• Books

    Circe by Madeline Miller

    Remember in the last review how I mentioned women in Greek mythology tended to be mistreated or abused? This book has a lot of that.

    Circe is a goddess. She is the daughter of a Titan and a nymph. She has been born with a mortal voice but even as an immortal, she is mistreated. This novel is well written especially in its in depth look at Circe’s character. I am impressed with Miller’s style and research. It does not surprise me that it takes her years to write each novel.

    I find this book harder to read than Song of Achilles though because Circe is a lonely characte and there are many unpleasant characters throughout the book. Her whole family is terrible and there are many spiteful immortals and mortals. Most of the book is sad and depressing actually. As with any book based on Greek myths, there are many deaths, monsters, and tragedies. This one has woven more Greek myths that were not in the Illiad or the Odyssey so it did feel almost like a Who’s Who? of Greek myths.

    After all of hardships that Circe and the reader go through together, there is a happy ending. It is sweet and features characters I did like from the Odyssey.

    With both of these novels, I definitely consider myself a fan of Miller and I look forward to her future books.

    Read October 21-22, 2018.

  • Books

    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

    This is a long overdue read. I’ve had this in my TBR pile for a few years after hearing the raves.

    My interest in Greek mythology and Greek stories is an old one. I remember reading many of the myths when I was around nine. As a kid, I had a big interest in mythology especially those with the Greeks. I knew the stories of the heroes and the gods well. I read the Illiad and the Odyssey as a young teenager but my interested waned. There were other books and other interests. I had become wary of the capricious characters of the gods in these stories. The heroes were often all men and I noticed how the women were often mistreated, tricked, or severely underdeveloped while the men were venerated. In recent years, I have been less interested in reading about novels inspired by the Greek myths. Ultimately this is why I decided not to read the Percy Jackson series even though it would have been something I would have craved as a kid.

    Having said that, I had a feeling I would enjoy Miller’s writing. The reviews about the book were undeniable and her background as an academic in Ancient Greek made it easier as well.

    I enjoyed the novel. I found it easy to read. I like the shorter sentences and there is a simplicity and almost minimalism to the prose. Miller does describe things deftly. I have never been to Greece, but the style of the novel is reminiscent of Homer and he other Ancient Greek authors. However, it’s not as impersonal. She has given a viable voice to Patroclus. She also has made me sympathetic to Achilles. In the Illiad, Achilles is seen as proud but without much other personality except when he goes on a killing spree to avenge Patroclus.

    The pacing is actually more character oriented. The war does not even start until more than halfway through the novel. Half the book is dedicated to the childhood and early relationship of Patroclus and Achilles. I did not feel bored because I liked the sort of lazy and peaceful feeling of the earlier portion of the book. It was also sweet.

    I did like that the Gods and Achilles’s mother is a character in this novel. I do not want realism with my Greek myth retellings. The gods and goddesses in the stories are not given much character development or motivation either. While Thetis does act like an ambitious and single minded mortal, the book does emphasize that she loves Achilles in her own obsessive way. I liked the cameos from the other gods as well. I actually wished for more, but I liked Miller’s restraint in using them as well.

    An enjoyable read. Now moving onto Miller’s new book Circe.

    Read October 20-21, 2018.

  • Books

    P. S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

    Of course, I had to read the sequels after I watched the movie. I read them both over the course of 24 hours without power. I read P. S. I love you mostly with a book lamp in the dark.

    The only reason I read the sequels was for the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter. That is the stuff of teenage dreams. The second novel had yet another love triangle. There were a lot of cheesey moments including the use of a feisty grandmother character who had a handsome grandson (called that grandson right away). I only cared about the family moments and the Peter ones. Everything else was just ok.

    The last book in the trilogy felt much longer than the first two. Han dedicated the book to her fans and the book lacked a real plot. It meandered a lot. If I didn’t like Lara Jean and Peter so much, I would have stopped at some point. I relate to Lara Jean and we have similar hobbies, but even in this novel, I felt my patience was growing short with her and the author. The conclusion of the novel is just there. I am glad that Han wrote a third book mostly with Peter and Lara Jean stable; however, the last book felt rudderless.

    I do hope they make the movies in the sequel if only to see the actors excellent chemistry, but they could really merge the last two books. The third book has no major plot so they can’t make a stand alone movie with it.

    Read Sept 21 and Sept 22, 2018 respectively.

  • Books,  Movies

    To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

    I wanted to read this book because of the buzz the Netflix movie. I wanted to wait until after I’ve read the book to see the movie.

    It took me a few chapters to get comfortable because the book is actually a bit longer than some young adult books. There’s a lot of character moments. The more that I read about Lara Jean, the more I could relate to her or rather how I was when I was her age.

    This book did give me the good feelings of being a teenager again. It helps that Lara Jean and I are both East Asian. Like Crazy Rich Asians and The Hate U Give, I wish I had more diverse novels like this growing up. I didn’t have books the reflected my experiences. I like that Lara Jean was quiet and dutiful, but also dreamy and into fashion and food.

    The novel was sweet. It made me laugh. There was a lot of nice moments with the characters. There was even a love triangle that I did not mind. The character beats were just right.

    About two thirds of the way into the book, I knew I had to read the sequel. The ending is a cliffhanger. However, I am not going to wait to watch the film.

    Read Sept 20-21, 2018

    To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

    With the book so fresh in my mind, I compared them a lot. I didn’t think Peter was dreamy enough at the beginning, but he won me over. The movie was sweet. It worked because I think the casting did well especially for the Coveys. I appreciated John Corbett as the good (and hot) dad and they even added more character moments between

    This movie would have been a mini obsession for me in high school. I liked what they added. Very cute movie and I hope they do make a sequel.

    Watched Sept 21, 2018.

  • Books

    Artemis by Andy Weir

    I liked The Martian well enough to try this novel. Like The Martian, this felt more plot driven than character driven even though the protagonist gets more development.

    I was divided between how I would rate this book overall. While the world building, plot, and the cast of the characters were good at times, I was also underwhelmed. I am still skeptical of Weir’s ability to develop good characters. Jazz is different and interesting, but there were moments where it did feel like a man was trying to write an edgy woman. The dialogue could be hit or miss.

    I do think this will make a decent film because of the plot.

    Started reading Sept 9-10, 2018. Returned it to the library, forgot about it then finished Sept 18-19 on Kindle.

  • Books

    Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

    This is a book about big data specifically the big data gleaned from services such as Google and Facebook. It has a look about how big data from these sites can reveal people’s true behaviour.

    This book took awhile to get comfortable. The author’s chapters were a bit disorganized. It lacked cohesion because each chapter was more focused on data themes and ideas and not on any specific topic. One chapter is “Is Freud right?” and it has a few facts on people’s sexual desires and phallic objects. The next chapter “Data Reimagined” has tidbits on the flu, unemployment rate, Google, and horse racing. Once you got use to this jumping around, there were some interesting insights on how this data can be used in social science. I also got use to the author’s wry and tongue-in-cheek tone.

    I listen to a lot of economics podcasts and read books by economists. If only I was this interested in economic ten years ago when I was actually in uni. I do think there some are interesting and insightful information when I read these books. However, I need to be more careful since I seem to request a lot of these books, but they aren’t always as informative or good as reviews lead me to believe. I have no regrets about picking up this book. It was a quick read and does show an aspect of human behaviour not explicitly studied in traditional academic social sciences. I like the ides in it and if the topics were more focussed, I would read another book by the same economist.

    Read Sept 13-19, 2018.

  • Books

    Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

    This is a Pulitzer prize winning novel. I did not know what it was about when I started to read it. It’s one day in the life of an older couple Ira and Maggie Moran.

    The characters in this novel felt real. Maggie felt uncomfortably real. She had all this weird peculiarities to her which made her so human. I cringed when reading her thoughts and actions, but it didn’t seem unrealistic to me that this is a kind of woman that existed in the world. I couldn’t relate to her but I did feel some sympathy. Ira was more similar to me, but his character is not explored in as much depth. These characters felt real and it’s a testamount to Tyler’s characterizations and dialogue. However, I do not think I pick up another book of hers anytime soon. The pace of the plot was slow and it was too cringe-worthy for me.

    While it was not bleak, it was not exactly feel good novel either. I do not need a chirpy novel all the time, but it was a bit draining to read Maggie’s interfering plots. I definitely do not regret reading this book. I feel it’s important to read about characters who are not like you. Tyler does it well. I liked the writing but I didn’t love it either prose wise.

    Read August 18, 2018.

  • Books

    My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribbon

    I had not read a book in over a month. When I haven’t read any book after 3 weeks, I get very angsty. It’s not like I don’t have books around, but this one came at the right time.

    This a very enjoyable little graphic novel about a woman whose boyfriend is a grizzly bear. It fantastical realism and silliness. The woman is relatable, but the whimsy of this novel makes it a nice little read. Funnily enough, this is not the first time I’ve read a book where a woman has a relationship with a bear. This graphic novel is a lot more wholesome about it.

    Read August 14-15, 2018

  • Books

    China Rich Problems by Kevin Kwan

    The last book in this trilogy and I am sad! I have had such good time reading these books. The last two have been very addictive.

    I devoured this book in two sittings. I do think the author has issues with dragging the middle parts and concentrating on less interesting or underdeveloped characters like Kitty. She was slightly more developed this novel, but it feels like the reader had to be prodded to like her. The other bad thing is that there is not enough Rachel in this book. She is missing from most of the action in this book which is a shame. We do get to understand Nick better at least.

    I really liked the back story with Ah Ma and the more family inheritance drama. It was good soapy fun. Again the Capital Without Borders book came in handy as I knew and understand all the intricacies about trusts, foundations, and inheritances.

    I really hope Kwan writes another novel soon. He may not be a perfect writer but he is one of the most fun I’ve encountered in awhile.

    Read July 9-10, 2018.

  • Books

    China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

    This was fun. This is the Crazy Rich Asians sequel and another follows this one. I am looking forward to it because I think the author has found that groove. This second instalment in the series is better written than the first. The author changed up some of the format and added more characters. The pace moved along well in the first half. There is still a lot food, Chinese language, and rich people jargon. I continue to like Rachel, Astrid, Nick, and Charlie. Eleanor has developed as well and I like a couple of the new characters.

    Pacing is a bit better but part 2 dragged a little bit while they were in China and Paris. It was very excessive, but I guess this book is all about the ostentatious wealthy. I did find Astrid’s plot frustrating as well but at least it gets resolved much more by the end. The one subplot that I don’t like is the Kitty Pong one. I understand that she represents a different kind of woman than Rachel and Astrid, but she is far more underdeveloped. I have no real interest to seeing her life in Rich Society.

    These are minor quibbles. I am having fun with these books. They remind me when I first started reading Sophie Kinsella’s novels more than a dozen years ago. Easy, frothy, and entertaining fiction where I don’t have to think too much. I have been reading more non-fiction lately so I am glad to have found this series. Furthermore, I love the trend of reading mainstream books with Asians who grew up in the West. It use to be a lot harder to find these kind of novels for me, but they are much more popular now.

    I would caution against reading this in ebook or at least in my very old Kindle. The series uses a lot of footnotes which means being redirected everytime you see them. I started this as an ebook as the novel did not come from the library yet. I made it through Part 1, but returned to Capital Without Borders and waited for the novels to be checked out before I could continue.

    Read July 4-8, 2018

  • Books

    Capital Without Borders by Brooke Harrington

    Between the Crazy Rich Asians books, I decided to read a non-fiction book about the wealthy to ground me further into reality. I learned about this book from the NPR podcast “Hidden Brain.” I actually requested that my public library acquire this book. I only resort to doing that a few times a year.

    The podcast interview let me to think it was more of a casual non fiction book about wealth managers and their ultra high net worth client, but in reality, this is an academic book. It is published by Harvard Press and is about a study that the author held with other wealth managers. As an academic book, there are many footnotes and citations. It is not extremely dry and is rather better written than a lot of academic studies. However, it is not necessarily a book for the average reader learning about wealth managers. The language and theorizing in this book is more academic focussed. It helps to have a background in economics, political science, policy, and law. As I did use to study these topics, I was familiar with a lot of the theories and authors mentioned in this book.

    The book has tidbits and anecdotes from wealth managers and how they are changing the landscape of the sovereign state and political economy. There is wide discussion about wealth inequality. The nature of wealth managers is to preserve the wealth of the rich and allow their families to inherit their economic power. As with a lot of discussion about the wealthy and inequality, it’s rather sad how much the wealthy have over most of the world in this way.

    I liked this book and it’s a good reminder of a profession that the average person does not much about. It’s interesting looking at their perspective and their ability to change policies and client behaviour as well. I do not necessarily recommend this book to everyone because I believe my interest and bacjground in wealth, economics, and politics helped. I do think the book is readable even for the average non-fiction reader. I quite liked it. I wish more academic studies were written this way.

    I recommend this book to those very interested in the topic of wealth management and also, for those are actually wealthy (no one reading this blog). At least if I ever become wealthy enough, I know who I can look for and understand their services better.

    Read July 4-8, 2018.

  • Books

    Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

    With a heatwave going on and a wonderful long weekend underway, I wanted a fun summer read. I have been curious about this book ever since I read that the movie was greenlit.

    This book is definitely the an easy to read summer novel. It has fun travel writing about Singapore and Asia including discussion about its food, fashion, and its people. The last one being the prime focus. The setting and many of the characters in this book are so 1% that this is practically a fantasy novel for most of this world. The families at the centre of the novel are soap operatic in their lineage, marriage traditions, and schemes.

    The author really knows how to describe Chinese people and Chinese culture. It knows the ugly sides of it and the good side of it, but the book revels too much in the bad sides. Rich nasty people are everywhere though. The narratives switch every chapter and it took me some time to get use to the third person omniscient narration. The writing was not as smooth in that respect, but the dialogue is decent. Some of the characters show promise but there was a lot of time where I had to glaze over the idiots. There are one too many unlikable characters and most of them are rather one-note. They are one-note Chinese though.

    I enjoyed the book for the easy pace and I came to appreciate a lot of the customs, dialogue, food, and language in the book. I haven’t read a novel focussed around Asians like this in awhile and definitely not in this setting. This book has the most Cantonese in any Western book. It’s satirical and fun. By the end of it, I had become attached to some of the characters. The book is not going to win best literary award this year; however, I do think I will read the sequels between all my other non-fiction ones.

    Read July 2-3, 2018.