Book Reviews · Reading · Uncategorized

Cold Comfort Farm Book Review (#92)

Book: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

#92 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: C

What is the story about?

The story follows the adventure of Flora Poste, a 19 year old recently orphaned young woman, who decided to go live with her relatives, the Starkadder’s, on Cold Comfort Farm. She quickly took it upon herslef to clean up their gloomy lives and ‘make things right.’

Verdict:

I don’t really know what to make of this book really. Apparently, it is a satire. It is a parody on Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, and the Bronte sisters’ work although i can’t really see the connection at all. (I am very familiar with the Bronte sisters and Austen’s work, not so much Lawrence.)

Going through this book, you really do feel like the writer is trying to make a joke, but you don’t really know at who or why you should laugh. So yeah, I don’t get the joke really.

As for the storyline, Flora Poste makes herself out to be the Fairy God Mother of Cold Comfort Farm. She first transforms Elfine into Cinderella, helps Seth be a movie star, and sets everyone in the right direction so they can finally achieve their ‘happily ever after’. Then suddenly, at the end of the book, she remembers that she is only 19 years old and sadly, did not get her happily ever after and calls her lover to come whisk her away to find her own happiness.

I would’ve given this book a D except that it was an easy and pleasant read. So Gibbons’ writing style is the only thing that pushes my rating to a C .. barely though.

————————- Next Read —————————-

#91 on the list: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shibiku.

This is the 3rd bok on this list that can be used as a weapon as well (1000+ pages). The first I loved and still holds the top ranking of books I read in this list, the second I refused to finish (1001 Arabian Nights) because of its vulgarity and racism, and actually gave it away as I do not want it anywhere in my house.

And this is my thrid. We’ll see how it goes .. though being written 1000 years ago makes me a bit worried lol..

Happy reading!

Book Reviews · Reading

Book: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (#93)

Book: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

#93 on the 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A

What is the story about?

The story is about the British secret service, called the ‘Circus’ in the novel. There seems to be a mole within the spying agency. George Smiley, a retired member of the circus, was called in to sniff out the spy. But the question remains: “Who can spy on the spies?”

Verdict:

All I knew about this book before picking it up was that it is a British spy novel. I was hoping it to be like a James Bond movie. Turns out, it was much better!

Thinking of spies, you usually think of gun totting action in the dark. But this book was filled with intense psychological action instead of physical.  True, it was a bit confusing at first with all the characters (at one point I thought JP and control were the same person lol) and there was a lot of industry related jargon that some I still don’t know what they are, but the story line was amazingly written and gripping from beginning to end.

John le Carre is a pseudoname to a man who actually worked in this field (spying or intelligence gathering). Only a person who was on the inside can write a story so realistic. It is not one of those: Oh I am a superhero spy that can jump on buildings and walk through walls. It shows the painstaking work that goes with being a spy, the going through numerous files for days on end, cross referencing and trying to find one discrepency to catch a lie.

** mini spoiler **

The book is generally about espionage, trust, and loyalty. There’s a British mole who sold his country and friends out to the Russians. He tried to explain later that he did so on the grounds of morality and principle. Who’s side are you on in the cold war? Who do you want to win which inevitablly means whose ideals do you want to win and want to live under? This British gentlemen chose the East’s ideals, thus betraying his long time coworkers and friends by feeding the opposition with crucial info and busting all the circus’ missions, and by betraying the man who loved him. Which takes us to the next important theme: love.

George Smiley loved his wife dearly. This was his downfall, as Karla (the head of Russian spies) believed. He ordered his mole to court Ann, Smiley’s wife. He said this will distort his image of the mole if he knew his wife loved him. It will also affect him when he knows that everyone around him knows that his wife is sleeping around with his trusted coworker. And it worked.

Then there is the fatherly love that Guillam had towards the mole. He saw him as his mentor and wanted to be just like him. And lastly, there is JP’s love to the mole. The mole recruited JP at Oxford and their relationship is hinted to be a romantic one. JP had a feeling that his lover was the mole and actually tried to warn him before JP went on the mission that was supposed to reveal the mole’s identity.

At the end, the mole was captured. A day or two before he went to Russia, he was found dead on the grounds next to where he was held. Who killed him? It was never stated in the book .. but you get the feeling that JP killed him.

This brings us to the different reactions people have towards betrayal.

His friends and coworkers were visibly shaken, but left knowing their lives will go on. His superior was angry but accepted responsibility and acted accordingly.

As for the people who were in ‘love’, Guillam was physically angry at his paternal idol. He sprang forward at him to show his anger and disdain. He expalined that moment as being “orphaned”. His ‘illusion’ was shattered and he finally had “grown up”.

Then there was JP, who is thought to have cracked his lovers neck for the ultimate betrayal.

Then there is George Smiley, the level headed man who even Karla vouched for his excellence. Smiley accepted the betrayal and waited for his wife’s return, which may be seen as an act of forgiveness in the face of betrayal.

The “last illusion of the illusionless man” Karla has said about Ann’s worth to George.

Is love an illusion, as Karla describes it? If so, how will you behave faced with betrayal by this illusion?

I think my reaction would be closer to George’s, though i know for sure my love is not an ‘illusion’.

———————————————- Next Book —————————————–

My next book is Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Goodreads says the book “is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life” .. The last book i read that portrays British rural life was the most boring book i ever read in my whole entire life (book review here). Here’s to hoping this one is better..

Happy reading!

 

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: Midnight’s Children (#94)

Book: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

#94 on the 100 novels everyone should read

Grade: A

What is the story about?

The story follows the life of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the same time of new India. Saleem, and a thousand others, were born alondside the birth of a nation. Because of the significant time of their birth, all 1001 “midnight children” acquired magical powers. The story unfolds and changes as the path of their new found nation changes as well.

Verdict:

This is the exact reason why I started this journey, following this list of 100 books. I would’ve never picked up this book browsing in a book store. Not really a fan of fantasy or anything whimsical, I would never choose to read a book that follows the life of a person who can sniff out people’s thoughts and emotions.

But I loved it and was greatly moved by it (thank you list for making me read this book).

Turns out, Saleem is a very good story teller. I don’t really know why some say it’s a hard read (maybe I’m comparing it to previous reads from this list which were mostly a struggle to read) as I found it flowed very nicely.

It’s like being told a bedtime story by your grandmother: yes sometimes she gets a bit off track, yes sometimes she skips events and gets back to them later, yes sometimes things she says can’t possibly be true; but you know you are completely mesmerized and can’t wait till the next day for her to finish off her fascinating story.

But the thing about this story that really touched me is the history. Saleem’s grandfather was from Kashmir, he was born in Bombay, moved with his family to Karachi where the India-Pakistan war happened, then later the Pakistan-Bangladesh war took place.

Why is history so violent and sad? And why does it keep happening over and over?

Saleem, fighting with his adopted country, found his childhood friends fighting on the other side. Why were friends and families fighting so visciously against one another? Yes I realize I don’t know all the history behind the conflict, but it just hits you hard when reading the book.

Fighting with Pakistani troops, they shunned their opponent’s as the “others”; the Hindus; the vegeteranians. “Vegetables always lose to meat”, they said.

When labeling them as “others”, us against them, it is easy to dehumanize them and forget they once were childhood friends and family.

Then, Saleem Sinai and his Pakistani troops found they were not assigned to fight the Hindus anymore, they wouldn’t “kapow the vegeteranians”, they were ordered to kill their “brothers”, the Muslim region of East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh.

And they didn’t only kill. Ten million refugees fled from the war to India.. 10 million. As Rushdie explains, 10 million … is a number that refuses to be understood. 10 million of mothers, fathers, and children. 10 million of grandpaernts and grandkids who were all originally brothers and sisters from one country.

Shahhed and I saw many things which were not true, which were not possible, because our boys would not could not have behaved so badly; … but it was not true because it could not have been true, the Tiger was a decent chap, after all, and our jiwans were worth ten babus…”

Shaheed, when he saw all the devestation the war caused, said:

No buddha – what a thing, Allah you can’t believe your eyes – no, not true, how can it – buddha, tell, what’s got into my eyes?

Saleem (buddha) replied:

A person must sometimes choose what he will see and what he will not; look away, look away from there now.

But we shouldn’t look away. When will it stop? When we stop labeling people as “the other.”

So the next time you see someone different, something you don’t understand, a Hindu or a Muslim, Turban wearing or Hijab, black or white or yellow ..  whatever the “other” is, stop focusin on what makes them different and just remember, we are all humans, with mothers and fathers praying for us, and children waiting for us; no matter what our religion or color is.

Yes, this book really moved me, not just because Rushdies is an amazing writer, not just because of the magical world created, but because, to me, it was a strong political statement.

Stop the hate .. Spread the love!

The only thing that was a bit dissapointing is that book 3 (the novel is divided into 3 books) was not as good as the ones before it. I understand Rushdies used this scection to tie up loose ends, to bring the book to a definite closure, but it wasn’t as powerful as the previous books. Also, the recurring 1001 number and even Shahrazads name reminds me of ‘that’ book, the only book I ever started and refused to finish :/

All in all, amazing read! I recommend it to everyone really.

Next book: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre. A British spy novel .. like James Bond hopefully .. will find out as soon as my Amazon package arrives.

Happy reading everyone!

 

Book Reviews · Reading

Book Review: The Sorrows of Young Werther (#95)

Book: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

#95 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read

Grade: D

What is the story about?

The style of the book is like a diary. It is a set of letters from Werther to his good friend Wilhelm. And the entire story is about his forbidden love to Lotte, a girl already engaged and later married.

Verdict:

What can I say? The story was very sad; not as in heartbreaking sad, but pathetic sad.

**spoiler**

You have a man, who cries and wails the entire novel about how life isn’t fair, how he loves a girl (whom he knew was engaged before he met her) and can never have her.

He keeps the self pitying theme going on as he tries to hold a job, but left because (gasp), his boss doesn’t give him enough credit. He quit and went back running to Lotte where he slowly loses his mind and decides to kill himself.

What is the point of this story? Your life is over if a girl doesn’t love you back? If a girl dumped you, lose hope in life? Quit a job as soon as it gets a bit rough and uncomfortable? Give up when things don’t go your way?

And who is this Lotte anyway, that deosn’t only make one man go mad, but two.

The only thing I liked in this story is his lovely description of the nature around them. That’s it really.

Next book: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I look forward to reading a book with a bit more substance. Hopefully it’s better that what I’ve read so far.

—————— Note about book #96: The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights—————-

I never started a book that i didn’t finish. When I start a story (even movies), I need to know the ending no matter how boring or silly it is.

I guess there’s a first time for everything as I refuse to finish reading the book. The racism, sexuality, and vulgarity in this book is repulsive. It does  not deserve one of my daughters bookmarks in it. 

I will happily make it a journey of 99 books instead of 100 if it means I can throw this book away!

 

Parenting

Am I Crazy?

The other day, we had a big family lunch at my mother’s house. My older brother and mother were casually talking about a distant relative who just graduated university.

Bro: I can’t believe how attached he is to his parents. Every time I see him he is either out with them in a coffee shop or out to dinner .. with his parents.

Mom: I find it cute. Not like you when you were his age.

Bro: Oh when I was his age I couldn’t wait to get away from you .. haha. I just wanted to go out with my friends and explore everything.

Mom: Oh don’t remind me! At that time, there were no mobile phones or anything. I had to look for you from one place to the other just to check that you were safe and ok. See these grey hairs? You’re responsible for more than half of them.

Then I started to think. And the more time I spent thinking, the more I panicked. What am I going to do when my son wants to go and “explore everything”?!

My husband also went through crazy teen years. What if its a gene? OH GOD my son must of got the strong gene from both my bro and DH! Yes now they are responsible adults but not when they were 17 .. Noooo they were anything but responsible. Oh God what am I going to do!

We reached home and DH could see there was something troubling me. He asked me what’s wrong and I told him. He looked at me like a crazy person.

DH: You do realize our son is 5 1/2 years old.

Me: Yes I do. Don’t look at me like that. My concerns are legit.

DH: (laughing) Don’t worry, I don’t think there are any drug dealers in the 1st grade.

Me: (thinking of “Bid Daddy” scene where Sandler was questioning kids in the playground)

DH: So forget about it, we will deal with it when the time comes.

But I couldn’t forget about it.

The next day, my son saw me lying down on the couch as I wasn’t feeling very well. He covered me with my favorite blanket and sat on my lap and asked: Are you ok, my love? (yes my 5 year old son melts my heart and calls me his love).

Me: Yes as long as you’re with me I’m ok.

DS: I will always be with you mama don’t worry.

Me: Always remember that. Even when you’re older and have your drivers license ..

I can see my husband staring at me like a crazy person but I ignored ..

Me: and you go out with your friends .. when you see me calling please pick up your phone and just let me know you’re ok and having fun.

DS: Of course mama! If you want me I will tell my friends to go home and take you out to a restaurant instead.

Me: (wishing that statement will still be true when he is 17) I love you so much .. you’re the best boy in the world!

My husband then hands me his phone with a Google search open. It has the numbers of all psychologists and psychiatrists in the region.

I’m not crazy .. Am I?

Parenting · Pregnancy

Summer is Over

Hallelujah!

Some of the moms in our mommy group actually don’t want summer to be over (gasp!) They complain about school drop offs and homework and afterschool activities .. Ohhh not me!

I couldn’t wait till the summer was done … I mean I love spending time with my kids and everything but being their main source of entertainment 24/7 was exhausting…

And that’s another main theme of this summer in particular: exhaustion!

What did I do you might ask?

I did not write one blog post all summer (hi .. miss me?) .. I didn’t read one sentence of any book let alone finish a page. I didn’t even go out on dinner dates with my husband because I was exhausted all the time!

I did though successfully entertain my kids (most of the time) .. stopped them from killing each other (they fight about every single thing) .. took them to swimming lessons (they can both dive in the deep now .. yay!) .. went to morning summer camp, rock climbing, indoor sky diving, a staycation, and so many other things I hope they cherish forever.

But again I was always tired .. all the time. Not normal tired, like hit by a bus tired. So I decided to do a blood test .. maybe my iron levels are low.

Results are in: congratulations! Your iron level is very good .. oh and your pregnant!

Wait .. what?!

How can I be pregnant? I am breastfeeding and I am on the mini pill. I didn’t skip a day and try to take it everyday at the same time. I didn’t even get my period since I gave birth.. how can I be pregnant?

Went to my gyno, she was laughing at how chocked I was. Apparently I was on antibiotics before summer starts and that makes the pill less effective.. especially if it’s the mini pill.

Wait .. come again? I was on antibiotics before summer started.

Yup, you guessed it. I was already 12 weeks pregnant. How can I not know!! It’s not like this is my first. I should’ve known. And I was taking the mini pill the entire time during my baby’s first trimester.. not folic acid, not multivitamins .. the mini pill.

I feel like the worst mom ever! Hope it doesn’t affect my baby. Now I have to wrap my head around having a newborn soon, while my one year old is still sleeping in my bed.

 

Wish me luck .. this is going to be a long year!

Life · Parenting

The Gift of Health

My son was sick for an entire month.

 He had a stubborn fever that would not go away. At the beginning, he had a bit of a cough and runny nose, but after that, he didn’t show any other symptom except for the fever.

 After the second course of antibiotics, the fever came back and his pediatrician said we should do a blood test just to make sure, so we can rule out the “big and bad” diseases.

 After the torture of taking blood from a child and tears from both of us, we went to the Doc’s office to double check everything. Throat, ears are ok .. chest ok .. bodily functions ok .. no rashes .. no inflamed nodes.

“So, Doc, why this fever without any symptoms?”

“Well, the symptoms can be inside and we can’t see them. That’s why we did a blood test so it can tell us if there is anything going on that we can’t see.”

“What are these ‘big and bad’ diseases we want to rule out?”

I regretted asking the question the moment he started to answer. After hearing a couple of big names thrown around, I felt like the room was spinning.

The Doc seeing me like that said: You know his chances of getting these things are just like any other healthy kid walking around so don’t worry.

Nope, didn’t really help. I still felt like I wanted to throw up. I think he felt sorry for me and told me to wait here for a sec he will run down to the lab and grab the first numbers, they will give us a better picture.

After what seemed like an eternity, he came back and said: I have good news. His blood count is in the normal range, white blood cells good, no sign of inflammation or bacterial infection. He’s fine, looks like it’s just a stubborn virus. The rest of the results will take at least 3 – 4 hours to come out. You can go home now and I will let you know the rest of the results later. But till now, all the results I can see are great!

I felt like a huge rock was lifted from my chest and I could finally breathe. At that second, I thought about the moms who were in my place and didn’t get the results they wanted to hear. Those moms who couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief and I prayed for them. I still pray for them every day.

I hugged my son so tight and left the hospital.

 Sometimes we forget the important things in life. We worry about grades and homework, money and bills, work and so on and we forget the one most important blessing God gave us: good health.

So thank you God for giving me three healthy babies. Thank you for giving me the strength to raise them. Thank you God for giving me the chance of watching them grow. And thank you God, a million thank you, for making it just a virus and nothing else. You have blessed me with so much already, and I am forever grateful for you love, kindness, and generosity.

I’ll just end this with a prayer to all mom’s out there. Hope whatever is worrying you is just the never ending laundry baskets and bills, and nothing else.

God bless.