Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This was an interesting read. The first third of the book made me feel good. Finally, someone that understands! 

There were anecdotes used to convey how introverts are different from extroverts. To relate the struggles of being one in a society that puts a high value on extroversion. It was all fine and pretty well-researched. A lot of times I found myself bobbing my head and completely relating to the text. 

Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the ‘real me’ online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions.

I especially enjoyed the advice and tips on how to parent an introverted child. Very useful and insightful. 

And then my feelings started to change. Apparently, if an introvert wants to succeed in this society, we have to create an “extroverted persona”. Do you know how awful that sounds? You want me to play a part, so that others will accept me? Rather than they accepting me as is? What kind of message is that? 

To top it off, the author relates stories of introverts that have taken on that gregarious persona. Yes, they’ve been more successful but they’re miserable. As I expected. They talk about how rundown they feel, how depressed, how utterly drained by a farce they have to keep up for so long.

Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health.

Yet, the “extroverted persona” is still given as sound advice? WTF?!

Look, I’m already damaged enough. I can’t and won’t do something completely bonkers so others will like me. Why should I conform and make myself miserable in the process? You know what? I’m happy being myself, thanks. Damn society and its extroverted ideal. 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Challenge update: 41/50
Prompt: a book by an author with the same first or last name as you 
[My mom named me Susan :)] 

“Books hold the key to her career”

Bruh! For real? 

First of all, where do they get this from? And second of all, does this mean I was destined to be a bookworm from birth??

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


The Joad family embarks on a trip from Oklahoma to California. Amidst the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that hit the mid-west, the Joad family loses their farm in Oklahoma to the bank and are left financially devastated. They look to the west, to California, as a land of opportunity and begin a trip that despite everything they endure doesn’t break their spirit. 

I cannot emphasize how much I loved this book. It perfectly encapsulates the American experience. The Joad’s are trying to find a new home where they can work and prosper. All they want is a chance at a decent life. It’s an experience that transcends time. From Homo sapiens first leaving Africa, to the Puritans fleeing religious persecution in Europe, to the caravans of people that still look towards the States with hope. 

Anyway, the Joad family is consistently struggling to survive. They encounter trur hardships: near starvation, abandonment and death. So much death. But despite it all, they remain true to who they are. They don’t falter. No matter the obstacles, they continue to work hard towards their dream. And even though the Joad family has absolutely nothing, they consistently help other migrant families out in whatever way they can. 

A true American masterpiece.

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: a book with a fruit or vegetable in the title

Challenge update: 40/50

[Ten prompts left! *sigh of relief* My reading challenge posts may become sporadic because I’m smart and left some long reads until the end.]

Warcross by Marie Lu

If Leopoldo Gout’s Genius series and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One had a baby, it would be this book. 

Emika Chen is a bounty hunter and hacker, looking for a huge score to pay off all the debt she finds herself in. One day, she hacks her way into Warcross, a virtual reality game played by everyone, and accidentally exposes herself to the world. The game’s young creator, Hideo Tanaka, invites Emika to join the Warcross champiosnhip games as a wildcard pick and hires her to help him track down a hacker. 

I feel like I’ve read this book before. There were similar plot elements used from other books I’ve read that kept taking me out of this story. The twists, were not really twists. I was never shocked or taken by surprise because again, if you’ve read RPO or Genius: The Game, then you have an idea of what’s going to happen. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a completely different book, written by my beloved Marie Lu. 

With that being said, I did enjoy the story. Not as much as I perhaps thought I would. But still. You can’t deny Marie Lu’s talent. She really knows how to make a world her own and create characters that have depth.

I’m so excited for Wildcard! Can’t wait to see how this story concludes! 


2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a cyberpunk book

Reading update: 39/50

V for Vendetta created by Alan Moore & David Lloyd


Codename V is on a mission to not only right a few wrongs but to set society (living in a totalitarian English government) on a path to freedom. 

Ahhhh this was amazing!! My mind is blown! Best comic book I’ve read. The story is still so pertinent. It’s a relatively quick read that still manages to present an insightful look at not only vengeance but oppression. 

…it is the duty of every man in this country to seize the initiative and make Great Britain great again.

Now, doesn’t that sound eerily familiar??
 
How about this one? 

“It was all the fascist groups, the right-wingers. They’d all got together with some of the big corporations that had survived. ‘Norsefire’ they called themselves… They soon got things under control. But then they started taking people away…all the black people and the pakistanis…white people too. All the radicals and the men who, you know, liked other men. The homosexuals.”

I have seen the film version a few times and really enjoyed it. It’s actually a pretty faithful adaptation. But obviously the comic is better! There is so much detail captured in the pages. 

“Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap. Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations, Evey… and it is much, much louder than they care to remember.”

It is ultimately a tale about resistance. So so good. Highly recommend!!

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 

[Went with the 2015 prompt of a graphic novel because I actually don’t read that many. So glad I finally picked this one up!]

Challenge update: 38/50

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Halloween is exactly 3 months away! Meaning, a reprieve from this weather and the little ones will soon be throwing out costume ideas. Fun, fun, fun.

Now, this review will be short because I honestly don’t have much to say about it haha. 

On Halloween day a group of boys go on an adventure through time, learning about the history of the holiday. 

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Bronson Pinchot, and it was amazing. There were a few times where I was a little spooked by the story but I really enjoyed it. And learning about how other cultures celebrate the day was the icing on the cake. 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a book about or set on Halloween [Originally planned to read Practical Magic for this prompt but I wasn’t in the mood. Maybe I’ll get to it later?]

Challenge update: 37/50

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Ah, this book took me by complete surprise. I knew the basic premise of the story and I’ve seen the Gerard Butler movie a few times. Yet this book still managed to hold my attention.

Christine Daae believes the Angel of Music has been sent by her dead father to teach her how to become a better singer. Raoul, a childhood friend, is in love with her and is concerned that Christine is being duped by someone.

Okay, so the story itself is presented as factual by Gaston Leroux himself. The story is his proof of the claims he makes in the prologue. Apparently he really believed in the ghost. Also, the Phantom of the Opera has a name! He is frequently referred to as Opera Ghost or O.G. in the text (which I found kind of funny) but he also has a real name. Again, I’ve seen the movie and it always came off as kind of campy to me. But what I really enjoyed in the book were the gothic elements. It was a little dark and atmospheric.

The Opera Ghost’s history is actually really fascinating. And my goodness, is he one sick person! His torture mechanisms are so over the top. I pity the guy’s childhood but still. He’s low-key evil. What’s his obsession with Christine anyway? I don’t get it. Is it because she’s so damn naïve??

If you’ve enjoyed the musical or movie I would recommend it. The ending is completely different. It’s also partly inspired by real events/mysteries that occurred at an opera house in Paris, which gives it a nice, spooky element. I really loved this book!


2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a book that is also a stage play or musical

Challenge update: 36/50

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Lieutenant Frederic Henry is an American in the Italian army during World War I. He meets Catherine, a British nurse working at a nearby hospital and they fall in love. 

I’m going to start with what I liked. The war. Every aspect of the war is done extremely well. The intensity, the brutality, all of that is portrayed realistically. And the writing is decent (at times). 

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

The dialogue though! The conversations between Catherine and Frederic are so unrealistic it boggles my mind. I can’t imagine anyone speaking the way they do. It’s stilted and weird. Not to mention that I didn’t buy their whole love affair. It feels contrived. The love story is lacking… love. I don’t know. And at the end everything kind of conveniently works out for Frederic, doesn’t it? I can picture him returning to the States and never once dwelling on Catherine and everything that happened between them ever again. Blegh. 

So why is this book still so popular? Besides it being an anti-war book (and that it does well), it has been victim to banishment and censorship. Who doesn’t like reading a book that a government entity has deemed unreadable for various reasons? Doesn’t it just pique your interest and make you want to read it more?

Controversies/Challenges

1) When Hemingway first published this manuscript way back in 1929, he fought long and hard to keep all the swear words in. But it was ultimately censored. 

– So they took the swear words out, but left the racial slurs in. Yeah… okay. A sign of the times I guess.

2) The magazine in which the story was published was still banned in Boston because of Frederic and Catherine’s love story. 

– Bahahahaha if they could read the stuff that’s published nowadays! Or just take a look at society today. They’re probably rolling over in their graves tbh. By today’s standards, their love story is fairly tame. So they have pre-marital sex and a child out of wedlock. Who gives a shit?

3) It was banned in Italy by the fascist regime because of the portrayal of the retreat during the war and because of its anti-military sentiments.

– I’m rolling my eyes at this. 

4) Burned by the Nazis.

– Idiotic douchebags. I think we can all agree on that one.

5) It’s been challenged by a school district for being a “sex novel”

– Um… what? This isn’t a sex novel… Unless war and all its gore turns you on?? Yes, Cath and Henry have sex but it’s not explicit. It’s definitely not 50 Shades lmao!



Final Thoughts

It was an okay read for me. This was Hemingway’s first bestseller and made him a household name. Great. Kudos. This book didn’t cut it for me though. The writing is at times profound. But I can’t get over how awful the dialogue is. At the end of the novel, I was expecting to rage at the unfairness of life. Which I guess I did. Just not in the way I had assumed. 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a book mentioned in another book 

[Mentioned in Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips which I re-read earlier this year]

Challenge update: 35/50

A Book Set In A Country That Fascinates You

So… I’m low-key obsessed with Russia. I know the country’s politics are problematic (to say the least). But I’ve been reading Russian Literature since I was 14. I want to see all the places that I’ve spent years reading about. 

Two stories from my favorite genres: YA & Historical Fiction and of course, a Classic

FIRST UP:

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz



Okay, wow! What an incredible novel. It’s a fictionalized portrayal of the real women who flew fighter planes for the Soviet Union during WWII.

Valka is a young girl who dreams of becomimg a pilot, just like her hero Marina Raskova. As a teenager, she and her cousin Iskra manage to get their pilots license. When war breaks out, they try to enlist. There are obstacles, of course. They’re women, and best to be taking over the jobs the men have left behind. But Raskova has decided to create a new women’s regiment, and Valka and her cousin quickly leave the safety of their home and head for the war.

The story is told mainly through Valka’s point of view. But there are letters that she and her friend/sweetheart Pasha (who is drafted and sent to the front) send back and forth. So amidst the violence and destruction of the war, we get a little reprieve from the chaos as we see the two friends comfort one another. It was obvious where their story was heading, but it was bittersweet to see them confront their feelings for one another. And getting a glimpse of how the war affects them in different ways especially since Pasha gets stuck in German-occupied territory…

Through Pasha’s letters, the reader gets an account of life at the front. It’s raw brutality. While through Valka, we get a different view of the war. She lives in a barracks and every night has to fly her plane into enemy lines. Two different perspectives, from two completely different people, in the same war. 

I knew absolutely nothing about these incredible women. And some of the feats described in the book were actually based on real life events. Amazing! Quite an empowering novel.

I do have to say, that the book read a little young for me. It’s YA yet I’m not sure why, but it read more like a middle grade novel. At least to me it did. Maybe the writing was too simple? Regardless, I really enjoyed it and loved learning a little about the infamous Night Witches.

 NEXT UP:

The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is, I answer Dostoyevsky. No hesitation, whatsoever. This man was brilliant. I make it a habit to read at least one of his works every year (something I also do with Jane Austen). 

The Double is a novella. It’s one of Dostoyevsky’s earlier works so it’s not on the same calibre as his later writing. But it is still really good. This is my first time reading it, and I was completely drawn in. 

The story revolves around the idea of a doppelgänger. Golyadkin wakes up one day and has various strange encounters. As he walks home, he runs into a man. His double. He is so bewildered and frightened. Then his double, also named Golyadkin, is hired at his job. What is going, he wonders. Are his colleagues messing around with him? Is his servant, Petrushka, setting him up? Or is Golyadkin imagining it all?

And that is where the beauty of the novella lies. You’re so in tune with Golyadkin (the original one’s) mind that you completely understand why he’s confused. Because you as the reader are also uncertain as to what the heck is happening. 

Another amazing story from one of the greatest writers!


2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: a book set in a country that fascinates you

[I’ve tried learning Russian before. Epic fail haha]

Challenge update: 34/50

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This is the story of Dr. Marion Praise Stone. Told from his point of view, he recounts a fascinating family chronicle. One that begins when his mother, a nun, left her homeland and arrived at the doorstep of Mission (Missing) Hospital in Ethiopia. 

First of all, I want to thank Grey’s Anatomy for giving me a working knowledge of medical terminology 😉

I knew watching all those episodes would one day pay off! And just like Grey’s, this book has some incredibly dramatic moments. 

The story takes place in Ethiopia. For the most part. Where Marion and his twin brother, Shiva, were born and raised by surgeons. The backdrop? Civil unrest. There are various people vying for power, which sometimes turns violent. And living near a church-run hospital doesn’t mean they are safe. In fact, it sometimes puts a target on their back.

You know, I really loved this book. At its core, it’s a story about family. Marion and Shiva are adopted by two of their parents’ colleagues and pretty much taken care of by the rest of the staff. Everyone comes together to bring the boys up. 

It’s also a story about love. The love story that wasn’t; between Sister Mary Praise and Dr. Thomas Stone. Boy, their story broke my heart. Because of what could have been. I mean come on! A surgeon impregnated a nun! Does that not sound like it could be a Grey’s Anatomy episode? 

Brotherly love. Marion and Shiva, once so close drift apart as teens after an incident occurs involving their “adopted sister”, Genet. And only a near-death experience brings the brothers back together as adults. That, was a brutal storyline. 

And it’s a story about home. Marion loves Missing Hospital. He and his brother spent their childhood roaming the halls. They want to be doctors just like their adopted parents. Then as a grown up, Marion is forced to leave not only his beloved Missing Hospital, but Ethiopia. He flees to the United States, finds a new home in a new hospital, and finds a slice of his past there. And inadvertently comes face to face with the man that fathered him. 

This is a wonderfully nuanced story. The characters aren’t perfect. The pacing may be slow at times. Yet, it somehow managed to captivate me. There are a lot of things that happen that I didn’t even touch on. A lot goes on in this book (murder, female circumcision, politics, illness, death). It’s not the best-written, or even the greatest book. But I absolutely enjoyed reading it. 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Challenge update: 33/50

Prompt: a book with characters who are twins [Technically already completed this with East of Eden, but what the heck. I made things difficult for myself by going with one book per prompt.]

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

This book was pretty great. It’s about physics and modern theories of the universe. 

I’ve read Stephen Hawking’s, A Brief History of Time and that book, though dumbed down for us common folk, was still a dense read. My copy (well, now my brother’s) is scribbled with notes. This book on the other hand, is much more approachable. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson really knows how to explain complex ideas to a regular person. I felt I had a strong grasp on what he was discussing. The theories, and how the scientists came up with them is pretty fascinating. I especially loved Tyson’s snark. It was unexpected, but added a little je ne sais quoi to the book. 

“If the curious aliens happen to be socially, culturally, and technologically more advanced than we are, then they will surely interpret these biomarkers as convincing evidence for the absence of intelligent life on Earth”.

(The biomarkers being pollution and whatnot 😉 ).

Overall, an enjoyable read that I would highly recommend. 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Challenge Update: 32/50

Prompt: a book you borrowed or was given to you as a gift

[I borrowed this book from my brother. He’s into this subject. And I technically already completed this prompt when I read Planting Gardens in Graves, but oh well.I really wanted to read this.]