Loner (ARC) By Teddy Wayne Review

Disclaimer: I received my DRM protected copy from Netgalley for free of cost in exchange of an honest review so here it is as promised.

Format of review:

  1.  Thoughts
  2. Who I would recommend it to
  3. Product details (Amazon)

 

Image result for Loner Teddy wayne cover

David Alan Federman has Athazagoraphobia: he fears that he will be forgotten. So introverted was he that upon hearing that he was the sole Harvard bound student from the class, his peers were caught by surprise.

It is important to note that his classmates were not taken aback because he wasn’t academically gifted, rather it was since he never expressed himself to an extent which allowed his peers to evaluate his traits fully.

To paint a picture of his mind, one would only need to take a look at his University Application that was unconventionally titled “SDRAWKCAB” which is backwards but only  spelled backwards!

In his mind, it is possible to view the world through a linguistic mirror and challenge fundamental assumptions about the nature of things by asking questions like “why is it an apple and not elppa?”

Unfortunately, the friendship, appreciation, and social status that David was craving for all throughout his highschool life and assumed he would have in Harvard were not readily made available to him in his freshman year of University.

As a result, much of the novel revolves around how he struggles to cope with that identity vacuum which the reader is made aware of previously when David tells us how his yearbook picture for senior year had the caption “Ambition: Fill in later”.

Steven Zenger David’s gregarious roommate who is passionate about Physics helps us realize how David isn’t particularly enthused about any major at the time of enrollment and that he hasn’t set out an academic plan for himself to abide by which adds a touch of uncertainty to the whole experience.

Furthermore, when David tries to interact with two athletic individuals -who are at Harvard for sports- during orientation and fails to impress them with his linguistic mirroring of names both he and the reader realize that some social hierarchies remain regardless of whether it is secondary or tertiary education.

Having said that, one of the most intriguing aspects of the narration is how the Point of view switches/focalization from first person to second person in an unreliable manner whenever David wishes to describe Veronica Morgan Wells -the girl he wishes to court- to the audience.

VMW (Notice how V can be mirrored or inverted to look like M or W) as we can call her in short can do no wrong in the eyes of David who sees in her all the qualities he would love to have and as such she is his gateway into the coveted world of socialites.

To achieve just this, he takes it upon himself to win the affections of Sara who is none other than VMW’s room mate just so he can be closer to VMW. In a way, he gives up a prospective perfectly good life with Sara just so he can check the boxes and rise up the ranks with VMW,  something which is telling of his need to feel accepted in the highest stratum of society.

However, just like David, VMW harbors secrets of her own, and while the novel chronicles the downward spiral of David’s moral fiber it does also evoke a sense of empathy if not shred of pity for the final “reversal and recognition” that occurs.

Put bluntly, Loner is about obsession. Obsession with credentials, social validation, power, and class which all manifest in a person. This is one boy’s arduous journey to find himself or what’s left of it by the end of the process and just how much he is willing to manipulate others to get there.

In retrospect it is painful to watch on as David naively hopes that somewhere in the core of her being VMW is just like him in the sense that  despite appearances both share an inner loneliness of unfathomable magnitude in spite of differences in class and social circles. Being comfortable with our core misery is a form of happiness but David fails to do that as he reaches out for the stars and grabs intangible light which he cannot hold on to.

In the same vein, while on the topic of “personhood” at which point do we surrender our right to moral consideration from a moral community? The readers will face this question as David’s manipulative behavior makes it increasingly difficult to empathize with him when he in turn is given a taste of his own medicine.

With that in mind, the 244 page read is immersive and does describe the Harvard experience well and helps us suspend disbelief through SAT-tier diction which is concomitant of a SAT toppers mind.

That aside, Loner makes us introspect and reflect on how man the “social animal” can move away from an intersubjective state only to be deadlocked in solipsism where the only pain that exists is our own… something that stops us from empathizing with others and understanding them… something David struggles with and perhaps the center of his woes!

Is David irredeemable? Did he attend Harvard for all the wrong reasons? Is blaming the institute and not the society that makes it possible for such instances to occur the right thing to do? Your answers can be found in the book and I recommend you to find them in your own way.

My review: 4/5

Pros:

  • Fantastic diction befitting of a Harvard student
  • Part of being a writer is knowing what to leave out and Ted does this excellently
  • Compelling protagonist who reacts to alienation in a way that is unforgettable
  • Makes us question whether our beings are inherently social or not
  • class distinctions and gender politics were brought up

Cons:

  • To many he may fail to evoke pity or fear instead disgusting them
  • It’s not easy to walk in David’s shoes, at best we can wear only one
  • “You” is lost on readers if they don’t pay close attention to it
  • He strikes us as the kind of guy who we wouldn’t feel to excited to be friends with

I would recommend this book to:

People who feel like they need to be in particular social circles to fulfill their esteem needs and eventually reach self actualization. I also recommend you read about honne and tatamae.

Image result for honne tatemae

If being part of a circle doesn’t feel natural to you, ask yourself why that is. Don’t  be afraid to be yourself by yourself without any externalities like peer pressure weighing down on you!

We don’t choose our race, class, religion, blood group, hair colour, e.t.c upon birth… but we can choose who to surround ourselves with … being happy is an inward power of the soul 🙂

Product Details(Amazon):

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 13, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501107895
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501107894
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounce

 

ARC Review (NetGalley): The Yin & Yang Of Climate Crisis

 

Review:

Brendan Kelly goes beyond the typical notion of climate change and synthesizes Chinese Medicine with Planetary well being which is ground breaking to say the least.

Being a debater I’ve often had to face motions related to the environment and had difficulty during cross-currents, but never in my life have I read a book that adds so many layers and dimensions of thought to the concept, its nuance is beyond words.

For those who are passionate about personal health, as well as climate change this book has a transformative potential like no other!

I don’t only give it 5 stars, it deserves 5 supernovas for its illuminating nature.

Synopses(Amazon)

The first book to marry western environmentalism with Chinese medicine, The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis illustrates the many ways that our personal well-being and climate health are vitally connected. Brendan Kelly demonstrates that crises such as melting ice caps, dying forests, and devastating floods are symptoms of deeper issues, both within us as individuals and within our culture. Informed by Kelly’s experience as a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, this passionate discussion reveals that the current life-threatening severity of climate change speaks to the level of imbalance that exists in the people and institutions responsible for the crisis. Considering issues such as loss of life from increasingly severe storms, stress on farmers from rapidly changing weather, and increasing rates of disease, this book goes on to present hopeful, deep-reaching personal and societal remedies to treat the underlying causes of climate change and to restore our own health.

The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis blends the external focus of environmentalism–western science, policy issues, regulations–with the internal focus of Chinese medicine–personal health, balancing Qi, diet–to present a holistic view of our interrelationship with the planet. Kelly provides a deeper look at how we’ve gotten to this place of climate destabilization and ways to treat both the symptoms and their root causes. Looking through the lens of Chinese medicine, we are better able to understand that the severity of climate destabilization speaks to deeper philosophical and spiritual issues and provides an opportunity to address our own personal and collective imbalances. With his unique perspective and far-reaching perceptions, Kelly encourages us to translate the reality of our warming planet into an opportunity to ask bigger and deeper questions, including who we are, what we’re here to do, and what promotes health and healing.

Product Details (Amazon):

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583949518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583949511
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces

ARC (NetGalley) Review: I Saw An Invisible Lion Today

 

Description:

Quatrain? What kind of train is that? Actually, it’s a poem! Quatrains are poems with patterns of rhyming words. Award-winning author Brian P. Cleary explains how quatrains work—and shows some of the many ways they can be written.

I Saw an Invisible Lion Today is packed with poems on subjects ranging from grandmothers to muzaloos to make you giggle and howl. And when you’ve finished reading, you can try your hand at writing your own poems!

Product Details (Amazon):

 

  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Series: Poetry Adventures
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press (April 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1467797316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1467797313
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces

 

Review:

Whether or not the Invisible Lion in question is Aslan remains unknown, however, what I do know is that this anthology is clear cut and precise which makes it easy to fathom for children who have not been introduced to the poetic form known as Quatrains.

Not only does Brian P. Cleary clearly illustrate what a Quatrain is, he explores this concept by demonstrating it through various Quatrains of his own making which have different rhyme schemes such as ABCB, AABB, and ABAB. Moreover, he goes as far as to mention that Quatrains can be standalone stanzas or an entire poem in itself.

Furthermore, the contents of this collection of assorted poems are brought to life owing to the adept hand of the illustrator Richard Watson.  I couldn’t think of a better way to broach Quatrains to a layman.

Not to mention, at the conclusion of the book, Brian leaves lots of helpful references to further explore the subject matter and develop a knack for it. I do imagine this will be a helpful handbook in a classroom setting for those charting waters in Quatrains for the first time at an early age.

With this in mind, I do highly recommend this anthology to those in search of an anthology which will serve the dual role of teacher and text.

Rating:

Justification: Ideal for the target audience.

ARC Review (NetGalley): The Path

 

Synopses

For the first time an award-winning Harvard professor shares his wildly popular course on classical Chinese philosophy, showing you how these ancient ideas can guide you on the path to a good life today.

Why is a course on ancient Chinese philosophers one of the most popular at Harvard?

It’s because the course challenges all our modern assumptions about what it takes to flourish. This is why Professor Michael Puett says to his students, “The encounter with these ideas will change your life.” As one of them told his collaborator, author Christine Gross-Loh, “You can open yourself up to possibilities you never imagined were even possible.”

These astonishing teachings emerged two thousand years ago through the work of a succession of Chinese scholars exploring how humans can improve themselves and their society. And what are these counterintuitive ideas? Good relationships come not from being sincere and authentic, but from the rituals we perform within them. Influence comes not from wielding power but from holding back. Excellence comes from what we choose to do, not our natural abilities. A good life emerges not from planning it out, but through training ourselves to respond well to small moments. Transformation comes not from looking within for a true self, but from creating conditions that produce new possibilities.

In other words, The Path upends everything we are told about how to lead a good life. Above all, unlike most books on the subject, its most radical idea is that there is no path to follow in the first place—just a journey we create anew at every moment by seeing and doing things differently.

Sometimes voices from the past can offer possibilities for thinking afresh about the future.

A note from the publisher:
To read relevant passages from the original works of Chinese philosophy, see our free ebookConfucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Xunzi: Selected Passages, available on Kindle, Nook, and the iBook Store and at Books.SimonandSchuster.com.

Product Details (Amazon):

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 5, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476777837
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476777832
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces

Review:

Life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans. It’s all very easy to be caught up in formulating plans to actually realize that we may be trapped in our way of thinking. Michael Puett’s The Path is nothing short of an revelation that turned my perception of what it means to live a good life on its head.

Do we not, after all, fall into patterns of behavior that are repeated throughout our lives? Do we not allow labels or what we make of ourselves at a particular point in time to limit our capability to be so much more? Should we in fact seek out who we “really” are based on an arbitrary assumption that there is a true self and that we cannot change that inner self? The answers to these questions and more are answered in the book.

I speak from experience when I say that I have often been labelled as “temperamental”. Fortunately, I knew that just because I exhibited such traits during one phase of my life did not necessitate that I would remain as such throughout the entirety of my existence.

In the same vein, ‘The Path’ outlines how we are susceptible to be content with who we see ourselves as, consequently stagnating our personalities which stop positive change from occurring.

Additionally, the importance of rituals and role playing which enable us to explore other sides of our multi faceted personalities as well as how that can improve our character is broached in ‘The Path’.

Be that as it may, ‘The Path’ also explores the nature of the world. Have we become complacent? Is the world Capricious? Through the works of Mencius, and Confucius these questions are addressed. What is more, Lao Tzu along with his contemporaries which include Mozi are also broached.

 For readers of the poet Robert Frost, this is a “Path” that would genuinely make all the difference so seize the opportunity and give it a read seeing that it will help broaden the way you perceive everything from your day to day interactions with others to what it truly means to hone one’s emotional responses so as to bring out the best in oneself as well as others.

Rating:

At best you’ll be much more perceptive of the way things work… at worst you’ll be much better at interacting with others in various social settings.

 

 

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Zen Master Poems

 

Synopses: 

A tour-de-force work by one of America’s most celebrated contemporary poets.

Frisbees, Johnny Cash, and lonely railroad crossings: All coexist with Zen Buddhism’s traditional imagery of cherry blossoms and mountain landscapes in Zen Master Poems. This collection of one-page readings, meditations, admonitions and observations evokes calm, reflection and humor for readers and seekers on every path.

Zen Master Poems is from Dick Allen, author of eight acclaimed poetry volumes — and the 2010-2015 Connecticut Poet Laureate. Allen gives full expression to his lifetime interest in Zen Buddhism for the first time here.

Although accessible for readers of all traditions, Zen Master Poems also contains elements that will challenge those already familiar with Buddhist literature. The poems are alternately serious and whimsical, seamlessly blending East with West.

Featuring titles like a “Cat Named Zen” and images like Jack Kerouac watching lightning strike, these lovely and mysterious poems are sure to stick with you. While it pays tribute to Han-Shan’s famous Cold Mountain Poems, the voice here is truly Allen’s own.

Product Details (Amazon):

  • Series: New Wisdom Poems (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (August 23, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161429299X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1614292999
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

 

Review:

First and foremost, the reader ought to take note of the ensō on the cover of the anthology. In Zen Buddhism it represents the beauty of imperfection which can be conflated with the concept of  wabi-sabi.

Equally important is “The obstacle is the path” which is a Zen proverb that potential readers may have come across. So for those that may at first be unsure of how to proceed with interpreting the Zen Master Poems, worry not, for the beauty of Zen lies in its simplicity which becomes clear when the mind stops forming overt connections between unconnected dots.

“Simply, Simply, Simply.”, Henry David Thoreau was known to say. Declutter your thoughts. Think not of yourself as a “bag of skin and bones”, or that you were “born into this world”, see yourself as an entity that is a reflection of its environment and in the words of Dick Allen a “beautiful disguise”. Allow this shift in mindset to take place and it is possible to live simply and think deeply.

With that being said, there are allusions in the poems which open the door to further exploration of the subject matter. For instance Alan Watts who remarked “Reality is a rorschach ink blot”, and a man known to spread eastern ideas to an western audience was mentioned in a poem.

Furthermore, Hanshan too was alluded to. Note that the master of the cold mountain himself said that Zen is not in the poems but in the mind.

“the ten thousand things are all reflections
the moon originally has no light”
Han-shan

In a way one particular poem “The Secret Is To Leap” reminded me of Keat’s ‘Negative Capability’ which is the key ingredient to success of many acclaimed poets. According to Keats: Negative Capability is the state of mind when man is capable of being in uncertainties, delving into mysteries, weighing doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

Zen teaches us to ask good questions, but it also extols the importance of realizing that it’s not about “because” but that it “just is”… that we should focus on the “what” rather than on the “why”…

Keeping all of this under close consideration, Dick Allen has done a phenomenal job of noting down his observations and turning them into food for thought for a mind starved of simplicity. Whether or not the reader will find the bird making calligraphy in the sky or Zen Master Kyong Ho’s “the tree with no shadow” remains yet to be seen, but not knowing something is what makes the act of discovery all the more fulfilling and that is to say nothing of the power of the idea that everything we require is rooted in the present and we need not wait any longer to partake in its splendor which may be simpler than it appears if the way of the zen cat is to be believed.

Rating:

 

 

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Movie Game

“Delay of reaction is the unseen movie of this life”- Katatonia

 

Synopsis: 

It’s been three years since Joe’s father vanished. Now seventeen, he is unaware that government agents are watching him in case his dad makes contact. Joe is too distracted by his secret girlfriend, midnight swims in the pools of strangers, free drinks from his buddies at the movie game and the glamorous college student, Felicity. But his movie-esque existence and addiction to fiction is set to collide with a heavy dose of reality this summer when he discovers everything is not what it seems: His secret girlfriend wants to be the real thing. His college fling may have ulterior motives. And the government agents want co-operation to catch his missing father. All this and the three-year-old death of Joe’s first girlfriend Alice are going to cause him to face some dark truths. It’s no longer a movie game. This is his life, and he wants to win.

Product Details(Amazon):

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Pen and Picture (15 Sept. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0993061303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0993061301
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm

Review:

Are you the kind of person who appreciates irony? Have you ever wanted to read a book about a cinephile who holds books in low esteem? Not to mention that the boy in question imagines his life as a movie plot and views the world through an IMAX lens whereas in reality he’s a protagonist in a novel with the story being printed on pages in place of being streamed on Netflix! It doesn’t get more meta than that.

Additionally, the theme of escapism is broached early on. Do we watch movies to see ourselves in the characters as they struggle to succeed or to detach ourselves from a harsh reality? Is it procrastination or indulging in some greater meaning or art form that we fail to stay in touch with in our day to day lives…

To put it simply this book is like an eagle sailing in increasingly widening gyres while being buffeted by wind. Just when you think it’s going to fall short, it comes full circle. While it does succeed in resembling the thrilling structure of a movie plot, at the same time it retains the vital touch with reality needed for the audience to glimpse human moments from Joe.

I give this book a four star dragonball.

Things it could have done better: The movie references were actually pretty neat, however, not every reader will be able to appreciate it to the fullest. For the layman, a lot of googling is necessary. Footnotes pointing the reader in the right direction about the references would be helpful.

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: A Scarlet Letter Manga Classics Edition

Synopsis:

  • A powerful tale of forbidden love, shame, and revenge comes to life in Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter. Faithfully adapted by Crystal Chan from the original novel, this new edition features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee (Manga Classics: Les Miserables) which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into the Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic saga of Puritan America.
  • Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions. Proudly presented by UDON Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing.

Product Details (Amazon):

  • Series: Manga Classics
  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Udon Entertainment (March 31, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1927925339
  • ISBN-13: 978-1927925331
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces

Review:

The first thing that caught my eye about this ARC was that I had to read last page to first page! Yes you read that right. Manga follows the custom of being read from right to left, so what may appear to us as the last page in fact is the first page.

With that being said, the portrayal of the characters was convincing. Arthur Dimmesdale is shown characteristically with an air of melancholy about him and his speeches brimmed with pathos. Furthermore, Rev. Dimmesdale kept clutching his robes where it had closest proximity to his heart. This characterized him rightfully to show that something was amiss and troubling his heart.

Dr. Chillingworth on the other hand was shown with shrewd-narrow eyes and a snake aura. In Christian symbolism I believe snakes denote Satan himself. The manga artist’s choice of rendition seems to indicate that Chillingworth had succumbed to his darker side in his path of vengeance.

Hester Prynn is shown as a beautiful and determined woman. The scarlet letter or “A” that she wears owing to her adultery… soon symbolizes her “ableness” as a seamstress, and later on after she assists her fellow townsfolk the A transforms into “Angelic” as testified by Arthur Dimmesdale himself. Her decision to settle at the edge of town can possibly indicate that while she wants nothing to do with society, she doesn’t want to forsake it altogether as well.

Then there’s Pearl, with her wild nature, and elfish appearance. In the original Pearl had elements of magic  in her, which was an anti-thesis to the cold hard and rigid life that the puritans had come to lead.

As for the Puritan townsfolk, they appeared to be a bigoted group of reactionaries who treated sin like it was the last vestiges of bubonic plague. Their biggest failing was that they did not use the context to pass judgement but instead generalized their dealings with sinners. In Hester’s case, she had been married off to a scholar old enough to be her grandfather and someone who was said to have died at sea with no one reporting him to be alive for 2 years. If she fell in love with someone else during that time then that is not in itself a sin.

The manga’s version just like the original novel questions whether or not Hester was the true sinner or of it was Dr. Roger Chillingworth for failing to understand the circumstances that led to Hester’s folly and forgiving her, and if Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale was to blame for letting Hester Prynne take all of the blame and be a bulls eye for social stigma for several years.

Keeping all of this in mind, the manga takes a classic and turns it into a format which can be picked up and finished in a matter of hours (1 hr 15 mins in my case)  and it does this without losing the sophistication of the original. I hope to see more from the manga classics series in due time and process.

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Born On A Tuesday

Born on a Tuesday: A Novel
I was born on a Saturday but I still identified with the characters in this book.

Synopsis: 

From two-time Caine Prize finalist Elnathan John, a dynamic young voice from Nigeria, Born on a Tuesday is a stirring, starkly rendered first novel about a young boy struggling to find his place in a society that is fracturing along religious and political lines.

In far northwestern Nigeria, Dantala lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree. During the election, the boys are paid by the Small Party to cause trouble. When their attempt to burn down the opposition’s local headquarters ends in disaster, Dantala must run for his life, leaving his best friend behind. He makes his way to a mosque that provides him with food, shelter, and guidance. With his quick aptitude and modest nature, Dantala becomes a favored apprentice to the mosque’s sheikh. Before long, he is faced with a terrible conflict of loyalties, as one of the sheikh’s closest advisors begins to raise his own radical movement. When bloodshed erupts in the city around him, Dantala must decide what kind of Muslim—and what kind of man—he wants to be. Told in Dantala’s naïve, searching voice, this astonishing debut explores the ways in which young men are seduced by religious fundamentalism and violence.

 

Product Details (Amazon): 

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat (May 3, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802124828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802124821
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

 

Review:

 

The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.

Born On A Tuesday reveals why men turn to fundamentalism. In certain cultures, it is not uncommon for political parties to hire picketers with a paltry fee in exchange of sowing the seeds of discord and causing mass unrest. The services offered start anywhere from chanting a hackneyed slogan the demonstrators do not believe in to being as serious as vandalism.

Dantala is one of the men who offer such services but unfortunately on one occasion the job goes south and he has to flee as a result of making enemies out of men in high places.

As a citizen of Bangladesh I was able to find similarities in the mindset of the people of Nigeria in the context of the book and that of my own in the sense that those who have been cheated out of a better future by the “leaders” of the country need hope.

They find solace and commiseration in the form of faith. Alas, anyone who even appears to remotely threaten the said faith by challenging one or more of its established viewpoints are labelled blasphemers and struck down from whatever perch they stand on by means of apostasy laws.

It ought to be noted that, this book is highly relevant as the world is at war with radical ideologies. Furthermore, how do these human beings transform from calm-caring- citizens into cantankerous-cruel-compadres?  Their environment, early indoctrination, lack of better alternatives to seek hope or a greater purpose in… so before we condemn them we must understand on a fundamental level what drove them on their path of folly.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5. I wish I could establish an empathy link between me and the characters without having to will it. On some books you just connect, you know?

 

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review- The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley

Author: Eric Weiner

Genre: Travel, Historical and Psychology.

*Before we begin: I originally wrote a draft review but it accidentally got deleted when my browser crashed! Hence I had to write the review once again and there was a sharp fall in quality because I rushed through it- a major blunder if there ever was one. My mate Andi Rain from Ukraine pointed out how I could better this review and so here is the edited version. Have a good day! 

Eric Weiner doesn’t so much as quote the geniuses as he explores how their geographical location as well as the culture they were exposed to lead them on their path to greatness.

So which historical heavy weights can you expect?

If there is ever a time for name dropping that time is now:

Francis Galton (Statistician), Adam Smith (Wealth of the nations & Theory of moral sentiments), James Young Simpson (Anesthesia) , Shen Kuo (Magnetic Declination), Su Dongpo (Poet Emperor), David Humes (Philosopher), Albert Einstein (Theory of general relativity), Rabindranath Tagore (Gitanjali), Jagidish Chandra Bose (Plants can feel), Sigmund Freud (Freudian Psychoanalysis), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Composer), Hadyn (Mozart’s mentor & famous for his ‘the creation’), Schulbert (Composer), Beethoven (Composer & also mentored by Hadyn), Ovid (Roman Poet), Darwin (Theory of evolution), Diogenes Laertus (Historian), Leonardo Da Vinci (Artist), Michelangelo (Sculptor & Artist), Ghiberti (Paradise’s doors), Brunelleschi (duomo’s roof), Veracchio (Da vinci’s mentor), Pericles (Governor of Athens), Apostasia (Public Speaker), Plato (Philosopher), Pletho (Neoplatonian), Socrates (Philosopher and Plato’s mentor), Van Gogh (Tormented Artist), Picasso (Artist), Protagoras (Sophist), Thucydides (General turned historian), Nannerl (Mozart’s sister), Dante Alighieri (Legendary Poet), to name but a few are discussed in the book along with how they became as universally acclaimed as they are now, quirks and all.

It doesn’t end there though, various theories such as Danilevsky’s law which states that a state must be independent and autonomous to give birth to a wave of intellectuals as well as other ideas such as Janusian thinking -which explores holding two opposite thoughts together and coming up with a third perspective.

In the same vein, groupthink which deals with having the viewpoint of an individual changed to fit in with his or her peers, Dunning-Kruger effect where a person is incapable of understanding that they have not fully grasped a subject matter, theory of unintended consequences where one action leads to favorable accidents and by products- serendipity, bifurcation point of chaos theory where a person is made to choose between two things and can never turn back, the ability to make familiar concepts strange again so as to perceive something in greater depth and not be limited by parochialism which is to say a narrow outlook, among others concepts are brought to light.

By the same token, Jack Ma founder of Ali Baba makes a surprise appearance and discusses how exams went from being a tool for establishing meritocracy to a creativity snuffing system which leads to deadening effect and innovation gaps.

On the flip side, while these cities have rich cultural heritages, the artists and philosopher of today’s time have a lot to live up to and often find themselves shadow boxing with their predecessor’s ever looming legacy.

 The book is replete with engaging content and invaluable information. Not only does it have all the makings of a splendid read but it also possesses the ingredients for a spicy and diverse experience which leaves the reader much more aware of other cultures than when he or she began reading the first page.

For Savant and the closet bibliophile alike, this book is worth the time, attention and discussion that will follow. Although it is not recommended that the reader chain this book to the reading desk like in the Medici era when the relative value of books could be equated to that of a modern car, it should be noted that The Geography Of Genius is worth treasuring.

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Blood, Ink & Fire.

 

Product Details: 

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Upturn Publishing; 1 edition (December 7, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0996278710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0996278713
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds’

Synopses:

Imagine a world without books… In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves cannot exist. But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her. Noelle s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world s last hope of bringing them back. Blood, Ink & Fire is a gripping, evocative tale that asks, who would we be without books?

About The Author:

Ashley Mansour is a writer and creator of stories for children and young adults. Before embarking on solo authorship, Ashley spent eight years working in brand management, music, advertising, and entertainment. In that time she traveled the world, working in three different countries with big teams, emerging artists, major brands, and interesting start-ups.

In mid-2014, Ashley began a yearlong experiment. She overcame her fear of social media, set up an Instagram profile–@ashleymwrites–and began sharing her own personal writing journey (pitfalls and all) with readers and writers online. She discovered a community of amazing people who cared deeply about reading and books–and about the curious story she was writing that featured a world without both of them. One year later, Ashley’s dystopian sci-fi novel for young adults, Blood, Ink & Fire, was complete.

Blood, Ink & Fire is a compelling story for anyone who is passionate about literacy and believes in the power of books. A bibliophile at heart, Ashley loves crafting thrilling narratives for young audiences and imagining future worlds where anything is possible. She currently spends her days in Southern California, where she is enjoying being back on home soil and working on her next novel.

In Short:
After finishing the book I felt like Pat Solitano in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ when he realized that Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell To Arms’ had an ending he could not reconcile himself with.

Alternative Review (How I felt for about 99% of the book right up to the ending):

Blood, Ink, & Fire will get your blood boiling, the ink pouring from your heart and light your soul on fire. This is a tale that cannot be erased from the mind of the reader!

 

Review: 

The essential reading experience is epitomized and personified into one of the characters – Ledger. I found this to be particularly interesting as the sensation of reading means different things to different people. I for one find that reading is not a means of escapism but rather a method of connecting with various modes of thought.

‘A book needs a reader just as much as the reader needs the book’, the relationship between Noelle Hartley and Ledger echoes this message. Noelle is able to read the soul of Ledger and shares a bond that cannot be described in words. Furthermore, through them we are able to realize that every story must have an end along with the finality of the matter.

In the dystopian setting of ‘Blood, Ink & Fire’ Fell has taken control and demands absolute compliance. There is no respect for the written word and ‘Verity’ an intelligent AI taking the form of a hologram and/or data stream uses images as an alternative to words when teaching the next generation. Throughout the ages writers and philosophers have been opposed to such means of governance and as a result they have protested against them with their trusty fountain pens.

Ashley Mansour highlights the struggle of readers as they endeavor to elude the suffocating grasp of Fell who believe that the world is better off with newer technology and that ‘creative destruction’ is a natural process. For the most part, Fell’s military forces prove to be too difficult to overcome but what the readers lack in arms they more than make up for in terms of spirit, passion, creativity, and dedication.

It is inevitable that as we continue to read the stories become an inseparable part of us. Giving that up would be akin to casting off a part of our identity. I could not find myself supporting Noelle’s choice which consequently led to the ending of the book as she chose to give in to her insecurities and sorrow in exchange of a life devoid of meaning. She might as well have kissed a Dementor.

Honestly, had Noelle read the Myth of Sisyphus or Either/Or A fragment of Life… she might have decided against it. If Sisyphus can find joy in the struggle through an act of defiance, so could she! If Parmeniscus can rediscover what it is to laugh, so could she! As Mark Twain said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.” Noelle just couldn’t see that for the completion of joy one must first suffer.

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Disclaimer:

I received this book free of cost from the publisher through the NetGalley review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”