Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Planned Books

Books that need to be reviewed:

The Promise-Chaim Potok

Coyote Dreams-Jessica Davis Stein

The Foreign Student-Susan Choi

'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin

Books I will read or am reading:

The Joy Luck Club-Amy Tan

The Fellowship of the ring-J.R.R Tolkien

Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell

The First wives club-Olivia Goldsmith

The Mysteries of Udolpho-Ann Radcliffe

Savage Conquest-Janelle Taylor

Whisper of Death-Christopher Pike

The Joy Luck Club Help Guide


Warning: Spoilers alert. 


Jing-mei "June" Woo: daughter of Suyuan Woo

The Twenty Six Malignant Gates

8. Two Kinds

June begins to describe how America presented unlimited opportunities for her mother. Her mother desired for her to become a prodigy and both attempted through various methods to choose one for her. At first June was eager for the idea, but then she hated it and attempted to resist it. Finally the mother forced her to learn piano. June does everything she can to ruin it by not practicing properly. At the talent show she cared more for her appearance than skill and embarrassed herself and the mother by playing badly. Years passed and the mother gave the piano as a present for June and June briefly mentions how in other ways she has disappointed her mother. June decides to retune the piano and finds a song that she played at the recital, 'pleading child' and then discovers another one called 'perfectly contented' and she called both of them the same halves of one song. 

American Translation

12. Best Quality

June begins the chapter by saying the pendant that her mother gave her and how at first it had no meaning for her, but then later on became important and how she notices other people wearing similar pendants as well and seem to belong to a secret covenant of sorts and that no one knows the meaning of the pendants. Then she moves back to the year before her mother's death when they went shopping for crabs and the dead crab that they bought, and the tenants that accused her mother of eating a cat they owned. The scene then moves on the celebration and how Waverly's family came over and the fact that others chose the best or second best crabs for themselves and June almost ends up with the worst crab. She and Waverly exchange various barbs with one another. Then her mother gives June the pendant and the scene moves to present day and finally concludes where June makes a dish for her father and sees the cat that was accused of being eaten by her mother. 

Rose Hsu Jordan: Daughter of An-Mei Hsu

The Twenty Six Malignant Gates

7. Half and half

Rose discusses how she feels that her mother will want her to fight for the marriage that is falling apart and then launches into how she met her husband Ted and the "tragedy" that bound them together, how she doesn't make decisions for herself, and then launches into the childhood memory of the time the family went to the beach and she lost her youngest brother Bing to the sea, how Bing never returned despite the mother's attempts to get him back. The mother that used to be faithful and believed in faith, after the loss of her son wasn't so faithful as before and is now using the bible to prop up the table leg. She ends the chapter of saying how she knew things and seen signs yet at the same time she allowed for it to happen. 

American Translation

11. Without Wood

Rose begins the chapter with the discussion of the old "Mr. Chou" who haunted her dreams as a child and how her mother told her about words having power, and the nightmares she had as a child. Then the story moves on to the time she met her mother at a funeral of a friend and mentions the check and the papers that her husband Ted sent over to her. Her mother told her that Ted is cheating on her. Rose doesn't think so and disagrees. She then moves forward to when she talks to her therapist and others about her problem. She stays inside the house until her mother attempts to reach her unsuccessfully at first, and then Ted who admits to cheating on her. She invites Ted over and shows him the messy garden and tells him that she is staying in the house. After standing up for herself she ends the story by finally having a good dream about Mr. Chou and the garden spilling everywhere. 

Waverly Jong: Daughter of Lindo Jong

The Twenty Six Malignant Gates

5. Rules of the Game

Waverly begins by saying that her mother taught her strength of silence, then proceeds to get into the discussion of how this helped her out and how she began to play the chess games. There is also a description of a Chinatown street where she lived and various things that were there. Her brothers got the chess as a christmas present and she learned how to play. She read the chess books in the library and did whatever she could to absorb and allow for the chess game to become part of her. She participated in and won many tournaments. One day however she got fed up with her mother constantly showing her off and told her as much. Then the chapter ends with her imagining that she and her mother are playing chess and that her mother wins. 

American Translation

10. Four Directions

Waverly's mother seems to be in ignorance that Waverly will be marrying Rich, a Caucasian American male, despite Waverly showing the things around her house, then Waverly recounts what happened after she stopped playing chess, how her mother played tricks on her and she no longer was a child prodigy as she used to be. Later on she recounts the story of her first marriage to Marvin Chen and how they ultimately split up because of her mother's constant criticizing and then how she got Shoshana and didn't want her at first. The chapter begins to die away with the description of dinner that didn't go well at all and that ultimately Waverly's mother accepts her new relationship and that Waverly and Rich will be off to China for their honeymoon, the mother will travel back to China afterwards, not with them though. It also ends in understanding between mother and daughter. 

Lena St. Clair: Daughter of Ying-ying St. Clair

The Twenty Six Malignant Gates

6. The Voice from the wall

Lena begins the chapter by discussing the 'thousand cuts' story that her ancestor sentenced a man to go through and begins to describe what it is like to live with her mother, how her mother is a psychic of sorts. Her mother married an English-Irishman and went through a still-birth. Then afterwards a strange family, the Scorcis begin constantly arguing and Lena always imagines the mother cutting up her daughter little by little. The still birth incident changed them all, especially Ying-ying and their sufferings were silent. The chapter ends with her meeting the girl she constantly imagines as dead and the girl returning back to her mother, except this time she imagines that it ends differently, by saying that once the worst is over, then there is nothing to be afraid of. 

American Translation

9. Rice Husband

Lena begins by saying that her mother can foresee events in her family's life and then move to the "present" day of the place she and her husband Harold found a new place and invited Ying-Ying to it. Harold and Lena don't have a positive relationship and then Lena mentions that her mother once predicted that she would marry a bad man. Because Lena refused to finish rice bowls, her mother told her she'd marry a bad man. Lena then develops anorexia sort of and thinks because she didn't eat rice she "killed" a boy who teased her mercilessly in high school. Then she mentions how she and Harold work at the same firm, how they met and how she was instrumental in helping him get started in his own business, and the equality, that everything is split in half, although that part made no sense to me. Lena and Harold, after dinner, get into the fight and the story ends with a noise and Lena running to her mother's room to find out that the vase had fallen and a question asked about why Lena is being passive. 


Suyuan Woo: Mother of Jing-mei "June" Woo (Dead at the start of the story, June Woo narrates for her mother.)

Feathers from a thousand Li away

1. The Joy Luck Club

The friends invited June Woo to play with her and she reminisces about her mother, in particular how her mother is very critical of her and how she told other women that she will go back to college. There she also reminisces about the story that her mother told about creating the Joy Luck club while living in Kweilin with other women, how she escaped from Kweilin and was forced to abandon her twin daughters and other obstacles. At the end of the chapter, it is revealed that the mother discovers where her daughters live and the aunties give the money to June to visit China and her sisters. There is also discussion of how the Chinese-American daughters have no appreciation for the Chinese culture. 

Queen Mother of the western skies

16. A pair of tickets

June describes the trip and the plan at the beginning of the chapter, as well as mentioning how she asked Lindo to write a letter that her mother was dead. (Lindo wrote at first a letter pretending that the mother was alive.) She then moves onto tangents of a conversation, how the mother knows that everyone is gone. Her father reunites with his aunt and the family travels to a hotel which looks like a rich resort rather than a cheap sensible one. She then takes a shower, thinks some more, and the story moves a little to the future. She learns a little more history about how her mother left twin daughters behind, as well as the meanings behind the given names. "Spring rain and spring flower." She also learns the meaning of her mother's name. "Long cherished wish," her own name means "good leftover sister." She also learns why her mother abandoned the daughters, as well as how she met June's father. She also learns how the sisters were found as well as the family that finds them and how they were discovered by somebody. The chapters ends with the sisters meeting one another at last, and how they watch the photo develop.


An-Mei Hsu: Mother of Rose Hsu Jordan

Feathers from a Thousand Li away

2. Scar

An-Mei and her younger brother live with their grandmother whom they call Popo and An-Mei remembers that she was ordered to think of her own mother as a ghost. Popo also tells her stories that at first made no sense to An-Mei, but afterwards finds meaning for them, and she also found out that her mother married somebody while widowed and became a third concubine to a man. Later on Popo gets sick and An-Mei's mother returns. An-Mei then remembers the time her mother is chased out of the house by her family and a soup is spilled all over her body and she nearly dies. This chapter finishes up on An-Mei spying as her mother makes a soup with herbs and whatnot, and then cuts up her arm and puts the flesh from her arm into the pot and attempted to save Popo in that way. The remedy is unsuccessful and in the end Popo dies.  

Queen mother of the western skies

13. Magpies

The chapter begins a little prior to Popo's death where the daughter and mother have their first meeting with one another and the mother tells her daughter about how she must not cry, for other people will feed off her sorrows. She gives the lesson through the use of a wise turtle and the magpie eggs that fall from its mouth. An-mei makes a choice to follow her mother and is warned that she can't lift her head again. She is able to. Her mother changes in front of her eyes and she is told that she will live with a new father and lots of new sisters. The family is out, but then returns and the husband gained a new wife. A wife gives An-Mei necklace and the mother proves that the jewelry is not real by crushing it. An-mei then learns of the family's history and how her mother got involved in it by being forced to get married because of the man raping her and learns that the "brother" is actually her half brother instead of by law. Her mother kills herself few days before lunar new years and concludes the chapter by saying that psychiatrist just wants you dream and not to wake up. 

Lindo Jong: Mother of Waverly Jong

Feathers from a thousand Li away 

3. Red Candle

Lindo starts the chapter with the discussion of how promises are meaningless to her Americanized Chinese-American daughter by discussing a movie she had seen, and then moves on to talking about how, when she was two years old, a matchmaker came over to her village and matched her with Tyan-yu. There is a description of the house that the family lived in, and how eventually flood damaged it and at twelve years old Lindo moves in to her husband's house. Lindo is ordered to be a good wife and obey her husband's family. She claims to almost lose her identity to the family's thinking. At sixteen she officially marries Tyan-yu and the marriage turns out to be a waste. The matchmaker lights a red candle and during the night it goes out while it is raining. The candle still turns to ash. After the marriage, Tyan-yu makes his wife sleep on the sofa and is afraid of having sex with her. Her mother in law, desiring a grandson confined her to bed and she meets a woman she likes who is having a baby out of wedlock and creates a plan that allows the girl to become Tyan-yu's wife. In the end, Lindo ends up in America and to remind her of her worth, which is twenty-four carats, every few years she buys bracelets. 

Queen Mother of Western Skies

15. Double Face

Lindo starts this chapter by discussing how American circumstances and Chinese character do not mix by using an example of her own daughter who wants to be Native Chinese instead of American. The scene changes and she is at a hair stylist's and goes back in past to when her mother compliments her appearance and how much she liked it, then moves on to the time she moved to America and was trained at how to hide herself, that she must seek an American citizen (Not Caucasian but Chinese who is citizen,) or if that fails, then she must have a baby although she must lie to the authorities. Apparently Waverly tends to exaggerate or not tell the truth about circumstances, such as fortune cookie or else her mother arriving differently than what Waverly says what happens. With some success Lindo arrives to America, finds an apartment and a fortune cookie job and there she meets An-Mei Hsu. An-Mei tells her that people think fortune cookies are of Chinese influence which isn't true, including the sayings. (To be honest, I read that fortune cookies are of Japanese origin, not Chinese origin.) She then describes the courtship she had with Tin Jong who is Waverly's father and how she chose an appropriate fortune cookie to ask him to marry her. She mentions why she named her children the way she did, and knows that Waverly would leave her soon. She leaves the chapter with thinking of asking her daughter what was lost and finally found. 

Ying-ying St. CLair: Mother of Lena St. Clair

Feathers from a thousand Li away

4. The Moon Lady

Ying-Ying St. Clair begins the chapter with a lesson on how she is taught to be silent and never express her inner desires, then proceeds to discuss a special event, the time she told the moon lady her wish is finally revealed. She and her family, during the Moon Festival, rented a boat and went swimming. She recounts various things she sees while on a journey, how she ruined her clothes, and falls overboard. She gets picked up by a boat and is left at a dock for her family to find her. While waiting the moon lady comes onstage and recounts the tale of how she and her husband are separated for an eternity. Someone also asks for a monetary donation, and although she doesn't have anything, Ying-ying makes a wish, and just as she does, it is revealed that the moon lady is in fact a man. Her family does find her in the end, and she remembers her wish, which is that she wishes to be found. 

Queen Mother of the Western Skies

14. Waiting between the trees

She tells the story of how she gained her gift of foresight, of the time she was at an aunt's wedding and eventually marries the "evil" man six months after the wedding, and she also describes how vain and thoughtless she always was. Lena isn't aware of the previous marriage. She again knows when she becomes pregnant with his son, although she is unaware that her husband was cheating on her until it becomes too late. Eventually her husband abandons her and later on she learns of  his cheating and that he lives with an opera singer. She has an abortion of the baby. (The term that was used was taking out.) Then Ying-Ying moves on to describing that she was born in year of the tiger and how it has two stripes. Afterwards she moves back to the real narrative where she went to the city, worked for a store and met Lena's father Clifford St. Clair who bought her presents and in 1946 when she learns of her husband's death, she marries Clifford St. Clair and moves to America and admits that while he lived she does not feel anything for him, but as soon as he dies they are equals. She then decides to tell her daughter everything and throws a vase that crashes on the floor. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Planned Books

As of Saturday, August 21st 2010

Books I'm trying to finish:

Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell 720/1037

The Promise-Chaim Potok 197/381

The Mysteries of Udolpho-Ann Radcliffe-223/620

Books awaiting book reviews:

Coyote Dream-Jessica Davis Stein

The Foreign Student-Susan Choi

'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin

Books I might read next:

Whisper of Death-Christopher Pike

First Wives' Club-Olivia Goldsmith

The Chosen-Chaim Potok

Savage Conquest-Janelle Taylor

The Joy Luck Club-Amy Tan

Quick Note: I will not focus on love scenes on romance novels. I might mention whether or not I found them good, but that's it. My focus is more on characters and plot than romance scenes. Hope everyone understands that.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Planned books to review

Books I'm reading and how close I am to finishing them

As of August 18th, Wednesday 2010

Coyote Dreams-Jessica Davis Stein 241/364

The Foreign Student-Susan Choi 252/325

The Mysteries of Udolpho-Ann Radclife 205/620

'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin 572/620

Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell 687/1037

The Promise-Chaim Potok 115/381

Books I'm planning on reading after start of college:

The First Wives Club-Olivia Goldsmith

The Chosen-Chaim Potok

Savage Conquest-Janelle Taylor

The Tao of Sex-Jade Lee

Natural Born Charmer-Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The Joy Luck Club-Amy Tan

Quick Note: I will not focus on love scenes on romance novels. I might mention whether or not I found them good, but that's it. My focus is more on characters and plot than romance scenes. Hope everyone understands that.

Book Review of The Veritas Conflict by Shaunti Feldhahn

A Schizophrenics Tale
Name of the Book: The Veritas Conflict

Author Name: Shaunti Feldhahn

ISBN: 1-57673-708-X

Publisher: Mulnomah Publishers

Type of book: Adult, christian, religious, contemporary

Year it was published: 2000

Normally this is not a book I read for fun. Under any circumstances, I wouldn't have even touched it with a fifty foot pole, but because of my friend, I had to read it. At the time my friend was encountering difficulties with reading it and so he asked me to read it, promising me a dinner at my favorite restaurant along with a book at half price books under five dollars. I care for my friend a lot, so I agreed to read it. 

This whole book was completely ridiculous in my opinion, and of course, my friend being a kind of a person that loves converting anything that moves, (an extreme Christian in other words who attempted to convert for me for the last three years,) I didn't expect anything less than that. If it wasn't for me knowing of my friend's mental state, I probably would have laughed at the sheer stupidity in this book and the very obviousness of it. My thoughts and opinions were literally attacked in there. (Just grateful that she didn't include my faith in it.) and I disagreed a lot with it. There were literally angels and demons competing for the souls in this books, and anyone who is remotely liberal is seen as evil. (Homosexuality doesn't stem from the brain but stems from being abused by adults is one message I got. I don't believe that message.) 

This girl named Claire Rivers got accepted into Harvard. She comes from a very Christian family and isn't prepared to deal with Harvard. This book was really reminiscent of my friend. Claire always prays to God about the slightest decision she has to make. (I don't pray to be honest because I feel that my prayer sounds very insincere, and I believe that God helps me select what is appropriate for me through mine desires and the emotions that go to it. Hard to explain but its not as it sounds by the way.) and everyone seems to work to help her meet her desires. She also attends Christian groups and goes to church and whatnot. She also gets attacked frequently because of her opinions.  Claire also has a friend who is being lead away from God by a Prince of Demons. There are also a kindly professor and a TA along with other friends who help Claire out. From beginning I was able to predict various threads and how they would end up. Minus subject matter there are things I wasn't happy with in the book. 

First of all is that dozens of times I wasn't able to follow the conversation and the way it was going in classes. Second is that sometimes random events have no place or bearing to the story. (There is an instance of a pornography but the character never resurfaces again, or another character who dies midway but again what was the point?) Even though the novel is slim, I could barely keep track of who's who and their functions. Since I'm not a business major I also did not understand business side of the book, when one of the characters was explaining business as to how the company works. Claire and other characters weren't palatable to me and I didn't like them. I kind of liked an antagonist in the novel, although I wish that he would have been painted in a more positive light. 

The good characters are good and the bad characters are bad, there are maybe two in-betweens in the book. The plot is pretty basic "good vs evil" one. You know which side wins and all that. Boring. 

What are some themes of The Veritas Conflict? Okay, very simple, but extreme conservative Christians rule! Those who have different ideas from conservative Christians are being controlled by devils. There is also an advocation that the reason that there are mild Christians is due to devil's influence rather than enlightenment. (Again, if I didn't know my friend as well as I have, I really would have laughed out loud at the statement.)  To be honest, all this time I was living in Texas, I was constantly confronted by Christians who desired to convert me. Going to a 4 year university and learning Jewish history and the persecutions my ancestors have endured while under the radical Christian rule throughout different eras made me feel grateful that I was born when I was born. This is something that the author fails to understand. The secular atmosphere is not the devil's doing like she advocates, but instead, it's a sign that many Christians re thought of their actions and the pain they have brought throughout centuries to Jews so most have changed and are willing to respect us. What, would she have rather lived in the times of persecutions? From the novel I assume yes. 

The plot is basically linear and straightforward although it does veer into pointless tangents as I mentioned above. To an extent the plot is handled well with introduction to the main characters by third chapter and reference to the prologue by the end of the chapter. The ending wasn't handled well and kind of leaves more to be desired, kind of a proper conclusion to several plot lines that are left high and dry otherwise. 

The author also wrote other books such as Y2K: The MIllinium Bug-a balanced Christian response and words with We Care America Coalition. She also studied at Harvard. 

This is the summary taken straight from the back of the book: "A heavenly battle is raging for the heart and mind of a young co-ed, a college, and a nation. In this work of fiction, Harvard University is centuries old battleground in the struggle between good and evil, and one student has no idea she's about to be thrust onto the front lines.

"Claire Rivers arrives at Harvard an enthusiastic freshman but is ill prepared for the challenges she encounters to her Christian faith. Students and professors who proclaim 'tolerance' and revel in alternative lifestyles greet her beliefs with disdain-even hostility. But Claire soon faces an even greater challenge...

"Working with a godly professor, and protected by unseen members of the heavenly host, she uncovers disturbing information of a shocking plot against veritas-God's truth-at the university and beyond. CLaire must decide whehter she will risk all by helping to expose and transfrom the darkness-or give in to it." 

I am giving this novel zero stars not because its a Christian book but because of the plot and characters problems within it. 

Originally published 8/18/10
0 out 5 stars

(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, August 15, 2010

Book Review of Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Claustrophobic Room
Name of Book: Breathing Room

Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

ISBN: 0-06-103209-3  or 978-0-06-103209-7

Publisher: Avon Books

Type of book: Adult, contemporary, romance

Year it was published: 2002

Quick Note: I will not focus on love scenes in there to be honest. This is something private and my blog is not made for that. I will focus on plot and characters in there however.

For a college graduation present, a friend gave me Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Natural Born Charmer. I read the novel a number of times and loved it for its unpredictability and characters. The first few pages for me were award winning and hilarious. I enjoyed the storyline and even the ending. (Normally I'm not the type that likes happy endings,). So when I saw this novel, I thought I could expect the same thing; likable characters and an ending that really touches one's heart. What I didn't expect is to feel alienated by the book and disliking the characters.

There are four characters that the novels focuses on: Isabel Favor, Lorenzo Gage, and Lorenzo's wife and her husband. I will do my best to summarize the four main characters. Isabel Favor is a perfectionist control freak blond that right away hates Gage. (To be honest, between them I didn't feel any chemistry...) She lives on the principles that she builds (the four cornerstones) but at the moment is bankrupt and her fiance abandoned her for another woman. Lorenzo Gage is a villain movie star that enjoys annoying Isabel to death and often teases her. The ex-wife is a much better character and seems to be more understanding and more palatable. The ex-wife's husband again is also a sweet character. (This book would have been more interesting if it was between the ex-wife and her husband rather than Isabel and Lorenzo.) There are hints that Isabel and Lorenzo have had childhood issues but those issues seem to be ignored or barely talked about. In other words I felt no closure to the issues that the main characters possessed.

Right away Isabel's character alienated me from her. She is getting married but at the same time she doesn't plan her wedding. She is a perfectionist and to be honest I rarely got a glimpse into her more vulnerable side. She is also hard as nails. I am positive that people like and enjoy characters who are vulnerable and are feeling insecure. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, although she attempted to portray Isabel in such a way, in my view she failed miserably! She attempted to create a Gone with the Wind novel but it didn't succeed. (If Isabel is so perfect, why did these things happen to her? Why should I feel sorry for her and sympathize with her predicaments?)

One  other thing I had a problem with is the assumption that the author made in vocabulary choice. I have never traveled to Italy, and am therefore not familiar at all with the Italian cuisine. It would help if she would have taken the consideration that not everyone went there and created a mini glossary for the terms, or at least a short description. I could be reading this novel and all of a sudden I see the word porcini and wonder what is that? Or some other words that deal with food.

The theme deals with control and chaos which I agree with. One has to be prepared and be analytic, while at the same if the unexpected happens, embrace it as well. That is the only theme that I got from this novel; don't try to make everything super organized, let some chaos and unexpectedness flow in, that will make life more enjoyable. Unfortunately the theme alone is not enough to save the novel.

The plot itself was trite and boring. While the dialogue was snappy, this book was really lacking in what Natural Born Charmer possesses; a soul and something that makes one involved with the characters. (I told the giver that Natural Born Charmer was possibly one of the best romance novels I have read, and no, I'm not lying, its the truth.) The chemistry between Lorenzo and Isabel felt forced and although I have started on July 18th 2010, due to boredom in the book and lack of relating to characters, I couldn't finish this novel for almost a month on August 12th, 2010. And for those who are wondering, if the novel is interesting enough, I could finish it in just a few days. ( Recently read a 420 page novel in just four days,) So length doesn't really scare me.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips wrote many novels such as Lady Be Good and is primarily known for her fictional football team The Chicago Stars/Bonner Brothers novels. She has two grown sons and is married.

This is from the back of the book:  

"She’s lost her money to an unscrupulous accountant, her fiancĂ© to a frumpy older woman, and her reputation to headlines denouncing her as a fraud. Lately it seems Dr. Isabel Favor, America’s favorite self-help guru, can fix everyone’s life but her own. Even the shelter of a simple stone farmhouse nestled in an olive grove can’t provide Isabel with the refuge she needs-not when the townspeople are scheming to drive her away, her plan to restore her good name has come up empty…and a movie star villain with a face to die for refuses to leave her in peace!

Viciously handsome and sublimely talented, Lorenzo Gage makes his living killing people…on the silver screen, that is. Vacationing in Italy, he hates feeling that everything he’s neglected in life is catching up with him. Then he spots Isabel sipping a glass of wine in a sidewalk cafĂ©. A good guy wouldn’t think of seducing such a tidy looking woman…but Ren Gage never saw the fun in playing the hero.

Sometimes all it takes is a special place…a special love…a little breathing room…for life to deliver all its glorious promise. "

As I mentioned before, I disliked this novel immensely. The characters were very alienating, I had a hard time liking or feeling sorry for Isabel and its really a poor sign if you wish that the heroine of the novel would completely disappear into abyss or something of the kind. The food vocabulary really alienated me and I wished again that she made a mini glossary for those who are not familiar with. I managed to gather some hints of the food because I was somewhat familiar with Spanish language. I will not go into detail but I really have to say that in this novel love scenes are very very weak and what could've been interesting exploration as to why the way she is, is only addressed shallowly in a precursory manner which really disappointed me. This novel will not be something I will recommend to anyone so please don't read it unless you are controlling perfectionist who can identify with the heroine. 

1 out 5 stars

(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.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reading History Part III: James Clavell's Asian Saga

Reading History Part III: James Clavell's Asian Saga

To be fair, these are the novels I have read: Shogun, Taipan and Gaijin. I have made attempts to finish Noble House but wasn't able to. Since finishing up a review on Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka, I couldn't help but started to think of James Clavell, in particular the three novels I have read. While some parts were informative with Asian culture, I detested all three novels which I will go into in the next several paragraphs. I will briefly discuss the novels then move on to my reactions towards them. 

I cannot remember how I have heard of them, maybe through amazon, maybe by luck, I forget, but I remember starting with Shogun I believe, or was it Gaijin, I forget.I started reading these books when I was in high school, possibly a junior or a senior (I was eighteen or nineteen at the time,) Shogun is about an Englishman working for dutch people who goes looking for the mysterious Island of Japan. The book began simply enough with them getting wrecked but then for someone who is not familiar with Japanese culture it becomes pretty hard to follow who is who and all that. (It doesn't help that there seemed to be no character sheet and that they were way too thick.) I remember reading this and not having a clue on what is going, (a timeline would also have been a huge help,) As I was getting closer and closer to finishing it, it became pretty hard for me to know what is done and why things were done in a particular way. I recall reading through hundreds of pages and not having an idea of what happened or why it happened. I was reading it simply to finish it and that was that. I recall that the Englishman became as good as the Japanese if not better, (Think of the movie called Last Samurai,) and like a tragic love story lost his true love although there was a promise that a certain woman was pregnant and would have his child. 

Taipan was slightly better (and shorter) than Shogun and seemed to be much more realistic and whatnot. The Englishmen took over Hong Kong and it focuses on a relationship between Dirk and his son Culum. (Again it has Asian female and white male tragic love story,) and again I didn't enjoy the portrayal of Asian men. (Why is it in Clavell's novels all the Asian men are shady and have triad connections?) Again it was an entertaining story with some interesting tidbits about culture of back then and might satisfy history majors. 

The last novel that I have read, Gaijin, I don't think I possess enough words to say how much I detested it, much more than Shogun. Again, too many characters and the character sheet was not helpful at all. Part that I disliked most of all is the one where the female gets raped by a Japanese male and second time around this happens she kills him. I'm not advocating rape, I just find it interesting that as far as I read none of the white men had done it to Asian women. In fact, the white men cannot compare to Asian men. Some are shady but they all seem to possess loyalty and all, while the same cannot be said of the Asian men in his story. 

I apologize for harping too much on this, but since I discussed Cloud of Sparrows, I hope that everyone cna understand why I chose to discuss Clavell's novels and why I detested those books so much. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reading History Part II: Asian Male and White Female Novels

Reading History Part II: Asian Male and White Female Novels

For the people who are in interracial relationships it is difficult and an almost impossible task to find novels that portray their relationships in an accurate way, especially for those who love reading, it becomes twice as difficult. Although things are a slightly more easier now, and the novels are more varied, that difficulty is there. And what if you're an atypical reader? You want to read more in depth novels rather than cookie cutter 'happily ever after'? In this part I will discuss some novels that are more atypical in nature and that deal with Asian male and white female pairings. I will discuss Marguerite Duras' novel, a rewriting of sorts titled The North China Lover, as well as Han Suyin's 'Till Morning Comes and Susan Choi's Foreign Student and Kate Furnivall's Russian Series (Will be reading Jewel of St Petersburg soon.Unfortunately I haven't been able to discover atypical Japanese male and white female novel. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.) 

My discovery of Marguerite Duras happened five or so years ago when I was at a forum. I remember going to a local bookstore and discovering The North China Lover, which I read and liked. Most I enjoyed was the language and I was puzzled by her descriptions, how one was able to feel emotions without reading about them. The setting also intrigued me, that it happened in Vietnam prior to the wars, a story of a thirteen year old girl falling in love with a twenty seven year old man. (Yes, I know, but back then it was what, 1920s?) While I was reading the novel, all I could feel was love throughout it instead of disgust for the pairing. I felt sad at the way it ended. I really would have wanted to know about the girl's life after her lover. I remember desiring to cry at the end. But the novel definitely falls under what I consider atypical or unusual. 

In December of 2006, I was hanging out with a friend at a local goodwill when I saw Han Suyin's 'Till Morning Comes. I was intrigued by a cover: an Asian male hugging a woman with trees serving as a background. Considering the cost at the time, I made a decision to buy this novel and read it. This is a romance novel but at the same time describes modern history of China. Reading it reminded me a little of the past, of when I was with someone of Chinese descent even if for a month. This novel wasn't like Marguerite Duras' The North China Lover, at least in terms of style, although looking back on it, the two have similarities; parted lovers idea, a foreign marrying a native, (Duras's female character lived in Vietnam practically her whole life so I would think of her as a native of sorts,) but at the same time they're different. Duras focused on a year or a specific season while 'Till Morning Comes focused on 22? years of Chinese history if not more. One negative aspect of 'Till Morning Comes is that the female in my view is portrayed negatively and the book gets bogged with too much history. But still, the love story is atypical because it does portray life after wedding, and the fact that Jen Yong doesn't find anyone after Stephanie to be with is romantic. 

Unfortunately I have no memory of how I found out about Susan Choi's novel. I know that I somehow found it on amazon, possibly through a list or maybe through keywords. When I read the summary I found it to be intriguing. Around March of 2008, a local bookstore sent some coupons for the sale they were having and I called and asked them if they had the book. Much to my surprise they did and few days later I was able to get the novel. This novel, unlike the previous two, focuses on a Korean male and white female pairing. The style is very similar to Marguerite Duras, very careful sentences that one would miss and would have to re-read the novel to catch them and their impact on the senses. Reading this novel takes hard work and a lot of understanding. My first time reading the novel was difficult, first because of the words from the start that were used that I wasn't familiar with. (To this day I still don't know where sternum is.) and I kept having this strange feeling that there is something I missed, and I couldn't figure out what it is. In other words, I wasn't a careful reader to discover its secrets. I tried re-reading it multiple times and finally figured out what I missed; Chang's actions towards Katherine, that he loved her and cared for her. The author never says the emotion and they are pretty difficult to capture and to understand until you pay attention to his actions. For those girls who dated or are with Korean men, (especially born prior to 1990s I believe,) this book will feel familiar to them. 

Kate Furnivall's novel, The Russian Concubine was found entirely by accident. Again I found it on amazon and the title was perculiar, "The Russian Concubine." I asked for this novel as a present for the holidays and took a chance on it and read it. Like others I enjoyed it, and the love scenes between Lydia and Chang Lo were credible. I could also easily relate to Lydia because like her I am 1.5 Generation and felt connection and understanding with her. In some parts this book does bog down a little bit, but still it does contain grime and scenes that do not make it a suitable cookie cutter romance novels. The novel does contain questions that don't get answered right away and part of them get answered in sequel and most might also be answered in prequel (The Jewel of St Peterburg, although like in others more questions will arise as well.) The characters in there are unusual and unforgettable as well. It is also interesting to see how White Russians lived in China and all that.  So this novel again isn't typical but atypical. If one desires, give it a try, perhaps one might enjoy it. I know I did. 

As mentioned, I haven't been successful in finding atypical Japanese male and white female novel. (Wendy Nelson Tokunaga's Love in Translation is pretty predictable and too much of a chick lit novel, Takashi Matsuoka's Cloud of Sparrows doesn't seem to focus enough on the love story for it to be considered an atypical love story.)

Huge list of AM/WF novels
AM/WF Novels that I reviewed on the blog

(Quick note: WF in this case means white woman, and the novels that I am recommending are white woman/Asian man.) 

Book Review of #3 Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas

Slow River
Name of book: Vicomte de Bragelonne

Author name: Alexandre Dumas

ISBN: 978-0-19-283463-8

Publisher: Oxford

Type of book: Adult or young adult, historical, one of French classics, 17th century, Louis XIV

Year it was published in: 1995 (originally was from 1847-1850?)

Part of a series: D'Artagnan Romances


It is May 1660 and the fate of nations is at stake. Mazarin plots, Louis XIV is in love, and Raoul de Bragelonne, son of Athos, is intent on serving France and winning the heart of Louise de la Valliere. D’Artagnan, meanwhile is perplexed by a mysterious stranger, and soon he learns that his old comrades already have great projects in hand. Athos seeks the restoration of Charles II, while Aramis, with Porthos in tow, has a secret plan involving a masked stranger and the fortification of the island of Belle-Ile. D’Artagnan finds a thread leading him to the French court, the banks of the Tyne, the beaches of Holland, and the dunes of Brittany.
The Vicomte de Bragelonne opens an epic adventure which continues with Louise de la Valliere and reaches its climax in the man in the iron mask.

Characters: The characters are round I suspect although they don't seem to go through a change in the novel. Just like a little in Twenty Years later, there are multiple points of views from different characters, and it can get quickly annoying to an extent. Many times I got lost with the story and simply read it to finish the novel. (Not as bad Asian Saga by James Clavell). The good characters are painted the same way, and same with bad characters, different from good characters but still sound alike. The good guys are all resourceful and gentleman and dashing characters. Unfortunately, in this novel in particular, there was barely any focus on the bad characters. 

Theme: Unfortunately, just like in previous D'Artagnan Romances, I cannot figure out the message that the novel is trying to send to me. (Between flipping back and forth of the pages, whatever the message was is lost to me.)

Plot: The plot is almost at a standstill and this has way too many point of views; those of Louis XIV, Louise and her friend, etc. the events also tend to be kind of mixed up and I couldn't understand what was going on at some points.

Author Information: Alexandre Dumas is a French author born in 1802 and wrote other novels such as The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers. He died in 1870 and also wrote The Reign of Margot.

Opinion: Unfortunately this book again has too many threads for me to enjoy it properly, and it didn't help that I had to flip back and worth between index and the page I am on to understand the story. I did appreciate the extra things that Oxford included, such as notes and whatnot. I do recommend the edition I had to those who are into French history so they can know what is true what is fiction. This is a very slow read. 

3 out 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, August 2, 2010

Reading History Part I: Christopher Pike

Reading History Part I: Discussion of Christopher Pike

Books have been a very large part of my life. In this post I will discuss my history with reading Christopher Pike novels, as well as favorite and least favorite novels that I like. The outline shall be like this; history of reading Christopher Pike's novels, then discussion of favorite novels and then discussion of least favorite novels. 

My earliest memories of reading Christopher Pike emerged at the time I was a preteen reading R.L Stine books. I recall that during or before 1997 I heard mention of him from my sister's friend's older sister who had a collection. There was an encouragement that I should try him out. 

Possibly around the time I became a teenager I checked out two Pike books from the library, See you Later and Whisper of Death.  At the time, or perhaps because they were very different from Stine's novels, and also due to alien nature in See You Later, immediately I was warned off from Pike. The second novel, Whisper of Death, was one I could never forget. I also got a few novels throughout the years; one is Spellbound and another is Last Vampire. Maybe at the time I wasn't ready, so I haven't touched his novels at all. Whisper of Death, however, continued to haunt me and I often thought about the book, although I remember that I only recalled the basics of the book, and nothing else. I cannot remember what I remembered back then.

Years passed since I tried reading Christopher Pike and by then my very first boyfriend broke up with me. I remember that it was around this time that I got my hand on almost all the Christopher Pike novels that I could, and eventually I finally got Whisper of Death, which became my top Christopher Pike book. Even though my first breakup happened in 2003, I still re-read his novels every year pretty much. (One can do the math pretty quickly,). These novels are something that I would want to pass them on to my future children. (One other Pike fan that I spoke with felt the same way.) 

If someone was to ask me to list favorite Christopher Pike novels, I would be pretty hard-pressed because there are many that I enjoy, and there are many that fall in between and some that aren't as good. My two favorite novels would be Whisper of Death and Scavenger Hunt followed by Spellbound. The ones that are so-so would be Monster, The Lost Mind and The Eternal Enemy. The ones that I disliked intensely were The Star Group, The visitor and possibly Execution of Innocence

For one reason or another, each time I read Whisper of Death, I always feel that I am back in eighth grade, and my crush is sitting ahead of me. I would feel like I was keyed in to his ex-girlfriend or something of the kind. The feeling Whisper of Death gives me is hard to describe. One thing about it is that its the only book that completely creeps me out. I would be sitting down and reading the novel, then shivers would go up, adrenaline would start rushing and if anyone makes a sudden noise or movement, I would be pretty startled. One time I read the novel at night and I was so scared by the ending that half the time I expected to find the antagonist in my room with the sewing sticks in her hands ready to kill me. Scavenger Hunt I enjoy because of the unexpected twists and turns, I think there is also something profound in the novel, something that begs for the sequel. Spellbound is similar reasons I think, or perhaps I enjoy the endings to the novels which would be labeled bittersweet, and many questions about life that Pike doesn't answer. Something else I enjoy in his books are the plants for the future stories I believe. One example would be is in the first Remember Me, the guy named Peter wrote a story about a character named Ann who discovered a VCR that recorded from the future, a basis for Eternal Enemy. 

However, there are some books that aren't good in my opinion. Those books would be the latest ones from Pike such as Star Group, The Visitor, Execution of Innocence, and, sadly enough, The Starlight Crystal. Starlight Crystal had big potential to be entertaining and be good if not better than Whisper of Death. It's a story about the lovers that were forced to part and wouldn't be together for billions of years. I think what spoiled this novel for me were some plot twists which added confusion for me. Since then, I have tried to read it fully, but alas I cannot. The Star Group was too short and book summary was very misleading. There were too many plot-holes and loose ends. The Visitor was interesting in beginning but became boring in the end. Execution of Innocence, I can barely remember that book. 

One book series that were completely ruined for me was Remember Me. I loved the first book and personally feel that he should have ended it right then and there. However, he decided to write two sequels which were very disappointing. I think it was around that time he was going too deeply into paranormal. In previous novels he inserted paranormal but for me it felt normal and acceptable. However, when the paranormal became too dominant, that's when I began to dislike the novels. Not to mention there was no intelligence to the later novels and I could guess a lot easily. (Not a good sign if I can guess everything easily.) 

For those who are not familiar with Christopher PIke and the novels, do not worry, I eventually will give all of them reviews, which I will post here so everyone can check out the books and see if he might be right for you. 

My Reading List: August 2010

Books I am reading now:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Coyote Dreams by Jessica Davis Stein

The Foreign Student by Susan Choi

'Till Morning Comes by Han Suyin

Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Miriam's Tambourine by Howard Schwartz 

Books I have finished:

The Immortal by Christopher Pike

The Lost Mind by Christopher Pike

Dance of Death by R.L Stine

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

THe Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Cloud of Sparrows

Book I decided to drop:

LIttle Women by Louisa May Alcott

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