Friday, January 20, 2017

Diverse Reads on my Blog #1

I've been blogging and reviewing books since 2010, which is almost 7 years (7 years in May of this year) and even prior to this I've been reading and giving attention to books that are not seen as mainstream. Since the next 416 weeks (possibly 8 years) will be bumpy for many people, I will highlight and post some of my reviews from the past starting in 2010 as well as a book I'm reading currently and possibly some books I will review in the future.

Blast from the Past:

The Plot Against the Pom-Pom Queen, written by Ellen Leroe, is a tale about a sixteen year old girl named Kelsey who is being bullied by a popular girl named Taffy Foster. Kelsey decides to concoct revenge against her. When that fails, however, she is introduced to the world of MMG-Magic Male Grabbers, which give her arsenal to become as popular as Taffy.

Why its diverse: If I remember right, Kelsey is dealing with a lot of body insecurity and she doesn't describe herself as a thin woman. The book does use movie stars and whatnot from '80s, but its a minor complaint when thinking of the lessons I learned from reading the story. 

Debut novelist Takashi Matsuoka burst onto the secen with CLOUD OF SPARROWS, a magnificent historical novel that takes us beyond the epic tradition of James Clavell’s Shogun. Set in 1861 Japan, CLOUD OF SPARROWS weaves a tale of passion and adventure, as a small group of American missionaries arrives on the shores of Edo Bay-and enters the strange, exotic world of Genji, Lord of Akaoka. What happens next, between the handsome young nobleman and the two Americans, sets the stage for a remarkable adventure. For as this unlikely band embarks on a journey through a landscape bristling with danger, East and West, flesh and spirit, past and future, collide in an ovel of astounding power and grace…

Why its diverse: It is written by a Japanese-American male and although it takes place around the same time as James Clavell novels, I loved this one because the characters are depicted as human beings, and also there are elements of some fantasy mixed in which the author doesn't go into until the second book. (Unfortunately no third book...)

The Three Musketeers is one of the most celebrated historical romances ever written. It tells of the adventures of the hot-headed young Gascon, d’Artagnan, and his three companions Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

In their gallant defence of the Queen of France, Anne of Austria, they pit their wits and their swords against the machinations and men of that archetypal eminence grise, Cardinal Richlieu, as he schemes to hold on to his political influence over King Louis XIII.

Their swashbuckling adventures take them from the high fashion of the French Court to the murkier aspects of espionage on either side of the Channel in a thrilling story of seventeenth century international intrigue.

Why It's Diverse: The author has Haitian and French ancestry through his father, and if the paintings are to be believed, he appears to have more Haitian ancestry than French. 

What I am Reading Now:

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio 

Derek Palacio’s stunning, mythic novel marks the arrival of a fresh voice and a new chapter in the history of 21st century Cuban-American literature.

In 1980, a rural Cuban family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal EncarnaciĆ³n—father, husband, political insurgent—refuses to leave behind the revolutionary ideals and lush tomato farms of his sun-soaked homeland. His wife Soledad takes young Isabel and Ulises hostage and flees with them to America, leaving behind Uxbal for the promise of a better life. But instead of settling with fellow Cuban immigrants in Miami’s familiar heat, Soledad pushes further north into the stark, wintry landscape of Hartford, Connecticut. There, in the long shadow of their estranged patriarch, now just a distant memory, the exiled mother and her children begin a process of growth and transformation.

Each struggles and flourishes in their own way: Isabel, spiritually hungry and desperate for higher purpose, finds herself tethered to death and the dying in uncanny ways. Ulises is bookish and awkwardly tall, like his father, whose memory haunts and shapes the boy's thoughts and desires. Presiding over them both is Soledad. Once consumed by her love for her husband, she begins a tempestuous new relationship with a Dutch tobacco farmer. But just as the EncarnaciĆ³ns begin to cultivate their strange new way of life, Cuba calls them back. Uxbal is alive, and waiting.

Breathtaking, soulful, and profound, The Mortifications is an intoxicating family saga and a timely, urgent expression of longing for one's true homeland.

Progress: 85 out of 308

Future Reviews:

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (The story features Bee who has heart issues, and her mother who can be seen either as extremely quirky or someone grappling with mental illnesses) 

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

#BabyLove My Toddler Life-Corine Dehghanpisheh (This book for children features a mom and a son that appear to be Hispanic and is a cute story :) ) 

In #BabyLove: My Toddler Life, a new children’s picture book by Corine Dehghanpisheh, a curious toddler loves to play… especially with his mommy’s smartphone!

When Mommy finds him using her phone without permission, it’s the perfect teaching moment.  Mommy reminds her little one that what matters most in life is time together filled with love and attention.

Her simple reminder:  Put down our phones.

#BabyLove: My Toddler Life is the second book in Corine’s #BabyLove Book Series.  The first book in the series, #BabyLove: My Social Life, won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Picture Books 0-5.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why Diversity Matters

Diversity is a word fraught with frustration. Why? Because to me it seems to be more of a power struggle between the "loser" of the history versus the "winner" of the history. On one hand the "winners" have to give up their power and admit that perhaps those "golden years" that's filled with so much nostalgia were not so golden after all, especially for the "losers" that struggled during those years. On the other hand, the "losers" are tired of feeling exotic and otherworldly and they are tired of feeling less than the winners, and they simply want for people outside their groups to understand their reality and what they have been feeling and experiencing. 

In 1994, I arrived to America from an Eastern European nation and had my own unique struggles in at first trying to fit in with the majority because that is what was expected; but later I discovered that I couldn't fit in with the American majority because of my name, my background, my emotions towards my own circumstances. During those years I felt alone and less than because I did not meet an American ideal of being thin, born here, blonde haired and blue eyed. Tired of feeling horrible, I stopped watching TV completely and threw myself even more into reading. 

While my struggles do not include being of a colored race or of being LGBTQIA? they do include struggle with myself, my background and how in the larger world, it's impossible to change identity and become someone else because what you were will continue to haunt you until death. My struggles included of only being known for one specific event during the five thousand year history of my background; they also included only knowing of the Cold War and of being perceived as an enemy because of the country I came from, and of having to explain to multitude of people about the place where I was raised.

It also included lack of understanding from some of my ex-friends who couldn't reconcile the idea that in Europe religion is not just beliefs but its a whole other culture and that people will never let go of your past. 

The shame, embarrassment as well as loneliness I experienced living here is not something I would wish anyone, and many times I wished that I could've met characters in books that I could relate to and understand while I was growing up. How nice it would be to meet a young girl in a book who had very similar background to mine and who helped me deal with learning English as well as feeling valued. How great it would have been if in my classes we could have gone deeper into the world history and focused on a lot more than just Eurocentric version that was constantly fed to us. 

It wasn't until college that my desires for knowing more about my background came true, but alas it is too late because by then my feelings of not being part of larger community and not being valued for self have deeply embedded in my psyche and are here to stay. 

I have a son of Asian and ethnic minority mixed in, and recalling those memories I experienced growing up here, I am scared that he will grow up with an eroded self-esteem just as I did and will also feel less than simply because his background will only be acknowledged either through one specific event or through the "exotic" culture his father came from. I am sad that he might be dealing with Asian men prejudices and that he will not be a confident young man as he is now as a baby. 

I am sure that everyone wants the best for the children, for them to feel proud of their background, traditions, culture and etc. but that pride should not come at the cost of being thought as greater than those who are different which is why diversity is important. 

In order to make people feel valued and heard, it is important to acknowledge differences and to push books that are far more than just reinforcing stereotypes, which means its important to read and talk about #ownvoices books. 

G801 the skeleton code a satirical guide to secret keeping

Title of the book: the skeleton code a satirical guide to secret keeping

Author: Ken Massey and alla Campanella

Publisher: Morgan James Publishing

Publishing Date: 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63047-953-4


Early in life, we learn to exaggerate our positive personal qualities and hide or deny our failures and weaknesses. The Skeleton Code is a satirical and humorous look at the many ways we protect our public personas by closeting our personal secrets, an ultimately self-deluding way of life. As a parody of the self-help success genre, the book presents facetious strategies about how to cover up our silly and scandalous secrets before turning to The Skeleton Cure."

Author Info:
(From iRead Book Tours)

Buy the Book:  Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble

Meet the authors:

Ken Massey is a public speaker, author, humorist and minister enjoying the second and truer half of life. He holds two graduate theological degrees and is trained as a life coach, conflict manager and transition specialist. He enjoys golf, and traveling, but finds his greatest fulfillment helping other people discover their true worth as human beings. Ken, a native Texan, loves the beauty and the people of North Carolina, where he and Alla reside.

Alla Campanella, after traveling throughout the world, has lived in the US since 1992. A longtime student of the arts and humanities, she enjoys her work as an artist and photographer. Alla was inspired to write this book because she heard so many personal and painful secrets from her clients about their failures and foibles and wanted them to face these realities rather than hide from them. 

Connect with them: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Personal Opinion:

According to this book, keeping secrets is akin to tying up one's body in knots while juggling on a ball bounced on top of an elephant's trunk. At least that's the way it felt to me. Some of the advice that was given seemed counter-intuitive, but at the same time its designed to make the reader feel exhausted financially, mentally, emotionally and so forth. If that is what it's like to keep various secrets, I don't think I want to experience those emotions outside the book. There is advice on keeping secrets in the skeleton closet to which the reader should immediately prepare themselves to battle the endless zombies, but there is also advice on how to shut down that skeleton closet permanently without jumping hoops and tying selves up in pretzel knots.

This is for iRead Book Tours


Jan 9   - Library of Clean Reads - review
Jan 10 - Bound 4 Escape - review
Jan 11 - Reviews by Martha'a Bookshelf - review
Jan 12 - Books for Books - review
Jan 12 - Books, Dreams, Life - review 
Jan 16 - The All Night Library - review
Jan 17 - A Mama's Corner of the World - review
Jan 18 - Laura's Interests - spotlight
Jan 19 - The Autistic Gamer - review
Jan 20 - Svetlana's reads and views - review
Jan 23 - Rainy Day Reviews - review
Jan 24 - JBronder Book Reviews - review
Jan 25 - Heidi's Wanderings - review
Jan 26 - I Am Believing God - review
Jan 27 - Gabriel's Wharf - review
TBD      - Laura's Interests - review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

G799 Book Review of The Semper sonnet by Seth Margolis

Name of Book: The Semper Sonnet

Author:Seth Margolis

ISBN: 978-1-68230-056-5

Publisher: Diversion Books

Type of book: Mystery, thriller, killer disease, secrets, family line, Queen Elizabeth I, the New World, living off grid, secret societies, William Shakespeare, power, desires, goals, strong heroine, word play, games, extinct tribe, pirating

Year it was published: 2016


In this stunning thrill ride, perfect for fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry, a long-lost manuscript, written for Elizabeth I, holds the key to unlocking the past—and to eliminating the future.

Lee Nicholson is ready to take the academic world by storm, having discovered a sonnet she believes was written by William Shakespeare. When she reads the poem on the air, the words put her life in peril and trigger a violent chase, with stakes that reach far beyond the cloistered walls of academia.

Buried in the language of the sonnet, in its allusions and wordplay, are secrets that have been hidden since Elizabethan times, secrets known only to the queen and her trusted doctor, but guessed at by men who seek the crown and others who seek the world. If the riddles are solved, it could explode what the world knows of the great Elizabeth I. And it could release a pandemic more deadly than the world has ever imagined.

Lee’s quest for the answers buried in the sonnet keeps her one step ahead of an international hunt—from the police who want her for murder, to a group of men who will stop at nothing to end her quest, to a madman who pursues the answers for destructive reasons of his own.

As this intelligent thriller moves back and forth between Tudor England and the present day, Lee begins to piece together the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words, carrying the story to its gasp-out-loud conclusion.


Main characters include Leslie "Lee" Nicholson, a literature major who has discovered a mysterious sonnet written by William Shakespeare. Lee is very knowledgeable when it comes to Elizabethan times and is also very resourceful and fearless. Although she later on partners up with Mark who has his own secrets, Lee does the rescuing and doesn't let others save her. Mark is Lee's love interest and is a very talented chef who also has his own dark secrets that greatly relate to Lee's quest for innocence. I wish I could say that the villain was complex but he wasn't, and his reasons for doing what he did don't really hold water in my view.


One never knows where clues can lead to


The story is in third person narrative from Lee Nicholson's point of view and quickly moved from one point of action to another, helping the reader discover the messages within the mysterious sonnet that was possibly written by William Shakespeare. Just as quickly as that is established, the author moves on to a mysterious murder followed by a 'what-if' scenario of Queen Elizabeth I. Lee Nicholson is a strong heroine who doesn't rely on others but only on herself, which is what I liked when it came to the story. I also loved the clues and the wordplay that the author used, although I'll be honest in saying that the disease thing is a bit beyond me, and I am wondering how much is true and how much is fiction. (Is the disease and the extinct tribe fiction or fact?)

Author Information:
(From HFVBT)


About the Author

Seth Margolis is a writer whose most recent novel, THE SEMPER SONNET, was published on April 19. He is the author of six earlier novels, including LOSING ISAIAH, which was made into a film starring Halle Berry and Jessica Lange.
Seth lives with his wife, Carole, in New York City. They have two grown children, Maggie and Jack. Seth received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.
For more information, please visit Seth Margolis’ website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

I never knew how much fun a mystery can be until I read The Semper Sonnet. As a teenager still grasping English language, I recall trying out Nancy Drew, but I do remember that I quickly figured out they were not my thing because at the time I feel that I needed books that have settings I am familiar with. Some years pass, and although I moved on from my original view of mysteries thanks to Susan Spann's Shinobi mysteries as well as the last Sano Ichiro book by Laura Joh Rowland, I also have discovered that mysteries can be fun. For me, The Semper Sonnet was a whole lot of fun and a great 'what-if' mystery. While reading it, I recall going back at some points and attempting to understand and solve the clues with Lee Nicholson. I also loved learning and imagining the possible scenarios of Queen Elizabeth I. (I was a bit disappointed that the secret wasn't what I thought it would, that Elizabeth I would be a male...) I also loved the action and protagonists in the book. I do feel that the villain could have used more work because the reader learns very little of him and why the villain behaves that way. I also was a bit surprised that a theory I had when it came to some of the characters turned out to be right, but despite that, the journey is a roller coaster ride that dares to combine history, word play, science and diseases into an electrifying read.

This is for HFVBT

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, December 1
Blog Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Friday, December 2
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Saturday, December 3
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, December 5
Review at A Bookaholic Swede
Tuesday, December 6
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, December 7
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Thursday, December 8
Interview at Author Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing
Friday, December 9
Review at Trisha Jenn Reads
Monday, December 12
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Queen of All She Reads
Wednesday, December 14
Review at JulzReads
Thursday, December 15
Guest Post at JulzReads
Friday, December 16
Spotlight at Books, Dreams, Life
Monday, December 19
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Wednesday, December 21
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Tuesday, December 27
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Wednesday, December 28
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, December 29
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, December 30
Review at Broken Teepee

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Spotlight and Gargoyle Pictures of The Elusive Elixir by Gigi Pandian

Gigi Pandian

on Tour

January 9-20



The Elusive Elixir

(mystery / paranormal mystery)

Release date: January 8, 2017
at Midnight Ink

ISBN: 978-0738742366
336 pages


Dorian Robert-Houdin, the three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle chef who fancies himself a modern-day Poirot, is slowly turning into stone, and it’s up to Zoe Faust to unravel the alchemical secrets that can save him. When they discover that a long-lost stone gargoyle with a connection to Dorian has reappeared in Europe, the stakes are even higher.

From Portland to Paris, Zoe searches for the hidden knowledge she needs, but a cold case that harkens back to 1942 throws her off course. With an ailing friend desperately trying to discover his own elixir of life and a new romantic interest offering the first chance at love she’s had in nearly a century, Zoe is torn between a dangerous form of alchemy and her desire for a safer life.


Gigi Pandian

USA Today bestselling author
Gigi Pandian
spent her childhood
being dragged around the world
by her cultural anthropologist parents,
and now lives outside San Francisco
with her husband
and a gargoyle who watches over the garden.
Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries,
Accidental Alchemist mysteries,
and locked-room mystery short stories.
Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant
and Lefty Awards,
and been nominated for Macavity and Agatha Awards.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Visit her Gargoyle photography blog:

Pre-order the book: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Midnight Ink


You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all:
1 winner of a Grand prize:
the first two books in the series
(The Accidental Alchemist and The Masquerading Magician)
plus a set of gorgeous 7 book-themed recipe cards




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

G502 Book Review of The Little Restaurant by Wang Anyi

General Information:

Name of Book: The Little Restaurant

ISBN: 978-1-60220-225-2

Publisher: Tuttle Publishing

Year it was published: 2010


Wang Anyi's short stories in The Little Restaurant illuminat the emotional and intellectual complexity of the lives of the multiple generations caught up in China. Some of her short stories describe the lives of young students caught in the Cultural Revolution who were sent away to rural communities across China to be educated and tempered in a hardscrabble existence; other stories revolve around the seemingly quiet lives of ordinary citizens in the city of Shanghai. In simple language and with an eye for detail, she describes their simple physical existence and their complex nterior lives. Her descriptions are often realistic, affectionate and vivid yet somehow they remain evocative and haunting. Creating poetry out of the ordinary and the mundane, her stories are at once both stark and deeply poetic.

Author: Wang Anyi

About the Author:
(From back of the book)

Wang Anyi, born in 1954, is currently vice-president of the Writers' Associaton of China, president of the Shanghai Writers' Association and professor at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Fudan University. In 1955 she moved with her mother to Shanghai. In 1970 under a government policy of the Cultural Revoltuion she was settled in rural Wuhe in Anhi Province. In 1972, recruited through a competitive examination, she joined the Xuzhou Regional Cultural Troupe of Jiangsu Province as a member of its musical band. In 1978 she was transferred to the China Welfare Institute Publishing House in Shanghai to be fiction editor for Children's Epoch magazine. In 1980 she attended the literature workshop of the Writers' Association of China. In 1983 she attended the international Writing Program of hte University of Iowa. In 1987 she was invited to be a professional writer of the Shanghai Writers' Association.

Her works, which began appearing in 1977, include more than 100 short stories, 40 novelettes, 10 novels and various prose pieces and essays. She has won numerous awards, her Who's the Future Squad Leader? won a National Children's Literature prize, The Last Stop of This Train won a National Short Story prize, Gone with the Tide and Xiaobao Village won the National Novella prize, Uncle's Story won a Shanghai Novel and Novella second prize, a A story from the Cultural Revolution and I Love Bill won a Shanghai Novel and Novella third prize, The Song of Eternal Regret won a Shanghai Literature and Art prize and a prize at the Fifth Mao Dun Literature Award. Her novel An Age of Enlightenment won her an Outstanding Writer award at the 2008 Chinese Language Literary Media Awards ceremony. Some ofher works have been translated into English, German, Dutch, French, Czech, Japanese, Korean and Hebrew.

1. The Little Restaurant

One Sentence Summary:

An unknown omniscient narrator describes a small corner of the location of the restaurant as well as people who inhabit that corner and their inner lives and turmoils.

2.The Story of Ah Qiao

One Sentence Summary:

In third person narrative the life of a young man by name of Ah Qiao is described. Ah Qiao is a man who suffered from polio which changed his life for the worse. The short story describes him from the time he is a baby to the time he is an adult and is tasked with giving a speech to his co-workers.

3. The Nest Fight

One Sentence Summary:

Auntie Xiaomei is an old woman who got turned out into the streets as soon as her mistress has died. Not having any family, she becomes desperate to procure a house in her old age and tries to use people to reach her goals.

4. Ah Fang's Light

One Sentence Summary:

In first person narrative, the narrator begins to recount how he always runs into a family and as time passes he describes their circumstances more and more.

5. The Grand Student

One Sentence Summary:

Daxiasheng  travels from Xibei with some migrants looking for a cousin of his, Li Wen'ge. Unable to discover his cousin, he decides to stay with the migrants but does little to help them out with their jobs. When he does think he can help the villagers by trying to talk some sense into them, he discovers that it's better if he kept his mouth shut.

6. Inhabitants of a Vintage Era

One Sentence Summary:

The story begins with a description of the passage of time, how things exist but then disappear. An unknown narrator, possibly a young child with an older sister visits the mother at a local movie theater but then they have to leave to get ice scream. After getting ice scream, they spot a couple-a man and a woman dressed in old fashioned clothes and they decide to follow them.

7. A Nuptial Banquet

One Sentence Summary:

In the village of Xiaogangshang during a rainy day a wedding is to take place, and a teacher invites some youths to the wedding. Description of some of the traditions of the wedding follow.

8. The Meeting

One Sentence Summary:

Sun Xiazi agrees to prepare food for a meeting of "three echelons" Descriptiion of Sun Xiazi's family follows, along with what she will wear to prepare food for the meeting and what happens during the day is also described.

9. Xiao Hong of the Village of Huayuan

One Sentence Summary:

In first person voice, the narrator describes the place where they live with others along how its laid out and the people surrounding the village. Description of Xiao Hong, who happened to be the granddaughter of an actor begins as well some incidents that Xiao Hong goes through.

Personal Opinion:

My favorite stories, I'll admit are the first four because they're unlike anything I've read before. There seems to a strange and beautiful luminescence about the stories and descriptions are very unique to other books I've read. I am confused as to the significance of the last five stories and didn't really like them all that much, unfortunately, but they're still a good read if one is seeking some fascinating cultural tidbits of China

This was given to me by Tuttle Publishing House for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

G791 Book Review of now I know it's not my fault by Laurie b Levine

Name of Book: now I know it's not my fault

Author: Laurie b Levine

ISBN: 9781535511582

Publisher: Createspace

Type of book: abuse, trauma, grooming, emotional, mental, financial, humiliation, gray line, border, 1986-1990, USA, missing mother figure, teacher/student relationship, taking advantage, summer camp, borderline sexual, conversion techniques, discomfort

Year it was published: 2016


"Alex is the articulate, first-person narrator of the tale; readers experience her obsession and emotional deconstruction from the inside...[Levine's] deep understanding of 'grooming' behavior...helps her to create a character that jumps off the page." -Kirkus

Alexandra Geller is a bright, underachieving fourteen-year-old coming of age in the big hair 1980’s. Alex is from an accomplished, well-educated family. The sudden death of her mother five years ago, and her relationship with her well-meaning but emotionally unavailable father, leaves her unmoored and vulnerable as she tries to figure out who she is. Early in her freshman year, she’s befriended by Paula Hanover, a young, attractive science teacher at her high school. Paula’s irreverence and charm attracts the attention of the girls, who look up to her, and the boys, who have crushes on her. Alex is thrilled to be chosen by this woman and relishes the feeling of finally “belonging” to a mother figure. Paula’s intentions aren’t so benevolent, as she slowly and carefully draws Alex into a relationship designed to meet her own needs, not Alex’s. Desperate for maternal attention, Alex finds ways to ignore the vague sense that something is wrong. Her compelling story sheds light on a common, but rarely talked about kind of trauma which is subtle, and occurs under the radar.


Main characters include Alexandra Geller, a young Jewish teenager who has recently lost her mother and is craving to be validated and loved by a mother figure. She strikes me as bundle of energy because she constantly bounces her knee all the time and reluctant to open herself up to new people. She is also a bit of a chatterbox and wants to be liked for herself rather than being forced to be someone else. Paula Hanover is Alexandra's teacher, 29 in beginning of the story who is the "cool" teacher by riding on the motorcycle, being in a band and not really being a teacher. Throughout the story she tries to find direction in her life in different ways and she does take advantage of Alexandra's needs in different ways by humiliation, anger and even financially. Alexandra's father is also there, but he doesn't try to bond with his daughter or even care about her hobbies or interests (way too familiar to me,) and Alexandra does have strong friendships in terms of Amber, Sandra and even a boyfriend Adam as well as a counselor at a summer camp named Erica who is a psychology major. While the bond between the friends is strong, I have some trouble recalling definite characteristics of the two friends.


There is more to inappropriate relationships than just physical sexual acts


The story is in first person narrative from Alexandra's point of view. In beginning of the story, Alexandra is about thirteen or fourteen years of age and has lost her mother when she is about nine years of age. That is also when she meets Paula who happens to be her bio teacher. The story itself becomes fascinating as it goes on and years pass and Alex grows up from an awkward teenager craving mother's attention into a young woman who has love/hate relationship with the mother figure, eventually trying to mature and stand up for herself. I do hope that the author will write a sequel or so to the book that will take a look at Alexandra when she becomes an adult and will try to heal from her past. What is good about the book is the issue that's presented because it's often not talked about or even acknowledged, and I also liked the psychology aspects as well as seeing how Alexandra goes under Paula's spell. What I do feel that the author could have worked on more are the secondary characters because I have trouble recalling how Amber and Sandra differed from one another and I do feel that more explanation about psychological process is needed, at least for me.

Author Information:
(From book)

Laurie B Levine has a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University, and is Clinical Fellow in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She ahs been in private practice, helping people understand their trauma stories, for more than twenty years. She lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband, three children, and a massive dog.


In a lot of ways this is probably an uncomfortable but a very necessary novel to read. It's easy to identify and say that novels that possess sex between students and authority figures is wrong and everyone knows its wrong on so many levels. However, emotional, mental as well as grooming are much more difficult to identify and are easy to get into the game of 'he said-she said' where one side tries to convince the other that they misunderstood or are wrong. I have to say that was my experience reading the book: and that was Alexandra's experience as well with her teacher Paula. I also am being honest in saying that I am still confused on how and why it is wrong to know these things about an adult? Aside from that, I could really relate to the religious angle that was played in the book by Paula towards Alexandra, especially how Paula tried to get Alexandra to become a christian and it wasn't until I read that book did I realize that I had a very similar "friendship" with someone who strongly resembled Paula in a lot of ways (although the guy was three years older than I) I do think that some issues are pretty obvious, but its only a minor complaint and didn't deter me from enjoying the rest of the book which spans from 1986-1990.

This is for Claire McKinney Public Relations, LLC

4 out of 5(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)
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