30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary

This book was printed in 1950. It’s in decent condition, although the pages are a little brownish. It has a pleasant smell, like an old library. The content as well as the paper, the fonts, and the typesetting make for a kind of armchair time-traveling experience.

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When and Why I Read 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary

My dad dug this book up out of a box in the house. The text was first was published in 1942; my copy is apparently the eighteenth printing (October 1950). I am not the least bit worried about the strength of my vocabulary, but when I opened the book at random and landed on "Seventh Day: Words About Theories", a chapter which defined and explained atheism, agnosticism, fatalism, egoism, altruism, stoicism, chauvinism, jingoism, liberalism, conservatism, and epicureanism, I decided this was perhaps not just another dime-a-dozen book about words. That the book stayed in print until at least the 1970s says something about its enduring appeal.

Genre: Reference (Language)
Date started / date finished: 23-Mar-20 to 29-Mar-20
Length: 242 pages
ISBN:
Originally published in: 1942/1950
Amazon link: 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary

Educated by Tara Westover

I am not practiced in evaluating biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. I don’t often read them. In fact, I only just learned (by asking Google) that the difference between an autobiography and a memoir is that the former generally consists of key facts about a person who just happens to be the author, whereas the latter is more about “emotional truth”.

So what do I think of the emotional truth of Tara Westover’s memoir Educated? I’m not sure. I could go at it one of several ways. Maybe it’s an indictment of a backwards Mormon family. Maybe it’s the story of the triumph of a determined individual over uniquely challenging circumstances. Maybe it’s the literary equivalent of a sordid reality TV-show. Probably it’s a little bit of all those things. See below for more on what I thought of the book and why.

Are there spoilers in the post? Well… memoirs don’t have plot, and you know that Tara became a successful author in the end, so… no. Not really.

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When and Why I Read Educated

I don't usually read memoirs, but people keep talking about this book.

Genre: Memoir
Date started / date finished: 22-Mar-20 to 23-Mar-20
Length: 384 pages
ISBN: 9780099511021
Originally published in: 2018
Amazon link: Educated

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge

I’m glad I got The Many Worlds of Albie Bright from the library rather than the book store. Didn’t like it. Why? See below.

If you’re looking for middle-grade science-fiction/fantasy involving physics and a child who goes on a quest to find a lost parent, you can’t go wrong with Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 classic A Wrinkle in Time.

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When and Why I Read The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

I am reading this for the Middle Grade / Young Adult Fiction Book Club. Even if nobody else is. Borrowed the ebook from the Singapore library system.

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi
Date started / date finished: 21-Mar-20 to 22-Mar-20
Length: 176 pages
ISBN: 9781524713584
Originally published in: 2016
Amazon link: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics by Peter Ladefoged

I know where the book came from, but not how it ended up where it did, in the West Elm home furnishings store in Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia, where along with two other books it was resignedly decorating a console table.

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When and Why I Read Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics

If you have ever doubted the forces of coincidence, doubt no more, for they conspired to an almost inconceivable degree to ensure that I came into the possession of this particular book.

Genre: Linguistics
Date started / date finished: 08-Mar-20 to 21-Mar-20
Length: 111 pages
ISBN: 0226467864
Originally published in: 1971
Amazon link: Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics

Asian Proverbs by FormAsia

When I moved to Singapore in 2008, my then-husband’s employer put us up in a hotel (The Copthorne Orchid, since torn down) while we looked for a place to rent. The hotel ran a shuttle bus to downtown Singapore’s shopping district, Orchard Road. The first time I took the shuttle bus, I alighted, went up and over a pedestrian bridge, walked in a shopping mall, and immediately encountered a bookstore. “I’m going to like this country,” I thought.

That bookstore, San Bookshop, has since closed. So have all the other San Bookshops. So has another bookshop I found at Far East Plaza that day.

However, ANA Book Store is still selling used books on the top floor of Far East Plaza. That’s where I bought Asian Proverbs. It’s also where I got these (October 20, 2018):

All but that bottom one are local books.

Asian Proverbs is a heavy, compact hardcover volume of full-color, glossy pages showcasing 40 sayings from each of 11 different countries and regions: India, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Tibet, China, The Philippines, Korea, and Japan. The quotations are shown in smoothly translated English and the original language opposite a selection of artworks representing the culture of the country or region. Some of the sayings are rather opaque, while others have a familiar flavor. Most have the ring of truth.

When and Why I Read Asian Proverbs

I bought this book at ANA Book Shop at Far East Plaza.

Genre: Reference
Date started / date finished: 21-Mar-20 to 21-Mar-20
Length: 186 pages
ISBN: 9789889827069
Originally published in: 2011
Amazon link: Asian Proverbs

Need for Speed (2014)

Currently the Rotten Tomatoes rating for Need for Speed is 23% (57% audience score). I can understand why it wasn’t a critical success, but I’m definitely on the side of the audience here.

Watch this movie if…

  • …you like car racing movies.
  • …you like practical special effects (rather than CGI).
  • …you don’t mind a ridiculous premise.
  • …you like happy endings and don’t mind a predictable plot.

Do NOT watch this movie if…

  • …you are tired of The Fast and the Furious franchise.
  • …you hate tropes and are hoping for some literary merit.
  • …your attention span is less than 130 minutes.
  • …you are a pedantic gearhead.

Personally, I don’t mind stories whose plots I can predict. After all, I’ve been trying to become an expert on plot by watching and summarizing movies. What bugs me is when I can predict the dialogue, and this movie didn’t have that problem. A commercially successful movie plot has to have certain elements, but there’s no excuse for stale dialogue. If the characters are going to say something obvious, they may as well say nothing at all.

See below for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

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Onward (2020)

Either Onward wasn’t that great, or I was in a weird mood when I watched it.

Or maybe the previews ruined it. I prefer to watch movies that I know nothing about. Movie trailers that show you jokes from the movie are awful, because a joke is really only funny when it’s a surprise.

Or maybe it’s that I don’t like movies about high school. Onward is about a magical quest, sure, but it is also somewhat about being in high school. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a television or film depiction of “the American high school experience” that bore any resemblance to my own high school experience. Relatability fail. Every time.

Or maybe it’s that the movie can’t be about an epic quest and high school at the same time… too much cognitive dissonance.

Or maybe it’s that Pixar’s charm is fading; too much reliance on a formula? The story did seem to have the odor of plot coupons — not that the brothers had to physically collect things, but they did go through a series of preordained steps to reach a goal. Sure, there was a meaningful ‘inner’ journey, but the outer journey seemed a bit paint-by-numbers.

It’s not that it was a bad movie. It was good. But I couldn’t love it whole-heartedly.

The funniest part of Onward was the scene at the chasm. I laughed so much! But there are some really, really sad moments too… And some cringey ones, which is probably another reason I didn’t like the movie as much as I was hoping to.

Watch on Amazon

See below for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Onward (2020)