Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

I appreciate flowers. I appreciate flowery words used to make Nature beautiful and comforting–that includes the marsh. This book reminds me of a fairy tale more than a story based on true life events because it’s all dreamily poetic. So, if you are looking for a story that will make you feel good and you want to be in tune with nature—this is the book. It’s all powerfully feminine just like Nature. Sometimes that’s all you need. Let her embrace you with her wild beauty. She will heal your ailing mind.

In this book, we follow the story of a girl named Kya, the protagonist, who grew up in the marsh. First, her mother left. Then one by one, her siblings left her too. Eventually, her abusive father left her as well. By age 10, the girl is left to survive on her own in the marsh, digging and selling mussels. Kya reminded me of a southern-style version of Lara Croft (a video game character). Instead of raiding tombs, Kya studies the marsh with sensitivity, embracing all the life it has to offer. She is a naturalist, an artist, a poet, and a scientist without proper schooling. Because of her mysterious ways, she is known as the Marsh Girl and is shunned by the locals. And yet, her wildness and beauty got her involved with two men from the local town called Barkley Cove, a made-up belief place by the coast of North Carolina. It’s a romance, murder mystery story with a flare of drama mixed with science. I think it’s a great mix of genres and a refreshing one.

I read some negative reviews on Goodreads, arguing that the protagonist is unrealistic and there are some inaccurate presentations of North Carolina’s dialects. I wouldn’t know since I am not from the region. However, it didn’t bother me because I understood what the author, Delia Owen was trying illustrate with her characters and the story the entire time: As the author stated, Kya is in all of us and one in a million (p.438, mass ed.). The author used science to explain the plot and the reasoning behind her characters’ motivations such as mating, social acceptance, loneliness, and isolation. For instance, if you have never lived alone for years and did not communicate with anyone daily (texting doesn’t count), the world can feel lonesome. When you have that much alone time, you start to ease the loneliness through your surroundings by acknowledging the liveliness of Nature. That’s how Kya survived all those years by herself. The marsh became her mother:

“Sometimes she heard night sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land that caught her.”

-Page 40, Where the Crawdads Sing

As a character, Kya is innocently pure like Nature. I love how the author used her character to link with the civilized world. As a reader, I see it through the interaction between the locals and kya. From the outsider’s perspective, she is nothing more than bare-footed swamp trash. She couldn’t even read until the age of 14 or 15. And yet, the author paints her in the most beautiful light by mixing poetry into the story to evoke longing and empathic feelings. In this book, the marsh is beautiful and pure unlike the socially constructed society.  Religion, culture, customs, and social economics can make a society appears more barbaric than the marsh. Unlike humans, Nature is not prejudiced. She doesn’t ostracize people based on class, intelligence, genetics, etc. Instead, she provides shelter and abundance. All you ever need is within grasp, and the best part is that she gives it freely without expecting anything in return except for your embrace just like a good mother.

I enjoyed the book and its imagery of the marsh, but didn’t care much about the romance part. It was however, suspenseful enough to keep me turning the pages. There were a few parts that made me laugh hard.  I highly doubt I would watch the film. There’s something about written words that often get lost when it’s turned into a motion picture.

Book Review: To Live by Yu Hua

I finally got a library card. The librarian asked me if I was older than eighteen-year-old when she handed me the library card application. She must be blind because if she would have looked a bit closer, she’d noticed I have a few white hair strands, which I like to think it’s the effect of gaining wisdom over time. Although, I did take her question as a compliment. It means I have a youthful aura! Who can say no to that? I do have the curiosity of a five-year-old when it comes to consuming knowledge.

The first book I checked out at the library is To Live by Yu Hua. It must be destiny because I accidentally found it browsing through the bookshelf. I watched the film version directed by Zhang Yimou many years ago. I believe I checked out a copy of the film from the library as well. The film is great, but I love the book more! The book is so good that I had a hard time putting it down, and now that I finished it, I am sad I don’t have anything else to read. Well, I do have things to read but none speak to me like this book:

It’s better to live an ordinary life. If you go on striving for this and that, you’ll end up paying with your life (p.231).”


Do you like the quote? There you go, my secret to eternal youth apart from eating fruits and drinking a lot of water for supple skin! I’m partially kidding. Of course, I bet you are here because you want to know my thoughts on the book and not listen to me rave on about my vanity. Well then, I am happy you are here! I will tell you why I love this book.

This book is poetic without convoluting the story. It’s about living and escaping death on many occasions. The story follows a man by the name of Fugui who comes from a rich family. Due to his negligence, he causes his family to fall from fortune into poverty because of his gambling addiction. But is it a fortune in disguise? This book is a page-turner. I was so engrossed in the lives of the characters that I took a moment to pause from reading whenever something bad happen to the characters. Fugui narrates his life in a way he does not turn it into an epic tale or dramatize it by asking for sympathy from his audience. There is no real-life hard lesson in this book. Instead, it paints a picture of people who have lived and endured severe hardships like that of an ox.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book is that the author doesn’t bluntly criticize a political system. However, in the Translator’s Afterword, the translator mentions Yu Hua’s reality of communism is more brutal in the book than in the film version (p.243). I agree. In the book, the National Army and Liberation Army appear the same when we compare them to the common, ordinary folks. For instance, there is a part when the Nationalist troop conscripts Fugui at gunpoint, which causes him to separate from his family for a few years until the Liberation Army sets him free. Initially, I thought the author is in favor of the Liberation Army until I learn about its political agenda. When Fugui and his family successfully smelt the iron just in time for National Day, I was just as shocked as Fugui to learn that the smelted iron is used to make bombs:

We’ll be able to make three bombs out of this iron, and all of them are going to be dropped on Taiwan…We’ll drop one on Chiang Kai-shek’s bed, one on his kitchen table, and one on his goat shed (p.118-9)!”

-The village’s Team Leader

As you can see, the seriousness of the plot is balanced well with humor. For one, Fugui and his family think they have failed when the fire burns through the cauldron only because they didn’t know what and why they need to smelt the iron in the first place. They just follow whoever is in charge. It made me wonder what difference does it make if the orders are coming from the Nationalist or the Liberation leader? Both political parties don’t have the common people’s best interests; people at the bottom are put to work like animals until there’s no more life in them. If humans drag their feet from time to time, it only makes sense that animals would do the same. A good leader empathizes with his followers and knows when to let them rest and when to make them work (p. 234), and I could not agree more with the author’s point of view.

Throughout the book, there was not one dull moment. Everything was intense. I felt all sorts of emotions. I caught myself with teary eyes, and at times, laughing from shock. What I saw was a grim picture of how everyone was caught up in a political mess. In the end, I finished the book feeling grateful that I am still alive. As my father said, I’m lucky that I wasn’t born in the middle of a war. The world can be a dark place, but there’s still warmth in it if you look hard enough. At least that’s what I take from this book.

Note: I tried not to go into detail about certain events in the story to support my arguments. I had to stop myself from attempting to write a full-blown essay. I hope I give enough information about the book to pique your interest. It’s my love for great books that prompted me to write this review.

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

One thing I admire about J.K Rowling’s writing style is that it’s clear and concise. I had no problem remembering the plot from the previous books because she did a good job at refreshing readers’ memories by taking the time to explain important events. But the greatest magic she did to me has opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world. As I mentioned before in one of my previous posts, I was never really a fan of sports, but I could appreciate it now when the author used Quidditch to illustrate teamwork and good sportsmanship to support and fight for the right cause. Also, I learned what bravery looks like and why it’s the greatest trait above all else. It takes a lot of courage to conquer death. In fact, the entire story of Harry Potter is like the Christian Gospel for the Wizarding World. It’s meant to soothe and cradle the anxious soul who are fearful of death or have lost a loved one.

Since the beginning of the first book, particularly Book 6, I have always seen Dumbledore as the embodiment of good and wisdom (p.360). To me, he is like God, all-knowing and omniscient and Harry Potter had to have faith in Dumbledore’s instruction even though like Christ he was on a mission to be slaughtered like a pig (p.687). How is this not a parable of the Christian faith? The entire series is bombarded with Christian tropes such as the trinity (Hermione, Harry Potter, and Ron are metaphors for mind, body, and soul); the serpent as being the lesser being; the number 7 as a holy number; finally love, love conquers all. If you are familiar with the Christian faith then you know what I am talking about.

The scale of the story followed the same structure. God sent his beloved son to die for our sins. In other words, a hero sacrifices his life for the greater good. Harry Potter was born to destroy evil and that’s why he is the Chosen One who comes from the House of Gryffindor, which is the greatest House out of all the Four Houses. Why is that? Wit, ambition, and hard work are all great traits but bravery tops it all because they don’t fear death. The Four Houses are just metaphors for the virtuous traits that benefit and develop a stable society. I agree with the author. Great leaders don’t just lead by example but are selfless. Harry Potter puts himself in danger many times for others even for Draco, his enemy! That’s why the author made her point about bravery as the biggest virtue on several occasions by using Ron, the insecure character to show readers that anyone can be great and that there’s bravery in everyone. An example is a part where Ron saved Harry from drowning in Forest’s frozen pool in Chapter 19:

‘You’ve sort of made up for tonight,’ said Harry. ‘Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.’

That makes me sound cooler than I was,’ Ron mumbled.

‘Stuff like that always sound cooler than it really was,’ said Harry. ‘I’ve been trying to tell you for years.’

Book 7, p. 379

As I was reading, I kept wondering what’s the significance of the Chosen One in relation to the story other than fighting evil. That plot in itself is too generic. Then I realized Harry Potter is the symbol of youth and bravery on the verge of corruption in a society. When I saw it in that light, I became more appreciative of the story as something more than just a children’s book. You see, if Dumbledore is the embodiment of goodness and wisdom, then Harry Potter is the embodiment of hope and change. Wouldn’t all parents want to see their children become better than them in some form? Parents would only hurt their children’s future if they make their children serve them by abiding by old outdated traditions. The western concept of rearing children is far different from Asian cultures (particularly Eastern and Southeastern Asians) and that came as a shock to me. We are taught to respect and serve our elders–not challenge them as we see in the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter’s behavior was appalling to me in Book 5 when he was upset that Dumbledore left him in the dark, but sometimes it’s necessary to continuously challenge an established society for the sake of the “greater good” which will benefit all. After all, it takes a brave person to stand up and make changes to a decaying society even at the expense of one’s own life.

So, has my opinion of Dumbledore changed after learning that he’s not a family man and that it was out of selfish ambition that he wished to make peace with the Muggles so that both worlds can live in harmony? Not quite. Like Harry Potter, I felt a little betrayed, but the author did a great job at explaining his actions and redeeming him. Like Voldemort, Dumbledore operated in secrecy, pulling strings to see his plans come through. He wasn’t all that different from Voldemort who was lusting after power and domination. But there is a huge difference between the two. If you can recall the statement in the Sorcerer’s Stone: “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure (p. 297), Dumbledore accepted his immortality whereas Voldemort didn’t. That’s why Voldemort will always fall short. It’s kind of like how Satan will always be less than God or why the number 6 is less than 7. So yes, I still like Dumbledore for many reasons and believe that his traits reflect Christian virtues. One of them is the fact he is modestly humble. He is talented and gifted but chose to be a headmaster of a school rather than be the head of the Wizarding ministry. The logic is that if you want to make a huge impact in the world, you start off in the classrooms. Training and disciplining young wizards and witches have a huge impact on the future of society. That’s where changes really happen. It always starts small, especially if you want to make the world a better place, but of course, great ideas don’t always follow through as we see with Tom Riddle, who turned out to be the evilest wizard. But it’s better to try than not try at all.

Another interesting point made by the author was the concept of respect for all life. Dobby, a slave elf who falls at the bottom of the wizarding community food chain is as grand as Dumbledore. However, when he died, all he got was a small burial and not an elaborate ceremony. It made me think about how society tends to place importance on social structure. Someone from the bottom of the food chain is just as impactful as someone on top. It was a nice touch to say that no matter how small someone’s place is in society, they can make a huge impact!

I could go on and dive deeper into the world of Harry Potter because I enjoyed every single moment of it and learned how to see new perspectives such as the concept of gold and treasure from the point of view of the goblins, but I decided to conclude my thoughts for now. Everything in this book makes sense. There’s the notion of empathy, forgiveness, and acceptance just like the Christian faith. Perhaps, it’s the statement that Harry Potter and Voldemort are one of the same kinds but at the same time different than confused religious people. Still, when it comes to great literacy work, nothing should be taken literally. It’s the lessons that are important.

Now I just need to watch the first two Fantastic Beast films before I can see the third one in the theater to get caught up with Harry Potter. While I was reading Harry Potter, each time I finished a book, I watched the film, comparing and contrasting them. Of course, the books are way better, but the films are cool too. This whole experience took me about 4 months but I am glad to say I have now graduated from Hogwarts and know what bravery looks like. Snape is the bravest and is my favorite character. Maybe if I feel like it, I might write an essay about why I think so, but I will just leave it for now. That was a lot to take in, I am sure.

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The saying never judge a book by its cover should only be applied to everything except for inanimate objects because no one wants to be deceived when buying a product, they expected to receive. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince is exactly what you get. Based on the mass-produced book cover version, readers get to spend more time with Dumbledore! This made me a happy reader, but this book sure broke my heart (I know human emotions are just so hard to understand even I sometimes don’t understand myself). Happy to be sad. It’s a paradox. If you have been following this blog and my previous Harry Potter posts, you’d know that I like Dumbledore very much. I sort of suspect that Dumbledore was going to die when the author kept describing him as old and not as agile. I was still in shock when he did die. What a dramatic turn. The series is coming to a close. The symbol of wisdom and an all-knowing, benevolent wizard is no more.

The structure of the book is pretty straightforward. You got to know your enemy in order to defeat it. It talks about Voldemort’s childhood and his ancestry. It also revealed who the Half-Blood Prince is, which I was in fact surprised. Just as I expected of the author who likes to build tension and suspense in her story. The only character that I thought seemed out of place was Horace Slughorn, the new potion professor who replaced Snape. A part of me thinks the author chose this type of character to emphasize the classism issue as I previously mentioned in Book 5. He is not necessarily a bad person, but just a little bit wicked. Not wicked enough to be a part of the Death Eaters that’s for sure. Have you met people like that? Someone who only associates with those who can provide them with the finer things in life? They collect people like they collect treasures. In other words, they create a circle of people and only “special people” are invited. I know I have met someone like that. It’s hard to call it a vice but it’s definitely not the type of friend who will have your back in the time of need. Their interest foremost lies in living a comfortable life, and are only persuaded to act when it threatens their lives. People like Slughorn can make anyone like Ron feels inadequate in society because ordinary is just not good enough. You have to be exceptionally extraordinary to be in Slughorn’s club, and oddly, I agree with Harry on Slughorn. He is like a “rich fussy old lady” (p. 67). No wonder the Death Eaters tried so hard to recruit him. He’s very worldly.

Speaking of Ron, I thought it was interesting how the character is used to demonstrate that one’s self-worth is all in the head. You know the saying it’s all mental? There’s some truth to that statement. Harry tricked Ron into believing he poured a lucky potion called Felix Felicis into Ron’s cup right before the Quidditch match. And guess what? Surprisingly Ron performed well as a Keeper. Sometimes, it really is all in the head. How many of us have closed the door on ourselves simply because we think we are just born unlucky, or talentless? It’s a nice little message from the author to the readers. Take notes, we should have some faith in ourselves.

Overall, this book is relatively short. I don’t have much to say about the romance part of Harry and Ginny; Ron and Hermione; and Tonks and Lupin. I don’t care much about romance drama and I was never intrigued with any of the characters besides Dumbledore and Snape. Now, I am just looking forward to finishing the final book which will be sometime next month. Just in time for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which looks great!

Stay tuned for my final thoughts on the Harry Potter series. Hope to see you next time!

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: It’s All about the “…ism”

There’s not much difference between classicism and racism. Both have the same prejudice in regard to superiority over others when we apply it in a social context, and you’ll see a lot of it in this book. Contrary to the film, one slight change in the event could change the entire tone of the plot. That’s why I am an advocate for presentations. Don’t underestimate it. It’s everything! The film version turned Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix into a story about friends, family, and love as something to be fought for. Whereas the book, cleverly mentioned all the “…ism (s)” (i.e., classism, racism, ageism, criticism, sadism, favoritism, etc.) that society goes through with seriousness and humor, making it more than just a story about fighting evil. The introduction of Professor Umbridge entering into the series is now and forever engrained in my mind. There is a line between punishment and sadism when it comes to teaching. What a witch!

Looking back at my questions, I am glad some of my questions were answered in this book such as why Harry Potter was given over to the care of the Dursleys and why Voldemort is so fixated on killing Harry Potter. To my surprise, I wasn’t so thrilled to get the answers because Harry Potter sort of reminds me of Oedipus Rex, a play by Sophocles. In the play, the protagonist was prophesized that he would murder his father. Therefore, his father attempted to kill his own son when he was still an infant. Doesn’t it sound just like the little famous Harry Potter who lived to tell the tale that he would destroy Voldemort who is terribly afraid of death? Harry Potter is the Chosen One. I often wonder why western media is so obsessed with being the special one. The difference, of course, is that Voldemort is not Harry Potter’s dad, but both are half-bloods, which makes them both the perfect opponents for the classic tale of good versus evil. However, what distinguishes Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix from a generic plot is that it emphasizes that the good guys are not always wise.

Albus Dumbledore may be strong and powerful, but he is not immortal. Even wise people make bad decisions, and no one is prone to escaping ageism at his age. Dumbledore even admitted to Harry that he failed in judgment when he asked Snape to put his old grudge away and teach Occlumency to Harry Potter whose thoughts were penetrated by the Dark Lord with nightmares and visions. Snape loathed Harry Potter’s father, James Potter. And it’s in this book, we learned the reasoning behind it when Harry took a sneak peek into Snape’s memory during the Occlumency lesson. Snape was heavily bullied by James and his gang of friends for simply just existing. And to be honest, I was a little disappointed in this section of the book to learn that Snape has a legitimate grudge against James Potter. He is made out to look as if he is some sort of weirdo shunned by society because of his obsession with the Dark Arts. For that reason, it’s easy to empathize with Snape, especially coming from someone like Harry Potter who has also been heavily mistreated by his cousin, Dudley. I was turned off by Sirius’ and Lupin’s justification for bullying: they were teenagers who didn’t know any better. Emotional scars don’t heal overnight. Emotional scars in fact rarely heal, which by far is worse than having a cut on your hand. The wound lingers and it stays. Sometimes it subsides but then comes back in waves. Sometimes there are things in life that can be forgiven but NEVER forgotten. His prejudice toward Harry Potter formed out of nowhere. His grudge runs so deeply that he forgets Harry is nothing like his father; even Sirius, his dad’s best friend and godfather, admitted it! Yes, Snape has a reason to justify his hatred toward Harry, but it still doesn’t make it right.

Speaking of prejudice, the house-elves exist to serve their master and we learn a little bit more about their nature by examining the house-elf Kreacher who serves the Black family. They are not entirely innocent and deserving of freedom. It is in their nature to serve their master and they are content to serve as long as their masters don’t mistreat them just like we see in Doby with Lucius Malfoy and Kreacher with Sirius Black. I see the author’s point of view: everything has a functional structured hierarchy. House elves are loyal to a fault as long as you treat them well.

This book opens up a lot heavy loaded topics on social issues: classism, racism, and ageism, and what I found a little disturbing is the conclusion and justification that come from it (I noticed a pattern in the series: everything falls into place at the end of each book). I don’t know if I entirely agree with the author. Harry Potter as a character is not what I ideally pictured as a hero or someone I can admire. He is kind of too arrogant for my liking. Then again, the book did mention Harry’s Potter weakness is heroism. Also, I don’t like how Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood are portrayed as pitiful misfit characters in comparison to Harry Potter. Far too often writers make jokes about it in a way where it becomes insensitive. In this book, Harry Potter is framed as unstable and a liar by the Daily Prophet, a newspaper for the Witchcraft and Wizarding community–simply because he tried to tell the truth about Voldemort’s return. I find it ironic, considering that such a community is able to define what normalcy is considering that magic is involved because there’s nothing normal about magic. The Ministry of Magic should know better or perhaps this is a weak point of the plot. Mental illness is not a symptom of weakness. It’s an invisible disability. You can’t really expect a maimed person to compete in a sport like a basketball if they have no hands to grab the ball, or do you? It’s the same concept with the oddballs. Anyway, that’s beside the point of my analysis and I still got two more books to go to make a final conclusion about Mr. Potter. I want to define the Order of Phoenix as a book about prejudice, but that would simplify it because it’s more than that. It’s more about the abuse of authority. Even the “right authority” (Order of Phoenix) is not immune to failure. And if there is one lesson I took out from this book: be aware of the biases and prejudices when we make a judgment about a person. We are all prone to making mistakes. We are only human, after all.

Now I recalled the time my old boss defended his trusted employees from breaking a company’s procedure. With my own eyes, I attested it; however, my boss was too blind in favoritism to acknowledge it. Tsk…tsk…favoritism can be such a good bad thing. And that concludes my thoughts on this book, the book all about the “…ism”.

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Back in middle school, I disliked all sports, despite having a few good friends who joined the school’s volleyball and basketball team. Unlike my friends, they were built to be athletes, standing at 5’7 and 5’10 on the robust side, whereas I stood around 5’2 on the frail side at the time. Far from athletic, I often wonder why my best school friends associated with someone like me who was not at all sporty and who was often found daydreaming and doodling in her notebook during class. Surely, they would gain nothing from copying my homework unless they are asking for a bare minimum passing grade (I was behind in homework due to frequent absences). In fact, they didn’t even need to copy my homework because they had the brains. I suppose I was just someone they can trust. Someone who didn’t judge them when they started blabbering about their school crushes and who enjoyed a good laugh. After all, friendship is about trusting and helping each other out. Similarly, the same can be said about sports. It promotes trust and collaboration which then results in friendship. But what happens if you are the only one selected from your school to compete in the Triwizard Tournament because you stood above everyone at the school? Then it is no longer really about trust, collaboration, and friendly competition. I am surprised a “civil war” hasn’t broken out in Hogwarts. Oh wait, we see that in the 5th book. We definitely see some tension between two best friends in this book. Ron wasn’t so happy to see his best friend Harry chosen by the Goblet of Fire. For one, he didn’t meet the age criteria, and yet, he is talented enough to compete in the tournament. Obviously, jealousy can ruin a friendship, especially for someone who is often overshadowed by his brothers. Who wouldn’t want the glory and recognition for a change?

The book got political fast and I like how sports as a theme is incorporated into the politics in the magical world. It’s a great way to display the intensity behind sports which is supposed to promote healthy competition and build friendships among other magic schools (Hogwarts is not the only magic school) when in fact it masks the ugly hunger for power in the Witchcraft and Wizarding community. What I enjoyed about this book is how the author illustrates sports as an activity that is really no different from politics (perhaps, that’s just my interpretation). Sports like politics are about representing a group. It’s about leading and cooperating. It’s about winning and losing. It’s about coming on top to promote an idea or for a “good cause”. It made me understand why someone like Hagrid would root for Harry Potter because it gives people like him who are underrepresented and shunned by society a chance to shine:

Yeh know what I’d love, Harry? I’d love yeh to win, I really would. It’d show ’em all…yeh don’t have to be pureblood ter do it. Yeh don’t have ter be ashamed of what yeh are. It’d show ’em Dumbledore’s the one who’s got it righ,’ letting anyone in as long as they can do magic.

pg. 456

If I were to read Harry Potter in middle school, I’d be a fan of the franchise myself. However, it’s not really Harry Potter that I like. He’s an all-right protagonist. It’s actually Dumbledore that wins my affection from this series. In fact, he is the only wizard that Voldemort is afraid of. He stands for everything right and just, and honestly, being exposed to many pessimistic entertainment materials in the past couple of years, particularly video games with a nihilist mindset, it’s nice to read something for a change that has a lot of warmth. There is such thing as right and wrong, and there is such thing as genuine friendly cooperation and not this whole concept of eat or be eaten lone wolf crap. Lastly, the world is not all dark and gloomy and everyone is only out there to save themselves. Reflecting back on my middle school days, there’s no mystery why I disliked sports. All I saw was a fierce competition that did more harm than good. Luckily, I was no rival to my friends and perhaps it was a good thing that we didn’t step on each other feet. I mean, I’m surprised Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory are good sports about winning the cup together on top of the fact they both like the same girl, Cho Chang from Ravenclaw!

Anyway, the last few chapters were intense and emotional. I would be a liar if I didn’t shed some tears. I’m so eager to know what will happen next. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the 5th book: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. It’s getting really intense! Will the house-elves learn to know what freedom is? Are they genuinely happy to serve or do they serve out of fear for their masters? And what is freedom? Why is the Death Eaters so evil and why do they hate Mudblood so much? What’s going to happen to Hogwarts if Dumbledore is no longer headmaster? So many questions.

If you are new to the blog, please check out my blog post for the previous three books to follow the discussion. Hope to see you again and thank you for reading!

The First Three Year at Hogwarts: What I Learned from Each Book

I remember my co-worker, a big Harry Potter fan looked at me in shock when I told her that I have not read the books. She said jokingly that she won’t be my friend until I read Harry Potter. That was a few years ago. It’s not that I didn’t care, I just didn’t see the magic and wonder about it from the movies (it’s probably because I have a habit of mind wandering when watching a film). I remember thinking Harry Potter is just about some nerdy boy and his friends going to an exclusive magic boarding school. But I was wrong about Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling gave me what I needed in good storytelling: humor with a little bit of horror and mystery. The biggest things the movies failed to capture were DETAILED EXPLANATIONS of the story and a GREAT CONCLUSION at the end of each book! It’s the suspense that kept me turning the pages and not the flashy cool special effects that the films attempted to create. A great story is like putting all the puzzle pieces together to get a big picture. All the pieces are important, and leaving them out will only make the picture incomplete. The films took out some of the most important events in the story and turned Harry Potter into a tolerable story with great flashy impressive production. Yes, the world is magical. But why? Why is his story important? Well, for one there’s a lot to it than just looking at the surface and if I didn’t read the books, I wouldn’t understand the films as plain as that.

So here, I am back with my 3-list post. I think it is safe to reveal some spoilers. By now, most people have been exposed to Harry Potter so I am not here to persuade people to change their opinion or convince people to like it. Let alone, criticize the films. I mean come on, Harry Potter is famous in the real world and the book! Instead, I am going to write about what I learned during my first three years at Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Year 1):

There’s a lot of humor in this book. I learned what a Muggle is, although not in the best light. The book introduced the Dursleys as mean-spirited and who hate everything out of the norm. But that made me wonder if they hated Harry Potter so much because he comes from a wizard family, why did they take him in and raise him? Somewhere in their disapproval, they have to have a heart. Some people would have just turned the abandoned toddler into social service, I think. In some rare cases, sadly in some countries, babies are put into dumpsters because their parents couldn’t afford them. Sad, but true. Or another sad story is about a baby who was found crawling around in the apartment by himself. He was so hungry he started sucking and eating on his fingers. So, the Dursleys can’t be so bad; at least they gave Harry Potter a place to sleep even though not the best place (under the stairs in the closet!). They’re just fixed in their ways. They remind me of those who care about their image in society, the herds that follow the crowd and who shun everything odd and peculiar. Then it dawned on me that they kept Harry Potter around for tax purposes. But more importantly, out of fear. That’s just my speculation for the time being. The Dursleys are a mystery to me and their presence serves as comic relief to the plot. In contrast to Muggles, wizards and witches aren’t all that great either (well that is what I learned in Year 4). So, Harry Potter is more than just about race and class issues, although it’s kind of hard not to notice the author’s dislike for Sunday Christian-like folks. Or is it just my imagination?

I think I have more questions than answers. The book left me with a good impression with its quote: “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure (pg. 297).” So why is Voldemort so adamant about obtaining the Sorcerer’s Stone, the thing that will give him life and body? Is he afraid of dying? Why is he so fearful? And why does he want to kill Harry Potter so badly?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Year 2):

I was pleasantly surprised at how spooky this book can be. There were parts where I got the chills. Students are petrified, and spiders crawl away from something ominously dangerous from the castle into the Forbidden Forest! I couldn’t help but be on my toes, eager for the mystery to unfold! I think so far, this is my favorite book out of the series. The suspense and mystery were really good. Unlike, the first book where we got a glimpse of Harry Potter’s Muggle relatives who hate all things abnormal and peculiar, some pure-blood witches and wizards look down on Muggle’s blood. Mudblood is the term referred to witches and wizards who come from non-magic families. The opposite of a Mudblood is a Squib, which is someone who comes from a Wizarding family; however, he/she has no magic powers (pg.145). Lastly, we get a glimpse of the nature of house-elves through the appearance of Dobby, which is a slave to a wealthy Wizarding family. So, it’s hard not to see the plot involving class and race issues. In addition, the conclusion at the end of the book was also good too. Dumbledore, a wise wizard always has something wise to say when Harry Potter finds himself in uncomfortable thoughts or situations: Anyone is capable of doing evil, but it is “our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than abilities.” (pg.333). In other words, your abilities do not define you; it’s what you make of yourself. Another great lesson from the book is not to trust something that can think on its own because you don’t know where the brain is (pg.329). Great wisdom there. I can only imagine how a child can easily get exploited online. Be mindfully cautious, kids.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Year 3)

Don’t judge a book by its cover and most often don’t believe everything you read in the news! The truth is more obscure than it seems. Your convict uncle is probably a good guy; your pet rat is a disgraceful human and your favorite teacher is a werewolf! Oops, I said too much about this book! I warned you though that there will be spoilers! I have to keep reminding myself that Harry Potter is intended for adolescents so it may be mind-boggling to them, but quite the contrary, I think it’s full-grown adults who need a good reminder not to judge people based on their social status and appearance. There are some well-groomed-looking criminals out there with high positions in society. The bottom line is don’t judge. Happy that Harry got his final say with his Muggle relative towards the end of the book. Never insult someone’s parents, especially their bloodline because what does that get to do with character? I think I’m seeing a pattern here with Harry Potter which has gained my respect. It speaks a lot to someone who cares for social justice and thinks there should be more of it. Well, for that to happen, people must learn how to think properly like sensible human beings.

Well, I hope you enjoy this little rant which is more like a writing prompt. The student in me never dies. Currently, I am on the fourth book and a few chapters left to go. Please join me next time for more discussion on Harry Potter!

Reflecting on Interview with the Vampire (Book): Passivity Is Death

I’m sort of done writing reviews. Writing impressions, journaling or reflective posts might be the politically correct term for this type of blog.

When it comes to reading, there’s no way I can ever read all the classics that I have set myself out to apart from discovering new stories from modern-day authors. Reading is meditative and truly addicting. I feel as if I have to be immortal to experience the many lives ebbed into a meaningful story that people packaged into a book and sell them off for profit. A strange concept if you were to ask me, but a writer has to make a living somehow. As a reader, I could play the god and judge the world for myself whenever I open a book. That’s what modernization turned human civilization into, a passive observer. As the bible goes: “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow (Revised Standard Version, 1:18).” Am I doomed to be melancholic?

Reading as a pastime is a double edge sword. For one, reading offers an escape but at the same time causes fatigue eyes and limping body. You see, there is a thing called the clock which governs our lives. Called it Mother Nature’s clock. We are forced to sleep against our own will and forced to do mundane things to sustain life such as working, eating, cleaning, etc. And we can only wish we had more days to live so we can experience life fully to feed our godly curiosity until there’s nothing else to uncover the mystery of our existence. Reading the Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice, made me think do I really want to be immortal? Vampiric immortality is far from living but more like damnation. Louis, the protagonist is doomed to search for the “truth” that he may never find: the origin of his kind. Do they exist just to kill? Are they truly the devil’s servants?

Since I am pressed for time, I won’t go into details about this book. I will just mention briefly that this book argues passivity is the real death. Just watching things slip from your hands when you could have done something about it makes you the murderer of time. Things don’t have to stand still. Get up and make some action. That’s the lesson I got from the book.

Finally, I will leave you, folks, with my favorite quote from the book:

I went through mortal life like a blind man groping from solid object to solid object. It was only when I became a vampire that I respected myself for the first time in my life.

Through Louis, we see one sad truth about the nature of vampires: they are eternally dead. Therefore, it’s hard not to see life as a gift even if it’s for a brief moment.

P. S.

Thank you Nairdalex for recommending this book!

The Handmaid’s Tale (Book Review) – Eggs and Butter

I cringed when I hear sexist comments such as how women are irrational beings governed by their emotions rather than logic. How can anyone think that 1+1+1+1 ≠ 4? If you put 4 women in a room together, would you call them a clone of one another? No, each woman is different. Women are not a division of a whole number! So, the answer is not 4. The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood, is about all kinds of women.

The book is a dystopian drama but doesn’t expect a lot of action. The flashback showing the downfall of society can get painfully distracting sometimes. I had to go back and read the same passage several times. For the most part, the book is poetically descriptive to the point it made me feel sick to the stomach. It loves to point out how the sex organs both male and female are used for reproducing purposes only. There were a few times I wanted to vomit because the author refers eggs to as ovaries and butter as beauty cream. Both eggs and butter are consumable and when associated with sex, it makes it less desirable. Consuming too many eggs and butter will make you sick. In this case, the Commander has access to a lot of women but based on the way the author described the sex part, he doesn’t seem to enjoy it much, especially when the wife is positioned on the bed where she can see the husband penetrating the handmaid. It’s awkward.

Sex is a production. Anything that deviates from that is considered evil. Sluts should be imprisoned especially the ones who wear false eyelashes. So, get rid of those seductive magazines such as Mademoiselle and Vogue! They are forbidden in this absurd society called the Republic of Gilead. Let me reiterate. Sex is a production. Baby making is a production. The Commander is a tool, a wife is a tool, and the handmaid, Offred (protagonist) is a tool for society. Everything about it strips the rights of humanity—the freedom to choose, to express oneself, the free will to desire, and so forth.

Now that I finished the book, I’m glad I have the choice to slip onto a nice black dress, reach out for the red lipstick, and spritz a little perfume if I want to feel sexy. Ironically, I’ve never walked out of the house like that in my entire life. It’s not because I am religious. I am just reserved. For other women though, I am left wondering how much should they express themselves sexually without losing their dignity. Slut is such a derogatory word. More importantly, the book made me wonder why society emphasizes so much control over a woman’s reproductive system and ties it to her value. Is she supposed to be nothing more than a pious, baby-popping machine? That’s just inhumane. There is a difference between being a good mother to a child and being a slave to a system. Let’s not mix politics with sex.


There is a TV Show version on Hulu, but I have not watched the entire thing since I got all the important details from the book. It’s a heavy read and a political one that’s hard to digest for many reasons.