Weekly TBR 8/9 – 14/9

Books

Saturday I came back from a 6 week trip to London, which was tough but nonetheless eye opening. I’m trying to get more structure in my day to day life so I decided using a weekly TBR list would be a great place to start! So here are the books I will be trying to read this week:


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”

In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors, where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.” Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked and the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at The Nickel Academy.

Yesterday I went to a book club meeting that was followed by a talk with Whitehead himself about this book! It honestly was such an amazing experience, I’ll try to write up something about that this week.


The Water Dancer – Ta-nehisi Coates
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

I’m currently reading this book and it is such a stunning story, I’m a quarter way in and thoroughly enjoying the story. I haven’t read anything by Coates before, but it was immediately evident to me how amazingly talented he is. The writing is so beautiful I find myself marking remarks on it whilst reading.


Frankly in Love – David Yoon
High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

I’m so excited for this book. I’ll be on the international Penguin blog tour for this book and so I can’t wait to dive in!

The Daily Stoic

Books, Diary, Life Style

Oooff, it’s been a couple of hectic weeks and my head is threatening to overload, so I think it’s about that time for me to sit down and have a little talk (or I guess type this post out hahah).

The past few weeks things have really been starting to take off on Youtube and Instagram, in the sense that I am feeling more inspired to create and improve on my craft. At the same time however, I have noticed how the amount of time I spend on my phone  has significantly increased. The fact that iPhones now show you how many hours you spend on your phone have made this fact even more confronting. This is mainly due to me not having a lot of physical friends (I stay at home a lot), so my phone is really my gateway to a lot of my friendships. I however started to notice that being on my phone is has started to become an addiction. The unease I feel after not checking my phone for messages every 10 minutes (or less) is frightening and so I realised that it was time for some change and that’s what I started working on last week.

Last year I promised myself that I was going to read this huge stack of self improvement books and I have come to the realisation that whenever I announce that I am planning to read a book it never happens (that’s also why TBRs never work and are embarrassing for me). Either way I took the leap last week and I started reading  The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman and So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. Both are very different in the sense that The Daily Stoic is a book meant to be read over the span of a year (on page per day) and really focuses on wisdoms concerning life, whereas Newport’s book researches how you can get a job that you really enjoy a.ka. finding the perfect job. Both are very interesting, but for now I would like to focus more on The Daily Stoic, or at least discuss what I learned from it the past week, to kind of refresh my mind and really internalise the wisdoms.

The first month January focuses on clarity:

‘Control your perceptions.
Direct your actions properly.
Willingly accept what’s outside your control.’

I felt that this quote summed up the first week of January quite well. In a world in which there are so many distractions that are constantly screaming at us for attention, it’s hard to remain focused. Furthermore it is important to recognise that there are so many things that we don’t have control over. How others treat us, if we get that job we wanted or not. What is even more important is that we should realise that despairing over things that you can’t change for an extended period can really do you harm. I am someone who tends to linger of these sort of things and in a sense it has become liberating to consciously decided to not stress/cry over things I can’t change and rather focus my energy on the things I do have control over, and I can tell you it makes me feel incredibly powerful. Realising you are the master of your own future can make such a huge difference and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store :)

xx Seji

Mathematics and Language

Books, Diary

I have taken some time off of Instagram to relax, because the whole thing was really stressing me out. I tried opening my account on Sunday and I felt the unnerving sense of a panic attack lingering beneath the surface. No good. I’m not too sure how I will be able approach this online space again. I’m sure I will be able to deal with quick posts and short interactions, but the interactions is what I care about the most. Perhaps I will be fine in a week and this is just the dramatic side flaring up in me, but who knows? I’m considering limiting my correspondence to Goodreads, email and physical mail.

Either way, I am have been having a splendid time virtually on Goodreads and physically in my attic. This weekend I failed to attend YALFest, the Dutch YA festival I have been waiting for for months to attend and hate that I didn’t go, but also don’t because I knew that I wasn’t in the right mental space to go. That’s one of the things I have learned to do since last year. Not being so hard on myself for not being able to do things, because it just makes things worse than they already are. But let’s go back to my time in the attic.

I finished reading Middlegame and for me it was a game changer, wait no, life changer. If you read my previous post you will know what it’s about, but to sum it up in two words (which yes, I know is an absolute injustice): mathematics and language. Over the years a lot of things have changed in my life, but two things have always remained constant. The maths and the words. There have been times were my two favourite interests have faltered a bit, but they have always remained and looking at the bigger picture have even amplified over the years: I am a part-time mathematics/econometrics/Japanese/Chinese student and book reviewer. Who would have thought?! Middlegame for me was life changing, because of the characters I felt shared two of the most important pieces of myself. I got to read how they both nurtured their respective discipline and that could not have been more soothing for my soul. I know that sounds like a religious experience, but don’t worry hahah, I’m just really passionate about books :). It has definitely inspired me to keep going on the track that I am and intensify my studies. I have also decided to take up chess. It’s a game I always felt was too complex for me to become good at, but when I just realised it’s math, just probabilities, combinatorics, game theory, I felt an increasing urge to give it an honest try. I am currently learning to play on Chess.com. If you are interested in linking up with me on there, my username is TheArtisanGeek.

Today, I am planning on writing some reviews, reading Lord of the Flies, playing violin and studying multivariable calculus.

xx Seji

I’m back!

Books, Diary

Well it has been a very long time since I have written a blog post. I have had this website since 2015, when I first started my Studyblr after having my knee surgery. If you know me from there or my Instagram or Youtube account you will know that I have a lot of (at times weird) interests. I struggled a bit with deciding what I wanted to do with this website and my long list of drafted posts is a testament to that. In recent months I have come to enjoy the art of writing, since I have been doing that a lot for my videos and posts and I’d like to explore that a little more. For now I think that this website will just be a place that I just write about everything that interests me and not only books. Perhaps I’ll start writing some stories, who knows?

Having said that, let me tell you about this book I’m reading hahah. Tor was incredibly nice to send me a copy of Seanan McGuire’s upcoming book Middlegame. Before I started Youtube really the only other book publisher I knew where Penguin and De Bezige Bij, and it has been a delight discovering new and amazing publishers that bring out amazing books! Tor is definitely one of them, and their first book I read was, The Black Gods Drums by P. Djèlí Clark. This was a steam punk inspired fantasy/historical fiction, infused with African mythology. I never knew that these type of books existed, nor how much I would love reading them. In my quest for more of Clark’s brilliant writing I found an array of amazing science fiction and fantasy books published by Tor. I had found a piece of book heaven! Long story short, I got sucked in and I never want to go back up this Tor rabbit hole hahah.

Two weeks ago I started reading Every Heart a Doorway written by McGuire and I was swept off of my feet. The writing was superb and I was so emotionally moved by the story, which was brilliantly composed into under 200 pages. I had previously requested her book Middlegame on NetGalley several months ago, because I felt the cover looked really cool:
MiddlegameThis is obviously bad practice, but you will be surprised to learn how often my book cover taste, aligns with my book taste. Honestly, I have had only one bad experience! Either way, I got declined, but three weeks ago I asked for a physical copy and I they sent me one *cries happy tears*. I am currently at page 128 (out of 153) and I already want to give it five stars, which is a big deal! I mean, my Goodreads says that from the 142 books I have read, I’ve given 11 (7.75%) a five star rating. Here’s the synopsis

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained. 

Sounds exciting, right?! Well, I have been enjoying myself so much reading this book! I love the characters and McGuire has such a gracious and touching writing style, it is hard not to stop making notes, pointing out all of the passages I am loving (seriously, I am running out of Book Darts hahah). I can’t wait to finish this book, because I have so many questions and so many things to talk about and I cannot wait till this book comes out, so that I can discuss it with everyone who is willing to talk to me hahha. If you want updates on my reading progress, you can follow my Goodreads page. Cheers!

xx Seji

6月5日

Books

Last month I read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Murakami Haruki (村上春樹). When it comes to books, a bad habit of mine (besides being a total tsundoku) is judging a book by it’s cover (I knowwww, it’s bad!). I saw this one a few years ago at my book store and was completely intrigued by it, so when I stumbled upon it on bookdepository.com I bought it without even reading the synopsis.

The story is about a man in his thirties named Tsukuru Tazaki. He’s an engineer at a railroad company in Tokyo. Through a mutual friend he gets introduced to a woman named Sarah who he starts dating. After a few dates she finds out he has some bagage. Growing up in Nagayo as a teenager he had this extremely tight-knit group of friends. After graduation he is the only one who decides to study somewhere outside Nagayo. He comes back to visit often until one time the group decides to cut him off without a reason. This haunts Tsukuru for years and he never saw or spoke to them afterwards. Sarah tells him he should find out what really happened back then by talking to his old friends, otherwise she won’t be able to date him. And so Tsukuru’s journey starts.

The most prominent theme returning throughout the book is colour. Tsukuru’s friends’ names all contain a colour: Yoshio Oumi (Ao – blue), Yuzuki Shirane (Shiro – white), Kei Akamatsu (Aka – red), Eri Kurono (Kuro – red), making Tsukuru feel as the odd one out. (Knowing this, I have come to like the cover even more). His sole friend throughout college also has a ‘colour name’, reminding him of how he has always felt so colourless. Tsukuru associates this lack of colour to his own feeling of lacking identity or all content. An empty person. As a bildungsroman, you learn a lot how Tsukuru sees himself throughout his life.

I don’t often read these kind of books and to my opinion some parts felt kind of slow. Despite this, I still enjoyed reading it and the eagerness of finding out why his friends cut him off in such an abrupt and weird way was what mainly kept me going.

R A T I N G: 6,5/10

5月28日 Chineasy Everyday

Books, Language


Chineasy is a startup created by Taiwanese entrepreneur ShaoLan Hsueh, with the purpose to teach people Chinese characters in a fun and efficient way using pictures. The idea first came to Shaolan when her two daughters were phasing difficulties learning Chinese. She starting drawing pictures with them incorporating the characters. This family project of drawing eventually grew out that a successful business and two books being brought out: Chineasy and Chineasy Everday

I bought Chineasy Everyday last year and what really I love about it is the use of vibrant colours and the simplistic depiction of objects and people. Remembering the characters becomes even easier because of the background information given about the origin of the characters. 
The book consists of 11 chapters each treating characters, such as people, food and animals. Besides character information, there are several pages throughout on Chinese culture and history, which in my opinion makes this book even better. To me learning a language also recquires learning about the costums and history of the country, in order to understand the nuances that each language brings with itself.


My issue with this book is that it doesn’t provide stroke order, so for learning how to write characters this might not be the best.
In short this book is perfect for when you’re starting off learning Chinese characters (for reading comprehension).

For those wondering if they should buy both Chineasy and/or Chineasy Everyday, I would advice buying one. I have only seen a few pages of Chineasy, but they seem to both treat the most general characters and according to ShoaLan they  are complementary and can be used independently.