Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review of Family Album by Danielle Steel


Name of book: Family Album

Author Name: Danielle Steel

ISBN:  0-440-23686-X

Publisher:  Dell

Type of book: Adult, family saga, 1940s-1980s?

Year it was published: 1985

Summary:

Through forty years—from Hollywood's golden days in World War II to the present—Faye Price would create first a career as a legendary actress, then a family, and finally she would realize her dream of becoming one of Hollywood's first woman directors. But nothing was more precious to Faye than her five children. In a changing world, a milieu where family values are constantly challenged from without and within, the Thayers would face the greatest challenges and harshest test a family can endure, to emerge stronger, bound forever by loyalty and love. It is only when Faye is gone that they can each assess how far they have come, and how important their family album is.

Characters:

For the most part characters are not very consistent, and she only gives surface to them. Everything else about them is constant repetition. They are not consistent, the characters that is, and there is repetition and only surface is seen. (Yes it's like that.) When Faye finds out that Lionel is gay, Danielle Steel describes her being shocked and repulsed with gay community, but she accepts Lionel head on. Good for her, but it might have been more realistic if Faye took a few months to get over the shock and then accept her son. (Unless the parents are super-aware that their children might be possible homosexuals, I doubt they accept it in just a few hours or minutes.) To some extent sometimes characters change. (Ward hated that Lionel was gay and he even banned him from home, that changed though.) By page 300, I couldn't stand reading it and just skimmed through it. (Was not an easy task.)

Theme:

The only thing I learned from reading this book is how much I have grown up in the last eleven years. The things I liked before, I hated reading them this time around. What I did not pay attention to, I paid attention to it now. The book has taught me nothing about life and whatnot.

Plot:

It is written in third person omniscient, and there is constant, endless repetition of just a few details. (Honestly, who cares that Ward looks still twenty at fifty-five?) I'm not a fun of brand advertising in the book, and care very little that Bill gave Anne jewels and all that. Besides the repetition of facts, you'll also see the endless product names that have no meaning in the book.

Author Information:

From wikipedia: " Danielle Fernande Dominique Schuelein-Steel (born August 14, 1947, New York City) better known as Danielle Steel, is an American romantic novelist and author of mainstream dramas.

"Best known for drama novels, Steel has sold more than 800 million copies of her books (as of 2005) worldwide and is the eighth best selling writer of all time. Her novels have been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 390 consecutive weeks[1] and 22 have been adapted for television."

Opinion:

On October 20th, 2000, Danielle Steel's company was celebrating the 50th book celebration, and on the same day my mother picked up free three books by Danielle Steel; the Family album, Kaleidoscope, and Fine Things. Eleven years ago, I fell in love with Danielle Steel. Today, I feel disgust for the author I liked. Her writing has proved to be amateurish and she has chosen the wrong genre I believe; she should either write for young adults, but not for adults. This is a sick book in my opinion. If Faye and Ward aren't thirty years apart, we have Anne who falls in love with a man who's thirty-three years older than she is. If she was in her early or mid twenties or something of the kind, it would have been a little icky but still acceptable of sorts. But she is fifteen or so, and he is in his forties. That was way more sickening than anything else in the book, and there is plenty to make one sick. Also, the man is her best friend's father. One is where Anne runs away, gets to have group sex with men and is forced to give her up baby. (She is fourteen.) If it was in ancient times of cavemen and whatnot, perhaps there will be less disgust with this match. Also, I have nothing against homosexuality, but in case if somebody is not comfortable with it, this book will contain homosexual relationships. (They are depicted positively, although I'm not sure whether or not they are accurate.)

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.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review of #1 O Pioneers by Willa Cather

Name of book: O Pioneers

Author Name: Willa Cather

ISBN: 0-486-27785-2

Publisher:  Dover Thrift

Type of book:  Young adult to adult, Prairie, Nebraska, immigrants, old way of life, new way of life, 1880s?-1900s?


Year it was published: 1913 (version I have 1993)

Summary:

Set on the Nebraska prairie where Willa Cather (1873-1947) grew up, this powerful early novel tells the story of the young Alexandra Bergson, whose dying father leaves her in charge of the family and of the lands they have struggled to farm. In Alexandra's long fight to survive and succeed, O Pionners! relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier. Evoking the harsh grandeur of the prairie, this landmark of American fiction unfurls a saga of love, greed, murder, failed dreams and hard-won triump. In the fateful interaction of her characters, Willa Cather compares with keen insight the experiences of Swedish, French and Bohemian immigrants in the United states. And in her absorbing narrative, she displayes teh virtuoso storytelling skills that have mad her one of the most admired masters of the American novel.

Characters:

Alexandra seems to be an early prototype for Scarlett O'Hara interestingly enough. Alexandra, unlike Scarlett, cares very little for getting married and whatnot, but they do have things in common such as only practicality and no looking into psychology of people, longtime crushes, (Scarlett and Ashley, Alexandra and Carl,) and in many ways, due to them not realizing the emotions of people around them, disaster strikes. Other characters in the book such as Emil and Marie and her husband, although are interesting, are not painted as well as one liked.

Theme:

I honestly think that one of the lessons learned from the book is the idea of polarity, how there has to be a perfect mix between the grit and toughness as well as open-mindedness. Unfortunately, for those who are college educated but with no grit, the result will be death. I think it will be the same thing with grit but no open mindedness. (If it weren't for Alexandra, then all of the family would have perished.)

Plot:

This is written in third person omniscient, with chapters kind of rotating from one character to another. Most of it is from Alexandra's point of view, although you'll also have Emil and Marie thrown in. There is also a hierarchy and contempt for one another in the book; the learned vs unlearned and that apparently can tear families apart ,at least no close relationships; still looking out for one another but only because of blood and not due to warm emotions.

Author Information:

Willa Seibert Cather (December 7, 1873[1] – April 24, 1947) was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska; she lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years; at age 33 she moved to New York for the rest of her adult life and writing career.(from wikipedia)

Opinion:

Just like Cowboys are my weakness by Pam Houston, I've read this second time out of nostalgia. For one reason or another, I'm not sure why, but this is a book that I've strangely enjoyed. I liked the nature description, and liked characters in there, (Emil and Marie in particular.) There are numerous time jumps however which might be jarring for readers and might prevent them from getting to know the characters' psyches.

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 #3 My Antonia by Willa Cather

Name of book: My Antonia

Author Name: Willa Cather

ISBN: 0-553-21418-7

Publisher: Bantam classic

Type of book: Young adult-adult, prairie, immigrants, Nebraska, late 1800s-early 1900s

Year it was published: 1918 (version I have 1994)

Summary:

Antonia Shimerda returns to Black Hawk, Nebraska, to make a fresh start after eloping with a railway conductor following the tragic death of her father. Accustomed to living in a sod house and toiling alongside the men in the fields, she is unprepared for the lecherous reaction her lush sensuality provokes when she moves to the city. Despite betrayal and crushing opposition, Antonia steadfastly pursues her quest for happiness-a moving struggle that mirrors the quiet drama of the American landscape.

Characters:

Some characters always described Antonia as special and whatnot, but maybe its me, but I didn't understand how and why she was special. The characters are all interesting, although the author chose to get rid of some interesting characters, (the Ukrainians for instance, or the men who took care of Jim on the way to his grandparents' farm.)

Theme:

If you're thinking that this is a plot wise, it's not. This seems more like memoir type story, or perhaps somewhat like Laura Ingalls Wilder stories but without a theme. (At least the theme was not visible to me.) If you would like to learn how immigrants from different countries viewed one another and how neighborly they were, then this might be a book one could enjoy. For one reason or another, it also tends to be similar to YA books Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan.

Plot:

Unfortunately I believed the summary when I read the book, thus I was disappointed. The summary written above isn't very accurate. This was told in first person narrative and as I mentioned, the male character completely admired Antonia and gave of himself very little. (Maybe that's why I had a hard time figuring out that he was in love with Antonia.)

Author Information:

Willa Seibert Cather (December 7, 1873[1] – April 24, 1947) was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska; she lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years; at age 33 she moved to New York for the rest of her adult life and writing career.(from wikipedia)

Opinion:

First of all the summary is not very accurate. Most of the book deals with friendship between Antonia and Jim, and we learn very little about Jim such as his inner self, for he completely focuses on Antonia Shimerda, and somewhat on Lena Lingaard, two of the 'hired girls'. It's difficult to believe that he's in love with her. I think the book is styled like a movie, all picturesque and beautiful but very little psychology or motivations towards actions. (At least it seems that way to me.) I also felt that it ended rather abruptly. In beginning, an uknown character talks about Jim Burden and gives a little of his life. Jim begins to talk about Antonia, writes his memories of her and her family (he was asked to do so,) the reader reads it and moves on with life so to speak.

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 Cowboys are my Weakness by Pam Houston

Name of book: Cowboys are my weakness

Author Name:  Pam Houston

ISBN: 0-393-03077-6

Publisher: Norton

Type of book:  Adult, nature, cowboys, western, self discovery, 1990s

Year it was published: 1992

Summary:

"I've always had this thing about cowboys, maybe because I was born in New Jersey," says the narrator of the title story in this marvelous new collection. Set in the West, and sometimes in Alaska, these twelve tales are about women who are smart and susceptible to love, and men who are wild nad hard to pin down. Our heroines are part daredevil, part philosopher, all acute observers of the nuances of modern romance. They go where their cowboys go, riding rapids and hunting Dall sheep, dancing the two-step at the Stockgrowers' Ball. They meet cowboys who don't look the part-even Zen cowboys who image nuclear war away-and they have staunch friends who give them advice when the going gets rough. These are strong, shrewd, and very funny stories that first get your heart racing, then pierce it with their truths about men and women-together and apart.

Characters:

Despite the fact that characters are all different, (with two or three exceptions,) the female characters all have the same voice, while almost all of the male characters are best described as cheaters and disrespectful to the women. (At least the "heroes"). The women do all they can to please the male boyfriend characters but it never turns out that way. Yet, oddly enough, the women are not satisfied with their boyfriends. (In Selway, the woman claimed to have fifteen or so marriage proposals but rejected them all.)

Theme:

Despite the theme of nature, cowboys and gender relationships, I think the writer wrote more for self-discovery than anything else. When reading these stories, I noticed a few peculiar things; in one of the stories a woman becomes married briefly, and after that story, the main female leads mentioned being married and marriage failing in some way. (Before that story, the female was never married.) This will be an interesting analysis, but I'm thinking that ultimately the author was struggling with herself or feelings. (Perhaps as a child she was raised very strictly and had to believe or do certain things.) The last story of the book, "In my next life," there is a possibility that the author realized she might like women instead of men after all.

Plot:

At least ten stories are in first person narrative, with woman being the main character. The first story, "How to talk to a hunter," is written in a second person narrative, just like "Sometimes you talk about Idaho." In all honesty I could not relate to the characters however.

Author Information:

Pam Houston is a part-time river guide and hunting guide, but not a hunter. A frequent contributor to such magazines as Mirabella and Mademoiselle, she is taking time off from her Ph.D program at the University of Utah to teach creative writing at Denison University in Ohio. (From back of the book flap.)

Opinion:

I have to be honest that I read this book before, but I read it again for sentimental reasons. (Yes, I missed the class I took last semester.) This will be a sad book because it seems like there's not a single good man left, and in all honesty this was not a humorous book. The women let themselves be walked all over and have hopes that if they put up with a guy's bad behavior, then the guys will stay with them. (As a personal example, I had hoped that someone I cared about will be with me if only I gave them all the freedom they desired. In truth that didn't work and now the guy is back in his home country and barely pays attention to me.) I have to admit that a lot of women do it, and it's curious to find out why we relinquish the control and allow them to control when and where.

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, August 21, 2011

Reading History Part IX: How Not to Write Using Anne Rice's books

First of let me say that Anne Rice has potential to be a talented writer with her research, her lush descriptions of and about life, as well as interesting and fascinating characters, as well as eroticism. (When I read her stories not once have I felt horror, but instead the stories struck me as extremely erotic.) I haven't read her books in a very long time. (I only read six perhaps, four vampire stories and two witch stories.) If you ask me what stands out about her novels, I would say the same background of the main character, or characters, the religiosity of Catholicism, and that some of her male characters are possibly closeted (what's the PC term for homosexuals?) I read these books ten years ago, a teenager in middle school and I was trying to read The Witching Hour, before I realized that I could not get through it. While reflecting on what was wrong with the novel, I realized it could provide a number of things not to do when writing a story. Let's begin.

Anne Rice's endless descriptions seem to cancel out the horror that I was supposed to feel  at the setting. In the second chapter of Witching Hour the character just rambles on and on and on about how different his mother was, how his father made fun of him for liking high class things, etc. etc. there were also endless references to things I have never heard or watched. As if that wasn't bad enough, there were endless and pointless ramblings of things that I doubt contributed to the story. (Honestly, who cares that Michael loves meat and potatoes, or the life to the tiny detail he experienced while growing up in Irish Quarter in New Orleans?) While its important to learn some background things about him, but come on, not all at once. In my opinion, if Anne Rice was trying to become the horror version of Ann Radcliffe or Margaret Mitchell, she failed miserably.

One of the reasons I stopped reading Anne Rice was the discomfort I felt when I constantly had to read about Catholicism and the fact that her male characters all sounded the same. (Extremely wealthy, the last male heir or member of the family, and then something happens to him where he cannot reproduce and he never reproduces...) In all honesty, if I want to read christian fiction, I'd go to that section and pick up a book about it, but I want to read about vampires or witches, not be dragged through religion, especially christian religion. (I'm not a christian by the way...)

So what are some lessons towards writing that I can take with me? Know the limit for description and whatnot. In reading, what is more valuable to me is the psychology of the character rather than the setting. (Let's be honest, I've never been to New York or Los Angeles or New Orleans, or whatnot, and places I've been to aren't in books...) Describe the atmosphere more than the physical setting. In Anne Rice's case, her constant descriptions of the house served to cancel out the horror rather than enhancing it. If there possibly was a description of "a foreboding house, its shadow covered those surrounding it, plunging them to darkness," doesn't that sentence  sound far more creepier than her constant sentences of how it's derelict. Instead when reading her descriptions, I get the sentimental images of summer and not of horror. Or better yet if she used black widows (for Mayfair Witches would be appropriate) spinning the webs in the corners, their giant bodies waiting to capture a fly, or to poison a man, that would be good symbolism.

Another lesson is to have more varied characters than the standard ones. For example, maybe in a vampire book she might have had vampire brothers who were wealthy, or at least more vampires that happened to be poor or come from protestant and Jewish backgrounds, something different than her usual fare.

Also, don't give away all the information at once for the character, but instead parcel it out throughout the book, thus giving it time for previous information to sink in, and when it does, introduce a new tidbit about the character. Also use the rule of three. By that I mean mention something only three times at different intervals if possible. If the character is a good viola player, one can mention it if it's somehow relevant in beginning and perhaps at the end or somewhere in the middle.

And most important of all is don't shove your beliefs down people's throats. I think if I will write stories with Jewish themes or characters I might mention that. Why? Because non-Jews might buy it and perhaps they might become offended with the books or something. (At least when writing general fiction.) Something that christian writers forget when they write is that people from different religions might pick up the books to read them. While it's impossible to please everyone, a slight warning might have been nice. (If one of the Anne Rice books had something like this: Contains heavy christian imagery relating to Catholicism,) I might never have been offended. (Although whether or not I might have picked it up is a different story.)

Planned Books

Books I'm Reading:

By Invitation Only-Lori Wilde, Wendy Etherington, Jillian Burns 40/218


My Antonia-Willa Cather 183/289
O Pioneers! - Willa Cather 99/122
The Moonstone-Wilkie Collins 140/434
Crime and Punishment-Fyodor Dostoevsky 281/522
Just Surrender...-Kathleen O'Reilly 67/218
The Tale of Genji-Murasaki Shikibu 215/1090
Tailspin-Cara Summers 72/216
The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
2. The Crab-Flower Club 213/582
The Russian Saga-Kate Furnivall
2. The Russian Concubine- 239/517
The Elven Nations Trilogy-Douglas Niles, Tonya Carter, Paul Thompson
2. The Kinslayer Wars 60/314


Books that are waiting for reviews:
Cowboys are my weakness-Pam Houston

Future Books:
Caddie Woodlawn- Carol Ryrie Brink
To Kill a Mockingbird-Harper Lee
The Monk- Matthew Lewis
Once upon a river of love- Andrei Makine
A Sicilian romance-Ann Radcliffe
The Italian-Ann Radcliffe
Family Album-Danielle Steel
Fine Things-Danielle Steel
Kaleidoscope-Danielle Steel
Come toy with me-Cara Summers
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 Part II
5. The Man in the iron mask
The Russian Saga-Kate Furnivall
3. The Girl from Junchow
Bird and Fish Duology- Adrienne Leslie
1. Bird and Fish
2. Sea and Sky
The Elven Nations Trilogy-Douglas Niles, Paul Thompson, Tonya Carter
3. The Qualinesti
Little House Series-Laura Ingalls Wilder
2. Little house on the prairie
3. Farmer boy
4. On the banks of plum creek
5. By the shores of silver lake
6. The long winter
7. Little town on the prairie
8. These happy golden years
9. The first four years

Books I will not review:
Tree of Souls-Howard Schwartz 54/524

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Book Review of Camille, the lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils

Name of book: Camille The lady of the Camellias

Author Name: Alexandre Dumas Fils (The son not the father. In other words, THIS IS NOT THE AUTHOR WHO WROTE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO OR THE THREE MUSKETEERS!)

ISBN: 0-451-52398-9

Publisher: Signet

Type of book: Adult, France, "Kept women" 1800s, prostitutes, consumption

Year it was published: 1848 (one I have 1984)

Summary:

She was Marguerite Gautier, beautiful, brazen and a courtesan of Paris. He was Armand Duval, handsome, prominent, and hopelessly headstrong. Their love was a sensation, a scandal, and to some, a sin. Their story is as old as time, and timeless as love itself.

Characters:

I'm pretty sure that whoever read this book would have wanted to know more about Marguerite's character rather than what was given, (which was my feeling.) Although Dumas fils attempts to create three dimensional characters, they do not grab me unfortunately and they aren't read like that. Yes, the characters exhibit changes and whatnot, but I think this was designed more to be a play rather than a novel. (As far as I know this was the only novel by the son. Rest of his life he spent writing plays...) The story is not on characters but instead is on action that's going around the characters.

Theme:

"I do not draw from this story the conclusion that all women like Marguerite are capable of doing all that she did-far from it; but I have discovered that one of them experienced a serious love in the course of her life, that she suffered from it, and that she died for it. I have told the reader all I learned. It was my duty...The story of Marguerite is an exception, I repeat; had it not been an exception, it would not have been worth the trouble of writing it." (253-254)

Plot:

I'm not sure if the translation is recent or not, but this novel is very easy to read and one shouldn't encounter major difficulties with writing or understanding the story. It reads as if its in a modern day and not to mention I'm sure that women will fall in love with it, especially the devotion that Armand exhibits towards Marguerite.

Author Information:

Alexandre Dumas, fils (27 July 1824 – 27 November 1895) was a French author and dramatist. He was the son of Alexandre Dumas, père, also a writer and playwright. (from wikipedia.com)

Opinion:

This is my second time reading the novel. The first time I read it I didn't like it and thought it a dumb story. Second time I liked it much better. The version that I have reads very easily and isn't confusing at all. I enjoyed the sad love story (At the first chapter you learn instantly that Marguerite has died...)

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 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder



Name of book: Little House in the Big Woods

Author Name: Laura Ingalls Wilder

ISBN: 0-06-44001-8

Publisher: Harper Trophy

Part of Series: Little House series (9 original books)

Type of book:  woods,1872?-1873? semi-autobiographical, memoir

Year it was published: 1932 (version I have 1971?)


Summary:

 Deep in the woods of Wisconsin...Wolves and panthers and bears roamed the deep Wisconsin woods in the 1870s. In those same woods, Laura Ingalls lived with her Pa and Ma, and her sisters Mary and Baby Carrie, in a snug little house built of logs. Pa hunted and trapped. Ma made her own cheese and maple sugar. All night long, the wind howled lonesomely, but Pa played his fiddle and sang, keeping the family safe and cosy.

Characters:

Most of the characters are one dimensional or else there was not enough screen time to form opinions about them. Laura's Ma and Mary as well as Carrie do not exhibit a lot of personality. (Perhaps it might change in future series.) Laura and Pa on the other hand are dynamic characters, and it's clear that Laura adores her father a lot, because Laura writes a lot of stories of her father's adventures and things that are going on with the family.

Theme:

I don't think there is a theme. This is written as a memoir.

Plot:

The point of view is in third person and is from Laura's view. It is written a bit childish, such as her jealousy of her sister's hair and how her sister is completely perfect while she is not, which could cause some kids or adults to relate to that. (Of those who have siblings, who hasn't been jealous of them or of the way their lives are?) It is also a bit preachy though because for the most part kids didn't act like today's kids. (Laura and Mary are slowly nibbling cookies to half and their younger sister gets the whole cookie...it may be realistic but in this day and age, the kids tend to be a bit selfish.)

Author Information:

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957) was an American author who wrote the Little House series of books based on her childhood in a pioneer family.[1] Laura's daughter, Rose, inspired Laura to write her books. (from wikipedia)

Opinion:

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with everything related to Little House. Reading this book, although it tends to be written as sort of an ideal or fantasy world, it was honestly interesting because of the way that things are done, that is how maple sugar is made or that the family lived in isolation and only surrounded by extended family. Its nice to read how they helped one another and survived together. This book is good for anyone.

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, August 12, 2011

Book Review of Are You there God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume

Name of book: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Author Name:  Judy Blume

ISBN: 0-02-710991-7

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Type of book: Young adult to Adult, Girls, religion, christianity, Judaism

Year it was published: 1970 (Have recent version though)

Summary:

 Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She's just moved from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends- Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their firs periods, Margaret is happy to belong. But none of them can believe that Margaret doesn't have a religion, and tha she isn't joining the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don't know is that Margaret has her own special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything-family, friends, even Philip Leroy, the best-looking boy in sxith grade. Margaret is funny and real. As you read her story, you'll know why this book has been the favorite of millions of readers. It's as if Margaret is talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

Characters:

The characters inside strangely reminded me of a non-fiction book called Queen Bees and Wannabees. (Anyone want to guess who's the Queen Bee? And no its not Margaret) I think it might have been nice if Margaret might have become friends with the well developed girl, or if we could have found out more about the teacher. Margaret is best described as neurotic and tunnel vision focus on her getting a period. I think it should have been longer, I really do.

Theme:

The ultimate theme is that there is no middle ground in some issues, and that people have to take a stance. If a christian and a Jew get married, the child will have to be either raised one way or the other and not in between, and if they are in-between, they will have difficult time finding spirituality. (Interestingly enough, the Jewish characters in her book view Judaism as something superficial and not something that defines their identities.)

Plot:

This is written in first person, completely from Margaret's point of view, and as mentioned she is very typical for her age and whanot. Her thoughts and actions are a bit predictable. I'm not sure what else to say.

Author Information:

Judy Blume is one of America's most popular authors. More than sxity million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into sixteen languages. She receives one thousand letters a month from readers of all ages, who share their feelings and concerns with her. (From inside flap)

Opinion:

As I'm sure that a lot of women can claim, Judy Blume had a huge impact on me as a child and adolescent. Hers were the first English books I have read when I first came to America from Russia. (At least when my reading skills got better.) I remember how in elementary school I would read her books every single day. I thought of this book as another one, that is I remember one of her books had a character going to a synagogue and singing "cantaloupe water-melon" to Jewish songs, and I thought this is the book. Although I found the writing to be very addictive, I think I might have had a problem with her ultimate message and the characters as well. This really will be a spoil. Please do not read unless you don't care for spoilers. [spoiler] Her ultimate message is that after age twelve, people will not belong or have a religion. I'm not sure if she is talking about half-Jewish and half-Christian kids or even full Jewish and full Christian kids. [/spoiler] Many Americans may not know of lack of religious worship in former Soviet Union. (The only things that anyone learns here is that Soviet Union was communist which means no competition and whatnot...) But schools never taught students about how people lived during those times, in particular the fact that Jews who were in Soviet Union had to give up religion and become Jewish in name only. I think twelve is too young to discover what religion you want to be, but sooner or later one will discover it. Let's also be honest that some people don't stick with beliefs they were born with. Some Christians decide to convert Judaism and vise versa. Some who don't believe in anything may become evangelical christians. Some evangelical christians might become atheists and so on.

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.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

List of Books I have (Non-fiction)

Right now my book shelves are going through a LOT of changes, heck, I'm going through a lot of changes, thus its hard for me to keep up with which books I have and which books I decided not to keep. Once things settle down, I'll post the list of Fiction and Non-Fiction I have. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Planned Books

Books I'm Reading:

By Invitation Only-Lori Wilde, Wendy Etherington, Jillian Burns 28/218
Tree of Souls-Howard Schwartz 42/524

My Antonia-Willa Cather 13/289
O Pioneers! - Willa Cather 12/122
The Foreign Student-Susan Choi 106/325 
The Moonstone-Wilkie Collins 134/434
Crime and Punishment-Fyodor Dostoevsky 72/522
Camille-Alexandre Dumas fils 73/254
'Till Morning Comes-Suyin Han 446/620
Cowboys are my weakness-Pam Houston 42/171
Just Surrender...-Kathleen O'Reilly 58/218
The Tale of Genji-Murasaki Shikibu 185/1090
Coyote Dream-Jessica Davis Stein 210/364
Tailspin-Cara Summers 63/216
The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
2. The Crab-Flower Club 194/582
The Russian Saga-Kate Furnivall
2. The Russian Concubine- 119/517
The Elven Nations Trilogy-Douglas Niles, Tonya Carter, Paul Thompson
2. The Kinslayer Wars 20/314
Little House Series-Laura Ingalls Wilder
1. Little House in the big woods 83/238

Books that are waiting for reviews:
Are You there God? It's me Margaret

Future Books:
Caddie Woodlawn- Carol Ryrie Brink
To Kill a Mockingbird-Harper Lee
The Monk- Matthew Lewis
Once upon a river of love- Andrei Makine
A Sicilian romance-Ann Radcliffe
The Italian-Ann Radcliffe
Family Album-Danielle Steel
Fine Things-Danielle Steel
Kaleidoscope-Danielle Steel
Come toy with me-Cara Summers
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 Part II
5. The Man in the iron mask
The Russian Saga-Kate Furnivall
3. The Girl from Junchow
Bird and Fish Duology- Adrienne Leslie
1. Bird and Fish
2. Sea and Sky
The Elven Nations Trilogy-Douglas Niles, Paul Thompson, Tonya Carter
3. The Qualinesti
Little House Series-Laura Ingalls Wilder
2. Little house on the prairie
3. Farmer boy
4. On the banks of plum creek
5. By the shores of silver lake
6. The long winter
7. Little town on the prairie
8. These happy golden years
9. The first four years

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review of When my name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

Name of book: When my name was Keoko

Author Name: Linda Sue Park

ISBN: 0-618-13335-6

Publisher: Clarion Books New York

Type of book: Young adult to Adult, Japanese occupation of Korea, World War 2, Korea 1940-1946

Year it was published: 2002

Summary:

For Kim Sun-hee's whole life, Korea has belonged to Japan. Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, have grown up studying Japanese and speaking it at school. THeir own language, Korean, can be spoken only at home, and some Korean things-like the flag-are not to be spoken of at all. When teh Emperor of Japan decrees that all Koreans must take Japanese names, Sun-hee and Tae-yul become Keoko and Nobuo. It is just one more step in a familiar process, but somehow it changes everything. THen World War II comes to Korea. No battles are fought on Korean soil, yet soldiers are everywhere. At school, teh students have war preparation duties instead of classes. But makng Koreans take Japanese names has not turned them into loyal subjects, ready to fight for Japan. WHen Tae-yul sees a chance to help his beloved uncle, whom the Japanese suspect of aiding the Korean resistance, he leaves home. Sun-hee stays behind, entrusted with the life-and-death secrets of a family at war. When My name was Keoko is a World War II novel with a  difference: two parallel stories seamleslsy interwoven into a taut, compelling narrative that illuminates the wartime experience in occupied Korea.

Characters:

While I liked the fact that this was written from the brother's and sister's point of view, I think that the brother's voice was somewhat weaker than the sister's voice. That is, the brother did get spotlight, but the voice wasn't as developed as I had wanted it to be. But I'm glad that the voices stay a bit consistent. The personalities themselves manage to change, Keoko's more visibly than Nobuo's. I kind of wish that Ms. Park could have written a sequel to this book about the family during Korean War and so on. But I'm grateful that she even bothered to write the novel at all.


Theme:

The theme is of trying to understand the meaning of culture among the forced culture. Why and how birth culture should matter, and to also resist the encroachment of the dominant culture.

Plot:

The stories are in first place narrative, and the chapters are named after the brother and sister in Korean names. The voices sound very young actually, and in some instances the characters are a bit more American than Korean ones. (I'm not sure if real Koreans would have acted out the way the characters acted out in certain circumstances.)

Author Information:

Linda Sue Park is the acclaimed author of A Single Shard, which was awarded the Newbery Medal; Seesaw Girl; and The Kite Fighters. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Linda Sue was born and raised in Illinois and has been writing poems and stories all her life. Her first published work was a poem in a children's magazine when she was nine. Today, she lives with her husband and their two children in western New York. You can visit her website at www.lindasuepark.com.

Opinion:

I first heard of the hatred between Japan and Korea was when I was reading Takaki's book Strangers from the different Shores. A Korean-American friend confirmed that hatred as well. Later on I dated a Korean guy who gave me more details about the hatred. A year or so ago, I began watching a Korean drama, Eyes of Dawn about Japanese occupation of Korea. Although the drama was very good, the images and information was best described as sickening. I wanted to find things out more in detail, and by luck I saw this book which helped me find out about the life under Japanese occupation. I enjoyed the way the information was provided and the way characters were drawn.

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 A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Name of book: A Tale of two cities

Author Name: Charles Dickens

ISBN: 0-451-51076-3

Publisher: Signet

Type of book: Young adult to Adult, French revolution, 18th century, France

Year it was published: 1859 original. Version I have 1960

Summary:

The storming of the Bastille...the death carts with their doomed human cargo...the swift drop of the guillotine blade-this is the French revolution that Charles Dickens vividly captures in his famous work, A Tale of Two Cities. With dramatic eloquence, he brings to life a time of terror and treason, a starving people rising in frenzy and hate to overthrow a corrupt and decadent regime. With insight and compassion, he casts his novel of unforgettable scenes with unforgettable characters: the sinister Madame Defarge, knitting her patterns of death; the gentle Lucie Manette, unswerving in her devotion to her broken father; the heroic Sydney Carton, who gives  his life for the love of a girl who would never be his.

Characters:

Very one dimensional characters that one cannot relate to. One minute there's a chapter about them but in the next minute they disappear. It's a confusing book, not only because of the constant switching of cities, but also because of the time jumps. (Dickens does explain some things in there at the end, but still...) While reading this book, I was never allowed to see the inner souls of the characters in a great depth. I get attached to one character, but all of a sudden I get moved on to another.

Theme:

Umm, there's a theme in this book? I don't know what theme there is. In order to have stability and avoid revolution be sure to have an upper middle class?

Plot:

He writes in a third person narrative but has too many characters and goes way overboard in metaphors and descriptions and tends to repeat himself a lot. And I do mean a lot. Yes, I do mean a whole lot. Despite the 300+ pages of characters, I cannot relate or attach myself to any of them. How indeed is Lucie a golden thread that holds everyone together? And again, why are blond women good but brunnetes aren't good? And why is Dickens painting these peasants so negatively? Especially women who want a brighter future for their children and are willing to do anything for it? How is Madame Defarge evil? Just because she wanted to destroy holier than thou Lucie and her family?

Author Information:

Charles Dickens was born on February 7th, 1812 in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in his Gads Hill home in Kent on Jun 9th, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not onyl hunger and privation-but also the horror of the infamous debtors' prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and "slave" factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years' formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorney's clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after twenty-three years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of fifty-eight, characteristically while still engaged in a multitude of work.

Opinion:

The only reason I started to read this book was because I thought that someone I liked also read it. No, the person hadn't. This book is not genius and either you hate it or love it but nothing in between. The best way I can think of saying it is that it's modern art:

Andy Warhol, pictures of Marilyn Monroe
VS traditional art (Romanticism in this case.)

Sorry have no idea who painted it or the name of the painting. 
Thus, I fall into the type that prefers traditional art rather than modern art. The 0 out of 5 is simply my opinion for people who prefer tradition over modernity. While there were glimmers of promise in this book, I found it to be a mess and if it weren't for wikipedia entry, ironically, I would never have understood what the story was. I read it, and at last I can say that I tried reading Charles Dickens but failed to like him.

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, August 2, 2011

Book Review of #4 Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas

Name of book: Louise de la Valliere

Author Name: Alexandre Dumas

ISBN: 0-19-282389-2

Publisher: Oxford

Part of Series: D'Artagnan Series by Alexandre Dumas Sequel to Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, Vicomte de Bragelonne, prequel to The Man in iron mask

Type of book: Adult, French, 17th century, Louis XIV

Year it was published: this version 1995 (Original version in France 1847-1850)

Summary:

Louise de la Valliere is the middle section of the Vicomte de Bragelonne, or Ten Years After. Against a tender love story, Dumas continues the suspense which began with The Vicomte de Bragelonne and will end with The Man in the Iron Mask. It is early summer, 1661, and the royal court of France is in turmoil. Can it be true that the king is in love with the Duchess D'Orleans? Or has his eye been caught by the sweet and gentle Louise de la Valliere? No one is more anxious to know the answer than Raoul, son of Athos, who loves Louise more than life itself. Behind the scenes, dark intrigues are afoot. Louis XIV is intent on making himself absolute master of France. Imminent crisis shakes the now aging Musketeers and d'Artagnan out of their complacent retirement, but is the cause just? This new edition of the classic English translation of 1857 is richly annotatted and sets Dumas's invigorating tale in its historical and cultural context.

Characters:

There is way too many characters and too many intrigues going on. If you asked me what kind, I'd be clueless. I remember something to do with Louis XIV in love with his sister in law (and being married) wanting to use Louise de la Valliere so people won't pay attention to her so his brother won't get jealous. But then he falls in love with Louise de la Valliere who is betrothed to Vicomte de Bragelonne. (Anyone but me see anything wrong here?) There are appearances of Three Musketeers (Athos is absent) and I enjoyed how D'Artagnan tricked Aramis and so on. Also, why do the good and desirable all have to be blonde?! (Sorry my main pet peeve...) If you can tell me of a positive woman in this or other Dumas's books that happens to be a brunette, then I won't complain. I disliked Louise de la Valliere with a passion because she's not a rounded characters is way too too good. She seems to be a Mary Sue character. Louis XIV, although a king, has no right to seduce or to be with women who are either married or are engaged. If Louise is unhappy somehow with Bragelonne then she'll have my sympathies, but she's okay! She's engaged to a man she doesn't even love passionately and doesn't even bother writing him a Dear John letter! Why should a character like her get my sympathies? (Or if she is actively pursuing Bragelonne relationship but he doesn't reply or anything like that, then another thing that will get my sympathies.)

Theme:

If you're a king and want something then you can have it. Society is very strict so be careful with everything. Too many plots and intrigues at the top. Unfortunately these are the only ones that stood out in the book. If there are more please tell me.

Plot:

Very not even snail is this slow plot. First of all Bragelonne gets separated from Louise, then she begins to work for Madame and falls in love with a king. As mentioned too many characters. The author or someone needs to write character biographies of the book people so I can keep track of who's who and involved with what plot and whatnot. Towards the end the book slightly picks up and we are left off, well, with a pretty good scene. (Very exciting yet predictable four pages.)

Author Information:

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

Opinion:

Wow, I can't believe this. Few years ago I took a Jane Austen where I had to read Fanny Burney's Evelina as well as The Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, and I thought that those two were horrible and torturous beyond words. (I hated them so much that I named one character Edmund Orville; Edmund from Mansfield Park and Orville from Evelina.) But at last I found a book that surpasses even those two, and this book is called Louise de la Valliere. I like reading books that are psychological in nature or else explain something in detail. (I am currently reading Dream of Red Chambers from China and so far am enjoying it, and also The Tale of Genji which is also enjoyable so far.) In other words it takes a lot for me to hate this book. (And if one looks at my Book Reviews page, I have very few books that I hate...) This literally took me the strength of Hercules to get through. This is a slow beyond words book. A slow book where you literally watch the beach form grain by grain in slow motion.

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.)

Book Review of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Name of book: The Castle of Otranto

Author Name:  Horace Walpole

ISBN: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/

Publisher: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/

Type of book: Young adult to Adult, supernatural, Gothic

Year it was published: 1764

Summary:

First published pseudonymously in 1764, The Castle of Otranto purported to be a translation of an Italian story of the time of the crusades. In it Walpole attempted, as he declared in the Preface to the Second Edition, "to blend the two kinds of romance: the ancient and the modern." Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole's own favorite among his numerous works. The novel is reprinted here from a text of 1798, the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press. (From goodreads.com)

Characters:

There really is not much to tell the characters. Hippolita, Manfred's wife is kind of a martyr and loyal, while Manfred is way too passionate. Despite the actions and events, as mentioned, the characters aren't very memorable and aren't human. They're not Radcliffean characters of this period. (Read Mysteries of Udolpho or even Romance of the Forest to see what I mean.)

Theme:

I think that the ultimate theme of the novel is that prophecies are true and one day you will pay for your ancestors' evil deeds.

Plot:

I think perhaps its because one of the first Gothic novels, and because its a time when Europeans are trying to discover writing fiction, this is a terrible book for 21st century.  How does a helmet and a foot and everything else  fall from the sky? Why doesn't Manfred have any mistresses? How come he's not aware of killing his own daughter until its too late? As mentioned, this is very jumbled up and very ridiculous. I found many parts of this book very funny. Just because I finished it quickly, it doesn't mean its good.

Author Information:

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and politician. He is now largely remembered for Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south-west London where he revived the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors, and for his Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. Along with the book, his literary reputation rests on his Letters, which are of significant social and political interest. He was the son of Sir Robert Walpole, and cousin of Lord Nelson. (from goodreads.com)

Opinion:

This book is a complete mess. The language is very Shakespearean, and everything is extremely jumbled. I can't help but wonder if this is also a parody or something of the kind. It sounds very laughable actually. A giant helmet crushes the lord's son whom we are told is not a tyrant and a good person, yet the rest of the book proves us wrong. He begins to lust after the son's intended bride and even wants to divorce his wife just to marry the poor girl. Erm, not sure if research is done, but divorce was not legal back then, and only way to get out of marriage was for either the man or woman to adapt a religious life or for a man to go off to Crusades and not return within the appointed time. (Supposedly the story itself took place in Crusades...) I am surprised that the story took within two days instead of one night. (I seriously thought that all of this took place in one day!)

1 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.)

Reading History Part VIII: Amy Tan

Part VIII: Amy Tan

Three words. You hear me? Me say three words. Me good American because me say three words. Wah! You no listen? You bad bad daughter! Joy luck club. Well, I'm relieved I can start talking normally now.

Who hasn't heard of Joy Luck Club book and movie that depicts the "struggles" that Chinese women suffered in this mystical and far away place called China? Who hasn't had in their heads about the things these women go through at the hands of these evil and horrid men? Oh, we say sympathetically, clicking our tongues and shaking our heads at the poor immigrants. Those evil men and poor women. We must rescue them from these horrible forced marriages that happen in China. They are free, in America!

First of all I do not mean to make light of immigrant situation. Although my family and I are fortunate, many people are unfortunate, so the sympathy is correct. In China, by the way, only the most ignorant and poor still do forced marriages. Most of Chinese people are cosmopolitan and make decisions on whom to marry.
(There are still family hurdles to get through however...) Also, if you must learn about China, read the books of an author that has lived in China and contains multi-faceted characters. Think of Amy Tan's books for what they are: depiction of China that are on the border of surreal and fantasy with extremely stereotypical China dolls and white knights characters.

Amy Tan had visited China after she wrote The Joy Luck Club. I might have excused her books and might have liked them if she added more dimension to Chinese male characters in subsequent books such The Kitchen God's Wife or Hundred Secret Senses, but instead she doesn't do it. These characters remain completely flat, and whatever goodness the secondary character exhibit is not ones you'll remember long after you finish the novel. (For example, I'm recalling The Kitchen God's wife and the only thing I ever remember is the husband's atrocities to the wife, and just barely I remembered the friend of the wife who married a good husband.)

The Joy Luck Club movie wasn't interesting in my opinion and a tad bit predictable. They ignore some stories while placing others in a spotlight. The acting within the movie wasn't touching or real but felt forced. Throughout the movie I couldn't help but think "okay, so this segment is from there," and so on. The way they incorporated the swan feather in the movie was also interesting, but again the movie is boring and felt fake somehow. I didn't like that one of the women was married to a much much older Asian gentleman, and that they guy was clueless. I wonder why they didn't include these woman's stories of why she hates ice scream and the fact that in the book she's biracial.

The author herself suffered from depression and what seemed to be an identity crisis when she took up writing books. (If only her psychologist or psychiatrist didn't fall asleep on her sessions then I could have been spared from reading her books!)  She is married to an American guy. (Which explains why all of her characters in all the books, the daughters that is, are married to American men. Come on, find me a book of hers where an Asian daughter characters is married to an Asian man...)

I'll admit that I have never visited China, and cannot vouch for the accuracy of books, but if you are looking for non-Amy Tan books, then try reading Kate Furnivall's Russian Concubine which portrays very sympathetic AF and WM characters and also portrays an interesting relationship between AM and WF. Also try Suyin Han's 'Till Morning Comes that gives a very positive depiction of a Chinese male character. (The way he feels and thinks about Stephanie, one can't help but fall in love with him.) Although its not at the forefront, there is are also some Asian Female and White Men relationships as well.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Reading History Part VII: The Revolution of Forever by Judy Blume

Part VII: The Revolution of Forever by Judy Blume

While I was reading Forever by Judy Blume, I couldn't help but wonder why Katherine's parents encouraged her to explore other options instead of just staying with her boyfriend for forever. While pondering that point, only then did I realize how revolutionary this book was for its time.

Let's say that Katherine's parents were born in 1930s. Twenty years later, possible around the time they may have become married, it was 1950s, the time of conservatism and encouragement  to marry soon after high school. Most likely that was the case for Katherine's parents.

So, one can't help but think that despite their happy marriage, both have regrets that they hadn't had chance to date or to be with many people. Perhaps they secretly regret becoming married so early. By my estimates, Katherine herself was born in late 1950s, if the story does take place in 1975. If it was a time of conservatism, then of course people will encourage marriage and being married straight from high school, and the generation before me was only starting to grapple with idea of free choice of becoming married. Before that time, women were called spinsters if there was a certain age they weren't married.

When Judy Blume wrote Forever...she seems to be speaking for the liberal time, of time of being unafraid to explore oneself and discover what and who you wanted. I would think that for women there was a time of shame they might have gone through if they had multiple relationships, or else lost their virginities before marriage. Unfortunately as a teenager I was the same way and didn't truly understand that having past multiple relationships was nothing to be ashamed of. I always got the idea that once you find somebody in high school or whatever, then that person is your soulmate. I now know better.

As I mentioned in the review, Forever, despite its message, is filled with fear and uncertainty from Katherine's point of view, which shows how strongly those ideas are ingrained within this society. The fact that I had these feelings in late 1990s up to 2000s, shows how long they lasted and are continuing to last. (Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga sets this idea of exploring self  back to 1970s or 1950s even!) I really do wonder if human beings are capable of writing a book similar to Forever that explores multiple relationships in finding a soulmate and having a few sexual relationships, a book that's sweet and tender, and does not have a vein or mention of Bridget Jones or Sex and the City stories.

Book Review of The Secret Life of the Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Name of book: The Secret Life of Bees

Author Name: Sue Monk Kidd

ISBN: 0-14-200174-0

Publisher: Penguin

Type of book: young adult-adult, 1960s, racism, South, white female/black male relationship, interracial relationship, coming of age, bees

Year it was published: 2002


Summary:


Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's firece-hearted black "stand-in mother", Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolin-a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an  eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and apss on to their daughters for years to come.

Characters:


Almost all characters are rounded and are given multiple dimensions. The reader watches Lily change from a frightened girl who is filled with pain to one who is not afraid and is more certain and is able to face her fears. The men are also painted positively, at least the African American men. (One is able to understand and sympathize with Zack's determination to become a lawyer.) However, the American men are painted negatively in the book. (The reader doesn't learn how, when and why T-Ray has been this way to Lily.) Lily desires to find a place to belong, to be away from the white world, and in a colored world Lily at last finds her place.

Theme:
 
I think the main theme or conflict is self acceptance and trying to fight the fears to find out the truth. In beginning of the novel Lily describes how her mother died and her memories of that day, and throughout she struggles in trying to discover the truth.

Plot:
 
The novel is in first person and told from Lily's point of view. I liked the interspersing of the bees and the women and how that ties it to religion. I also liked watching Lily transition from an uncertain frightened girl to someone who can stand up for herself and someone who knows what she wants. In an odd way, although I grew up in '90s and '00s, this was a nostalgic book, and Lily is very easy to relate to for anyone.

Author Information:

Sue Monk Kidd (born August 12, 1948) is a writer from the Southern United States, best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees. (from wikipedia)

Opinion:

It's odd that I found this book last year. I heard of the movie first and went to watch it with somebody special in my life who is Korean. (Later on he asked me what it was like for Asian male white female relationships in the 1950s.) That happened in the winter if I remember right. On September 23rd, 2010, I saw this book in a library and bought it. The reason I mention the date is that around this time this particular friend left for Korea. When I saw it I couldn't help but get it. I don't regret getting it. I enjoyed reading it a great deal the first time around, and even second time around where I could see the feminism in it. I liked the symbolism of bees, how they are tied around one female, the queen and how that is linked to Mary. (I'm not a christian so I apologize that I cannot expound more on this thought...) One thing I always was curious about is how queen bees are born. Queen bees give birth to drones and worker bees. Worker bees are infertile. So when a Queen bee dies, how does a new queen get to be born?

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 Coyote Dreams by Jessica Davis Stein

Life's Treasure
Name of Book: Coyote Dream

Published by:  NAL Accent

Author Name: Jessica Davis Stein

ISBN: 0-451-21315-7

Type of Book: Adult

Year it was published in: 2004


Summary:


For Sarah Friedman, the chance to journey to the Southwest to buy Native Indian art for her family’s successful New York store comes at a time of personal transition. Determined to put aside romantic disappointments, she seeks new perspectives in the serenity of the vast desert landscape. Then her car breaks down near the home of a solitary artist on the Navajo reservation…
After years of turmoil, Ben Lonefeather has finally gained control of his life. He devotes his days to his work and caring for the coyotes he rescued as pups. When Sarah Friedman shows up stranded, he grudgingly offers her a room. Their practical arrangement deepens into a connection that leaves them both passionately alive, profoundly changed…and shattered by circumstances that will separate them. As Sarah and Ben seek to build meaningful lives, they will be forced to choose between love and duty, commitment and freedom-and learn to fight for what matters most…

Characters:
The characters are well rounded and are full of humanity. It's really difficult to hate them. The main characters are Ben and Sarah. I enjoyed reading their conversations and the impact that Ben had on her. Ben himself is also an admirable and a likable character. He may not be college intelligent like Sarah, but he doesn't give up easily and Sarah also had a profound effect on him and in a way taught him to care about people. The secondary characters also were interesting and rounded, such as Maria Farrell, a beautiful woman of Hopi origins.
Theme:
I would think that the main theme of the novel is that its okay not to settle for second best and to also not give up and reach for the stars.

Plot:
The story is told from third point of view, mostly Ben and Sarah's, but other characters such as Sarah's father, Sam, and Maria Farrell also tell their sides briefly. It's easy to follow along the characters. At the end of the story there aren't questions left unanswered and whatnot.

Author Information: 

Jessica Davis Stein is a family therapist, married to television director Herb Stein. THey have two children and live in Los Angeles. Visit the author's web site, www.jessicadavisstein.com 

Opinion:
I was searching for interracial romances when I saw this book. A Jewish woman and a Native American pairing intrigued me. I checked it out from the library in 2009  I believe and loved it. This book came on my birthday. I love its pace and how the days within it hold on to one another without interruption. The Native American hero is completely different than in typical romance novels, and this book seems more human. It's honestly a shame that Jessica Davis Stein hasn't written anymore books for me to enjoy. This also seems a perfect mixture of reality and movie magic. Really difficult to describe.
4 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.)

Book Review of 'Till Morning Comes by Suyin Han

China's Modern History
Name of Book: 'Till Morning Comes

Published by: Bantam book 

Author Name: Suyin Han

ISBN: 0-553-23270-3

Type of Book: Adult, China, World War II, 1944-1971? Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, Interracial Relationship, Asian Male White Female

Year it was published in: 1982


Summary:


Alone in exotic Chungking, beautiful foreign correspondent Stephanie Ryder is warned to keep silent about the atrocities she witnesses in the city’s teeming slums. Defying a brutal Kuomintang officer, she is swept to an electrifying first meeting with Dr. Jen Yong, a handsome, dedicated and compassionate Chinese surgeon. For Yong, a sexual liaison with an American woman could mean a death sentence. For Stephanie, an affair with an Asian man would cause an irreparable breach with her Texas millionaire father. But just when danger threatens to separate them forever, their passion bursts into flame…and carries them on a fabulous romantic journey from the stormy depths of fear and desire, to the moving affirmation that enduring love is truly a many-splendored thing.

Characters:
If you're a girl and you read it, you probably will not be able to prevent yourself from falling in love with Jen En Yong, although there is a part of you that might see him as a "coward" (as he calls himself.) Jen Yong is a talented doctor who is attracted to Stephanie Ryder, a journalist. Although both characters seem a little too perfect at the start, and their relationship seems an ideal, as you read, you will quickly see the cracks start to appear and their relationship weathering the hurricanes that crash the coast. Stephanie has her "flaws" (at least in Chinese definition, although Yong fell in love with her because of them,) and Yong has his "flaws" (in American definition. Stephanie did fall in love with him, but I think later on the flaws really got on her nerves.) There are also many secondary characters such as Liang Little Pond, or the Family (Yong's family). Han Suyin doesn't rely on stereotypes or caricatures. Everyone is drawn fully and given different personalities.

Theme:
The ultimate theme in the book is the idea of losing self while living in a foreign country, and also a struggle with border over how much allowances she should make for Yong.

Plot:
Even though most of the book is from Stephanie's point of view, the main character in there is Yong. The title comes from his letters "[Yong writes Stephanie a letter but never sends it.] 'You are the bird of morning, and till morning comes I shall wait for you, happy because when I close my eyes you are there, just under my lids.' (479)" The book may be long (620 pages) but it's a well-worth read. It also has a strange Gone with the Wind quality to it. (The book is not Gone with the wind, Yong is not Rhett Butler, and Stephanie is not Scarlett O'Hara,) but there is something intangible that reminds one a little of it.

Author Information:

Han Suyin has funded the Chinese Writers Association to create the "National Rainbow Award for Best Literary Translation" (which is now the Lu Xun Literary Award for Best Literary Translation) to help develop literature translation in China. “Han Suyin Award for Young Translators” sponsored by the China International Publishing Group was also set up by Han Suyin. So far it has given out awards 21 times(in 2009).[4]

Han has also been influential in Asian American literature, as her books were published in English and contained depictions of Asians that were radically different from the portrayals found in both Anglo-American and Asian-American authors. Frank Chin, in his essay "Come All Ye Asian American Writers of the Real and the Fake", credits Han with being one of the few Chinese American writers (his term) who does not portray Chinese men as "emasculated and sexually repellent" and for being one of the few who "[wrote] knowledgeably and authentically of Chinese fairy tales, heroic tradition, and history"
(From Wikipedia) 

Opinion:
On December 19th, 2006, ten months after my Chinese "boyfriend" played a disappearing trick on me, my friend and I were at Goodwill looking at books. I perused through the books, not looking for anything in particular. I think we were about to leave when a cover caught my eye; an Asian male holding on to a white female. I got excited and along with Cynthia Freeman's book Portraits, bought both of them. I think I had some false starts reading the book but as of today, I believe I have read it three times. The book was very informative on Chinese history and culture, although I didn't appreciate Russia-bashing they have done. If one is wondering, yes it does explain the mindset of a Chinese guy and does say a few do's and dont's when it comes to relationship. I had a hard time disliking Stephanie towards the end of the book (if you'll read it, you'll see why...) and found myself sympathizing with her position, especially the hell she went through when she lived in China. I honestly would have wanted the author to continue writing this story up until modern day, even beyond 1982. (Would have been interesting to read about Tiannemen Square Massacre and whatnot.)


4 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.)

Links:
Amazon
Goodreads.com 

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