Category Archives: Books

Montmartre, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris and The Mortal Instruments

Left on an early morning train, just because train tickets were the cheapest, and off we were to our last stop in France – Paris.

Train station at Saint Malo

Since we were staying in Montmartre, we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the area slowly and of course, check out the famed Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris.

Where the artists gather in the public square of Montmartre. I have to say, some of these artists are really good!

Montmartre Square, Paris, France

Always impressed with people who play the harp.

Harpist outside Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, Paris, France

Absolutely loved how this photo turned out, the power of sunlight. I do not deny the beauty and grandeur of Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. However, it is kinda hard to appreciate it when I could only shuffle around the church with a horde of other tourists (like myself).

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, Paris, France

The view of Paris from the highest point in Montmartre.

View of Paris from the top of Montmartre, France

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, Paris, France

On a random note, I’m not sure what is it that attracts me to The Mortal Instruments. In fact, I tried reading one of the books awhile ago and actually did not bother to finish it. Unexpectedly, I really did enjoy the movie and completed all four books after.

I do wish it had ended at book three. While the story of Lilith was interesting, I absolutely hated how the fourth book ended and got a little tired of the endless suffering in the “love story” between Jace and Clary. Plus the story somehow feels a tad unoriginal, like a mixture of Harry Potter’s world, Twilight’s love story and the science of Doctor Who.

While no book can match what J K Rowling had written, I thought that The Mortal Instruments was a pretty good read. At least, I found myself lost in another world while reading. That is my definition of a good book.

Not exactly proud that I like teen fiction, but I do have a thing for alternate realities. 😛

Day 11 of my 30 days challenge.

Half the Sky

Some people read about the plight of others and are immediately inspired to change the world. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t.

I do not feel particularly upset nor outrage at what is happening. Mostly cause I don’t understand and I do admit that I don’t. That and the fact that I don’t know myself what I can do to make a difference.

There are so many causes ongoing currently, maternal health, education in undeveloped countries, marine life conservation, environmental conservation, trafficking and so on. Is each less important than the other? No.

I’m inspired and encouraged by modern day heroes and their good deeds but more often than not, I’m disheartened simply by the little acts occurring on a daily basis. Some would say, before thinking of helping others far off, look around you and first help the people around you. I say, while thinking of helping others far off, also act on helping around you. Start simply be smiling, little acts of kindness. Nothing too demanding. Absolutely doable.

How is this linked to saving the world? It is a vicious cycle isn’t it? Unhappiness, stress, mental instability and ultimately extreme cases that affects people in the community. Shooting incidents, murders and what not. Being entirely optimistic, I do think that these incidents could have been prevented if the offenders were happier in life and felt loved.

Yes it could be mental instability. How do you think mental instability comes about?

However insignificant, let us just do what little we can in making our community a better place to live in.

Back to the title of the post, I really do like how Half the Sky was written. What I liked most was how they ended by sharing with readers what they can do to play their part. Always good to know more about what is happening around the world.

Traveling through words

Just completed my third book on North Korea, The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan. Similar to The Road of Lost Innocence, Kang Chol-Hwan gives a first hand account of his experience in North Korea as a child, having lived in a camp for 10 years and after, his escape through China to South Korea. It is really more of an informative read rather than a compelling one. I did like the short introduction on how the situation in North Korea came to be at the beginning of the book.

My second read on North Korea was Somewhere Inside, by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling. A journalist who was arrested at the borders of North Korea, on China’s ground and her sister’s fight for her freedom. Brings about a whole new perspective to journalists and the increasing journalist arrests in recent years. Though the book wasn’t exactly about life in North Korea per say.

The first and by far the best, is still, Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick which was very well written, both informative and compelling. If you’re looking for a light read to widen your knowledge on North Korea, Nothing to Envy would be a great book to start with. Though I might be slightly biased towards it since it was the first book on North Korea that I’ve read and thus everything was new and interesting to me. Still, awesome read.

Pretty curious whats gonna happen North Korea now. Either way, its not gonna be pretty, at least in the short term.

That said, after 3 books on North Korea, its time for me to move on.

Like what the bf says, its like traveling through words. A different form of traveling. Next destination, Heaven. Heaven is for Real.

With the help of Goodreads, I’ve set a target to complete 100 books in 2012. 1 down and 99 to go. =D

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam

Through Nick Kristof’s twitter and his blog, I got to know about Somaly Mam and the organization (AFESIP) she had started up which eventually led me to read her book, The Road of Lost Innocence: As a girl she was sold into sexual slavery, but now she rescues others. The true story of a Cambodian heroine. While the details and numbers were relatively disconcerting, I wasn’t as horrified as I assume I should have been. No, it didn’t break my heart nor did I tear, it was merely information to me. The story of an incredibly brave and strong woman, recounting her nightmarish life to bring awareness to others in the world, like me, whom are very much sheltered from the terrors happening out there. Driven by her own experience to help others who have encountered what she did and to prevent it from happening to others.

I saw many reviews by readers claiming that they could feel her pain and imagine the terror the victims felt when reading. Really? How? Did you compare the sufferings to that of yours in your sheltered world? The anguish of being sold by your parents against your parents refusing to buy you a LV bag? The terror of being abused daily against being cane for mischief? In all honesty, I can’t imagine the depths of what they’ve been through neither can I imagine the look in their eyes as described by Somaly. I understand that it was horrible but I cannot comprehend in the way that only the party involved can. Would you die of the pain you’ve imagined from a shark bite? Not for me. So no, my heart didn’t break when reading, even if it did, it would probably have been shallow based on my own experience of having my heart broken by some minor matters.

And because it is the norm to feel strongly reading about such happenings as majority would, I guess, something is wrong with me since I don’t feel much at all.

Anyway, utmost respect to Somaly for being able to face her past and turn her pain into determination to help others. In my eyes, you have succeeded from the very first girl you had saved.

On a side note, how is that we all came from Adam and Eve, moved on to inhibit different ends of the world and end up with massively varying cultures and behaviors? If we’re influenced by the external environment, by the people surrounding us, how did the world end up with such great discrepancies? Unless we were influenced by the characteristics of animals during the time of Adam and Eve, humans are not born ‘blank’. It appears that certain characteristics are inborn rather than nurtured from our external environment.

Next up, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Such books create awareness and offer a tiny glimpse of the pain and suffering we know not of, out in the huge world we belong to. It also acts as a reminder for us to count our blessings, complain less and live life fully.


The Hunger Games trilogy

The Hunger Games (#1) was pretty interesting. Written in a way that I was so easily absorbed and lost in their world. That I almost missed my stop and took great efforts to put down the book and get on with my daily life.

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2), on its own, wouldn’t really make much sense but still a page turner if you had read #1.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3), awesome.

All three together, absolutely brilliant. If I didn’t get all three books at one go, it is pretty unlikely that I’ll read the second one and then of course the third. The first book set the foundation of the trilogy right, made you glad that she got throught it.The second book, like reality, seeks to tell you that everything is inter linked and not on its own. As life would have it, happy endings do happen, just for that moment, before you realize that there’s more too come. Catching Fire also thickens the plot ensuring that you do read the third. And the third delivered an ending as most would expected but in a riveting way. Again, didn’t quite like the endings. There’s just something about endings that bug me.

I had initially expected each book to tell a story on its own but the three books make up, actually, just one story. Its really more like Harry Potter, The Deathly Hallows being split into 2 movies rather than each telling a story on its own.

Really, worth reading. Our society is very much alike theirs, in a different and more subtle context.

The games are of course barbaric, just like the gladiators whom are being force to kill or be killed for the entertainment of the King in ancient Rome. Have we evolved to become a civilized society like we claim to be? Are we really?

Or are we still barbaric in our ways? Only this time, we put our education to good use and with decorated words, we disguise our barbaric acts and claim to be civilize.

And I should really be doing my French homework now =P

Looking forward to the movie which will be out in March 2012! Okay. Just watched the trailer. I think I like it better in my head, but still, am gonna watch the movie when its out! =D

“If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me”

And we wonder why

Question: If evolution is real, why are there still monkeys?

Answer: If Australians/Americans came from Europe, why are there still Europeans?

Well said. Though not the answer.

Truly inspired by Steve Jobs in so many ways.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Kudos to Walter Issacson for writing such an awesome biography and for not portraying Steve as a saint.

And to Steve Jobs for allowing the truth to be told.

Then again, the truth being subjective.

Knowing he was imperfect made me look up to him even more. Both books changed my perspective of the behavior of our society, Steve Jobs and Atlas Shrugged.

Education has it’s way of molding us to the society’s standards. Standards set by whom? We think rationally instead of following our intuition. Yet whose rationales are we following. Sympathizing with the weak while penalizing the strong. Condoning the guilty and sacrificing the innocent. All in the name of the greater good and public welfare. For whose sake really?

All it has achieved is mediocrity across societies. Where it is against the norm to excel. Where rules & regulations, morals and values are placed to hinder and obstruct excellence. Where an act of goodness penalizes oneself such that people think twice about lending a helping hand. We’ve created such a self centered and mediocre society stewing in our own filth.

And we wonder why..

Law of physics

“Still, the laws of physics hold that energy is not destroyed. All the power used by the construction workers to lift steel, pour concrete, hammer nails had been banked in the buildings as potential energy for 3 decades, just as a sled at the top of a hill stores the verve of the child who tugged it up there…”

Reminded me of FMA and Atlas Shrugged. Interesting. This world and it’s laws. Need to read up more on half life though.

Currently reading 102 Minutes. 10 years later, but never too late to know the truth. Sadly when catastrophes occur, we wake up for that moment, we investigate, we blame, we mourn and then we forget. Such is human nature. We’ve paid so much for these lessons and yet we never learn.

On the other hand, it’s really heart warming reading accounts of people who could have evacuated immediately yet went the extra mile to help others. There’s hope for humanity.

How would it have been?

Somehow, when I get mad, looking at the blue photos makes me happier a little.

Becoming increasingly impatient and short tempered recently. I mean I’ve been that way all along but it seems to be getting worse. I don’t get how irresponsible some people can get, how stupid they behave or how dense they are. Its like, I’m frustrated enough dealing with incompetent idiots at work and now, my friends? Why can’t people just do what is required when it doesn’t even take a lot of effort? I’m pretty sure everyone has encountered some sort of frustration at work and knowing how much it sucks, why do you still to the same to another?!

I truly don’t get it.

“In reality, our beliefs seem so obvious to us that we’re often amazed that others can see things so differently”

Note to self: Do not be one of those. Learn to manage my anger.

That aside, completed reading Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick. Its a really interesting read. It amazes me how North Korea can be so different from what, almost, the rest of the world is today and I really wish there is more information about North Korea on the internet.

Was asked if I hated the ruler, well I don’t. It is just another way of ruling, another strategy and another practice (Weird how I can accept this difference, yet not the daily differences around me daily). Things did seem to be better initially, the people there seemed pretty satisfied, but the world moved on as they remain stagnant. Somehow, that caused much of the suffering of today. Should China and Russia remained as communist countries, they would probably have gotten on a little better. That said, if America were to have taken a communism stand, things would be greatly different.

Doesn’t democracy have its cons as well? Before China and Russia moved away from communism, weren’t the people in North Korea happy? Weren’t they happy before they had knowledge of the outside world? Could it be that we’re only focusing on the negativity in North Korea? Could there be another side we know not of?

I remember telling a friend that I felt sad for the kids in Yunnan, cause they did not have the comforts of the modern world that we had and she told me not to, cause they were happy in their own ways, not wanting from the lack of knowledge of the world outside.

So then, are we feeling sorry for the North Koreans by comparing our level of comfort to theirs? And how is this comparison accurate?

How did living become so complicated? If humans could survive living in caves and hunting for food, why are we stuck in concrete jungles, working more than 1/3 of each weekday and living the rat race?

The root to all evil isn’t money. Its knowledge.

I’ve drifted.

Whoa. Really pretty photo I got off Wiki of a crater lake at Tianchi, border of China and North Korea.


books to read.

The best presents I’ve received, yet left unread.

Every single time I walk into a bookstore, I’ll either leave with a new book or a new title (and later in the night, a new pdf =X). Made a pact with LF that I’ll not buy another book until I finish the dry-est book, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits.

So here’s my outstanding list so far, the ones above and the ones in my Kindle:

1) 2 issues of Reader’s Digest

2) Dead Souls – Nikolai Gogol

3) Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

4) Shades of Grey – Jasper Ford

5) The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson

6) Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson

7) Nothing to Envy – Barbara Demick

8) Atlas Shrugged – Dave Sandoval

9) The name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

10) Port Mortuary – Patricia Cornwell

11) The 7th Victim – Alan Jacobson

And so without further ado, I’m off to read, not the dry book though.


The reason no man knows, let it suffice.

What we behold is censured by our eyes.

Where both deliberate, the love is slight.

Who has loved that loved not at first sight.

– Christopher Marlowe