The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
The third, the final, and my favorite installment of the Magician’s trilogy. A total love song to traditional children’s fantasy stories for grown-ups who have still yet to grow out of being enchanted completely by those tales (me). Thankfully, Quentin finally stopped being the annoying whinny young man that he was in the first two volumes, so my irknedness level was way down, making the reading experience a complete delight from beginning to end. Lots of quotable little observations about fantasy story-making and world-building and about being a creative and self-reflective and forgiving (to self and others) human being.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
audiobook read by Karen Chilton
It took me a long while to finish listening to this. My heart would shrink a little when the thought surfaced that it’s time to listen to the next chapter or section. Why would I want to torture myself knowing more aspects of how UNJUST the United States Criminal Justice System has been to our black fellow citizens — especially black men, especially black young men? Why would I want to hear more stories that confirm how color-blindness, racial indifference, and lack of information of myself and millions of kind-hearted Americans contributed more to the creation of a lower racial “caste” in our society (convicted felons for minor or nonviolent drug offenses) than overt racists. Why would I want to feel powerless when informed of the institutionalized sanction so our law enforcers may commit atrocious acts (seizing and keeping of properties of those who might or might not have committed a crime, for example and the incentives to use military grade weapons and tactics against unarmed individuals.)
But I kept at it. And kept learning. And kept finding more supporting evidences from the chatters and opinions in social media and other information sources. And kept talking to whomever would listen. Until the book was done.
And I promptly bought the paperback copy of the book so I can refer back to it whenever I need.
The book was published in 2010. And in 2015, we read about president Obama’s bipartisan-sanctioned plans for Justice Reform and listen to reasons behind his granting clemency to unjustly sentenced minor drug offenders. It will be great to see new policies that address the long-time injustice in the Criminal Justice system.
Watch Obama’s speech at the 2015 NAACP Annual Convention.
A collection of videos about this topic can be found on CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/14/politics/obama-naacp-speech-philadelphia-justice-reform/
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle ( (ねじまき鳥クロニクル) by Haruki Murakami
translated by Jay Rubin
read by Rupert Degas
I felt so lost when the recording of this book ended. A small part is due to the sense of irritation by the vague and unresolved ending. But that was easy to get over with: as a reader, I never need tidy endings. Indeed, if all the loose threads and baffling aspects all get tied up and connected neatly, I would probably have been quite disappointed.
The real reason of the sense of loss is that now I no longer “live” in that hyperrealistic, half-true and half-dreaming world Murakami created for his readers. Starting with a very small story of an insignificant person, the narrative slowly opens up and expands to encompass both History (especially the Sino-Japanese War) and the unexplainable force of the entire Universe.
My admiration of Murakami’s philosophical exploration of what it means to be alive and to be connected to the rest of the humanity did not sway me from questioning one assertion of his ideology: That BOTH the Chinese and the Japanese were engaged in fighting a Senseless War. In theory, I believe that War is evil and senseless. But, growing up Chinese (and with my mother’s entire family in Fake Manchu murdered by the Japanese) made me also realize that China’s RESISTANCE against Japan’s INVASION into our country might not be so senseless after all. On a scale of Japan on one side and China on the other, the weight of who’s responsible of all the senseless killings and deaths should definitely tilt heavily on the Japan side.
I finished the book back in April. Three months later, I can still hear and feel some of the scenes and dialogs in my mind. However, I will not recommend to listen to this particular audio recording: I found Degas’ voice acting as the young girl, May, more distracting than enhancing and I wish that he could have pronounced the Japanese names with more accurate intonations. One day, I will go back and read the book itself and who knows, I might be able to teach myself enough Japanese to read in its original form!
by Ralph Ellison, Audiobook read by Peter Francis James.
This is a book that I wish I had read it in a class, with a passionate teacher and a group of classmates that would share their reactions and opinions with me. So many ideas bounced in my head as I listened to an excellent rendition of the book by Peter Francis James and I immediately wanted to re-read it and to jut down the numerous memorable quotes since, alas, many still applicable when it comes to race relations in the United States. Shouldn’t this be required reading in ALL high school English classes across America?
by Alison Bechdel
I savored every page, every sentence, every word of this graphic-narrative memoir. Still didn’t pay enough attention to the details of each panel and will hopefully go back to the book one day to closely examine all the illustrations as well. The tenderness and unflinching truth=telling of Bechdel’s own painful life events touch me deeply. A sense of vicarious catharsis presented itself every time I opened the book in the past few days. I want to “study” this literary masterpiece in an English class so badly — to engrave every overt and covert meaning onto my mind!
by Iain M. Banks
This second volume of The Culture series by Iain Banks kept me entranced throughout its sprawling telling of a brand new “universe” in my reading world.
Banks created a Utopian future where ownerships of objects, places, or people (as in, exclusive relationships) are no longer the norm and where sexual identities and preferences are all treated equal: in fact gender changes and and having partners in both genders are considered common place. In such a “Culture,” how do people entertain themselves and what matters and what matters not? Fun questions to ponder and explore. However, most of the story was set in the off world of Asad which bears similarities to our own human world — or perhaps the more barbaric ages of our world. Asad’s social structure is highly organized around rules and punishments — and there are some very cruel ways that criminals are dealt with (also what constitutes a “crime” can be quite shocking.)
I enjoyed reading the many theories of how the games are constructed and played and the author kept me guessing as to what the outcome would be. Thanks to my role playing game friend Brian who introduced me to this book! I’m onward to the first book of the series: Considering Phlebas.
by Neil Gaiman
This is typical Gaiman: disturbing and unsettling little scenes, interesting observations of human natures, everything floating in between waking and dreaming. My favorite are the longer tales, “The Truth Is A Cave in the Black Mountains,” “The Sleeper and the Spindle,” and “The Black Dog.” The first two are folk/fairy tale reimagined, while the last one is an American Gods’ short with Shadow’s adventures continuing. Another small dosage to hold us over for the sequel to American Gods? Calendar of Tales with its many weird crowd sourced tales is also highly enjoyable. Oh, I can’t wait to actually WATCH a special episode (of the 11th doctor and Amy Pond) made based on “Nothing O’Clock.”