arkadi cloud

tech, teaching, and books

Lord of Formosa by Joyce Bergvelt

A limp start, but pretty strong finish for this exiting book about the Ming loyalist, pirate, and military commander, who was responsible for pushing the Dutch out of Formosa.


Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen by Guy Standing

This was an exciting book! I've always thought that a UBI (Universal Basic Income) was a good idea. The author lays out clear arguments for a UBI, explains common misconceptions and arguments made against UBI, and gives suggestions how it could be funded. I'm now even more in favour of a UBI than ever before.


Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

This is the 3rd book I've read from the 2020 Man Booker International shortlist so far. I really enjoy reading books from this book prize, and this book is no exception.

Tyll is about a jester, comedian, rogue, that wanders around Europe during the 30 year war. His story is intertwined with many notable people of the era. Life is hard for him, and for all people during this long, drawn out war. Every chapter is a key moment in his life, or another person in this time. The first chapter is incredible in setting up the cruel, brutish time they are living in. Chapters are long, and take time to build up momentum. Sometimes you will be wondering what it is building up to, but then you get to that point and find it was all worth it.


Rethymno: Soul Of Crete by Stella Kalogeraki

A solid look at the city of Rethymnon on the island of Crete. It looks at their history, culture, and the natural beauty to be found there. It's a tourist guidebook, but the author is an archaeologist so it's sombre in tone. It doesn't talk about the best night clubs, or restaurants rather it lists notable churches, has diagrams of historically significant doors, and other architecture in the city. That being said, there are some walking itineraries, and driving itineraries at the back of the book to guide tourists in the best way to explore the prefecture. The inside flap also has a city map of Rethymnon.


How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

Another tale of sexual slavery, 'comfort women', in Singapore during World War 2. This story is told from the future, looking back in the past. The focus of this story is how the experience devastated the women for the rest of their lives. After their terrible ordeal, they had another one to enduring – being were shunned and ostracized, by family and friends.

The story follows one of these comfort women, Wang Di, as she is reaching the end of her life. She has never told anybody what happened to her during the war, not even her own husband. Now that her husband has passed away, she feels regret for not telling him. Another part of the story is picked up by a young boy, Kevin. His grandma had something that happened to her during the war too, but he doesn't discover it until he discovers old letters. Between the present stories of Wang Di, and Kevin, we get flashbacks of what happened to Wang Di in the 1940s. The stories all converge at the end due to a discovery, and subsequent investigation, by Kevin after his own grandma dies.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked how the stories were woven together, and there was a glimmer of happiness at the end of the story. These women have had such a tough life: first being abused by the Japanese soldiers, then by their families, and even governments didn't want to know anything about it. I like how Wang Di takes control of her story by telling it. By telling her story, she unburdens herself a little bit, and hopefully teaches those who are listening about this terrible time, so that it may never be repeated.

I always get angry when reading books about 'comfort women'. Everyone knows about the Holocaust and what Germany did during the war, but it seems that Japan made it through the war with minimal damage to its reputation. I guess America felt pity for them after dropping two nuclear bombs on them? Many people who don't live in Asia know precious little about the horrors the Japanese Imperial army inflicted on people in Taiwan, China, Korea, Manchuguo, Malaya, and Singapore. To remember these stories, is to honor their memories.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #43 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #ComfortWomen #JingJingLee #HistoricalFiction #WomensPrize2020 #Fiction

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

A story about two drifters who go from job to job. These two are good friends, and try to look after each other but it's a hard world out there. They have a dream to save up to buy their own land, and stop working on these ranches, but it's always just out of reach. They have to changes jobs frequently because one of the men always finds a way to get into trouble


Taipei: City of Displacements by Joseph R. Allen

An exploration of the city of Taipei and the transformation of it's public art, maps, and parks as it has been colonized by the Qing, the Dutch, the Japanese, and the KMT. It was a good read, but this is a very specialized subject that will be inaccessible to most people unless they are familiar with the history of Taiwan and Taipei. This books gives you a glimpse of the amazing place that Taiwan due to (or in spite of) it's tumultuous history.

I wish this book went deeper into the effects of colonialism on Taiwan but the scholarship into this topic seems to have just begun. The archives on Taiwanese history have been closed for many years during the martial law period and the people here are still coming to grips with their past.

I bought this book from SMC Publishing Inc 南天書局有限公司, a local publisher of academic books. They have many other great books on Taiwanese history, and even old maps.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #41 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #JosephRAllen #Taipei #Taiwan

The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan's Defense and American Strategy in Asia by Ian Easton

A well-researched, look at PLA strategies that may be used against Taiwan, and ways Taiwan has planned to repel the invaders. Of course, many of the exact plans are unknown, but by reading PLA strategy manuals, Easton gives us the popular thoughts and attitudes on a possible invasion against Taiwan. There is also a chapter on America's strategy in Asia.


Painfotainment by Dan Carlin

(Hardcore History #61)

An exploration of one of mankind's dark sides – pain used as spectacle, and pain as punishment. Executions. Gladiator battles. The guillotine. Carlin surveys the scene from the perspective of the executioner, the audience, and the person being executed. He uses lots of primary sources, and delivers it with his trademark dramatic style. I like his exploration of the decline of executions and the reasons behind it too.


Palestine +100: Stories from a century after the Nakba by Basma Ghalayini (Editor)

They asked 12 Palestinian writers to write a story about what living in Palestine would be like in 2048. Some of the stories are incredible. Some are sad. Some are strange. Overall though, the collection isn't spectacular apart from a few stand-out stories but I'm still very interested in the Palestinian struggle so I enjoyed this book. I also support books like this as a way to give Palestinians a 'voice'.

The first few stories are the strongest, and the last story was the strangest. I barely got through the last one. 3 stars for the stories and maybe half a star for the premise. I heard they even have an Iraqi version of this collection, though it has even lower reviews than this book.

Rating: ★★★ Book #38 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #Palestine #MiddleEast #ShortStory #SpeculativeFiction #TranslatedFiction