Isthmus by Gerard LaSalle is the second book in The Widow Walk Saga, taking place along the Isthmus rail ride across the Panama. Overall I quite enjoyIsthmus by Gerard LaSalle is the second book in The Widow Walk Saga, taking place along the Isthmus rail ride across the Panama. Overall I quite enjoyed it, it's full of interesting and fascinating characters - my biggest criticism is probably that there were too many characters that you follow in depth. It's hard to get to care about each character, when you're constantly switching from one to the next. This made it hard to get into, but by the end it all came together and became really enjoyable.
It's a fascinating insight into the time period, the challenges around travel, medical issues and insights of the time and cultural clashes....more
Storytellerby Jodi Picoult - like all of her brilliant novels - tangle with the more difficult questions. Who's got the right to forgive? Can murder eStoryteller by Jodi Picoult - like all of her brilliant novels - tangle with the more difficult questions. Who's got the right to forgive? Can murder ever be justice? Or mercy?
You will ask me, after this, why I didn't tell you this before. It is because I know how powerful a story can be. It can change the course of history. It can save a life. But it can also be a sink-hole, a quicksand in which you become stuck, unable to write yourself free. You would think bearing witness to something like this would make a difference, and yet this isn't so. In the newspapers I have read about history repeating itself in Cambodia. Rwanda. Sudan. Truth is so much harder than fiction. Some survivors want to speak only of what happened. They go to schools and museums and temples and give talks. It's the way they can make sense of it, I suppose. I've heard them say they feel it is their responsibility, maybe even the reason they lived. My husband - your grandfather - used to say, Minka, you were a writer. Imagine the story you could tell. But it is exactly because I was a writer that I could never do it. The weapons an author has at her disposal are flawed. There are words that feel shapeless and overused. Love, for example. I could write the word love a thousand times and it would mean a thousand different things to different readers. What is the point of trying to put down on paper emotions that are too complex, too huge, too overwhelming to be confined by an alphabet? Love isn't the only word that fails. Hate does, too. War. And hope. Oh, yes, hope. So you see, this is why I never told my story. If you lived through it, you already know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it. And if you didn't, you will never understand.
It's the story of a small-town baker hiding from the world, until she strikes up a friendship with a man old enough to be her grandfather - with a story of evil he's kept a secret for most of his life. How do ordinary people end up able to commit horrific crimes?
Did I know this brutality was wrong? Even that first time, when my brother was the victim? I have asked myself a thousand times, and the answer is always the same: of course. That day was the hardest, because I could have said no. Every time after that, it became easier, because if I didn't do it again, I would be reminded of that first time I did not say no. Repeat the same action over and over again, and eventually it will feel right. Eventually, there isn't even any guilt. What I mean to tell you, now, is that the same truth holds. This could be you, too. You think never. You think, not I. But at any given moment, we are capable of doing what we least expect. I always knew what I was doing, and to whom I was doing it. I knew, very well. Because in those terrible, wonderful moments, I was the person everyone wanted to be.
I don't want to give too many details away, suffice it to say that Picoult is as thought-provoking as ever. She's a master at pulling at your heart-strings while making it completely impossible to continue to see the world in black and white - which is why she's one of my favourite writers. ...more
Interesting mix of historical and fictional characters and how their lives intertwine on both side of the Atlantic ocean. It was enjoyable, especiallyInteresting mix of historical and fictional characters and how their lives intertwine on both side of the Atlantic ocean. It was enjoyable, especially towards the end, but I felt like so much more could've been done with the premise....more
I have to admit that A Breath of Snow and Ashes was way longer than it needed to be, and I sort of lost interest several times under way. Definitely nI have to admit that A Breath of Snow and Ashes was way longer than it needed to be, and I sort of lost interest several times under way. Definitely not as good as previous books in the Outlander series....more
The memories of the first decade seemed rather disjointed at first, often jumping from one to another with seemingly no connection between them. Later on, however, it begins to come together and makes sense, as each memory helps throw light on new issues in Scot's life.
Lily Scot has led a fascinating, and at times very difficult life. I loved the way she opened up to the reader and allowed us inside into her life, giving us a chance to understand the things that we have found difficult and hard to accept in our own lives - even as they might have been very different to hers.
However, Sating the Preta is not a how-to-manual on overcoming complex PTSD and emotional abuse. It is the author's story, and while it is inspirational and gives the reader hope, there is little practical advice or guidance (which might also have been misplaced in a memoir). In my opinion this doesn't detract, but is just something for the reader to be aware of....more
While never crude or unfairly dismissive, Sagan convincingly makes the point of Edmund Way Teale: "It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it." Sagan over and over again shows how dangerous it is to accept pseudoscience and other falsehoods without any scientific, independently verifiable evidence. He tackles such varied topics as UFOs, alien abductions, astrology, witch hunts, faith healings, demons etc., and authoritatively debunks them all.
In the last part of the books he uncovers how dangerously far Americans have falling behind when it comes to understanding even the most elementary science, and what dangers it could hold for the future, specifically in terms of democracy and liberty.
If nothing else, I highly recommend the chapter The Fine Art of Baloney Detection(the link will take you to a free PDF version). In my opinion this essay should be required reading in all high schools. It powerfully and simply sets forward rules and guidelines to help you keep a skeptical mindset, e.g. by using tools such as looking for independent confirmation of the "facts", encourage debates from all points of view, put little weight on authority arguments, look for more than one explanation, don't become too attached to your own explanation etc.
Sagan has a real gift for explaining difficult and scientific topics in layman terms, so even if you don't have a scientific background it is an easy, enlightening and educational read. Quotes
"Spirit" comes from the Latin word "to breathe". What we breathe is air, which is certainly matter, however thin. Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word "spiritual" that we are talking of anything other than matter (including the matter of which the brain is made), or anything outside the realm of science. On occasion, I will feel free to use the world. Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.
"Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing in the absence of evidence, on my say-so."
Humans are the only species that care about virginity - although we are not the only species with a hymen. Even then, virginity cannot be defined and there are no guaranteed way to see if someone is a virgin or not. The only thing that's sure is that we are all different. The question of virginity has been one way to keep women under patriarchal control for centuries, but even then it is only in more recent times that it has become a fetish. In addition it shows how colonialism led to the sexualization of women of colour.
The elusiveness of virginity itself, and the many natural variations of the hymen have led to, and in some places of the world continue to lead to, suffering of young girls and women. Historically and culturally speaking there have been and are places where even the mere accusal of sexual misconduct can cost a woman her life or her future.
Virgin is well-researched, insightful and I greatly recommend it. Quotes
Why, then, we might wonder, is it the particular combination of a penis and a vagina that has for so long been considered the definitive sex act, the act that terminates virginity? There are several reasons. For one, the only form of sexual activity that renders women pregnant is that which involves inserting a penis into a vagina. Second, penis-in-vagina intercourse is the single uniquely heterosexual act of which human beings are capable. The other common sexual permutations of body parts of which humans are capable are essentially gender-neutral. Kisses and caresses know no gender, to say nothing of oral sex. For a penis to be inserted into a vagina, on the other hand, there can be only one man and one woman, and furthermore they must be performing the single specific action that cannot be performed by a man on another man or by a woman on another woman. What this means is that virginity, at least in the classical, canonical form, is exclusively heterosexual.
In the West, virginity no only has a sexual orientation and a gender, it has a color. Christian symbology traditionally uses light and lightness of color to indicate purity and holiness, while darkness and darker colors are associated with sin and corruption. When European white Christians began to colonize parts of the world where people had darker skin, they often took this light-equals-good / dark-equals-bad mentality with them. Because the sexual rules of these darker-skinned people's supposedly "primitive" cultures failed to map neatly onto what European Christians had come to expect as normal, natural, and indeed God-given laws regarding gender, sex, and the organization of families, European whites often assumed that the indigenous people of Africa, the Americas, and elsewhere were simply wicked and lacking any sense of sexual morality. From such encounters, Europeans frequently derived the belief that virginity was an attribute of being civilized, which was to say Christian, European, and white.
Virginity was a commodity with a limited shelf life. Well into the 1830s, even writers like the relatively progressive British freethinker journalist Richard Carlile could say with a straight face that spinsters were "a sort of sub-animal class" and that "It is a fact that can hardly have escaped the notice of anyone that women who have never had sexual commerce begin to droop when about twenty-five years of age... their forms degenerate, their features sink, and the peculiar character of the old maid becomes apparent."
Suite Francaise is the fascinating manuscript found years and years after it was first written by Irène Némirovsky in 1941. Némirovsky, a Russian JewiSuite Francaise is the fascinating manuscript found years and years after it was first written by Irène Némirovsky in 1941. Némirovsky, a Russian Jewish immigrant, wrote this book while hiding from the Nazis, but died in Auschwitz in 1942. The manuscript had been hidden in her daughters' suitcase, but for years no one read it, as they thought it was her private diary. Once they realized what they had found, the manuscript was published.
Suite Francaise only has the first two parts, of what Némirovsky had planned to be a four or five part symphony, in the style of War and Peace. Sadly, she was never able to finish it. While I really enjoyed the novel, it does feel unfinished, and to a certain degree unpolished. Which is such a shame, because it has so much potential, and it saddens me that we will never be able to see what could have been, if she had been able to finish it....more
This feeling, of not quite belonging anywhere is definitely not unique to Moaveni. It is something often described by other young people, the children of immigrants, who grow up in one places, but whose families' hearts have often been left behind in the home country. Just because it has been done before, doesn't mean her story isn't worth telling, and she does offer a unique glimpse into the life of an - admittedly upper-middle class - Iranian woman, both in America and in Iran.
What I wanted, though I chose not to admit it to myself, was to figure out my relationship to this other country, to Iran. Originating from a troubled country, but growing up outside it, came with many complications. Worst of all, at least on a personal level, was that you grew up assuming everything about you was related to that place, but you never got to test that out, since the place was unstable and sort of dangerous, and you never actually went there. You spent a lot of time watching movies about the place, crying in dark theaters, and feeling sad for your poor country. Most of that time, you were actually feeling sorry for yourself, but since your country was legitimately in serious trouble,, you didn't realize it. And since it was so much easier and romantic to lament a distant place than the day-to-day crappy messes of your own life, it could take a very long time to figure it all out.
If you're interested in Iran, in women, in the life of a -American Lipstick Jihad is well worth reading. Quotes
But for me the tiniest misstep to the left or right of propriety was swiftly catalogued as "Westernized" misbehavior. Even Khanoum Shabazy, whom he either ignored, laughed at, or bullied, adored him, yet considered me - the one who actually listened to her woes - a misfit, uninterested in anything that mattered (cooking, china, dinner parties . I realized that in Ian, just as in California with my mother, "Westernized" was a convenient label for any female behavior that defied oppressive tradition. It could and it was attached as easily to an Iranian woman who had never left Iran, as it was to me, raised outside. But men were like Teflon; the Westernized label did not stick. The other names for their conduct - hypocritical, womanizing, temperamental, fickle, bossy, headstrong - were still organically Iranian. The culture made room for their transgressions.
"Baba, are they beating these people because they're not husband and wife?" asked the little boy in the car, as he gazed out the car window, transfixed. "No, baba jaan, it's because the police are afraid of them," replied his father. He did not explain, and the little boy went quiet.
The History of Loveby Nicole Krauss might at first glance sound like a romance novel. It's not. It is true, however, that it deals with love, and alsoThe History of Love by Nicole Krauss might at first glance sound like a romance novel. It's not. It is true, however, that it deals with love, and also love in a romantic fashion.
The History of Love is the story of an old man who taps on the radiator to make sure his buddy is still alive - and vice versa. It is also the story of this old man in his youth, and the book he wrote about and for the woman he loved. It is the story of a young girl named after the woman in the book, and her quest to find her namesake.
I love the way The History of Love is written. The language is incredibly beautiful, yet also very simple. It is similar in style and tone to Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is another favourite book of mine. Quotes
There are passages of my book I know by heart. By heart, this is not an expression I use lightly. My heart is weak and unreliable. When I go it will be my heart. I try to burden it as little as possible. If something is going to have an impact, I direct it elsewhere. My gut for example, or my lungs, which might seize up for a moment but have never yet failed to take another breath. When I pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself, or I’m at the bus stop and some kids come up behind me and say, Who smells shit?— small daily humiliations— these I take, generally speaking, in my liver. Other damages I take in other places. The pancreas I reserve for being struck by all that’s been lost. It’s true that there’s so much, and the organ is so small. But. You would be surprised how much it can take, all I feel is a quick sharp pain and then it’s over. Sometimes I imagine my own autopsy. Disappointment in myself: right kidney. Disappointment of others in me: left kidney. Personal failures: kishkes. I don’t mean to make it sound like I’ve made a science of it. It’s not that well thought out. I take it where it comes. It’s just that I notice certain patterns. When the clocks are turned back and the dark falls before I’m ready, this, for reasons I can’t explain, I feel in my wrists. And when I wake up and my fingers are stiff, almost certainly I was dreaming of my childhood. The field where we used to play, the field in which everything was discovered and everything was possible. (We ran so hard we thought we would spit blood: to me that is the sound of childhood, heavy breathing and shoes scraping the hard earth.) Stiffness of the fingers is the dream of childhood as it’s been returned to me at the end of my life. I have to run them under the hot water, steam clouding the mirror, outside the rustle of pigeons. Yesterday I saw a man kicking a dog and I felt it behind my eyes. I don’t know what to call this, a place before tears. The pain of forgetting: spine. The pain of remembering: spine. All the times I have suddenly realized that my parents are dead, even now, it still surprises me, to exist in the world while that which made me has ceased to exist: my knees, it takes half a tube of Ben-Gay and a big production just to bend them. To everything a season, to every time I’ve woken only to make the mistake of believing for a moment that someone was sleeping beside me: a hemorrhoid. Loneliness: there is no organ that can take it all.
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.
And if the man who once upon a time had been a boy who promised he’d never fall in love with another girl as long as he lived kept his promise, it wasn’t because he was stubborn or even loyal. He couldn’t help it. And having hidden for three and a half years, hiding his love for a son who didn’t know he existed didn’t seem unthinkable. Not if it was what the only woman he would ever love needed him to do. After all, what does it mean for a man to hide one more thing when he has vanished completely?
It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky. My mother did not choose a leaf or a head. She chose my father, and to hold on to a certain feeling, she sacrificed the world.
Holding hands, for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together. And at night, when it’s too dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other’s bodies to make ourselves understood.
So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves.
I filled the sink with soapy water and washed the dirty pots. And with each pot and pan and spoon I put away, I also put away a thought I couldn’t bear, until my kitchen and my mind returned to a state of mutual organization. And yet.
there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone.
He learned to live with the truth. Not to accept it, but to live with it. It was like living with an elephant. His room was tiny, and every morning he had to squeeze around the truth just to get to the bathroom. To reach the armoire to get a pair of underpants he had to crawl under the truth, praying it wouldn’t choose that moment to sit on his face. At night, when he closed his eyes, he felt it looming above him.
And then I thought: Perhaps that is what it means to be a father— to teach your child to live without you. If so, no one was a greater father than I.
At the end, all that’s left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that’s why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived.
That was the end of my search to find someone that would make my mother happy again. I finally understood that no matter what I did, or who I found, I— he— none of us— would ever be able to win over the memories she had of Dad, memories that soothed her even while they made her sad, because she’d built a world out of them she knew how to survive in, even if no one else could.
I normally enjoy reading classics - they are usually classics for a reason. Lately however, I have been disappointed. Les Miserableswas long-winded anI normally enjoy reading classics - they are usually classics for a reason. Lately however, I have been disappointed. Les Miserables was long-winded and old-fashioned - but at least it had a beautiful story.
Last week I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac and it was such a disappointment. I had great expectations for it! Supposedly the "soul of the beat movement" (whatever that is), sounded great.
However I never got to care about any of the characters, and by the end I actually despised most of them. I know it was a different time, but no matter the time I can't stand books that minimize violence against women or the purposeful destruction of other people's property for no reason.
In my opinion, On the Road is a book about not caring at all about other people and the affect you have on their lives. Using people, their property and their money, and just do whatever you want.
I did enjoy the parts on living your own life, not the life other people want for you, and breaking with traditions, but to me that didn't make up for the bad parts.
If you have read it, what did you make of it? Quotes With that being said, there were still a few quotes I enjoyed.
But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’
And I said, ‘That last thing is what you can’t get, Carlo. Nobody can get to that last thing. We keep on living in hopes of catching it once for all.’
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk – real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.
This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.
A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.
because I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.
I really really wanted to love Cloud Atlas, because I love the premise of it, and the trailer looks excellent. The book isn't bad as such, but it is jI really really wanted to love Cloud Atlas, because I love the premise of it, and the trailer looks excellent. The book isn't bad as such, but it is just so slow moving, and I was half-way through it before I really started caring about any of the characters - and just as you start caring about one character you move on to the next. The layout is interesting, and from a theoretical standpoint I really liked it, but in praxis it just didn't work for me....more