The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

yoko ogawa

Good things come in small packages and The Housekeeper and the Professor is a perfect example. A wonderful short novel with a great deal of depth. It is a beautiful and touching story about a brilliant Mathematics professor, an unnamed housekeeper (the  narrator) and her son whom the professor called Root for having a flat head like the square root sign.

Yoko Ogawa’s writing style is refreshing. She carefully choose the words to explain several mathematical concepts in an easy story-telling format but to a great effect. It will make anyone enjoy reading even if Math isn’t your thing. And while Math plays a large part in the story, baseball did, too. Root and the professor shared a passion for baseball for different reasons.

Much is unsaid in this little gem of a story, leaving the readers to ponder after reading and personally in a beautifully satisfying way. The relationship between the professor, the housekeeper and Root is so realistic and touching.

With wonderful writing and themes on finding mathematical and personal connections between unlikely people, don’t let the Maths put you off reading this book.

Quotable Quotes:

“A problem isn’t finished just because you’ve found the right answer.”

“The Professor never really seemed to care whether we figured out the right answer to a problem. He preferred our wild, desperate guesses to silence, and he was even more delighted when those guesses led to new problems that took us beyond the original one. He had a special feeling for what he called the “correct miscalculation,” for he believed that mistakes were often as revealing as the right answers.”

“The truly correct proof is one that strikes a harmonious balance between strength and flexibility. There are plenty of proofs that are technically correct but are messy and inelegant or counterintuitive. But it’s not something you can put into words — explaining why a formula is beautiful is like trying to explain why the stars are beautiful.”

“Solving a problem for which you know there’s an answer is like climbing a mountain with a guide, along a trail someone else has laid. In mathematics, the truth is somewhere out there in a place no one knows, beyond all the beaten paths. And it’s not always at the top of the mountain. It might be in a crack on the smoothest cliff or somewhere deep in the valley.”

“The room was filled with a kind of stillness. Not simply an absence of noise, but an accumulation of layers of silence.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

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Quote of the Week

We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away–our stories. I guess that’s what I love about books–they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.

~Libba Bray

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

img_8018This book tells us the story of Count Alexander Rostov and his life-long house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel as he was sentenced by the Bolshevik Tribunal as an unrepentant aristocrat. The more than three decades that followed showed quite well how the world could be brought into one hotel and how living half of your life inside a hotel can help you prepare to go back out to the world.

Amor Towles is a skillful storyteller. Very entertaining, beautiful and intelligent writing. A book very rich in detail. His use of language is an absolute pleasure to read and there is something in the novel for every reader — philosophy, humor, friendship and yes, history.

He created an utterly delightful character in Alexander Rostov, someone anyone would be very privileged to know. A true gentleman. All the other characters were finely-drawn as well.

This is so much more than Alexander Rostov’s story. It is also learning to accept the things time unexpectedly brings us and takes away from us and the things we cannot change.

I love this book from beginning to end. A great combination of beautiful writing, appealing characters and clever plotting. Very captivating. Witty. Heartwarming. Astounding and my top favorite for 2018.

Quotable Quotes:

“And when that celestial chime sounds, perhaps a mirror will suddenly serve its truer purpose—revealing to a man not who he imagines himself to be, but who he has become.”

“For if a room that exists under the governance, authority, and intent of others seems smaller than it is, then a room that exists in secret can, regardless of its dimensions, seem as vast as one cares to imagine.”

“In the end, a parent’s responsibility could not be more simple: To bring a child safely into adulthood so that she could have a chance to experience a life of purpose and, God willing, contentment.”

“He had said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of supreme lucidity – a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of a bold new life that we had been meant to lead all along.”

“By all accounts, you seem to have reconciled yourself to your situation… As both a student of history and a man devoted to living in the present, I admit that I do not spend a lot of time imagining how things might otherwise have been. But I do like to think there is a difference between being resigned to a situation and reconciled to it.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Silence by Shūsaku Endō

downloadSilence is set during the early years of Christianity in Japan and the story revolves around Father Sebastian Rodrigues who sets off with two other fellow priests after hearing news that his mentor Father Ferreira apostatized. No one knew for sure whether Father Ferreira is still alive and no one can confirm if the news/rumors about him renouncing his faith were true. Rodrigues embarks on a journey that may cost him his life. Sounds like an adventure given that as a gist of the story, right? However, it takes a different scenario focusing on Rodrigues’ faith, feelings and conscience.

The story started too slow for my taste, to be honest, I wouldn’t have continued reading if I had another book with me at the time. It’s a novel about faith and one’s personal view of God and leans heavily on Catholic theology specially for the first part of the book.

The main issue is, as the title suggests, silence. We see very terrible things happening around us and if you believe there’s a God, at some point, it makes you ask why doesn’t He intervene, why doesn’t He do something, why does He allow evil things to happen? Does God see us in our breaking points? God himself said, “pray and I will hear you and that I will love you and comfort you.” But then, silence is all there is. The first words in Silence were the first words I’ve read from Shusaku Endo, I have never read anything by him before. But it kinda felt a bit odd though to find out that he is a Catholic, thus, he ought to understand the nature of their faith. I mean, it would make faith meaningless if God is a vocal God. Isn’t that what’s powerful about faith? That it exists without a conclusive proof of God’s existence?

Anyway, God was silent to the end of the book. Rodrigues has to choose between renouncing his faith and save the Christians from being tortured or refuse to apostatize and see more Christians die from torture. I have mixed feelings about the ending maybe because I was expecting the story to end in martyrdom which is actually one of the main issues raised in the book about Christian missions and yet, Father Rodrigues apostatized. Be that as it may, Shusaku Endo was somehow able to reflect man’s thoughts in the face of adversity.

A character who matters a great deal though is Kichijiro who represents Christianity’s greatest villain, Judas. A Japanese “Gollum.” A weakling. He comes and goes throughout the book but in his character is something we can find uncomfortably real. The relationship between Kichijiro and Father Rodrigues makes us understand about the latter’s torment.

I’ve read reviews a few minutes before purchasing this book but I’m left slightly disappointed. I felt I’ve read a different book. I was raised a Christian but no longer share the faith so maybe that’s why I couldn’t really warm up to the main conflict of the story, but still, this book may appeal to many with regards to the juxtaposition it depicts, culture, the pitiful characters and their unanswered prayers and the tough what if questions people are perhaps afraid to address because it could lead them, or not, to conclude that there probably is no God.

I’m interested to watch the movie adaptation though. Have you guys seen it? Would you recommend me watching it? Please share your thoughts.

Quotable Quotes:

“Man is a strange being. He always has a feeling somewhere in his heart that whatever the danger he will pull through. It’s just like when on a rainy day you imagine the faint rays of the sun shining on a distant hill.”

“Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.”

“It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.”

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

whomovedmycheese

As someone who’s not for motivational self-help books, I was a bit reluctant to buy this but since I was on vacation and I needed something short and light to read, not to mention it’s cheap, I’ve decided to give it a go.

Nothing in this book is new to us. Insights on how we react or deal with the changes we face. The world changes whether we want it or not. The ideas are extremely important and useful, sure, but it’s just obvious common sense. I mean the book is okay, however, I’ve became so accustomed to change already which is probably why it didn’t create a huge impact on me. It doesn’t mean though that I’m good at dealing with it, no, but somehow, I’ve learned to expect it. I think that how it affects all of us differs depending on the situation we are in in life and how far we have been pushed when faced by change.

I’m not sure my bad mood affected how I thought about this book as I’ve read this from start to finish while in the tour van on the way back to Tbilisi with the most boring tour guide and tour group. Some people may enjoy reading this, some may not. And some should.

Quotable Quotes:

“What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.”

“He knew sometimes some fear can be good. When you are afraid things are going to get worse if you don’t do something, it can prompt you into action. But it is not good when you are afraid that it keeps you from doing anything.”

“Sometimes, things change and they are never the same again. This looks like one of those times. That’s life! Life moves on. And so should we.”

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Rating: 3/5 stars

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of SwordsThis is the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I started reading late last year but only managed to finish it a few days back. It won’t be easy to write about the book without spilling a few beans so if you haven’t read the book or watched the TV series yet and intend to, you can stop here.

So there’s far greater turmoil in the seven kingdoms thus it’s packed with lots of crucial events. There’s the Lannisters, the ruling family. Daenerys with her dragons. Robb as King of the North. Threats beyond the Wall. The Red Wedding. Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding. Catelyn releasing Jaime from captivity. Arya escaping Harrenhal and soon ran into the Brotherhood Without Banners. Jamie’s hand was cut. Bran continues his journey north. Jon Snow’s adventure with the wildlings. Sam and The Night’s Watch were attacked by the Others. The Onion Knight back in Dragonstone. Tywin Lannister is now the Hand of the King. The thrilling and climactic duel of the Red Viper and The Mountain. The Unsullied. Sansa’s escape from King’s landing. And too much death.

A Storm of Swords is also filled with regicide. I’m not a fan of Robb but since he’s a Stark, it saddens me that he was killed in The Red Wedding. It was later revealed in the book that this were all planned by Tywin Lannister and Lord Bolton. I’m extremely glad though that Joffrey died, too, on his own wedding day. Unfortunately though, Tyrion’s accused of poisoning him. I’m just so glad that Tyrion was the one who killed his father, Tywin Lannister. Some deaths were surprising (and fun!) which proves that no one is ever safe in the hands of the author! But I also didn’t expect Catelyn Stark alive at the end!

As in the first two books, this also have multiple POVs and each viewpoint character has a specific story. As usual, I enjoyed the most Tyrion’s viewpoint. Jaime’s, too! I enjoyed every single one actually! The author hauled the characters through a series of events and are further fleshed out which led to their change by the end of the book. This is where we see the most character transitions. Like I don’t hate Jaime Lannister anymore. It’s good to know his point of view of the world and in this book, it’s good to see that he is actually different from Tywin or Cersei on the inside. (His final scenes with Tyrion was so, so sad though.) And I didn’t really hate The Hound from the start but in this book, I can say I really like his character. And you will love Tyrion even more! Daenerys developed into a stronger and matured queen supported by interesting characters like Ser Barristan and Ser Jorah. And of course, Jon Snow’s story is becoming more interesting as it continues to unfold.

A Storm of Swords is a brilliant book — character-wise, plot-wise. I’m again blown-away by the story and characters, very detailed and the story expands in different ways while so much is happening. Contrary to the second book A Clash of Kings, I loved how the book came as fast as a bullet rain. There’s always something significant happening in every chapter. There’s no running out of suspense, twists and turns. This series just keeps getting better and better.

Quotable Quotes:

“Sometimes I think everyone is just pretending to be brave, and none of us really are. Maybe pretending is how you get brave, I don’t know.”

“Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.”

“Every man must die, Jon Snow. But first he must live.”

“The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them.”

“Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

9 Reasons Why I Read the Book First Before Watching the Movie

Reading has always been my favorite pastime. I’m happily content in the company of books. However, it’s June and I’ve only read eight — yes, eight! — books, the least for me in a span of six months.

For the past couple of years or so, I’ve noticed that a lot of books were adapted to movies — Hidden Figures, The Girl on the Train, Inferno, Me Before You, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas — just to name a few.  My friends and those who have been following my blog for some time now are aware how much I enjoy reading and that I’m not a big fan of watching flicks and how I almost always deride movie adaptations.

Then comes the great debate: read before watching OR watch before reading? Both, of course, are tactile experiences, it just depends greatly I guess on every individual’s personality but here’s why I choose the former:

BvsM

1. I get the whole plot.

I like reading the book first because I get to understand the whole plot. There were times when I first watched the movie and didn’t understand a thing about it. It didn’t make any sense to me when I watched it. I’m not sure if it’s because the movie was so bad or I just really didn’t understand. But when I read the book first, I get to know the backstory and all, the characters, etc. Reading the book first gives me a greater understanding of the movie.

2. I get to imagine and create the characters the way I want.

In books, I can imagine the characters the way I want to and one thing I like most when reading is the way I can relate with the characters, being able to somewhat read their minds or understand their action and create and have my own image of them before I see their movie versions. There are a lot of irrelevant things written in books but somehow, these things are actually the important things that give more life or make the characters more interesting for me. It’s these things that make us connect with them. And there’s nothing better than these connections that we get to create as we follow the character’s development and story. Whatever are relevant in the story are the only things we see in movies. There’s not enough backstories provided about the characters and very little information to grasp.

3. It develops my thinking/imagination.

When I read something totally new to me or a first from an author, it’s cool being left to my own imagination. Unlike when I watch the film first, I can’t help but remember the actors and actresses playing the parts and I don’t really like it. I like having my own version of the characters and the settings and then be either amazed or disappointed later when I watch the movie.

4. Movie adaptations are too modified.

Many movie adaptations are too modified. This probably ain’t a bad thing for many because it wouldn’t really matter anymore whichever you do first, read or watch. No spoiler threat since there are differences already between the book and the movie. But for a booklover like me, I don’t like it when movie adaptations are too altered specially the endings.

5. Be the insider.

I find it fun when I watch movies with my friends and they’re all contemplative and musing over what’s gonna happen next and there I am, the only one in the group who’ve read the book beforehand and I’m the one conveying information and they’re all like, “Oh!” or “Aha!” Or “I see!” while I explain. 😉

6. The real ending.

Most of the time, the endings are modified in movies (as I’ve mentioned in #4), well, I guess to fit a certain time frame or perhaps to leave the audience anticipating a sequel so being able to read the book first actually gives me a different conclusion as to why the movie ended or has to end that way.

7. Comprehensive Details

A well-written book provides comprehensive details of the plot, characters, settings, etc. It gives the reader the feeling like you are there in the book. It makes you feel like you’re experiencing what you’re reading. The way everything is described in detail is way more enjoyable. You wouldn’t miss a thing.

8. There’s more suspense.

Reading can be so intense that it gives me more suspense. Just when you thought you’re gonna find out the answer already, you’re wrong. It will still take you to another chapter or so before everything’s revealed. This intrigues me more thus makes me want to read more which results to sleepless nights. 🙂 Unlike in movies that it would end rather quickly or the story just happened so fast (or too slow). Removing a lot of significant parts from the book to meet a specific time frame just lessens the suspense.

9. The book stays with you.

I love books — the cover, the pages, the smell of it. Apart from the story, the book itself offers a special connection with me, unlike movies. When I was younger, I remember our family renting and watching VHS tapes. I’ve enjoyed a few good, unforgettable movies then but there was no physical thing that leaves me connected with it. Unlike books, they can stay on my shelves for as long as they can. And I can get back to them anytime I want to.

~~~

How about you? Do you prefer reading the book first before watching the movie? Or is it the other way around? Please share your thoughts.

Enjoy the day, homo sapiens! 😊

*Image found on Google.