Book Review: Life of Pi

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Sometimes in life, you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a sign, a small token which made you realized how much you’ve changed. A book is a perfect small token, something unchanged by time, and yet, I, the reader, might change.

The first time I read this book, in 2007, I was simply unmoved. I remembered being fascinated by the story of the zoo animals, but nothing more. I was bored the minute Pi was in the water. I didn’t really get the “magical” part of the adventure (I still didn’t get that much of it now, but I like the book in a different way, so it’s perfectly alright).

This time, I found something about it. Something that resonates with me. Not so much about the mood I was in when I was reading the book, but more of my standing point. I like Pi more. I like how observant he is with the zoo animals, and I love how he would embrace religions without judging them. In a story where the main character is so dominant, I found I have to love them in order to want to read the whole book.

The Review: Life of Pi – Yann Martel
There are many ways to describe the story. Some said it was a proof of finding God, restoring the faith to God, some said it was a magical journey. I chose to view it as a survival adventure, and a very compelling and colorful one at that.

Pi Patel, the main character, was an unusual boy. He was the second son of a zoo owner, an avid observer of animals, and someone who was fascinated by God and religion (in fact, he took up three at once: Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam).

The story started in Pondicherry, India, giving a lush description of the fragrant life there. It was all good until one day the father decided they were to move to Canada, along with some animals on a big cargo ship. We all know what happened. On a stormy night, the ship sank. Leaving Pi as the only human on a lifeboat.

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This part down you might not want to read if you haven’t read the book. It’s not much of a spoiler, because we already know what happened anyways, but you might want to have your opinion first before reading mine.
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If this book had a main character of a straight forward, rational, National Geographic-y adventurer, then it wouldn’t be half as interesting. But we’re talking about a boy who was used to so many colors, smells, and people. The sea was vast, food and water were scarce, and his only company was a bengal tiger. (PS: I absolutely love the part where he discovered the joy of Norwegian biscuits 😀 )

The interesting part was, Pi was never mentioned as a storyteller, a fiction writer. So when he told his story of survival, you would believe him. Until the end, when he told another version of the story. A more realistic one, perhaps, because it consisted humans rather than animals. Then you’d wonder if Pi had made it up all along. True, he was not a writer. But on the other hand, he loves religious, metaphorical stories. So, was it possible? That all of his journey, the creatures he encountered and the survival was also metaphorical?

I guess, for me, that was why I like this book a whole lot more this time around. The vagueness with a hint on reality of it made it a more compelling story after I chose to see it as it is. It is a great journey. And sometimes, in order to make life more interesting, you just need to add a tiger so you would focus on the more important things instead of worrying about that small tore in your clothes.

Would I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly yes. Unless you’re looking for romance, because there’s absolutely none in here. Also I have a hunch the movie would be even better than the book (which is rare). I’ll be looking forward to it in the next days!

My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk

Pre-Book Ramblings

Despite the picture above, My Name is Red is not my typical summer read. Usually summer means vacations, easy reads, breezing through the pages and that kind of thing. I had this book for a long time, possibly even more than two years. I picked it up back then, hoping to appear smart and impress people, because the author, Orhan Pamuk, won a Nobel Prize in literature in 2006. I gave up reading it more than twice. For me, this book was really hard to get into.

And then, this summer, I was somewhat in the mood to read something heavy (and I wanted to read the unread books laying around my bookshelf) so I took up the challenge again. This time I’m determined to finish it! As you see, I sometimes fell asleep after 15 minutes of reading (although that turns out to be quite relaxing ;)).

The Book

The first chapter of My Name is Red started very interestingly with: “I am a Corpse” and then went on describing the world from the corpse’s perspective. Very intriguing. And there’s also the perspective of a tree, a dog, a coin (this one was especially funny), and the color red, which give you some sort of understanding on the title.

It was a beautifully written book and filled with elaborate descriptions. I’m not a fan of descriptive books but Orhan Pamuk managed to do it in an unexpected way, saying things that I couldn’t even imagined being said to describe something before. But the book progressed quite slow. I only realized this book was not just about romance but also about murder mystery, when I’m at page 100ish (book is 500 pages long). I know it should be obvious being the first chapter was a corpse, but somehow I thought it was “just” a description *ouch*. I also felt that after a while, I got really overwhelmed with all the details and the new characters to keep track of. I almost gave up again.

Then I realized something. My Name is Red is about Ottoman Empire’s miniaturists in the 16th century, people who painted illuminated manuscripts with painstaking details (to the point of blinding themselves). Both “Miraj” and “Khusraw Discovers Shirin Bathing in a Pool” were examples of the work.

Miraj by Sultan Muhammad

Khusraw Discovers Shirin Bathing in a Pool by Nizami

Compared to those, the same period of Italian Renaissance were taking forms in a different way, like in these two paintings (click on the pictures for bigger sizes).

Assunta, by Tiziano Vecelli

Jupiter and Io, by Correggio

Jupiter and Io, by Correggio

Notice the difference between those two sets? The lack of depth and perspective on the first set made it harder for the eyes to focus on the important events. I’m not saying one is better than the other, my point was just that we’re used to things with depth now, it’s harder to digest things without them. The book kind of feels like that too, with everything being described in great detail, it’s like looking at a delicate painting without knowing where to focus. Once I realized this, I decided to read it in a different way. I would just soak in the details and taking breaks to digest it. This way of describing things turned out to be very appropriate for the subject.

Surprisingly to me, in the end, the story itself became somewhat less important than the details. I did find myself kind of rooting for the romance to happen, but I didn’t really care about the murderer. It’s really weird, actually, because I usually wouldn’t want to finish the book in such case. But I did.

The Verdict

I think I like the book because it intrigued me. It’s a great book and the author made me think I could never be able to write like that. Ever. (But it’s alright). It might even be amazing because it opened new ways of looking at things. I also liked how the story felt honest, it felt real to the time frame, and also it was not afraid to raise issues sensitive to Islam (which is the main religion in Ottoman Empire).

Would I recommend this book? Depends, but you should read it only if you really want to read it. Okay, perhaps if you love descriptions and history, it has really excellent details of the lives of miniaturists and the Ottoman Empire. I haven’t came across other books on this subject. So, yes, if you decide to read the book, do it. And persist.

Hellenic Immortal

Book Review and Interview with the Author, Gene Doucette


Hellenic Immortal by Gene Doucette

Hellenic Immortal, written by Gene Doucette, is a sequel to Immortal. I have reviewed Immortal, with an interview with Gene Doucette here. It’s one my favorite book from last year, as you could see from the my Goodreads rating here.

About Hellenic Immortal

An oracle has predicted the sojourner’s end, which is a problem for Adam insofar as he has never encountered an oracular prediction that didn’t come true . . . and he is the sojourner. To survive, he’s going to have to figure out what a beautiful ex-government analyst, an eco-terrorist, a rogue FBI agent, and the world’s oldest religious cult all want with him, and fast.

And all he wanted when he came to Vegas was to forget about a girl. And maybe have a drink or two.

“I am probably not the best source when it comes to who invented what. For a long time I thought I invented the wheel.”

–Adam the Immortal

 

My Review

I am always a bit skeptical about sequels. Especially if it’s the second book. Most times, it failed my expectation by either being a preamble to the amazing conclusion for the third book, or just plain boring. I am happy to report this is definitely not the case with Hellenic Immortal.

It continues on the adventures of Adam, some years after Immortal. It follows a Greek cult and mythology background, some crazy environmentalist, packs a lot of action and a little bit of romance.

The beginning sold me right to it. Adam is as sarcastic as ever. He said the craziest things that made me laughing out loud:

“… instead I was drinking in Las Vegas and quietly wishing for a nice plague or two to make the planet a bit less crowded.”

It just shows how honest he is. He definitely says what he thinks, and when you are sixty thousand years old or something, I do believe you would have such confidence. I would be lying if I said I never had any bad thoughts crossing my mind when I came across annoying people, so I find this part very refreshing.

The story picks up nicely after that. I especially love the Greek cult background to this book. It ties the story very well and it gives a nice blend of historical and current events. It also adds a sense of realness to it, making Adam’s character felt very present. It seems like he could be the next guy you saw in a bar. (No, please don’t try to pretend you’re Adam when you met me.)

Continue reading

9 Things: Books That Changed My Life

A friend of mine over at Tetesan Cinta Deetopia posted this a while ago. Books that changed our life. What does it mean actually? Books that made me realize something about my life and nudge me into the direction I’m heading right now? I guess so. I hope this post can also give you some insight into what kind of journey I’m in right now, and perhaps you could even get to know me better.

Some of these books I read a long time ago. I didn’t really remember what was exactly in the book, but I remember the lesson it taught me. So, without further ado, here is my list:

  • Being Happy!Being Happy! by Andrew Matthews
    The first time I read this book was some time during my teenage years. It was on one of those angst days when I feel like all the world had turned against me and I won’t ever get a boyfriend (which was the most important thing as a teenager!). Good old days that I’m so glad I’m out of it :P. Anyways, one thing that really struck me from this book was a cartoon of a grave with the headstone saying, “Here lies a person who will be happy tomorrow.” Right then I was determined to be a happy person now. Why must we wait to be happy? This book also taught me to smile to the world if I want the world to smile back at me. Give, and you shall receive. Be happy, and all the joy shall come to you. I stand by it, and most importantly, I am happy now.
  • Rich Dad, Poor DadRich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
    This book is an eye opener for me. I always thought before there’s only one way to live my life. Go to university, get a good grade, graduate, and get a job in a big multinational company. At one point when I’m about to finish my degree, I felt trapped. Somehow it’s not a life I feel like doing. I’m just so happy to know there’s another way to it. This book also opened my eyes on financial education, how money could be a different game for other people. We might or might not cut out to be entrepreneurs or business owners but it’s important for me to know there is always a choice.
  • The Blue Day BookThe Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive
    For those of you who haven’t read this one, please do! It’s such a wonderful little picture animal book guaranteed to make you smile by the time you’re on the last page. I know now we have sites like icanhascheezburger.com, but this book was way before that. Plus there’s some happiness wisdom to get you through those blue days 🙂
  • The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    The very famous “follow your dream” fiction book. Almost everyone I know had read it. It gave me the nudge to follow my dreams, to try and discover my personal legend. It was one reason I got the guts to be a novelist. It also somehow ensures me, that even if it’s not an easy road going there, I will get there eventually and I will be happy on the way because I’m following my bliss!
  • The Creative LicenseThe Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are by Danny Gregory
    The most important lesson I got from this book is to appreciate and cherish every moment in my life. Even if it’s just a bread I have for breakfast, because tomorrow it will be a different bread ;). As we grow old, it’s so easy to fall into routines and never really enjoy the moment we are in.
  • Think BIGThink BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life by Donald J. Trump & Bill Zanker
    After a while being an artist, working on my own at home. It’s very easy to retreat into a role of being satisfied to what I have. Yes, it’s important to have gratitude, but it’s also equally important to have ambition. When I set out to be a writer, I didn’t want to be just published. I want my book to be a best seller in Amazon. Crazy? Maybe. But I’d rather be crazy and aim for the stars! Don’t let adversaries stop you. Keep going and dream big. Also from this book I’m glad to know that it’s okay to take revenge from time to time :P.
  • LinchpinLinchpin by Seth Godin
    This book helped me understood the possible source of my bad procrastinating habit. It wasn’t from hating my job, but it’s a part of my brain which tried to sabotage me. A part that is scared of change. Good for me, he named that part lizard brain. Since lizards gave me the creeps to start with, it’s easier to switch the mindset to ignore the lizard, thus banish procrastination!
  • Jamie's ItalyJamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver
    My first cookbook. I know I can cook but I didn’t know how good. Mind you, cooking isn’t my hobby but eating good food is. So, I know I love Italian food but it’s not always affordable to eat out over here. This book convinced me that we could cook as good as a restaurant menu. Not all, but some. Oh, and I said ‘we’ because I can’t cook without the hubs being my second in command :).
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningWhat I Talk About, When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
    I love how Murakami compared running with writing a novel. I wasn’t a runner back then, and although I’m not even sure I’m a runner now, I could relate so much on how writing a novel is comparable to running a marathon. His book inspired me to get more in shape, as I believe a healthy body is a good host to achieve a healthy and creative mind. This book inspired me to run, at first just to feel the connection stated in this book. As time goes by, I started to like running, the serenity I felt and the ease of tension afterwards. A little note: I actually sucked at running. I could run for more than an hour but I could only go at an average of 6 km/h. Slow but sure, like a tortoise :D.

There! I wrote it all down. It took me longer than I thought, but it’s been fun to think back on them. How about you? Do we have a book in common? Please share me yours 🙂

Book Review: Norwegian Wood

Norwegian WoodNorwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One thing I love about this book is how Murakami managed to describe even the most trivial little things and make it very interesting to read. I wish I will be able to do that someday!

Now on to the plot, I don’t think there’s much of plot going on there… Yes, there’s a love story between Toru Watanabe (the main character) and two girls. How did that evolve to a whole book with a whole lot of descriptions on many random things? It’s Murakami’s brilliance. The book would draw you into reading more and more of it. Such a master storyteller.

The story kind of makes me wonder though, is suicide that common in Japan? It seemed that many of this issue showed up in the TV series I watched.

I’m not sure whom I will recommend this book for. If you’re a romance lover, I don’t think this is a typical story, not to mention it’s kind of twisted. It is very interesting to read, though. I haven’t read other Murakami novels (except for the running biography and his short stories collection) so I couldn’t say how this is compared to other novels.

Oh, I think I’m going to pick up more of Murakami in the future. Any recommendations?

View all my reviews