Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fate and Ms. Fortune by Saralee Rosenberg

imageFate and Ms. Fortune by Saralee Rosenberg


From the blurb:


With the name Robyn Fortune, shouldn't luck be a sure thing? Instead, black clouds love me. All I did was show up at a family bar mitzvah and cue lightning . . . this huge storm blew in.

My mom announced she was leaving my dad and moving in with me. (Perfect! More competition on JDate.) I found out my boss planned to fire me. (Help wanted: Be the exclusive makeup artist for a two-faced network news star.) My ex's gambling debts left me near bankruptcy. (Please buy our wedding gifts on craigslist.) But, good news. I was offered money to date a man who had worse luck than me. (Dear Visa, I hope you appreciate that I said yes.)

If not for my friend Rachel, I would have chickened out. Instead, I went to his apartment, spotted an old photo, and realized it was HIM! The boy I was mad for in college but never got to meet. And get this! Turns out our paths had been crossing since birth.

Coincidence or karma? Our finagling families wouldn't talk . . . until the day destiny sent me on a wild ride that became my long lost spiritual journey.

Ladies, take my advice. When fate knocks, answer the damn door!


My thoughts:


Oh, fun, fun, fun read! It’s not your regular chick-lit story, because I can tell you one thing, while the characters were caricatures, they aren’t your regular stereotyped characters.


I can’t really say much because I don’t want to give away anything, so I’ll just tell more about what I thought of the characters. I initially didn’t like the ‘boy (she) was mad for in college’, and in fact, I didn’t like him much later on either. I did like another guy she knew in high school, and what a great catch he is! I’d love to have someone like him for myself!


I love Robyn’s mum, I thought she was fun and full of life, though I don’t like the reason she gave for leaving Robyn’s dad, apparently for an old flame she used to have before marrying Robyn’s dad.


I love the writing style, it was really such fun reading this book, and I enjoyed the easy flow of reading the words on paper. A lot of the book was funny, except the stand-up jokes, which to be honest, were a little lame.


Anyway, all’s well that ends well, and things finally work themselves out in the end. It’s a great summer beach read, though I’m a little early, but hey, it’s always summer in Malaysia.

The Last Summer (Of You and Me) by Ann Brashares


The Last Summer (Of You and Me) by Ann Brashares


From the Amazon review:


For as long as she can remember, 21-year-old Alice has spent summers on Fire Island with her parents and older sister, Riley. Riley, 24, is a beach lifeguard, more boyish in both looks and spirit than sweet, feminine Alice.

An island neighbor and Riley's best friend, Paul, whose father is dead and mother mostly absent, returns to the island after two years away and must decide whether to sell his family's house there.

More importantly, he and Alice finally act on an attraction they've felt for years, but they keep their frequent nuzzling quiet so as not to hurt Riley. Riley, meanwhile, has her own problems that could ruin Alice and Paul's clandestine romance and just about everything else.


My thoughts:


I've never read The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or any of the author's works before, although I've watched the movie and enjoyed it, so I wasn't sure what to expect with this book.


I ended up really loving this book! A couple of people have said that what happens between Paul, Alice, and Riley were overly dramatic, and I agree that what happens is actually quite a trivial thing that could’ve been solved very easy, compared to so many other books out there that have more shocking and dramatic things happening.


But I think that’s what I like about the book. It’s real. What happens between them is trivial and made more dramatic because they didn’t communicate and couldn’t solve a very-easily-solved problem, but it’s real and could easily happen with anyone of us. I’ve had my own share of overly dramatic experiences, which could’ve been solved easily, if only I had been less immature.


I love this book because it’s real. It's something that could happen to any of us in real life. It's a trivial, mundane, everyday thing, that two young people didn't handle well, and because of that, escalated the tension, the misunderstanding, and the drama. And it could happen to anyone of us.

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping by Mary Higgins Clark & Carol Higgins Clark


He Sees You When You’re Sleeping by Mary Higgins Clark & Carol Higgins Clark


I found this book at Malaysia’s first OBCZ, Official BookCrossing Zone, at 1 Utama! Let me just say that I’m very happy that MPH and 1U have got on the bandwagon of BC! =)


I’ve been spending so much time there, and this book and my next four books were all from our OBCZ!


I was worried that I was having a dry spell, not being in the mood to read any of the books I already had, but finding these books there, and all which I read in a day each(!) definitely cured me of my dry spell!


My thoughts:


I've enjoyed most of Mary Higgins Clark's books, but I've never read anything by her daughter Carol, nor one written by the both of them. I decided to try this book, and while it's not the best book I've read by Mary Higgins Clark, I did enjoy it.

It's about a man, Sterling, who'd died and gone to Heaven, or more precisely, gone to wait at the Heavenly Gates for entry. He'd been waiting for about 50 years, give or take, and it seemed it was because he wasn't a very helpful person when he was alive. The Heavenly council decided to give him a chance to redeem himself, by allowing him to go back to Earth (as a ghostly angel) to help a little girl have a happy Christmas. That's the gist of it, anyway.

It was enjoyable as a book, but not what I would've expected from the Higgins Clarks. I found it read like a feel-good Disney Christmas movie where the characters were caricatures. Again, unexpected, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dry Spell

I can’t believe it!


It’s already the 19th of May, and I’ve only finished 3 books this month??!!


I’ve got about 12 days left for reading, but somehow I think I may only achieve at most 2 more books before the next month.


Not to mention that I’ve got some assignments that are way past due to work on too. Yikes!


To be fair, I’ve been at a seminar since last Thursday evening until Sunday night, and spent Monday recuperating from it.


It’s time to start work, or god knows when I’ll ever do it.


Hopefully, I’ll be able to work in record time and get things done fast, so I can read and blog more, but if I’m not here the next couple of weeks, you’ll know why. =/


But then again, I could never stay away from books. I’ll probably sneak in a couple every now and then in between work, so watch this spot! =)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quirkology by Richard Wiseman

image Quirkology by Richard Wiseman


This book is so entertaining that I finished it in two sittings of 4-5 hours each! It has the most interesting information about quirky psychology: things like how accurate horoscopes and superstitions really are, how some of us lie about lying to ourselves, what the funniest joke is, and more.


I don’t have the book with me now, so I’m reviewing it from memory. There’s so much information in the book that it’s impossible to remember it all, and especially not the details, but there are a few interesting things which stood out to me, and so I’ll focus on them.


I’m quite the believer in horoscopes, but what I read in the book made me question my belief. Are horoscopes accurate because they really are true, or because we’ve been conditioned to develop our personalities according to what we’ve been taught to believe is our personalities, based on our star signs?


Studies were conducted on children too young to know horoscopes, and adults from cultures who weren’t exposed to horoscopes, and it turned out there was no correlation at all with their star-signs and what the signs’ personalities were supposed to be!


Superstitions are the same: do bad things happen to us on Friday the 13th because it’s a really unlucky day, or do they happen because we believe, law of attraction style, that it’s an unlucky day? Personally, I don’t believe in superstitions for the sake of superstitions, but I do believe some were formed on some basis of truth.


Also, there was a search conducted to find the funniest joke, and in the process, they discovered that people found the letter ‘K’ to be funnier than the other letters of the alphabet.


Apparently, when we say words with the letter ‘K’, our mouths form smiles, which makes us happier and more susceptible to humor. It seems that when we smile even when we’re not feeling happy, the smiles automatically make us feel better. Conversely, when we frown even when we’re not feeling sad, the frowns make us feel sad.


To my embarrassment, there was also a study conducted to find out which cities were the most helpful and unhelpful, and it seems that Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ranked as the most unhelpful city in the world, together with Singapore and New York.


I have no defense, except to say that our crime rate, I’m again embarrassed to admit, is quite high in the city, which would account for our distrust of people who need help and who might actually be ‘undesirables’ out to harm or cheat us.


There are so many more interesting things in the book; like how tracing the letter Q on your forehead can show if you’re a good liar, how our memories can be manipulated and we can end up believing in false memories, what topics are the best to talk about on a first date to ensure there’d be a second date, how to make a person feel that you’re more attractive than you really are, how waiters can get customers to leave bigger tips, and so much more.


There’s a lot of information and details I don’t remember, but I had such fun reading this book and so many lightbulb moments while reading it! What a whole lot of amazing information is in this book!

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

image Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult


I’m on a Picoult binge. What surprised me was that the last Picoult book I read, Change of Heart, featured the main characters in this book.


This book was published nine years before Change of Heart, but the characters are as vivid as ever.


From the back cover:


When the marriage of Mariah White and her cheating husband, Colin, turns ugly and disintegrates, their seven-year-old daughter, Faith, is there to witness it all. In the aftermath of a rapid divorce, Mariah falls into a deep depression – and suddenly Faith, a child with no religious background whatsoever, hears divine voices, starts reciting biblical passages, and develops stigmata. And when the miraculous healings begin, mother and daughter are thrust into the volatile center of controversy and into the heat of a custody battle – trapped in a mad media circus that threatens what little stability the family has left.


This isn’t so much like Picoult’s later books where there are surprising twists, this is a simple story of a little girl who starts performing miracles and a family who is going through a messy divorce in the midst of it all.


There are parts that doesn’t make sense to me, especially with Colin’s actions towards the end. Why go on with the custody battle when you already know your daughter needs her mother? The book tells the story with Colin’s lawyer as the bad guy in court, but all Colin had to do was say the word and the battle would’ve been over.


It was a good story, however, and I loved it because of all the religious controversy and the miracles happening left and right. Picoult’s name really speaks for itself, and I seldom feel the need to tell how much I liked her books, because I always do!

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

image Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult


I’m a fan of Picoult simply because she writes such thought-provoking stories. Her books are filled with ‘what ifs’, and they force us to think about controversial issues that we otherwise might close our eyes to.


As I get more and more familiar with her work though, they start to become predictable. You know there’s going to be a twist, and sometimes you even know what the twist is going to be right from the beginning.


That’s what happened for me with this book.


Shay Bourne, who’s on death row convicted of murdering June Nealon’s husband and daughter, wants to donate his heart to June Nealon’s remaining daughter, Claire, after his execution.


It’s his way of trying to make amends, giving his heart to save June Nealon’s younger daughter, since he was responsible for the death of the rest of her family. What makes it more interesting is that Shay starts healing the sick, resurrecting the dead, and making other unexplainable miracles happen. Is he the Messiah, or is he a fake?


Either way, June Nealon’s not willing to forgive him, and she can’t imagine having the heart of the man who murdered her family, beating in the chest of her last remaining family. But Claire will die if she doesn’t get a heart soon, and June has to decide what’s more important, her hatred for the man who destroyed her happy family, or her love for her youngest daughter.


My brain was working overtime with all the ‘what ifs’, there were so much to think about in this book. The Messiah angle, the heart transplant angle, the death sentence angle…


Even though I guessed the twist early on in the beginning, it didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the book and the telling of the story. As with all Picoult’s books, I think this is another must-read for all.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

On e. e. cumming’s A Poet’s Advice

I'm reading R. Buckminster Fuller's Critical Path now, and in the Foreword, he included a piece by e. e. cumming entitled "A Poet's Advice". Here's how it goes:

A Poet’s Advice

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words.

This may sound easy. It isn't.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel - but that's thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling - not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn't a poet can possibly imagine. Why?

Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time - and whenever we do it, we are not poets.

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you've written one line of one poem, you'll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world - unless you're not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn't.

It's the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

- e. e. cummings


It is very good advice, and is relevant for everyone, poet or not. What I like most about it is the being nobody-but-yourself part. It’s true that most of what we think or believe or know, have been taught to us by others, perhaps our parents, or our friends, or our leaders.


But what we feel is purely us. What I feel, despite what I know and believe and think, is purely me. Nobody-but-myself.


And here’s the thing, most of us, when we feel something other than what people expect us to feel, sometimes we lie about how we feel, so that they won’t judge us. Or sometimes we tell the truth, but feel the need to explain and justify our feelings. But mostly, we can’t explain our feelings, so we keep it to ourselves, knowing that most people will not agree with us, and will probably judge us for it.


What I’ve been thinking lately, and in fact, almost every time I encounter another human being, is how hypocritical we all are!


Yes, even myself!


I am a hypocrite, and so is everyone else in this world. Everyone! Anyone who says they aren’t is a hypocrite. But that’s another story altogether, let’s just stick with this one first.


Here’s why I say we’re all hypocrites:


Have you ever advised anyone else for them to “just be yourself”? Or perhaps you’ve told them, “be confident”, “believe in yourself”, “follow your heart”, “do what you think is best”, “don’t care what anyone else think”, or any other piece of advise in this vein?


Parents say them to their children, friends say them to friends, everyone else say them to everyone else.


But guess what? There’s a caveat, “just be yourself… as long as *I* approve of who you are”, “be confident… as long as you’re not as confident as *I* am”, “do what you think is best… as long as *I* agree with what you think is best”, “don’t care what anyone else think… as long as you care what *I* think”.


It’s sad, but it’s true. And don’t shake your head and agree with me that that’s how everyone *else* thinks, because the truth is, this is how *you* think. This is how *I* think.


That doesn’t mean that we can’t improve on our thinking, I believe life is all about improvement. Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today.


Yes, sometimes I do think that some of my friends and family, and even some people that I don’t know personally, are stupid or crazy or weird or hopeless or whatever, because they don’t think like me. But I try to understand them, or if I can’t, I try to simply accept them as they are. I think that’s the least any of us could do.


The reason e. e. cumming’s A Poet’s Advice spoke to me, is because when he said you’re a lot of other people when you think or believe or know versus being nobody-but-yourself when you feel, I realize and understand that my thoughts and beliefs are a result of what family, friends, and society has taught me.


But sometimes I feel differently from what I think, and perhaps I can say the same about most people too.


Perhaps our feelings are where we can start to find the real us. The nobody-but-ourselves. Regardless of what anybody else thinks.

Hearts : TT #21


I've just finished reading Jodi Picoult's Change of Heart. As usual, with Picoult’s books, there’s a lot of food for thought and controversial issues. The review will be coming later, but it piqued my interest in heart transplants, so I thought I'd share 13 facts about heart transplants this week:

  1. The longest a person has survived after heart transplant as of 2002 is 24 years.
  2. Heart transplant survival rates are now 84.8% at one year, 77.1% at 3 years, and roughly 50% at 10 years after transplant surgery.
  3. The number of people 65 or older who receive heart transplants is increasing faster than any other age group. From 1996 to 1999, heart transplants in the 65-plus age bracket rose 28%.
  4. Acute heart rejection is more likely to happen when the heart donor was female regardless of recipient sex.
  5. Heart failure is the leading cause of death in most of the developed world. About 730,000 Americans die each year from it.
  6. In 1998, only 2,345 heart transplants were done in the USA.
  7. As of December, 1999, there were 4,135 people on the national waiting list for heart transplant, almost double the number who actually had a transplant the year before.
  8. Average waiting time to transplant is more than 7 months. In some parts of the country, as many as 40% of patients die while waiting.
  9. A busy transplant clinic receives over 2,500 lab results each day. About 400 of these results will be outside the normal range. The coordinator in a short period of time must review all these results and decide which ones need immediate attention.
  10. Failure to take post-transplant meds properly is the third leading cause of transplant failure!
  11. As of January, 2000, there were 141 heart transplant programs operating in the USA.
  12. A donor family's financial responsibility ends when the person is declared dead. After that, the hospital does not bill the family for any charges. The Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) is billed for those charges.
  13. CAD (coronary artery disease) is the leading cause of death for heart transplant recipients who have survived at least one year after surgery.

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