Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review of A Marriage in the Making by Natalie Fox

Name of Book: A Marriage in the making

Author: Natalie Fox

ISBN: 0-373-18690-8

Publisher: Harlequin Presents

Type of book: romance, island, separation, father-son relationship, adult, 1990s

Year it was published: 1997

Summary:

The unmarried wife

Karis had been married once, and didn't intend to repeat the experience She was devoted to her baby daughter, and she loved working as a nanny to five-year-old Josh. She didn't need a husband--and, even if she did, Josh's father would be the last man she'd choose

But sometimes Karis felt more like Daniel Kennedy's wife than his employee. She shared a home with him, cared for his son...and found herself longing for his kisses And now Daniel was suggesting Karis share his bedroom. Would his next proposal be marriage?

Characters:

The author does try to add dimension to the characters but the characters, to me personally, tend to be boring and predictable. Daniel's his fiancee's relationship barely makes any sense, especially when she seems to okay the cheating so to speak, and although Karis has a big heart, her story also had predictability to it.

Theme:

Umm no idea what the theme should have been.

Plot:

This is in third person narrative from Karis's point of view. There does seem slight realism, such as Daniel and Karis caring for children instead of forgetting them and talking about minutia details. Other than that, a little too much suspension of belief.

Author Information:

Natalie Fox was born and brought up in London, England, and has a daughter, two sons and two grandsons. Her husband, Ian, is a retired advertising executive, and they now live in a tiny Welsh village. Natalie if passionate about her three cats, two of them strays brought back from Spain where she lived for five years, and equally passionate about gardening and writing romance. Natalie says she took up writing because she absolutely hates going out to work! (Last time she wrote a book was in 2002.)

Opinion:

This was actually my very first romance novel which I read in either late 1990s, probably around 1999, or possibly in late 2000s. In a strange way I liked the novel back then. Reading it today, however, although it was enjoyable, there was a strange energy for me that drained me and it seemed to cause me to like the novel less. Although this is a romance novel, this isn't really what one is used to. A stereotypical romance novel has a number of sex scenes with vivid descriptions of emotions and feelings. This one only had one scene described in it. I also barely felt any chemistry between the characters and often wondered what is it that attracted Karis towards Daniel. Nothing about Daniel was likable for me.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Part XVII: The personality analysis of Millicent, Stanford and Emily

Spoilers from:
Millicent Min, Girl Genius
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time
So Totally Emily Ebers

One summer, three kids, three separate points of view in three books...

Millicent Min: 


"June 7 I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things. My disposition probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am technically a genius. Unfortunately, this label seems to precede me wherever I go." (page 1)

With that opening paragraph, the reader is plunged into the strange and quirky world of Millicent Min, a Chinese-American eleven year old genius who will complete high school, attend college and wants a grand future of solving society's ills. Being a genius caused her to be unable to relate to kids her own age and thus, she was closed off from making friends, although she has tried multiple times, such as bringing Moon Pies to get people to like her which lasted for five minutes, or befriending a college student who took advantage of her and only asked her to do homework for her. The only friend that Millicent has is her grandmother, and possibly her grandfather who recently passed away. Her parents are an enigma to her, and Millicent also endures trying to connect with her father and to move beyond the selfishness into someone capable caring for other people such as Emily and her parents.

Millicent is more worried about being correct rather than how it will affect another person, such as the time she mentioned when she corrected the supervisor in front of everyone. She also tends to be awkward in social situations and in beginning isn't tolerant of human quirks. "Okay, so maybe I had imagined I would have endless discussions on politics and poetry with my peers, culminating in lively arguments and an exchange of footnotes. It is with dismay I've learned that the others in my class are more eager to talk about their weekend plans than Wordsworth's poems." (18)

In addition to having a college class, Millicent's mother signed her up for volleyball lessons and later on Millicent is forced to tutor her enemy, Stanford Wong. Despite the woes of volleyball and tutoring Stanford, Millicent makes her first true friend, Emily Ebers. Emily Ebers is incredibly different from Millicent. While Millicent enjoys intellectual pursuits, Emily is more into fashion and makeup. Remembering her past experience with Deborah, and thinking that its her IQ that's preventing her from having friends rather than her awkwardness in social situations, Millicent hides two things: one that she is a genius, another that she is the one tutoring Stanford, causing Emily to think she's the one struggling with English. (Stanford helps her out.)

The author, Lisa Yee, writes very cleverly in first person, causing me to see Millicent's point of view, thus the change Millicent undergoes through tends to be difficult to locate. It is also cool that Millicent doesn't have a love interest, because her growth lies somewhere else and for a time being she needs to achieve it. The experiences that she goes through and other areas I will leave unsaid as to give a tantalizing morsel to enjoy, an anticipation of the feast.

Stanford Wong: 


"June 7, 1:40 PM. Today's the last day of school, the only school day that I look forward to. I grab my basketball and head to Mr. Glick's class. Once I make it through that I'm free for the entire summer. Goodbye, school- hello, camp!!!" (1)


My original purpose in writing the article is to discuss how unusual Stanford Wong is. I honestly don't mean  like an alien, but among the media that tends to belittle and stereotype Asian men, Stanford Wong definitely stands out. The common stereotype of Asian men in American media is that of a silent sexless warrior who feels less than human, or else someone who happens to be a stereotype of a geek without falling in love with a girl. In other words, the audience won't be able to connect to such portrayals, and these images will wreak havoc on self esteem of Asian men. 


However, Stanford Wong defies the stereotypes of an Asian man; he is popular, doesn't speak with an accent at all, he's also a talented basketball player, and perhaps more than half of the book is his budding crush towards Emily Ebers. "6: 32 PM. Emily, Emily Ebers. Emily, Emily, Emily. Emily Ebers. Emily. It's the most beautiful name I've ever heard. Emily. Emily. Emily. Just thinking it makes my stomach do flips." (151)

Stanford is also very imaginative and a creative thinker. "I wish I were invisible right now. Then there would be zero chance of getting caught. I know. I'll be like James Bond, no one ever catches him. I'll just pretend I'm a SPY. I will sneak to and from summer school and no one will ever suspect a thing. Call me Stanford Spy. Or Stealth Spy. No, wait, better idea: I will be known as SSSSpy for Super Stealth Stanford Spy." (27) Stanford as well enjoys secretly knitting in times of stress and eating Chinese food his grandmother Yin Yin prepares, as well as listening to the tales of his grandmother.

Stanford also has father issues. While Millicent's father wants to reach out and connect to her, Stanford's father is too busy to spend time with him and Stanford desires to connect to him. In his family, Stanford isn't as intelligent as his sister or father and often feels resentment or anger towards that fact. When he meets Emily by accident, he pretends that he's the one tutoring Millicent instead of the other way around, wanting for Emily to admire and like him.

Stanford's growth does relate to him learning that reading books isn't as terrible as he thought it would be, and also a few love lessons and friendship lessons along the way.

Emily Ebers


"June 7. Dear Dad, Today was the last day of school and the second saddest day of my entire life. A.J. and Nicole were crying and crying, and I was crying, and then Mrs. Buono started crying. This freaked everyone out because teachers aren't supposed to cry. My whole class had made me a humongous card, and everyone wrote nice things, even Evan. When I finished reading it, I began bawling and Nicole started wheezing so badly that Mrs. Buono was convinced she was having another asthma attack. A.J. and I offered to take Nicole to the nurse." (1) 


In Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, Emily plays a huge role in both of their lives, such as helping Millicent learn important life lessons, and helping Stanford realize his own potential when it comes to learning and also helping him learn a very important lesson when it comes to intelligence. While she teaches both of them lessons, she also learns lessons as well when it comes to distinguishing real friends vs. false friends and of inner beauty vs outer beauty.

Emily also has problems relating to parents, although unlike Millicent and Stanford's problems dealing with fathers, her parent problem is a mother. Her mother recently divorced and the two left New Jersey to get to California. Emily adores and heavily admires her father who was in a famous group and hopes to have a comeback. She resents her mother heavily. (Ironically is that Emily loves Millicent's mother, while Millicent loves Emily's mother.) Emily also has problems relating to her outer appearance and spending problems. (She buys presents with a credit card and often pretends they are from her father.)

Her personality is best described as bubbly, emotional,  friendly and giving. She also loves collecting "souvenirs" of times when she spent time with Stanford, also loves clothes and makeup and can identify brands very well. Her outer appearance is dark blond hair, and she's slightly overweight. Despite her trying not to let it get to her, I think it often does. "As we ate, Stanford told me how his free throw won the league championship. I barely heard him, because I was too busy staring at his eyes, and his mouth, and his nose and his ears, and his hair. Sigh. He's so totally hot. I wonder if a smart jock like Stanford Wong could really fall for a slightly-heavy-blond-brown-haired-poor-volleyball-playing girl like me? Maybe he's just nice to everyone." (136) Even though she sounds kind of like an airhead, she's not. Its a curiously written book because I couldn't really decide whether or not the cheeriness is genuine or is she using it to try to hold on to her world?

Although it took me several reads, the books are well worth reading, especially the changes that the three kids go through. I hardly noticed the growth because it seemed natural.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Planned Books

Books I need to review:

Sweet Valley Twins Series
Jessica's Secret
Elizabeth's First Kiss

Books I'm Reading:
Persuasion- Jane Austen 47/254
East Wind, West Wind- Pearl Buck 58/277
Les Liaisons Dangereuses- Choderlos DeLaclos 322/393
A Marriage in the making- Natalie Fox 112/189
Having the Billionaire's Baby- Sandra Hyatt 40/178
Homeland- John Jakes 332/1174
Tender Assault- Anne Mather 39/186
Gone with the wind- Margaret Mitchell 61/1037
Bury Me Deep- Christopher Pike 73/211
Fall Into Darkness- Christopher Pike 87/213
The Eternal Enemy- Christopher Pike 57/180
Ivanhoe- Sir Walter Scott 29/405
The Age of Innocence- Edith Wharton 32/362

Series:
The House of Earth- Pearl Buck
2. Sons 177/313
The Story of the Stone- Xueqin Cao
4. The Debt of Tears 72/384
The First Native Americans Quartet- W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
3. People of the Earth 56/587
The Storyteller Trilogy- Sue Harrison
1. Song of the River 67/560
The Tigress Sextet- Jade Lee
6. Tempted Tigress 201/346
As Long as we both shall shall live- Lurlene McDaniel
1. 'Till Death DO us Part 30/203
Sweet Valley Series- Francine Pascal:
1. The Wakefields of Sweet Valley 138/346
The Unicorns Go Hawaiian 51/184
Lila's Secret Valentine 140/181

Future Books:

Emma- Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
Jacob the liar- Jurek Becker
Summer of my German soldier- Bette Greene
The Monk- Matthew Lewis
Number the Stars- Lois Lowry
The Italian- Ann Radcliffe
Heavy Sand- Anatoli Rybakov

Series:
House of Earth- Pearl Buck
3. A House Divided
The Story of the Stone- Xueqin Cao
5. The Dreamer Wakes
First Native Americans Quartet- W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
4. People of the River
The Storyteller Trilogy- Sue Harrison
2. Cry of the Wind
3. Call down the stars
Titanic Duology- Diane Hoh
1. Titanic: The Long Night
2. Remembering the Titanic
Modern Tigress- Jade Lee
1. The Tao of Sex
2. Getting Physical
As Long as Both Shall Live- Lurlene McDaniel
2. For Better, for worse, Forever
Sweet Valley Books- Francine Pascal
2. The Wakefield Legacy, the untold story
3. The Fowlers of Sweet Valley
4. The Patmans of Sweet Valley
Remember Me Trilogy- Christopher Pike
1. Remember Me
2. Remember Me: The Return
3. Remember Me: The Last Story

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review of #2 People of the Fire by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear

Name of Book: People of the fire

Author: W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear

ISBN: 0-812-52150-1

Publisher: TOR

Part of a Series: First North American Series

Type of book: Dancing, spiritual, families, fate, prehistorical, -8000, fire, adult, Native Americans

Year it was published: 1991

Summary:

It is a time of fire. A small band of pioneers struggle valiantly to keep their ancestors' dreams alive in an unforgiving, drought-stricken land. Driven by the promise of an awesome vision, a heroic young dreamer and a fearless woman warrior unite to lead their people to a magnificent destiny.

A towering epic filled with tragedy and triumph, courage and conflict, People of the Fire is the second compelling novel novel in a majestic new saga of America's first peoples.

Characters:

The characters are much more round and memorable than in People of the Wolf. Fire Dancer is somewhat similar to Wolf Dreamer and despite him hesitating to do what is right, he does it anyways. For me personally, although the book was better than its predecessor, it was not extremely memorable. Between some characters there are also some unusual ties which I won't spoil.

Theme:

You can't escape your destiny no matter what you try.

Plot:

It is written in third person narrative from multiple characters' points of views. There are a lot more traditions and customs that are going on, also we get a glimpse of the tribes and rivals over food as well as a breakthrough thanks to an unusual character. I think I would have wanted to know what else would happen to Fire Dancer and how he lived the rest of his life, but its not mentioned in the back though.

Author Information:

(from Wiki)
W. Michael Gear:
W. Michael Gear is an American writer, and archaeologist [1] born in Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 20, 1955. He is perhaps best known for his First North Americans series, co-authored with wife Kathleen O'Neal Gear.

Kathleen O'Neal Gear:
Kathleen O'Neal Gear (born 1954) is an American writer. Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Advancement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage. She is perhaps best known for her First North Americans series, co-authored with husband W. Michael Gear.[1]

Opinion:

Although this book reads similarly to People of the Wolf, there are some differences, such as the fact that Fire Dancer did get married and fathered two daughters before being called up to sacrifice himself, and we also get a brief epilogue of what happened. There are also unique characters such as an Indian man who liked to wear women's clothes that took care of Fire Dancer, and the girl that closely resembled Dancing Fox in People of the Wolf, Tanager, never loved Fire Dancer. There is definitely improvement in writing and characters, and the time was very fascinating.

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.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book Review of #3 The Warning Voice by Xueqin Cao

Name of Book: The Warning Voice

Author: Xueqin Cao

ISBN: 0-14-044370-3

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Part of a Series: The story of the Stone Vols I-V

Type of book: China, Manchurian dynasty, 1700s, debt  deaths

Year it was published: 1760s, (version I have 1980)

Summary:

Divided into five volumes, of which The Warning Voice is the third, it charts the glory and decline of the illustrious Jia family (a story which closely accords with the fortunes of the author's own family.) The two main characters, Bao-yu and Dai-yu, are set against a rich tapestry of humor, realistic detail and delicate poetry, which accurately reflects the ritualized hurly-burly of Chinese family life. But over and above the novel hangs the constant reminder that there is another plane of existence- a theme which affirms the Buddhist belief in a supernatural scheme of things.

Characters:

I'm not sure whether or not the characters changed, but we get to meet new characters and there is more depth to the motives and whatnot to practically all the characters; Wang Xi-Feng is featured, as well as other ladies and women. They tend to be portrayed as difficult characters instead of like soft flowers like earlier volumes portrayed them. These women also have goals and, or so it seems, nothing at all will stop them from achieving them. The women are complex creatures. There is barely any focus on men, and he portrays the world being better off without men, or at least let the world be filled with men like Bao-yu who does appreciate feminine features and whatnot. I think also he says that in order for a woman to survive she must be practical like Wang Xi-Feng instead of like her brief rival, Er-Jie.

Theme:

Nothing good lasts forever, and tragedy seems to strike all at once, or rather, the cracks are starting to appear within the dam that will loose the flood.

Plot:

This is in third person narrative from multiple character point of view. The darkness begins to seep in and before one knows it, the fantasy that we took for granted is wiped away with constant arguments, fights, debts, deaths, cheating, etc. I haven't read the Debt of Tears and The Dreamer Wakes, but so far this seems to be an appropriate title for the book, kind of a warning voice that things will get much more darker and, in a way, if you don't want to read darker things, then please leave.


Author Information:

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

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

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

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

Opinion:

Well, the fantasy life that we got used to in The Golden Days and The Crab Flower Club is dying. This is the last volume that the author composed. The rest of the chapters from 81-120 were in fragments being passed around China. This book covers chapters 54-80. There is still beauty and enchantment and also we get to know more characters. However, unlike the previous two, the debts and deaths hit full force and are constant. There is no lost beauty however and the writing remains classical as well as beautiful. There is also poetry, and the author does try to add happy moments as well sad ones. All in all I found it to be a wonderful tome full of information and details. Personally for me it was not a boring read.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Name of Book: The Count of Monte Cristo (abridged)

Author: Alexandre Dumas

ISBN: 0-553-21350-4

Publisher: Bantam Classics

Type of book: Revenge, generations, sea, Chateau D'if, unjust imprisonment, god, control, wealth, 1815-1840s?

Year it was published: 1844 (version I have 1956)

Summary:

Set against the turbulent years of the Napoleonic era, Alexandre Dumas's thrilling adventure story is one of the most widely read romantic novels of all time. In it the dashing young hero, Edmond Dantes, is betrayed by his enemies and thrown into a secret dungeon in the Chateau d'If- doomed to spend his life in a dank prison cell. The story of his long, intolerable years in captivity, his miraculous escape, and his carefully wrought revenge creates a dramatic tale of mystery and intrigue and paints a vision of France- a dazzling, dueling, exuberant France- that has become immortal.

Characters:

I found the characters to be flat, besides Edmond Dantes, but I think for this type of book its necessary because of the nature of it. Yet it didn't detract from my enjoyment and instead added to it.

Theme:

No one can be God.

Plot:

I honestly found the timing somewhat awkward, but the plot is well done and crafted as the reader glimpses the shocking scenes and confessions, as well as how it all fits together. Even though we know that the enemies get what they deserve there is still scandal and shock, especially how everything unfolds. This is from multiple points of view in third person narrative.

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:

The version I read was abridged, which means I read the main points and not extra details. I read this a number of years ago and one of the worst things to happen with this book is interruptions for anything, which I hated to do. I loved the suspense, the tension, the way the plot is strung and Edmond's constant nature. There are many things that I have forgotten over the years, but reading the book was still delightful. I have to be honest that although I tend to be kind of a purist as in nothing being cut out, in this case it worked wonderfully because from reading the Three Musketeers series, I doubt that full version would have been interesting. It does teach good lessons and answers a what if question; if you had unlimited money, would you be happy getting a revenge on someone?

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of Ready-made Family by Frances Salomon Murphy

Name of Book: Ready-made family

Author: Frances Salomon Murphy

ISBN:  0590020706

Publisher: Scholastic

Type of book: foster children, siblings, struggles, school children, families, 1950s, beauty, finances, young adult

Year it was published: 1953

Summary:

Some money is missing! Hedy's foster mother doesn't know where it is but Hedy does. She knows who took it. Haven't her relatives always said that her brother Pete is a "natural born thief?"

What will happen now? Will Pete be sent to a reform school? Will little Mary Rose have to live in an orphanage? Will Hedy have to go back to her horrible cousin Hattie- and leave the best home she's ever known?

Characters:

The characters are drawn realistically, with Hedy being frightened for her siblings that they would get beaten up or else abused and her being uncertain. But then thanks to the family she grows to become a mature young lady as well as discovering a number of unexpected friends. The character that the book most focused on was her younger brother Peter who had a history of abuse by women and his fear and uncertainty of trusting his foster mother. There is also some focus on Mary Rose. It also shows how characters change throughout the novel as well as showing the love they carry for one another. I do wish the book would have been longer to be honest.

Theme:

(Pages 173-174)

'"Just what is a 'ready-made family?' I almost know, but I'm not sure.'

"Grandmother laughed- a soft comfortable laugh. "I'll tell you, Hedy. When I was a girl your age, I never went to a store to buy a dress. I went to the store with my mother to buy material and a pattern and thread and buttons and braid and heaven knows what else. Then my mother or a dressmaker made the dress. Sometimes I thought the dress was going to be beautiful because the picture on the pattern was so pretty. But when it was finished, sometimes I didn't look like the model in the picture. Sometimes the dress made me look too fat or too skinny. Sometimes the dressmaker didn't fit it just right, and as long as I wore the dress it was uncomfortable. But I had to keep it and I had to wear it. I had no choice."...

"Do you see that most families have to take their children just as they come, without a chance to look them over, and have to keep them whether they want to or not? But Nan and John picked out the number of children they wanted. You came to live with them and that was like trying on a dress. They tried on their family, and it was just right for them. So now they're satisfied and happy with their ready-made family."

Plot:

The plot is realistic and there is progression in characters as well as plot. The characters are changeable and dynamic and not static. It is written in third person narrative from Hedy's point of view. It's not very dated and it feels modern, despite it being written almost sixty years ago...

Author Information:

Not available, although she wrote another book called Runaway Alice

Opinion:

When I was in fourth grade, I couldn't remember why, but a teacher gave me a bunch of free books which I have read and this is one of them that I have decided to keep. (I think I got fourteen or so books, although I probably kept eight or so books I really enjoyed, and this is one of them.) This book is written very realistically with a lot of characters from the three siblings and seemed to deal with issues of nightmares and abuse from the family's nearest relatives. It also touched upon the prejudice and problems that kids back then faced as well as misconceptions that existed or continue to exist. An update would be interesting. There is one thing I didn't like is that the novel is a little too perfect and also it set up this Polish or Eastern European mentality vs America which I didn't appreciate which was why I gave it four stars.

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, March 8, 2012

March 8th special- Top 8 Female Authors I like

In honor of Women's Day which is widely celebrated in Russia by men doing special things for the women in their lives, I've decided to create a short list of 8 female authors I like:

1. Margaret Mitchell

Why I like her books:

I am still in awe in how one human being could combine so many different things to make an incredible written novel of the way the civil war affected the South. I do agree that the novel tends to be slightly racist in some parts and perhaps some people didn't feel comfortable reading it because the author chose to whitewash certain issues and not bring slave sufferings to light, but if one reads it, one has to remember that the novel only switches points of view once or twice; first from Brent's to Scarlett's and at one point briefly to Ashley's. Most of all Scarlett witnesses and sees the world as she does and unfortunately she never questions or witnesses the mistreatment of slaves.

2. Jade Lee (She's one in green)

Why I like her books:

I'll be honest; I'm only familiar with her Tigress series and only Under His Spell, but she creates skillful tales full of intrigue and hot scenes as well as trying to combine the Chinese and Europe/American cultures in her Tigress series. Although I hadn't read Cornered Tigress and Desperate Tigress, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the other four books, in particular Tempting Tigress was my favorite, although I liked Tao of Sex as well. For me her books don't get old or boring, and I still find myself laughing at the same old parts I laughed at before. For me, those books are timeless in other words.

3. Jillian Burns

Why I like her books:

I've only read her Blaze books, but I have to love the way she creates the heroes and heroines. None of them are the same and they stay consistent throughout the book. The plots and struggles are also unique, such as Alex and Mitch from Night Maneuvers trying to get over the fears of intimacy, or Ethan Grady and Lilly also struggling to be together and so forth. The heroines don't feel typical but instead are portrayed as people.

4. Pearl Buck

Why I like her books:

Although I have only read The Good Earth and am reading Sons, I have to enjoy the almost "biblical" tone she uses in the book, as well as creating simplicity and complexity within the novel. Also as well, although not perhaps the immediate intention, the character of Wang Lung deserves mention, how he creates the feeling of rage in many readers. (I do admit that he was impatient and whatnot, but he had good qualities too; he protected the poor fool from being sold.) The characters of his sons in Sons also are fascinating, although the two brothers, the merchant and the landlord (who I imagine as an overweight 500 lb man who looks like a pig,) seem to be one dimensional.

5. Lisa Yee


Why I like her books:

Somehow she creates three different points of view from one summer. Even though I knew what was going to happen, it was still delightful to read and witness events and character growth from three main characters. I also read Warp Speed, which I enjoyed and found interesting. (Marley's cynicism was incredibly delightful!) Stanford's crush on Emily was a delight to read, as well Millicent's character growth and how she gets beyond the "selfish" mode thanks to Emily and Stanford. Emily also has an interesting read and I still can't decide if the perkiness in her letters is a way of controlling herself emotionally or is it 100 percent natural. I think Emily does succeed in quests of her own.

6. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Why I like her books:

This is the author who wrote books that impacted dozens of people for many generations since 1930s and 1940s. Possibly also the books gave foundation to the meaning of being an American (biased in my view,) and somehow helped unite the people. In many ways, being a 1.5 Generation from Moscow Russia and not desiring to see myself as an American due to lack of commonalities, I disagree with a lot of messages in the book. But still, they make an entertaining read, as well as help people understand why thoughts and ideas are the way they are.

7. Ann Radcliffe

Why I like her books:

I hadn't read The Italian yet, but I did enjoy Mysteries of Udolpho a great deal.The other two, Romance of the Forest and Sicilian Romance, unfortunately I hadn't enjoyed as much. What I loved is the first novel of Mysteries of Udolpho; the vivid descriptions of nature that Emily and her father and Valancort witness as well as the progression towards their destination. There is something in that first volume that recalled me to my childhood, to the days I would imagine Lisa Frank style things. I also enjoyed the surprises, oddly enough, and that she left no mystery unturned in the ~500 page novel.

8. Murasaki Shikibu 

Why I like her books: 

This is the woman who wrote a Japanese masterpiece called The Tale of Genji. Despite the thickness and length (wow, almost 1100 pages long!) most of times I wasn't bored reading it. The novel and the story seems to be on the border of fantasy yet reality at the same time, and there are lots of characters to admire and to understand. There's a melancholy tone to the novel and the endless lesson that life is fleeting. This is also a multi generational novel which moves on from Genji and To no Chujo to Yugiri and Kashiwagi, then to Kaoru  and Nio no miya, yet despite the progression of generations, the theme of love remains the same.

The authors I chose are the ones that influenced society in some way, and the books which I treasure and enjoyed a great deal. So, now that the reader knows which authors I enjoy, what are the top female authors that you guys enjoy?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Name of Book: Mansfield Park

Author: Jane Austen

ISBN: 0-19-280264-X

Publisher: Oxford World's Classics

Type of book: Regency England, navy, Portsmouth, 1800s, repressive, acting, Lover's Vows, rank, first cousin marriage

Year it was published: 1814

Summary:

 "Me!" cried Fanny..."Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act any thing if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act."

At the age of ten, Fanny Price leaves the poverty of her Portsmouth home to be brought up among the family of her wealthy uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, in the chilly grandeur of Mansfield Park. There she accepts her lowly status, and gradually falls in love with her cousin Edmund. When the dazzling and sophisticated Henry and Mary Crawford arrive, Fanny watches as her cousins become embroiled in rivalry and sexual jealousy. SHe struggles to retain her independence in the face of the Crawfords' dangerous attractions, and when Henry turns his attentions to her, the drama really begins...

Characters:

Fanny is a very empty character who parrots everything Edmund says instead of having her own opinion (aside from Henry and Edmund question.) There is an idea that you could compare the couple to Pygmalion and Galatea. Edmund is also an extremely conservative character who falls in love with Mary but then due to a scandal he can never be with her and he seems to resign himself to marrying Fanny. Throughout the whole book, he seems to have sisterly feelings towards her and not once does he have romantic feelings. For example, when Fanny is forced to stay at Portsmouth, Edmund barely writes to her, and if he does, all he talks about is Mary Crawford, while Henry visits her and the family and gives her pleasant memories. Henry and Mary Crawford, the brother and sister are much better and likable characters than Fanny and Edmund. They sparkle and aren't afraid of being independent.

Theme:

Get education and don't become like Fanny.

Plot:

There's plot in this book? Okay, it goes something like this. First it mentions how Fanny came to live with the Bertrams, then there's acting, then Sir Thomas returns and they had to abandon project, then comes the second volume, I think its one where Henry begins to court Fanny and where the sisters leave for London and abandon the house. Then Fanny is forced to go back to Portsmouth because she rejected Henry and stays there until the very end. Its written in third person narrative from Fanny's point of view, although once in a while we get point of view from other characters. For me personally, there's something boring and dull about this book and about Fanny herself.

Author Information:

Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775, in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, where her father was rector. She was the seventh child in a boisterous family of six boys and two girls. Reading and playacting were favorite family pastimes, and Austen began writing as a young girl. Her Juvenilia, writen between 1787 and 1795, survive in three notebooks and include Lady Susan, a short novel-in-letters. In 1796 she completed another epistolary novel called Elinor and Marianne, later revised to become Sense and Senbility. In 1797 she finished the first version of Pride and Prejudice, called "First Impressions". Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written in 1798 or 1799 as "Susan."

Until 1801, when her father retired and the family moved to Bath, Austen enjoyed a comfortable life, mixing in the best society in the neighborhood, keeping a carriage and a pair of horses, and attending dances at the stately homes of the local gentry. Neither she nor her sister Cassandra married, but the reasons for this remain conjectural, as Cassandra burned or censored Austen's surviving letters after her death. The eight years following the move from Steventon were evidently unsettled and unhappy ones. The Watsons, her only writing from this period, was never completed. But from 1809, when settled again in her beloved Hampshire, until her final illness in 1817, she lived a productive life in a pleasant cottage in Chawton provided by her wealthy brother Edward.

In 1811 Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously: the title page stated only that it was "by a lady." Immediately successful, this first novel was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Mansfield Park in 1814. Emma, written between 1814 and 1815, was "respectfully deidcated" at royal command to George IV. In 1816, already in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised "Susan" into Northanger Abbey. Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18th, 1817. Austen's identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her favorite brother, Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbery and Persuasion in 1818.

Opinion:

Although my opinion of Evelina has changed from 2009, apparently Mansfield Park opinion hasn't changed. I still remember how I skipped whole paragraphs and would read first sentences only just to get the sense of the story. I thought that since four years has passed, this book wasn't as bad as I remembered, but re-reading it, it was a lot worse than I had anticipated it. Fanny is a very empty and repressed character who literally has no opinion of her own. I also thought there was a war between Fanny and trying to make the story interesting. I wished that she could have married Henry instead of Edmund. Fanny enjoys being miserable and besides emotions she literally has no thoughts. There are people who enjoy this novel, (someone please explain why,) but I'm not one of them. This is a novel that you either hate it or love it. When I had Jane Austen class where we had to finish the novel in one and a half weeks, (at one point reading a volume in two days!) one of the students mentioned there was something creepy about it, and proceeded to compare Fanny and Edmund to Lady Bertram and Sir Bertram. I think towards the end Austen herself got sick of writing this novel and simply rushed through the last chapter.

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.)

March 2012

Persuasion-Jane Austen
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
East Wind, West Wind- Pearl Buck
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Les Liasons Dangereuses- Choderlos DeLaclos
SR: January 5th, 2012
FR: N/A
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas
SR: November 1st, 2011
FR: March 12th, 2012
A Marriage in the making- Natalie Fox
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: March 24th, 2012
Desert Prince, Bride of Innocence- Lynne Graham
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: March 16th, 2012 DNF
Having the Billionaire's Baby- Sandra Hyatt
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Homeland-John Jakes
SR: February 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Desert Prince, Defiant Virgin- Kim Lawrence
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: March 17th, 2012 DNF
Tender Assault- Anne Mather
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Gone with the wind- Margaret Mitchell
SR: February 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Ready-made Family- Frances Salomon Murphy
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: March 16th, 2012
Fall Into Darkness- Christopher Pike
SR: February 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Bury Me Deep- Christopher Pike
SR: February 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
The Eternal Enemy- Christopher Pike
SR: February 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Ivanhoe- Sir Walter Scott
SR: February 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
The Age of Innocence- Edith Wharton
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: N/A

House of Earth-Pearl Buck
2. Sons
SR: December 25th, 2011
FR: N/A
The Story of the Stone-Xueqin Cao
3. The Warning Voice
SR: November 1st, 2011
FR: March 16th, 2012
4. The Debt of Tears
SR: March 16th, 2012
FR: N/A
People Series Quartet- W. Michael Gear, and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
3. People of the earth
SR: February 28th, 2012
FR: N/A
Storyteller Trilogy- Sue Harrison
1. Song of the River
SR: January 5th, 2012
FR: N/A
Tigress Sextet- Jade Lee
4. Tempted Tigress
SR: January 3rd, 2012
FR: N/A
As long as we both shall live- Lurlene McDaniel
1. 'Till Death Do us Part
SR: February 1st, 2012
 FR: N/A
Sweet Valley- Francine Pascal
The Wakefields of Sweet Valley
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
The Unicorns Go Hawaiian
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: N/A
Lila's Secret Valentine
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: March 24th, 2012
Elizabeth's First Kiss
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: March 18th, 2012
Jessica's Secret
SR: March 1st, 2012
FR: March 19th, 2012
Milly Trilogy- Lisa Yee
1. Millicent Min, Girl Genius
SR March 1st, 2012
FR: March 6th, 2012
2. Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time
SR: March 6th, 2012
FR: March 11th, 2012
3. So Totally Emily Ebers
SR: March 11th, 2012
FR: March 12th, 2012
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