Powers (Annals of the Western Shore #3)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

68020

  • Difficulty Level : Young Adult
  • Length :502pages ( roughly 3 days)
  • Type: Fantasy Fiction
  • My Rating: *****

Synopsis:

Young Gav can remember the page of a book after seeing it once, and, inexplicably, he sometimes “remembers” things that are going to happen in the future. As a loyal slave, he must keep these powers secret, but when a terrible tragedy occurs, Gav, blinded by grief, flees the only world he has ever known.

In what becomes a treacherous journey for freedom, Gav’s greatest test of all is facing his powers so that he can come to understand himself and finally find a true home.

Book Review:

This book is not constructed in those epic manner ( single hero, born of tragedy, learnt many skills, kill the dragon and become the hero ) , instead it is a journey of how a slave named Gav find his direction in life through many trials.

Instead, the author truly took effort to plot a detailed description of the many different “worlds” the Gav move to. In a way, i feel it is a progression from the second book whereby we talk about forced oppression, this book is about caged mentality.

This book is about perception, example, how do you know it is right? Just because someone is nice or good to you? It is right? But due to the lack of opportunities ( or exposure or knowledge ) you will just accept things as it is.

Just a few examples from the book, Gav and his teacher Everra were brought up as slaves, in their world, they were taught that their masters were law,they were taught they have to sacrifice everything for their masters and to trust everything they say. The concept of disobedience was non-existent.

When he ran over to Barna, he wanted a society of Free Men, a place with no slavery however the hypocrisy is that Barna has everything and everybody have to listen to him.

I don’t know whether the younger generation will appreciate her way of story telling. I personally find that her metaphor are interchangeable, slavery to me is a form of abuse. There are many incidents whereby spouses (typically men) will physically abuse their other half. They will find excuses like children or their other half have done something wrong or they were drunk. Of course family structure is very complex in nature and everybody have to decide how they wish to lead their life.

This is one book i will re-read again after a few years.

 

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Voices (Annals of the Western Shore #2)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

13647

  • Difficulty Level : Young Adult
  • Length : 341 pages ( roughly 4 hours )
  • Type: Fantasy Fiction
  • My Rating: *****

Synopsis:

Ansul was once a peaceful town filled with libraries, schools and temples. But that was long ago, before the Alds came. The Alds believe demons hide in words, and so they ban reading and writing, acts now punishable by death. What few books have survived are hidden in the Waylord’s House for safekeeping, in the care of the Waylord, crippled by years of torture, and the daughter of his heart, Memer.

And now times are changing. The Uplands poet Orrec Caspro and his wife Gry have arrived, and in his voice is a clarion call, awakening a conquered people.

The second book of the Annals of the Western Shore, Voices is a haunting and gripping coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of violence, intolerance and magic.

Book Review:

I thought the first book was ok but this second one is insanely good. I am truly impressed with the way she is able to compose so many ideas into a novel and make it so good. It is a good novel that managed to combine topics on conflicts, religion, revolution, culture and oppression in a readable manner.

Through the character of Memer, the half Alds and Ansul, the result of the war on the city, it tackle how the society views woman in that era. It shows the identity issues and how an oppressed woman felt and how she manages.

The relationship between the Alds and the Ansul, is really like an analogy about religious conflicts in the modern world. Through the weaving of the story, like how we always pre-judge or jump to conclusion about the other person without trying to understand them. ( either as a person or their culture )

In the end we are actually just human, we are just the same. I think in a blatant sense, she is also trying to highlight that education is Key, not necessarily to enlightenment but at least to Knowledge. At least you wont be afraid of the Unknown.

Gif(Annals of the Western Shore #1)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

13648

  • Difficulty Level : Young Adult
  • Length : 286pages ( roughly 4 hours )
  • Type: Fantasy Fiction
  • My Rating: ***

Sypnosis:

Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability–with a glance, a gesture, a word–to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young people, friends since childhood, decide not to use their gifts. One, a girl, refuses to bring animals to their death in the hunt. The other, a boy, wears a blindfold lest his eyes and his anger kill.

In this beautifully crafted story, Ursula K. Le Guin writes of the proud cruelty of power, of how hard it is to grow up, and of how much harder still it is to find, in the world’s darkness, gifts of light.

Book Review:

This is the first book of Annals of the Western Shore series, each crafted in a different manner, Gifts has philosophical meaning using the analogy that powers or talents can be used for good or bad things . It focus on exploring what it means for a person to have a potentially lethal ability and the how one will choose.

It also touches on Parents’ expectation on their children on how the children need to conform to either family traditions. Questions whether to groom and nurture their talent or to leave it absent.

better knowledge of human nature – and you will get Gifts.

Alibaba’s World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business

by Porter Erisman

23014882

  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 256pages ( roughly 4 days )
  • Type: Business, Technology, Entrepreneur
  • My Rating: ***

Book Review:

This is a story of how Alibaba, from a small company survive and overcame their problems, its like a David versus Goliath story. Mr Porter was the International PR person when Alibaba started, he gives his perspective of his observations over at Alibaba.

From their relationship with Ebay, Yahoo and Google, the ups and downs, the author did a good job writing an entertaining journey when he working there. I have not read the other book on Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built, I always think it is always good to look at as many perspectives as possible.

The quote i like from him is

” I’d joined Alibaba thinking I might learn something about business. But the most valuable things I’d learned from Jack were about life.”

At the end of the book he did gave 40 takeaways on what he learnt at Alibaba e.g.

  • In the Spring Prepare for Winter
  • Entrepreneurs Don’t Complain About Problems—They Solve Them
  •  Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
  • Embrace—Don’t Run Away from—Tough Decisions
  • Have the Team Work for the Goal, Not for the Boss
  • Don’t Let It Get Personal

 

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

by Cathy O’Neil

28186015

  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 272pages ( roughly 4 days )
  • Type: Current Affairs, Big Data, Technology
  • My Rating: ****

Book Review:

O’Neil’s background is in education as a Math Professor after which she went to be a Hedge Fund analyst and she also sat with the Occupy War Street as well.

This book is about how Big data and Mathematical algorithms if used wrongly and blindly can lead to continuous negative feedback loops. She argues for the good and the bad of relying on such methods.

The Mathematical formulas were used to assist humankind, to be more efficient and to help save time and resource so that we can ultimately have a better quality of life. However, the intent will alter how the data will be used.

She used examples ranging from education, to policing , search engines , insurance differentiating and how we are fed with information discreetly. This is a great book for people to expand their understanding and be expose to how corporations utilize all the data that we provide to them as individuals.

The Elephant Vanishes

By Haruki Murakami

9555

  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 336 pages ( roughly 1 day )
  • Type: Fiction
  • My Rating: **

Book Review:

The Elephant Vanishes is a collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami and i feel naturally it is near impossible to like all the short stories, there are some hits and some misses but i think different people with a different focus will appreciate the stories differently.

I think it is important to read, it expands your horizon, it is a form of sharing, sharing of views, perspective, ideas, experience and life. All it requires from you is time and effort to read, its different from sitting down on the couch and watch TV or movies whereby information are spoonfed to you.

Moreover, i find that Movies are compressed version of books and some movies have no meaning at all. Most of them are myopic or single theme that are not able to expand one’s viewpoint. Same for TV series.

The story On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning is pretty interesting. I guess the bottomline of the story is talking about YOLO, and should make full use of the opportunity that has been given to you. ( I personally think this is quite an cool and short story to share with people Just for them to think about, you know you pass by that person you think might be the girl or guy of your dreams and you may only have this one chance )

Sleep talks about how a person may perceive reality when that person has insomnia. My take is insomnia combine with depression is a deadly concoction. I think it is extremely important for the person to share with his or her love ones on their condition so that can seek help.

Quotes:

“I realize now that the reality of things is not something you convey to people but something you make.”

Sputnik Sweetheart

by Haruki Murakami

9557

  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 229pages ( roughly 1 day )
  • Type: Fiction
  • My Rating: *****

Synopsis:

Story is a about a young aspiring writer Sumire, whom has her own quirky side that can’t fit the world, dropped out of school to pursue her passion of writing. Met this older lady Miu and fell in love with her, suspecting herself to be a lesbian. She confides everything to her best friend K, the narrator.

One day he recieved a call from Miu that Sumire has mysteriously disappeared.

Book Review:

Beauty of Haruki Murakami style of writing is how he is able to describe scenes so masterly. I can envision that myself there and he don’t really use bombastic terms, just for example “I switched the receiver from my left hand to my right”, simple subtle gestures that speaks volumes.

Reading his book motivates me to read more books, he has the knack  to inspire, to imagine the infinite possibilities and his range of topics are quite wide.

The book is nicely written, deals with issues like Loneliness and about how we deal with loss.

Quote:

“Somebody once said if it’s something a single book can explain, it’s not worth having explained. What i mean is don’t leap to any conclusions.”

“So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us–that’s snatched right out of our hands–even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.”

 

Generation A

by Douglas Coupland

6093864

  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 320 pages ( roughly 2 days )
  • Type: Sci-Fi
  • My Rating: *

Synopsis:

Storyline is about the world invented this drug that makes people ok with being alone and how this resulted in the bees dying off and going extinct ( the story is not even about this )

5 different people in different parts of the world were stung by 5 bees when the world believed that bees were extinct. 5 were confined and observed, the story continues in which they are supposed to help find the cure to getting the bees back.

You can read the book to see how the story goes

Book Review:

I did not know what to expect from this book, there were some parts of the book i find quite amusing, like the Superman story and how a Rock concert can turn up into a no holds bar battle royale.

The book took up about 50% of content to build up the 5 main characters but I don’t see how the characters were really built up. Maybe i am not used to this style of writing and the ending was pretty abrupt.

 

 

The Paper Menagerie

By Ken Liu

  • Difficulty Level : For All Ages
  • Length : 13 pages ( roughly 15 min )
  • Type: Fiction
  • My Rating: *****

Book Review:

 

I think i read this short story many years ago, did not recall the name, but reading this again does bring back memories.

This is a short story about Memories and kinship, about the relationship between a Mom and her son. Mom gift to her child were paper animals (Origami), the magical aspect of it is she has the ability to breath life into them and they were able to play with her child.

There aren’t an ending and i guess it was purposefully done this way as well, to invoke each reader to have their own interpretation as well as for them to reflect on their relationship with others.

Link to story : The Paper Menagerie

Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

by Sarah Bessey

23492740

  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 259 pages ( roughly 2 days )
  • Type: Religion, Spiritual dissidents
  • My Rating: ****

Book Review:

For someone whom is questioning his or her own faith in Christianity, this is a nice book to read. The author talks about her faith from childhood, to how she felt disillusioned, taking a break from God, and how she found her faith back.

Her personal journey in terms of how she view her faith, the structure and the ministry. Her story telling format is very easy-going, you will feel like you are having a casual sit down conversation with a good friend but dealing with a heavy topic.

What is important is how one person come to terms with their own faith. Faith is like an ongoing relationship. The process of knowing nothing, learning and asking.

Buy the book Ebook