Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review of Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike

Name of book: Whisper of Death

Author Name: Christopher Pike

ISBN: 0-671-69058-2

Publisher: Archway Paperback, Simon and Schuster

Type of book: Young adult, horror, contemporary, science fiction

Year it was published: December 1991


Summary: 

Roxanne and Pepper are a teenager couple with problems. They leave their small town for a weekend to try and solver them. They don’t really succeed, and when they return home they find their town empty.
They call other towns.
They find the whole world empty.
But eventually they discover three other kids their age who are still alive in the town. They cannot imagine why the five of them seem to be the only ones left of the entire human race. They have only one thing in common. They were each directly or indirectly involved in the death of Betty Sue-the plain, shy girl who committed suicide only a short time ago. Betty Sue-the quiet, brilliant girl who wrote short stories about each of them. Stories of hate, of revenge, of death in a dead world.
It makes them wonder who Betty Sue really was.
Or what Betty Sue was."  

Characters:  This is written in first person and it's from Roxanne Wells' perspective. Roxanne's manner and speech struck me as a bit ignorant and humane. That is she tends to speak like others speak. She is reminiscent of someone who knows herself well. Roxanne and Pepper live in a poor town and both don't have plans or know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. The characters, although slightly round and could easily be related to, seemed to lack the necessary change as the novel progressed. Despite the feeling, the characters are unique and highly enjoyable. 

Theme: Why did Christopher make a choice to write this novel? This will take a lot of deep thought to talk about. I think the theme is best expressed as Betty Sue's question towards the end of the novel. "'What would this world be if one child who was born had never been born? Would it be the same world?'...'That is the mystery. It would not be the same at all. It would be nothing.'" (164) The symbolism can also be used in this way; the deaths can be seen as failed abortions or miscarriages, the emptiness of the world can be seen as 'what if everyone, not just Roxanne, had abortions?' and I often now link the climate of the desert to the idea of a womb that kills instead of nourishes. 

Plot: The plot is very interesting and has a lot of twists that a reader will not expect. I would say that the plot is the main strength of the novel. The idea itself is very unusual; Roxanne and Pepper decide to abort a child, and then change their minds. So when they come back, they realize that the whole world is empty except them and few other teens. One by one everyone dies. The reader is instantly introduced to the characters and the "apparent" conflict. The climax of the novel is unexpected and so is the ending. The ending itself desires a sequel, although I will argue that the sequel will spoil the first novel. 

Author Information:  Christopher Pike wrote 30+ novels mainly for young adults, the most famous or well known one is The Last Vampire Saga, Final Friends and Remember Me, and his real name is Kevin McFadden. One of his books, Fall Into Darkness was created into a movie. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a website, but there is a fan club that is devoted to him. (http://www.christopherpikefanclub.com/ ) 


Opinion: This is the second Christopher Pike novel I have touched many years ago. This is actually one of my favorites, perhaps due to unusual plot or the suspense in it. I used to always imagine that it took place in 1950s (don't know why,) and one thing that I always thought about was this sentence: "'We are born dead,' she says. 'It is just a matter of time before we realize it.' She touches her belly. 'The rare one realizes it even before emerging from the womb.'" (162). Whenever I read this novel as well, I felt that I was a teenager again in middle school, sitting in the class, liking a boy from afar while in front of me sat his ex girlfriend, (for some reason she always reminded me of Betty Sue, maybe its because of red hair or the fact she also always wrote in front of me and carried a binder,). The novel itself is a puzzle that I can't understand no matter how many times I read it. 

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.)

Planned Books

Books that are awaiting Reviews:
Gone with the Wind-Margaret Mitchell
'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin
The Promise-Chaim Potok
Coyote Dream-Jessica Davis Stein
Books that I decided to drop:
Red and Black-Stendhal
Books that I'm reading:
The Secret life of the bees-Sue Monk Kidd
First Wives Club-Olivia Goldsmith
Louise de la Valliere- Alexandre Dumas
Mysteries of Udolpho- Anne Radcliffe
The Kitchen God's wife- Amy Tan
The Chosen- Chaim Potok
Books that I'm planning on reading:
D'Artagnan Romaces- Alexandre Dumas
5. The man in the iron mask
Dream of the Red Chamber-Xueqin Cao
1. The Golden Days
2. The Crab-flower club
3. The warning voice
4. The debt of tears
5. The dreamer wakes
The chosen-Chaim Potok
R.L. Stine Fear Street Saga and The Fear Street Saga
The Hundred Secret Senses- Amy Tan

Book Review of The Foreign Student by Susan Choi

A Diamond in the Rough
Name of Book: The Foreign Student

Author Name: Susan Choi

ISBN: 0-06-092927-8

Type of Book: Adult, historical, 1940s?-1956, South, South Korea, Korean War, interracial relationship white female/asian male

Year it was published in: 1999


Summary:


Highly acclaimed by critics, The Foreign Student is the story of a young Korean man, scarred by war, and the deeply troubled daughter of a wealthy Southern American family. In 1955, a new student arrives at a small college in the Tennessee mountains. Chuck is shy, speaks English haltingly, and on the subject of his earlier life in Korea he will not speak at all. Then he meets Katherine, a beautiful and solitary young woman who, like Chuck, is haunted by some dark episode in her past. Without quite knowing why, these two outsiders are drawn together, each sensing in the other the possibility of salvation. Moving between the American South and South Korea, between an adolescent girl's sexual awakening and a young man’s nightmarish memories of war, The Foreign Student is a powerful and emotionally gripping work of fiction. 

Characters: There are two main characters in the story; Chang Ahn (Chuck) and Katherine Monroe, who are both well rounded characters and have a lot of dimension in them. One can literally see their thoughts about problems, and walk inside the characters. Although the author attempts to show why Katherine and Chang are the way they are, I have a hard time figuring it out, despite reading the novel four times. It takes great work to read this story, and even then, in the end, you realize you didn't understand it. With that said, let's attempt to describe Katherine's and Chang's personalities. Katherine is best described as a lonely woman who sees herself as having only one purpose, and in beginning of the story she is shown as the idler who does odds and ends for the town of Sewanee. In her childhood she was fearless and often thoughtless, but her personality changed and she struck me as the type who cares very little in her adulthood and just lives day by day. Chang can best be described as more of a follower than a leader, often letting outside forces sweep him away from life and from himself. He is also a repressed character and like Katherine also lives day by day.Numerous times Chang makes attempts to become a leader but never quite can. What is most remarkable is the roles they tend to switch in the end; Chang becoming a leader and finally doing something instead of being passive, while Katherine decides to become a follower and lets the forces sweep her away. 

Theme: I tend to agree with the author's message about how people have to struggle with allowing the events to take hold of them so they are no longer themselves, and how passivity tends to be more negative than positive. I also agree with the message taht before one can find happiness then one needs to take care of the wounds. 

Plot: With this novel I often have difficulty saying what is the story about. Simply told, this story has three plotlines; Chang's life during Korean War, Katherine's life when she became an adolescent, and the years 1955-1956 when the two met. Introduction isn't immediate, that is, Katherine's and Chang's lives are told throughout the novel instead of right at the start, so in beginning, when Chang is escaping, nothing is really certain about Chang. Katherine, on the other hand, gets an introduction right away. Possibly the conflict was with themselves so to speak. Is it possible to move past their pasts and reach out for happiness? Do events define us or do we decide how events define us? The climax of the novel is unexpected, and so is the resolution. (At first I thought it happened one way, then I realized that I was wrong, that it happened another way.)

Author Information: Susan Choi was born in Indiana and grew up in Texas. She lives in New York City. The novel is based from an interview with her father and grew from an incident. She is also married and has two sons. 



Opinion: Unfortunately I forgot how I have heard of this book, possibly few months prior to March. I read about it and when half price books had a fifty percent sale I took a risk and got it. The first time I read it was confusing, not only because of the vocabulary either. The style was complex, the story was as well. But I still fell in love with the novel and have read it three or four times. Subsequent times became less confusing, although it takes a lot to visualize and to understand it. Personally speaking, I'd like to see a sequel to this novel so I could see if the happiness might be within their reach. 

5 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.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

 Chinese Fairytale Gone wrong
Name of book: The Joy Luck Club

Author Name: Amy Tan

ISBN: 0-8041-0630-4

Publisher: Ballantine Books New York

Type of book: Originally an adult novel, now young adult-adult, fantasy china, historical, contemporary

Year it was published: October 1989


Summary: 

Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue.

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

Characters: The characters are all one dimensional and although Tan tries to make them distinguishable from one another, she fails miserably at that. (The reason I wrote down the chapters and stuff that's discussed in them.) If one is to ask me to differentiate between them, I couldn't. I don't know which one of the girls has a daughter, or which one has the 'equal' husband, or which mother got married when she was a child to an impotent guy. The problems seemed to be the same for all characters. The daughters all have husband problems, or rather guy troubles, and the mothers mourned the loss of culture or how they are unable to reach their daughters. Basically, despite the seven person narrative, only two voices are alive; the mother and the daughter. What was the point of even creating seven narratives? Wouldn't two suffice? Also, the daughters are all married to white men, and with one exception are all childless and have good jobs. (Wow, very distinguishable isn't it?) The mothers bear the stereotype of a "China doll" (The Asian women are submissive docile creatures who need help from the West.) The Chinese men that are given a lot of space in the book are portrayed negatively, while American men have more of a positive portrayal. 

Theme: I think that the overall theme that was meant to be portrayed in this novel is losing the culture and how if you are born something then it never escapes you no matter what. While I agree with that from personal experience, I don't like the path it took to accomplish this painstakingly and wish the characters could have felt more realistic. The whole novel was reminiscent of a stereotypical movie of China and its people, one of the old martial arts movies in my opinion. 

Plot: The plot is literally messed up. The chapters or vignettes as they are called are out of order. (First section are the mothers, second are the daughters, third are the daughters, fourth are the mothers,) and if that's not bad enough, the plot constantly jumps around and one has a hard time figuring out the order. (In order to get who's who in the book, I had to write down the mother's/daughter's name and their stories which didn't help me out at all.) 

Author Information:  She was born in Oakland California in 1952, lived in Switzerland, returned to America and married a lawyer. There is a claim that I found that she used to go to a psychiatrist who several times fell asleep while listening to her, so she wrote a novel dealing with mother-daughter relationships. Her first novel is called The Joy luck club. Her other novels were titled Hundred Secret Senses, The Kitchen God's wife, Bonesetter's Daughter, and Saving Fish From Drowning. She is married to an American by the name of Louis DeMattei who was a lawyer. 



Opinion: I've heard of Amy Tan briefly as a teenager, and always wanted to read her books. (She was and still possibly is kind of popular.) I came to read her novel when my ex boyfriend was taking an honor's English class and they were reading her. I think he might have let me borrow the book, I'm not sure, but I read her at last. At first I liked the novel to be honest, because she was writing about the first generational women and their Americanized daughters. (Similar to me and my family, I'm 1.5 Generation while my parents are First generation.) So I could relate to the conflict and whatnot. Later on, when I read it a few more times, I felt and still feel angry at her portrayal of Asian men. (Just because the women in her stories married 'good' Asian men, they didn't play a visible part as the 'bad' Asian men, so of course if the part isn't very visible or noticeable, then people are more likely to remember the bad rather than the good.) My subsequent readings of The Joy Luck were boring. The book itself became boring and the character voices aren't distinguishable from one another. (The Mothers all sounded like, teh daughters as well.) The characters were all cut from cardboard and there was no depth or motives to them. (For example, why is Waverly so snooty?) My opinion? Read it when you have to, but please stay away from it. 

0 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.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Planned Books

Books that are awaiting reviews:
The Joy luck club-Amy Tan
Whisper of Death-Christopher Pike
Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell
Foreign Student-Susan Choi
'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin
Coyote Dreams-Jessica Davis Stein
The Promise-Chaim Potok
Books I decided to drop
Savage Conquest-Janelle Taylor
Books I'm reading now:
Mysteries of Udolpho-Ann Radcliffe
Red and Black-Stendhal
The First Wives' Club-Olivia Goldsmith
Books I will be reading eventually:
The Dream of the Red Chamber-Xueqin Cao
1. The Golden Dreams
2. The Crab Flower Club
3. The Warning Voice
4. The Debt of Tears
5. The Dreamer Wakes
D'Artagnan Saga-Alexandre Dumas
4. Louise De la Valliere
5. The Man in the iron mask
The Kitchen God's wife-Amy Tan
The Hundred Secret Senses-Amy Tan
The Chosen-Chaim Potok

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Planned Books

Books that are awaiting reviews:
Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell
The Foreign Student-Susan Choi
Whisper of Death-Christopher Pike
'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin
Coyote Dreams-Jessica Davis Stein
The Joy luck club-Amy Tan
Books I'm reading now:
Red and Black-Stendhal
Savage conquest-Janelle Taylor
The First Wives club-Olivia Goldsmith
The Mysteries of Udolpho-Ann Radcliffe
Books I will be reading: (Not all at once)
Dream of the red chamber Quintet-Xueqin Cao
Louise de la valliere- Alexandre Dumas
The man in the iron mask- Alexandre Dumas
Kitchen God's wife- Amy Tan
Hundred secret senses- Amy Tan

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Planned Books

Books that need to be reviewed:

Whisper of Death-Christopher Pike

'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin

The Joy luck club-Amy Tam

The Promise-Chaim Potok

Coyote Dream-Jessica Davis Stein

The Foreign Student-Susan Choi

Books that I'm reading:

Savage Conquest-Janelle Taylor

Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell

Mysteries of Udolpho-Ann Radcliffe 

First Wives Club-Olivia Goldsmith

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