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I am thinking of writing Monthly Musings to replace Fortnightly Focus as I will be focusing more on my career as an aspiring Front-End Eng. / Data Scientist this Australian summer. I’ll be active on my blog, maybe release some YouTube videos, but my focus will be on those things. So Monthly Musings will have whatever is on my mind (reviews, opinion pieces, and updates) till I decide to focus more on this blog. I need to get good at my primary source of bread and butter before focusing on this little cupcake (lol). Anyways, this edition has two reviews. Till next time!
Unmarriageable | Book Review
“Marriage-Industrial Complex” is a term that made me raise my eyebrows when I first read it in Unmarriageable. This 250+ page novel from Soniah Kamal is a spiritual adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. (Disclaimer: I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice)
Although it borrows heavily from Jane Austen’s classic novel (even the character names are derivations), Unmarriageable, much like an independent woman, can stand alone on its own feet. In short, it portrays women in a patriarchal society. It deals with themes pertaining to classism, social status, womanhood, and, most importantly, Marriage. It reads like a social commentary where the author uses the characters as nuanced mouthpieces (sometimes). The story is split into three acts, and their pacing distinguishes them.
I found the characters to be well-established. Kamal does an excellent job making us like the characters she wants us to like and despise those she wants us to hate. For an author to instill such feelings in their reader, I think that shows effective writing. Overall, the characters are likable and fleshed out. It is a very character-driven plot. Some of the novel’s events (especially in the third act) happen too abruptly, and some characters act too comically to be taken seriously. The best way to describe this novel would be to say it is a caricature of Pakistani society. The characters are written in a multi-dimensional manner except one or two. This helps Kamal’s case greatly. Implicitly, she argues that people aren’t evil, they are products of cynical societal systems. We are bound to have “gold-diggers” in a society where material wealth is a sign of success. Should then the “gold-diggers” be blamed or the society that pushes them to have those preferences?
The issue of Marriage takes center stage throughout the novel. The transactional nature of Marriage is the main focus for Kamal’s critique. Classic stereotypes for boys and girls are brought out in full glory to fuel this critique. In Kamal’s universe (and in Pakistan, sadly), girls weigh bachelors according to their wealth, lineage, and looks. Guys weigh bachelorettes according to their looks and their lineage. The main character, Alysba, is one exception. She can see through this superficial culture and points out that Marriage isn’t the end itself but a means to an end. Overall, the arguments presented in this novel are far too nuanced for this review to cover. Kamal didn’t shy away from showing all perspectives and ideas. Even those that we might consider taboo.
For the main part, the plot is fast-paced. Whenever I thought things were slowing down, something would happen. I do like stories with this structure; however, it takes away from an organic arc. I do understand that Kamal wanted to present Marriage first and then focus on her story. It’s a tradeoff that didn’t serve the story too well but makes for a compelling central theme. I still enjoyed the story quite a bit, and it has a generous amount of plot-twists.
Overall, Unmarriageable really should be read.
Neural Networks From Scratch | Book Review
What? Only a nerd would write a book review for a nerdy thing!
Well, Hello then. Neural Networks From Scratch by Harrison Kingsley is a good introduction to the inner workings of neural networks (which I still don’t understand). Going by the name of Sentdex, he is my favorite Youtube programmer, and I wanted to support him by buying this book. I also wanted to learn about NN. I managed to finish this 300+ book in a record two days, and I am happy to say that I still don’t understand neural networks. JK.
If you are good at Python (intermediate), I’d recommend you pick this book up. Kingsley holds your hand as he guides you through programming Perceptrons. It’s not as math intensive as I thought, although he does throw equations around. He walks through different activation functions, optimizers, loss functions. I would recommend watching some Youtube videos as you read the book; they just make these things easier to digest.
One caveat, though. It’s a theory heavy book. It doesn’t deal much with the application. You’d have to pick some other books if you want to learn applied deep learning. That’s what I am going to do. I am still quite early on my ML journey, so let’s see.