Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review of #1 The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Name of Book: The Good Earth

Author: Pearl Buck

ISBN: 0-7432-7293-5

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Part of a Series: The house of good earth trilogy; Sons and A House Divided sequels

Type of book: generational, farming, famine, rise to wealth, 1800s, China, gender,

Year it was published: 1931

Summary:

Though more than sixty years have passed since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer Prize, it has retained its popularity and become one of the great modern classics. "I can only write what I know, and I know nothing but China, having always lived there," wrote Pearl Buck. In The Good Earth she presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century.

Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel -- beloved by millions of readers -- is a universal tale of the destiny of man.

Characters:

I do wish that there was more about O-lan, about why she is so shy and never tells Wang Lung anything about herself beyond the basics. The sons are interesting as well, and I would have liked to know why they think the way they do. (One is insatiable, another a skinflint, and third invisible.) Lotus and the sons' wives strike me as spoiled brats who aren't happy with anything. Wang Lung, although I didn't agree with a lot he did, to me he's not a horrible man as others are saying he is.

Theme:

The author covered a lot of conflicts such as the generational ones between Wang Lung and his sons, the wealth conflicts, the gender conflicts, etc. I think in some ways the story tends to be biblical, (and not just the writing,) and in many ways its a moralistic story. The roots of how the family became wealthy and how they might eventually the House of Hwang is also a fascinating one.

Plot:

The writing reminds me of biblical writing, that is something about the way she writes The Good Earth sounds similar to Genesis. The author introduces you to Wang Lung as he is getting married and one can see into psychology and how he is during normal times, poverty times and also prosperous times. He also rises from poor to wealthy through luck it seems and through O-lan's cleverness. Very fascinating picture. This is also written completely from Wang Lung's point of view in third person narrative.

Author Information:

born
June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia, The United States

died
March 06, 1973

gender
female

genre
Literature ; Fiction, Biographies ; Memoirs, Children's Books


About this author

Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces" and the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1932 for The Good Earth.

Opinion:

In 2008 I was hanging out with an ex friend at a bookstore and we were walking through aisles when she pointed out a book to me called The Good Earth and mentioned how much she hated the male character. Even when I checked on goodreads.com, the male character, Wang Lung, doesn't have any fans. (I'll do an editorial on his character.)  I think its a fascinating novel of perhaps 40 or more years of a man's life. Its interesting that the author doesn't seem to delve too deeply into Chinese ceremonies and that she never mentioned celebrating the 60th birthday or Moon Festival or anything of that kind. The characters are fascinating, the parallels between Wang and Hwang families even more so. I don't know how historically accurate the novel is, but its an interesting read and something to ponder and think over.

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.)

Part XV: Wang Lung from The Good Earth

Spoilers from: The Good Earth

In the year of 2008, I was hanging out with an ex friend at a local bookstore. I remembered we passed by the Fiction Section and she picked up The Good Earth and mentioned how Wang Lung is a despicable man and how she hates him and she wishes she could kill him or something of the kind. Years later, I got all three books; The Good Earth, Sons and A House Divided and I started to read The Good Earth. Even when I checked goodreads.com, a lot of people hated Wang Lung for what he did such as addicting his relatives to opium, getting a concubine and being upset with his wife for no reason, and not appreciating his wife for all the work she did. Yet strangely enough, I can't hate him. Probably  I have a little more exposure to Asian culture and learned that it was very common for men to have multiple wives or concubines in the past. In here I'll discuss Wang Lung's love towards O-lan, the idea of beauty, the gender and class dynamics as well as the generations and society.

People are often judged by the beauty, even today. Let's all be honest: would you rather stay with a homely man or woman who will treat you like a king/queen or would you rather be with a beautiful man/woman who won't appreciate you or be there for you in tough times? Even though the politically correct answer will be a homely man/woman, deep inside very few will be that way. Instead it will be beautiful man/woman. I think that very often physical attraction is equated to love. Love though can take many forms. For the most part Asian men are very shy when it comes to expressing love, and with some, maybe old fashioned ones, love equals to actions rather than physical affection. I think at some point early in the marriage Wang Lung did love O-lan and was concerned about her. Also at the end of her life he was always there for her. Let's move on to gender and class dynamics.

Most people often think that in this book the women are the victims of the viciousness or victims of the Chinese men. While some of it is true, there were bad women in the book such as Lotus, Uncle's wife, the elder brother's wife and the younger brother's wife. I think the lesson that she's trying to impart on us is that women who suffered a lot and come from a very low class are the good ones; others aren't good. (It would help if she gave actual names to all the characters instead of calling them 'uncle' or 'uncle's wife' or cousin, and so on.) Also most often, it seemed that women had hidden powers of causing men to go against their natures. (Lotus, for example, had Wang Lung spend lots of money on her and her beauty and her appetite; the elder brother's wife, not happy to be living in the house had her husband spends lots of money on frivolous things that in the end got broken, and so on.) With those kinds of powers, so to speak, how could women be portrayed as helpless?

With class dynamics, there is a parallel between Hwang house getting poorer and Wang house getting wealthier. Eventually, the roots for becoming the future Hwang house are planted; especially when Cuckoo constantly says how the family reminds her of the previous owners and whatnot. (Anyone even notice that if you take away the H from Hwang you get Wang?) At first even, Wang Lung, due to O-lan, becomes very reluctant in taking on slaves and whatnot, but in the end he does and its even described that everyone, from baby to adult has at least one slave. His sons have different behaviors than the father, as well as different desires and motivations and none desire to become a farmer. (In the end, women  such as his daughter, the poor fool, and Pear Blossom, stay with him, while his sons cannot make time for him.)

There are at least three or four generations that we know of; his father, Wang Lung, his children, and his children's children. Each generation is different and has different needs. Wang Lung's father is best described as ineffectual, and at some points one can't help but think of him as a leech. (When they were going through famine, the old man got the best of everything at the cost of Wang Lung's and his family's food.) Then there's the current generation, Wang Lung who through luck and good timing as well as stubbornness became wealthy. (One of the reviews compared this one to Gone with the Wind, and now that I think of it, there are similarities; Scarlett O'Hara would rather die than part with Tara; same with Wang Lung. Also Scarlett was never interested in anything emotional and its the same for Wang Lung. All he wanted was peace, there was no interest in emotional health.) Wang Lung is only familiar with hard work and working the earth; he is not familiar with how different he is from the family and how his sons are not like him at all. I don't think he's an emotional man and emotionally he's not there for his family. There are also Wang Lung's children  who have different needs and motivations than his father which causes a generation gap. (The sons must obey the father, but Wang Lung's sons are demanding and greedy.) The fourth generation is there as well but they are described best as comfort to Wang Lung.

Society places different expectations on men and women. Women are expected to be the nurturers and caretakers yet at the same breadwinners when there is a need to be. (O-lan fulfilled all those roles.) Also, women must obey and defer to their husbands' wishes, at least a long time ago. That is the picture we get of O-lan. Of her personal feelings and life we learn almost nothing but in the book she also represents a moral compass and the 'earth' itself. (If I'm not mistaken, after O-lan's death, Wang Lung becomes no more interested in earth, and the family sinks deeper and deeper into vices such as addicting an uncle and the uncle's wife to opium, or Wang Lung spending money very carelessly and pointlessly on things that got destroyed in the end.) O-lan requires no help when she births and next or same day she manages to take care of her husband and her father-in-law. There are also descriptions of O-lan nurturing her children with full breasts, as an earth feeding the population with its bountiful harvest. In the book, men are taught to look at women as "property" and although Wang Lung does want to see his wife beyond that label, she doesn't allow him to do it.

Book Review of #4 The Ghost in the Bell Tower by Francine Pascal

Name of Book: The ghost in the bell tower

Author: Francine Pascal

ISBN: 0-553-15893-7

Publisher: Bantam skylark book

Part of a Series: Sweet valley twins and super chillers

Type of book: 1985, Sweet Valley twins, Sweet Valley, young adult

Year it was published: 1992

Summary:

When the Wakefield kids are invited to their aunt Helen's country inn, Steven and Jessica are determined to use the eerie old mansion to scare their sister, Elizabeth, into believing in ghosts. But no matter what Steven and Jessica do, logical Elizabeth always figures out their tricks.

Then things start happening that even Elizabeth can't explain, and all the Wakefield kids are afraid that the inn really is haunted. Will they make it through the summer sharing their vacation with an unfriendly ghost?

Characters:

As always the characters do not carry the changes into other books and they basically remain the same. In this one though, at the end, the girls aren't frightened as they used to be but it doesn't last.

Theme:

Not everything has a logical explanation.

Plot:

Its really unnecessary to read any other books in the series. Everything is explained in the book of what's going on and whatnot.

Author Information:

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

Opinion:

I probably have mentioned this countless times but this series are simply brain candy and that's it. The story is kind of tragic and sweet though. I've read Sweet Valley High the Wakefield family, and I wonder where does Aunt Helen come from? If you look at the family tree, there is no Aunt Helen anywhere on it! Also, its not necessary to read prequels or sequels since each is a self contained book.

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 #6 The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Name of Book: The Long Winter

Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder

ISBN: 0-06-440006-9

Publisher: Harper Collins

Part of a Series: Little House Series

Type of book: 1880-1881, prairie, blizzards, living in town, young adult

Year it was published: 1940

Summary:

Gray clouds to the northwest mean only one thing-A blizzard is moments away...The first terrible storm comes to the barren prairie in October. THen it snows almost without stopping until April. Snow has reached the rooftops, and no trains can get through with food or coal. The people of De Smet are starving, including the Ingalls family, who wonder how long they're going to make it through this terrible winter. It is young Almanzo Wilder who finally understands what needs to be done. He must save the town, even if it means risking his own life.

Characters:

In this book we start seeing Carrie becoming Laura's responsibility and a friend as well. Pa and Ma are described as creative and we get to see that when Ma creates a button lamp and Pa creates a way for the family to have fuel when they run out of coal. The whole family helps one another through thick and thin in this book. We also get to see and learn of Almanzo and learn briefly what happens to him after Farmer Boy. More characters enter but at the moment they are not important in The Long Winter.

Theme:

Be grateful for what you have. (Once you'll start reading it, you'll see what I mean.)

Plot:

Unlike the previous Little House books, this book employs multiple point of view, that of Laura and her future husband to be Almanzo Wilder. It is written in third person narrative. I do think it might be necessary to read previous novels, in particular By the Shores of Silver Lake to gain understanding and enjoyment of how they arrived at such a place and why they are moving to town.

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:

I do think its a good read and it might be good to remember all the things that we can be grateful for. I do admit that I found it a little boring in some parts and this is not for young children because in someways its a scary novel. (Laura and her family along with others in De Smet faced starvation during the winter.) I remember reading that the author wanted to originally name the book 'Hard Winter' but was persuaded not to do it. So instead, she named it The Long Winter. Normally a Little House Book describes a few years or at least a year, but this one focuses on describing a specific season at a specific year.

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 The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Name of Book: The Moonstone

Author: Wilkie Collins

ISBN: 978-1-85326-044-5

Publisher: Woodsworth Classics

Type of book: Mystery, detective, missing jewel, 1799, 1848-1850, England, Indians

Year it was published: 1868

Summary:

The Moonstone, a priceless Indian diamond which had been brought to England as spoils of war, is given to Rachel Verrinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night, the stone is stolen. Suspicion then falls on a hunchbacked housemaid, on Rachel's cousin Franklin Blake, on a troupe of mysterious Indian jugglers, and on Rachel herself.

The phlegmatic Sergeant Cuff is called in, and with the help of Betteredge, the Robinson Crusoe-reading loquacious steward, the mystery of the missing stone is ingeniously solved.

Characters:

This is written in first person, a type of an epistolary story novel. Franklin Blake wants the prominent members to write the stories of how they dealt with the Moonstone mystery. The only drawn out characters in the novel are Betteredge and Miss Clack. Other characters simply provided narration without including their personalities in it. If you have almost 200 pages of sparkling and witty dialogue, which is followed by 200+ pages of dullness, then there seems to be a problem in my view.

Theme:

I'm not sure what to learn from the novel, except that be prepared for the unexpected and things aren't always what they seem.

Plot:

The narration lacks confusion and is full of twists and turns throughout the novel. The author even warns on who will take up the next narrative which means that one can be prepared for the character switch. I do admit that some parts are boring and that I didn't understand a lot of things or how some things are solved in the novel. What is also a relief is that none of the female characters faint but instead they are shown as strong intelligent and capable women: Rose Spearman and Rachel Verrinder try their best-and for a while succeed-in doing something, and one also learns the fascination of opium from Ezra Jennings.

Author Information:

A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William "Wilkie" Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens's bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has for fifty years. Most of his books are in print - and all are now in e-text - he is studied widely, and new film, television and radio versions of some of his books have been made. All his letters have been published. However, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction.

Opinion:

While in the past I have praised the book, and I will continue to praise the first two narratives; that of Betteredge and Miss Clack, the others really fell flat as if the author seemed to get bored and they simply told the narrative without going into personalities. I really wanted to see Franklin's personality throughout his personal narrative, how he would be like when portrayed in the first narrative by Betteredge but instead of the vividness, he is boring and dull. Other narratives are like that as well. I do pity the Jennings narrative, how much he had to suffer just because his mother is from another country and whatnot. The beginning was interesting, but once we get past the Betteredge narrative into the Clack one, although Clack is interesting and really reminds me of a certain someone, at least the old personality, a slight boredom creeps in. Then the rest of the book, up until the Jennings narrative lacks the oomph factor that the author wrote in previous narrations. Then after the experiment it again falls flat and most of it I didn't understand.

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 #3 So Totally Emily Ebers by Lisa Yee



Name of Book: So Totally Emily Ebers

Author: Lisa Yee

ISBN: 978-0-439-83847-4

Publisher: Arthur A Levine

Part of a Series: Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Stanford Wong flunks big-time

Type of book: 2000s, first love, divorce, friendship, coming of age, interracial AM/WF young adult relationship.

Year it was published: 2008

Summary:

In a series of letters to her absent father, twelve-year-old Emily Ebers deals with moving cross-country, her parents' divorce, a new friendship, and her first serious crush.

Characters:

The characters are all likable and tend to be somewhat on the eccentric side; you have Emily's mom Alice who tries to be a hippie, Millicent's family, her parents and grandmother and even Stanford. The characters are seen through Emily's eyes, thus nothing outside her knowledge is revealed about them. (All of a sudden I'm curious about reading Millicent Min and Stanford Wong books.) It's also curious at the way Emily resented her mother and wouldn't give her the time of day. I kind of wish that that would have been explored in the book. And that the author would also mention more of Emily and her father, besides how she was so dedicated to him.

Theme:

Things are not what they seem.

Plot:

As the author mentioned, you can read this book and feel as if you haven't missed anything, unless you are curious about Millicent and Stanford and want to read their sides. This is random but what I liked is that Emily didn't fall in love with Shakespeare play. (Personally I read it for school and boy was it a nightmare to remember. Just like any modern teenager she turns to a movie, most likely one with Leonardo Dicaprio.) The book was easy to read and for three-fourths of the novel was an epistolary novel because Emily wrote to her father. The other time she switched to "Dear Diary."

Author Information:

Lisa Yee won the 2004-Sid Fleischman Humor Award fro Millicent Min, Girl Genius, which was also selected for the TRA/CBC Children's Choice List and nominated for multiple state prizes. Her second novel, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, was named an ALA Notable Book. So Totally Emily Ebers completes the trilogy, which, as Lisa likes to point out, "can be read in any order, any day of the week, and at any time, except when you're sleeping."

Lisa writes her novels, stories and grocery lists at her home in South Pasadena, California.

Vist her Web site at www.lisayee.com

Opinion:

I liked the interactions between the characters of Millicent, Emily and Stanford. When Emily had her crush on Stanford, I could easily identify with her emotions and although I hadn't read Millicent Min and Stanford Wong, I doubt that the characters or the events from their points of views were spoiled. We see only what Emily sees and we don't jump from character to character. The reader also witnesses Emily's buoyant spirit in trying to keep floating in this world, and that she has the markings of becoming a sweet and popular girl. For a book that deals with divorce and various other issues, Emily very rarely dwells on the negative aspects and instead tries to be upbeat. The book also causes me to want to know Millicent's and Stanford's sides of the summer. There is an open ending and I do wish to know whether or not Millicent was correct. I don't know if in Millicent's book its mentioned, but in Emily's, I don't recall ever seeing the promise so to speak. I also liked how the Chinese American characters are portrayed, that they're people so to speak just like others.

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 #4 Warp Speed by Lisa Yee

Name of Book: Warp Speed

Author: Lisa Yee

ISBN: 978-0-545-12276-4

Publisher: Levine books

Type of book: coming of age, young adult, bullying, blackmailing, spin-off novel

Year it was published: 2011

Summary:

Entering 7th grade is no big deal for Marley Sandelski: Same old boring classes, same old boring life. The only thing he has to look forward to is the upcoming Star Trek convention. But when he inadvertently draws the attention of Digger Ronster, the biggest bully in school, his life has officially moved from boring to far too dramatic . . . from invisible to center stage.

Characters:

Marley has an interesting sense of humor and seems to think similar to the way I think; cynical and helpless. I would guess he has been bullied for all of his life if he developed this way. Emily still remains her sweet and angelic self who doesn't care about popularity. Stanford matures somewhat, and Millicent is barely seen in the book. Marley's parents are memorable as well; the blind mother that loves golfing and doesn't act blind, and the father that tries to be helpful towards him. The bullies are interesting as well and it seems as if they got their own rules and hierarchies.

Theme:

Even if someone thinks they are invisible, they are not.

Plot:

It takes place from August up until a little past December and is written in first person narrative from Marley's point of view. I don't think it is necessary to read the previous books to enjoy this one, but if one read previous books, you'll still enjoy learning about the family and Marley's passions and whatnot.

Author Information:


Lisa Yee won the 2004-Sid Fleischman Humor Award fro Millicent Min, Girl Genius, which was also selected for the TRA/CBC Children's Choice List and nominated for multiple state prizes. Her second novel, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, was named an ALA Notable Book. So Totally Emily Ebers completes the trilogy, which, as Lisa likes to point out, "can be read in any order, any day of the week, and at any time, except when you're sleeping."

Lisa writes her novels, stories and grocery lists at her home in South Pasadena, California.

Vist her Web site at www.lisayee.com


Opinion:

For those who are curious about the movie theater that Emily and Millicent went a few times, in this book you'll meet the Sandelski family who lived in it for several generations and own it. The blind mother who doesn't act as if she's blind, the father that's passionate about movies and the son that is into Star Trek and unfortunately gets bullied. In this book we tend to be at the bottom of the stratum pole of the middle school groups, the book with an AV club and Star Trek vs. Stars Wars. The characters of Stanford, Emily and Millicent also make cameos, (Millicent's was very short, while Emily and Stanford seem to take up a lot of the book. And are Emily and Stanford still together?) I think its an interesting read and is also easy to read. It does seem rather unfortunate though that the only way to become popular is to ether beat up a bully or become a jock. But Marley tries it briefly and returns to his AV club and running just for fun instead of competing for prizes. It also seems that bullies are helpless themselves in someways, which is surprising.

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, December 27, 2011

The Eighth Story: The Golem

Name of story: The Golem

Origin: Eastern Europe, Nineteenth Century

Page Numbers: 265-270

Summary:

In the reign of Emperor Rudolf in Prague lived Rabbi Judah Loew who was taught in mysteries by Rabbi Adam. In one year he had a dream of being in Christian quarters of Prague and he witnessed a murder of a child being thrown in the sack and then carried to the Jewish section of the ghetto and left inside a Jewish house. The person who did this was an evil sorcerer named Thaddeus who planned on accusing the Jews of blood libel. [My note: In the past since 1200s, Christians accused Jews of killing children and using their blood for matzos during Passover/Easter time. "A TERRIBLE LIE. NEVER HAD SUCH A THING BEEN DONE." (266)]. Later he saw a flock of birds make G-d's name and saw a man of clay which can be awakened by the word Emet which means Truth.

Rabbi Judah Loew tried to figure out the meaning and found out that should Thaddeus accuse them of blood libel there will be a pogrom. [My note: basically when people such as Christians or Cossacks rise up against Jews, destroy them and the property and whatever else. They were very common in Eastern Europe.] He also believed that the dream must have a method of defeating Thaddeus.

He opened up the Torah and saw the Name of G-d and realized that he must fashion the clay man and slip the name of G-d into it to bring it back to life. That very same night he awakened his disciple Jacob and son-in-law Isaac and they traveled to the river to dig out the clay. After doing all the tasks, the clay man was brought back to life and Rabbi Loew revealed to them the puprose of him. He called him a golem and said the golem's name was Joseph. They dressed him and went back to town.

The Rabbi orders the Golem to find where the murdered child was hidden and they come upon an old man who shows him to the cellar. At that time the police arrive, no doubt Thaddeus reported the murder. The Golem discovers a hidden staircase and the two go beneath the house and carry the child to Thaddeus's house. The murdered child is left with him and the two descend downstairs. The Rabbi then tells him of a rumor about a child's body hidden in Thaddeus' house. The captain doesn't want to take him seriously but at the sight of Golem he does.

Thaddeus became afraid when he saw the Golem and the Rabbi along with police. The captain told him of the accusation. Thaddeus told them to search the whole house. To his shock the body is discovered and he's taken into custody. Rabbie Loew is thanked by the police and the Jews are spared from pogrom.

The Golem continued to guard the Jews all night and day, searching for any evildoers and eventually everyone else, when they saw the powerful weapon that Jews had, stopped plotting against them.

Theme: Evildoers will get what's coming to them.

Jewish Music:


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Seventh Story: The Healing Waters

Name of story: The healing waters

Origin: Turkey: Oral tradition

Page Numbers: 209-216

Summary:

It begins with the legend that King Solomon had a mysterious Mikvah which is a ritual bath whose waters healed all who came seeking aid. King Solomon was legendary among the entire earth, and in Turkey the legend of the bath was well known. There was an evil minister who desired to bring harm to all the Jews and to one in particular, David ben Abraham.

The evil minister approached the Sultan and convinced him to get a bath just like that of King Solomon. The Sultan was flattered and asked of the secret. The evil minister then convinced him that the secret is in possession of Jews, of David ben Abraham in particular. The sultan called him over.

Sultan then orders him to build the bath and fill it with miraculous waters just like that of King Solomon and gives him a year to complete the task. If he succeeds he will become a governor, and if he fails every single Jew will lose their life. David ben Abraham recognized that the plan must be of the evil minister and decides to visit Moses ben Maimon other wise known as Maimonides or Rambam.

Rambam managed to discover the dimensions of the bath as well as the spell that will make waters miraculous. The only thing that he lacked was G-d's name. He prayed to him and was given the true name. David ben Abraham then told the Sultan he is ready to built the baths.

The baths were built, Rambam tested them out and realized that he had forgotten G-d's name. The Sultan tested out the waters and was grateful towards David ben Abraham. He also commissioned the evil minister to paint the baths. The evil minister tried but kept failing and he begged David ben Abraham to tell him how. David ben Abraham revealed that he must use pure oil points instead of lead paint.

David ben Abraham became governor and he and the Sultan often walked and conversed and consulted one another. One day though, the Sultan's ring fell into the sea. The Sultan blamed David ben Abraham and started worrying over nothing; he also asked David ben Abraham to get the ring back within thirty days. If he does, the Sultan will eliminate taxes on Jews and will give them his full protection. If he does not, then the Jews will greatly suffer.

He turns to Rambam who discovers a spell and David ben Abraham begins to make preparations. The evil minister then tries to destroy David again. He pays money so papers questioning Islam can be sewn into specially made shoes. The evil minister convinces the Sultan of the plot that David ben Abraham will lead the rebellion against him and he arrests him and sentences him to be cast into the sea. Rambam, on seeing him near the sea, casts a spell that protects David ben Abraham.

He meets Leviathan who gives him back the ring and asks him to send the evil minister into the seas as soon as he gets back. He agrees and gets on top. Everyone is astounded and David ben Abraham tells him that Leviathan wants to speak to evil minister about the bath. As he is cast, a fish swallows him and he goes to Jewish hell known as Gehenna where he paints a bath but flames swallow the paint. The Jews and David ben Abraham continued to flourish and enjoy life.

Theme: Very often evil plans backfire and what goes around comes around.

Jewish Music:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Sixth Story: The Donkey Girl

Name of story: The Donkey Girl

Origin: Iraq: Oral Tradition

Page Numbers: 202-208

Summary:

The Rabbi decides to visit a friend of his and on the way he meets an old who happens to be a witch and is mistreating the donkey who is the friend Rabbi wants to see. He and the witch exchange some words, and the witch then curses the Rabbi's unborn child, saying it will have a head of the donkey, which is what happens.

They secluded the daughter in a room and the Rabbi taught her Torah and whatnot and she became apt and wise. Many years later a student came to the Rabbi desiring to learn only Torah. The Rabbi taught him Torah and one day he asks a question that Rabbi doesn't answer, but the girl does. Immediately the student becomes lovesick and wants to marry the woman and nothing the Rabbi says or does makes an impression on him.

The marriage is carried through and due to a law that a groom cannot see the bride until the wedding night, he has no idea she has a head of a donkey. When he sees her, he wants to leave her. She asks him to spend a night with her, and he gives her three gifts; a right, book and a prayer shawl with his and his father's name written on it. At daybreak he leaves.

When her parents learned the news, the mother was grief stricken so she died. She found out she was pregnant and gave birth to a child that looked exactly like the father; no donkey head. The grandfather, the father of the daughter, begin to teach the boy Torah and he was intelligent and succeeded mightily in his studies.

At an exam he learns that the Rabbi is grandfather instead of father and is urged to find his own father. After confirming the truth from his mother, he is given three gifts and despite the mother's pleas, he takes provisions on the road to start searching for  his father.

He has a dream of Elijah the Prophet where he tells him to take up the leaves, boil them and give them to his mother to drink, for the leaves can cure her. He is also told that in the third city he will find his father. In the third city, he meets his grandfather who then takes him to meet his father. He convinces his father to return with him. The mother, when she drank the tea leaves became healed and the family became whole once more.

As for the witch, she mistakenly turned herself into the donkey. When the man saw that, he kicked her, became a man and forced her to serve him.

Theme: Don't give up. Miracles can happen.

Jewish Music:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Fifth Story: David's Harp


Name of story: David's Harp

Origin: Palestine Nineteenth Century

Page Numbers: 163-167

Summary:


King Davis is an owner of a magical harp; one that inspired him to write Psalms, and also one that showed him the future, when his son will built a magnificent temple and how that temple will be destroyed.

Years pass, and after the exile the Jews returned to rebuild their home; among them Shabbatai who wondered where the magical harp could be located and how he can recover it and find out its fate. He concluded that perhaps the harp can be found hanging on a willow tree in Babylon. Everyone laughed and joked at him, and when the desire became great, he left his family and began to travel to Babylon.

He had a difficult journey but believing that the harp was calling him, he somehow made it through the terrible perils. He searched through all the trees next to Babylon River but then became convinced that the harp wasn't anywhere to be found.

He started to beg the sages for help and saw a ghost appear in front of his eyes. The ghost asks him what he wants, and Shabbatai pours the whole story forth. He tells him he's in the wrong place and tells him that the harps were hung in Zion and not in Babylon.

He returned to Zion and his family was overjoyed to see him. He didn't tell them the story of whether or not he found the harp. He began pondering how he can find the harp in Zion and realized that he might travel to Mount Zion.

As he comes upon Mount Zion, he hears unearthly music of the harp and is led to an entrance of the cave. As he walks inside, he sees lots of harps hung and finds King David's harp. He sits down and listens to the harp. Some say that he remains there still, listening to the music of the harp.

Theme: Don't give up on your dreams.

Jewish Music:

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Fourth Story: The Golden Amulet

Name of story: The Golden Amulet

Origin: Palestine, c. Eighth Century

Page Numbers: 156-162

Summary:


This tries to answer the question of what happened to Dinah's child. It starts with Joseph being thrown into the pit and how he learned the mysteries of life and gained wisdom and various knowledge, including the future. Then only thing that is left out is his destined bride. Then after he left it moves on to the infamous story of Dinah, that she was modest and one day Schechem son of Hamor the Hitite, hearing stories about Dinah's legendary beauty, hired some singer and dancing girls to pass by the tent. She came out and he raped her. She became pregnant.

The other brothers became very angry about the fact and wanted to throw the baby into the pit. Jacob, who desired no harm to come to the child, created an amulet for her that identified her mother and the family along with a blessing. Jacob gave the amulet to Dinah and when the time came they went to the fields where Dinah gave birth to a daughter. Dinah gave the amulet to her daughter.

Seven days later, the eagle flew by and seized the daughter and flew her to Egypt where he was fed by the priest Potiphar every day. The girl was adopted by them and named Asenath.

Years passed and Potiphar kept her in seclusion, not allowing her to meet any suitors and whatnot. One day she noticed Joseph's chariot passing by and from first glance she fell in love with him.

Joseph had a dream of seeing his father and that his father gave him a gift of key which turned to a branch and then an amulet. Words were inscribed on the amulet where he learned that forty days before his birth a voice announced the woman he will marry.

Later on, Asenath, hopelessly in love with Joseph, impulsively tossed off her amulet when she saw him pass one day. Joseph wanted to ignore it but didn't. He picked it up, looked up at Asenath and knew for certainty that he was destined to marry her. He read the amulet and realized that the girl was the daughter of Dinah. Later on, Joseph visited Potiphar and asked for her hand in marriage. Potiphar consented.

In the end, when Jacob traveled down to Egypt with his family, Dinah came along and soon the mother and daughter were reunited.

Theme: Should one be far away from the culture they were born in, they'll never be abandoned by it.

Jewish Music:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Third Story: The Maiden in the Tree

Name of story: The Maiden in the Tree

Origin: Eastern Europe 19th century

Page Numbers: 49-55

Summary:

King Solomon is entertaining Queen of Sheba and tells her that for G-d each match is as difficult as parting the Red Sea. Queen of Sheba doesn't believe him and tells him lets put the theory to the test. She will choose an unmarried girl to go into a tree and the test will be whether or not she'll meet her match this way.

She chose a beautiful maiden and both approached her. He was taken to her home, gave her money and told her family that she will be employed for five years. Only after the consent of the family did he tell her the fate; she will be alone for five years in a tree. He gave her ways of entertainment such as musical instruments and a loom and a magical pheasant will be guarding over her and will bring whatever she needs.

Several years later, a captain's son attempted to steer the boat but then the storm arose and tossed him overboard. The father searched for him but in vain and returned home. The son didn't drown, and became hungry. He saw a peculiar thing of a pheasant carrying basket to a window and someone take the food. He thought it was perhaps an animal due to the incredibly long hair. He found it was a woman, both started talking, he learned how she ended up in the island and they fell in love. He carved a window in the tree, climbed inside and started to live with the maiden. The pheasant discovered both of them and told Solomon, although Solomon decided not to tell Queen of Sheba.  Very soon both fell in love, got married and invited all birds and animals to their wedding.

Few years later more, she gave birth to a girl whom they named Sheba after the Queen, for they were no longer angry at her. The pheasant continues to tell King Solomon of the fate of the couple. He also begins to think its time to tell Queen Sheba all that happened to the couple.

King Solomon's son was about to get married so he invited everyone, both people, animals and birds to attend the wedding and they attended it. When they got off the boat, the son noticed the same picture of someone everywhere and wondered if it was a god that natives worshiped. He is informed that its Israel and that portrait is the son of the captain in hopes that someone will recognize him and save him. The young man recognized the story and himself. When he saw King Solomon he told him the whole story and was reunited with his father, and the girl with her family.

Queen Sheba also saw how great G-d was and every doubt about G-d was erased. She also never doubted the word of Solomon ever again.

Theme: No matter where someone is, they will find their soul-mate eventually.

Jewish Music:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Second Story: The Sword of Moses

Name of story: The Sword of Moses

Origin: Iraqi Kurdistan

Page Numbers: 39- 47

Summary:

Before Moses dies, he speaks of a sword and shield that should protect the Jews. After death, no one knows where the sword is located and how it can be found.

In Kurdistan there are three young Jews who desire to find the sword to help their family. They set out to travel to the mountains. The three friends also debate on their expectations when it comes to the sword and what it could do once they find it.

A blind old man has heard of their quest and asks a servant to bury the sword in the village land and direct the Jews towards it. Once they'll unearth the sword, they will be arrested. The servant does as he's instructed.

They are brought before the blind head of the village who then accuses them of plotting a rebellion to overthrow the neighbors. They deny this charge and the eldest one, the clever one tells him they are seeking Sword of Moses to sell it for money. If the blind man lets them go, he promises him half a share in whatever money they get. The man doesn't believe they'll find the sword, but he finds the promise compelling so he lets them go. (They won't ever sell the sword should they find it.) Thus, they are able to continue to the quest.

A difficulty then arises, for they don't know which direction to go to. After pondering some more and coming up with conclusions that they must find the shield as well, they decide to go to the tallest mountain.

After climbing the mountain, they spot a cave and enter inside. As soon as they enter, they spot a stream and in that stream there's a golden fish!

They run after it and one of them grabs it and when he turns it over, he spots an unusual word written in Hebrew, but they have no idea how to pronounce it. They try it, and the eldest one gets it.

As soon as he says the word, they find themselves standing outside of the cave on the base of the mountain. After a discussion they decide not to use the word until they learn more about it.

They, of course, are unaware that the blind man sends his servant and several henchmen after them. The blind man orders his servant to kill the three Jews and take their possessions without opening them. They begin climbing the mountain, but the villagers are more successful at it.

Just when there's no place for them to go, the eldest one pronounced the word, which is now identified as the G-d's name, the peak of the nearest mountain moved so they could step on it. They say the name again and the mountain moved away.

Then they pondered how great the power of name was, and they also understood that the sword was not an actual sword but in fact was a name. The quest was successful.

Theme: Let the heritage be one's protection

Jewish Music:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The First Story: Miraculous Dust

Name of the story:  Miraculous Dust

Origin:  Babylon, c. 5th century

Page Numbers 20-22

Summary:

It was time for gifts so Jews sent Nachum Ish Gam-Zu to the Roman Emperor with a box of jewels. Nachum Ish Gam-Zu stopped at a hotel and the innkeeper and his wife stole the jewels and placed into the box dust from the hotel.

Nachum Ish Gam-Zu continued to travel, not knowing that the jewels were stolen. He arrived at the court and announced he has come here with a gift. Caesar opened the box and saw the dust. He was angry and started condemning Jews and threatened them in various ways.

A miracle occurred then, when an old man, known as Elijah the Prophet (its believed that Elijah often disguises himself as an old man and helps the Jews whenever the time is needed.) talks and convinces the Caesar that Jews would do no such thing and perhaps its a miracle dust.

The Caesar listens to him and when he tries out the dust he finds out indeed that its a miracle dust, for it became weapons and instead of condemning him he let him go.

When Nachum Ish Gam-Zu stops by the same hotel, the innkeeper and his wife are shocked that he's alive and they asked him what he took with him. He told them, "What I took from here I brought there." The innkeeper and the wife then demolish the inn, fill the trunks with dust and arrived at the court, thinking the Caesar will be pleased with the gift.

Much to their surprise, nothing happened and in the end they die, and Nachum Ish Gam-Zu reaches home, the Caesar becomes pleased and in the end the Jews could worship G-d as they please.

Theme:

From even the worst mistakes sometimes things for the best occur.

Jewish Music:

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Chanukkah Story and purpose

Picture from: http://judaica-art.com/
This is a story that will not be found in Jewish Testament (for some called old testament.) One of my pet peeves is BC, AD and yes, I cannot stand BCE and CE. So instead of that, I will call BCE=PME (Pre-modern era,) and CE will be ME.

From the years of 164 to 161 PME,(at least according to A History of Roman People, 5th edition by Allen M Ward, etc. pg 119) Antiochus IV attempted to make Judea into a Greek state. Antioch IV turned the temple of One G-d into Temple of Baal Shamin. The Jews weren't happy, especially when Antioch IV forbade them from worshiping according to the rules of Moses. Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers Simon and Jonathan led the rebellion against the Romans and even managed to defeat them. In 161 PME the Romans recognized the Jewish temple state as an ally.

The story goes on to tell that after the rebellions, the people returned to the temple and they found it desecrated and destroyed. The only oil that was left would last for one day only and no more. The oil was lit and miraculously, instead of  burning out the next day, the oil lasted for eight days, which is where the miracle comes from.

With the stories from Miriam's Tambourine my intent is to show the miracles. I am not trying to insult or convert or do anything that would be construed offensive. For me this is a way to celebrate Chanukkah and if anyone gets offended, then I am sorry. I might mention Jewish Testament a few times but again, I AM NOT TRYING TO CONVERT OR INSULT ANYONE WHO IS NOT JEWISH. If you do not feel comfortable, then please do not read the stories.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book Review of Under His Spell by Kathy Lyons/Jade Lee

Name of Book: Under His Spell

Author: Kathy Lyons/Jade Lee

ISBN: 978-0-373-79539-0

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Type of book: Romance, adult, corporate, 2011, hypnosis

Year it was published: 2010

Summary:

 Nicky Taylor is a driven executive. A total control freak. And magician Jimmy Ray has loved her forever. When he spots her in the audience, he realizes he finally has a chance to fulfil his own lifelong fantasy. With a little help from Dr. Mesmer, that is...

Who'd have guessed that a little hypnotism would unleash Nicky's wildly sexual nature? Or that Jimmy's powers of persuasion would encourage her to burn up the bedsheets with him that night...and the nights after. She's the perfect woman.

Unfortunately Jimmy's pretty sure Nicky's still under his spell. And he has to change that. Because he's quickly falling under hers...

Characters:

Nicky is a workaholic and over-achiever when it comes to everything. (I am honestly surprised that when younger the characters mentioned she was very different than now.) It would have been interesting to explore why even in high school she felt such a crushing need to achieve everything. At the end though, we get to see a vulnerability to her character, that she often feels whatever she does is not good enough. This book, unlike others, explore more of her problems rather than her male counterpart. There is not much to say about Jimmy Ray. I think his problem would be reconciling his past and present together but the author didn't spend enough time exploring that aspect.

Theme:

I think this novel and character are created to help over-achieving women feel better about themselves. Even in this day and age, women believe that they have to hide themselves or try to appear more modest or not as accomplished. (Many times when people complimented me, I often felt undeserving of compliments or tried to be modest. I bet if one compliments a man, then most times he won't be modest.)

Plot:

While there was plot going on, it seemed to be hidden underneath the fantasies or *ahem* under the coupling. It is written in third person narrative, from Nicky's and Jimmy Ray's points of view. It's a sweet story tends to be a fantasy fulfillment.

Author Information:

Kathy Lyons is a USA TODAY bestselling author...under a different name. As Jade Lee, she writes sexy historical romances. But Kathy Lyons is younger, hipper and a lot more fun than her history-loving counterpart. Kathy writes funny, contemporary books hotter than a cover model's hello! If you want to share which name is the better writer, please e-mail her at kathy@kathylyons.com. Or, if you insist, you can e-mail that other woman at jade@jadeleeauthor.com

Opinion:

I've won this book by accident. I've been looking for a way to thank my favorite author, Jade Lee, for writing AM/WF stories (She wrote the Tigress stories.) So I come to a Blaze blog and leave a message of basically thanking her for writing stories. (I didn't care for the book.) I used a different name and forgot about it. Next day I come in and see that someone won. Few days later, I got a nagging feeling to check the site again and when I check it, I see my message and that my name has won! Anyways, now that the tidbit is out of the way, this book doesn't focus a lot on character growth but instead treats it as "afterwards" so to speak. Throughout the novel I had hoped to see character growth, but it's only when I get to the very we are finally treated to the character growth of Nicky.

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 #5 By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Name of Book: By the Shores of Silver Lake

Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder

ISBN:  0590488147

Publisher: Harper Trophy

Part of a Series: Little House Series. Little House in the Big Woods, ... prequels. Sequels: The Long Winter, Little Town on the prairie

Type of book: 1879-1880, pioneer, railroads, prairie, growing up, homestead, kid to young adult

Year it was published: 1939

Summary:

The Ingalls family had fared badly in Plum Creek, Minnesota. They were in debt. Mary was blind now. So Pa went West to work at a railroad camp in Dakota Territory where he could make as much as fifty dollars a month! Then he sent for his wife and four children, and they became the first settlers in the new town of De Smet. But the railroad brought hordes of land-hungry people from the East. Had Pa waited too long to file his homestead claim?

Characters:

The girls at last have grown up now and we can see the different personalities they exhibit, or at least Mary and Laura. Mary is the ladylike homebound sister, while Laura tends to be tomboyish and exploratory sister who prefers freedom to confinement. There is a slight discrepancy though; in On the Banks of Plum Creek Carrie is described as blond, while in this novel she's described as a brunnette. Carrie's personality isn't shown at all though. In here also we meet the Boast family who will have a role in future novels, and get a glimpse of the Wilder brothers. (Laura will get married to Almanzo in These Happy Golden Years.) More than anything, these novels are event-driven rather than character driven.

Theme:

Honestly I'm not sure of the theme, except that Laura is growing up and more civilization starts creeping in; also we learn of Ma's hopes that Laura will become a teacher. Laura also begins to understand responsibility and to do things that are no longer thought of as selfish.

Plot:

The books are from Laura's point of view, written from third person narrative. I think one has to read the previous novels to understand what is going, but in this case it's not really necessary because this book takes place  four years after On the Banks of Plum Creek and just like new readers we are introduced to the last Ingalls sister Grace; the Wilder brothers make an appearance, and we're also introduced to Boast family. Laura and her family moves and we witness them leaving to Silver Lake. There are a few characters from On the Banks of Plum Creek such as the preacher and Jack the dog.

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:

Although in the past I enjoyed the book, when reading it this time, I didn't like it. I think the author tried to go for Sarah Orne Jewett story, A White Heron, but she seemed to fail to capture the spirit of the story. In parts I also found it boring and wished that she could have included more details, such as how Pa took care that no one stole horses, or why is some of the language considered vulgar? The fact that Laura got interested in the railroads and the functions and whatnot, to me was a bit boring actually and I couldn't wait until I could get through them.

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.)

Something special for Holidays

Well, it's December; time for "Holiday" themes to come out in forms of red, white and green, with the jolly old man in a red suit, and for people who are religious, it's time for Christmas, which seems to be everywhere in December, (and in some cases, as early as October. Wonder if next time I'll see on 29th September Christmas items already?) Also its time for arguments for "merry Christmas vs happy holidays," and time for gift giving on December 25th.

However, there are plenty of people and corporations and whatnot that are already doing everything special "holiday" themed for December 25th, thus I won't join in the crowd. Instead I'll do something special for the much often ignored holiday of December, and that's Chanukkah. I have an idea of using Miriam's Tambourine eight stories by Howard Schwartz and perhaps talking about miracles; after all, the story of Chanukkah is a miracle happening after desecration of the temple and the oil that's supposed to last for only one day instead lasted for eight days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review of #2 Seduce and Rescue by Jillian Burns

Name of Book: Seduce and Rescue

Author: Jillian Burns

ISBN: 9780373795765

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Part of a Series: Las Vegas Trilogy; prequel; Let it Ride, sequel; Night Maneuvers

Type of book: 2010, Romance, Blaze, adult

Year it was published: 2010

Summary:

Lieutenant Colonel Ethan Grady is having his very first massage with a rather eccentric but smokin'-hot redhead, Lily Langford. But her touch isn't so much calming as it is very distracting. When he accidentally sets Lily's business and home ablaze, Ethan can't tell if the smoldering is from the fire...or their attraction to each other!

But now Ethan's condo is invaded by the free-spirited Lily, who's convinced that he's the one who really needs to be rescued. And Lily's methods? Well, they're not so traditional. Still, Ethan can't remember having his chakras aligned so...er, intensely. But will this be rescue-or retreat?

Characters:

Like Ethan Grady, Lily's character positively captivated me because she's so...unique, different and unexpected. She's New Age, bouncy and very positive. I've read lots of books and this is one of the first times that I saw a character like that. Ethan is complete opposite; a repressed and extremely strict individual who suffers from tunnel-vision. When I learned a little of his childhood, I felt very sad for him. The characters of Alex and Mitch and Jordan and Cole also make an appearance, although I felt that Jordan and Cole are flat in the novel, while Alex and Mitch still sparkle. Unfortunately, not much pranks are played in the book.

Theme:

One has to trust in love.

Plot:

This is from third person point of view, from Lily's and Ethan's. To understand a few things, such as the bet, I think it is necessary to read Let It Ride, and to also get a sense for Mitch, Alex and the slight portrayal of Ethan. But still an entertaining and unusual read with a great heroine who helps a hero out.


Author Information:

Jillian Burns has always read romance, and spent her teens immersed in the worlds of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett. She lives in Texas with her husband of twenty years and their three active kids. Jillian likes to think her emotional nature-sometimes referred to as moodiness- has found the perfect outlet in writing stories filled with passion and romance. She believes romance novels have the power to change lives with their message of eternal love and hope.

Opinion:

Although I loved this book, especially the unique character of Lily which made it a joy to read, I couldn't really understand the problem Ethan had with his mother. With his father its understandable, but mother? I couldn't understand. There is humor in the book as the characters take the time to get to know one another and one thing I liked is that instead of yelling or shouting, all Lily did was look sad or whatnot and Ethan gave in to her. Although there is realism to Ethan Grady resolving his problems, I felt that not enough time was devoted to Lily overcoming hers.

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, December 13, 2011

Book Review of #3 The Carnival Ghost by Francine Pascal

Name of Book: The Carnival Ghost

Author: Francine Pascal

ISBN: 0-553-15859-7

Publisher: Bantam

Part of a Series: Sweet Valley Twins and Friends super chillers; prequels; the christmas ghost, the ghost in the graveyard; sequels; the ghost in the bell tower, the curse of the ruby necklace

Type of book: Sweet Valley Twins, ghost, carnival, 1980s

Year it was published: 1990

Summary:

A traveling carnival is on its way to Sweet Valley, and Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield can't wait to ride the roller coaster, have their fortunes told, and try their luck at the games. But when they get there some odd things happen to the twins. A fortune-teller warns Jessica to stay away from the carnival. And a mysterious girl named Claire seems to appear out of nowhere and suddenly becomes best friends with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is strangely drawn to Claire. She begins to ignore her friends, her chores, and even her sister to spend time with her new friend. It's as if she's under an evil spell...a spell no one, not even Jessica, can break. And if her twin is in danger, how can Jessica help her?

Characters:

The characters are basically flat and predictable. What you see is what you get basically. There's nothing else for me to say about them.

Theme:

Umm I have no idea what I'm supposed to learn from reading the book.

Plot:

Primarily the story is from Jessica's point of view, which is a third person narrative.Sometimes it's from Elizabeth's though. This is a stand alone novel and anyone can follow it along if they desire.

Author Information:

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

Opinion:

It's an entertaining read although I'm of opinion that a book like this is brain candy and the characters learn nothing at all pretty much. It's a stand alone novel and even if you never ever read Sweet Valley before, you can simply pick this book up and begin. As far as I know it doesn't tie into any major story-lines and there's no continuity.

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 Let It Ride by Jillian Burns

Name of Book: Let it Ride

Author: Jillian Burns

ISBN:  0373794703

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Part of a Series: Las Vegas Trilogy; sequels, Seduce and Rescue and Night Maneuvers

Type of book: Blaze, romance, adult, 2009

Year it was published: 2009

Summary:

Working as a Keno girl in a Vegas casino, Jordan Brenner took her bets off the sex table ages ago. And all the hot flyboys in the world won't make a difference--until Major Cole Jackson sends Jordan's thoughts and hormones into wicked places indeed....

What Jordan doesn't know is that Cole made a deal with his buddies: get some hot-'n'-heavy action from the Keno girl, or pay up! But Cole doesn't need an incentive. Every time he looks at Jordan's lips (or any part of her body, for that matter), he's immediately aware that something is up--and it isn't his ante!

It looks as if Cole won't lose just his shirt. He'll lose all control, too!

Characters:

The characters feel human and its easy to relate to them. Jordan is an attractive but intelligent blond woman who is looking after her mother who has Alheizmers, while Cole is a fighter pilot who was forced to give up a dream of flying and a dream of ever becoming an astronaut and be the first man to walk on Mars. There are numerous instances shown of the character interaction between Jordan and Cole, Jordan and her mother and Jordan and some of her co-workers at Keno.  Cole also worries about disappointing his family and has to deal with trying to let go of his hangups about settling down and Jordan has to deal with trying to open herself up to love.

Theme:

I think its a combination message, of taking risks yet taking on responsibilities, not knowing where the choices will lead.

Plot:

The plot is easy to follow and shouldn't be too much trouble for people. I thought that some issues were resolved a little to easily but besides that one hardly notices the pages go by as the book simply grabs the reader and doesn't let them go.

Author Information:

Jillian Burns has always read romance, and spent her teens immersed in the worlds of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett. She lives in Texas with her husband of twenty years and their three active kids. Jillian likes to think her emotional nature-sometimes referred to as moodiness- has found the perfect outlet in writing stories filled with passion and romance. She believes romance novels have the power to change lives with their message of eternal love and hope.

Opinion:

This is one of the rare times that I can't find a thing to complain about when it comes to a book. I read it three times already yet it still has a same reaction on me; the realism of characters, how one cares for them and wants the best for them. You also meet Alex and Mitch, the couple from Night Maneuvers and how they love playing jokes on one another. Cole is a sweet guy who loves giving gifts to Jordan; Jordan is a heroine that's easy to relate to and how she does her best to take care of her mother. It's also fun how the mother finds Cole attractive and a few times they seemed to gang up on Jordan. While this is a romance novel, it's one of the rare ones that can be re-read over and over and the story will not get tiring.

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.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Planned Books

Books I'm Reading:

Sense and Sensibility-Jane Austen 49/331
The Moonstone-Wilkie Collins 275/434
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas 30/531
Under his spell-Kathy Lyons 117/216
The Tale of Genji-Murasaki Shikibu 482/1090

The Story of the stone-Xueqin Cao
3. The Warning Voice 88/613

Lydia Saga-Kate Furnivall
3. The Girl from Junchow 39/488

People Saga- W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
1. People of the Wolf 120/435

The Ivory Carver Trilogy-Sue Harrison
3. Brother Wind 18/460

Tigress Sextet-Jade Lee
4. Burning Tigress 35/337
Japanese Duology- Takashi Matsuoka
 1. Cloud of Sparrows 138/560
Harts of Texas-Kathleen O'Reilly
1. Just Surrender... 35/218
Sweet Valley Twins and Friends Super Chillers-Francine Pascal
3. The Carnival Ghost 45/183
Tall, Dark and Dangerously Hot Trilogy aka DeAngelis Quintet- Cara Summers
5. Come Toy with me 84/214

Wilder, Fortune and Stone Trilogy-Cara Summers
2. Tailspin 127/216

Little House Series-Laura Ingalls Wilder
5. By the shores of silver lake 15/291


Future Books:

Emma-Jane Austen
Mansfield Park-Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey-Jane Austen
Persuasion-Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen
Brothers-Da Chen
Nothing's fair in fifth grade-Barthe DeClements
The Monk-Matthew Lewis
Master of Murder-Christopher Pike
Monster-Christopher Pike
Slumber Party-Christopher Pike
Weekend-Christopher Pike
The Italian-Anne Radcliffe

House of Earth Trilogy-Pearl Buck
1. The Good Earth
2. Sons
 3. A House Divided
Las Vegas Trilogy-Jillian Burns
1. Let it ride
2. Seduce and Rescue
3. Night Maneuvers
 The Story of the stone-Xueqin Cao
4. The debt of tears
 5. The dreamer wakes
First Native Americans Quartet (5-eternity for my purposes do not exist) -Michael and Kathleen Gear
2. People of the fire
3. People of the earth
 4. People of the River
The Storyteller Trilogy-Sue Harrison
1. Song of the river
2. Cry of the wind
 3. Call down the stars
Tigress Quartet-Jade Lee (Ignoring Desperate and Cornered Tigress)
4. Tempted Tigress
Modern Tigress Duology-Jade Lee
1. The Tao of Sex
 2. Getting Physical
Japan Duology-Takashi Matsuoka
 2. Autumn Bridge
Harts of Texas Trilogy -Kathleen O'Reilly
2. Just Let go...
 3. Just Give in...
Sweet Valley Books in no particular order-Francine Pascal
 Twins
4. The ghost in the bell tower
5. The curse of the ruby necklace
6. The curse of the golden heart
7. The haunted burial ground
8. The Secret of the magic pen
 9. Evil Elizabeth
Tall, Dark and Dangerously Hot Trilogy, aka DeAngelis Quintet-Cara Summers
1. The PI
2. The Cop
3. The Defender
4. Lie with me
5. Come toy with me
Wilder, Fortune and Stone Trilogy-Cara Summers
1. Take my breath away...-Cara Summers
2. Tailspin
 3. Sexy Silent Nights
Little House on the prairie Nontet-Laura Ingalls Wilder
6. The long winter
7. Little town on the prairie
8. These happy golden years
9. The first four years

Book Review of Primal Calling by Jillian Burns

Name of Book: Primal Calling

Author: Jillian Burns

ISBN: 978-0-373-79606-9

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Type of book: Alaska, romance, blaze, 2011, adult

Year it was published: 2011

Summary:

Television-program host Serena Sandstone already has her bags checked for her flight out of Anchorage when she sees the "White Wolf"—and his animal attraction is overpowering….

Serena attributes her intense interest in sexy, scruffy bush pilot Max Taggert to journalistic instincts about his shadowy past. Right. She's prepared to go pretty far to get his story— and he's prepared to let her. Before long, they're feeling the heat in the Land of the Midnight Sun, until Max's past triggers a fight for survival neither of them ever expected!

Characters:

The characters stayed in character throughout the novel; and although Serena's problems are not as tragic as Max's, both characters struggle to overcome them; Max opening himself up, and Serena trying her best to be happy with the way her life is going, and trying to prove to Max that she's different than what he thinks. What I liked about Max's character is that for him actions speak louder than words and that's a unique way of trying to prove his love towards her. It's rare to see characters doing that. Serena ultimately learns about respecting privacy and that some wounds aren't easy to heal.

Theme:

If you have a choice between love and hate, always choose love.

Plot:

This is in third person narrative, from Serena's and Max's points of views. I kind of liked how the author teases the readers with what we think we'll hear about Max's past, but in the end we're told to wait until Serena asks him. The plot is both a mixture of sweetness and bitterness; that is while the first half seemed to be bitter, the last half is sweet, especially with Max trying very hard to please Serena in small ways.

Author Information:

Jillian Burns has always read romance, and spent her teens immersed in the worlds of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett. She lives in Texas with her husband of twenty years and their three active kids. Jillian likes to think her emotional nature-sometimes refered to as moodiness- has found the perfect outlet in writing stories filled with passion and romance. She believes romance novels have the power to change lives with their message of eternal love and hope.

Opinion:

I enjoyed reading this book a great deal. The characters are very vivid and in character throughout the book. What I liked was that it took a lot of time for Max to change and to like Serena; in fact both they both didn't fall in love at once. I liked the secondary characters as well, especially Max's Grandmother. I do wish that Mickey could've had a larger part in the novel but it's okay. Something else that's interesting is comparison of this book to her other, Night Maneuvers. Without spoiling anything, both of the male heroes had unstable childhoods and I was surprised to see her handle the situation a bit differently than in Night Maneuvers.It's good that Max is trying though.

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 One friend to another by Elizabeth Feuer

Name of Book: One Friend to Another

Author: Elizabeth Feuer

ISBN: 0-671-66700-9

Publisher: Archway Paperback

Type of book: Growing up, friendship, envy, middle school, 1980s

Year it was published: 1987

Summary:

I wasn't going to be the "Amazing Brain" anymore

Not this year. Not when I had the chance to make a fresh start at a brand new school. I'd had enough of being the smartest kid in the class. This year was going to be different. I was going to be popular!

Now, some things are easier said than done. But when I got to be friends with Rhonda Winkler- the prettiest, most popular girl in school-I thought I had it made. I even met this guy, Andrew, and fell madly in love. There was just one problem: Rhonda's sidekick, Randy. She didn't like me much, and she sure didn't want me getting too close to Rhonda. I didn't realize just how hard she'd try to destroy our friendship, however, until it was too late. And that's when I learned what true friendship is all about.

Characters:

The characters seemed to be a bit two dimensional and all this book we were stuck with Nicki. Although Nicki is an interesting character, I think that in this point, it would have been interesting to know things from Rhonda's point of view. I mean, why she saw Nicki the way she did when she was practically envy of the whole school.

Theme:

You don't know which people envy you or want to be you.

Plot:

First person point of view from Nicki's side of the story. As I mentioned, I had a difficult time understanding why someone who seems to have everything would be jealous of someone who is not popular and is shunned as a pariah. Very often, the rich do not envy or want to be the poor. Interesting plot but I do wish that Rhonda would be the one telling the story and not Nicki.

Author Information:

Elizabeth Feuer studied medicine at Yale University and specialized in pediatrics and public health. She attended the State University of New York at Stony Brooke, from which she received a B.S. in biology. Dr. Feuer has always loved to write. She has written short stories for adults. She has two children, Benjamin and Eathan. One Friend to another is her first novel.

Opinion:

To me personally the ending was confusing because it wasn't well explained how a character accomplished such feats. But overall it was an enjoyable book and very unique growing up and coming of age story. It can also cause you to think differently, although I have a hard time believing that high status people often envy low status people.

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.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Review of Jews Without Money by Michael Gold

Name of Book: Jews without money

Author: Michael Gold

ISBN: 0-7867-1345-3

Publisher: Carrol and Graf Fiction

Type of book: Jews, New York, 1890s?-1900s?, poverty, tenement, adult, prostitutes, 1920s?

Year it was published: 1930

Summary:

 As a writer and political activist in the early 20th century, Michael Gold was an important presence on the American cultural scene fro more than three decades. Beginning in the 1920s his was a powerful journalistic voice for social change and human rights, and Jews Without Money-the author's only novel-is a passionate record of the times.

First published in 1930, this fictionalized autobiography offered an unusually candid look at the thieves, gangsters, and ordinary citizens who struggled against brutal odds on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Like Henry Roth's Call It Sleep and Abraham Cahan's The Rise and Fall of David Levinsky, Jews Without Money is a literary landmark of the Jewish experience.

Characters:

The characters struck me as types of archetypes found in unexpected places; poor girls working as prostitutes, the tough guy, hardened mothers, etc. The only character that did have character dimension is Herman Gold, the protagonist's father, and the mother. Other characters were flat and didn't have a lot of dimension to them.

Theme:

It actually paints a vivid picture of poverty and what the protagonist endured while growing up in East Side; the separation of races and people to different streets, the prejudices, the hatred, violence, prostituion, etc. It's not a clean novel.

Plot:

This is from first person narrative and from a child's point of view rather than adult's. I think the novel is rather harsh and doesn't really offer an escape from poverty; once you are born to it, you're stuck in it.

Author Information:
(from wikipedia.)

Michael "Mike" Gold (April 12, 1894 – May 14, 1967) is the pen-name of Jewish American writer Itzok Isaac Granich. A lifelong communist, Gold was a novelist and literary critic, his semi-autobiographical novel Jews Without Money from 1930 was a bestseller.

Opinion:

Few years back, I remember that my sister was forced to read an interesting autobiography, I forgot what it was called unfortunately, but it also was written of an Irish family's lives in city houses in poverty and whatnot and how the characters tended not to see they lived in poverty. Reading Jews Without Money was very similar to reading that book. I also had to read Jews Without Money for a class and enjoyed it a lot. I liked the details included in there, for someone who may want to write historical fiction taking place on there, it will be a good source to turn to.

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 #4 On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Name of Book: On the Banks of Plum Creek

Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder

ISBN: 0-06-440004-2

Publisher: Harper Trophy

Part of a Series: prequels; Little House in the big woods, Little house on the prairie, Farmer Boy. Sequels; By the shores of silver lake

Type of book: 1874?-1876? kid to young adult, isolated, Minnesota

Year it was published:  1937

Summary:

The family's first home in Minnesota was made of sod. But Pa builds a clean new house beside Plum Creek. The money for materials will ceom from their first wheat harvest. Then, just before the wheat is ready to harvest, a strange glittering cloud fills hte sky, blocking out the sun. Soon millions of grasshoppers cover the field and everything on the farm. In a week's time, there is no wheat crop left at all.

Characters:

The characters are more rounded and don't seem to be goody-goody two shoes. Laura is more braver and a tomboy character, while Mary becomes more of a ladylike character. Mary also seems to be a follower, while Laura is clearly a leader. There is still love between the parents, and how Pa tries his best to provide for the family and is the Renaissance Man of the Pioneer Saga. More characters also make an appearance such as Nellie Olson which will be an important character in Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years, and it also shows Laura's mean streak, how important the family is to her.

Theme:

As long as you have loved ones by your side, you can get through anything. Men is dependent and very vulnerable when it comes to nature.

Plot:

This was written in third person point of view from Laura's side. Some things that were written there seemed to be amazing such as the cloud of grasshoppers, the balls of fire, the description and vividness of blizzards, and compare and contrast learning from 2011 to late 19th century. There aren't a lot of picture in there, unfortunately but I guess like J.K Rowling's, as kids grow up, so do the books.

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:

In the previous two books we were barely presented with Laura and Mary's personalities but were constantly lectured to about them, (Mary in particular,) being similar to angels. In this one we see more of the sisters, how they fight, what they enjoy doing. Apparently the sisters are normal. I also saw the encroachment of civlization to Plum Creek, that Laura and Mary were really growing up; starting schools, a few times bringing in other people besides the family members, attending church. There are also similar threat of poverty and life and death situations. Laura is no longer a little girl but instead is becoming into a young woman.

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, December 7, 2011

Book Review of Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Name of Book: Johnny Tremain

Author: Esther Forbes

ISBN: 0-440-44250-8

Publisher: Bantam

Type of book: kid to young adult, revolutionary war, 1773-1775, Paul Revere, Adams, silversmith, a man can stand up for himself, Boston, Boston Tea Party

Year it was published: 1943

Summary:

A story filled with danger and excitement, Johnny Tremain tells of the turbulent, passionate times in Boston just before the Revolutionary War. Johnny, a young apprentice silversmith, is caught up in a dramatic involvement with James Otis, John Hancock, and John and Samuel Adams. Johnny is swept along by hte powerful currents that will lead to the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington- and finally to an important discoveyr in Johnny's own life.

Johnny Tremain is historical fiction at its most gripping, portraying Revolutionary Boston as a living drama through the shrewd eyes of an observant boy.

Characters:

Other characters besides Johnny Tremain seemed to be flat and remained so throughout the duration. Johnny has changed throughout the novel, from becoming an arrogant young boy to a less arrogant man who is ready to do everything he can for his country, including picking up a gun. Some things about Johnny didn't change, the fact that he seemed to have no respect for those who are different than he, that he teases girls all the time, and he hates Dove. I think I would have liked to know what happened to the characters throughout the Revolutionary War and how they all fared, but the author stops her narrative just as the war was beginning.

Theme:

A man can stand up.

Plot:

It was written in third person from Johnny's point of view. A lot was self explanatory and there wasn't much trouble in understanding what was going on, although for me at some points it was pretty boring. The author tries to be objective when it comes to both British and Americans, that is there were good people and there were bad people.

Author Information:
(From goodreads.com)

born
June 28, 1891 in Westborough, Massachusetts , The United States

died
August 12, 1967

gender
female

genre
Children's Books, Historical Fiction


About this author

Esther Forbes was born in Westboro, Massachusetts in 1891, as the youngest of five children. Her family roots can be traced back to 1600s America; one of her great-uncles was the great historical figure and leader of the Sons of Liberty, Sam Adams. Her father was a probate judge in Worcester and her mother, a writer of New England reference books. Both her parents were historical enthusiasts.

Even as a little child, Forbes displayed an affinity for writing. Her academic work, however, was not spectacular, except for a few writing classes. After finishing high school, she took classes at the Worcester Art Museum and Boston University, and later, Bradford Academy, a junior college. She then followed her sister to the University of Wisconsin where Forbes wrote extensively for the Wisconsin Literary Magazine. After developing her writing skills, she returned to Massachusetts where she began working for Boston's Houghton Mifflin. As a reader of manuscripts, Forbes used this experience to advance her own writing career. Her first novel, O Genteel Lady! was published in 1926 to critical praise. With its selection by the newly formed Book-of-the-Month Club, the novel gained popular appeal as well. That year, Forbes also married Albert L. Hoskins, Jr., a Harvard Law School student.

As Forbes continued to write and gain notoriety, her marriage suffered because her husband disapproved of her career. They divorced in 1933. After several other novels, Forbes began her research of Paul Revere with her mother, who was then in her mid-eighties. When the historical biography, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In won the Pulitzer Prize in History, Forbes recognized her mother's immense contributions. During the process of researching Paul Revere, Forbes became fascinated with the large role young apprentices played in the war. Thus, she wrote Johnny Tremain, a historical novel of a young boy growing up in the time of the Revolutionary War. With poignant character development and a keen sense of history, it contained the elements for lasting popularity. It was published as "A Novel for Old and Young." In 1944, it won the Newberry Award, the top award for children's literature and became an instant children's classic. Forbes continued to turn out award winning books, most notably, The Running of the Tide, which was commissioned as a movie but never filmed. While working on a book about witchcraft in seventeenth-century Massachusetts, she died in 1967 of rheumatic heart disease.

Forbes literary achievements, awards, and recognition speak for themselves in regards her place in letters. Johnny Tremain is still read widely in schools and its popularity makes it one of the few lasting classics of American children literature.


Opinion:

The beginning few chapters of the book were interesting and fascinating as we got a glimpse of Johnny's psychology and mind process. Unfortunately as the book does go on, it loses steam and force, that is for me it no longer is interesting but instead becomes boring and somewhat predictable. Like I'm sure all young adults, I was forced to read the book when I was in middle school and I didn't like it. (Seriously speaking, if we have to read some books, then at least give us more options!) While historically speaking it was a fascinating glimpse into the life during 1770, for some odd reason the latter half of the book struck me as boring.

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.)
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