Born A Crime

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This was an awesome, inspirational book. I actually finished it within three days–minus time for other real-life stuff. I haven’t been reading actively regarding books and whatnot in the past few years–mostly due to lack of motivation–but this one kept me interested throughout. Trevor is a talented writer, which showed through and through, considering how he was an active reader and was always thirsty for new knowledge throughout his childhood life and growing up. There were many hardships, but he bravely got past them to tell the tale. This was a wonderfully written memoir and a tearjerker at one point or another. It was also frightening yet so real based on Trevor’s vivid recount of events. Although I had actually purchased and read it during the time that it was released yet I hesitated with doing the review until now. Mostly because of some of the topics covered in the book. I didn’t want to go there and be accused of bringing forth some kind of an agenda, considering how controversial some of the topics were. However, I think that I should push forward anyway since I did book reviews in the past and some of the things I said about other books weren’t all shining either. I will just treat this like any other book review. So, moving on, lol.

What fascinated me from the beginning to the end was Trevor’s storytelling style. He started out with a suspense sequence sort of way to draw in readers. Then reality sort of kicked in when we–as the readers–realized how serious and dangerous it was, and how different real events actually occurred versus what was often witnessed in movies or TV shows. It was also what Trevor mentioned at one point or another. What got me thinking even more was what Trevor learned growing up, either through experiencing all those hardships or it was through his mother’s perspective of things. It made me realized and became more clear on some subject matters. (I’ll clarify in a  bit.)

Trevor’s recounts weren’t just about his childhood or bragging about how he got there (like many autobiographies often do). Instead, he explained and described so vividly how apartheid worked and how it had affected his hometown and the surrounding areas. There were a lot of things that he and the others did that he wasn’t proud of, but he told the story anyway, stressing that it was how they had to survive. It was indeed easy to look in from the outside and criticize, but there were many things they had to do to survive. Also, Trevor’s explanation and recounts allowed me to think even more about the apartheid system that was implemented elsewhere, even if no one said that out loud. It had always existed.

I think I can say that I like the majority of the stories mentioned in here, from his brave mother to the different trials he had been through. Yet I could say these are my favorite parts–because it got me thinking a lot:

  • When Trevor found out they could have left the country like many others had tried through different channels and connections. So he went home to confront his mother and her answer was brief yet meant so much, “This is my country. Why should I leave?” So short, but it got me thinking even more. Oftentimes, people fled their home country, finding hope elsewhere and steering away from all the chaos. That seemed like the norm, but what Trevor’s mom chose seemed obvious but often overlooked. What I meant was how just because their homeland was invaded didn’t mean they would back down and run away too. It was her firm belief in staying that made her different. Sure, it was really dangerous at that time, but she chose to stay. Not saying those who chose to leave did anything wrong since it was their way of protecting their families, but this was another perspective often overlooked. Possibly the whole flight or fight thing, but mostly this case, it was just staying and living like usual–even though the environment surrounding them was really chaotic.
  • Just because you fight among yourselves doesn’t give others the right to jump in. NOT exactly like this but I forgot to bookmark the passages so I’m relying on memory. But the point was how different groups within the country were already fighting. However, that didn’t mean it gives others the right to come in and conquer them and make things worse. Or like take their lands and throw them into different categories as see fit (to their agenda).
  • It’s easy to judge when you’re on the outside. Again, not an exact quote but something along that line. At one point, Trevor explained how he was trying to make money and try to survive with a few of his friends (or business partners). He also mentioned how bad he felt when he met some of the musicians later in his life (for what he did). Yet he didn’t hide the exact details either. He described all the events going on. But made a great point that it was too easy to look from the outside in and judge their actions. It was a way to survive for them. There wasn’t time to stand around and have this “high and mighty” righteous debate. They were looking for any way to survive. I mentioned this above, I know, and it sounds repetitive but I just want to place it here too.

After reading this book, it actually made me like Trevor even more and understand where he was coming from each time he talked about a certain topic on his show–whether one would agree with him or not. I think he had the right to say it (even if people kept pushing the whole idea of him just being a propaganda machine or whatever), considering how he was there during one of the worst moments in history–whether people remember it or not.

The “Nice” Guy Mentality

I just stumbled upon this piece last night when I was struggling to sleep. (Toothache, don’t ask.) Anyway, I realized there were many times that I paused and wanted to jump up and down (if I could) to say, “Exactly!” Although the majority of my blog seems to be dedicated to the entertainment world than real literature or more meaningful topics, but through all of that, I actually mentioned this from time to time (either in reviews or other random discussions). It doesn’t matter if it’s in literature or in movies or TV series. What frustrates me to no end is the “nice” guy being shoved toward the heroine all the time–because of how many things he’d done for her and never gave up on her. It was never about her. It was always about the “nice” guy. As if it wasn’t worse enough that the characters in the story forced the heroine into choosing that “nice” guy, the readers or other times viewers (if it was a movie or TV series) often sided with the “nice” guy, calling out the female protagonist to be the monster, ungrateful, blind idiot (you get the gist) for not choosing the “nice” guy. Oftentimes, I would side with the main guy and perhaps that was why it had weakened my point in the argument. But Maddie Rodriguez had pointed out that she wasn’t siding with anyone and this was just the case of arguing against the “nice” guy. Speaking of “ungrateful”, I think Maddie nailed it (and I actually mentioned it at various points on my blog too) when she mentioned the exchange between Jo and Laurie regarding to how she had to accept him/marry him just because of gratitude. By that concept, we might as well marry all people who are rescuers instead of focusing on feelings. Well, people do marry for all sorts of reasons–whether in the end it will eat them inside or not, but seriously?

I read somewhere long ago that Louisa May Alcott actually wrote the first version as letting Jo be with Laurie in the end, but it was turned down so she changed it. But I can’t find that article anymore so I can’t verify sources. Looking back, I have to agree with Maddie that it would be too much to have Jo and Laurie end up together–regardless of who she actually ended up with later.

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

(image credit: snapped by DTLCT)

I have to say that this was one of my least favorite books of his. That was saying it lightly because it was filled with disappointment from the start. Not just because it seemed typical and too unbelievable, but I always came into his book full of hope and often left with just that. His books were always reassuring and a place for me to fall back on because they never forced one to believe. This one went against all of that and implied that it was okay to be manipulated. Then the whole thing with only believing will gain you the access to Heaven. Or the so-called concept of Heaven. I’m sooooo sorry if I stepped on a lot of feet, but I felt the true victim of the story stayed that way, which was Sully. If it wasn’t for the old man who tried to play God from the start, Sully wouldn’t end up in that mess. Then at the end when he had the accident and ended up becoming a believer, it was also that manipulative old man’s fault since if it wasn’t for the web of lies he created, the place wouldn’t end up in such chaos, so many people, nowhere to go any way you turned, causing so much traffic congestion thus Sully ended up in another mess. The whole guilt trip thing didn’t help either, considering how Sully didn’t want to affect his kid. So yes, sorry once again for taking it out of the worse, but from all the lot that participated in the madness, aside from Sully, I only liked Tess and Jack. I felt they were real in the way they reacted. Although I had no problem with some of the other characters, such as Elias Rowe, I felt he also got railed into the whole guilt trip hence having to take on the burden. Because seriously? People got fired every single day, then it was this guy’s fault that he had to take on such deeds? Well, he did promise Pastor Warren so he couldn’t back down. Talking about Pastor Warren, he was probably my favorite character in here (and he didn’t participate in the whole madness willingly). Why? He was the only one keeping his faith right from the beginning but wasn’t blind to it. He stayed real and kept it consistent throughout, not wanting to take advantage of getting some fame or wanting any type of attention from it. What surprised Sully at one point was that Pastor Warren actually agreed with him, and Pastor Warren even stating that there was some sort of unnatural feeling to all of that. Yes, considering how it was manipulated. I think Doreen’s reaction captured the moment perfectly during the part where she finally had enough and ended up disconnecting her phone, just wanting peace. She felt glad at first and happy even to hear her son’s voice again, but she soon realized it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t like he was coming back to her. It wasn’t like she could hold him in her arms again.

The other thing that made me want to roll my eyes even more was the whole madness with Katherine Yellin. I understood and sympathized with her and how her sister had died–as I did with the majority of the ones who got the calls in here. What I didn’t like wasn’t her wanting to prove that Heaven existed and her sister called her, but it was the fact that she was upset when she found out Tess was actually the first one to receive the call. Wow, really? Considering how she was a believer, I thought she would be more kind and accepting, and wouldn’t be so egotistical to think that she was the chosen one. Then there was Father Carroll–who was more than happy when he learned the first call from Heaven was actually from a member of his church. The so-called people of the church didn’t care for Tess or her mother at all, especially what her mother had gone through in the past YET now wanting to claim credit that their church had the first calling? Really? I totally understand why Tess finally came out with it, because her mother would want her to–and she felt she owe it to her mother. However, did it matter where it occurred or who got the call first? Did it matter that much? That was why I liked Pastor Warren the most, and how he reacted to the whole situation. The exchange between him and Elias Rowe was probably the best lines from the book–with Elias asking, “Does this prove what we believe?” and Pastor Warren responded, “If you believe it, you don’t need proof.” And then Pastor Warren died alone that night. The man had served the community and honored God for so long yet his ending was that? Yes, I’m seriously petty for thinking he minded because his purpose was only to spread the words, not bask in fame. But I felt that was just too sad and tragic. So his mourning wasn’t accepted by me because it felt like they threw it in the last minute, after having chased after all of the other illusions.

What was that with the old man justifying his actions by stating that each and every one of the so-called “chosen ones” all wanted to hear from their loved ones again? Seriously? He was a coward to not step out and prevent Sully from being imprisoned in the first place. (Even if he already destroyed the evidence and couldn’t make others believe him YET at least step out. Staying silent like that and causing a man to be wrongly accused and losing his freedom. Sully was already in it for the alcohol level thing. He didn’t need another major event crashing down on him too.) He was the one who caused all of this and then went and died alone, not brave enough to face Sully. Instead, he uttered some vague words to Sully when Sully showed up to confront him. Then there was the whole letter. Seriously? That was one of the reasons why I didn’t care for it. Not even an ounce of sympathy on my side. I don’t care if I missed the point either. I don’t like manipulations.

The last point I want to make had to do with Tess and Jack. I liked it that they ended up together and had a new start. However, I didn’t like how it was implied that because of this so-called miracle that they found someone to replace the ones whom they lost. Seriously? Everyone’s IRREPLACEABLE, you can’t replace someone regardless of the reason. I liked that they found each, that was it. It was like saying it was all right that all of someone’s family members died, maybe another family will come along to replace that one. REALLY? Yes, I couldn’t let that one go either. Not saying they should always live in the past. Eventually, everyone should move on, because there are many things in life to live for. But it doesn’t mean anyone or anything could replace someone important in one’s life.

To me, faith isn’t forced. It’s supposed to be a choice, something peaceful that should bring hope to you, not a reason to fight over. So no, I don’t agree with all the protesters causing trouble either, but I just don’t agree with the whole shoving things down people’s throats either.

After all that was said in this post (and probably just a bunch of “blah blah blah” to others), I still think Mitch Albom is an excellent writer. It was just that the theme was a major miss for me. And opinions are different, obviously, so you might have a different perspective regarding it than me. Be your own judge and find out for yourselves.

The Martian (Novel)

I actually listened to it on Audible versus actual reading. But it should be the same book, lol. Anyway, I must admit, I didn’t expect much going into the book. But I felt it was nicely done. Although some of the languages used were kind of colorful for my taste, I had to get past that to focus on the story. (Yeah, I understand it would be more realistic but I just don’t like that. It’s just me.) Watney had a great sense of humor. His accounts were what I enjoyed the most, not all of the other side characters–although I did enjoy some of their conversations.

What got me into stopping with my listening and went hunting for spoilers was when cannibalism came into play. Well, it never happened, but it was chillingly disturbing. Johansen’s conversation with her father was enough to create the intensity of the situation. Only Martinez was able to joke about it afterward (like the part they already succeeded in doing the most difficult part and knew the option was no longer viable). I guess because of Watney’s accounts and humor that fueled most of the story, it didn’t occur to me that they were going toward that route, even though it was possible, considering the situation they were in. It just reminded me of those real-life incidents where those things actually occurred so that sort of freaked me out a bit.

What topped all of Watney’s wackiness was suggesting the Iron Man plan. That was seriously cracking me up. Lewis was asking the other crew members where Watney got all his ideas from. It was a riot. Despite intense situations, Watney managed to dissipate the tense atmosphere with his humor. I almost thought they were going to go with his plan yet Lewis had thwarted his plan, which made sense with Lewis being the commander and always thought of her crew’s safety first. All in all, a very interesting story that kept you sitting on the edge until the end.

All in all, I totally recommend this book–whether you deceive to read it for yourself via text versions or the audio version like I had. It was a really fun and enjoyable read throughout.

Full Moon Curved Sabre – Prologue

Full Moon

There’s full moon and there’s half-moon, the story we want to tell here is about full moon, because the story happened on a night of the full moon. The moon’s beauty that night differs from a normal night, a mystifying beauty, a desolate beauty, a beauty that caused one to be moved by it. The story we want to tell here is also like so, full of attractiveness, full of imaginativeness, full of mystic and beauty, just like an old fairytale. It is said that during each full moon, there would be a set of faeries appearing to accompany the moon: faeries of flowers and trees, faeries of jades and stones, even including lake demons and phantoms from the ground…will also appear, facing the full moon and sucking its quintessence. Sometimes they will turn into human-beings, using multiple faces to appear in the world, doing all the things that people wouldn’t expect of them. The things they’ve done, sometimes shock them, sometimes touch them, sometimes scare them, sometimes cheer them up, and sometimes it’s unimaginative to them. They could save a person from the pit of a high cliff, and could also push a person down a high cliff into a pit. They could help a person acquire fame and wealth, and they could also cause a person to lose everything within possession. Though no one has ever seen their true faces, no one has ever disregarded their existence either.

Crescent Saber

There are straight sabers and there are curved sabers, the story we want to tell here is about a curved saber, curved like Qing Qing’s eyebrows. That curved saber originally belonged to Qing Qing, Qing Qing was the name of a girl who was as mysterious and beautiful as the full moon that night. Saber was a weapon for killing people. Qing Qing’s crescent saber was also like that. It only took a flash of the blade’s crescent glare, for catastrophe to descend. Regardless of persons, no one will be able to escape from that catastrophe, because no one had ever been able to escape from the glare of that crescent saber. The saber’s glare wasn’t that fast, it was just like how you were able to see the moonlight, but just when you were able to see it, the saber had already descended onto you. There was only one moon in the sky, and there was only one crescent saber on the ground. When that blade appeared in this world, it did not necessarily bring forth catastrophe. There were times that it would bring mankind righteousness and luck. This time it appeared in the world, what will it bring toward mankind? No one knows. Qing Qing’s saber consisted of the color green, green like the distance mountain, green like the colors of spring trees, green like the lake water in a pair of lover’s eyes. On Qing Qing’s crescent saber, there existed a set of small words: “listening to the spring rain at a small resort for a night” (小楼一夜听春雨).

Translated: Sunday, November 18th, 2012 – Monday, November 19th, 2012

NOTE: For future chapters, go here or select the ‘Full Moon Curved Sabre’ link in the Categories section under “Literature” or by clicking on the navigation menu under ‘Translations’ (IF you miss an update or more).