasy, children’s fiction

Summary: Bilbo Baggins is the reluctant hero in this epic journey to help reclaim Dale and the Mountain that housed all the treasures of the Dwarves, from Smaug, the dragon that took it all. Along the way, Gandalf, Gollum, and an assortment of mystical creatures all comes out to play. It is the introduction to the mystical world of Middle-Earth, and how one hobbit sheds his homebody Baggins for his more adventurous Tookish side, all the while cleverly outmaneuvering evil creatures and worming his way out of troublesome situations with help of a magical ring.

Eaten Thru On: July 17, 2013

The Overall:

This took quite a bit of time to read through, not because it was a hard read. No, by far one of the easier reads I’ve done, being a children’s novel and all. But I was very distracted by other things, chief among them, well, life itself. So it didn’t hold as great of a magical appeal to me as it might for others.

I liked the story line. Bilbo amused me all the way through. I really related to his numerous moments of homesickness, being abroad myself at the moment, I get what he is feeling. So that was something surprising which came out of the book. The Dwarves annoyed me in their ungratefulness. And Gandalf just kind of dropped off the face of Middle-Earth for the most exciting parts of the book.

I really don’t have an intense opinion about this book. It didn’t incite a heavy amount of emotions. I am, however, looking forward to the second installment of the movie when I finally get to hear Cumberbatch as Smaug. Yum.

Final Verdict: 3/5

Best Enjoyed: All in one go because then you really submerge into the adventures and epicness of this book. Reading it in pieces didn’t help me get wrapped up in all the magic.

Next Bookworming Target: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Book 17: Anna and the French Kiss (By Stephanie Perkins)

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Title: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Genre: YA, Romance

Summary: Forced to leave behind 17 years of her life and everything that she’s used to in Atlantic, Anna Oliphant is shipped off to the Paris’ School of America for her last year of high school on her father’s whim. Although she hated the move and was scared into staying in her room by the completely foreign new city, she quickly meets Meredith, Josh, Rashmi, and the most beautiful boy she has ever encountered in her life, Etienne St. Clair. her world begins to tilt, shift, and collapse in a heap of teenage love-entangled drama. But the City of Love has a peculiar way of granting wishes. So will hers come true?

Eaten Thru on: June 26, 2013

The Overall:

I know, I know, not exactly a classical, literary masterpiece. But it’s a nice change from the tear-inducing novels that came before this one. Besides, I will be diving into heavy classics soon enough come July.

I forgot how much I enjoy light romance novels. I haven’t squealed this much since my Fanfiction days. It’s a breezy read, and if you are anything like me, you will be hooked from page one. And when you look back up at the real world, your eyes will be filled with stars and everything will be through rosy lenses. As much as there may not be beautifully-written literary genius behind this book, it gives you a floating-on-cloud-9 sort of feeling which I will never get tired of.

Having said that, there is no great literary value to take from this book. I was slightly put off at the beginning by the whole rich-white-girl-forced-to-live-in-Paris-poor-her premise. Plus, the all-perfect, gorgeous St. Clair doesn’t exactly scream REALITY. But, the fact that I couldn’t put the book down, and that I was so engrossed in Anna’s story says something cliche but true about myself. I am still a hopeless romantic, even after reality has beaten me with the coldness and cruelty this world has to offer. Talking about cliches, the book’s ending was pretty cliche. Nonetheless, it put a smile on my face and the world was right again, like all happy endings make me feel, even the corny ones.

Oops, did I spoil the ending for you? Come on, just look at the book! You know it’s a happy ending. It’s not like it was written by Nicholas Sparks.

Final Verdict: 3/5

Best Enjoyed: In a private space where you can squeal like a obsessed fangirl seeing her idol (how sexist of me eh? Automatically assuming everyone who reads, or will read or want to read this book is of the female gender) all you want.

Next Bookworming target: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Book 16: And the Mountains Echoed (By Khaled Hosseini)

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Title: And the Mountains Echoed

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Genre: Contemporary, Historical Fiction

Summary: A story that travels the globe and traverses across time and generations and lives, as Hosseini traces the ramifications of choices and circumstances, the sometimes painful separations of family and their eventual reunion.  A story about children and parents, sisters and brothers, man and wife, and all the relations that encompasses a family, and the people who are connected to and become part of that family.

Eaten Thru: June 24, 2013

The Great: It’s times like these I find myself severely restricted by my lack of proper vocabulary, when stories have evoked in me such powerful emotions that threatens to tear my heart open if I don’t let them flow through ink onto paper. But alas, a thousand pages are woefully inadequate in capturing these feels. I have not the proper tools to do it…and so my blood shall flow from the open gashes, well up in me, paralyze my being and plague my every waking though and dreams.

But despite my limited capacities, I shall try…

The characters Hosseini conjures up are so tangible, flawed with their own perfections and stories. You can’t help but feel toward them like you would if you had met a replica in real life. You would get angry, frustrated, or shake your head in disbelief (or perhaps, on deeper level, in understanding) at the lengths some of these people go to for love, fulfillment, or happiness. But no matter how imperfect Nila, or Nabi, or anyone is in this book, in the end, you feel compassion, empathy, and a sense of deep sorrow for what could have been for them. And the choices they make, how it reverberates across continents and generations.

My favourite story out of all of these was Mr. Wahdati’s. Favourite not only because he was such an enigmatic, almost cold figure when he was first introduced. But as the truths unfolded, the tears followed. His story, what beautiful tragedy it is. Such immense pity at what life he could have led if he were born in a different place, at a different time, or even just in a different body.  But of course, it had to be him, in his own body, in the circumstances he was born into. The story wouldn’t be the same, nor would it exist if he had been born differently.

Lastly, family. Ultimately, it is a story about family. How they will always find a way back to each other. I am a sucker for powerful stories about the strength of family. And Hosseini doesn’t baby you by giving you a nice, unrealistic ending. He sticks to reality like velcro, as much as the realities of gashes created by time apart, of things done too late, of wounds that could not be amended, breaks your heart.

Khaled Hosseini, the stories you spin are truly inimitable and extraordinary. Thank you for taking me to the boundaries of my emotional experiences.
 
The Medicore: Because he is threading together the lives of a fractured family, or others’ lives tied into this one family, he jumps around a lot, not only between the first-person narratives of different people, but also in time. That confused me at first. I didn’t have a firm grasp yet of the characters, and so the names sometimes confounded me.
 
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
 
Best Enjoyed: Not with too much time in between readings because the threads that bind all the stories together might break and you might forget what happened.
 
Next Bookworm Target: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Book 15: Looking for Alaska (By John Green)

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Read-A-Thon: Day 6 Progress

Pages Accomplished: 67 (dismal, I know. but I was distracted by gorgeous clothes…)

Book: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Finished: Looking for Alaska

Mental State: I am not going to make my book quote for this read-a-thon. I am a little disappointed but not enough to not reward myself by going on a shopping spree (which breaks several rules of the read-a-thon. All is lost) Not really. I am not discouraged! It is my first after all, I never expected it to amount too much. Plus, look! 15 books! I’m halfway to completing my Project 30!! That’s definitely cause for celebration, or a shopping spree. So it’s back to one-book-a-week sanity, for now. And I going to start regularly updating this blog, one post every week, up either every Saturday or Sunday. But enough of the scheduling, on with the review!

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Title: Looking For Alaska

Author: John Green

Genre: YA

Summary: Before Alaska, Miles “Pudge” Halter was a near non-existent in his school. Obsessed with famous final words, he went off to Culver Creek Boarding School in search of the Great Perhaps (François Rabelais, poet) and enters a world of crazy pranks, constant rule-breaking, and Alaska, the sexy, funny, smart, moody Alaska that captured his attention and unwavering affections at first sight. After Alaska, his world would never be the same again. (Partially based off of the summary on Goodreads)

Eaten thru on: June 15, 2013

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

The Good: Towards the “day” and after it, I had an inkling something unpleasant was going to occur. I had thought they were getting an expulsion, that the Eagle had caught them after all. That idea stuck with me until I passed into the “After” and my heart sank. I couldn’t believe what actually took place. I couldn’t believe I thought them getting expelled was going to be the worst thing that could happen. It looked so small and insignificant compared to what actually happened. John Green can spin a great story. In addition, the little truths and wisdom that seeped through the teenage voice of Pudge was, as always, fantastic. They became little revelations for me as well. Plus, I loved all the intelligent references to great people in history and in the world today. And the concept of the Great Perhaps resonated with me deeply because that is what I, in this wanderlust phase of my life, am in search of, a Great Perhaps.

The Meh’s: I didn’t care all that much about Alaska. She irritated me with her sarcasm, her extreme mood-swings, and her general lack of concern for Pudge. I didn’t shed a tear reading what happened to her. She was more of a prism through which Pudge and the Colonel, but mainly Pudge, learned to see and experience the world differently. The lessons that Alaska’s demise brought to him was more profound and gut-wrenching than her actually accident. I must say, the characters in this book did not imprint nearly as deeply as Hazel Grace and Augustus did in The Fault in Our Stars. John Green didn’t make me care enough about Alaska. He did an alright job with Pudge and the Colonel.

Final Verdict: 3/5

Best Enjoyed: Anywhere, anytime. It’s quite an easy and smooth read.

Next bookworm target: And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Book 14: Behind the Beautiful Forevers (By Katherine Boo)

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Read-A-Thon: Day 4 Progress

Pages Accomplished: 127

BookBehind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo and Looking For Alaska by John Green

FinishedBehind the Beautiful Forevers

Mental State: I am in a horrendous state. I have crumbled under Katherine Boo’s heavy, emotional book. And worst (or best of all), it’s a true account. I seem to have taken on quite a severe masochist frame of mind since I’ve decided to further emotionally abuse myself with John Green. We know what John Green can do to a person’s mental well-being.

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Title: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Author: Katherine Boo

Genre: Non-fiction

Summary: The intertwining and unraveling lives of a few slumdwelling families in Annawadi, behind the wall of Beautiful Forever that separates the wretched dirty waters from the glamorous, false facade that is the luxury hotels, swimming pools, and expensive car services of the Mumbai Airport and the rich.

In 3 nouns: Poverty. Injustice. Humanity.

In 3 adjectives: Heartbreaking. Searing. Enlightening.

The Good: I have never felt so fearful of being in poverty and being powerlessness before this book, which conveys a kind of ignorance on my part about the true nature and predicament of those born into the dirty waters of slums and heartbreaking poverty. I felt so conflicted with some of the people in this book. On the one hand, their actions were immoral, arising a hatred in me. On the other hand, their wretched circumstances made their actions understandable, bringing with that comprehension an inability to wish them ill like I would a black-and-white villain in a novel. The book delivered blow after blow of heart-wrenching information which left me with a sick feeling at the pit of my stomach. I would look up from the book at times and feel as if the world will never be quite as happy and as lovely as it was before. However, this is what it takes to raise awareness about the ugly realities of this world and be inspired into action by that knowledge.

The Not-So-Splendid: Until the later stages of the book, I became quite confused among the large number of people flooding Katherine Boo’s story. Perhaps it is because of her journalist background, but I think she might have tried to cover one too many lives all at once. In the end, only one or two names stood up in my memory. Another weakness is that some of what Boo told, especially about certain characters’ thoughts, convictions and beliefs, seemed quite unreal to me, due to the incredible depth and intimacy those passages conveyed. I had a hard time believing that all of it were truly the thoughts of the actual person. Lastly, at the risk of sound extremely privileged and spoiled by the riches of the middle class world, I had to put down the book at several points and couldn’t pick it up again until a few hours later because I couldn’t handle the heartbreaking injustice and poverty suffered by the slum-dwellers behind The Beautiful Forever wall. I was left emotionally scarred and paralyzed by the hostile, cold world we have built for ourselves and for others.

Final Verdict: 4/5

Best Enjoyed: In bits and pieces. You can’t eat it whole because it will break you apart and leave you hopeless.

Next bookworming targetLooking For Alaska by John Green

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