Friday, June 24, 2011

Planned Books

Books I'm reading:
'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin 54/620
The Secret Life of Bees-Sue Monk Kidd 67/302
The Moonstone-Wilkie Collins 103/434
Coyote Dream-Jessica Davis Stein 72/364
Feather in the wind-Madeline Baker 314/395
The Decameron-Giovanni Boccaccio 701/833
The Tale of Genji-Murasaki Shikibu 84/1090
The Elven Nations Trilogy- Paul Thompson, Douglas Niles, Tonya Carter
1. Firstborn 117/305
D'Artagnan Romances-Alexandre Dumas
4. Louise De La Valliere 430/671
The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
2. The Crab-Flower Club 108/582

Future Books:
Tailspin-Cara Summers
Just Surrender-Kathleen O'Reilly
Lie with me-Cara Summers
A tale of two cities-Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment-Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot-Fyodor Dostoevsky
Great Expectations-Charles Dickens
The castle of Otranto-Horace Walpole
The Monk- Matthew Lewis
The romance of the forest-Ann Radcliffe
A Sicilian romance-Ann Radcliffe
The Italian-Ann Radcliffe
The red and the black- Stendhal
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 Louise De la Valliere Unpublished information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
The Evil Twin Saga-Francine Pascal
1. The Evil Twin
2. The Return of Evil Twin 

Book Review of #1 The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall

Name of book: The Jewel of St. Petersburg

Author Name: Kate Furnivall

ISBN: 978-0425234235

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Type of book: Adult, historical, russia, 1910-1917

Year it was published: 2010

Summary:

In this prequel to her debut novel, The Russian Concubine (2007), about White Russian Lydia Ivanova, Furnivall focuses on Lydia’s mother, Valentina, during the years leading up to and including the Russian Revolution of 1917. When Bolsheviks bomb her family’s country estate in 1910, crippling her younger sister, Katya, 17-year-old title character Valentina is left with guilt and resolve. With a slim frame but steely character, she defies both convention and her father, who is the czar’s minister of finance, first by training and working as a nurse and then by refusing to marry for money (in order to solve the family’s financial problems). Instead, she chooses the man she loves passionately, Dane Jens Friis, the czar’s engineer. Through the years, her hatred grows for Viktor Arkin, a Bolshevik leader once in the Ivanovas’ employ who develops an emotionally complicated relationship with the family. Furnivall portrays a country in dreadful conflict, with the grinding poverty of the masses fueling rebellion against the privileged classes.

Characters:

I admit that it has been awhile since I read The Russian Concubine and Girl from Junchow so I don't know if the characters in any way resemble Lydia and the cast in the aforementioned books. The characters from both sides are drawn sympathetically, that is its hard to hate the antagonist Arkin, and at the same time its hard to hate Valentina and Jens Friis for being rich and upper class. Valentina is portrayed as a  very strong and determined heroine who struggles between her origins and trying to do something for the poor. She and Jens  are a good match for one another and one has to admire the language that Kate Furnivall uses when talking about Valentina's love and devotion towards Jens. There is no one in her heart but Jens. I felt a bit sad that Katya, Valentina's sister didn't get enough limelight. Popkov, the loyal Cossack towards Valentina and later on her daughter, is an interesting character and I kind of wish that it would explain in this book how he ended up in China with them. Arkin and Valentina's mother, Elizaveta(?) one can't help but feel sorry for them, even despite Arkin's deeds towards the Ivanov family.

Theme:

The main theme of the novel is Valentina's struggle against her birthright and society's expectations amidst a nation ready for Revolution.

Plot:

Even without reading the previous novels, you could still read it and not be lost, although, I think, reading the two novels will help make some sense of two things, at least when it relates to Valentina meeting Rasputin and him making a few predictions (which is an interesting twist to the historical character.)

Author Information:

Author of 'The Russian Concubine' novel, about two White Russian refugees, a mother and daughter without money or papers in an International Settlement in China. (From Katefurnivall.blogspot.com)

Opinion:

This book is written after The Girl from Junchow and The Russian Concubine, but yet its a prequel to them. I read The Girl from Junchow few years back and to be honest I didn't like that book that much, so with this said, my expectations for this book were low, and I kind of read it because I wanted to know more about Valentine, Jens Friis and Alexei. (In The Russian Concubine and The Girl from Junchow some conflicting information about Alexei is given so I wanted to know if this book answers the questions, and it does.) I did get to know them and learned where Lydia got her strength and loyalty from. I will re-read The Russian Concubine and The Girl from Junchow. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book, and would really love to see Arkin in the future books. (Really, you can't help but feel sorry for him...)

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.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review of #3 The Fires of Spring by Mary Mackey

Name of book: The Fires of Spring

Author Name: Mary Mackey

ISBN: 0-451-19589-2

Publisher: Onyx

Type of book: young adult-adult, Pre-historical Europe

Year it was published: 1998

Part of a Series: The Year the Horses Came, The Horses at the Gate, previously

Summary:

The year is 4300 BC. The place is Europe, where Eastern nomads have invaded Shara, a civilized city that worships the great Goddess...and where a bold and passionate young woman named Keshna comes of age as a female warrior and a daring avenger. The nomad diviner Changar has kidnapped Queen Marrah's son Keru-and Keshna has vowed to hunt Changar down. But the barbaric Changar is a force to fear. He has taken possession of Keru's spirit and turned him against his own people. Across a land of warring tribes, primitive rituals, and savage terrors of nature, Keshna begins an epic struggle for survival as she battles a dangerous, seductive enemy with the power to destroy her people and the proud young warrior she has come to love...

Characters:

The character of Keshna simply drove me nuts. Despite her being raised within Mother people, in a loving environment, she turns out to be very unlikeable. I find it hard to believe that so many men are in love with her, and that she does not like sharing joy or anything of the kind. I also find it hard to believe that all of a sudden she wants to have Keru's child, when in fact I doubt that she ever wanted to have a child of her own. In previous books I actually liked Marrah's brother Arang and felt sorry that he had such a daughter. Also, the whole genealogy, why couldn't anyone correct Keshna that the barbarians mixed it up and she's not really Zuhan's granddaughter? Luma is more tolerable than Keshna but still I held no lover for her. There are characters that you hate, such as Scarlett O'Hara, but at the same you cannot help but sympathize them while at the same time hating them. Neither Keshna nor Luma are such characters.

Theme:

The main problem that the book had, as far as I remember, is the desire to find Keru, and when he is found, to help bring him back to Mother people. As mentioned, I had a difficult time understanding why Keshna hated sharing joy, and why she turned out that way. Yes there is personality, but shouldn't environment also play a role in this development as well?

Plot:

three-fourths of the book is boring in my opinion, and character of Keshna doesn't make it any easier to like or get through. The last half of the book is kind of exciting although very hard to swallow. The readers are told that Keshna falls in love with Keru, but unfortunately we are not there with Keshna watching that progress. Also, I would have liked to know if Keshna and Keru did indeed have children or are all five of Marrah's grandchildren belong to Luma?

Author Information:

Mary Mackey is the author of six novels, including A Grand Passion, THe kindness of strangers, and season of shadows. A poet, screenwriter, and critic, she cofounded the Feinimist Writers' Guild and is a professor of ENglish and Writer-in-residence at California State University, Sacramento.

Opinion:

This is the one book that I feel should never have been written. First of all we no longer see nor witness Marrah's world, but instead we are roughly thrust into Keshna's and Luma's world which is a mixture of barbarian and mother people. Some things that are written made no sense: if your son was stolen previously by the same person, and you only recently got him back, how could you not have posted guards next to him?! And instead of it being ten or twelve years later or something of the kind, it would have been far more interesting to watch the cultural exchange between the Mother people and Barbarian and why things are the way they are so to speak. Also, I thought that Changar wiped all the memories away from Keru, and if he did, why does Keru still remember good things about the Mother people?

2 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 #1 the Tao of Sex by Jade Lee

Name of book: The Tao of Sex

Author Name: Jade Lee

ISBN: 978-0-373-79378-5

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Type of book: Adult, contemporary, interracial, white female/Asian male relationship

Year it was published: 2008

Sort of a sequel: Getting Physical

Summary:

Discovering that she's a Tantric sex goddess has given Tracy Williams a new mantra: more, more, more...And the source of that divine revelation is her hunky Chinese-born erotica instructor. When her yin bumps up against his yang, she's literally communing with heaven. Now that he has awoken her inner power, Nathan Gao is obligated to bring Tracy to the sacred Hong Kong temple for a life of training and devotion. No matter how much he wants her for himself. But when he makes her choose-sex or love-is he ready for the consequences?

Characters:

I really have enjoyed reading about Tracy and Nathan. Tracy is a strong female character who is struggling with life, trying to be a mother placement for her brother and at the same time doing an admirable job of managing the apartment building. Nathan has been burned by women too many times, Tigresses in particular, and he is struggling with his growing love towards Tracy. Both characters are round and despite Tracy's inner Tigress, she can stay true to herself. I do wish that the author would expand a little more on Nathan and the family. But still, one can't help but feel sorry for Nathan and the situation he is in. I used to be with someone who is an international student which is what Nathan is, and I am curious whether or not the temple is paying for his education, or else he is paying for it himself along with the food.

Theme:

The theme is basically taking an easy way out or else choosing the hard way but the one that is filled with love. In this book as well another character, Stephen Chu (and yes there is visible chemistry between the two of them,) comes into the picture when he offers Tracy a choice of being a Tigress or else she could stay with Nathan and remain on earth.

Plot:

One thing that I am puzzled about is if Nathan is trying to get a job, why didn't he have any Chinese friends or acquaintances who could have helped him out? I used to be with someone who is an international student and there was pretty much no excuse for not working. This person had a huge network connection and always had a job. Being an international student is not a picnic in the park; there is tuition, work, etc. and as mentioned, I do wish that the author would have talked more about hero. Oh, the novel is also written in third place omniscient, in particular from Tracy's and Nathan's point of view.

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�s 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 have to admit that this novel is well...way too sexual in many parts and a little too graphic. This is another novel that I enjoy reading year after year and so on. In a way this is a sequel to the Tigress series. (I really would have liked to know if Nathan Gao is a descendant of Joanna Crane or Zou Tun or of any other Tigress couples)

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 Tell me your secrets by Cara Summers

Name of book: Tell me your secrets...

Author Name: Cara Summers

ISBN: 978-0-373-79290-0

Publisher: Harlequin

Type of book: Adult, contemporary, Gothic/thriller style, romance,

Year it was published: 2006

Summary:

It was a dark and sexy night... And Brooke Ashby knew she was in over her head. As head writer for the soap opera Secrets, she was used to living vicariously through her characters. But that all changed the day she learned she was adopted, and that her identical twin sister had mysteriously disappeared. What else could she do but try to discover what had happened, even if meant taking her sister's place? It shouldn't be hard. After all, she was good at research and had a talent for acting, if she did say so herself. Her plan seemed foolproof...until Brooke found herself in bed with her sister's fiancé...

Characters:

The character of Brooke certainly seemed rounded as she conquered her fear in the book and even went for someone she was in love with. She also often lets the emotions get the best of her, and she is loyal and doesn't give up. Sloan's character and James's could also use some explaining, in particular why is James, Cameron's father, likes Sloan and even wants him in the family? Sloan himself holds some interesting secrets and it's fun watching him and Brooke spar with one another and wonder if Sloan figured out whether or not she is not Cameron? I kind of wish that more from Sloan's point of view could be given.

Theme:

I have to admit that in someways I thought it was a parody of Gothic novels. A while ago I read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, and I thought that the explanations towards the end of the novel were given way too easily. One of the things that was struggled was how could she be in love with someone who belonged to her twin sister, but since I don't want to spoil the novel, I will not mention anything more about it.

Plot:

The plot is pretty straightforward, that is she hears about her twin sister and her curiosity and adventurous spirit take charge of her. The ending is given satisfactorily and I like that the author has done certain things between Sloan and Cameron.

Author information:

Was Cara Summers born with the dream of becoming a published romance novelist? No. But now that she is, she still feels her dreams has come true. She loves writing for the Blaze line because it allows her to create strong, determined women and seriously sexy men who will risk everything to achieve their dreams. Cara has written more than thirty-five books for Harlequin Books, and when she isn't working on new stories, she teachers in the Writing Program at Syracuse University and at a community college near her home.


Opinion

When I first got this book and read it, I had to admit that I thought it wasn't a good book; first of all is the whole third person vs first person narrative constant switch which seems to have really annoyed me, and another is that it seemed implausible or something of the kind. (I admit that I seem to have been spoiled by recent romance novels. Currently I am trying to read Feather in the Wind by Madeline Baker which was my favorite a long time ago, and all I could be is shocked by the man's behavior towards the woman.) After re-reading it however, I am surprised to say that I actually got more pleasure from reading it. Although she tries to make this novel into a mixture between Gothic and mystery it seems, there is also a some sort of parody I believe, especially with the whole twin sister plot. I really would have liked to learn certain things that she didn't mention however.

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.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Planned Books

 Books I'm reading
The Decameron-Giovanni Boccaccio 550/833
Feather in the wind-Madeline Baker 121/395
The Secret life of the bees-Sue Monk Kidd 34/302
The Moonstone-Wilkie Collins 93/434
'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin 24/620
Tell me your secrets...-Cara Summers 135/245
The Tao of sex-Jade Lee 170/248
Coyote Dreams-Jessica Davis Stein 19/364
The Tale of Genji-Murasaki Shikibu 49/1090
The Elven Nations Trilogy- The Elven Nations Trilogy- Paul Thompson, Douglas Niles, Tonya Carter
1. Firstborn 70/305
D'Artagnan Romances-Alexandre Dumas
4. Louise De La Valliere 355/671
The Earthsong Trilogy-Mary Mackey
3. The Fires of Spring 254/378
The Russian Saga-Kate Furnivall
1. The Jewel of St. Petersburg 181/250
The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
2. The Crab-Flower Club 41/582

Future Books:
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 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Name of book: Gone with the wind

Author Name: Margaret Mitchell

ISBN: 0-684-83068-X

Publisher: Scribner

Type of book: young adult-adult, historical, civil war, reconstruction, south 

Year it was published: 1936


Summary:


Gone with the wind explores the depths of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the bluff red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it brings the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction vividly to life.
This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, ruthless daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War sweep away the life for which her upbringing has prepared her. After the fall of Atlanta she returns to the plantation and by stubborn shrewdness saves her home from both Sherman and the carpetbaggers. But in the process she hardens. She has neared starvation and she vows never to be hungry again.
In these vivid pages live the unforgettable people who have captured the attention of millions of readers-of every age, in every walk of life. Here are Rhett Butler, Scarlett’s counterpart, a professional scoundrel as courageous as Scarlett herself; Melanie Wilkes, a loyal friend and true gentlewoman; and Ashley Wilkes, for whom the world ended at Appomattox. Here are all the characters and memorable episodes that make Gone with the Wind a book to read and re-read and remember forever.

Characters:
Whether you hate her guts or love her, Scarlett O'Hara is probably the most powerful heroine you might have a chance of encountering, and she's a very complex human being. Although very little personality of her changes for her over the twelve years? (1861 up until 1873?) She isn't painted as a likable heroine and at the start you really hate her guts, especially when she thinks of stealing attention of Ashley Wilkes, of her selfishness, her plots and plans, the way she is towards things, etc. Even if you want to stab her, one really has to appreciate the vivid picture that's painted of the Southern world before, during and somewhat after the Civil War. Each character in this book, from major to minor to barely seen, you really would want to see each separate on them and see their thoughts and hopes.

Theme:
Ultimately, one of the themes that one learns in the novel is the idea of adaptation, either learn how to swim in life, or start to sink. While the book does have romance in it, but ultimately it's not focused on them getting together and it takes a very long time for Rhett and Scarlett to be together.

Plot:
Even though the thousand pages is daunting, this is not a boring novel and it has something for everyone; there is action, war, romance, etc. and there was plenty of history for me to enjoy. It starts with Scarlett O'Hara at sixteen in April of 1861 when she goes to the ball and learns that her crush is going to be engaged to another girl named Melanie Hamilton. Then the plot continues and unfortunately the ending is not resolved at all...this is one of the times you would want for there to be more to read instead of only a thousand pages...

Author Information:

Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her epic novel Gone with the Wind, her only major publication. This novel is one of the most popular books of all time, selling more than 30 million copies (see list of best-selling books). The film adaptation of it, released in 1939, became the highest-grossing film in the history of Hollywood, and it received a record-breaking ten Academy Awards (a record since eclipsed by Ben Hur, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Titanic). Mitchell has been honored by the United States Postal Service with a 1¢ Great Americans series postage stamp. (From wikipedia) 

Opinion:
I first read this novel when I was fourteen or thirteen, either finishing on Valentines Day or starting on Valentines Day (no idea why...) I read it to show off and then read it again. As a teenager I didn't like this novel and felt it was too boring. Little would I know that twelve or so years later, when I read it again, I was amazed at how much I loved it. I loved how the culture, thoughts, ideas, everything became alive. This is a big book, about 1037 long, and I hated when it ended. I'll be honest: I wish this novel was a million pages long or something just so I could know what happens to Scarlett and Rhett. Not once was I bored by this book. I also think that all of the characters, from minor to major deserve a big novel of their own. 
5 out of 5 
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe



Name of book: The Mysteries of Udolpho


Author Name: Ann Radcliffe


ISBN: 0-486-44033-8


Publisher: Dover


Type of Book: Adult to young adult due to big words, historical, gothic


Year it was published: 1794


Summary: 

Stranded in a gloomy medieval fortress, an orphaned heroine battles the devious schemes of her guardians as well as her own pensive vsisions and melancholy fancies. Generations of readers have thrilled to The Mysteries of Udolpho, one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels, and considered a landmark in the realm of psychological fiction. Set in 1584, the tale unfolds amid the secret chambers of a chateau in southern France and a castle in the remote Apennines, populated by pirates, brigands, ghosts, and specters. Emily St. Aubert, imprisoned by her rapacious guardian Count Montoni and his sadistic wife, struggles to reconcile her father's teachings of reserve and moderation with her own reckless passions. Emily's attempts to control her emotions and resolve her suspicions and self-doubts offer a haunting and hypnotic pre-Freudian exploration of the psyche.


Characters:
This from Emily St. Aubert's point of view, from start to finish with only two deviations. She tends to be sort of a flat character in my view, that is she doesn't seemed to have learned anything new from her experiences nor has she changed at the end of her adventures. Emily St. Aubert is the sensitive thoughtful and somehow extremely fragile heroine, or supposedly anyways. She is a bit of a Cinderella, and also tends to rely on men around her such as her father. The hero, Valancourt, barely deserves a mention.


Theme:
I would guess the main theme is overcoming various problems to be with somebody you love.


Plot:
Right from the start we are introduced to the family as Emily knows it, populated with lots of nature scenes. There are various climaxes and resolutions within the volumes, and even after Emily gets away her adventures are not yet finished and suspense doesn't let up until certain thing is revealed and only then Emily and Valancourt could be together.


Author Information: 

Ann's fiction is characterized by seemingly supernatural events being explained through reason. Throughout her work traditional morals are asserted, women’s rights are advocated for, and reason prevails.

Ann published 6 novels in all. These are (listed alphabetically) The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, Gaston de Blondeville, The Italian, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Romance of the Forest and A Sicilian Romance. She also published a book of poetry, but her talent for prose far exceeded her poetic ability.

Radcliffe is considered to be the founder of Gothic literature. While there were others that preceded her, Radcliffe was the one that legitimized Gothic literature. Sir Walter Scott called her the 'founder of a class or school‘ (Facer). Radcliffe's novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, was parodied by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. Radcliffe did not like where Gothic literature was headed, and her final novel, The Italian, was written in response to Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk. It is assumed that this frustration is what caused Radcliffe to cease writing.

Ann Radcliffe had a profound influence on many later authors, including the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Scott also interspersed his work with poems, as did Radcliffe. Indeed, "Scott himself said that her prose was poetry and her poetry was prose. She was, indeed, a prose poet, in both the best and the worst senses of the phrase. The romantic landscape, the background, is the best thing in all her books; the characters are two dimensional, the plots far fetched and improbably, with 'elaboration of means and futility of result.'" (From wikipedia.)

Opinion:
 Before taking Jane Austen class in spring of 2009, I have never heard of neither the author nor the book. We only had to read a section and the teacher told us to skip the nature parts. (It was optional reading.) The book arrived late, (day after the assignment was due,) and I still remember the classmates of mine saying how they couldn't just read a section, that they had to read the book in its entirety. When I started to read the book, I made fun of it, kind of anyways, and up until 2010, I always struggled in finishing it. I would start it, then quit it and so on. Since then, I've read the book in its entirety and enjoyed it a great deal. The first volume of this book in particular is a joy to read, the nature scenes in particular. Others are also interesting but do get to be overwhelming and boring. (This book also has vocabulary that I don't hear on a daily basis: ditties, vesper-hymns, wainscotting, edifice, precipice, etc) Towards the end, I was very caught up with the book and couldn't wait to find out the secrets and a certain whether or not Emily is related to someone. The resolutions in someways were very disappointing and a let down, but otherwise, if you are looking to improve your vocabulary or want to read more about nature, then this is a book for you :)
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 #1 the Golden Days by Xueqin Cao

Name of book: The Golden Days Vol I of Story of the Stone

Author Name: Xueqin Cao

ISBN: 0-140-44293-6

Publisher Penguin

Type of book: Adult, China in 18th century, Manchu rule, one of Chinese classics

Year it was published: 1760? (The Version I have, 1973)

Part of a Series: Story of the Stone Vols I-V

Summary:

THe story of the stone (c.1760), also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber, is one of the greatest novels of Chinese literature. THe first part of the story, The Golden Days, begins the tale of Bao-yu, a gentle young boy who prefers girls to Confucian studies, and his two cousins: Bao-Chai, his parents' choice of a wife for him, and the ethereal beauty Dai-yu. Through the changing fortunes of the Jia family, this rich, magical work sets worldly events-love affairs, sibling rivalries, political intrigues, even murder-within the context of the Buddhist understanding that earthly existence is an illusion and karma determines the shape of our lives.

Characters:

I had hopes that there will be focus on male characters, but alas that was not to be. There is a great deal focus on women characters, on Wang Xi-Feng in particular and a slew of others. In some ways the female characters are depicted stereotypically but at the same seemed to break stereotypes; in some chapters the characters of Dai-yu and Bao-Chai are portrayed as much more intelligent than Bao-yu. Men, for the most part, are not playing a very visible role as the women are.

Theme

It's really hard to recall the definite problems in the novel, thus its hard to say what I have learned from reading the first volume.

Plot

This is a very slow read and there are great concerns with seemingly minor things instead of anything major.
The volumes 1 through 5 are supposed to be one book, but due to length or some other reason they are broken up into five parts, thus I don't know yet how these minor things will play later in the book.

Author information:

Almost no records of Cao's early childhood and adulthood survive. Redology scholars are still debating Cao's exact date of birth, though he is known to be around forty to fifty at his death. Cao was the son of either Cao Fu or Cao Yong. It is known for certain that Cao Yong's only son was born posthumously in 1715; some Redologists believe this son might be Cao Xueqin.

Most of what we know about Cao was passed down from his contemporaries and friends. Cao eventually settled in the western suburbs of Beijing where he lived the larger part of his later years in poverty selling off his paintings. Cao was recorded as an inveterate drinker. Friends and acquaintances recalled an intelligent, highly talented man who spent a decade working diligently on a work that must have been Dream of the Red Chamber. They praised both his stylish paintings, particularly of cliffs and rocks, and originality in poetry, which they likened to Li He's. Cao died some time in 1763 or 1764, leaving his novel in a very advanced stage of completion. (The first draft had been completed, some pages of the manuscript were lost after being borrowed by friends or relatives, but Cao apparently had not finished a final version.) He was survived by a wife after the death of a son.

Cao achieved posthumous fame through his life's work. The novel, written in "blood and tears", as a commentator friend said, is a vivid recreation of an illustrious family at its height and its subsequent downfall. A small group of close family and friends appears to have been transcribing his manuscript when Cao died quite suddenly in 1763-4, apparently out of grief owing to the death of a son. Extant handwritten copies of this work – some 80 chapters – had been in circulation in Beijing shortly after Cao's death and scribal copies soon became prized collectors' items.

In 1791, Cheng Weiyuan (程偉元) and Gao E (高鶚), who claimed to have access to Cao's working papers, published a "complete", edited a 120-chapter version. This is its first moveable type print edition. Reprinted a year later with more revisions, this 120-chapter edition is the novel's most printed version. Modern scholars generally think the authorship of the 1791 ending – the last 40 chapters – to be in doubt. (From Wikipedia)


Opinion:

This is not an action filled book and whenever something does happen, it happens at the very end of a chapter. This book requires a great task in reading it, and it tends to be beyond slow. (In truth, if the book and the snail were racing, the snail would win.) So this is not for a casual every-day of the mill reader but requires somebody special. I haven't read the Chinese (I don't even know how to read in Chinese!) but I enjoy the translation, how the whole world seems to be something from a fairytale, but at the same time, despite the supernatural elements that are ever present, this also has real life creeping up in it as well.  (It's not all riches and fun, but also contains elements of hatred, of using powers for evil, death, etc.)

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 the #2 North China Lover by Marguerite Duras

Name of book: The North China Lover

Author Name: Marguerite Duras

ISBN: 1-56584-043-7

Publisher: The New Press/New York

Type of book: Adult, historical, 1930s? Vietnam, interracial, white female/asian male relationship

Year it was published: 1992

Summary:

Hailed in France as "an incomparable pleasure," Marguerite Duras's newest novel is a fascinating retelling of the dramatic experiences of her adolescence that have shaped her work. Far more daring and truthful than any book she has written before, it emphasizes the realities of her youth in Indochina nad reveals much that her earlier works concealed. An instant number-one bestseller in France, The North CHina Lover both shocks and entrances its readers. Initially written as notes toward a film-script for The Lover, the book has the grainy, filmic qualties of a documentary. For all who admired Duras's previous work, here is an exciting and unexpected reading of her past-a work the French critics called a return to "the Duras of the great books and the great days."

Characters:
Although other characters do play a role, such as Helene Lagonelle, or the younger brother or the mother and older brother, and also Thanh, a foster brother, the main primary characters are the girl and the man. The girl can best be described as a survivor while the mother is not there and is ignorant. The book tends to constantly remind us that the man is Chinese, Manchurian actually. He is portrayed as rich, a weakling, sort of violent on some parts.

Theme
The theme is trying to fight your past to live in the future, and often, the things that should be special or meaningful to people aren't what we make them out to be.

Plot
The plot doesn't begin things at the start, but it starts in that particular season of 1930, and slowly few things are revealed here and there. Still though, one doesn't learn enough about the girl and the man; and it becomes an incomplete novel. There is also a great deal of information on the Vietnam of 1930, of the people and lives one witnesses.

Author information:

Marguerite Duras is one of France's most important literary figures. She is the author of such acclaimed novels as Blue Eyes, Black Hair, The Sailor From Gibraltar, and The Lover, as well as the film script for Hiroshima, Mon Amour and the memoir The War. Born in Indochina in 1914, she now lives in Paris. (From back of book.)

Opinion:
Originally I heard of this book in 2005 or possibly 2006, I forget because of the movie The Lover. I did research and did discover that it was based on a book. I wanted to get the book, L'Amant, so when I came to Half Price Books, I discovered that this was the only Duras book they had, or was it possibly that I did research on the book and decided to get this one because it seemed thicker? I have to admit that at the time this was the most unusual book I ever read because of the sentence structure and language used in there. I marveled that I could feel emotions when I read none and wondered how it was. Although subsequent readings didn't have big impact on me, but at the beginning they had, and later on I started to copy my writing style based on the way the book is written. Here's a sample of the language. (From page 55) "They're in the cool shade. They dance. There's sunlight coming through a high window, like in a prison, or a convent, so the men can't come in. Disturbing in their own right, their unbuckled sandals lie where they've been thrown, in a corner in the sun." I will talk more about the book in my next editorial.
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.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Review of #1 Take my breath away by Cara Summers

Name of book: Take my breath away...

Author Name: Cara Summers

ISBN: 978-0-373-79597-0

Publisher: Harlequin

Type of book: Adult, contemporary, romance

Year it was published: 2011

Sort of a sequel: Tailspin, Sexy Silent Nights

Summary:

FBI special agent Nicola Guthrie is on her first field assignment. Her job? To find security expert turned art thief Gabe Wilder. She knows this is her big break. She has to get her man. And late one night, she does. Not to mention a whole lot more! Who knew her traitorous body would respond so strongly to Gabe's sensuous lips...his tall, strong body...her own irresistible need? Gabe can't believe that Nicola still thinks he's the bad guy! Then again, he's almost tempted to fess up, just so he can keep tasting her incredible mouth. Still, they have a job to do. A daring criminal is terrorizing the city's wealthiest art collectors. Gabe and Nicola quickly realize that the smartest way to catch their quarry is to join forces. Of course, they'll have to find their way out of bed first...

Characters:
When I started to read this book, I was a little worried that it would again have the first person/third person narrative just like Tell Me Your Secrets, but much to mine surprise, this stuck to first person narrative and the transitions aren't too jarring. There was confusion for me because of the heroine's and her father's name; Nick. Nicola is determined to be an FBI agent and not be her stepmother's toy or something. Gabe, on the other hand, is determined to prove to Nicola that he's not affiliated with the art thefts, and very soon, Nicola believes in him.

Theme
I would say that theme is overcoming the past to be with somebody you love.

Plot
Even though the story is well written and it looks like a good minor mystery mixed in with romance, I think I didn't understand some details in the story, and I really would have wanted to see some kid scenes between Nicola and Gabe.

Author information:

Was Cara Summers born with the dream of becoming a published romance novelist? No. But now that she is, she still feels her dreams has come true. SHe loves writing for the Blaze line because it allows her to create strong, determined women and seriously sexy men who will risk everything to achieve their dreams. Cara has written more than thirty-five books for Harlequin Books, and when she isn't working on new stories, she teachers in the Writing Program at Syracuse University and at a community college near her home.

Opinion
The previous book I read by Cara Summers was titled Tell Me Your Secrets, and I had to admit that I wasn't used to reading a book where point of view switches from third to first and first to third, etc. This book though, sticks with third point of view all the way through. It is interesting and the heroine and hero are portrayed positively. The writing is enjoyable and it seems to be a very strong book in my opinion.

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 #9 The Wild Card by Rhonda Nelson


 Name of the Book: The Wild Card

Author Name: Rhonda Nelson

ISBN: 978-0-373-79598-7

Publisher: Harlequin

Type of book: Adult, contemporary, romance

Year it was published: 2011

Part of a series: Men out of uniform

Summary:

Former ranger Seth McCutcheon is a man of his word. Leave the military at teh request of his dying mother? Check. Join the super-elite Ranger Security? Definitely. Provide a security detail at a high-society wedding? Hell, why not? Go undercover as the wedding planner's boyfriend? Uhh, well...But once Seth sets eyes on sexy Penelope Hart, he knows he's a goner. If Penelope wants a fake fling, he's her man. Especially if it comes with all the sensual benefits. But they can't spend all their time in bed, as much as they'd like to. Somebody is threatening to sabotage the ceremony. If Seth doesn't discover the culprit, Penelope's business will be ruined. Seth is going to need all the luck he can get if he's going to save the day and get the girl. Then again, they don't call him Wild Card for nothing...

Characters:
 As with other romance heroines, the heroine in this book is feisty and commitment-phobic (her parents accumulated a lot of marriages in between them,) she is also capable and obsessed with details. The hero is far more interesting, getting out of the service because of his mother (what initially drew me to the book in the first place...) and due to his past also has fear of commitment of sorts. I do wish that the whole nickname, "the wild card" would have played up more in the book. This is a bit of a mystery as well. The characters seem to be kind of predictable in someways, although there is a small plot twist if I remember right...

Theme
I would guess the theme for this would be that if one door closes then the other one opens, and surprises are unexpected.

Plot
I was pretty new to the Men out of Uniform series, so I do wish that the author briefly went into background about it because it was confusing for me. The plot seems to be kind of simplistic, and as I mentioned previously, the book wasn't very memorable for me unfortunately.

Author information:

A Waldenbooks bestselling author, two‐time RITA®Award nominee andRT
Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice nominee, Rhonda Nelson writes hot romantic
comedy for the Harlequin Blaze line and other Harlequin imprints. With more
than twenty‐five published books to her credit and many more coming down the
pike, she’s thrilled with her career and enjoys dreaming up her characters and
manipulating the worlds they live in. In addition to a writing career she has a
husband, two adorable kids, a black Lab and a beautiful bichon frise. She and her
family make their chaotic but happy home in a small town in northern Alabama.
She loves to hear from her readers, so be sure and check her out at
www.readRhondaNelson.com.

Opinion
This novel is part of the series, Men out of Uniform by Rhonda Nelson, and I haven't read any to see how it stacks up against them. Of course there is predictability in the novel. Although the author tried her best to make the characters likable, I feel that she is not successful and the characters do not sound distinguishable or likable. In someways, I also feel that the heroine's issues are not resolved as well and the book moved way too quickly. Also, due to some circumstances, I have doubts that I will read this author's books again.

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 #2 The Horses at the gate by Mary Mackey

Name of book: The Horses at the gate

Author Name: Mary Mackey

ISBN: 0-451-40723-7

Publisher: Onyx fiction

Type of book: Adult, pre-historical fiction

Year it was published: 1995

Part of a series: The Year the Horses Came, before, Fires of Spring afterwards

Summary:

In the year 4368 BC, Marrah, daughter of the peace-loving shore people, has fled captivity from the nomad warrior horde who have a lust for carnage and conquest that is alien to her. Across a landscape of frozen steppes and trackless forest, she and her companions must evade the horsenemn before they reach her beloved homeland by the sweetwater sea. Making escape even more dangerous is hte presence of her lover, Stavan, who has abandoned his place of honor among the nomads to join her in her flight and ally himself wiht the Mother Goddess. Marrah is forced to puer convictions and courage to the supreme test-as she risks everything she and her people hold dear-in a struggle that will change the prehistoric world forever...

Characters:
Unfortunately I don't remember too much about the characters in the book. I remember the battle at the end, that Stavan came around, and Marrah accepted her destiny whether she liked it nor, but beyond that nothing memorable about them. (To be honest when it comes to books, I don't have bad memory, but its just that its hard to remember books that you don't care for much.)

Theme
The theme seems to be stooping down to the enemy's level so to speak to defeat them, or fighting for what you believe in. I also personally think that the author should have left off with this book and not gone farther in writing the sequel to it. (More about that later...)

Plot
Before reading this book, its a pretty good idea to read the first one in the series because this one continues where the other has left off with little or no background story from the first one.

Author information:

Mary Mackey is the author of six novels, including A Grand Passion, THe kindness of strangers, and season of shadows. A poet, screenwriter, and critic, she cofounded the Feinimist Writers' Guild and is a professor of ENglish and Writer-in-residence at California State University, Sacramento.


Opinion
If I remember right, this tells of the aftermath that Marrah and others have to face when they return back to the Motherlands. This was not as interesting as the prequel and was boring in some parts I have to admit. I am not sure of what else to say about this book. Out of the series I got this book first but read it second. This also details the actions of nomads after Marrah and Stavan escape, also mentions how Stavan's brother controls and rules. Unfortunately this is a little too biased because the author focuses a lot on the positives of the Motherlands, while too much negativity on the nomads.

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 #1 The Year the Horses Came by Mary Mackey

Name of Book: The year the horses came

Author Name: Mary Mackey

ISBN:0-06-250735-4

Publisher: Harper Collins

Type of book: Adult, pre-historical fiction

Year it was published: 1993

Part of a Series: Horses at the gate, Fires of spring, afterwards

Summary:

The year is 4372 B.C.E a beautiful girl is poised on the brink of womanhood and her culture is about to undergo one of the most momentous transformations in human history.

So begins Mary Mackey's dazling tale, a page-turning saga that revisits the wild and panoramic beauty of ancient Europe to tell a story of extraordinary love and passion in the midst of intrigue and war.

The Year the Horses came vividly evokes the violent moment in prehistory when marauding nomads brought horses, male gods and war to a Europe that had known peace for thousands of years. Against this perilous backdrop, a passionate, dangerous love develops between Marrah, a brave and gifted priestess, and Stavan, one of hte warriors sent to invade her peace-loving land. Brilliantly capturing the lives of those women and men caught in this life-shattering crossfire, Mackey traces the young Marrah's treacherous path across Europe, from the shores of Brittany and hte cave paintings of western France to the temples of Sardinia and the Steppes of the East. Though Marrah finds barbarism, the brutalization of women, and environmental destruction, her stunning journey also reveals the human capacity for love, compassion, and enduring faith.

Characters:
In some ways this is not a cookie cutter novel, at least when it comes to characters and the changes they struggle through to reach the place of equality. What did seem cookie cutter is the depiction of the two cultures, that of Marrah's is seen as the good or ideal, while Stavan's is the present and the past. It really does cause me to doubt the author's research. Why were the cultures so clear cut and dry? Why didn't Marrah's culture have some negative aspects added on to it, while there could have been some positive aspects about Stavan's culture? No single culture is bad or good but all are in between. Thankfully, at least, the characters are portrayed as more dimensional and were a bit engaging.

Theme:
Just like in many other novels I have read, the theme seems to be overcoming society to be with someone you love, and that does include overcoming the language barriers and whatnot. Basically, what the author is trying to ask, 'what's wrong with living in peace?' or, 'why couldn't we people live in peace?' unfortunately we can't because of the inequality of resources all over the world along with environmental issues.

Plot:
I actually enjoyed the contrast that she showed between the 'ideal' world when it came to Marrah's culture, and the brutality of Stavan's culture. The first half of the book if not more focuses on Marrah's journey from place to place as she brings the message of the eight legged monsters to villagers, while the other half focuses on Marrah's stay in Stavan's culture which isn't pleasant.

Author Information:

Mary Maceky is the author of six novels, including A Grand Passion, THe kindness of strangers, and season of shadows. A poet, screenwriter, and critic, she cofounded the Feinimist Writers' Guild and is a professor of ENglish and Writer-in-residence at California State University, Sacramento.

Opinion:
When I first got the book, I couldn't put it down. I devoured it eagerly, no matter that I had classes the next day and so on. The world and the writing is very intriguing and you can't help but become addicted to it, turning from one page to another, disbelieving what you are reading. In the first half you are exposed to Marrah's world as she travels to warn of the nomads and learns about pottery and whatnot. In second half, you get exposed to Stavan's world, and the danger facing Marrah. The effect is very jarring and well done.

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.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 2011

Reading so far... (SR means started reading, FR means Finished reading)

Feather in the wind-Madeline Baker
SR: June 1st, 2011
FR: June 27th, 2011
The Decameron-Giovanni Boccaccio
SR: December 7th, 2010
FR: June 29th, 2011
The Moonstone-Wilkie Collins
SR:  December 7th, 2010
FR: N/A
The Secret Life of the bees-Sue Monk Kidd
SR: June 1st, 2011
FR: N/A
The Tao of Sex-Jade Lee
SR: June 1st, 2011
FR: June 13th, 2011
The Tale of Genji-Murasaki Shikibu
SR: May 17th, 2011
FR:  N/A
Coyote Dreams-Jessica Davis Stein
SR: June 1st, 2011
FR: N/A
Tell me your secrets...-Cara Summers
SR: May 22nd, 2011
FR:  June 15th 2011
'Till Morning Comes-Han Suyin
SR: June 1st, 2011
FR: N/A

The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
2. The Crab-Flower Club
SR: May 17th, 2011
FR:  N/A
D'Artagnan Romances-Alexandre Dumas
4. Louise De la Valliere
SR: September 27th, 2010
FR: N/A
Lydia Saga-Kate Furnivall
1. The Jewel of St. Peterburg
SR: December 2nd, 2010
FR: June 16th, 2011
Earthsong Trilogy-Mary Mackey
3. The Fires of Spring
SR: December 17th, 2010
FR: June 13th, 2011
The Eleven Nations Trilogy- Paul B Thompson, Tonya R. Carter, Niles Douglas
1. Firstborn
SR: December 16th, 2010
FR: N/A
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