With lots of killing, revelations, and high stakes, Sabaa Tahir's debut novel centers on a slave and a soldier, both trapped in the cruel hands of theWith lots of killing, revelations, and high stakes, Sabaa Tahir's debut novel centers on a slave and a soldier, both trapped in the cruel hands of the Martial Empire. Laia has always lived in the backstreets with her grandparents and her brother, until an unjust arrest forces her to take on the role of a spy in one of the most deadly estates in the Empire. Elias, one of the Empire's most esteemed fighters, wants nothing more than to break free from the Martials and gain his freedom. Laia and Elias's paths intersect and their individual choices come together to start a flame, perhaps a fire that will change the Empire forever.
An Ember in the Ashes has so many things going for it. The consequences that the characters face feel real and terrifying. The inspired-by-ancient-Rome world of the Empire comes across as immense and awing. Our protagonists, Elias and Laia, grow a lot throughout the course of the story, and their interactions with one another surged with a quiet and pressing intensity.
My lack of raw emotional attachment to An Ember in the Ashes makes me give it four stars instead of five. Even though I enjoyed reading about Elias and Laia's growth, at certain points their dispositions felt a little too rigid - in particular Elias's unquestionable goodness, despite his occasional violent episode. I also wish Helene had received more attention. Even though it might have been hard to write in her point of view because (view spoiler)[she was told from the very beginning that she would not win the Trials (hide spoiler)], her internal conflicts (romantic feelings, dedication to the Empire, etc.) stood out as one of the book's most intriguing, nuanced tidbits.
Overall, a solid book I would recommend to fans of YA fantasy, action-adventure, and/or dystopia. I await An Ember in the Ashes's sequel and hope it will build upon the story's already strong foundation.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Note: the title reads Stumbling On Happiness, not Stumbling Onto Happiness. Thus, Daniel Gilbert's book does not go into self-help. Rather, it delineaNote: the title reads Stumbling On Happiness, not Stumbling Onto Happiness. Thus, Daniel Gilbert's book does not go into self-help. Rather, it delineates the many errors we humans make when solidifying decisions and how our minds trick us into choosing things that might not lead us to happiness in the long run.
A few cool concepts stood out to me when reading Stumbling On Happiness: how we kind of suck at predicting our future emotions because our present state influences us so much, how certain societal ideas like needing money or wanting kinds propagate even if they do not make us happy, and how the brain constructs experiences based on biased memories as opposed to objective truths. Gilbert writes in a witty, smart, and accessible way. He incorporates psychological research, philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, sociology, behavioral economics, and more to strengthen his points. The broad scope of this book makes it appealing to individuals with a wide array of interests, spanning hard and social sciences.
I only wish that Gilbert had tied all his ideas together with a little more incisiveness. At times it felt like he just listed experiments and made some general comments about them instead of tying them altogether. Even though this book circumvents the self-help genre, I wanted to read more solid connections between Gilbert's remarks and how they relate to happiness. Stumbling on Happiness could have used a stronger thesis: it reads fine as a general list of cognitive fallacies we make, and it could have been even better with a dose of additional punch.
Overall, recommended to those intrigued by the book's synopsis, this article about happiness, or those intrigued by cognitive psychology. A well-researched book with some witty, substantial ideas, even if not all of them will stay in my memory (as Gilbert himself suggests)....more
I turn 20 in a week, and I could not have read this book at a better time. Having been raised in an abusive household, I always strive to live with kiI turn 20 in a week, and I could not have read this book at a better time. Having been raised in an abusive household, I always strive to live with kindness, understanding, and compassion in order to break free from my childhood. Kristin Neff's Self-Compassion has taught me many valuable lessons, including what specific behaviors and thoughts comprise compassion, as well as how to apply those principles to myself - one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. A quote that shows Neff's three tenets of self-compassion:
"As I've defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness - that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate."
Oftentimes we take the idea of being kind to ourselves with a grain of salt. We nod our heads when people tell us about the perks of positivity, and we smile and listen to our friends when they need help, and because of society's pressure to achieve a lot and express so little, we lose touch with our internal selves. Neff's book offers practical suggestions to increase self-compassion that transcend mere self-esteem enhancers or ineffective tricks. She delves into the specific ways self-compassion can aid in our own happiness, our relationships with family and significant others, and our general interactions with the world around us. Neff strengthens her argument by citing many studies, and she draws upon several facets of psychology - social comparison, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, group identity, and much more - to add cohesion to her ideas. One of my favorite quotes about why we need to accept our thoughts and feelings:
"Thoughts and feelings arise based on our history, our past experiences and associations, our hardwiring, our hormonal cycle, our physical comfort level, our cultural conditioning, our previous thoughts and feelings, and numerous other factors. As discussed in the last chapter, there are untold prior causes and conditions that have come together to produce our current mental and emotional experience - conditions beyond our conscious choosing. We can't control which thoughts and emotions pass through the gates of awareness and which ones do not. If our particular thoughts and feelings aren't healthy, we can't make these mental experiences go away. However, we can change the way we relate to them."
One of my favorite books of all-time and perhaps my top read of 2015 so far. Recommended to anyone who has had to deal with an internal self-critical voice, as well as to those who want to augment their self-compassion for any reason at all. In my opinion, Self-Compassion serves as the ideal self-help book: it blends original insight, personal experience, research and previous work in the field, and it relays its message in a respectful and easy-to-comprehend way. 5 stars without a doubt....more
A play based on a true story about a French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese actress, only to realize that his exotic butterfly also identifiA play based on a true story about a French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese actress, only to realize that his exotic butterfly also identifies as male. Hwang's story highlights the beginning, middle, and end of Gallimard's descent through Song's seduction and how his appetite for dominance blinds him from the truth in front of his own two eyes. Though Gallimard earns little respect in this play, we see how he falls victim to the stereotypes assigned to men and to women, to the East and to the West.
I wish I could see this play live. The intersectional, transnational quality of M. Butterfly always made me evaluate the archetypes associated with gender and culture. Gallimard and Song's relationship had so many facets: Gallimard's sorrow, Song's manipulation, their desperate and theatrical dialogue, and more. Other books I read fall into an already solidified genre - young-adult, romance, action-adventure, etc. - while M. Butterfly stands out as an undefinable, uncouth, and unique subset of its own.
Overall, recommended to someone who enjoys plays of a dramatic yet sometimes dark, comedic nature. M. Butterfly integrates sexuality, gender, transnationalism, and more, so if any of those topics interest you, I would recommend it....more