Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review of the Sisters of the Black Moon by FJ Pesando

Name of book: Sisters of the black moon

Author Name: FJ Pesando

ISBN: 0-451-40440-8

Publisher: Onyx, Penguin group

Type of book: Adult, pre-historical fiction

Year it was published: 1994

Summary:
California, 12,000 years ago. The great glacial wall of ice has melted. Now the way is open for spear-carrying tribes from the north to swarm southward to the abundant coastal land, home to the saber-toothed tiger and bear, the wolf and mastodon, the giant sloth and long-necked camel. It is home as well to the beatiful Tidelander sisters, Morning Land and White Bird. THese two have only each other, and their own strnegth, skill and spirit, to help them survive when their tribe is annhihilated by invading warriors. This is their story-an epic of courage, passion, drama, set in a world both shining new and magically old, where together men and women face the challenges of danger, the tumult of desire, the timeless realities of life and love...


Characters:
Morning Land: She's the oldest, and by blood half-sister to White Bird. She has fear of men and intimacy and is the last of the tribe.  She is described as knowledgeable, wise and very beautiful.
White Bird: Younger half sister to Morning Land. She is insecure and often wishes to be like Morning Land. She is kind and loving towards Laughing One. She becomes his first wife.
Laughing One: He is different than the men the sisters had known in their extinct tribe and both impresses Morning Land and White Bird. He is patient and protective of the two.
Minor Characters: Many characters had one dimension to them but they were far from boring and they didn't seem to be acting out of character.

Theme:
One of the themes that was stressed  is overcoming the past to get some sort of happiness, and that no matter how much time has passed, a person cannot be completely healed. There is also the theme of enjoying the happiness whenever you can because you don't know what tomorrow will bring, and that happy times and sad times come in waves and you can overcome them.

Plot:
 As mentioned, this was written in third person omniscient point of view. There is background so the reader doesn't get lost and we also are invited to see and learn the taboos and what perhaps Laughing One or the Tidelander sisters do wrong. It is a very imaginative and creative world, and whenever I read it, I am always curious whether or not the story is real.

Author Information:
Unfortunately none is available. If anyone can tell me of some, please do so.

Opinion:
I love the creativity and whatnot that the author painted with this world; the possible rituals and language parts that were used, and that people were not savvy and were only trying to figure themselves out. It did get boring in some parts, but the characters and the vividness of the world more than made up for that. Despite the names, the characters were easily disntiguishable. Although I was happy with the resolution, I did wish that at least he would have ended it at a certain time instead of just leaving the readers hanging for a sequel that never came. There will be disagreeable parts such as the polygamy factor (a man married to two sisters,) and the feelings between the sisters in some ways aren't resolved.

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.)

Book Review of #7 Natural born charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Name of book: Natural Born Charmer

Author Name: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

ISBN: 978-0-06-073458-9

Publisher: Avon fiction

Type of book: Adult, romance, contemporary

Year it was published: 2007

Summary:
 It wasn't every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of a raod, not even in Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard's larger-than-life world. He slammed on the brakes of his brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish and pulled over in front of her. THe beaver marched right past, her big, flat tail bouncing in the gravel, and her small sharp nose stuck up in teh air. Way up. The beaver looked highly pissed...She was definitely a girl beaver because her beaver head was missing, revealing sweaty, dark hair pulled into a scraggly ponytail. He'd been praying for a litle distraction from his own depressing company, so he threw open the door and stepped out onto the shoulder of the Colorado road...Funny, sexy, and touching-Natural BOrn CHarmer is the unforgettable love story of a golden boy who might be losing his luster and a spirited woman who's learned never to depend on anyone but herself.

Characters:
The characters all had dimensions  to them and not a single one of them could be described as lifeless and flat. Instead they seemed to sparkle with life and were easy to keep track with, and that includes minor characters. I do wish that Blue and Dean's characters were more explored thoroughly and they also seemed to be not as strong as say Jack and April.

Theme:
To be honest, this is a very good book. The main theme is self vs self, and trying to learn how to forgive those who had done us the most wrong. Also, how unexpected surprises can be a good thing even if at the time they feel horrible. The book feels quirky yet at the same it feels human.

Plot:
This was written in third person omniscient, but the changes from one character to another are done tastefully and one doesn't get lost when moving from one character to another. I do wish that some issues would be resolved far better, like between Blue and her mother, or in someways, unfortunately the chemistry between Blue and Dean isn't felt, at least to me, and it seems almost forced.

Author information:
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.

Opinion:
This was given to me on May 27th, 2008 when I graduated a 2 year college. I still do not understand why the giver chose this book out of all the ones he could have chosen, (I doubt that he read it) Since 2008, I read it almost every year, enjoying the quirkiness that is both memorable but then tends to return and hit me full force so to speak. I enjoy the richness of both primary and secondary characters, and some moments are heart-tugging and one actually feels happy for the characters.

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, May 29, 2011

Planned Books

Books I'm reading:
The Tale of Genji-Murasaki Shikibu 20/1090
Tell me your secrets-Cara Summers 103/245
The Decameron-Giovanni Boccacio 481/833
The Moonstone-Wilkie Collins 76/434
Story of the Stone- Xueqin Cao
2. The Crab Flower Club 23/582
The Russian Saga-Kate Furnivall
1. The Jewel of St Petersburg 127/250
The EarthSong Trilogy-Mary Mackey
3. The Fires of Spring 210/378
The Elven Nations Trilogy- Paul Thompson, Douglas Niles, Tonya Carter
1. Firstborn 51/305
D'Artagnan Romances-Alexandre Dumas
4. Louise De la Valliere 346/671

Books that are waiting for reviews:
Natural born charmer-Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Sisters of the black moon-FJ Pesando
The Wild Card-Rhonda Nelson
Take my breath away...-Cara Summers
Coyote Dreams-Jessica Davis Stein
The Secret Life of the bees-Sue Monk Kidd
'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin
North China Lover-Marguerite Duras
The Mysteries of Udolpho- Ann Radcliffe
Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell
Earthsong Trilogy-Mary Mackey
1. The year the horses came
2. Horses at the gate
The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
1. The Golden Days

Future Books:
Just Surrender...-Kathleen O'Reilly
The Russian Saga-Kate Furnivall
2. The Russian Concubine
3. The Girl from Junchow
The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
3. The Warning Voice
4. The Debt of Tears
5. The Dreamer Wakes
D'Artagnan Romances-Alexandre Dumas
4. Louise De la Valliere Unpublished information
5. The Man in the iron mask
The Elven Nations Trilogy-Douglas Niles, Paul Thompson, Tonya Carter
2. The Kinslayer Wars
3. The Qualinesti

Book Review of #2 The Promise by Chaim Potok



Name of book: The Promise

Author Name: Chaim Potok

ISBN: 0-449-20910-5

Publisher: Fawcett 

Type of book: Young adult-Adult, historical, post world war 2, 1940s-1950s, Jewish

Year it was published: 1969

Part of a Series: No name, sequel to The Chosen


Summary:


For young Reuven Malter, it is a time of testing. With his teachers, he struggles for recognition of his boldly radical methods of scholarship. With his old friend Danny Saunders-who himself had abandoned his legacy as the chosen heir to his father’s rabbinical dynasty for the uncertain life of a healer-he battles to save a sensisitive boy imprisoned by his genius and rage, defeated by the same forces of an unyielding past that challenge Reuven. Painfully, and, at last, triumphantly, Reuven grows into a guardian of the ancient, sacred promise to his people, while earning his hard-fought right to make his own beginning.

Characters:

The characters tended to be three dimensional and are completely seen as Reuven sees them. Danny is given more humanity and is shown to be more afraid and uncertain of what to do, in particular to Michael's tempers. The adults play a huge role in the novel and aren't relegated to the background as in other novels. The adults guide their children to make decisions and play vital roles. I enjoyed seeing the interactions between the families and the main characters.

Theme:

Nothing stays silent and change is inevitable, for better or worse.

Plot:

This is in first person narrative from Reuven's point of view. It was quite a task to get through the book and to understand some parts of it, but its well worth it I think. I do feel that some points of it dragged on for a while and despite the explanatory notes by the author towards the technical aspect of Judaism, it was still a task to read it. I do wonder at the point of it though, and what happened to these characters in the future.

Author Information:

Chaim Potok ( ; February 17, 1929 – July 23, 2002) was an American Jewish author and rabbi. Potok is most famous for his first book The Chosen, a 1967 novel, which became a bestseller. The book stayed on The New York Times’ best seller list for 39 weeks and sold more than 3,400,000 copies. (from wikipedia)

Opinion: 

This book is much more darker and deeper than its predecessor, The Chosen. I think I could finally understand this book somewhat, although I thought it tended to drag somewhat. Again this will receive three stars because there is a lot I am not familiar with and there is also a lot I don't understand. It does show the fascinating world of what happens when the Concentration Camp survivors migrate to America and mingle in with the American Jews. It asks important questions, although I feel it has a certain paranoia to it because they are seen as outsiders and somehow evil, as seen by Ruth and Michael Gordon.

3 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, May 22, 2011

Book Review of #1 the Chosen by Chaim Potok

Name of book: The Chosen

Author Name: Chaim Potok

ISBN: 0-449-21344-7

Publisher: Ballantine

Type of book: Young adult-adult, historical, post world war 2, 1940s-1950s, Jewish

Year it was published: 1967

Summary:


Few stories offer more warmth, wisdom, or generosity than this tale of two boys, their fathers, their friendship, and the chaotic times in which they live. Though on the surface it explores religious faith--the intellectually committed as well as the passionately observant--the struggles addressed in The Chosen are familiar to families of all faiths and in all nations.

In 1940s Brooklyn, New York, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son and rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, the crisis of faith engendered when Holocaust stories begin to emerge in the U.S., loss, love, and the journey to adulthood. The intellectual and spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son and his own father, and between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty, and, ultimately, the power of love. (This is not a conventional children's book, although it will move any wise child age 12 or older, and often appears on summer reading lists for high school students.)

Characters:
Reuben Malter: He's the main protagonist who's a modern Orthodox Jew. His mother died from childbirth and he lives with a very devoted father who listens to him and gives him advice. He is also smart in arithmetic and likes baseball. He wants to grow up to become a Rabbi.

Danny Saunders: A savant Hassidic Jew who remembers everything he read. (Not good in math though.) He is good in baseball and becomes obsessed with Freudian writings. He grew up in silence because his father refuses to talk to him and wants to become a psychologist when he grows up.

Minor Characters: The fathers themselves were interesting and as mentioned before, I hadn't heard of anyone growing up in silence or anything of that kind.


Theme: 

The central focus was on friendship and on the relationship between father and son. The women characters weren't active or noticeable at all. The book also represents different relationships between parents and sons; in Reuben's case, he and his father are close, while Danny and his father aren't close, and for me personally, it seems to symbolize a sort of paranoia, especially when comparing this book to the sequel, The Promise. This book, despite the issues, seems to be sort of light-hearted of sorts, and I was surprised that Reuben was actually more American than Russian. (Revealed in sequel). The second book is best described as dark, and again, paranoia of the foreigners taking over.

Plot:

I think I liked a little how the plot was. The first part focuses heavily on when the two met, while the rest of it time jumps and oh so briefly goes over the issues, along with what the sides went through when it came to Israel. As mentioned before, maybe its mine age or the fact that I know very little of my faith, but the only way this book appealed to me is because of history and not for other reasons. Oh, one last thing is that this is written in first person from Reuben's point of view.


Author Information:

Chaim Potok ( February 17, 1929 – July 23, 2002) was an American Jewish author and rabbi. Potok is most famous for his first book The Chosen, a 1967 novel, which became a bestseller. The book stayed on The New York Times’ best seller list for 39 weeks and sold more than 3,400,000 copies. (From wikipedia)

Opinion:
I first became acquainted with the book last year when my teacher assigned us to read it for a class. I think I might have heard snippets about it here and there beforehand and wanted to read it, but the class gave me an excuse for getting it and becoming acquainted with it. Despite the Jewish themes, for me personally the book wasn't very appealing. I didn't hate it nor was it the greatest thing ever since sliced bread. I liked becoming acquainted with American Judaism in 1940s up to 1950s and was surprised to learn interesting facts such as that Hassidic Jews don't support Israel. For me, again, the book wasn't all that special to be honest.


3 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 Review of Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

Name of book: Sweet Valley Confidential


Author Name: Francine Pascal


ISBN: 0312667574


Publisher: St. Martin's Press


Type of book: Adult, attempt at contemporary


Year it was published: 2011


Summary:

Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood. 


Characters:
Elizabeth Wakefield: She's the "bad" girl of the book who turns somehow into Jessica. She apparently has multiple sexual partners and also became devious with a plan to make Jessica fall in love with a friend she will bring from New York. While I have never read the main body of Sweet Valley series, I did read what I call "fringe" books like Sweet Valley Superchillers. Elizabeth in there was as sweet as an apple pie, a real girl next door type. In this one she turns into her sister it seems, or what her sister would have become; a party girl with mindless affairs. I didn't like the character change because Elizabeth is someone I could imagine maybe trying a one-night stand once, and suffering for it the rest of her life. Instead she continuously has them. I wonder if she has had some sexual problems in the past if she weeps after orgasms.

Jessica Wakefield: This is like so not cool. When you're reading her point of view, you frequently fall into these words all the time; so, like. Jessica, despite her ultimate betrayal of sleeping with Todd, has a personality switch of becoming Elizabeth and no matter how miserable they are, they still stay together. (They never even liked one another, only slept because they got drunk and found it funny that people are confusing Jessica for Elizabeth!) There really was no true love between them. Todd, for example, never even attempted to get back into the good graces of Sweet Valley. And Jessica pretty much had no good excuse in running away from her husband, besides the fact that she was bored.

Miscellaneous: I hated the fact that Steven was gay. For one reason or another I liked Steven, and if she had to make him gay, why weren't there earlier signs in other books? As far as I know, people struggle with homosexuality their whole lives and it's not too sudden "OMG I can't believe I'm gay!" It would have been more interesting if for example in this book she could have addressed the definite SVH or SVT events where he was struggling with those issues. I also had a problem that Cara was portrayed as a bakery woman and Steven seems to have no feelings for her. If she could have used that plot it would have been far more interesting than the predictable story she gave us of Jessica stealing Todd away and causing Elizabeth to run away to New York. Besides being upset, why couldn't Cara's realization to the problem be addressed, and wouldn't she have been devastated to learn that she was married to a homosexual and wouldn't it have taken her a very long time to recover from such a blow?


Theme:


The themes of the book was whether or not the twins' bond could survive (for the millionth time apparently,) through Jessica's betrayal of her and Elizabeth's friendship. Apparently, no matter what Jessica does, Elizabeth is a doormat and forgives her sister way too easily. If, G-d forbid, something like that happened in my family, they would kill me or else have a serious talk to me about it. Why didn't Jessica talk to her mom about how she feels about Todd, or why not talk to Elizabeth? Sure Elizabeth will be upset, but its better to talk about it than to walk in and have Jessica's ex-husband tell you that his wife and your boyfriend love one another.

The matches are also interesting. As someone mentioned on amazon it's kind of an incest and it took me awhile to understand what is meant. Elizabeth, by marrying Bruce is like marrying Jessica, and same for Jessica, she is marrying Elizabeth. Through their opposite matches, they become whole.


Plot:
Although the plot was simplistic, there are problems with third person and first narrative, and frequent point of view switches wherever the author feels like switching. The whole effect is jarring and unpleasant and its difficult to keep up with who's talking and who's not. Also, the plot doesn't make sense, and I can't sense or feel or relate to the characters at all, and that's very important when reading a book.


Author Information:

Francine Pascal (born May 13, 1938) is an author best known for creating the Sweet Valley series of young adult novels. Sweet Valley High was the backbone of the collection, and was made into a popular television series.[2] [3] There were also several spin-offs, including The Unicorn Club and Sweet Valley University. Although most of these books were published in the 1980s and 1990s, they have remained popular such that several titles have been re-released in recent years (From Wiki?)


Opinion:

What she is trying to do:

What the book actually is:



The book itself is terrible beyond words. It is confusing, especially with the whole third person first person constant narrative, and then, just to make it more even worse, sometimes point of view switches every other sentence! As in, let's say Elizabeth is talking, then in a next sentence one of the guys starts to talk and then it switches back to Elizabeth and so on. The whole idea of twins grown up and one of them moving to New York is somewhat like Fergie's Glamorous song (First video) but what she actually succeeded was in creating Rebeca Black's song Friday (second video) While reading it, I couldn't help but remember the lessons I learned in writing; stick to the main character's point of view, don't jump from one character to another. If there is a jump, make sure there is a warning of sorts, like some authors create space between the shifting points of view or others devote one chapter to one character and another character to another chapter and so on. Since I have not read Sweet Valley High Main series or SVU or any others, its hard for me to pinpoint accuracy but also do your research no matter what genre you write. If you write sci-fi and create your own world and whatnot, stick to the rules no matter how painful they are. Or if you can't do it, then don't bother making the rules up. If you write contemporary novels, research as well to make them realistic. I also did not enjoy that she made one of the characters homosexual, and I wonder if she even bothered to research about it. And why should I be happy about the Wakefields getting three sons-in-law? I want for them to get two sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law.

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.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review of #6 Tempted Tigress by Jade Lee

Name of book: Tempted Tigress

Author Name: Jade Lee

ISBN: 10-0-8439-5690-9

Publisher: Leisure

Type of book: Adult, romance, historical, China, interracial relationship white female/asian male

Part of Series: Tigress Sextet? #6

Year it was published: 2007

Summary: 

Not only did China's Grand Canal transport food, slaves, and deadly opium, today it was a woman's path to freedom. But her flight would end in the arms of the emperor's enforcer, where another journey would begin. Orphaned and stranded, Anna Marie Thompson could trust no one, especially not her dark captor. Not when his eyes held secrets deadlier than her own. His caress was liquid fire, but Anna was an Englishwoman and alone. She could not trust that they could tame the dragon, as he whispered, or that sadness and fear could be cleansed by soft yin rain. Safety and joy were but a breath away. And perhaps love. All was there for the taking, if she would just give in to temptation...

Characters:
Anna Marie Thompson: Without giving too much away, she is a saucy addict with some morals (except when it comes to the hero) who, when she runs away, she meets the hero and nearly gets killed by him. The hero finds her intriguing and decides to keep her around. Throughout the novel we learn of her past and of how she eventually became an addict. She always keeps the hero on his toes with her unpredictability and doesn't shy away with trying to help him. She also tends to underestimate the hero as well.

I like the way she wrote the heroine without deviating from her personality. The heroine is something new and unpredictable and to me she is also likable, someone you want to root for.  Her insecurities are also a nice touch to her and make her seem very human and very vulnerable.

Tau Zhi-Gang: He is the hero in the book with a dark path as well. He is well matched with the heroine in terms of unpredictability, insecurity and vulnerability. His story is dark as well and in beginning he seems to enjoy tormenting or discovering Anne Marie's personality. He is also admirable in his ideals and ambitious in trying to complete the task that the Empress and Emperor have assigned to him. He is also very protective of the heroine throughout the journey. He is also a tad bit unconventional and doesn't seem to care what others think of him or his beliefs.

I think I may have a thing for tortured heroes, or at least brooding heroes. I was drawn to the hero and really did like how despite his desires he fell in love with her. The chemistry between the two of them felt real to me and in someways they are an adorable couple.

Theme: A teacher told me that themes are the same thing as problems. If you figure out the problems then you can easily figure out the themes. The problems that the novel contained is overcoming darkness to be with someone you love, which is what the hero and heroine had gone through, and discovering a way to fuel the desire for life and finding a new way of life, or how unexpected things can be blessings in disguise. There are probably more themes but I cannot think of them at a moment.

Plot:  I like the way the plot was handled, that is only gradually do we find out about the characters and their dark pasts, or rather throughout the whole book. In beginning we do get gradually introduced to the characters and their backgrounds, and I like how it is not told at once but little by little it is built up and we discover more and more about them.

Author information: 

Children of mixed races have their own set of rules. As the daughter of a Shanghai native and a staunch Indiana Hoosier, Jade Lee struggled to find her own identity somewhere between America and China. Her search took her to Regency England, where the formality of culture hid a secret sensuality that fascinated her. But Devil's Bargain was just the beginning. That same search adds a mystical element in her Tigress series beginning with White Tigress. In those books, Jade delves into the hidden sensuality of the Dragon/Tigress sect in pre-revolutionary China.

Jade is a USA Today Bestseller, 5 time PRISM award winner, Romantic Times Reviewers Choice winner (and 4 time nominee), and a state racquetball champion! She├»¿½s been a RITA finalist twice, 6 time RT KISS award winner, and the recipient of multiple glorious racquetball bruises and injuries. But her favorite accolade comes from reader emails. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful emails! I couldn't do it without you!

At home, her husband and two daughters try to ignore her stacks of Zen sexual texts. Instead, they brag about her award-winning humor pseudonym, Katherine Greyle. (From freshfiction.com)

Opinion: I've had this book for three years now and every year I re-read it once or twice and never even get tired of it. This is probably one of the best Tigress books (next to her first one, White Tigress.) I enjoy the bickering and uncertainty between the hero and heroine and the fact that its a multicultural/interracial novel is a big plus in my view. I like reading how the Chinese man begins to fall in love with her, and how she tends to keep him on his toes throughout the novel. I also liked how the two discovered healing through love and their problems and that she didn't go into tigress teachings and whatnot. (After three previous books that did focus on tigress training, this is a relief.)

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.)
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