Tag Archives: Fiction

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Not that it makes much of a difference, but I have to read a lot of books this semester for school. Some of them pulls me right in like a vacuum, while others, unfortunately, I have not much of an interest in reading.

Anyway, my favourite out of all the books that I am studying right now would have to be George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. This books is kind of like a continuation of his Animal Farm. It describes a totalitarian dystopia ruled by a figure by the name of Big Brother.

There are many things that can be said about this book, but the most important thing is this: Nineteen Eighty-Four is not supposed to be an instruction manual!

What struck me the most is the manipulation of language. In the book the government makes each edition of the dictionary shorter and shorter in order to prevent its citizens from expressing themselves. I don’t see how this is any different from the world we live in today. According to Dictionary.com, “…scientists discovered that in the past 40 years more words have died than during any other period in their data (from 1800 – 2008). At the same time, fewer words are being successfully introduced into the language.”

And what kind of words are we introducing into the language? Words like LOL. Like what does words like LOL even mean? Type something on chat, press enter and the other end will respond with a LOL like an automatic machine. Or the word WOW. This is a word for when you don’t know what to say. Yet these are the words that are being used more and more.

So dear readers, let us never stop reading, because the day when we stop reading will be the day when we start to lose the ability to express ourselves. It will be the day when we will be manipulated and exploited without even being aware of it. The ability to use and understand language is so important. And no, merely knowing words like LOL and WOW does not count.

A Christmas Dinner by Charles Dickens

I love this story! It’s what Christmas spirit is all about! And HoHoHo!!! Today’s Christmas!!! May this Christmas bring peace and joy to all! <33 Read the story here. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude is about the seven generations of the  Buendía family, who lives in a town called Macondo. After reading this book, I have learned one thing: Knowing a story, and understanding a story, are two different things. I know the story, I know what happened, yet I cannot fully understand many of the messages that Márquez is trying to convey.

I cannot make little goldfishes. I cannot kill 3000 people. But I have passions in life just like the characters in the book. Would I eventually end up with nothing but solitude? Would other people read my sincerity as self-flattery? Perhaps one day when I actually experience the kind of solitude in the book, I’ll can better understand and relate to it.

By the way, the names in the novel are very confusing, which I had no intention to sort out.

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Hello! Hope everyone is having a stress-free holiday season and is enjoying all the winter fun! I’ve been in the mood for reading short stories lately, so I read 3 short story books this week. 😀 I’ll post one short story that I particularly liked from each book over the course of the next few days.  The story I am posting right now is called “The Tell-Tale Heart” and it’s written by Edgar Allan Poe. I read it in a book called The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings.

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TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees –very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded –with what caution –with what foresight –with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it –oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly –very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously –cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights –every night just at midnight –but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers –of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back –but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out –“Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; –just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief –oh, no! –it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself –“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney –it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel –although he neither saw nor heard –to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little –a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it –you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily –until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open –wide, wide open –and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness –all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? –now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! –do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me –the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once –once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eve would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye –not even his –could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out –no stain of any kind –no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all –ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock –still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, –for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, –for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search –search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: –It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness –until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; –but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased –and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound –much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath –and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly –more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men –but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed –I raved –I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder –louder –louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! –no, no! They heard! –they suspected! –they knew! –they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Animal Farm by George Orwell


Animal Farm
is like the barnyard version of the Russian Revolution. As the animals in Manor Farm (later renamed as Animal Farm) became more and more aware of the fact that they were capable of so much more than working like slaves for the Jones family, they started a revolution and chased the humans off of the farm. However, it soon became a revolution gone wrong as some animals became more equal than others.

The reason why Animal Farm is such a success because it focuses around animals, instead of human beings. And the characterization of these animals remind me of little children. They had a good intention at first, but somehow it turned into a society full of violence and tyranny. I believe that the basis for this is the inability of the commoners to determine truth, because most of the animals can’t read. Thus, Orwell is suggesting here than in any society where the commoners have no control over communication & media will bound to be controlled by those in power, because reality then becomes subjective concept and can be easily manipulated.

This book only took me three hours to read, but it was three hours well spent. I recommend this book to everyone who haven’t read it yet because the lessons in this book are worth remembering forever.

“This is a waste of time”


“This is a waste of time” is one of the most unhealthy mentalities I’ve heard. What’s worse is that there are people around me who say this almost all the time. They say they are not going to waste time from now on. They are going to be productive all the time. Yeah, okay. Good luck with that, because I have yet to see one person who is productive all the time.

Usually when we think of time-wasting activities, we think of activities like playing video games, or watching the television, but it has come to my attention that there are also people who think reading novels is a waste of time. Now that is just sad, which inspired me to rant and ramble about this.

The common trend I see is that if someone sees one thing as a waste of time, he/she will start viewing other things as a waste of time as well:

Playing video games is a waste of time because you are immersed in a virtual world that won’t be of use to you in real life.

Watching the television is a waste of time because it does not help you put food on the table.

Reading novels is a waste of time because how will knowing fake stories ever going to help you pass your exam? (unless you are taking English)

School is a waste of time because by the time you graduate, most of the stuff you learned will be outdated.

Going to the doctors is a waste of time because you are just going to get sick again.

Living is a waste of time because you are just going to die so why bother.

Anything can be a waste of time if you really think about it. But how is anything a waste of time if you enjoy doing it? I think that time spent doing something I like is hardly wasting time at all. Happiness, in my opinion, should be the top priority in life. If you hate your job, you are wasting your time going to work everyday because you probably have very little motivation to do your job well anyways. Listening to a lecture you don’t enjoy is a waste of time because chances are, you aren’t even paying much attention to it.

Then there are times when you have to do something you don’t enjoy because you have no other choice. But instead of seeing them as activities we don’t enjoy, I think that we should see them as activities that will help us enjoy other activities better. For example, if you keep on doing chores, you can do them better and faster, so that you will have more time for activities you like later on.

Studies have shown that video games improve hand-eye co-ordination, watching television can make us become more aware of different things, and reading fiction increases your ability to feel empathy towards others. So if there are two sides to everything, then why always pick the negative side?

I do think there should be a limit though. If an activity starts to take over your desire for self-improvement and goal-setting, then it is not time well spent.

What do you think? Where should the line between wasting time and being productive be drawn?

Take that, Kindle!

I blogged about reading The Stand several weeks ago. To think I would’ve finished it by now, but I am not. I keep on having love affairs with other books while I am reading it. Not that I don’t like The Stand, but it is just so hard for me to not start reading a new book because of its captivating plot. And when I actually start reading another book, I’ll still be in the same situation again where I’ll want to start reading yet another new book. Is anyone in the same boat as me here?

Nevertheless, I actually would want to start reading another lighter book while I am reading books like The Stand though. It’s going to give you some serious arm muscle training if you carry The Stand with you all the time. It has 1168 pages in total and it is the first book I’ve read which is over 1000 pages. Since it is my very first “big book,” it’s very special to me. Here is a side view shot of this beauty:

It is in times like this when I wish I have a Kindle (or any brand of e-reader in general ). I am considering buying it, but since everything is going electronic these days, I think that we need to be reminded of that feeling of holding an actual tangible object in our hands again. This is why I decided to spend last Saturday taking out my old photo albums and looking through them. I have most of my photos on the computer nowadays, but it’s quite a different experience looking through an actual photo album. It gave me that sense of comfort knowing that these photos will always be there forever.

I guess that’s the thing about actually owning the object rather than having it on an electronic device. My point is this: What if one day companies like Amazon shuts down? What will happen to the e-books? If you have the actual book, you know it will always be there and you can go back and reread it whenever you want.

As long as you can read the words, it doesn’t matter if it’s electronic or print, right? Wrong! Real books come in real handy in the most unexpected situations. For instance, I find that The Stand makes a great laptop riser because of its size. It was placed in front of a door to serve as a door stopper one time. It was also used to raise a tripod when I had to take some photos for school. Of course, you can just buy a laptop riser, a door stopper, and a bigger tripod, but I value the fact that when you need something, books will always be around to help you out when you need them.

And where would beautiful art like these be if it weren’t for printed books? These two are my favorite:

So for people who say real books will go extinct: Take that! Kindles may be light and convenient, but it can never replace the true value of a real book!

P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

P.S. I Love You tells a life-affirming story about Holly, whose husband Gerry just passed away. Her life revolved around Gerry. Before she married Gerry, her life wasn’t about school or work or all that usual stuff, it was solely about going on dates with him. After she married him, her life was about being the perfect wife for him. But now that he died, she felt like there was no more purpose in life. Then came these envelopes which contained a series of letters Gerry wrote. With the help of these letters, Holly learned about moving on and living a life that had once seemed impossible to her by overcoming the challenges presented to her in each envelope.

I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I have a carry-around book besides the main book that I’m reading. I find that I spend most of my time waiting when I go outside; seems like the world loves to make people wait, so I try to take advantage of this by using the time to read. However, some books are too heavy to carry around, and some will make you lose the plot if you get interrupted every few pages or so, but this book is probably one of the best carry-around books that I’ve read. I can imagine it being a great beach read as well. You can quickly pick up the flow when you come back to it. Because of the great character developments, this book was really enjoyable as well.

It could also be one of those books for curling up on the comfy couch in a nice cozy blanket with a soft batch of cookies and a cup of steaming hot tea, while making you appreciate every little moment in your life at the same time:

“Nobody’s life is filled with perfect little moments. And if they were, they wouldn’t be perfect little moments. They would just be normal. How would you ever know happiness if you’d never experienced downs?”

This book reminded me that life is about turning curses into blessings and taking the days one at a time. Trying to achieve perfection is actually a defection in itself. Instead of setting your standard to perfection, complaining about what you don’t have, or grumbling about the people around you, have a grateful heart. You can never be sure about tomorrow, but you can be sure about this very second right now. Be thankful of what you have. Be thankful of the people around you. The saddest thing is not that your soul mate never arrived. The saddest thing is that this person has already left you. Life is a cycle of losing and gaining. So let’s have a grateful heart and appreciate every little moment in life. ^_^

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I’ve just finished reading all 509 pages of Cloud Atlas and my opinion of the book has changed. After I finished the first story, I realized that the writing style changes from story to story and the other ones are not as hard (though still difficult, but the first one is written in a sort of antique prose style). If you find this book not making sense at any point, just keep on reading please. You’ll be surprised at how everything just comes together like a jigsaw puzzle in the end.

This book consists of six interlocking novellas that are told in two halves, meaning that they will end abruptly and then continue later on in the book. You might not understand why it’s like this at first, but you’ll get it once you finish the book. He has a very good reason to do it.

The story starts out with Adam Ewing’s journal. He’s a notary who’s returning to San Francisco on a boat that is managed by a bunch of cruel men. His only friend is a doctor who is trying to treat the parasite in Adam’s brain. In the second story, the journal is being read by Robert Frobisher, who exchanges his musical talents for a roof over his head with a famous composer. His experiences are written in the form of letters. The addressee is his friend Rufus Sixsmith. In the third story, Luisa Rey meets the older Sixsmith. Luisa is a journalist who later almost turns into a detective because she suspects that something is wrong in the nuclear power station. You get the idea. I won’t spoil it by telling you about the other 3 stories. Once you finish the last story though, Mitchell takes you back to the second half of the other stories in reversed order, meaning that the journal will be the last one. I think this whole arrangement is really clever and atypical. It shows that there is a story behind every story waiting to be heard.

I pretty much agree with Bookpage: “Cloud Atlas is such an astounding feat that it’s tempting to think there must be several David Mitchells, each of whom wrote one part of this book.” You get a taste of everything. It’s amazing how Mitchell managed to get so many genres and literary styles packed in one book.

What’s the point of reading 6 totally different stories that somehow overlap one another? The answer is belief. Belief is what holds Cloud Atlas together. Mitchell has hinted many times throughout the book that although the main characters have totally different reputations, intelligence, attitudes, and personalities, they are actually one person. Traversing through time and space, he or she is repeating the same life in a sense. He is a seeker, she is a rebel. He is mixed-up, she tries to seek truth. But the reality they end up facing are all the same. Advances in technology and changes in time are merely deceits. The strong will always abuse the weak, turning these characters’ life upside down. As the novel comes to an end, all the suspense, all the uncertainties will have an answer. But seeing how the stories will end is not the point. The point is the belief they have left us with:

“He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!
Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

Should You Actively Seek Out Challenging Books?

Since I am finally finished my exam, I have a lot of time on my hands now, which is why I picked up Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Judging from the reviews and the size of the book, I figure it would be one of those hard and challenging books, which I am right about. I can’t read this book without a dictionary around. Sometimes, I even have to reread parts of the novel. Then it occurred to me: Is it worth the effort? Should I have avoided this kind of book in the first place?

Reading this novel is really rewarding. In fact, it’s not like any other novel out there, because it intertwines 6 short stories from different settings. I am not done reading yet, but I have already learned a lot from reading this. I’ll write a review about it once I’m done, but I digress.

It’s not like I can’t understand what’s going on. I can. I just need to put a lot of time and effort into it, but this makes me feel like I am just trying to enjoy someone else’s good read. What makes a book good in the first place? To me a good book conveys thoughtful ideas in a clear and interesting way. If it needs rereading and a dictionary to convey the idea, does it mean that the author failed on my part and I should try to avoid this kind of book for future reference?

The thing with challenging books is that the more you read them, the better you’ll become at understanding them. But is it worth it? I am quite undecided.

What’s your opinion on this? Do you actively seek out challenging books, or do you tend to avoid them?

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Update: turned out Cloud Atlas was worth reading. Check out my review of it here.