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The Eye Opener – Indrajit Garai

In this collection, meet:
Franck, who has to align his desires with his needs; Nathan, who has to adjust to his constantly changing turf; and, Cedric, who has to open his eyes to reconstruct himself.

After reading volume one of Indrajit Garai’s short stories entitled Sacrifices – which I enjoyed a lot –  volume two was much-anticipated by this reader.  It was a pleasant surprise then, to recently find an email sat in my inbox, offering the second book up for review.

In this round of stories, there is a more international feel, instead of focusing solely on France. The demanding circumstances and struggles of the characters remain the same, however and retain the emotional impact of everyday struggles and problems.  All walks of life depicted here, meaning plenty of variety in the works on offer.

Garai’s strength lie in humanising his characters, making the reader feel invested in the characters, sympathising with their trials and the things they do in order to survive; allowing us to examine ourselves through the protagonists.  The important things in life can be so often forgotten, as these stories show so without spoiling anything I will succinctly give a brief outline of each story.

The Alignment takes the odious subject of hoarded riches and how it is moved around to the detriment of the workers who need the security. As well as the perception of social status regarding money and the people who have it. The sheer waste of money is highlighted along with legal but morally shady big business practises used everyday.   Also there is the persona aspect of how easy it is to blinded by the gaining of wealth, instead of caring for those around us; which is the true richness of life.

The second story, The Changing Turf, is about contact with a different culture, the contrasts and fitting in.  This story didn’t entirely convince me, although I sympathised with Nathan, I didn’t really like his character, he became a little annoying in some of his ways after a time.  The ending a little obvious to me as well, and I felt this to be the weakest story of both of Garai’s books to date. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 22/01/2018 in Fiction

 

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Black Sheep – Susan Hill

Brother and sister, Ted and Rose Howker, grew up in Mount of Zeal, a mining village blackened by coal. They know nothing of the outside world, though both of them yearn for escape. For Rose this comes in the form of love, while Ted seizes the chance of a job away from the pit. But neither can truly break free and their decisions bring with them brutal consequences…

dispensing with the normal ghost story – always atmospherically written by Hill –  which has become a bit of a tradition for me around the holiday season, this year I chose this short story instead to mix it up a bit.  Whilst not being conducive to Christmas cheer in any way whatsoever, it was a very rewarding read.

As the front cover says this is a bleak piece of writing and I can imagine that a lot of people may well be put off by that, however I really appreciated it for its unflinching portrayal of a tough and cheerless life.  The story is told in few words and as such the shortness of the book helps the reader through, as being under 150 pages long/short means the story is manageable over a brief period and doesn’t drag the reader into too much despair.

The miners and their families are easily recognisable, they could have come from other iconic works.  The citizens of the community resemble less extreme versions of those found in Zola’s Germinal or Dickens’ Hard Times for example. It does feel almost clichéd in that respect Hill writes on the side of accuracy as memorably depicted by plenty of authors and social commentors such as George Orwell’s insightful and agonising The Road to Wigan Pier.

As well written as it is, sometimes this is a tough read but I found it a book I could read quickly and more importantly wanted to read in a couple of sessions.  The strengths of the book lie in the simple yet descriptive writing, which contains many interesting and well-rounded characters and their struggles with their severe reality, of life and loss. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 19/01/2018 in Fiction

 

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Starting Again

I have returned after a long journey and internet connection problems and it is great to finally make it onto the blog in another continent.  Hunting out photos for this post from Crissy’s Facebook, it came to mind that there is still a post or two that needs chronicling from my last trip out here, namely a beautiful place called Batanes so here is a teaser photo for what is to come in the future.

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Getting back to this time though and within a week and a half the first cold of the year had already found its way to me, not bad for a country with weather that resembles a pleasant Summer’s day most of the time. After plenty of wedding planning – the busy nature of which meant that I didn’t get any jet lag whatsoever (which is a pleasant surprise) – I’ve also been catching up with the fam bam over some wonderful meals as well.

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In the dark time of no internet service, I have been reading plenty of books (twice in the offices of Philippine Airlines) and also have two more on the laptop from authors regular readers will be familiar with, namely Indrajit Garai and Nicholas Conley.  Lots is happening and this is going to be an exciting year so a belated happy new year to you all, may you all have an exceedingly good year.

 
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Posted by on 17/01/2018 in Blogging, The Philippines, Travel

 

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Cold Flames

For those of you who are curious about my fiancée, here is Crissy’s debut blog post!

Lost in invisible cities

My journey to Mount Pulag – also known as theplayground of the godswas very enthralling! Climbing Luzon’s highest peak and the third highest in the Philippines at 2,922 MASL was extraordinary butclimbing it with ‘the one’ – priceless!

Mt. Pulag's TrailMount Pulag’s trailborders between the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya meet at the mountain’s peak

Long before my fiancè, Steve arrived in the Philippines from United Kingdom, we already set the date for this climb, my twenty-fifth mountain and his first. Ever since I started climbing in 2014, I promised myself to climb this mountain with the one and now ready to share it as my first blog post because we already announced our engagement, I didn’t want to jinx it.

20621758_10210618016192997_661327754123170671_nEnjoying in the playground of the gods with the man I am going marry

Almost every Filipino mountaineer has listed this mountain in their bucket list…

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Posted by on 23/12/2017 in The Philippines, Travel

 

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A Serious Conversation

Apologies for the length of this blog post but I have been having an interesting conversation over at  https://gigisrantsandraves.wordpress.com/2017/12/19/okay-so-235/ which is still going on.  I have copy and pasted the chat so far and would be interested to hear your thoughts on it and gratefully welcome any corrections to things wrongly stated if you see any.  Advanced apologies if I put some of my phrases indelicately at the time of writing although I did my best to be sensitive when approaching my points.  The reasoning of each point and direction of the conversation is of particular interest.

The original post that I read was this:

My friend told me that she was watching TV and someone said they aren’t going to hire women any longer because then they won’t have any sexual harassment issues.

So once again women will be punished for the behavior of men and as always, men will not be expected to change their own behavior. I’m so bloody sick of this garbage.

It was the comment below that intrigued me enough to comment and set me off on reading a lot of websites and informing myself.

… I’m surprised they haven’t banned women from colleges so that the GIGANTIC raping of co-ed will end. They the boys can just rape not college females. Really, I am so angry.

  • It’s been on the cover of Newsweek and other magazines. They are somewhere on my blog. Pictures of women carrying mattress through the campus to get the school’s attention. It’s an EPIDEMIC. Gang rapes, as well. Investigations are taking place but I have seen absolutely NOTHING about any findings or punishments. Also, some schools were not informing women of their rights after rape took place. Most still don’t report them. Google articles on it. You should find a lot of them.

    I found the 1 in 5 women get raped in college, statistic but the authors have distanced themselves from the survey and that conclusion which the press attributed to the findings. The survey itself is certainly floored in its questions. The Bureau of Justice Statistics puts it at 1 in 52.6 women which is still a frightening number but when coupled with data that women are safer in college than those of the same age who didn’t go.

    And that U.S. rapes are also apparently going down. I can’t speak to if those stats are up-to-date as I only found date up until 2016 and of course it depends on how many were not reported as well. I think the word epidemic is a bit of a strong and perhaps misleading word to use here.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending any person who commits such crimes, I abhor any man or woman who commits any assault, sexual or otherwise and we shouldn’t sweep any of that under the rug. My position is that we need accuracy and evidence to prove the point.

    Statistics – used correctly – should be brought forward and there should be investigations and more research done into this. The statistics have to be accurate and fact checked, otherwise it becomes just another SJW crusade that uses feelings, usually in place (or just instead of) of facts to elicit a response and this then marginalises their position somewhat and that for me is the great tragedy.

    The Factual Feminist has done some interesting videos on this subject actually debunking the whole idea of ‘rape culture in colleges’ in favour of a ‘gender propaganda culture’ and the importance of due process in all such assault cases including the ones where women have admitted after the fact that they lied about being assaulted, which is another important and marginalised conversation that we need to have as a society.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22/12/2017 in Blogging, Life

 

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Continental Shift

After a fairly long time of teasing not to mention a severe lack of blogging, I can finally reveal that I am off to live in The Philippines with Crissy in January and from there, getting married at the end of the said month. It’s all very exciting and to mirror our relationship – crazy and exhilarating, which pleases me no end!

Books and Crissy, a delightful combination!

@

I have all my documents ready and am clearing out the last of my things this week(ish) because Christmas is too quiet without doing something seismic to keep it interesting.  It’s naturally an exciting and stressful time as I look towards the move to a new culture, adventures and a severe tan but will be keeping you all involved and am writing as much as I can in the meantime.

With the good comes the emotional wrench of having to say farewell to a good many people and of course the books I accumulated over the years but I shall be carrying over as many as I can.  As to where that leaves the book review side of the blog, I am hoping to find a library as well as rereading the books that I haven’t yet reviewed from my own small collection.  Approaching them again with a more critical eye will make for an interesting blog post in itself no doubt.

I don’t think I could go through the trauma of collecting books again, to then possibly lose them in another move should we wish to move countries in the future but I will keep my book posts flowing as much as possible amidst all the other things I claim to have planned but will probably just wing it as usual and see what takes my fancy words wise.  The above café we found will probably be a popular haunt for us I suspect because it turns out that books on a ceiling are ridiculously fascinating.

 
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Posted by on 18/12/2017 in Blogging, Life, The Philippines, Travel

 

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The Luzhin Defense – Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov’s third novel, The Defense, is a chilling story of obsession and madness. As a young boy, Luzhin was unattractive, distracted, withdrawn, sullen–an enigma to his parents and an object of ridicule to his classmates. He takes up chess as a refuge from the anxiety of his everyday life. His talent is prodigious and he rises to the rank of grandmaster–but at a cost: in Luzhin’s obsessive mind, the game of chess gradually supplants the world of reality. His own world falls apart during a crucial championship match, when the intricate defense he has devised withers under his opponent’s unexpected and unpredictable lines of assault.

You would have thought he’d opt for a winnin’ defence!  Now that bad, not to mention obvious and cringeworthy joke is out of the way, I’ll leave the comedy and your tolerance in peace.

This being one of Nabakov’s earlier works, there are hints of the writer he would later become; with some wonderful prose in places, that demands the reader savour such lines appreciatively.

Like Stefan Zweig’s Chess, The Luzhin Defense is a fascinating leap into the mind (and abstract genius) of a grandmaster, with its sad but gripping descent into madness.  In this case we see the beginnings in his formative years, a lonely, tortured child unable to integrate with his peers and family who comes across the game and becomes seduced by the simplicity and more importantly the complexity of the it.

Luzhin is a closed, provocative character and very hard to like to begin with, although I softened up to him quickly, he is exhausting, uncommunicative, both annoying and likeable, and absurd.  Without this earlier connect to his childhood I probably would have become frustrated with the direction of the man over time and certainly a lot less sympathetic to him. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 14/12/2017 in Fiction

 

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