Born of Wind: An Epic Fantasy Novel

Born of Wind by J.B. Lesel is a story about finding one’s purpose, fitting in, friendship, love, oppression and social conflicts told in the perspectives of teenagers Meleena, Talla, Deem, Flax and Yulah and set in a unique fantasy world. I loved everything about it.

All the characters are very interesting, but my favorite has to be Meleena, the main character in the book. Meleena is one of the aquatic Meruyans living on land instead of in their natural habitat in the sea. She enjoys observing plants and animals and recording them in her journal, which is a very odd thing for a Meruyan to do, or perhaps for anyone else. Even in her own home, she always feels out of place. But things change when she is chosen to join the apprenticeship at the Meruyan Council, along with fellow Meruyans Talla and Deem, where they begin to travel to other lands, learn about different cultures and, most importantly, discover the cruel and unjust treatment their own people have been facing under the Warix, a nation in power.

On the other hand, we learn about life in the Warix nations through the eyes of Flax and Yulah, a spy and a general’s assistant, respectively. Both are Warix, forest people with the power to control the wind, except Flax works alongside the Meruyans and the Warix who rebelled against the Meruyan oppression a long time ago and who are continuing to defend them. Yulah would’ve been any nice, normal friend, but as someone who grew up in Sen’Drorn City and only knows what she’s been taught, she couldn’t see that she and her people are living as passive oppressors, that their peaceful and prosperous life is only possible because of their leaders’ exploitation of another nation. “They lived in ignorance or chose not to notice the truth around them.” In the end, I felt really bad that Yulah had been deceived by someone she loves and that she was starting to turn into someone spiteful, angry and revengeful because of it. And I know how sometimes people change because of others’ deceptiveness, especially of those whom they love and trust. But at the same time, Yulah doesn’t recognize her own faults. She feels that there was nothing she did wrong, only that those who tricked her are malicious, and I guess that’s where she’s wrong.

One other memorable character for me is Borak, a Warix who finally, after so many long years, realized that his avoidance of politics, his “neutral position wasn’t such a victimless crime after all.” It reminds me that it’s never too late to be brave enough to take action and do what’s right, even if it means giving up the thing that you love most—in Borak’s case, his career as an engineer—and the comfortable life you’ve always known.

“Now was the time to act. Not tomorrow … he didn’t have tomorrow.”

Overall, Born of Wind is a wonderful debut novel and is now one of my favorites! I loved the world that J.B. Lesel has created and how she intertwined nature with fantasy—all the different cultures and the unique animals were fascinating. The story made me feel and reflect on so many things, one of which is my on-and-off desire to go back to a time before cell phones were made and quit social media altogether (elicited by Deem, who was an advocate of living underwater despite the lack of technological progress), and it was actually much deeper than I expected it to be. I highly recommend this book to fantasy readers and to lovers of exciting journeys and coming-of-age stories.

Born of Wind by J.B. Lesel is the first book of the Of the Elements series. I’ve received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

David Copperfield: Overcoming Life’s Trials

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens must be, for me, one of the hardest books to read. And not because it was about 800 pages long or had plenty of words I had to look up in the dictionary, but because it was so heartbreaking.

This novel tells the story of David Copperfield from the time he was born until he reached adulthood. David has led a difficult life, especially when he was a boy, and what makes it sadder is that it is autobiographical and narrated in the first person in the perspective of a child. I’m not sure how much of the book is autobiographical, but still it shows the abusive treatment children have suffered in the Victorian era.

David had a good relationship with his mother until she remarried. When Mr. Murdstone, the new husband, and Ms. Murdstone, his sister, moved in to David’s home, everything changed. Suddenly, David was being scolded, beaten and locked up badly bruised (he narrates, “I had been lying, for the most part, with my head upon the sill, by turns crying, dozing, and looking listlessly out”), his easily manipulated mother Clara never doing anything to protect him (or not having the power to). Things got much worse when his mother died, after which he was forced by his stepfather to move out and work in a factory to earn his own money. He “had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone,” and he suffered in secret.

David, because of the circumstances, grew closer to his nurse Peggotty. It was a relief to know there was at least one person in the world who was not only kind but also affectionate toward him. One day, David decided to run away to his Aunt Betsey (whom he never met but only heard of), and just when I thought things couldn’t get any more dreadful, someone hits him on the chin, and the money he borrowed from Peggotty and his box of things get stolen. His travel expenses taken away, he walked instead—for several days without food and lodging. People started to dislike his appearance as it got more obvious he was a homeless child, and he sold his clothes one by one so he could have something to eat.

I felt so anxious for David as he travelled to meet his aunt. Would she like him? Would he even find her? After all, he didn’t have a specific address, he was just asking for directions, and not to mention he was dead tired. On top of that, Aunt Betsey seemed to be a cranky woman who was difficult to live with based on previous descriptions about her from Clara’s and Peggotty’s points of view. It would be so frustrating to travel this far only to be rejected and go back. But in Chapter 13, he meets his aunt, who takes him in, and David finally gets his well-deserved rest. Thank goodness!

Of course, his story doesn’t end here. Many more trials come in every aspect of David’s life, such as in his school, career, finances, friendships, family and marriage. It makes me realize how much of life is running into problems, then overcoming them, over and over again. But out of all the hardships that David had endured, it was the ones from his childhood that moved me and broke my heart the most, which were, as he reflected later on, “fraught with so much pain … with so much mental suffering and want of hope.” This year my family and I have been going through trial after trial, but it’s stories like David’s that put our problems into perspective and help me see that things are not as bad as they seem. Trials are temporary, and the overcoming or redemption part will always come.

One important character I’d like to mention is Mr. Dick from upstairs, who takes things one step at a time. Most people see him as crazy and foolish, but to Aunt Betsey (and to me), he is the wisest and has the most common sense of all. When Aunt Betsey asked him for advice on what to do with David, he simply said she must give him a bath. Sometimes it’s better to do the next right thing instead of worrying about the big picture or the end goal.

Because of all the sorrows and painful experiences throughout David’s life, overall I feel relieved that the novel ended on a happy note. I’m glad that he was still alive when he became a famous author—that he witnessed his success—and that his new wife, his “love of whom was founded on a rock,” is finally by his side, which gives me the confidence that, despite the new trials that will come his way for sure (as such is life), all the worst days are over, and things are going to get much better.

“I do not hold one natural gift, I dare say, that I have not abused. My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.”

The Secret Adversary: For Young Adventurers

“To all those who lead monotonous lives …” begins Agatha Christie’s mystery novel The Secret Adversary. And damn did she bring thrill and excitement into my monotonous life. She transported me into a world chockfull of danger and risks for a day—just for a day, which is the time it took me to read the book. I’ve never read this quickly since forever.

On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania, traveling from the United States to England, is sinking. Because of “women and children first” in the lifeboats, a man carrying a secret treaty concerning the war, knowing full well he had a smaller chance for survival, entrusts the papers to a young American girl, not more than eighteen, instructing her to hand them over to the American ambassador in case he doesn’t make it. The girl takes the packet and boards a lifeboat. About five years later, in the next chapter, the documents and the girl are still missing.

The Secret Adversary drove me crazy. As you read, it makes you wonder whether the young girl had been captured for carrying important papers or she herself was an enemy, the man unfortunately entrusting the papers to the wrong person. There were also a few other characters that could potentially be the secret adversary, such as English lawyer Sir James Peel Edgerton and American millionaire Julius P. Hersheimmer. It’s incredible how Agatha Christie confuses readers and only reveals the truth at the very, very, very, very end. My mind is still blown.

Childhood friends Tommy and Tuppence, jobless and broke in their early twenties, decide to advertise their services as “young adventurers” on the newspaper, which is how they get involved with the mystery of the missing girl. This story reminds me that the first genre I fell in love with was in fact mystery and not fantasy and that the first series I enjoyed (and devoured in one sitting) were The Nancy Drew Notebooks and the hardbound Nancy Drew classics with yellow covers. In a way, the pair brought me back to childhood days.

Tommy and Tuppence hit several roadblocks along the way but never stop working their way around them whether individually or as a pair. I like how determined they are to solve the crime and figure out the archenemy, the elusive “Mr. Brown,” who at times they sense is among their friends. Despite dead ends, they shift their attention to what they can do, which is something I want to practice in daily life. As Tuppence has said, “The great thing is what to do next[.]”

“No use crying over spilt milk, you know.”

The Secret Adversary, published in 1922, is the first of five Tommy and Tuppence books. It’s my third Agatha Christie read, the first being They Do It With Mirrors, a Miss Marple mystery, and the second being And Then There Were None, one of her best works. But considered best or not, all three are equally incredibly thrilling—I can’t stress this enough. I’ve just got to get my hands on another Agatha Christie book.

A Little Princess: On Bearing Hardships

When I was younger, I saw four screen adaptations of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (two English, one Tagalog and one Japanese version). To be quite honest, I don’t remember ever being moved by any of them (despite Miss Minchin’s cruelty toward Sara after her father’s death) except for the fact that they’ve all entertained me as a child. So I wasn’t in the least expecting to cry my eyes out as I read. None of the screen adaptations has captured any of the scenes of the book perfectly. It was Frances Hodgson Burnett’s wonderful way of writing that made the story more vivid to me and helped me understand Sara’s circumstances more fully. That or everything just makes me cry nowadays.

Sara Crewe, seven, was sent to Miss Minchin’s seminary for young ladies in England by her father Captain Crewe, after which he went back to India where they live. Miss Minchin secretly disliked Sara but was “far too worldly a woman” to show disdain toward their wealthiest student. In other words, Sara made the school look very desirable. Unlike Mary Lennox (from the book The Secret Garden by the same author), who is also from India and comes from an affluent family, Sara is good-tempered and loves to share her privileges and belongings. After news of Captain Crewe’s death on her eleventh birthday, Sara was forced to become a servant.

I love how the story didn’t focus solely on Sara’s inner strength and bravery, but it dealt more with having to bear any kind of hardships. In Sara’s case, hardships meant being ordered around and scolded by Miss Minchin and the cooks, being ignored by her fellow students, getting physically hurt, wearing clothes that are too tight and too small for her, sleeping in a dingy attic together with the rats and suffering from cold and hunger as she was sometimes forbidden to eat as punishment, as if the others weren’t punishment enough, causing her to get thinner as time passed by.

Before Captain Crewe’s death, back when Sara was a parlor boarder with the finest room, the finest clothes, the finest toys and a French maid, everybody thought highly of her. Her schoolmates enjoyed listening to her imaginative stories and believed her to be a princess. As soon as she became ragged and lonely, everyone seemed to have forgotten about her and chose to take no notice of her. It reminds me of stories of friends losing their money, their business, their job or anything that may seem to bring prestige and losing friends and even relatives in the process. Sara never told anyone how she felt. She bore it all.

Like many people who are experiencing trials, Sara has lost her temper at times and thought ill of others, specifically her friend Ermengarde. Her awkward manner of asking Sara if she was unhappy caused Sara to sarcastically respond with “What do you think?” and even thought of her friend as stupid. Ermengarde in this scene reminds me of times when I as well as others don’t know what to say to anyone who’s struggling or who suddenly finds him- or herself in a difficult situation, and we say the wrong or the stupidest things as a result. I’ve definitely experienced being both—being that person who thought of others as stupid, uncaring and unsupportive and that friend who doesn’t know how to properly react to other people’s struggles. Little by little, as the story progressed, Sara learned that Ermengarde was actually trying to reach out, hoping to retain their friendship. Sara admitted she was just “too proud to try and make friends.”

“You see, now that trials have come, they have shown that I am NOT a nice child. I was afraid they would. Perhaps … that is what they were sent for.”

The screen adaptations I’ve seen have different endings, and despite my disappointment that the book didn’t have the ending I prefer, it was still a joyful one for Sara and an unpleasant one for Miss Minchin. There are many more significant characters I haven’t mentioned, such as Becky and Ram Dass, who have both brought comfort to Sara in different ways, but I decided to focus on what moved me the most. This book is a good reminder that changes can happen in a flash but that all trials eventually come to an end. And as Sara has said, “The worst thing never QUITE comes.”

The Enchanted Castle: Magic Turns Into Reality

A delightful story about magic, explorations and secret passages, The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit made me feel like a child again.

Siblings Gerald, Jimmy and Kathleen, while exploring outdoors on a school holiday, find a hidden cave leading to a maze at the other end. In the garden, in the middle of the maze, they wake a sleeping princess, whom they soon befriend and who invites them inside her enchanted castle. She shows them her jewels and a ring that makes the wearer invisible. She wears it only to be horrified that she has indeed turned invisible. She then explains that she isn’t a princess but Mabel, the housekeeper’s niece, and was only playing pretend.

While there is plenty of magic in the book, such as stone statues coming to life, The Enchanted Castle teaches us about wishes—specifically how not every wish is good for us. Eventually, the four children figure out that the ring is not an invisibility ring but whatever you say it is. If you say it’s a ring that makes the wearer four yards high, it will be so. The most dreadful part for me was Jimmy wishing he were rich with the ring on his finger. Before Gerald’s, Kathleen’s and Mabel’s eyes, Jimmy grows and turns into an old man—a prosperous old man who owns a business. The worst part is the now-old Jimmy (or “That-Which-Had-Been-Jimmy,” later on shortened to “That”) couldn’t remember any of his siblings. To him, they are just children playing around. I felt bad for the three frightened children, who tried everything they could for Jimmy to remember them and to get the ring back. The scene was a nightmare!

This important lesson reminds me of the many things that I wish were given to me, things that I feel I need to be happy or successful, such as talents, physical attributes or my desired career. I keep forgetting that not every wish is good for us and that it’s not very wise to be resentful for what you lack. Sometimes I’d try to visualize one of my wishes coming true and its possible outcomes and recognize that it won’t truly make me happy or successful. Sometimes I’d reflect on an old wish that has come true and suddenly recall its consequences, such as having less time to spend with family or being more stressed. This book is a reminder to be content with what you have and accept life as it is.

“How often each one of them had dreamed of islands, how often wished to be stranded on one! Well, now they were. Reality is sometimes quite different from dreams, and not half so nice.”

The Enchanted Castle was published in 1907. Recently, I’ve learned about two subgenres of fantasy: “high fantasy,” which is set in a magical fictional world, and “low fantasy,” which is set in our world, with the intrusion of magical elements. The Enchanted Castle, being set in England, is a low fantasy novel. Book genres interest me, and I’m glad there are so many more subgenres to explore!

If you’d like to revisit childhood and read about magical adventures, outdoor play, imagination, truthfulness and friendships (with a little bit of romance!), look no further than the charming children’s novel The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit.

Centricity: A Cyberpunk Novel

As someone who has read mostly fantasy and is just venturing into the world of classics, where so far everything is peaceful and everyone seems to be in touch with nature, plunging into the dystopian world of Centricity by Nathaniel Henderson felt absolutely terrifying. While I’ve read a few dystopian novels before (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Matched by Ally Condie), Centricity differs in that it centers on society’s extreme dependence on technology for survival, and when I say “extreme dependence,” I mean they have chips attached to their brains. Because of the aid of technology to advance human life, this to me feels closer to reality. I mean I heavily rely on my laptop and internet connection to earn money.

Having previously read two children’s classics that are light in tone, I found Centricity to be too violent (which the author warned me of beforehand) and very technology-heavy. It took some time getting used to terms like “brainware,” “bandwidth” and “code tags,” as well as keeping up with the many character names and places in the beginning. But once I got to know the residents of the city of Naion and what they did for a living, I started to understand their importance in the story and even cared for some of them, most of all Nik.

Nik is a twenty-nine-year-old self-employed IT specialist, who, after having received a seemingly unimportant inheritance from a friend of his father’s, finds himself the target of many killers. Out of all the characters, Nik is someone I’d actually want to hang out with, despite his faults, as he is to me the most soulful character. While I did care for a few others, like Adasha, I feel as if the rest of the characters are all about their mission, showing as little emotion as possible.

In my imagination, the city of Naion is busy and overcrowded with people, machines and buildings—a city full of neon lights that I’m actually wishing the book cover glows in the dark (just like Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan). In Naion, almost everything seems to be hackable and virtual, and your daily life can be easily exposed. I’d be extremely paranoid if I were living in this dangerous, chaotic world. It’s a scary future to live in, with disasters at every corner.

Centricity is my first cyberpunk read. The book is long and a little complex, but once I got used to the technological terms and familiarized myself with the names and places, the reading went by quickly because it got exciting and fast-paced. I wanted to know more about the inheritance and how it connects to all the characters. I especially enjoyed the different sides of the story through several points of view. Overall, the story felt like an action movie. I recommend this book to readers of spy thrillers and dystopian novels and to readers like me who’d love to experience a variety of genres.

“Dead ends were rarely dead; one must climb a wall, find a window.”

Centricity by Nathaniel Henderson is the first book of the Centricity Cycle series and will be released on October 20, 2020. I’ve received a free advanced reader copy from the author.

Heidi: Life in the Swiss Alps

Heidi by Johanna Spyri begins with Dete and her five-year-old niece Heidi traveling through a footpath to the Swiss mountains where Heidi’s grandfather lives. This book describes Heidi’s life on the alps, which to me feels like the perfect place to escape to. Heidi would hike in the mountain to visit friends, play and spend time with the goats ‘til evening, watch the changing colors of the sky, have a meal of bread with cheese and goat’s milk and sleep on a bed of hay on the loft where she has a view of the moon. Heidi “wished for nothing better than to remain there forever.”

Many lessons can be learned from Heidi, but what moved me the most was the part about faith. At eight years old, Heidi was taken away from her home in the mountains and brought to Germany to live in a new home, where the windows are shut and where there’s no view of nature but only of streets and carriages and other houses. Heidi longed to be with her grandfather but couldn’t tell anyone about her loneliness. In Germany, she meets a very kind grandmamma, who teaches her about the power of praying to God and casting all one’s troubles to him. She further tells Heidi that the reason for her unhappiness is that she knows that no one can help her. But God can; he can give us the help that nobody else can give.

After weeks of praying, Heidi stops because God has not done what she has asked for. But Grandmamma teaches her that God doesn’t give us what isn’t good for us and that instead he gives us something better, and if God would give us what we have asked for too early, we would soon say, “If only God had not given me what I asked for! it is not so good as I expected!” She teaches her to trust in him and to hold fast to him and to not go her own way, for everything will come at the right time.

Joy shall be ours

In that garden blest,

Where after storm

We find our rest—

I wait in peace—God’s time is best.

Heidi in time gets back her life in the alps and realizes that if God had given her what she desired at once, everything would have been different; for instance, she wouldn’t have been able to read—she learned how during her stay in Germany. A blind grandmother who lives in the alps loves listening to Heidi read hymns to her. Heidi has then come to a decision to always pray and be thankful and, when her prayers go unanswered, to be patient and never turn away from and forget God, for God for sure has something better in mind. Heidi shares what she has learned to a doctor: “because we cannot see things beforehand, and only know how dreadfully miserable we are, we think it is always going to be so.”

Apart from lessons about faith, the book also demonstrates how gossip can lead you to believing many things that have no truth in them, such as the villagers’ judgments about and, not to mention, unnecessary fear of Heidi’s grandfather, who “lives up there on the mountains like a hermit.” This book also teaches us that we must not deem ourselves incapable of something based on someone else’s views about it but that we must always try for ourselves, just like when Heidi thought it was impossible for her to read because her friend Peter claimed it was too difficult and would rather not study it.

I highly recommend Heidi (published in 1881) to everyone, especially to those who are longing to be out in the sun, just like me, and who would love to witness God’s handiwork. We may not be surrounded by sweet-smelling flowers and mountain air, but a glimpse of life in the alps through the words of Johanna Spyri is enough for now.

The Secret Garden: Reconnecting with Nature

In every book you read, there’s almost always a character you can relate to, whether it’s because of their situation in life, their views toward a particular subject, their relationship with family and friends, their personal interests or their values and ideals. Never in my life have I ever been able to relate to something other than a person—specifically a garden that has been shut up for ten years—until I’ve read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Secret Garden tells the story of ten-year-old Mary Lennox, a spoiled and disagreeable child living in India, who was sent to her uncle in England due to the cholera that had broken out and killed her parents. In her uncle’s manor, she makes friends for the first time, with Martha Sowerby, a housemaid, and her twelve-year-old brother, Dickon, who understands animals better than anybody else could; Ben Weatherstaff, an old gardener who is bad-tempered at times; Colin Craven, another disagreeable child, who happens to be Mary’s cousin and the son of the master of the manor; and a robin, who plays a very important role in helping Mary ease her loneliness and discover the way to the secret garden.

There are many gardens around the manor, but the secret garden is hidden among ivy walls. No one has seen it nor been in it for ten years. Archibald Craven, the master of the manor, has ordered it shut when his wife died ten years ago, for it was her garden. His forbidding anyone to go inside the garden, to me, felt like his shutting himself off from the world—even from his son. Mary, with her intense curiosity and with the help of the robin, was able to find the key and soon the door to the garden. I love that she tended to it and helped flowers grow instead of finding it in perfect condition. The garden had gone wild and turned gray over the years, and Mary (with Dickon’s assistance) lovingly and patiently worked on it with an eagerness that never waned. I guess if you’ve been distant from everyone for a very long time, your heart would need tending and caring for. It would take some time to heal, and it would need some work. And that’s exactly what Mary and Dickon did with the garden.

The theme of The Secret Garden is the healing power of nature. Mary has been described in the beginning as sallow, sour and cross—traits that made her look very unattractive. Her aversion to everyone and everything changed when she started digging soil, gardening, running outdoors, skipping-rope, getting to know people who are not like her and spending time in nature. Soon people started to notice that she’d “begun to be downright pretty” and stopped being the “glummest, ill-natured little thing she used to be.” Colin, her cousin, has been shut in his room for most of his life, and lying in bed all day weakened his legs and led him to obsessing about his imminent death. But once he got exposed to sunlight, fresh air, good food, encouraging friends, laughter and his mother’s secret garden, he stopped feeling resentful about his life and the people around him. He soon learned, with the help of his new friends Mary and Dickon, not only how to walk but also how to run, eventually beating Mary in a race.

Another main idea I’d like to give emphasis to is the influence of our words. All his life, Colin had endured listening to everyone around him say that he was a sickly boy with a lump on his back and who was probably going to die—and so he believed it. Mary and Dickon, on the other hand, told him that he’d get well, that as soon as he stopped being afraid, he’d be able to stand—and so he did. Soon afterward, Colin started to conduct experiments with what he calls magic, which consisted of daily exercises in the secret garden and believing that nice things are going to happen as long as you fill your thoughts with them. In Colin’s words, “keep doing it every day as regularly as soldiers go through drill” and “we shall see what will happen and find out if the experiment succeeds.” He believed he was going to get well, and so in just two months, he did.

“One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.”

The Secret Garden is a reminder of what good spending time in natural surroundings can do for our health and well-being. It’s about the power of nature, exercise, laughter, good food, positive thoughts and gardening shared with kind and supportive friends. I never thought this book would motivate me to improve my health and to take better care of myself, and I never thought I’d enjoy reading about a garden being described in full detail as it grows. Published as a serial in 1910 and as a novel in 1911, I highly recommend this children’s classic to everyone. You just might be inspired.

“The ivy hung thick over the door, the key was buried under the shrubs, no human being had passed that portal for ten lonely years—and yet inside the garden there were sounds.”

The Green Ember: A Story of Hope

Isn’t it interesting how your reading experience depends on the present situation of your life (or the world)? Because of that, every book becomes unique to every individual, and no book is read the same way. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith has given me, above all, hope for the world in the face of a pandemic.

Siblings Heather and Picket live normal rabbit lives with their father, mother and baby brother Jacks in their elm tree home. Father would tell thought-provoking tales about kings, and the two siblings would run outside on the grass and play a game they invented called Starseek. Their peaceful world suddenly turns upside down when a pack of wolves come and destroy their home, separating Heather and Picket from the group and causing them to go on a perilous journey where they discover a much bigger threat that involves their very own family’s history. (In the next paragraphs, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on a few characters and scenes that might reveal spoilers, so you can refrain from reading for now if you haven’t read the book yet. You can listen to the free audiobook here.)

I love how The Green Ember has successfully shown, albeit through rabbits, how human beings behave in the midst of a crisis. Being quarantined with the same people every day, even with those you love, can sometimes test your patience—add to that the stress and anxiety each family member feels due to the state of the world via the news and the looming possibility of losing your income, a loved one or your optimism. In the book, Picket started to grumble, which seemed to last till the end. He, for some reason, preferred to direct all his anger toward Smalls, another rabbit who didn’t deserve Picket’s mistreatment and who never intentionally did anything to upset him. Picket was often reminded by the rabbits around him that he had a choice about how he saw things and that he wasn’t the only one bad things had happened to and who’d lost someone they love. Smalls, despite being the target of Picket’s anger, tolerated and empathized with him. His words struck a chord when he said, “Stay angry. It’s okay if it’s at me for now. If you aren’t angry about the wicked things happening in the world all around, then you don’t have a soul.”

Heather seemed to be more accepting of their current situation and tried to live harmoniously with the rest of the rabbits in their new home. Perhaps being the eldest compelled her to show her strength more than her fears. But Heather, while being the positive sibling, still had her own uncertainties. She worried about her lost family and the welfare of her companions and younger brother. Her only mistake was being an overprotective sister and her disapproval of Picket’s decision to become a soldier. Mrs. Weaver, a wise rabbit, once told her, “You must let him become who he is, Heather, and you must let him become what he will become.” Another challenge Heather had to eventually overcome was her fear of sharing with the community what she does best: tale-spinning. Sometimes, in real life, the very idea of showcasing your talents can leave you feeling paralyzed with fear. This fear made Heather wonder and ask herself: “Why am I so afraid of what I love to do?”

“I regret many things I’ve done. But most of all I regret those moments when I said to Fear, ‘You are my master.’”

The Green Ember is a story of courage, compassion, friendship, love and hope. Heather, through a tale she spun, became an activist, as she inspired and called on rabbits everywhere. Picket finally found himself as he trained to become a warrior and fought a deadly battle against wolves and birds of prey. The book also introduced me to a new genre called “noblebright fantasy,” a kind of fantasy novel that’s filled with hope despite all the tribulations and that features characters who strive to do good and positively influence others despite their own imperfections. I’d like to think that we’re in a noblebright fantasy, where there’s hope and progress everywhere and people who do their part.

The Green Ember, published in 2014, is the first book of a four-part series, with other books in between. Lately, I’ve been preferring standalone novels over series because, at this point in my life, a whole series feels like too much commitment to me. But this book was enjoyable to listen to, especially with a narrator such as Joel Clarkson wonderfully bringing the characters to life. I highly recommend The Green Ember to anyone of any age who loves adventure, strong character development and a story of hope.

Pride and Prejudice: My First Jane Austen

Reading classics has been a longtime goal of mine, but I keep putting it off because there are other, more fun books to read. (I have read a few classics, like The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, most of which I’ve enjoyed.) Quarantined life, though, has shifted my attention to items on the bottom of my to-do list, perhaps because I’ve now got the time or my top priorities are simply undoable at home.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was surprisingly exciting and fast-paced right from Chapter 1. At first I had difficulty forming my own opinion because I thought it must be unfair to judge a time I wasn’t familiar with; the norm for sure was different back in 1813 (when it was published). But soon enough I couldn’t help but feel upset about the behaviors and ways of thinking of most of the characters. I had to tell myself to just accept everything and treat classics as a lesson on history and to read more books set in the early 1800s to form a solid opinion.

But as I pondered on what ticked me off—parental favoritism, gossipy neighbors, men who interpret women’s “no” as “yes,” marrying solely for money and good connections, pressuring women to marry at a certain age lest they become old maids, rivalry among families for want of a better social standing, etc.—I realized that this is in fact how people behave at present. There may be slight changes (in the book Jane was told she “will be quite an old maid soon” for being unmarried at almost twenty-three; now, the age women get pressured to marry has moved up to probably thirty—believe me, I feel the pressure), but on the whole things are still the same. I don’t know whether to rejoice that the book is relatable or to be sad and frustrated that society is facing the same issues even now. But I guess this is why this book’s a classic: it’s still relevant and important.

My main takeaway, though, is never to judge anyone by first impression. How many times have we been introduced to someone we dislike and end up becoming fond of them, and vice versa? Also, one’s perspective is just one perspective. In the beginning, Mr. Darcy was perceived as arrogant, but toward the end the other characters’ opinion of him (including mine) has changed for the better. The lesson here is to give everyone a chance and be open to different perspectives. I also saw the importance of verbalizing your feelings instead of keeping them to yourself as “it is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded.” I value Mr. Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s honesty in professing their love; if not for that, they would have lost their chance of happiness.

“The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

This was my first Jane Austen and my first time to read a novel set during the regency era. I did a little research and found that this era was from 1811 to 1820 in the United Kingdom. This book falls under the genre “classic regency fiction,” which is fiction actually written during the regency era, as opposed to “modern regency fiction,” where the story is set during the regency era but is written after. Overall Pride and Prejudice was a lovely reading—and learning—experience. I would love to continue to read classics and especially learn more about this fascinating period of balls, social graces, letter writing and leisurely walks in the park. (Also, I am in love with Mr. Darcy.)

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