I’m on Fiverr Now!

Hello fellow readers! I have now joined Fiverr as a Beta Reader. If you are interested in having your work read, or know anyone who is, send them my way!

 

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Every Hamilton Song Ranked — Clash Cultures

By: Emily Miller, Alicia Hayes & Alicia Whavers Hamilton is one of the greatest works of art ever created. Though it premiered on Broadway in 2015, it continues to BLOW US ALL AWAY. It leaves us HELPLESS yet SATISFIED no matter how many times we may TAKE A BREAK from it. After listening to the album […]

via Every Hamilton Song Ranked — Clash Cultures


Book Review: Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (1881)

Henry James is one of my favorite American authors, so it is a wonder that it took me so long to read this novel. Portrait of a Lady is a wonderful piece about a young American girl who has inherited a vast fortune, and details her choices with her new found financial freedom. The language is beautiful, the imagery is vivid, and the dialogue is gripping.

However, the pace of the overall plot does not really pick up until you are little more than halfway done.

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

James does an admirable job of illustrating how much the heroine, Isabel Archer, desires her freedom; this freedom precludes marriage since that is a bond that she does not want attached to her. Because the majority of the book is spent detailing this, including two rejected marriage proposals, the quick change in Isabel’s character is almost inexplicable, and happens so fast you might miss it if you blink.

This shift was welcome because if I spent any more time hearing how much Isabel did not want to marry I might have shed a tear. But then I did shed tears of frustration once we learned that the girl’s choice in suitor was devised by a seemingly good friend. It seemed almost devised since I spent 300 pages of reading how she was going to be the archetypal single lady, but then again, Isabel’s character allows for that. If she had been the narrator (the story is told through the eyes of an omniscient observer), I would have doubted the entire plot because she is the type of character to say one thing and completely mean another; not quite a liar, but not quite a truther either. But because of this innocent deceit that the narrator explains to the reader, I can see why Isabel would make such a decision and fall for such a plot.

To put it bluntly…she falls for the 19th-century f**k boy. The most frustrating thing about Isabel, in my opinion, is that she is a modern character, a modern woman. She has the desire for freedom, for enterprise, for self-expression without sacrifice, but not with a lot of foresight. Which is how she would be led so easily to such a disastrous marriage.

The ambiguous ending seems to have solidified itself in more current opinions. A good deal of people will say that she went back to her husband at the end of the book for whatever noble or prideful reasons she had. Initially, I am inclined to agree with that. Though, taking into account the true gem of Isabel’s nature, she does have the power and will and drive to be independent. So does her thirst for independence, especially knowing that everyone supports that choice, outweigh her pride and reverence for matrimony? This is the question that keeps me coming back to thinking about the novel even though I finished it weeks ago.

It’s a masterpiece and the beginning of an era where authors delve into the psyche of their characters beyond the basic wants and needs. It’s a long book, and the language is a bit steep, though not complicated, so I would recommend you take your time to truly appreciate it. Most of the characters are endearing, some of them disturbing, and there are plot twists towards the end that make you say, “I knew it!” but you are delighted at the outcome anyway. It’s a perfect summer read! Give it a go.

Overall Rating: 3* out of 5

*The only reason why I did not give it a higher rating was because of the pacing; I felt it slow and laborious at times, but that was because I was desperate for the plot to move on since I knew something good was coming.


Book Confession: Never Have I Ever – Atlas Shrugged

I am back again with another book that I have had on my shelf for years and have yet to pick up. Mainly because I know it is a daunting book, thick with reverence, and allegorical eye rolls. I also must admit that the only people who I have heard talk about this novel are men, and how can I be delicate…they are not the most open-minded of men either. In fact, I distinctly remember one man saying, “In all honesty, Rand is just a bit of a…” The ellipses are symbolic for things that rhyme with “itch” and “bunt”.662

I was a teen back then and just smiled and did that little half-shrug that most women know how to do in situations that make them uncomfortable but they don’t want to stir the pot any more than it already is. Of course, now I would boldly express myself in favor of Rand (despite me now knowing the plot of Atlas Shrugged) for the slander more than for the dignity of her writing. But it was this incident that made me walk to the used bookstore and bought a curling paperback copy of Atlas Shrugged for 35 cents.

The time is nigh for me to crack it open! It is actually 2 books down on my current reading list so I am getting to it shortly. But before I do, I thought why not jot down what I think it will be about, and see how wrong I am:

Atlas Whatshisname was a young man living in a lonely world. He had what you would call a good life: parents were still alive, a decent paying job, no debt because back in the day one didn’t need to take out $60,000 to get a $50,000 salaried job, a house that he was slowly repairing in the burbs, and an apartment in the city because he could.

But Atlas cared not for this life. It was easily given, and therefore, easily taken for granted. He didn’t want to struggle through life, no! But he wanted to feel his heart pounding and his pulse racing with success, something he didn’t really grasp. He had the things most people would call successful, but he did not feel the joy that was supposed to come with his status.

So Atlas did not quit his job, but did decide to spend the nights wandering, searching for…something. He met Seargent Peppers, Tom Bombadil, and Andy Serkis. He danced with Helen Troye, kissed Zelda Fitzgerald, and sang with Ella Fitzgerald. And during all of these adventures, he realized something.

Necking Zelda was all well and good, and he felt a pleasant hum about him while he did so. But that hum turned into a buzz when he was thinking about the beginning of his next journey. The momentum leading up to his goal was more exquisite than the goal itself. Chasing his happiness gave him more happiness than anything else could.

And so Atlas lived on, doing things that made him happy because he enjoyed the life of being happy. As he grew to be an old man, a young boy stopped him while he was on his way to eat golden abalone (a favorite treat). The young boy looked up into the face of an old man who was so happy and so content with life that he looked to be 100 years old and 2 years old at the same time. And he questioned Atlas on how one can be so happy.

Atlas looked down at the young boy and said “Happiness.”

To which the boy replied, “How can one find happiness?”.

And in response Atlas looked off into the distance and straightened his shoulders just a fraction. Then, so small that you might have missed it because it seemed more of an exhalation of breath than a movement…Atlas shrugged…and continued on his way.


Rant: Most Frustrating Literary Character – Lestibournes aka Spook from Hero of Ages

Note: this post contains spoilers for the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson.

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

I received the Mistborn Series as a gift last year from my boyfriend. He hadn’t read it but believed it to be right up my alley with the reviews he researched. He was correct. I was brought into a wonderful world of magic and danger, two things that will almost always hold my attention.

The main character throughout the series was a female, though the narrator changed throughout all three books. When we get to the third book, Hero of Ages, we hear from the character Spook. Spook was present throughout the series, but was a background of a background character. If the book was a house, he was the wallpaper that can be seen underneath the peeling wallpaper of a room. Present but easily overlooked.

I was pleasantly surprised when we got to see things from his point of view, especially because he was a Tineye, the world must seem very different to him. I was a bit let down that Sanderson didn’t flesh out Spook’s world as much as I would like, but it was very apparent that he was highly sensitive to everything, and even more so because he flared his tin constantly, trying to become an asset to the team.

But lord was it tiresome to hear him talk about Kelsier all the time, and hear him mentally whine about not being as useful as Vin and Elend…especially because Elend gained his Mistborn abilities. I felt for the kid, and yeah I understood that he wasn’t even 18 during the novels but it got to the point where it was frustrating. Like “don’t go into that room just because you heard a noise you idiot” while watching a horror film annoying.

Almost everything that Spook did ultimately gained nothing while he was still in his woe is me phase. His actions led to the burning of an entire town. Yes, he was being controlled by Ruin, but he also let himself be easily influenced. Vin was able to fight Ruin all those years, Elend was resistant to it as well, but because they did not seek power, or at least not in the way that Spook did. Vin and Elend sought power to help the world, while Spook sought power to make himself more important. And then at the end, Sazed makes him a Mistborn…rewarding him after all the crap he did! I am not saying that Spook did not progress the plot, or help the cause…he just did it in the worst way possible.

To be fair to Spook, the only reason why he trumps Vin in my most annoying characters list is because Vin began to mature more in Hero of Ages. Trust me, I was not happy with her “am I a Lady or a Mistborn” routine during Well of Asencsion. Either way…there’s my rant!


Books to Movies Rant: Tom Bombadil

There are many things in this world I can forgive. I can forgive Chipotle for charging $3 for a teaspoon of guacamole. I can forgive George R. R.  U. Kidding Me Martin for not having finished ASOIAF yet despite the series now being done and me having to stay away from all social media because I refuse to watch the series until the book is out. I can even forgive The Crimes of Grindelwald both literally and figuratively. But what I can NOT forgive is that Peter Jackson had 3 movies and over 11 hours of screen time, and NOT including Tom Bombadil.

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

 

This, to me, is madness.

It is understandable if you don’t know Tom Bombadil is if you only watched the movies. Because he wasn’t included in them. At all. In any way, shape, or form. If you have read the books then you know what I’m talkin’ bout. But for you movie fans let me summarize Tom Bombadil: possibly the most powerful character in the LOTR universe. I’m talking deus ex machina powerful. In fact, in Fellowship of the Ring, he put on the ring to no effect. He is mentioned throughout the series as well.

The question “Why not give the ring to Tom to take to Mordor” for book fans is almost as prevalent as “Why not ride the Eagles all the way to Mordor?” for movie fans. The answer that Gandalf gives during the Council of Elrond in the books is as poignant almost as much as it is funny and frankly, troll-worthy. Basically, Tom is so unswayed by the One Ring, and so above everything that is happening in Middle Earth at the time…he might lose it and forget about it. Like Tom might be on his merry way across the Dead Marshes, skipping and singing, see a pretty face in the water, bend over to have a conversation on it, drop the ring in the water, then skip back home to Goldberry to tell her of the lovely chat he had with a dead spirit. He and his wife Goldberry are possibly the only beings in Middle Earth that don’t have a stake in the destiny of the One Ring.

Now knowing this, some people might say that it would be too confusing to have such a being in the movies because you would have to explain why he doesn’t take the ring. But Gandalf does it within a page in the book! Tolkien spent less time on the Eagles but they got screen time. And yes, they were a crucial part of the plot. But Tom Bombadil actually saved the 4 Hobbits before they really even embark on their way to get out of the Shire. Old Man Willow, a tree with a nasty disposition, draws the four hobbits into his roots (much like Merry and Pippin were in the film Two Towers). The whole story could have ended there. Tom saves them by commanding the tree, much like Treebeard did. So Jackson left out that entire mini-saga.

The closest thing we have to even hinting at this even in the films is when Merry tells Pippin about the old tales about the trees in Buckland while they were tied up by the Uruk-Hai. That’s it! And cinematically, Two Towers is my favorite film out of the trilogy, so it does make sense that my favorite is the only one that even glances a hint at Tom Bombadil.

He is a great character that was there at the beginning of Tolkien’s legendarium. If I ever meet Peter Jackson, he and I will have a heart to heart over this oversight over some Chipotle and guac (on him because $3 for some guacamole?!) and discuss Netflix plans for his own spin-off.

I have talked and raged about this for the past 15 years or so, and I only seem to gather more steam as I go along. Anyone else want to join me in discussing this?


Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1) by Kevin Kwan (2013)

It has been a while since I was invested in a novel that wasn’t fantasy. I absolutely could not put this book down. I would say after the first 20 pages or so, I was captivated. Slice-of-life books don’t really come to life for me until there is conflict. There is no magic world to explore, new laws to understand…and it was hard for me to connect with the families in the story because it is so far removed from me. Which was perfect! I aligned me closer with the main protagonist Rachel.

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

The conflict was indirect for much of the book; the reader is trying to see if down to earth Rachel can reconcile with the extreme, and I mean extreme, wealth of her boyfriend’s family. The ones who cannot reconcile with the fact that the heir apparent to the family branch is the family (mainly the females).

Kwan weaves an artful satirical plot that catches onto you and won’t let go. We bounce back and forth between countries, perspectives, and narrators. He does a good job of giving you just enough drama and juice to make you excited to turn the page, just to switch to another plotline that left you hanging in a previous chapter. The humor isn’t over the top and vulgar, and it reads sort of like a modern-day Austen novel, where the humor is derived from the absolute ridiculousness of the characters in their situations. And the crazy part is…these people must exist in some form somewhere, especially because Kwan is drawing on his childhood.

Because we are focused on the romance between Rachel and Nick, it isn’t necessarily a female-driven story (even if the movie makes it seem so). I was worried that the novel would fall into those tired cliches that we see over and over again; will Rachel pull an Andy and be seduced by the money like we see in The Devil Wears Prada? Will Nick fall for one of his old flames that comes from his circle and will appease his family but breaks away at the last minute, like we see in Coming to America? Are all the rich females Heathers and Mean Girls, and the males Christian Greys and Darcys?

No.

All of the characters are multifaceted. And while there is a heavy lean on the catty/petty woman motif, it balances out with all of the down to earth, intelligent and independent females. The men aren’t poster-board perfect. In fact, the most horribly materialistic character is male. This is the first book I have read where a male is prone to panic attacks and depression and his male friend is the one to comfort him.

We get to see a decent facsimile of real people instead of type-cast carbon copies. AND I cannot forget to mention the fact that all of the characters are Asian or Asian American. How cool is that? To finally see Asians as a sex symbol, a fashion icon, a source of envy. Kevin Kwan didn’t add a token Asian sidekick peppered with stereotypes to satisfy his readers need for inclusivity but featured a culture (even though a very particular culture) prominently. I absolutely love it.

So read this book. If drama is not your cup of tea, but comedy is…read it. If comedy is not your cup of tea but drama is…read it. Want to read more works by Asians or Asian Americans? Read it.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5.


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