Reflecting Humanity Through Literature and the Eyes of a Turkish Lawyer: Selahattin Demirtaş

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DISCLAIMER: The book is given by the Indonesian publisher in exchange of an honest review. All the review written is not related to any personal issues or connection.

I was getting so emotional when I read Seher or is translated as Subuh in Bahasa Indonesia. I do not know the reasons why but I just feel this compilation of short story is like a message of humanity that Demirtaş tries to convey. The message is simply clear: to be kind, to have great understanding and tolerance towards others. Yet his voice is so loud and clear, it reaches me like it is transformed into a universal language. The stories in this collection is short and simple yet is very much touching. The main theme is about social injustice, violence and hardship experienced by ordinary people. I assume that these stories are based on Demirtaş’s experience as a lawyer in human rights.

The story I do love the most is a story about a very lovable girl named Seher. She once falls for her workmate and does not know that this guy has a hidden agenda. One day, this guy takes her into the wood and sexually molested her with his two other friends. Seher who faces the brutal experience will have to deal with the custom later. Seher has brought a shame to her family honour. This leads to a condition where his father and two other male relatives drag her in an empty field and take her life away.

“Tiga laki-laki merampas mimpi Seher di tengah hutan pada petang harı. Tiga laki-laki mengambil nyawa Seher di ladang kosong pada waktu malam.”

(One evening in a forest, three men robbed Seher of her dreams. One night in an empty field, three men robbed Seher of her life).

Apart of Seher, there are also some other stories that I found intriguing. The story about Nazan-the cleaner for instance. Nazan is trapped in the middle of protest and is assumed to take a part in it even if she does not know anything about it. She is sentenced to an imprisonment because of this false accusation.

Those portrayals of custom and social injustice leave me breathless. I couldn’t help myself but to sob and to sigh when I read some of those parts. When I read Seher, I was thinking why women should go suffering in her life. When I read Nazan and other stories, I could not help myself but to think how people can be so cruel to others and what happens to the value of humanity.  How can we become such a monster to others? What I love the most of this book? The characters particularly the female characters in the novel have such a strong portrayal. The female doctor who helps Nazan and Seher’s mother, for instance. 

There are so much to say about this book. I can go for hours to tell you about it but it will spoil the fun. So grab it and read it yourself because it is truly a very enlightening yet entertaining piece of works.

The Indonesian version of book is available to purchase at Subuh by Selahattin Demirtaş  . And the English version is available to purchase at Dawn by Selahattin Demirtaş

A Yellow House by Karien van Ditzhuijzen

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DISCLAIMER: The book is given by the author in exchange of an honest review. All the review written is not related to any personal issues or connection.

My gusto in reading is dropping recently. The c-19 pandemic, the charity project and the academic obligation leaving me all breathless and extremely exhausted. Yet I am in debt with Karien and her book A Yellow House for helping me grasping my reading mood back. 

I met Karien long time ago in a book community forum in Instagram. I saw a little bit of her real life knowing that she is an antique-stuff-hunter and she is the world citizen. Our path crossed when I visited Bali long while ago with Pak M. We had our lunch and we talked over things and had our book haul. Her novel A Yellow House was a part of the haul. 

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During our encounter, Karien told me about her living experience in Singapore. The conversation went from eating durian to the social issues which are happening in Singapore including the issue regarding the Indonesian domestic workers there which has become the central topic of her novel. 

The Indonesian domestic workers are one of those most wanted and are in incredibly demand in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East. Yet their life in other people’s country is not as easy as what it seems. Many of them experience abuse, violence and humiliation from their employer. Karien as a writer is able to capture this issue and turn it into a beautiful writing through her novel. 

The novel tells a story about a little girl named Maya. She has to undergo such difficult time at school and at home. Her mama is an ambitious lady who is always busy at work. Her close friends start bullying her at school. She is also longing for the presence of her grandma. This kind of thing keeps going on until Aunt Merpati whom she refers as Aunt M comes to her house as her Ah Mah (maid). 

Maya does not like Aunt M at first. She thinks that she is big enough to handle everything even to take a good care of Chloe, her little sister. Yet little did she knows, she will later experience a new world and becomes Aunt M’s ally to help for those domestic workers who are in trouble. 

“You always think, I am so lucky, have such a good employer — but you know, it wasn’t ike this. I have had it both. Good and bad. Being a maid, it is like a lottery.”

Karien pictures the condition of the domestic workers particularly the Indonesian and Philippinas domestic workers. She portrays the cruelty and violence towards those workers through a character named Sri, for instance. Sri is kept all the time at home by her employer. The employer often hits her when she makes a mistake. Maya and Aunt M once find her laying on the ground with bruises and wound; and they will have to bring her to the shelter. Sri will have to undergo a legal battle with her employer later. It is one of the things that those domestic workers often experience. 

The cultural value is also portrayed beautifully in the novel. Aunt M for instance — is a Javanese-Indonesian lady. A Javanese is often portrayed as someone who is timid. Merpati is without exception. She is typical Javanese maid who obeys the unwritten rule of serving her master and the family before feeding herself. In Merpati’s case, she feeds Chloe first before eating the food herself; she would rather eat separately from the masters, and she does not even know which plate she should use because the masters in Java will normally differentiate the maid’s place of eating and their plates.

I have no doubt that Karien has done a great job as a writer. I am able to relate myself to  the hardship and difficulties that the domestic workers experience there. She is also able to portray the dream those workers keep holding. Aunt M’s dream for example is to build a yellow house that her daughter always dreams of. However, there are small details that Karien miss in the books. The cultural terms used in the books are often incorrect. The word goreng pisang  which refers to friend banana should be pisang goreng. Another example is the mix-convo between English and Bahasa like ‘You kacau me…” Some of the cultural terms are written without any further explanation. This will leave those non-Malay readers who know nothing about Bahasa with confusion because they will have to guess the meaning of the world. I guess a glossary of term in the last page of the novel will be lovely and helpful. 

“Singapore is obsessed with survival and success. Our society has become competitive, we have neglected kindness and helpfulness. Many of us have become used to being cold and apathetic to the plight of others. Or are we just too busy working all the time to even see?”

As a summary, I really think that this novel is worth reading. It provides the readers with such insights and will bring them to different perspectives in seeing and appreciating the domestic workers. A light but very entertaining and enlightening reading. 

The book is available to purchase at A Yellow House by Karien van Ditzhuijzen

 

Spooky Magic by Elena Paige

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DISCLAIMER: I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

TRIGGER: This is a sweet graphic children book. The story is beautifully told in wonderful illustration.

Evie Everyday’s adventure continues…yay!

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No…no…she does not want to become normal like any of her friends anymore. She comes with a mission to beat the young Ms. Veronica at the Halloween Competition on Friday, October 31.

Will it be easy? nope, it won’t particularly when mummy tells her the witches’ law:

“Yes, two laws. One that will ban witches from living outside witch communities. And one that will let witches have the freedom to live anywhere they want to. One of the will become the new law.”

So, what to do? Will it be easy? will Evie win the competition with all the burdens those witches put on her shoulder?

Evie comes out with an idea of doing a magic trick with Jack O’ Lantern. After a few trial and errors. Evie and Jack are succeed to entertain those people who watch them in the competition. 

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The end of the story is a little bit unpredictable. I love the twist that Elena Paige brings in the second book of Evie, The Everyday Witch series. The character of Evie is so lovable and as a reader, I am very much engaged with her. Elena Paige’s little surprises also give a little bit of kicking in the end of story. The moral of the story is clear: be believe in yourself!

“I believe in you, Evie Everyday. You’re not a loser. You’re the most creative and clever witch I know. You’ll come out with something magnificent.”

It is definitely a book worth reading! 

Ubiety by Grzegorz Kunowski

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DISCLAIMER: The book is given by the author in exchange of an honest review. All the review written is not related to any personal issues or connection.

Grzegorz emailed me long while ago and gave an offer : to read and review his recent book. I saw the blurb and I said yes without even checking Grzegorz’s background. Ah, it takes me a while to finish and writing a review about the book. So let’s get it started. 

The book is divided into seven chapters. Seven sounds so little but hey, it takes weeks for me to finish it. In every chapter, Grzegorz  starts with a quote which (I assume) represents what he is going to say in the chapter. My favourite one is from Plato in the first chapter of the book 

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” 

And let’s meet our hero Adam Johnson whom the author describes as 

“Adam Johnson was a man who was led by logical thought but occasionally he gave up on this process, as you must sometimes do in life, he gave up on this process for a feeling, not any ordinary feeling that comes and goes but a spectacular feeling, one that is capable of satisfying the soul, a strange but calming feeling as if all things are just meant to be, a feeling that whenever is going on is right, somehow just right, it is extraordinary in its task to supplement a greater purpose, a purpose larger than him, a purpose to bring about the unstoppable change that you cannot simply walk past, either change serving a greater good in the name of the people and progress or a much more debatable change, one that leaves barred land and burned structures of both man and nature, so throughout his life he would come across times and places when this almost holy feeling swooped in, bringing about fated places and fated times.”

Such long sentences to describe a man. And as the story of Adam Johnson continues, the story starts to get a little bit confusing. I lost myself sometimes in the middle of the story and would have to return to the previous pages just to understand what the author is going to say. The plot seems like jumping here and there which makes the story line hard to follow. Such a lamentation because Grzegorz’s points may be to wrap something philosophical and put it into this book. 

I think what Grzegorz can do is to work on the storyline using a user-friendly language. In between, he should be attentive on the transition of each chapter. Put some more sentences wrapped in a plot as a ‘glue’ so there is a connection between one chapter to another. Meanwhile, make sure that the climax is also enchanting yet entertaining for the readers. So the whole story can fulfil the description of the title. 

ubiety – noun 

the state of being in a definite place or position (source: Cambridge Dictionary)

I believe that it is not easy but Grzegorz got the talents already. He just need to practice a little more in writing. Good luck! 

Grzegorz’s Ubiety can be bought online at Ubiety by Grezgorz Kunowski

Existential Dialogues by Daniel Chechick

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DISCLAIMER: The book is given by the author in exchange of an honest review. All the review written is not related to any personal issues or connection.

Daniel Chechick contacted me a while ago and offered to review the book he has just written. I said, ‘Sure, I would love doing it.’ When he gifted me the book and I saw the cover, I was thinking that this might be one of those fantasy dystopian book. I was then questioning myself again whether I was able to review the book or nope as that kind of thing is not really my cup of tea. I later went to Amazon and checked on this book just to know that this book is philosophical and so-called-motivational book. I went like, “Blah, after those Ikigai-sheesh, I now have to deal with another motivational book.” With all due respect and please do not take me wrong, I do not mind reading any motivational books.  But let me be honest, dear friends, I have never ever bought any motivational books in my life. I am sarcastic and cynical by nature. Therefore, I will just go smirking to those kinda of motivators while thinking, “whatever you are saying to people are crap crap crap! Everyone goes on living their own paths.” However, as soon as I read Daniel’s book, I had the difficulty to put the book down. 

Daniel starts with a quote from my favourite author Isaac Bashevis Singer, “We must believe in free will, no other choice,” which I think has become the main point of what he tries to deliver. He is also being humble and honest on what he is trying to deliver, 

“In a moment, I lay my soul down completely exposed to you, presenting all my emotions so openly you could judge every possible aspect of me…in my private world where no thought is too blatant, no love is too secret, no anxiety is too abominable and no smile is too vicious to be brought to mind. In a moment, you’ll find out your Play of Life is an unprecedented, wonderful masterpiece, so even if you are doubtful in this regard, just accept it as an extraordinary compliment.”

Daniel in this book plays like Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet by presenting two different people having dialogue to each other or a teller who tries to tell something to the audience or simply just asks them a philosophical question.

“What is the Great Play of Life all about when the audience has gone?”

“Well, we are all under this delusion, occasionally. Can you imagine a life with nothing like the fire of your current love? Haven’t you just expressed the strongest regret any human could ever have?

“How could a person grow accustomed to succumbing to that horrendously wonderful madness of love which consumes one from within and drive him or her willingly lose any control of one’s life – for the sake of some pleasure, only to be left with a void in life after a while?”

The topic circles in the discussion of life from the basic thing: recalling our connection to our parents. The discussion then goes in different level exposing and unveiling the humane aspects of life such as love, despair and dreams. The pictures in the book are beautifully illustrated and it helps Daniel to deliver his such-abstract concepts on life. 

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Existential Dialogue to me does not only drag them on a philosophical journey but also motivate people to see the existence of life from different perspective. Some lines are very philosophical;

“This fear is nothing but a way of suppressing the recognition of your own mortality, in the form of imagining the loss of members of your circle.”

Some lines are very profounding;

“Because the magic power of words can sometimes generate in us a powerful awareness that you must handle, which, in turn, generates gigantic transformations of your min. This intellectual penitence might be a source of great pain, but also of an inspiration to discover one’s strongest energies. All this generates the metamorphosis leading you to make a choice and reclaim control of your life.”

Some lines are very reflective and encouraging;

“From here follows one’s own terrible responsibility for becoming whatever one desires to. If one is currently desperate, let one engage in a one soul’s searching to find out what sustains despair in one’s mind, or conversely, one hidden benefit from despair. “

“Melancholy is a natural and proper response, just like in case of mourning, but it also indicates regeneration, since this is your most sublime existence. you must never betray your true self for the devil you know, since you can ascent to these heights, time, and again! Accept it as a given that a human heart can contain countless loves, without any of those loves diminished a bit: the love of one’s children, life partner, family, friends, and obviously, of oneself!

I can go on with book but it will spoil all the fun and philosophical journey you are going to experience while reading it. So grab your own and start reading this book. The book is available to purchase at Existential Dialogues by Daniel Chechick 

The Bachelor by Sabrina Jeffries

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DISCLAIMER: The book is given by NetGalley, the author and the publisher in exchange of an honest review. All the review written is not related to any personal issues or connection.

The Bachelor by Sabrina Jeffries tells about Lady Gwyn Drake. She holds a secret none knows even her own family. One day, her blackmailer-a man whom she has ever had an affair tries to threat her with that secret. Joshua Wolfe later appears and becomes her knight in shinning armour. He realises that Gwyn needs a protector. Gwyn’s brother finally makes a certain arrangement to protect Gwyn- with the help of Joshua Wolfe of course. As Gwyn and Joshua spend some time together, they start feeling the little sparks between them. Yet what about her secret? will Joshua accept her after he knows the secret?

The novel portrays such sweet romance. I love the plot and the effort that the author put to make the characters look real. Gwyn is for instance portrayed with her flaws. She has been hurt and it always takes courage for her to trust again. Meanwhile, Joshua even though he is portrayed as a gentleman, he is also insecure about his physical condition particularly his injured legs. This is a good point. 

I am sure if both hero and heroine are given a little bit of ‘spicy’ and space to develop the characters a little bit more, this novel is going to be a perfect historical romance. 

The Arrangement by Sylvia Day; Minerva Spencer; Kristin Vayden

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DISCLAIMER: The book is given by NetGalley, the author and the publisher in exchange of an honest review. All the review written is not related to any personal issues or connection.

The Arrangement is a historical romance novel novel consisting three stories and are written by Sylvia Day, Minerva Spencer, and  Kristin Vayden. They are all sexy, sensual, and entertaining in their own way.

In the first chapters of the book, Sylvia Day writes a story entitles Mischief and the Marquess. We are going to see Justine, Marquis of Fontaine and Lady Sophie; two childhood friends who cross their path again. Sophie is a free-spirited lady and Justin is a man who tries to do the righteous things. They form a special bond as they undergo certain circumstances.

The Duke’s Treasure by Minerva Spencer is the second story. Meet Josephine Laman who is crazy for the fifth Duke of Wraxton- Beaumont Halliwell. Sadly, Beau’s heart is given for Jo’s best friend whom she finally married to Beau’s brother. Beau is away from home for so long. He only returns when he hears the news about his brother who passes away in an accident. As a result of the accident, Beau is now having the obligation to continue the family line. Jo comes out as the scapegoat who will have to marry Beau under circumstances.

The last one is Kristin Vayden’s The Inconvenient Countess. Diana Katherine Lambson comes from a poor family with an only way out: marriage out of convenience. The Earl of Barrington- Charles Brook is her way out. He is willing to help her so she is able to gain some respectable statuses from their bond.

Those three stories share a similarity: marriage for convenience. The portrayal of the heroine is great and so the heroes. They are not only a girl with Cinderella syndrome who looks for a guy, jiggy-jiggy him and live happily ever after. Each of the heroine has its own unique portrayal. And from all of the heroes that we have, I am very much in love with Charles Brook. The last two heroes are into the pleasure-seeking and pleasure department yet the last one is more ‘decent.’ He is generous and he is very much into giving. Hey, it does not make the other heroes less outstanding tho! And it certainly does not make the book less interesting to read